|snarrymod (snarrymod) wrote in snarry_games,|
@ 2007-05-14 08:21:00
Original poster: snarrymod
Title: Act of Faith
Genre(s): Alternate Universe(AU) & Horror
Rating: Soft NC-17
Warnings/Kinks: Drag mouse over space if you wish to know: * Torture, Non-Con, side het pairing (past Harry/Hermione), Priest!Snape *
Word Count: 5,000 +/-
A/N: Written for the snarry_games Winter 2007 Games, Team Wartime. The influence of style from Samuel Shellabarger, particularly his Captain From Castile, will be obvious to those who know that text. Many thanks to betas fabularasa, cluegirl, sobriquet_99, and nimori, who had so many different drafts of this pressed on them, they musta thought they were dealing with Oliver Stone.
Disclaimer: I do not own the elements of the Harry Potter universe. Some elements of this story are based on historical figures and fact; literary liberty has been taken in places.
Summary: In 1492, Spain launched something far more shameful than just one misdirected Genoan and his three ships. And only those of limpieza de sangre--pure blood--were safe. And in truth, not even them.
The Reina Cathólica, Isabel of Castilla, is having a crisis of faith.
She should be standing by the window for a moment such as this, should she not, lost in sad reflection as she gazes out. Or perhaps pondering a map of their twin kingdoms, hers and her husband's, complete at last this very year by their Reconquista over heathen Granada.
Instead she is seated on the floor, forlorn as a child, face pressed into the dress she had worn upon her wedding day--pulled from its chest on melancholy impulse. It does no good to tell herself that she is a queen and answers only to God; God himself has dictated that a wife must also answer to a husband. What she is to do when God and her husband do not agree, God has not provided an answer to that conundrum.
Her husband says that this edict for expulsion of Jews and Muslims who refuse conversion is too soon, too much of a risk to the exhausted, war-drained funds of their kingdoms. He is not wrong to consider such matters; even the jewelry from about Isabel's very neck was sacrificed to support the Reconquista. She knows the edict will send many a fat heretic purse beyond their borders, to enrich lands rival to their own.
Yet what prize are jewels, what worth has heretic gold, if they endure the foul heretic among them in order to have it? Her husband must see reason. Castilla and Aragón--España, as their ever-expanding union of lands is beginning to be called--cannot be anything but pure.
She should not be sitting here, maudlin over old clothing. She knows full well what she shall do. She will go to see Him.
Father Torquemada. Her heart already beats stronger in her breast, her unhappiness displaced by relief as she imagines how he will receive her. Tomás de Torquemada has been Isabel's confessor since she was a girl, and from the first time she heard him speak of cleansing their kingdoms of impure blood, she was transformed. Knew her true purpose. Wanted to serve God all the more, for it meant serving Torquemada, God's instrument upon earth. His will is God's will, and hers, and she will do this thing, will remove all heretic taint from España.
And her husband shall stand with her, spurred on by Father Torquemada's guidance.
Standing, she discards the wedding dress, straightens her hair. For any other subject, Isabel would give word to one of her ladies to bring the man to her. For Torquemada, she would never dare. She must present herself to the instrument of God, not have him fetched like some spaniel.
The chapel is dim, but Father Torquemada seems to glow within its walls. It is his eyes which give that impression, as if all heaven and all hellfire shone red through them in judgment.
He lifts a hand to bless her, and she seizes it, kisses it as she sinks down before him. He sets his hand upon her head as if she were still a small girl and not the queen.
And he uses the name for her he has called her since she was that girl. "Bella, hija mía."
Choked with emotion, she cannot even bring herself to speak the grandeur of his own name, but whispers the familiar address few would dare to speak: "Father Tomás."
"They said you were a hidalgo."
Seated, Father Severo kept his eyes on the document before him as he spoke, deliberately allowing the disbelief to creep into his voice. He knew what he would see if he looked across the small table at the young señor: flaring nostrils, outraged eyes. It was so predictable he was forced to stifle a smile.
Inquisitors of the Holy Office did not smile. It was not fitting.
"Sangre de Dios! I'll not rise to that."
