He knew what was coming.
Of course he knew what was coming.
But it was easier now, to take it.
He imagined, at least.
A withering old man, beaten and starved for days, staggered in the grasp of the guards that led him. He kept his head bent low, his eyes flecked with water, a prayer murmuring on his lips. There was a fear inside him that shook his soul, but he would not let it show.
Force of habit, he supposed.
He didn't look at the faces of the men who wanted him dead, but he saw the hems of their gilded red robes as he walked past them. He would not show them the look of the dread that was etched into his face. How they would have loved to see it, the old man knew all too well.
These men, oh, these men that wanted him dead...
The people were hollering abuse at the old man, he was sure, but he ignored it as best as he could.
There was no use in anger or offence now. It would all be in vain.
He thought as he was led to his doom, how ironic this all was. The Saracens and Mamluks in the east would not have doomed him to this. And yet, here were the people he had dedicated his life to fighting for; to regain the Holy Land so that they might live and flourish there, and all Christiandom with them. The men he had so zealously worked to destroy, would have given him a far swifter end.
The Muslims were forbidden to punish with fire.
The old man sniffed and raised his head when the guards stopped pulling him along. His companions were there: Geoffroi de Charney, Hugues de Peraud and Godefroi de Gonneville - all dedicated men of the Templar Order. They were dressed in identical black robes of the condemned, their heads covered with a fraying hood - and each was tied to a stake, at the base of which were thick branches of wood piled aplenty.
There was a space beside Geoffroi de Charney: the stake that would receive the old man.
The guards helped him up and the old man did nothing to resist as they placed on his shoulders the black robes and raised the hood on his balding head. They then tied him to the post with coarse rope and left him there.
The old man gazed skyward.
Maybe it would be easier if he didn't see it happening.
Still, he could hear the snap and crackle of flame. He could almost see it happening, even though he was not watching - the executioner bringing a lighted torch to burn their piles of wood, to kill them all for what they had been so wrongfully accused.
“There is still time to recant of your heresy, Monsieur Jacques de Molay,” a man spoke to him from below. His voice was smooth, but it carried over the angry words of the people, “To acknowledge that your actions and rituals were misguided, evil, contrary to the laws of God,” he said, “And you will be spared the great pains you must otherwise endure.”
Why die a martyr, when you can live a liar and a coward - cursed by every man and woman you ever sought to aid?
That made sense.
“My life is not mine to ask for,” Jacques said, trying to keep his calm, “and if it is my time to die, nothing can delay it.”
“I beg of you, acknowledge your sins. God will welcome you back into his fold.”
Jacques said nothing. He already knew which fold he belonged to, and he would never leave it.
He closed his eyes and murmured prayers.
“Recant,” the man insisted, the desperation rising in his voice.
Jacques began to feel the heat lapping at his ankles, the wood melting away to ashes below him as the fire consumed it. The flame was rising up his stake, heating his back.
“Recant!” the man repeated, “You still have a moment!”
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I can want nothing,” Jacques said, his friends beside him offering similar sentiments to the people watching, “Though I shall walk now in the shadow of the Valley of Death, yet I will fear no evil. I have sinned against myself, against my people by accepting that which you have accused me; I have condemned my brothers for the sake of my own life,” Jacques quaked, the fire growing fierce around him, sizzling his skin. Tears welled in his eyes, “I will not do so again, that you might spite me for actions which I did not commit nor enjoin,” he cried out in agony as the flames seized him, “The Lord is my Shepherd!” he screamed, howling the words into the air, “He has bourn witness to what you have done and He will avenge me...”