VILLESEN || CATHEDRAL OF THE HUNDRED MARTYRS The First Day after the Peace IWHEN the Revolution came and destroyed the putrid old throne of Serenierre, when Leopold the Tenth scurried off in the dead of night after the execution of his family at the hand of brave young revolutionaries, in all that chaos, Generalissimo Serazin had made a promise to the people. That though the banner of the proletariat would rise across the lands, the devotion to Christ would remain firm in Serenierre. And through the many years, with the rising and waning of one generation of Sérazinist leadership, that promise had remained firm. And so, in this moment of national celebration: the Treaty of Camp Hill having been signed, a national service of remembrance would assume center stage. "My children, a blessed day has arrived on these ancient lands," Archbishop Dominique Hippolyte stood at the massive pulpit in the old bishop's corner of the Cathedral of the Hundred Martyrs. Built in the 13th century, this edifice in limestone and granite had seen the highs and lows of the nation. But that morning, the ancient cathedral stood witness to a full mass. "Those ancient heretics to the southern frontier have been defeated by the power of our Lord. Hell hath opened its door on their sins and heresy. And as God is our witness we have defeated the Cathar menace from the heart of our beloved Gallia!" "Must he be so dramatic?" Elisabeth Martinique whispered to Bernard Lavosnier. "This was not a crusade." "Don't worry, he won't get to take credit for the victory," he responded in an equally low murmur. "Oh, and don't look so constipated Premier, the cameras are on you too." She nodded. "Blessed is this day!" the Archbishop said, his voice booming across the sombre interior, "We have vanquished a great foe that has dogged the Serenien nation for centuries. Vanquished the enemy... the enemy that no King could. Only now under the guiding light of our Sérazinist revolution have we achieved a final solution to the scourge of Cathar heresy." A round of applause. With certain hesitation, Elisabeth found herself clapping as well. She knew she had to. She looked at the Archbishop and met his gaze. His blue eyes stared back at her. She felt a shiver run down her spine. He smiled at her. She smiled right back. The archbishop's office was a grand room high up in one of the towers of the cathedral. Once, long ago, it was said, these very walls bore witness to the agonies of inquisition. How exactly a former torture cell came to be the office of the archbishop remained the subject of much lore. But as the sun poured through the stained glass windows, Elisabeth was fuming. "That was quite the..." "You liked my sermon?" he interjected, a sickly sweet smile plastered on his face. "I was going to say 'speech'." Elisabeth was sitting on a sofa in the Archbishop's office. Bernard Lavosnier was sitting on the sofa opposite her. "Yes, quite political, Your Holiness," he said with a wry smile. The archbishop sat on an upholstered chair facing them. "You think it was too much?" "Must you play dumb in private?" Elisabeth snapped. "Who on earth gave you the right to announce such bold moves?" "My pilgrimage? Is that what sparks your ire, Madame?" "You're bloody right. I reckon you have forgotten that it is the Politburo which approves your sermon. And yet today, you chose to be creative." The Archbishop sat still: "The Politburo has jurisdiction only over weekly masses. I am free to speak as I choose on special occasions such as these." She started at him. He was right. She had to accept defeat on that point. "Elisabeth, I think I should continue." Bernard looked at the Premier. "What Madame Martinique seeks to convey Your Holiness is that we do not think it is wise to stir the pot. Your announcement to go on a procession through Occitania is not at all advisable." The cleric held his hands together, almost as if in prayer, "But Commissar Lavosnier, you must understand, the Cathar heretics must be made to see the glory of the Christian faith. And, it would be most improper for centuries of heresy to not be purified by a truly Catholic procession through these newly liberated lands." "I forbid it!" Elisabeth shouted. "But Madame Premier, it is not your permission I need. " He pointed to the sky. "Madame, the lands must be purified. I must do what is my obligation to the Almighty. If that is all, I believe we are done." She glared at him for a moment before rising from her seat and walking off. Bernard kissed the Archbishop's ring and followed suit. IIDominique stood by the windows. The city skyline stretching out before him. "Why must they resist? I mean them no ill will. I certainly did not mean to offend." "Yes, Your Eminence," Prior Adolphe said to him. "But you speak the truth. Those heathen lands must be purified. Our procession would show the guiding light to the Cathars and bring the first dawn of righteousness to that forsaken land of sin and heresy. And what you propose is nothing compared to the carnage that infernal woman wrought on the poor misguided mass of heretics. So I ask you to still your mind. You are not in the wrong, Your Eminence." Dominique winced at the mention of the carnage. He knew full well of the violence that had taken place in the Occitanian hinterland. The bombed out cities and the empty husks of humanity left behind. Through the war, he was unsure of how many times it had happened, but he knew that horrendous weapons of suffering had been used. Some rumours suggested that the military had not stopped only at chemical weapons but that biological agents, too, had wrecked havoc to the lands of the Occitan. But he was not certain. No one in Serenierre was. But, through sheer force of will Premier Martinique had conquered a foe that no king, no man, no Serenien before her had ever managed to claim. The successful division of Occitania and the defeat of the Trier Concord had without a doubt sent the name 'Elisabeth Martinique' into the annals of history. "I see the reason in your words but why does my heart not silence the terror that woman strikes in my heart." He clutched his crucifix for a moment before fiddling with his ring. "But I must always be firm with her. The Church has an important authority in our society. We must ensure that the path to salvation is never forgotten, even by people like the Sérazinists." "Indeed," the Prior walked up to the Archbishop. "But you must rest now. Enough of these troubles." He held his hand and walked him to a seat. "Here," he passed him a pill and a glass of water. "If confession does not help. A pill certainly will. " "Thank you." OOC: Open to all participants of Summer of Reckoning.