Father Severo did look up at that. It was all there, outrage and flashing eyes. Unusual eyes, a hint of green. What suspect heritage might there be in those, he thought.
"Rise to what, hijo mío? It is a fair question, which the Inquisition puts before you."
"I am not your son." The young man did not so much as shift in his chair. As still as if he were yet an unaccused man free upon his own property, and not facing a Holy Inquisitor in the confines of a cell.
"All good Spaniards are sons and daughters of the Holy Mother Church." His voice remained the same soothing murmur.
Again the indignant snort of breath, as lofty as if from a man of many more years. "So I am not, then, a good Spaniard, is that it?"
"That is the accusation." He steepled his fingers. "You must answer it."
"Accusation." On the lips of the young señor it was the filthiest of curses. "This is all a ruse. The crawling little familiars of the Inquisition--it is they who accuse me!"
His fury pleased Father Severo. The young man was no coward, wheezing his ignorance or offering up bribes to Severo's most holy person. This did not mean he was innocent, of course. But neither were those who sweated rank terror through their clothes nor those who hid behind their purses.
Nevertheless, he made a noise of reproval. "Tut, you cannot mean that you would cast aspersions on the motives of those who serve the Church? Not call their characters into question?"
Of course he would. Severo knew as well as the young man that the Inquisition's familiars were men of sly ambition, for whom every convicted penitent increased his worth. It might not be strictly wise for the señor to use such a tack, but it was highly likely to be true.
"Ask them." The words were bitten from the air. "Ask de Lucas, cabron that he is!"
"If you disparage him you disparage all the workings of the Inquisition, and the church." Truly, it was hard not to smile. What defense would the señor try now, he wondered?
"I may--" the young man leaned forward, swallowed and tried again-- "I may disparage--Padre, the day has not yet come when a man can absolve his dog-like cowardice, his greedy heart, by declaring himself aligned with the church! De Lucas hates me and I hate him, and he would rejoice at seeing me declared a secret heretic even if there were not a coin to my name, leaving nothing to enrich the church's coffers. Or his," he pushed on, this last no mere amendment, "as reward for his accusation. And there is. To my name. More than a coin. Whoreson dog," he spat.
From someone less ingenuous, Severo would have thought this the opening for a bribe. He knew it was not. "We have returned to what I asked you, then. Your name," he pronounced, touching the parchment before him. "Enrique de Alfarerez y de Jaen." The young man's eyes flickered to it, then back to Severo's face. Likely he could not read. "A most unlikely heritage for one who claims to be a hidalgo."
"Do not malign my family, priest."
"It is not so unthinkable as you make it sound, señor." He did not bother to refer to the parchment again. "Alfarerez. That was your father's father, perhaps? A mere labourer, to have such a name?"
The young man's mouth actually dropped open. "How dare--My great-grandfather, Padre, was a craftsman of renown! His designs graced the tables of princes. My grandfather took the name de Alfarerez with immeasurable pride, knowing that it represented his father's art."
As if Severo had not carefully learned all this already. He pounced upon the portion of name that had actually provided the greater interest. "And what of de Jaen? Your mother's line so proud, they had nothing more honourable than their province of origin to distinguish their family name?"
Ah, he subsided at that. Better he had kept up his outrage--now Severo knew he had hit home. "From Jaen," he pressed on. "Jaen borders Granada."
Another flare of indignation, but less this time. "What of it?"
"Merely that a good portion of Moors hail from Granada."
"There are no more Moors in Granada, Padre.. Only the converted moriscos. Was that meant to be a test?"
"Only God is testing you, hijo mío. Not I." His expression remained somber. "The moriscos would have us believe that all among their number are good Catholics, that none among their number practice their heathen Islam in secret. Or even in their secret hearts." He touched the parchment once more. "What was the family name of your mother before it simply adapted de Jaen, I wonder? Was it Moorish?"
"Why would it matter." No question that, only an angry snap.
"You know full well why." He leaned forward. "Where is your wife, Enrique de Alfarerez?"
He saw the startle in the young señor's odd-colored eyes, though he had remained almost motionless. "I have no wife," he said after the most telling of pauses.
