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ReynaldwasaHospitalleronhiswaytoCrusadeintheHolyLand.

Coming

fromFrance,Reynaldtookupthecrossinordertopurgehissoulofthesinsthat
hauntedhislife.However,whileonhisjourneytotheHolyLand,heencountered
severalancientfigureswhotaughthimmorethananypreacherorcleric,moreso
eventhantheHolyBook.Thisisthechronicleofthoseencounters.

ReynaldrodealongtheMediteraneancoast,goingfromforeststodesert.He

hadpassedthroughthelandofSyriaandhadnowarrivedintoGalilee.Hisfirststop
amongsttheCrusadewastomeetupwiththeTemplersandotherforcesinAcre,
leadbyRichardI,sonofLadyElinore.

Hehadreachedthetopofamountwhenhelookedintothedistance.Desert

landslayacrossthehorizonwiththeexceptionofAcre,aportcityamongstthe
vultures.Onceagloriouscity,AcrewasnowundercontrolbytheMoslemforcesand
besiegedbytheCrusadersoftheWest.Reynaldcouldseesmokerisingfromthe
battlements,andthefaintremnentsofarrowvolleys.Reynaldhadtravelledfor
severalweekswithinthelandofSyriaandnowwasbeginningtofeelthefatigueof
travel.Hedismountedfromhischargerandwenttofindanearbystreamtomake
camp.

Helocatedasmallriver,filteredinfromtheinland;Reynaldtookadrinkto

seeifitwassafetotaste.Takinghisgauntletsandglovesoff,hedippedhishands
intothewaterandcuppedthecrystal,gleamingwaters.Hetookasipofthewaters
andspatitoutalmostimmediately.Itwasfartoosaltytotakein.Helookedathis
surroundingsagaintofindapotablewatersource.

Reynaldtookhishorsebythereinsandwandereduptheriver,untilhe

noticedaglimmerinthesand.Theknightapproachedtheshiningobjectandbent
downtoexaminethetreasure.Theitemwasasteelnobaboutthesizeofahand,
withgoldinlaysonthesides.Reynaldbrushedawaythesandtorevealan
inscriptionuponthenob.Itlookedtobescribbles,butReynaldbelievedittobe
Hebrew.Hehadnoideahowtoreadtheinscription,butthereweretwomarksupon
thenob,bothdifferentfromeachother.

Reynaldgrippedthenobandtriedtoturnit,butnothinghappened.Hethen

triedtopullthenob,andanoiserang.Itwaslikethatofalatchreleasing.Hepulled
itagainandthegroundaroundthenobbegantofallin.Reynaldbackedawayfrom
thesinkholewithhishorse.Hewatchedasthesandcollapsedaroundthenob,
revealingasilverpipedrivingdeepwithintheearth.ToReynaldsamazement,the
groundwasreplacedbywater,butthesidesofsandaroundthesinkholedidnot
emptyintothewater.Reynaldcrossedhimselfatthesightofthemiraclehehadjust
witnessed.

Reynaldkneeleddowntothewateranddippedhishandsintothepool.It

wasamystical,coolingfeelingallaroundhiswrist.Cuppingsomeofthewater,he
broughtittohismouthanddrankdeeply.Thewaterwascoolandfresh,asifdivine
handshadtouchedit.Hefilledhishelmetupandlethishorsedrinkdeepofthe
water.ThehorseseemedtoenjoyitasmuchasReynaldhadandwasrefreshed.
Reynaldputhishelmetbackintohissaddlebag,andtookhiswaterskinouttofillit
withthedivinewater.Hedippedtheskinintothewaters,butnoneofthe

