Chapter 8

"Hey, wake up!”

Raoul felt a foot press against his shoulder. Instinctively, the knight recoiled, even before fully awaking. Instantly the shroud of slumber dissipated, and he peered above him. Inaudibly, Raoul sighed with relief. It was just a slave bringing him his food. Other mornings did not always begin so calmly.

"Finally!" the slaveboy grumbled. "I thought you'd never wake up. How can you sleep with all those chains on anyway?"

Raoul did not answer him aloud. Too much experience, he thought to himself, forcing a weary smile.

Pushing himself up to a sitting position, the knight reached out for the platter. The young slave handed it over, eyeing him as he did so. Raoul caught the look, but said nothing. The boy, however, needed no prompting to speak his mind.

"How long do you plan on staying in this wretched place?"

It was rather bold for the child, but hardly surprising. Though the enslaved nobleman was easily three times the boy's age, the knight's position made him an easy target for idle arrogance.

"As long as it takes," Raoul said simply, setting the plate beside him. He turned back for the water jug, but the young slave would not hand it to him just yet.

"What? Are you thinking of your ransom?" he asked haughtily. The Crusader nodded.

"Well!" the boy scoffed, "A lot of good it does for you. You are still a slave."

"Some have waited a long time, and in the end - "

"And others have died waiting!" the child retorted abruptly. The knight slowly looked up at his young, authoritative interrogator. With a tone and look the child could never understand, the poor exile calmly answered:

"It will come." He reached out for the water. The little slave handed it to him with a laugh.

"Almost nine years as a slave, and you still think someone will come? You really are as crazy as they say!"

The Crusader's downcast eyes glanced thoughtfully at the earthen jar in his hands. Actually, it had been well over nine years since he was captured in battle. And more than two of those years had been spent in this torturous prison. Over two years... nearly three... And every day hoping that each one would be the last. Raoul gently shook his head. He would not give up... he could not. Not now.

His deep thoughts were gradually distracted by the boy's continued chattering. Raoul blinked and squinted up towards him. Humiliations were not lacking for the French lord, and there were plenty of volunteers to gloat over his misfortunes. For instance, this young slave spoke with such authority, and yet the child's entire lifespan could hardly have exceeded the duration of Raoul's slavery. Evidently, the French Crusader was a frequent subject of disdainful conversation.

At length the slaveboy, not waiting for the tall knight to respond, turned away with a sneer.

"No one is coming for you," the boy said, as he reached down for yesterday's empty plate and jug.

"Oh," He stopped suddenly, a mischievous look on his dark face, "except for the master."

The noble captive involuntarily became tense and rigid.

"What do you mean?" He eyed the young slave cautiously.

The boy merely cocked his head and asked with a smirk, "Do you hate him as much as he hates you?"

But Raoul was not even listening. "What about the master?" he pressed.

"I heard him talking about you," the slave replied, innocently shrugging his shoulders. "He's coming later for a 'visit'."

Quite pleased by the pain he had evidently inflicted on the Crusader, the grinning boy scurried out of the hot prison.

At the mere thought of his master's coming, all of the knight's valiant resolutions and nerve seemed to crumble. For a moment, his courage tottered.

A tiny shadow suddenly passed over Raoul’s face. Tilting his head, he watched as a large bird flew far overhead, a distant speck in the vast blue sky. Without a thought, a longing sigh escaped him.

And then he smiled. It was a mournful smile though, one which would have elicited no pleasure from any soul, only pity. For the noble knight was grinning at the envy he felt towards the simple creature soaring above.

"What freedom," he whispered, "is given to the humble animals."

He could still remember back to when he had been captive in this dungeon for only a year. He had had such strong hopes for his rescue then. His needs had been so great; his pains, unbearable. They still were. But even in the past, he didn't have recourse to the security or safety of his own mind. His torments had long since surpassed the realm of physical torture.

"And now it has been over two years," he moaned, "Almost three, really, since I was chained in this miserable tower." His eyes wandered listlessly about his cell.

"God, what are you waiting for? What is lacking? I know that it will happen. I just cannot see when." His head fell. "I do not think I can endure this much longer."

A bitter sigh escaped him as he listened to himself. How often had he said such things. So many countless times in the past he had found himself at "his strength's end". And yet here he sat; facing, for all he knew, decades of imprisonment and torture. The knight involuntarily gasped at the thought.

"Oh dear God!" was all he could say. "Please..."

