Once again, Fyren’s fading blue eyes popped open. "A last thing, girl. The purple. As ashroud."Her lips drew bowstring-tight, like the foreboding that twanged within her. "Aye. 'Tisfitting."Melisande crossed the chamber to a small, heavily carved chest that had once been areliquary for the bones of some long-forgotten saint. Now it held only the purple cloak, asacrilege in itself. She lifted the cloak carefully, not wanting to touch the detested thing, andsmoothed it over Fyren's body. A shame, that such a beautiful garment could be such a maliciousweapon.Fyren's breath came in shallow pants. His body lay stiff and motionless. His eyes droopedclosed, then his breathing ceased. The stillness of death filled the chamber."Is he gone?" Thomas called impatiently. "The Normans approach the hall. You cannot delaylonger.""Come and see."Thomas approached the bed and lifted the limp wrist, testing the pulse. "Aye, he's gone.Come now, hurry."Dashing to the chamber door, he peered down at the hall. The clangs of metal and roughmale voices resonated against the stone walls."It is too late, lady. They are below. Perhaps they will not be so harsh. Who could blameyou--""The Normans could. For all their violence, they are pious men. Never fear, Thomas. Thereis another way out, if you will delay them a little. You will do as I ask?""Aye, lady. And I will see to the earl."Melisande turned toward the door, but then pivoted back to face Thomas. "Bury him deep,"she said.Thomas's pale grey eyes reflected his concern and gentle fondness of her. "As deeply asshovel can dig. God keep you safe, lady.""And you, Thomas. Keep our people safe."It was as much of a smile as Melisande ever made, that small quirking of her lips at theircorners, but she gave him the best she could manage. She had learned early in her life to stifle allsigns of emotion, so that she now knew no other way.Her light slippers padded against the wooden floor as she ran to the door between thechambers and into her own room.Rough shouts echoed in the bailey.The demons screamed at her.
Flee! The Norman comes!
She set her jaw, refusing to let panic rule her.
You are evil! You are no better than Fyren!
Be still. I have no time for your mischief.
I am no witch.But the Normans would believe it. When the Norman lord learned of the demons thattormented her, taunting her with her own fears, and of all the things she knew that she shouldnot, he would have her burned.Even before she crossed her chamber, she jerked her silk kirtle over her head. Snatching up asimpler garment of homespun earthen grey wool, she flinched at its scratchiness. But she dared