This is the continuing account of matters pertaining to my brother and friend, Sir Marcus of Gaulea. The man that dared.
If you have not read the first volume of this chronicle, please seek it, however dangerous it might be. For this is even more dangerous. I shall have to let go of all restraint in telling this story, concerning the Forbidden Word.
Marcus was brought before the Council for inquisition. There he stood in chains before all seven lords, all in their ceremonial robes. The lady Agnes was seated by her father, Lord Morrison’s side. She gazed on Marcus with utmost contempt.
I was disguised in a hood and stood with the crowd beyond the barricades. My sword was sheathed, but I had not the strength to draw it. All around me, the commoners whispered wondering who was on trial.
He had left a note before leaving my house. I will narrate it here, but remember I warned you that I will no longer hold back in writing the Forbidden Word.
You will not understand
But I hope, one day, you will.
There are some things that are more important than life itself.
I love you, brother.
I folded the paper in my fist. It made no sense to me. It seemed vulgar. How could he ascribe such a word to me? He was mad! He needed help, not excommunication, or whatever it was they had in mind.
What are you doing, Marcus?
Lord Arian stood with a scroll in hand. “Men and Women of Duchinson!” They all hailed him. “Welcome to this Assembly! You should know that this is a sad day for us all. For one of our own, a man sworn to protect and defend your very lives with dignity and respect for law and justice, this very man has turned against all that we hold dear!”
They jeered. It was all I could do to keep myself from drawing my sword to cut off their tongues.
“He has committed high treason,” he yelled, and they jeered even louder. “He is a rebel! A deviant! A …” His words were drowned out by the shouts of the throng. A tear ran down my cheek as I gazed on my brother. He stood there; eyes fixed ahead, his jaw set. He was still strong. He could break out of those chains (I’ve seen him do this on many occasions). But he did not. He would not.
“He is one of our very own,” Lord Arian finally said. “I give you Captain Marcus of Gaulea, of the Sixteenth Regiment.”
For a brief moment there was a collective gasp over the din. Perhaps they had just realized who it was that was on trial. I could tell many were wondering what he had done.
Lord Arian unrolled the scroll and read out loud. “’None shall speak the Forbidden Word. For it is henceforth banned from the lips of all men, for your fellow man’s sake.’ Are you aware of this law, Captain?”
Marcus turned to him and nodded. “Yes sir. I am.”
“Do you admit that you have committed wrong in breaking this law, and thereby incurred the wrath of God?” he asked.
Marcus stared at him for a moment. The people fell silent. Could he really have uttered the Forbidden Word? Had someone finally broken that law? I noticed Lord Morrison’s brows furrow. Truly, I had never seen him smile before.
“Sir,” Marcus said, his voice carried over the crowd. “I have done no wrong.” That caught us all off guard. Even I wondered what would happen. Marcus had known that the word was forbidden. He would not give a false statement here, before God and man.
Lord Arian cocked his head. “Have you not admitted to the efficacy of the law?”
“My lords, if our laws require us to do wrong, then right must be done, even if it deviates from your law.”
What was my friend saying there? I was expecting that they would dismiss the case as one of infatuation, but Marcus was directly defying tradition. He was on a warpath, and was not backing down.
Lord Arian winced. “Are you implying that our laws are wrong? The very laws ordained by God for the sustenance of balance and order, are wrong?”
Lord Morrison stood then and silenced them. He was the oldest on the Council, and the only one with much at stake here. It was his daughter that had been Marcus’ target.
“Captain Marcus of Gaulea,” he said. “You are aware that you are on dangerous ground here, are you not? But you’re better than this. You’re a champion, a war hero. A man of valour. A scholar above your peers. I hear in your voice something that tells me that there is more at work here than mere interest in my daughter.” The other lords stared intently at him. “You have the countenance of a soldier bracing for a fight. You knew this moment would come, did you not?”
I stared at my friend. Lord Morrison was right. Marcus had known this would happen. I still held his crumpled note in my hand.
What I did not know until then was that the love letter he had sent was not the first. He had sent many before. She had been aware of him for a long time.