The solitary stillness was broken by the sting of a burning wind. But Raoul did not feel it. Instead, he felt an all too familiar heaviness slowly invading his mind.

It would have been much easier if you had simply embraced your fate years ago.

Raoul instinctively grit his teeth. He had grown quite weary of these silent debates.

"This is not my fate," he answered the voices quietly. "This will change."

The demons, however, did not respond so meekly. With anger and vehemence, they challenged the willful prisoner.

How much longer will you feed such dreams? they demanded. God has already answered you again and again. Do you not know denial and judgment when you see it? How dare you defy His Will! What pride! What if He wants you to stay here until death - what is your response? Others have endured worse torments than you. What have you done to deserve liberty?

For a moment, the captive lord said nothing. The dreadful possibility that his ransom may never come had often presented itself to him. For all these years, he had been so sure... so hopeful. He had always banished that despairing thought. But now, after almost ten years of slavery, the knight could not ignore its challenge. What would he do if God had already decided that he must end his days as a slave?

In answer, these same voices, - who had just seemingly defended God’s Sovereign rights over His creatures - now swarmed around the Crusader with incessant and blasphemous accusations:

What kind of God would betray His faithful servant and abandon him to this fate?

And after all that you have endured for Christ?

Yet where is the loving God you have served so well?

How long have you waited and prayed?

Where is God's justice?

He is a liar! He is the Father of Lies!!!

Their clamoring grew to an almost senseless din. The knight waved his hand through the hot air, in a desperate attempt to chase away these thoughts - for each one was taking a stronger hold on his soul. He was tired - tired of everything. He felt abandoned and lost; hopeless and helpless...

... and angry - angry at these incessant battles, and so weary that he felt no strength against them. But despite the lifelessness that threatened to consume him, his will still had the power to command. And in the face of the abject despair which strove to engulf him, the desperate knight, like Job of old, refused to curse his God.

"I will not hate Him. Neither will I blame Him for my sorrow. He is just. He does all things well... and with love."

Raoul lowered his burning face into his hands. He felt empty inside - dead. Yet his mind remained a battlefield. The seclusion of his own mind was more torturous of a prison for him than the sweltering tower chamber ever could be. And when the din had, at length, subsided, new, and quieter “thoughts” stealthily rose above the rest:

What courage! Yes! You are faithful... Ten times a martyr's reward awaits your valiant soul!!

The knight ignored the deceptive flattery and folded his scarred hands. Such talk was almost as disgusting to the humble Crusader as the blasphemous shrieks.

"God owes me nothing." Raoul said aloud. "And if somehow my sins have forced His hand, then I plead for His Mercy. I have been pleading for mercy." His firm voice faltered though as he spoke and the next instant his eyes were staring pleadingly into the bright sky. "I don't deserve it. I know I don't deserve it. But I need Your mercy! Oh dear God, I need it!”

I am willing to sacrifice my life to You. I am ready to win the martyr's crown. My life is Yours - but You will not take it! My master has condemned me to life-long tortures in this prison. If I am to die..." His sad eyes blinked slowly. The thought that ten years of yearning and praying should end in this... Raoul shook his head.

"Can I not live, my God?" he asked. There was a pause, as if he would hear an answer. "Please. I am begging You. Despite this despair, I must hope. I cannot help but hope. Is that so wrong? Please show me... tell me what I must do to win my freedom. Blessed Mother, please protect me. And when my master - oh... my master..." The Crusader remembered what the slaveboy had said earlier.

He looked over at his food. It may not still be there once his master was through with him. But grief had so wrung his empty stomach, that the feverish knight merely stretched himself out upon his hard bed. He did not feel like eating.

"Please, my Lady," he whispered. "Not today." His weary eyes closed. "I cannot take him today."

The rest of the day was spent in anxious anticipation. By evening, though, Raoul was relieved to discover that the little slave boy must have been lying. Either that or the knight's prayer had been answered, and the grateful prisoner was able to pass an otherwise restless night in moderate peace.

The boy was not completely wrong though, for the French knight was evidently on their master's mind. Raoul was not the only one acutely aware of, and exasperated by, the duration of his imprisonment. And over the next few months, the master seemed to visit him with ever increasing frequency, scarcely allowing the knight's wounds to heal before tearing them open anew.