miraculousliquidenteredtheskin.Frusterated,Reynaldtriedtofilltheskinagain,
buttonoavail.
Hetossedtheskintothesideofthepoolandlookedintothepool.Something
caughthiseyedeepwithinthepool.Reynaldnoticedayoungwoman,decoratedin
inashawlbedeckedwithjewels.Shehadebonyskinanddark,piercingeyes.Onone
armsheheldasmallboywiththesamepiercingeyes,andinherotherhandshe
heldanalluringmetalcontraption.ShehelditouttowardsReynaldandthe
contraptionbrokethroughthesurfaceofthewater.Reynaldlookedastheebony
fingersclaspingthetreasureprotrudedthepool.Reynaldclaspedhisfingersaround
thesilvercontraptionandthedarkhandslippedbackintothepool.
Reynaldexaminedtheitemveryclosely.Itwasasilvercontainerdecorated
withsmallpicturesofwhatlookedlikepeopleprayingtosnakesandhawks.There
wasasymbolthatReynaldnoticedalloverthecontainer:adecorativeeyewithlines
andraysallaroundit.
Reynaldlookedbackatthedivinepoolandnoticedthatthewaterswerenow
recedingbackintothesand.Reynaldlookedwithshockandbegantounscrewthe
topofthecontainerfrantically.Hehadtohurryifhewishedtokeepsomeofthe
miraculousliquid.Hefinallyunscrewedthetopanddippedthecontainerintothe
water,watchingthebubblesriseupfromthecontainer.Oncehesawthatthe
containerwasfull,hepulleditfromthewatersandlookedatthecontainer.Itwas
filledcompletely.Reynaldagainlookedbackatthepool,whichhadcompletely
disappearedintothedesertsands.Allthatremainedwasanemptyholewiththe
nobbedpoleprotrudingfromthehole.Thepolebegantosinkintothesanduntilit

toohaddisappeared.AsReynaldstoodup,thesandbegantofilluptheholeuntilthe
sandhadremainedasitoncehad,unblemishedandbleachedfromthesun.
Reynaldpouredsomeofthewaterintohishelmetandlethischargerdrink
deeplyfromthewater.Reynaldscrewedthesilvercapontothecontainerandgently
placeditwithinhissaddlebag.
Hischargerkneltdowntosleepuponthesandsasthesunbegantosetover
thedeserthorizon,astrangecoolingbreezesurroundingthewarriorandhissteed.
Reynalddrewhiscapeoverhimselfandrestednexttohishorse.Thechargerdid
notseemtomindbeingconsideredapillow,justasReynalddidnotmindbeing
consideredablanket.

Reynaldwokeupwiththesunalreadyrising,butitwasnotthesunthat
wokehimnorthehorsehewasrestinghisheadupon.Hefeltasharpjabinhisleg,
wakinghisbody.Reynaldlookedupathisannoyance.Itwasaninfantryman
wearingahelmetandlightarmor.HeworetheemblemofRichardtheLionheart
uponhistunicandwasarmedwithaspear.Aleatherscabbardheldhissword,hung
athissinisterside.
Makeyourselfknown,wretch!saidthesoldierwithahardEnglishaccent.
Reynaldlookedwithannoyanceuponthesoldier.Reynaldstoodupslowly
andannouncedhimself.IamReynalddeCiteux,knightoftheHospitallerOrder,
andIexpectmorerespectfromKingRichardstroops.
Thesoldierstraightenedhimselfandapologizedforhisactions.

