The Rebel Princess

The Rebel Princess by Judith Koll Healey

Book: The Rebel Princess by Judith Koll Healey Read Free Book Online
Authors: Judith Koll Healey
Tags: Historical, Mystery
He has spent much time traveling across the domains of the south with my retinue, as we have been exploring ways to avoid an armed conflict between north and south. He resided in Rome with me two years past, studying swordsmanship and theology.”
    William paused to allow the abbot to take in his comment, but before the man could speak he added, in a quiet voice: “Francis has the protection of my office. And the holy father was quite taken with his interest in diplomacy these past months.” William turned his broad shoulders so that he was directly facing the abbot. I could see my beloved’s face as he spoke. His eyes had narrowed and there was a warning edge to his voice. Francis, on the other hand, seemed unconcerned by the exchange as he continued to exercise his hearty appetite, but he kept glancing at the abbot between bites as if he still expected a response to his comments. Finally the abbot spoke.
    “Young knight, even though you are protected”—there was a perceptible softening in the abbot’s tone, although he bit off the end of this last word with menace as he leaned toward Francis—“you must learn to be careful. The situation with the heretics is complex and perhaps not quite understood by many. But these rebels present a real threat to Rome.” Here he paused as if searching for le mot juste. “Andthose who defend heretics could find themselves accused also.”
    “Here, here, Abbé Amaury,” William interjected firmly. “Francis is a knight known for his piety and his adherence to his faith. The issue of the Cathari beliefs as heretical is still far from settled. And you must admit, young Francis has the right of it when he talks about their imitation of early Christian simplicity.”
    “I’ll admit no such thing.” The abbot had returned to his dinner, tearing at his pheasant with a vengeance, as if it were the challenging young Francis under his pudgy fingers. I observed the exchange impatiently, wanting to speak. But for once I bit back my words, knowing that I was not the person to defend Francis. I was too close. And I did not want my care of him to be noticed. The abbot did not appear to miss much. Besides, my son appeared to be the abbot’s equal with his next comment.
    “As I heard it in the port taverns of Rome this summer, the main threat to the church of Rome is that the new beliefs will put many priests out of work, and then the gold they generate may cease to flow into Italy.” The abbot was taking a swallow of wine and he sputtered as Francis spoke, which gave the youth the opportunity to add, rather playfully I thought, “Not that I support that view. My duty as a knight certainly lies in defending the faith of my fathers.”
    The abbot was not amused. He wiped his mouth and answered: “Do not cultivate insolence in your discourse, young knight. Pope Innocent has had enough of the pretensions of the people of the south, gold or no gold. They are not exempt from the faith as defined by our pontiff and the church councils. There have been dialogues for four decades and the Cathars still have not explained why they can call themselves Christians when they spurn the dictates of Rome. The time has come for action.”
    “And what actions do you propose, lord Abbé?” I asked in a naïve voice.
    “They will bend to the will of Rome, or they will feel the sword ofGod.” Amaury smacked his hand on the table, and then downed the remainder of his red bordeaux, motioning for more with his other hand. My gaze met William’s, and his eyes narrowed for a moment. He pursed his lips and shook his head firmly in my direction. Discreet though his gesture was, his message to me was unmistakable. Let it go. I smiled again in his direction. I could almost feel the thrill of bear baiting, but I forbore to challenge the abbot further. Not at this time, nor in this place. We would have another opportunity for exchange, I was certain.
    “What is this loud talk?” My brother ceased his exchange

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