"I must warn you, Frenchman, that I have little patience today." The Muslim paced slowly before his chained captive, whip in hand. Two of his mercenaries stood off to the side nearby. He had specifically fastened the knight securely upright against the prison wall. The tightened shackles gave but little, and the prisoner's already bleeding arms were outstretched far beyond any possibility of self-defense.

"I will not tolerate any insolence or disrespect," the Arab continued. "And you will answer me when I speak to you." A fiery glare shot out from beneath the tall turban. Raoul met the look, but did not return it. He had neither the pride nor foolishness to incite his master's anger. He knew his tormentor well enough to know that the Saracen's hatred was already insatiable - it needed no further goading.

When the Muslim had finished pacing in front of his slave, he stood still a moment... staring into his eyes. Then, without a word, the Arab tilted his head and Raoul suddenly felt a seething pain in his side. The mercenaries had both been armed with whips; and, at the master's signal, each had begun scourging the knight.

The Muslim watched silently for some time, shielding his eyes from the burning light of the late afternoon. In its descent, the desert sun flooded the decrepit cell with its fading rays; and the heat, though bearable, was creating a heavy and suffocating air.

At length, as the beatings continued, the Arab squatted down to eye level with his prisoner and continued to stare.

"Are you ready to stop this foolishness?" he said at last.

Held captive in his bonds, Raoul could turn from neither the scourges nor his master. Clenching his teeth against the pain, he leaned breathlessly against the wall.

"Answer me," the Arab warned. The knight opened his mouth to speak when a whip lashed against his neck. Lurching forward, his fettered hands reached in vain towards his lacerated shoulder.

"Answer me!" his master demanded. But the slave was bracing himself against the blows. The hunched Muslim stood up again and raised his own whip, aiming it at the knight's head.

"Now!" His cry rang out among the hisses and cracks. Raoul's face instinctively turned but his master's whiplash caught him fiercely by the chin.

"M- my.... my ans-" Raoul's dry voice cracked and he bit his lip. The two guards had not ceased. The Muslim gave them no heed, and instead pressed his question.

"Will you abjure your senseless faith?" He stood close to him now. The Crusader shook his head no in response, but his master was in no merciful mood.

"Answer me..." he threatened. Raoul gasped for air.

"No!" His eyes locked on his master. "The answer - is no."

"Fool..." the Muslim clutched his whip "Opposition is useless!" His words came out like the hiss of snake, but with the vehemence of a lion. He hated the Crusader. He hated him for his will... for his courage... and for his Faith. Even now, as the wretched slave struggled helplessly beneath his tortures, the sight of his cruel torments did not satiate the Saracen’s hatred - it only aggravated it.

"Yield, my French knight. Or be destroyed."

Raoul said nothing. He was hardly listening. For the Muslim's was not the only voice clamoring in his head. And the two mercenaries, who had been alternating their blows, began to strike more rapidly - at times nearly at once.

"It is in vain," grimaced the master. "You cannot win this fight!"

The knight, quivering involuntarily from the pain, raised his face towards him. His blistered lips parted, and his hoarse words merely echoed the look already in his eyes: "You... have already... lost."

Enraged, the Muslim raised his whip to strike, but one of his henchmen preceded his vengeance with a brutal thrash over the slave’s shoulders.

A moan escaped the knight as he strained against his chains.

“What was that?” the Arab sneered. “Already admitting your defeat? Was that a yes?” But his gloating taunts were ignored.

“My God,” Raoul breathed, “I trust You. I love You...”

“Call upon Allah as God,” the Muslim coaxed, “and your trust will be rewarded and your love fulfilled.” When his suggestion was greeted only by silence, he unleashed his whip across the Frenchman's face.

“Jesus... Jesus,” Raoul’s voice was barely above a whisper. “Jesus, my God.”

The Muslim answered all the louder with the whip. Again and again, the bitter blows thrashed against the prisoner’s bloody body.

And while the master attacked from without, the demons surrounded and suffocated the Crusader from within.

This man deserves your hatred! they goaded. Curse this evil man! The curse of God! As Christ cursed the fig tree.

Outwardly, the slave groaned. But inwardly he did not hesitate to answer them: "Revenge is Mine, saith the Lord." But even as he thought this, Raoul experienced such a seething desire to avenge himself suddenly surge up within him ...

Only lucifer can help you, whispered the same force that strove to fill his heart with revenge. Give him your consent and he will free you...

"Embrace our religion, and I will let you go!" The Muslim's offer rang out like a command. "Just say the word and I will release you!"

Raoul clenched helplessly at his chains.