The lord unrolled one of Marcus’ many letters to Agnes. He then read it out loud, substituting the Forbidden Word with ‘blank’. The crowd screamed in excitement and shock anytime it came up. Mothers covered the ears of their sons. Marcus had poured out his heart for this woman. If I was Agnes, I would be swooning. I was appalled that my friend would lavish such pure poetry on a woman like her.
“You were deliberate,” Lord Morrison said. “You used the Forbidden Word with abandon. Now tell us, why did you do this?”
Marcus dipped his head. “I am grateful for your wisdom, sir. While I do have great interest in your daughter, what has overtaken me goes deeper. I truly want what is best for her. If I cannot win her heart, then I will let her be, as long as she is happy.”
“Noble,” Lord Morrison conceded. “But let’s talk about that word. That Forbidden Word. You used it over and over again. Why?”
“I could find no better word to describe this, my lord. You see, I found it explicitly pure while reading in the … the … the Holy Bible.”
Father Antigon stood then, muttering. He was the Bishop at the Chapel, representing the Church in the Council. Lord Morrison urged him to hold his peace. The only Bible in the village is the old codex chained to the pulpit in the Chapel. Only clergy read it, and teach from it. But I knew that Marcus, never a stranger to danger, had taken a fancy to sneaking in there to peer into the pages since last summer. Ever since then, he had been speaking strange things and expounding foreign thoughts. I had not connected this fascination of his with his current madness, until now.
“If I have committed a crime, let it be that I sought God in His Book. He said that we should LOVE our neighbor as ourselves…”
The court was filled with murmurs and gasps. Some elders placed their hands on their chests, begging God for mercy. Many leaned forward, asking to hear what he had just said. The lords were visibly shocked.
“You will not desecrate this Council with your accursed tongue!” Lord Morrison said, clearly irritated.
“But sir, doesn’t it say in the Bible, which we revere, that God Himself is LOVE?”
That did it. I respected my friend, but how dare he utter such a blasphemous statement? There were gasps and shouts. Everyone wanted to hear what he had just said this time. The audacity! How could he…?
Father Antigon stood. “Yes, that is true.” We were all surprised. “But it is here that we must explain the reason behind the law. But I must add that this is clearly why Scripture interpretation is reserved for clergy, not for laity.” He stared Marcus down.
“A long time ago, the Forbidden Word was used in every way by just any person. But its meaning was corrupted by the evil and conceit of man, and was used loosely. In its name, many have been violated, jilted, deceived, and cheated! The Holy Bible states that it is an appellative of God alone, as you have all heard. Our fathers deciphered that God is beyond knowing or understanding, and thus agreed that the Forbidden Word was also beyond fully understanding. It was to preserve its sanctity that it was forbidden from the mouths of mere mortals as we.”
“Thank you, Father,” Lord Morrison said. “Our fathers made this law to protect us. Why misuse such a sacred word when we can directly state our intent. Say you desire my daughter. You could have said ‘desire’, or ‘longing’, or ‘craving’? That’s how I wooed my very own wife,” he turned to his fellow lords, and they shared a laugh. “I crave you, darling!” They laughed even harder. Agnes rested her chin on her fist, bored. Marcus just stared at them. “No need for deceit there. But the Forbidden Word must stay that way. Forbidden!””
Marcus put in then. “And where has that gotten us, my lords? No one understands what ‘love’ is anymore. And, yes! I will say it again. If I am going to die, then let me be courageous and sincere for once in my life!
“No one knows what ‘love’ means. We regard women as objects of desire. It has been nothing but superficial. Carnal! Selfish!”
“That is all we are capable of,” Lord Morrison said. “We are mortals!”
“But God demands more from us. Sure, when the word was abused, many were violated. But now, it is much worse. We now think it right to take any woman we … ‘crave’ and lie with her, as long as you are fulfilling your carnal desire! Marriage has lost its value, but is now just another outlet for sexual relationship. The value of friendship is lost. How many of us came from full homes? How many of us knew our fathers?”
They all exchanged glances.