Sorrysir.KingRichardhasorderedheightenedsurveilancearoundthecity
ofAcre.Everyonewhopassesthroughmustbeaccountedfor.Pardonmyrudeness,
sir.MynameisGerardfromEssex.
Reynaldnoddedhisheadtothesoldier.Greetings,GerardofEssex.Whatis
thenewsofAcre?Inoticedsmokerisingfromthefortificationsyesterday.
Wehavetakenthecityandcapturedthosewithin.Ijustarrivedwithtroops
fromDamascusandmissedallthefightingunfortunately.Now,Iambeingpunished
bycensusandguardduty.IwasnotevenallowedtolootthehomesReynaldlooked
quizzicalatGerard.Hebegantosetuphissaddlebagandclaspedhiscloakaround
hisneckandshoulder.
Gerardisthereanychanceyoucouldescortmeintothecity.Ifeelhavinga
soldierwithyourjeneseisquawouldallowmebetteraccessintothecity.
Gerardsfaceimmediatelylitup.Itdbemypleasuresir.Thatsafinelooking
chargeryouhave.Whatishername?Gerardtriedtopetthechargersnose,to
whichthechargershookandbackedaway.Reynaldstrokedhishandacrossthe
chargersnecktocalmthehorse.
HISnameisGoliath,repliedReynaldwithasmileacrosshisface.Gerard
blushedwithembarassment.ReynaldmountedGoliathandslidhisfeetintothe
stirrups.Gerard,leadtheway.Gerardnoddedhisheadandtookuphisspear.

ThebatteredwallsofAcreweretallerthananyfortressReynaldhadever
seen.Invasiveflamesdarkenedthetopsandsectionsofthebattlementswere
victimsofcatapultblowsfromthepastnights.Reynaldcouldonlyimaginehowthis

gloriouscityhadappearedbeforeflamesandarrowsdefiledher.Itwasathought
thatsaddenedReynaldsheart.
ThecitygateswereguardedbytwoEnglishinfantrymen,halberdslimpat
theirsides.Theyseemedtobeboredonduty,searchingforreliefatthenextbeckon
call.OneofthesoldiersnoticedGoliathandshooktheothersoldieralert.They
seemedtobesurprisedbytheEnglishguide.
Gerard!Wherehaveyoubeen?Wesentyouonsearchpatrolsometimeago.
Andwhoisthisthatyoubringtocamp.ThesoldierpointedhishalberdatReynald.
ThisisReynalddeCiteux,aHospitallerknightfromFrance.Hehascometo
joingoodKingRichardoncrusade.Gerardlookedpleasedwithhimself,asifhehad
foundagoldenchampion.
TheEnglishguardshookhishead.TisasaddaywhenanEnglishsoldier
leadsaFrenchknightbythehorse.Youcandressadandelioninarmour,butitcan
stillloseitsheadFrenchman.
Reynalddrewhisbladeandpointedittowardstheguard.Watchyour
tonguecurr,orIshallcutitoutandsparetheembarrasementofyourkind.
Whatisthemeaningofthis?Aknightdressedinfullarmourwiththemark
ofKingRichardwalkedthroughthegate.Isitcustomaryforaguardtothreatena
Hospitallerknight?Theguardblushedandlookedattheground.
Reynaldsheathedhissword.Iapologize.Manyofourmendonotcarrythe
properetiquetteformenoftheworld.MynameisSirEdgar,acaptainofKing
Richardshorsebrigade.Reynaldshookhandswiththecaptain.

ItsquitealrightSirEdgar.Reynalddismountedfromhischargerandlead
Goliaththroughthegate,SirEdgarfollowingbehind.Thegatewasenormousand
decorative.Sandstonereliefsofanageoldrulerholdingalioninhisgraspadorned
outsideofthegatesandtheinnerwalkway.
Theinsideofthecitywasvast,comprisedofseveralroadsleadingtothe
innercity.Minaretsgrazedtheskylineofthebuildings,someofwhichhadbeen
castratedbymissilesinthenight.Smokecontinuedtorisefromseveralareasofthe
city.Thestreetsseemeddeserted,asifnotasinglesoulhadlivedwithinthecityto
beginwith.Therewerecorpsesstrewnaboutthestreets,dogsscavengingthe
bodiesforfood.TherewereacoupleEnglishtroopslootingthroughthebodiesfor
trinketsandsuch.Onesoldierbentdownwithhisdaggertoexamineascorched
body.Hetookthedeceasedhand,nowswollenfromfluxblood,andtriedtoremove
theringsfromtheportlyfingers.Uponafailedattempt,hesawedthefingeroffwith
hisdagger,relievingthefluxbloodandremovedtheringfromtheknuckleside.It
wasasightthatthoroughlydisgustedReynald.
Oneoftheguardssaidthatyourtroopshavetakenthecitycaptive,andyetI
haveseennocaptiveshere.Reynaldaskedthecaptain.
Thecaptainturnedhisgazetotheearthandreplied,Yourguardhasplayed
youfalseImafraid.Wedidhavecaptiveswhenwetookthecityseveralweeksago.
WhatyousawyeterdaywasthedefenseofthecityagainstMoslemskirmishers.
However,whenwehadfirsttakenthecity,goodKingRichardhadaccountedthe
amountofcaptivesinthecityandsentamessagetothatscimitarinthesand,
Saladin.KingRichardwishedtonegotiateanexchangeofprisonersbetweenhimself