"Please... Please... " His weak cries were inaudible above the relentless scourges. His master desperately urged him to end it all.

"Deny your Christ!" he bellowed, while the demons howled from within, Send this man to hell!

Exhausted, the knight shook his head. "No!"

His eyes slowly grew dim and his full weight began to sag against the iron bonds. The Muslim immediately raised his hand and the two men-at-arms lowered their weapons. He was intent on breaking the wretch, not killing him.

"Unchain him," the Arab commanded, "And bring him to me."

The sun had descended beneath the horizon and an eerie twilight began to settle into the prison. Sufficient light remained to see by, however, as the two mercenaries, panting to regain their breath, fumbled with the heavy chains. Then, taking hold of the half-conscious knight, they dragged him into the center of the room.

"Let him go."

Raoul slumped onto the hot dusty floor and his master slowly stepped back.

"I am not a heartless man," he said, eyeing his bloody slave. "And as your tongue is evidently too parched to speak, I shall permit your release without a single sound. Here,"

Raoul watched the Muslim purposefully run his foot along the floor. Still trembling from the scourging, the knight lifted himself up to see what his master was tracing in the dust.

It was a cross.

"You have no fetters," the Arab explained. "You are free to walk out that door, so long as but a single step lands on this cross."

The French lord had been slowly inching nearer his master, who had backed away from the tracing. The two guards stood ready, and for a moment all was still in silent anticipation.

But Raoul did not at once rise to his feet. His eyes instead turned towards the symbol in the dust. He set his bleeding hands on the sweltering stones and slowly leaned against them. He did not raise himself upwards -, but forwards. At once the Muslim understood what the knight was doing, but too late. Raoul's blistered lips had already fervently kissed the precious Sign before they received a fierce kick for their loving act of reverence.

The stark pain made Raoul wince, but he did not mind it. It stirred his soul. And suffering this affront for Jesus brought to the Crusader’s mind all that his Divine Master had endured for him. The only difference was that his sinless Lord had suffered infinitely worse.

Touched by the thought of such Love, to which he could quite keenly relate, the knight had but a moment to dwell on it. Instinctively and without even a glance towards his master, the slave hastily wiped the cross from the floor just as the Muslim’s foot came down on where it had been.

"Wretched worm!" the Arab fumed, and again kicked the knight in the face. Raoul recoiled and the two mercenaries instantly caught him by his wounded shoulders.

Though the French lord offered no difficulty, his arms were pinioned mercilessly behind his back as the Saracen motioned for him to be brought near.

Standing before him, the Muslim did nothing to hide his feelings nor to suppress his anger.

"Three years..." He shook his head, "Three years I have kept you in this tower... and you are as stubborn as the day I imprisoned you."

He spoke slowly, his voice trembling with rage. Raoul shifted slightly, striving not to betray the agony of his wounds. The armed men did not loosen their hard grasp. But his master did not seem to notice.

"And to think of the money and food I have wasted on you. Ten gold pieces... for a phantom ransom and a wretched slave with less sense than a beast. A French lord indeed!" He spat in the slave's dirty face.

"It is no wonder they don't want you back," the Muslim sneered. "You think of no one but yourself and your vain honor. Well, you see where your pride has gotten you! And this, my lord," he mockingly bowed towards the chained wall, "is where your pride will keep you."

He nodded at his men, who led Raoul to the splintered bench.

"Not too tightly," cautioned the Arab. "I want him to imagine his freedom." The brutes were still none too gentle and roughly strapped the iron bonds around the slave’s swollen wrists and ankles. When finished, they looked towards their master, who beckoned them to the door. The Muslim himself was about to leave when Raoul caught a look in his fierce eyes.

"This is not over," the Arabian warned. "And I will return."

With that, he turned his back on the prison and left the torturous tower.

Raoul, however, felt no peace at his departure. For his chief tormentors had not gone. Burning with fever and with pain, the knight collapsed upon his board. His mind was haunted with a hundred thoughts; his passions trembling with a thousand desires. But in the midst of it all, one torture reigned supreme: his noble heart, more sore than all his lacerated flesh, felt utterly alone.

"What have I done...." Raoul whispered aloud. "Why has Heaven turned its back on me? Can I win mercy? Or will there be no end to this..."

End it now.

Raoul moaned and covered his head beneath his arms.

If your master will not murder you and your God will not take you, then end your own life.