"Were you not wed in the mother Church? You have a wife, señor. Though she be a thousand miles away." He hardened his own voice. "Or perhaps there is the lie of it."
Was the young man sweating? "What lie," he said, with that same lack of question in his voice, but without daring quite so much anger now.
"Perhaps your marriage in the Church was not so holy as you led others to believe." He turned in his seat, gestured to the prison lackeys behind him. One handed him a second scroll of parchment. Severo unrolled it. "Your wife was a converso.
The young man swallowed visibly. "My wife was a Catholic. She was baptized long before we were wed."
"As I said, a converso." He let the silence stand for affirmation. Damning affirmation, and the señor knew it. "Where is she now?"
The young man wet his lips before answering. "She is gone. She is no longer in Spain."
"Why did she leave?" Severo knew all of these answers.
"Because..." He seemed to gather himself, and then Severo saw him plunge: "Because she was a good Catholic, but she was also, yes, Padre, a converso. And in Spain that is no wise thing to be."
"You are saying she violated her faith in secret."
"I say nothing of the kind! She left me, priest." Another swallow. "I did not wish it. I said I would go with her. She would not have it. She said it brought me danger to have a converso wife, and that it was better that she left before there were sons and daughters born of our union. She went without me...fled upon a day when I was not at home, so that I could not follow her. She left a letter--" he could read after all, thought Severo-- "she said that she did not want shame to fall upon my good name. My name! Por Dios..."
His head sank into his hand; Severo spoke after a moment, quietly. "Yes, there is much that surrounds your name, is there not, de Alfarerez." He did not expect the young man to grasp how deeply his meaning travelled. Not yet. "Son of a morisco, husband to a marrano--"
De Alfarerez's head came up. "You will not use that word to speak of my wife, priest!"
"You are in no position to follow through on any threat, my young hidalgo." Severo knew that his voice alone would subdue the young man; the prison lackeys did not need to stir. "You have wed your bloodlines to a risky state indeed. Do you pretend not to have heard what those of secret heathen faith speak of?"
"I am no heathen; I have no secret faiths. How should I have heard any such pronouncement?"
"Do not compound your lies." Severo stood, placed his hands upon the table and leaned forward. "These heathens make a mockery of our own faith--say that our Christ child shall indeed return, but that it shall be to one of their own heritage, one who has brought both lines together. He shall be the Christ child, El Niño, and he will lift his own people as high as those who once oppressed them." He pointed an accusing finger. "Do you aspire to such myths, señor? Would you be their El Niño?"
There was no mistaking the look upon de Alfarerez's face for anything save shock. "What? No! I have never entertained any such blasphemy. I have not even heard it!"
Severo believed him, just as he believed the rumor to be base foolishness, not even worthy of the term heresy. Nevertheless, it was the rumor that frightened the Holy Office most, and he would use it to learn what he must. Too many coincidences surrounded this young nobleman. Severo wanted the truth.
"They say El Niño is already reborn," he chided in grim tones, almost intoning. "That he is of noble birth, that he waits for the right moment to uplift his people. Whoever would perpetuate this hoax--this heresy--a man cannot be damned twice, but, oh, how much further he will have to travel back to redeem his soul." Now his look at de Alfarerez was beseeching. "Make your confession, hijo mío. Who compromised your faith--your mother? Your absent wife? Tell me--tell God--that your sole sin is apostasy, that at the least you do not have the sin of aspiring to the very throne of God." He thought about miming a shudder, but felt the young hidalgo might see through it.
De Alfarerez was once again open-mouthed. But he regained himself, as Father Severo had expected--hoped--he would. "I have no such confession. To none of it. To none of this am I guilty."
"Will you not at least begin to save your soul by admitting your inconstancy to the Catholic faith? The Holy Office would be satisfied by that admission alone. I speak for it."
De Alfarerez was not tricked, and, indeed, Severo had not planned that he should be. "There is no inconstancy, no compromise, none of this! I have no confession to make. The Holy Office may condemn me for my birth and for my marriage, as it is no doubt eager to do. As de Lucas is especially eager, Christ curse him. But I will make no confession."