andSaladin.Weekswentbyandweheardnonewsofthematter,untilacoupledays
agowhenaMoslemmessengerbroughtamessagefromSaladin.Hestatedinhis
messagethatnonegotiationsweretobeconductedandthatanassaultwasonly
somedistanceawayfromAcre.ThussaithSaladin,KingRichardbecameenslavedby
madness.Heorderedthemassacreofthousandsofcaptiveswithinthecity.What
youseeherearetheconsequencesofSaladinandRichard.Theassaultthe
messengerhadtoldofattackedustwodaysagoandittwasnotuntildawnthatthe
attackended.Oncethecaptainhadfinishedhistale,hewanderedbacktowardsthe
gateandleftReynaldtoponderhissurroundings.
ReynaldtookGoliathbythereinsandleadhimdownoneoftheemptyroads.
Astheywentonwards,Reynaldcouldsmelltheputridscentofburninghairand
flesh.Ashemadehiswaydownthenarrowpassage,Goliathrearedupinfear.
Reynaldturnedabouttocalmhischarger.Hedidnotknowwhathadfrightenedthe
steed,butheknewGoliathwasnoteasytofrighten.
ReynaldenteredasquareandGoliathwasfrightenedagain.However,this
timeReynaldcouldseewhyGoliathwouldbefrightened.Inthecenterofthesquare,
therewasaburneddownbuildingstillsmokingfromthepastflames.Reynaldlead
thesteedintothesquare,butGoliathwouldnotmoveanyfurthertowardsthe
building.ReynaldtiedGoliathlooselytoanearbypostandwalkedtowardsthe
ruinedbuiliding.
Reynaldranhisfingersacrossthecharredsandstone,feelingthewarmth
bellowingfromthestone.Belowhishand,sandanddirthadcakedagainsttheburnt

wall.ReynaldbrushedthedebrisfromthestonetorevealaStarofDavidcarvedinto
thestone.
Reynaldwalkedthroughthedestroyedgate,observingthedestruction
withintheruinedsynagogue.Burnedcarcasseswerestrewnabouttheground,
manyofofwhichseemedtogiveevidenceoftheirlastmomentsonearth.Bony
handsreachedfortheonlygateinthesynagogue,wishingtoescapetheirfate.As
Reynaldwalkedamongstthecorpses,hecoveredisnoseandmouthsoastonot
inhalethefoulstenchofdeaththathungintheair.Ratsscurriedthroughbodiesand
Reynaldcouldseefliesamongstthedead.Manyofthedeadwerestillholdingonto
theirprayerbeads,bothMoslemsandJews.Tohissurprise,severalofthecorpses
hadmetalcrosseshangingaroundtheirnecks.
ThecrusadersmusthavethrownChristiansintothissynagogueaswell,
Reynaldthoughttohimself.Coveringuphismouthandnose,Reynaldmadehisway
outoftheruinedsynagogue.
AsReynaldreleasedGoliathfromthepost,heheardthesoundofastruggle
nearby.TakingGoliathsreins,Reynaldadvanceddownastreetinthedirectionof
thenoise.OnthesideofthestreettherewasanEnglishsoldierforcinghimselfupon
awoman.Shehadlong,dirtyhairandstruggledtokeepthemanoffofher.
Hey!Stopthisatonce!shoutedReynald.Thesoldierdidnotstophis
advances.ReynalddroppedGoliathsreinsandrantowardsthesoldier.Hegrabbed
theinfantrymansshoulderandhurledthemanoffofthewoman.Theinfantryman
drewhisbladeasareactiontotheattack.WhenhesawReynaldsemblem,he
loweredhissword.