But he was not done. “And what about our relationship with our fellowmen? Since we do not LOVE one another, we simply ‘do a good deed’ by tossing a coin to the beggar on our street, so that we can be judged good. We don’t care. We are afraid of breaking out of our comfort, and risking it all for another. I think we are capable of more. He says that we should LOVE our neighbour.”
He was turning as he spoke. His gaze now fell on mine. “I too was trapped in this lie until I saw that God loves. He loves us. Dearly! He defined LOVE for us all!” He pointed to the Great Cross in the courtyard. It was so huge that we could see it through the window. “That’s what the Cross was all about. He was God, and He died on that cross so that we would not have to, for we were to be punished for the evil within us. He took that away so that he could change us so we could love. That is what LOVE can do. God does not want to be angry with us anymore. He LOVES us.”
I felt his note in my hand.
He turned to Agnes. “You deserve better than this, my fair lady. It is not about what I want. Love is not about what I can get? It’s about what I can give. My all. My life. Even to the death.
“LOVE is sacred. But that is because it is God’s expression to us and through us. But to deny its true expression is a bigger curse.”
Agnes shot to her feet. “Then you are as mad as they say you are!” Her voice echoed in the silence that followed. Marcus fell silent. In that moment, I felt him cringe. I felt the rejection too, and it hurt. Marcus…
The lords were fuming. Father Antigon tore his robe in anger. “HERETIC!” he yelled.
The crowd was silent in shock. Never before had we seen this! Even for me, it was horrible. I knew my friend would not lie. Neither was this the diction of a mad man. Why did he do it? Why? Did he have to qualify God with such vulgar terms? Unless he was right, and the word meant something deeper. Who could know?
The punishment could only be severe. This would surely not end well.
“Such is the curse upon you,” Lord Morrison intoned. “You have brought the death upon yourself.”
I could not listen as he declared the verdict. Crushing.
Oh Marcus! Because you dared to love, you were crushed.
I held on tight to the hilt of my sword, but I could not muster the strength to wield it. I was shaking with tears. My own friend would be killed like a heretic!
He was taken to the courtyard, past the crowd. I stared in horror as he was stripped before us all. And then the crushing. That was the worst part. We had never seen it before, for none had dared inquire into the meaning of the Forbidden Word, nor even said it. Huge burly men, soldiers of the Order of the Crusher, came forth. I had always regarded them as an unnecessary Order of rejected soldiers, whose only assignments were to eat and build their muscles. They towered over us like giants. Their purpose had until now been unknown to me, but I now understood that they were trained for this very moment. The Order had been established for this very cause. To crush the heretic that dares break the law of the Forbidden word.
And he was crushed. With each strike of their huge mallets, his bones were broken. BAM! BAM! His skull. His arms. His chest. His legs. Crushed. He screamed. He wailed. His blood was splattered every which way. What a coward I was! It was then that I should have charged in and delivered him. But I was too fearful. I did not move.
My brave reader (I call you brave for venturing this far out into my account, for only the brave would dare read this despite the glaring risk) LOVE’S power is so strong, it must not be made light of. A conqueror, my friend, let the blows of death overshadow him, because he chose to LOVED. His cries had been incoherent to me until I heard. He had been crying for Agnes.
And they left him there. His body lay within the cracked pavement, splattered with his blood. He was dead. And the cracks would remain in the ground for a very long time.
Agnes walked over and – oh, the horror – she spat on his body.
Marcus my brother! Was it worth it? Was it?
One by one, the crowd dispersed. But some remained. His body was soon dragged away, leaving a trail of blood. It took a great while before I could muster the strength to draw closer to where he had died. I would be identified with him. They would recognize my face. It did not matter to me anymore.
With my fingers I traced the cracks in the ground, crying. My friend was gone. My brother… Dear God, why?
I lifted my face to wail at the sky. It was the cry of my heart. Why God?! Why?
And it was then that I realized it.
I was kneeling in the shadow of the Great Cross. The same cross that Marcus had pointed at.
If you have followed me through these chronicles, please seek the third volume. Where it may be found, only you will know. I shall conclude my tale, and you may decide what you wish. Remember, none of these volumes must be found in your possession. Keep its message in your heart. But my account must be told.
For LOVE’S sake.