Jean d'Aulon, Part VI
The Dark Baron
With her emotions still boiling, Jeanne was in no mood to face the now familiar adoration of the people, "JEANNE, JEANNE, JEANNE, THE MAID!"
She grimaced slightly, feeling the tug and pull against her garments. She turned and saw the face of a woman who had knelt down before her as if in the presence of God Himself. Others followed the woman's lead until they were all kneeling. Jeanne's eyes darted across the crowd searching for an opening. She began to weep. "Please, please my good people. I love you but let me pass, I beg you." She saw individual faces as clear as day and she loved them and she could feel their powerful love for her. I heard her say rather absentmindedly, "I wish you had told me that this would be part of my mission." I could not help scratching my head as I wondered to whom she was speaking. As I searched for a way through the pressing masses, I heard the cries of the heralds and even before I saw the grand procession, I knew instantly that the Lord de Rais was approaching. I watched as the closely huddled people silently gave way to the approaching baron.
Her head swiftly turned in the direction of the noise and with a grateful glance she motioned for him to draw near.
He was arrayed splendidly in a flowing huque that was made entirely of gold thread, lined with the finest blood red silk. Two beautiful small boys, with angelic faces, followed de Rais with courtly composure as they held the tails of this glorious garment. They reminded me of two little mice as they scurried behind their master. De Rais reached Jeanne and stood face to face with her as he said with ill hidden condescension, "Maid, may I speak with you?"
She was not thwarted by his intense stare, as her chest continued to heave heavily with a mixture of irritation and relief. "My Lord Baron..," looking at the populace that surrounded them, "what ever it might be, I am grateful that you came."
The tall Baron fixed his eyes on her. "I would like to speak with you in private, if you do not mind? Would you and your Squire do me the honor of accompanying me to my quarters?"
Jeanne heaved a long sigh as she replied, "Lead me, de Rais. Take me from here." She placed her hand expectantly upon the pommel of her sword and followed closely behind the Baron.
He led us to a building, built entirely of stone. Decorating the exterior of this magnificent structure was a long colonnade that stretched its entire length. We entered to find that the interior was more sumptuous than the exterior! Truly, this was a palace worthy of the Holy Roman Emperor himself!
He silently led us to a small room off the first floor's main corridor. The room was perfectly quiet. No sound came from the busy street we had just left. It was a magnificent room with walls paneled in a highly polished cherry wood. Two wide doors mounted side by side were opened to reveal a lovely garden filled with the newly blossomed foliage of spring.
He clapped his hands twice. A servant seemed to appear out of nowhere. In cold silence de Rais pointed toward a wine decanter. The servant instantly responded with a deep bow from his waist. The stillness was eerie as the servant performed his task with swift dexterity. Emotionlessly he poured three crystal glasses full of a rich, dark red wine. He handed his master the first glass, Jeanne the second, and I received the third. I turned my head, only for a moment, but to my surprise when I looked back, he was gone! I scanned the entire room searching for this mysterious person but I found no trace of him. I stood quite amazed at his quiet swiftness.
With another two claps of the Baron's hands the door to the room seemed to close by its own power! I was starting to become uneasy with all these mysterious happenings but I tried desperately to display a cool reserve. Had there been no daylight in the room, I don't think I could have remained there an instant longer. I looked for a chair close to the opened double doors. Finding one, I immediately went to it and sat down. Jeanne also sat near the light. The Baron preferred to sit in the half shadows where I could only see his outline. "This vintage is the finest and most rare, coming all the way from the Isle of Crete! Do you like it, Maid?"
The delightful bouquet of the vintage had a strong floral fragrance. I took a mouthful of the pleasing liquid. At first it had a wonderful sweetness but after I swallowed, the wine left a bitter taste in my mouth. Surprised by the drastic change I decided not to drink any more of the enigmatic liquid and placed the glass on the floor. It was only a moment or two later when I started to feel strange, as if I were dizzy. At the same time I began to notice that my arms and legs were feeling very heavy, but even that description does not convey totally what I was experiencing. I thought to myself, "My God, what is happening to me?" Then in a flash the thought occurred to me that the Baron tried to drug us so that he could obtain the information he wanted! I was glad I had not drunk any more of this dangerous substance than I had. I was even happier that Jeanne had not yet taken any wine. I decided that the best way to clear my mind was to concentrate on what was happening around me.
Jeanne raised the finely cut crystal goblet to her lips. Taking the smallest of sips she only tasted the wine. "It's all right. But I hope, my Lord de Rais, you have not brought me here just to sample your wine. I do have better and more pressing things to do with my time."
There was a slight irritation in his voice, as he seemed to squirm in his chair. "No, no, of course not, Maid! I brought you here to speak to you about the things outside this worldly plane, the spirits if you like, that exist unseen and unfelt by the average man, but are known to you and me!"
"I have no idea what you are talking about."
"Let me be more specific then, Maid. Will you show me your Voices? I have a great desire to meet and speak with them." He spoke matter-of-factly as though this sort of thing happened to him all the time.
Jeanne quickly became incensed at his impertinence. "My Voices are not at your beck and call, my Lord Baron! How dare you expect me to put them on display as if they were some sort of trained animal!" With that she angrily started to get up from her chair.