Imsorrysir,butsheattackedmyarm.Iwaswalkingandsheattackedme
fromtheshadows,graspingontomyarm.Saidthesoldierindefence.
Thatisnoreasontoseizeawoman.Nowbegonefromhere!ordered
Reynald.Thesoldierimmediatelystoodupandranwithhisswordrawn.Nodoubt
hewouldtelltheothersoldiersofwhatReynaldhaddone,thoughtReynald.
Reynaldturnedabouttolookuponthewoman.Shewasshakingallover,
frightenedfromtheattackitwouldseem.Hecroucheddowntoherlevel,andplaced
ahanduponhershoulder.SheimmediatelylookedatReynaldsface,herfeaturesa
shocktoReynald.Shehadbrightblueeyesagainstadarkenedfacefromtheashesof
herruinedcity.Herlipsquivered,possiblyfromhunger,withcrackedlips.Reynald
staredintohereyesandfeltastrangefeeling,asifhehadseenthembefore.He
stoodupandledGoliathnearthewoman.Hetookthedivinewatercontaineroutof
hissaddlebag.Hekneltbackdownnearthewomanandunscrewedthetopofthe
containerandgaveittothewoman.Thewomanlookedbackfromthecontainerto
Reynaldandgrabbedthecontainerfromhishand.Shedrankdeeplyfromthedivine
waters,andonceshehaddrunkherfill,broughthergazetoReynald.
Reynaldshookoffhislackofspeech.Whoareyou?heaskedthewoman.
ShestaredathimandimmediatelypushedReynalddown.Reynaldwasshockedby
theactionanddidnotrealizethatthewomanhadbeguntorundownthestreet.
ReynaldimmediatelygotupandmountedGoliath.Hewasdeterminedtofindout
whothewomanwas.
Reynaldfollowedthewomantoadarksectionofthecity.Thewomanhad
enteredabuildingconstructedwithnowindows.Reynalddismountedfromhis

horseandtiedhimup.Hesearchedthebuildingforsignsofadoor,buttheredidnot
seemtobeanyentrancetothebuilding.Finally,Reynaldhadnoticedasmallwolfs
headprotrudingfromthestonewithitsmouthopen.Reynaldexaminedthewall
mountandplacedhisfingerswithinthemouth.Thetonguewaswarmasifsomeone
hadtoucheditbefore.Hepresseddownuponthetongueandthejawlowered.A
doornearthewallmountslidopenrevealingtheentrancetothebuilding.Reynald
walkedthroughtheopening.
Itwasdarkallaroundtheroomandtheonlylightwastheflickeringof
candles.Uponthewallswerehungmetalgauntlets,hundredsofthem.Reynald
approachedonesetofgauntletsandranhisfingersacrossthegauntlets.Thesteel
wascoldtotouch,thegroovesandartworksmoothedagainsthisfingers.Centaurs
fightingmen,Amazonsslayinghoplites,anornamentationofthepast.Aslightnoise
inthecornerdrewReynaldsgaze.Thewomanwascrouchedinthecornerholding
thesilvercontainerinherhands.
Wheredidyoufindthis?sheaskedReynaldinthedarkness.
Reynaldwasshocked.Didsheknowofthedivinewatercontainer?IIfound
itinthedesert.Reynalddecidedthatitwouldbebesttokeeptheoriginofthe
containerasecretforthetimebeing.
Thewomanstaredatthecontainer.Onlysomeoneofpureheartcouldfind
theCaskofHagar.ThewomanlookedupatReynaldandsmiled.Yyouaretheone
theprophecyspokeof.ThewomanrushedtowardsReynaldandheldontohisfeet.
Reynaldwassurprisedbytheentiresituation.Hecroucheddowntothewomans
levelandplacedhishanduponhercheek.Itwaswetfromhertears.

