Winter had come and with it came my downfall.
I had been sent alone back to the castle as an envoy after the successful siege on Rainefort, only to discover that Agnès had gone on confinement.
That could only mean one thing.
Agnès was pregnant.
She had left a message for me, specifying her location and with an urgent entreaty to come and see her at the first opportunity. I wasn’t supposed to see her at all, but I managed to enter the building without getting noticed.
She opened her door and I slipped into the room.
One thing was still unclear to me: was the child mine or the king’s?
She confirmed my fears: the king hadn’t visited her before he went on campaign. But everyone believed her state was his deed.
In any other universe, those would have been good tidings.
She told me she could try to pass it on as the king’s child, but that she wasn’t sure she would be able to live with the lie. She was so distressed, I would have done anything to help her.
It was I who suggested that we should flee and find refuge in Burgundy.
The enterprise was risky, especially in the middle of winter, and I could hardly blame her for being hesitant.
But she eventually gave her consent.
I tried my best to reassure her with pictures of what our life together could be.
Then the door flung open. “Agnès, what is this rumour I hear?”
Agnès painfully closed her eyes and whispered a barely audible prayer.
And we waited breathlessly as Lord Gilles de Rais stood transfixed in the doorway.
“I see” was all he said.
As Lord de Rais entered the room closing the door behind him, and before I could say anything, Agnès had suddenly thrown herself at his feet and was begging for mercy.
He enquired about the duration of what he called our folly.
Agnès replied and begged some more.
I hung my head in shame as he expressed his disappointment in me.
Agnès began to cry, and I knelt at her side, trying to get her to stand up.
But I couldn’t get her to calm down. She was crying uncontrollably, rocking herself back and forth, holding her belly.
Meanwhile, my lord seemed to be absorbed in deep thought.
He finally offered his hands and helped her to her feet.
He looked genuinely concerned when he asked us if we had thought about running away.
We naively told him that we had, but that it was of course no longer an option.
Then he made the most surprising statement: that he would help us and camouflage our elopement.
“The king let me down at Rainefort. He is no longer entitled to receive my loyalty.”
Weeks went by, and snow fell thicker.
I diligently buried myself in my studies, as my lord had recommended, letting him arrange the matter for us.
He seemed himself very absorbed in his experiments, and would often ask me to fetch the weirdest ingredients. He told me his aim was to become closer to God. I didn’t say it looked to me like a heresy.
And one evening…
He told me the preparations were going well, and that I would have to discreetly bring Agnès to a safe place he would indicate. He would await us there, with everything we needed for our long travel to Burgundy.
I was so grateful to have such a good master.
On the appointed day, I came to take Agnès.
And we set out to meet our destiny.
Progress was slow as I couldn’t bring the horse to a gallop. But we finally reached our destination before sunset.
He was effectively waiting for us in that old granary. But the first thing I saw was the heavy cauldron he used to prepare his potions. I couldn’t comprehend why he would bring it so far.
Agnès nervously stepped forward.
Then he grabbed her…
“Thank you for bringing me my last ingredient, Tristan.”