He would. In the end, they all did.
"You leave yourself no choice, Señor de Alfarerez."
Severo had no expectations that the mere display of the instruments that would be used
would shock the young man into confession. Not one made of such bold stuff as he. Nevertheless, as tradition demanded, he asked again, as the prison lackeys brought forth their cords and pulleys and buckets and cloths, and as de Alfarerez looked upon these proofs of his imminent torture with those odd-colored eyes in his paling face: "Confess now, señor. Save your body's pain with your soul's reconciliation."
Predictably, the young man did not even grant him an answer.
Severo had already decided. Not the water torture for this one, no; he would use the strappado. Those injuries would only hobble the victim and there was less chance of his dying. It took two men to bring de Alfarerez beneath the pulley, a third to bind his wrists behind his back and secure the cords. Severo had naught to do but to nod, to hear the screams wrested from the wretch as he was hoisted, and to repeat his calm urgings for confession, as if de Alfarerez could detail such as his limbs were wrenched away from his body.
Four times they hoisted him. Severo called a halt after that. It was clear that de Alfarerez had suffered at least one dislocated shoulder; Severo wanted him helpless but conscious.
"Enough. Leave me alone with him." The prison lackeys hesitated but a moment; it was common for Father Severo to dismiss other assistants--witnesses--to perform what was assumed to be subtler acts of torment. This prisoner, half-dead upon the cell floor, posed no threat; they could leave him with Father Severo and not fear him mauling the Inquisitor, for which they would be blamed and punished.
Severo would not have called what he planned subtler, but it had its effectiveness. Now the prisoner was crippled. Now the prisoner was steeling himself to endure further pain. Something less direct than pain of the body was called for.
The cell door had no window. Severo stepped behind de Alfarerez's face-down form, listening to the rapidity of his breathing that was a brave substitute for wailing, punctuated every so often by an unsurpressable groan. "Soon," he soothed, "soon you will reach your limits and confess. The body and soul are tied, you know, for all that we praise the effulgency of the soul over the body's baseness. Every man has something he cannot endure, and you will come to yours."
The breathing did not slow, but de Alfarerez got it out in a rush. "I will not confess," he gasped. "I will not."
"You will. I will show you."
His wrists still bound, his right arm pulled into an unnatural position, de Alfarerez could not hinder him at all as Severo reached beneath his prone form, found the fastenings and lacings of his clothing and loosened them, enough to draw most of his clothing from de Alfarerez's body. The doublet and shirt were checked at the cords which held his wrists, but Severo did not doubt the young hidalgo felt every inch of his nakedness and helplessness.
"Know," Severo said in a voice which likely conveyed that he did not care if the young man was convinced or not, "that there is no mortification of the flesh that I would not visit upon a man to save his soul. And that I would spare myself no such mortification if it meant saving another man's soul. That is why I will be forgiven inflicting such torture upon you, and the using of myself as the instrument of that torture."
By way of edification he pushed de Alfarerez's legs apart, knelt between that split. Beneath his own robes he had few garments to shed.
De Alfarerez was not, even in his pain-filled state, slow-witted. At the touch of Severo's hands, probing at him in that most intimate of places, his head jerked up. "No! Christ--what are you--you cannot!" His head all but crashed back to the cell floor as the lingering pain of his wrenched limbs assaulted him again, and he could not resist this violation with even the littlest struggle, but he did not cease to cry out, "Sweet Christ! This--you--!"
Severo took his time, waiting for the full horror to catch up to his victim. When he pressed his own bare flesh to de Alfarerez's, the young man gratified him with a cry that was half-retch. "Sangre de Dios!" he nearly wept. "You--"
Severo knew what he could not speak, the concept so terrible that to give it voice would be to acknowledge it had even been thought of, much less about to be visited on him. A man of the cloth, committing sodomy upon a helpless penitent. A sin more gross than the accusation. Depravity greater than any he had imagined, under the Inquisition's already terrible hands. "Confess," said Severo.