The concept of suicide was painfully appealing to the tormented knight, but he knew to take one’s life was forbidden by the God Who created it. The cowardly deed had eternal consequences that would rob him forever of the happiness of Heaven.

Heaven! The noble lord eagerly raised himself upon his bench and stared up into the dimming sky.

"Rodger! Geoffrey!" The thought of his two martyred brothers brought hope to his eyes. "Oh look down with pity on your Raoul! If the courts of Heaven remain deaf to my cries, surely they will listen to you. You gave your lives for God, and for ten years have been in His blissful company. Ten years I have waited in this misery... ten years, praying that God... would hear me..."

The defenses Raoul had built for himself were slowly crumbling. The hopes he had clung to were evaporating like water beneath the scorching sun. And he felt that he was not only alone - but purposefully abandoned. Sensing his weakness, the demons furiously buffeted him with temptations, like hammers on an anvil:

How dare you call out to God... they reeked with indignation. You defy His will - clamouring and complaining against His decree. He has condemned you to die in this prison! You should never have left Crequy! This is your reward. It is you who have betrayed your wife and son. You could be home in their arms, but instead you have clung to your chains.

The Crusader leaned back against the wall, "...I am here - for the sake of Christ...".

Ah, now who is this holy martyr? the demons were vehement Except that you are seething with anger at your wretched God for abandoning you! He betrayed you and you hate Him!

The knight clenched his hands in bloody fists. "Stop." he commanded. "Be silent!" But the demons retaliated with their full strength.

What? You think this voice is not your own? That these thoughts and feelings are not from the center of your being? Search your soul. Do you deny the hatred, despair and longing that consume it? Oh but you are a liar!

Flooded with despair, Raoul hid his face behind his hands. "Dear God help me.” His head shook violently. “I don’t hate You. You know I don’t." The horrid thought brought tears to the brave man’s eyes. “And You,” he steadied his sad voice, “I know that You love me.”

Why should He! the demons raged. You have already betrayed Him. Your pride and hatred has won for you the pit of hell.

Raoul turned desperately to the starlit sky. "Holy Virgin! Blessed Mother!" His fettered arms were reaching out now for aid. "My Lady! Save me!"

Go ahead and call to Her, the evil spirits goaded. She is the liar that you are. It would have been safer if you had been placed under the protection of satan!

"No!" The blasphemy against the honor of the Mother of God and the Queen of All Creation filled Raoul with a noble knight’s outraged indignation.

Curse Her! Free yourself!

But the Crusader, with the last of his strength, set his eyes and will on Heaven. His trembling tone bespoke a passion and struggle that none on this earth could grasp.

"Jesus... Mary..."

Utterly spent, Raoul fell limp upon his hard bed.


Both within and without.

But there was no courage in this silence. Nor strength. If hell retreated, it was not because Heaven had advanced.

A solitary wind whistled through the silent tower. And for the first time in ten years, the lonely exile faced and accepted his enslaved future. There would be no ransom. There would be no escape. And in that moment, the lordly slave embraced his humble, yet ardent desire.

"Lord," Raoul whispered in the darkness, "let me die."

Heaven's silence was not broken. And for once, hell seemed still. Perhaps it felt its victory had been won.


In the days that followed, Raoul's longings for death only intensified. He was convinced of his fate and prayed now that God in His mercy would hastily bring him a martyr's reward.

Not long thereafter, Raoul heard the sound of the tower's main door being unlocked. His anxious anticipation was short-lived, for the visitor was swift in climbing the prison's long and winding staircase. With a heavy heart, Raoul watched his master enter the cell.

The Muslim seemed equally glad to see his slave. There was an interesting look in his eye though, and a confident step to his stride as he approached his waiting captive. Raoul was not sure whether to prepare for a beating or a lecture.

His master, however, simply stopped short and stood silent for a moment.

"I have given it all much thought," he said at last. Raoul did not care to ask what. It was not necessary. The Muslim knew what he had to say.

"And I do not think that your ransom is coming." Again, Raoul did not answer. His master, however, eyed him carefully.

"Neither do I think that you will change your mind."

Silently, Raoul returned his master's stare. They both knew each other far too well to think that the Muslim should expect an answer. And he wasn't.

"So!" the Arab's voice was strong and decided. "Seeing as how I will not likely receive your ransom, and you are obstinate in adhering to your pernicious faith, I shall have you strangled tomorrow."

