Verduan and Patreo pulled the Tinker’s cart into the village. The body lay on the bed and the cart’s top kept it from village eyes. Ide and Patreo covered the body further with cloths found in the cart. Tardiff walked in front and shooed people out of their way. Ide walked behind and wept. One hand rested on the body or made minor adjustments to the covering clothes when the cart jumped over a rock or bounced over a rut. Eric stayed at her side, his steps shortened to match hers, and comforted as he could. Father Baillot walked a few solemn step behind mumbling prayers. Thomas remained in the wood where the body and cart were found, hidden less anyone return.
Baillot guided them to the sacristy. He moved vestments and wine goblets from a table and lit candles all around. Verduan, Patreo, and Eric lifted the body and lay it there.
Tardiff pointed to the door. “Verduan, stand outside and make sure no one bothers us.”
Verduan nodded and closed the door as he left.
Patreo carefully pulled back the cloth covering her and began to remove its clothes.
Ide stopped him. “I’ll do that.”
Patreo bowed. “We must be careful how we remove what is worn. I will assist you.”
Baillot nodded and Ide stepped back. She turned Eric to face her. “Go, bring my husband.”
Eric looked past her and caught Patreo’s eye. “I’d rather stay.”
Patreo nodded slightly. He wet a cloth and dabbed matted blood from the dead girl’s hair. “Let him stay. You, mother, you will know best where your husband is this time of day. It is best you bring him, please.”
Baillot motioned her away with a wave of his hand, his eyes fixed on Patreo’s ministrations. Ide snorted and left.
Patreo proceeded. He turned the head and quickly directed Tardiff’s eyes. “See this? Touch it gently. It yields. The skull is cracked. Eric, wash away the rest of this blood until the wound is visible.”
His fingers massaged behind the ears then the neck. “And the blow was fierce enough to snap the neck.”
Tardiff inspected the wound. “The blow to her head killed her then?”
“So the violence done to her. It was after death?”
“Yes, but not long after. Or while dying. These marks on her face, either her heart still beat enough to send blood there or it was moments after she died and blood still ran through her veins.”
Patreo continued exploring. “Her eyes were removed by someone who knew what they were doing. Someone skilled in torture.”
Tardiff crossed his arms over his chest. “Removed because she saw something?”
“Or someone thought so.”
“Why cut off the hand?”
“A Gourdin punishment. For theft. Brought here from the Crusades. So someone who’s served, knows those who served and knows them dearly, or a Gourdin themself.”
Eric stood back, his eyes closed. “Not punishment for taking the hand off the witch?” He crossed himself.
Patreo frowned down upon the body. “The witch’s retribution would be so clean? She would want to cause pain as well as damage. The bones would be shattered before the hand was taken.” He lifted the arm with the missing hand. “See? The arm itself is whole.”
He held the arm up in one hand and felt along its length with the other. Coming to her chest, he cupped a breast and lifted it slightly.
Tardiff watched. “What are you doing now?”
Greetings! I’m your friendly, neighborhood Threshold Guardian. This is a protected post. Protected posts in the My Work, Marketing, and StoryCrafting categories require a subscription (starting at 1$US/month) to access. Protected posts outside those categories require a General (free) membership.
Members and Subscribers can LogIn. Non members can join. Non-protected posts (there are several) are available to everyone.
Want to learn more about why I use a subscription model? Read More ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes Enjoy!