Whoareyou?Reynaldaskedthewoman.
Thewomanregainedhercomposure.MynameisTarpeiaandyouhave
cometohearmystory.ShegaveReynaldbackthesilvercaskandstoodup.Reynald
satbackandlistened.Tarpeiawalkedtowardsoneofthewalls,brushingherhand
againstthegauntlets.
Centuriesago,whenRomewasonlyacityruledunderRomulos,Ilivednear
theCampodoglioasapriestesstoVesta,goddessofthehearth.Myfatherwasa
generalunderthecomandofRomuloshimself.Romewasunderinvasionfromthe
Sabines,arivaltribe.OnedayIwassentouttogatherwaterfortheritualsofVesta,
butinordertoreachoursacredspringIhadtogetpermisionfromtheguardstogo
outsidethecitywalls.MyfatherwarnedmeoftheSabinesnearingthecity,butour
priestessesneededsacredwater.
Sincethespringwasnotfarfromthecitywalls,myfatherdidnotsenda
guardtoaccompanyme.Therewereguardspostedalongthewoodenwalls,somy
safetywasneverinquestion.
AsIwasfillingthewaterjarsatthespring,ayoungmanfrightenedme.Im
sorryifIfrightenedyou.Ivebeenhuntingforsometimeandcameforwater.He
wasahandsomeyoungmanwithbrownhairandgreyeyes.Hehadashortbowand
aquiverofarrows.Hebentdownandcuppedthewaterwithhishands.Afterhe
drankhisfill,hesplashedabitofitinhisfacetorefreshhimself.Helookedbackat
me,facesaturatedfromthewater.Hehadthelikenessofagod,anadonisinmy
presence.

MynameisDemetrios.Themansaidashesatdownnearme.Whatsyour
name?Ilookedathimstunned.Iquicklyshookitaway.
MynameisTarpeia.Areyoufromaroundhere?Themansmiledatme.
Imfromavillagenotfarfromhere.Youhaveverybeautifulname.Ibegan
toblushfromthecomment.NomanhadevertreatedmelikethismandidandI
barelyknewhim.
Everyweekwewouldtrytomeetnearthespringtoseeeachother.Imadeup
differentexcusesjusttoseeDemetrios,untilfinally,Demetriossaidsomethingthat
mademeincrediblyhappy.Hetoldmethathewishedtomarryme.Iagreedtothe
matterhappilyandembracedhim.ItoldhimthatweshouldleaveRomeandmove
totheGreeklandsofthesouth.Heagreedbutsaidthathewishedtomakethe
marriageblessedbyMinervawhosetemplewaswithinthecityofRome.Ishallput
thebandonyourlefthandinthepresenceofyouandblessedMinerva,hetoldme.I
agreedwithoutanythoughtbutmyhappiness.Weagreedtodoitthenextday.
TarpeialookedbackatReynald,hecouldseetearsrunningdownherface.It
tookhersometimebeforeshecouldcontinuewithhertale.
ThenextdayIwaspreparingmyselfforthemarriageritual.Iwouldhave
toldmyfather,buthewasawaywithhisbattalionfightingEtruscansinthenorth.I
wenttothegateandtoldoneoftheguardsthatIwasgoingtogetwaterfromthe
spring.TheguardgavemepermissiontoopenthegateandIpreparedtoopenthe
latchonthegate.
Iopenedthegate,butDemetrioswasnotatthedoor.Insteadtherewasatall
roughmanwithadarkbrownbeardatthedoor.Hewasdressedinfullarmorwith