A dark smile lit his master’s sinister face. With gloating pride, the Muslim eyed, for the last time, his torn and beaten prize. In a twisted way, there was a greater victory in killing him. Taking a ransom for him would have almost been painful. And in this sense, the Muslim consoled and convinced himself that he was the victor. The Frenchman would die in his wretched prison.

Confident and content, the Muslim triumphantly turned a cold back on his condemned slave. Departing for the last time, he left the old tower with greater satisfaction than when he had come. But he would have lost it instantly had he known that his prisoner shared this joy.

Such a peace. A quiet, calm peace glowed in the captive’s eyes. At last, his prayers had been heard. After ten long years, Raoul would be free.

And not just free! The Crusader’s heart raced in joyful anticipation. He was being martyred for his Faith. That precious Faith he had defended so dearly and so boldly was now going to crown him with a martyr’s reward. His soul would be taken directly to Heaven, where he would reign gloriously with those who, for the love of God, had been similarly generous with their lives. “Greater love than this no man hath, ...”

Raoul smiled. God could not possibly be angry with him if He found him worthy of such a death. And he would join his brothers’ Heavenly ranks! For the first time in years, Raoul would be with family.

His family.

The gleam faded from the knight’s deep eyes. The French lord’s mind and heart once more turned to Crequy. And once more, his happiness was changed into sorrow. But there was no bitterness in this grief. Just regret.

How he would have loved to have seen Mahtilde, one last time at least. Or to have held just once in his arms the sweet boy that was his son.

Raoul sighed. He had not anticipated this fresh trial awaiting him. But it would be the last. Come morning, the Crusader’s long pilgrimage would at last be over. With a firm nod, he resigned himself to his death.

“God wills it.”

That night, his evening prayers were said with a fervent and peaceful resolve. The humble Crusader confidently commended his soul into the hands of his Creator.

“And thank You,” he whispered, “For bringing me home.”

With his last hours before death, the noble lord turned his mind and heart towards those few, precious beings left to him on earth.

“Blessed Mother,” the knight prayed, “I beg You to take my dear family under Your special care and protection, since I will never again see them in this life.”

He paused a moment, and looked down. His shackled hand gently reached for the little bag faithfully hanging around his bruised neck. What a precious mercy that God had permitted him to keep his tiny treasure to the end. The last and only tie he had with his beloved family. “Holy Virgin, please help my dear Mahtilde. Help her to mother our son. Oh my son...”

With a smile, Raoul let fall the pouch, which returned to its resting place around his neck. “My little Baudouin. Ten years old... still a child.” The loving father then sought a special protector for his boy. And his mind instinctively turned to the trusted St. Nicholas, beloved patron of children.

“Dear St. Nicholas,” the Crusader prayed. “I entrust my son to your care. Watch over him and guide him with special dedication. As a father would.”

There was a quiet still as the last of Raoul’s prayers died off.

“The end of the storm,” he thought. Calmly, reverently, he made the Sign of the Cross. With a parting glance at the desert sky, the knight breathed forth his final prayer.

“Blessed Mother,” his voice was strong and peaceful, “I commit myself to Thee as I was entrusted to Thee by my father ten years ago.”

The Lord of Crequy stretched himself one last time upon his hard bed. He no longer seemed to feel the instrument of torment, or even be aware of it. His tired eyes slowly closed.

“In life or death, dear Lady,” he prayed, “I am Thine.”

And then, without any effort, a deep and peaceful slumber gently but firmly took hold of him.

His well-earned rest was not to last though; for, in the dead of night, it was suddenly and unexpectedly disturbed. Though surrounded by darkness, Raoul could sense that someone was in the tower. Without a sound, he glanced cautiously about the small prison. Lit only by the desert moon, the knight slowly realized that there was someone in his cell, standing right across from him.

Raoul found himself staring into the deep, gentle eyes of a woman. Quite unknown to him, she said nothing as she slowly approached the puzzled captive. Something seemed hauntingly familiar about her, but the bewildered knight could not place it.

“I know that face,” he thought to himself, “I have seen it once before. In a chapel, maybe? Ages ago, though, in Crequy.”

The mysterious lady, however, remained silent. And to the knight’s further surprise, she leaned forward and took hold of his chains. In the few brief moments that followed, Raoul seemed to feel his fetters falling, and his bonds breaking.

So intense and instantaneous was the thrill this sent through his whole being, that the joyful captive suddenly and instantly....


He was not prepared for what he saw ...