He is near. My Paul, my beautiful, perfect beloved. His scent is on the wind, I hear his footsteps echoing behind my eyes. Tonight, I go to him. Tonight, we will be together, be one.
First, though, everything must be perfect. My looking glass tells me I am too pale- little I can do about that. A tiny bit of carmine for my lips, a light dusting of rouge and powder, a breath of tint under my eyes, and my features spring into relief. No great beauty no, but I have my charms, and a woman in love is forever enchanting to her beloved. The thought, the anticipation make me smile. Unlike many in this day, I have good teeth, even, undamaged. A small thing.
Hair up, or down? Down, I think, like a bride to her wedding bed, with a simple silver band to hold it back. Impatiently, I count the strokes as I brush it out. I would keep it shorter, but fashion says otherwise. Forty-five, forty-six...fifty, and is as glossy as a new colt's coat, spilling down my back.
What to wear? Always a challenge. Full dress skirts, of course, for such is the rule, but what above? Tight, and high? Loose and shifting, like water? Daring, and plunging? I am small-bosomed, alas, so even at the extremes of the dressmaker's art, I have little decolletage to display. At least I will never suffer the matron's curse, sagging into deformity. Tight, then, clinging close, and a high neck. No jewels, just the heavy silver family crest, on a chain.
What color, then? Not white, that would be presumptuous. Black is ill-omened for a tryst. Silver-grey, to set off the midnight of my hair? Midnight blue, to dance with my eyes? For once, I curse my well-stocked wardrobe. Time is passing, and my love will not wait for ever for me, not yet.
I choose the blue. My hair may speak for itself, without a chorus from my clothing. With no maid to assist, the row of buttons seems endless, a genie's cursed task from a tale, but at last, it is done. A last glance in the glass tells me I am a picture of delight, and I settle the chain about my neck, the weight of the seal comfortable against my small curves.
Then, the window is open, and I am out and away, free, flying like a dove to my lover's side.
There! There, in the street below. He is easy to see, despite the night. A light glows from him, one that would hurt the eyes were it not his own. "Paul..." My voice is a whisper, but my words, intended for him, only, always, ever for him, have wings, and he hears. Hears, and stops, looks up. The others with him stop, as well, in confusion, dull lumps that they are. They have their own little candleflickers, but he stands out among them like a warhorse among cattle, an eagle in a pigeon roost. He is so lovely- his name bursts form me again, a song of joy, full voice. This time the others hear.
I land only yards away, arms outstretched, smiling in welcome. "Paul, my dearest. At last. We have waited for so long..."
But something is wrong. My dear is reaching under his robes, lifting the light from underneath, and now, unveiled, it burns my eyes. There is noise all around, and a pain in my head, and I understand. Foolish woman. Silly, love-struck girl. They have poisoned him against me, those men of small learning and smaller minds. They will never allow us peace, will never bear to see us happy.
I hear the crossbows fire, thunder in my aching head, and lose my footing as the cruel silvered steel scythes my legs from under me. Still, I would reach him if I could. I crawl, dragging dead limbs behind me, grasping at his robes. If he will see, if he will only relent, we may yet be together.
But there is no love left in him. They have stolen it from him, and him from me, them and their selfish, bitter God, who would turn all men into slaves. Mailed hands turn me on my back, wild, fearful eyes look down on me, lying there supplicant in my now-ruined finery. As the stake descends, I meet Paul's pitiless gaze, and speak one last time, for his ears alone.
"I forgive you, my love..."
Shaking, making the Seal over his heart over and over, the youngest of the Templar completed the beheading only after several fumbled attempts. His macabre trophy was deposited in a camphor-soaked bag, to be given to the flames after a careful likeness was taken for use in the future. None of the squad moved until the body of the demon that had taken the form of a young pretty girl, the better to to tempt the weak, had finished its sickening crawling, writhing return to dust.
Swallowing, the novice soldier looked to his spiritual superior. "Father Paul...she knew your name! How could she? How could her tongue form the name of the blessed?"
Gravely as he could manage, the Inquisitor laid a paternal hand on the young man's armored shoulder, and explained. "The Devil knows the name of every righteous man, my young friend, just as God knows the name of every sinner. And can not He who was First among angels compel his slaves to do great wonders, if the Lord allow?"
For the novice, it was a reasonable enough explanation. For he others, older, more experienced...well, it was dark, and they could not see the doubt in the priest's eyes...