With flared nostrils and a raised eyebrow his face expressed his anger yet he pleaded, "I am sorry, Maid. Please forgive me! Please, Maid, sit down and allow me to explain, as a favor to a comrade in arms."
Jeanne returned to her seat still annoyed by his boldness. "All right, de Rais, explain."
"I am a man of varied interests and tastes. I am always seeking out the new and the exotic, to satisfy my ever active and inquiring mind. I have seen spirits before and I wanted to compare those that I have seen with the spirits that appear to you."
"For what purpose would you do this?"
"Oh, to learn and experience something new and different."
Once again Jeanne started to rise from her chair. "It would seem to me, that this is a matter for your confessor's ears, not mine. Go seek him out or find a good priest to whom you can unburden your soul! For it sounds to me as though you are involved with things that are forbidden!"
In an attempt to stop her from leaving he lunged forward and took hold of her arm, but Jeanne wrenched it from his grasp. "Teach me about God!" he pleaded.
"What kind of game are you trying to play here, Baron? What can I teach you that you do not already know?"
De Rais rose from his seat. "I swear, I am playing no game, I am truly interested in what you have to say." When he took a step closer to Jeanne, his face came into the light. This made him wince as though he were in pain, but still he remained where he was. "Please tell me what you know."
A red flush covered her face when Jeanne returned to her seat. "Ask your question."
He seemed to have difficulty forming his words as he slinked back to the comfort of the shadows. "Where is life for my soul?"
A real sadness came over her as she peered into his soul. "You, my Lord de Rais, run after these passing shadows in an attempt to find the King of Heaven. Your soul is dead to God's grace, yet Our Lord Jesus is very much alive! His real living and risen Presence, silently, patiently waits for you, for all of us, to come and spend time with Him in church. He loves you still and longs for your return."
"My return!? I wouldn't even know were to start."
"Pray from your heart."
In the darkness I could see flashes of red, blue and green fire glistening off his ring bedecked fingers as they raked through his long, wildly flowing goatee. "Prayer from your heart, what does that mean?"
She lifted her lovely blue eyes heavenward while a strange peacefulness came over her. It seemed to me that the walls of this dreary room did not limit her sight. "I have no fear when I speak with The Father, Son and Holy Ghost, only love pours from my heart. I tell Them of all my concerns, my dreams, my troubles and needs of the present moment. I tell them of my trust, my love, my gratitude, and my great need for their continuing help in my life. I speak with them as a child would to her father. That is how I pray from my heart."
She leaned toward him. "God's voice speaks to all of us, but we do not listen or if we do listen, we do not obey Him."
With a voice filled with God's merciful love Jeanne added, "Gilles, do you not know that you cannot be free without asking for forgiveness? Unburden yourself of all the evil you have done by going to Confession. Then you shall truly be free in God's grace. I see the struggle that rages in your soul as you run after the fleeting pleasures you find in the darkness. But, I see there too, the last glowing ember of grace. There is hope for you. There is a saving remedy for you, if you will only use it. You will learn too, an important truth, that the more you need Christ's love and forgiveness, it is that much more that He longs to give them to you."
"I wouldn't ever know were to begin," the dejected Baron sarcastically replied.
Jeanne got up and started for the door. "Yes you do. Gird on your courage and go to God's merciful love."
The struggle in his brooding eyes reflected his unbounded need for knowledge and power. By this time Jeanne was at the room's portal. She turned and locked her awesome, probing eyes onto his, riveting him in place. He could not have moved even if he had wanted. "I can't help you. No one but God can. It is up to you. You must choose." Adding less sternly, she went on, "I will pray for you that in the end God's light will dispel your darkness."
Although my legs were weak from whatever I had imbibed, I forced myself to stand. At first I felt dizzy but with a few more deep breaths I was able to clear my head well enough to walk. I followed after Jeanne using the wall for support. It was as if de Rais awoke from a dream when he suddenly jumped to his feet. "Maid, what did you say to the Dauphin at your first meeting with him? How were you able to stir his heart into action?"
Jeanne was shocked and remained silent for a moment. "If you are so interested, go ask him! But you will never find out from me!" With that she stormed into the street to hurry back to the Boucher's home. Once there she went in search of Father Pasquerel. "Father Pasquerel, I need your spiritual advice on an important matter."
He could easily see her distress. "What's the matter, child? How can I be of assistance to you?"
Jeanne was almost at the point of tears. "Father Pasquerel, I am being pressed by all these great Lords and important men, to reveal to them what passed between me and the Dauphin the first time I met him. I cannot in good conscience do this. In response I lose my temper and this is no way to handle the problem. Father, please, I don't want to offend God. Is there any other way to handle this?"
He scratched his bearded jaw as he thought. "Jeanne, if you make a vow to God, before me and upon the Gospel not to reveal what transpired between you and the Dauphin, then you would be bound under oath not to do so. You could then calmly say that you are bound by your oath to God not to reveal anything."
Jeanne readily agreed and we went to the near-by church. There he donned his stole and with Gospel in hand Father Pasquerel approached the main altar. She knelt and placed her hands upon the open Gospel, vowing never to reveal to any living man, whoever he might be, what transpired between her and the Dauphin at their first meeting.