drawnswordandbaredshield.Behindhimwerelinesofsoldiers.Iwasconfusedas
towhatwashappening,butinmomentsthefirstmanshovedmedownwithhis
shieldandhistroopsfollowedsuitbehindhim.Isawasthesewarriorsfought
unsuspectingguardsandmanywhoenterednoticedmeonthegroundandraised
theirshieldsaroundme.Inoticedtheemblemsontheirarmorandrealizedthat
theywereSabines.Behindthesoldiers,IsawDemetriosdressedinfullSabine
armor,withasadlookuponhisface.Iknewinthatmomentthathedidcareabout
me,buthecaredforhiscountrymore.TheSabinesbroughttheirshieldsdownupon
meandthenIsawnothingbutdarkness.Completedarkness.
IwokeupdayslateratthebottomoftheCampodogliocliffs,surprisingly
alive.Iwasdirtiedcompletelyfromheadtotoe,butunhurtfromthefall.Ilookedat
myarmsandhandsandnoticedsomethingstrangeonmylefthand.Therewasa
bandofgoldwrappedaroundmyfinger.IcriedwhenIrealizedthatDemetrioshad
placedthisringonmyhand.
IleftRomeafterthatandwanderedthelandasavagabond.Fortheloveand
betrayalagainstme,IstoletheseshieldgauntletsfromdeadmenthatIfoundonmy
journeys.IstolethemtoremindmeofthepainIfeeleverydayofmylife.Itriedto
findareasonforthegodstoletmeliveforever,butIcouldfindnone.Iwascursed
formyfeelings.TarpeiatookdownoneofthegauntletsandbroughtittoReynald.
Thiswasmyfathersgauntlet.ItwascalledtheFoundersHand.Itwassaid
thatVulcanforgeditfromadamantine.Inowgiveittoyou.Takeitasagiftformy
spirit.ReynaldslowlytookthegauntletfromTarpei.Itlookedasifithadbeen

forgedyesterday.Therewereengravingsoftoddlerssucklingawolf.Reynald
removedhisgauntletandstrappedthenewgauntlettohiswrist.
Tarpeiawalkedbacktothedarkcornerandpickedupsomethingfromthe
floor.WhensheturnedbacktoReynald,hecouldseethatitwasadagger.
Ihavebeenwaitingforthismomentforyears,Reynald.Finallymyspiritcan
befree.FinallyIcanbefree.Tarpeiaaimedthedaggertowardsherheartand
preppedherselffortherelease.
Tarpeia!No!Reynaldexclaimedasherantowardsher.Tarpeiaplungedthe
daggerintoherchestandbegantoswoontotheground.Reynaldcaughtherand
heldherinhisarms.Hepulledthebladefromherchest,releasingbloodintotheair.
TarpeiasblooddrippeddownReynaldsarmandontothefloor.Shewasstillalive
asReynaldheldher.
Astrangewhirlwindflewaboutherandthedirtfromherbodyfadedaway.
Reynaldturnedhisheadawayfromthestrangewind,andwhenhelookedback,the
womanhehadheldbeforewasdifferent.Shewasayoungerwomanwithpurewhite
skinandapristinetunic.Thedaggerwoundwasgone,alongwiththebloodstains.
TarpeiaopenedhereyestoseeReynaldsfacelookingdownather.Shesmiledand
placedherhandonhischeekfeelingthedarkstubbleagainstherfingers.
Mygodshaveforgivenme,Reynald.Icanreturntomyplaceintheheavens.
HersmilefadedslightlyandshelookeddeeperintoReynaldseyes.
Nowyoumustaskyourself,willyourGodforgiveyoucrusader?Willyour
Godforgiveyou?

AsTarpeiasaidthis,herbodybegantovanishintotheair,extinguishingall
thecandleswithintheroom.Reynaldwasleftinthedarknessalone,cryingfora
womanhehadnevermettillnow.