The young man was choking on his very words. Upon which Father Severo had planned. "If you choose not to confess, you shall not be allowed to make confession until this sin has been visited fully upon your flesh, then. No? Very well," said Severo without pause between his pronouncements, and pressed a linen cloth between de Alfarerez's teeth, forcing it deep into his throat where it could not be dislodged. De Alfarerez choked and gurgled on the gag, lifted his head again and even dragged his body forward a few inches with supreme effort. None of it would help him in the slightest.
Severo spat upon his palms, used the spittle to slicken the passage presented to him, making sure his spit-slick hands touched the other intimacies of the young man's body as well, curious to see if he could coax another, more damning reaction from him. De Alfarerez shuddered and whimpered behind his gag, and Severo fancied that even in those sounds there was still no plea to be allowed to confess. There might be before the end, but it would go unheeded all the same.
"You are helpless," said Severo, close to the young man's ear because he was now covering de Alfarerez's body with his own, "and cannot stop this. You had your chance for confession, but I will not hear it now, and so you cannot stop this." He pushed his hips forward, savoring the timbre of the hidalgo's cries as he did so. "You were prepared for greater pain, for the strength of your faith to sustain you against a false confession, but this--" he thrust forward a bit harder on the last word-- "you were not prepared for, and cannot stop. Not with your body--" another thrust-- "not your faith, not even with a lie. There is nothing," he bit out, "you can do to stop this. Nothing."
He heard the cry in de Alfarerez's throat.
Later, he was never sure if it had been only the cry, or if it had built from the cry, or if the other sound had come from somewhere else and matched the cry. But he was certain he had heard it, though it was the last thing he heard for a good many minutes.
The sound had lifted him. Lifted him bodily, first lifting his hair and his robes like wind and then plucking him from where he knelt as if he were a thing of straw and flinging him backward, flinging him to the very wall of the cell where all breath bled from him in a red haze, where his bones cried out as they struck, where he tried to look through the haze and found himself immobile right down to the absence of his own heartbeat, as the sound that was wind swirled between him and de Alfarerez in mad, living defiance.
For a time he knew nothing more. His next awareness was of his own pulse, beating in his chest as regularly as prayer. He had not moved; neither had de Alfarerez.
Severo had guessed correctly. Again.
Not the Christ reborn, no. Something else. Something no less miraculous, for all that he had seen the miracle repeated here in the walls of these cells again, and again, and yet again.
It took him an effort to crawl to de Alfarerez's sprawled form. He touched the young man's shoulder, hoping to Christ he had not inhaled the linen gag and expired after all. He had not; Severo drew it from his mouth. Next he untied the cords from about his wrists.
He did not bother with the young man's clothing, but set to examining his limbs; as suspected, only the one shoulder was dislocated. A twist, another--both accompanied by howls that proved de Alfarerez was nowhere near death--and the limb popped back into place neatly. Severo had become expert at such manoeuvres.
Straw bedding lay in one corner; Severo even took the time and effort to drag him to it. De Alfarerez's eyes crept open to slits as his body touched the straw, and Severo regarded him.
"The Inquisition will condemn you for this, you know full well."
De Alfarerez made no reply, did not even look fully at him, but Severo sensed acknowledgement in him all the same. "Not even heresy," he went on. "Not apostasy. True witchcraft. Consorting with demons." He shook his head. "Not a fine, not the galleys for you, señor. It will be the stake."
He thought he saw a flicker of bravado at the corner of that mouth. And he allowed himself the smallest twitch of a smile, for the first time.
He crouched. "Listen to what I have to say. You--" he was reaching into the pocket concealed in his sleeve-- "are not the only one. If you would save yourself, you will do as I tell you. And you will not ask yourself why I would act to help you now. Not even think it."
De Alfarerez's eyes were wider than mere slits, now. "When I am gone," Severo said, nodding at the door, "the prison guards will come in to remove their instruments. They must see you, looking as you are now. Once they have gone--" He set the vial which he had taken from his sleeve pocket into the cupped fingers of de Alfarerez's uninjured hand. "--then you must drink this. Conceal it until they have gone so that they do not see it, " he added, folding the young man's fingers more closely about it.
De Alfarerez had a familiar look on his face. Severo had seen it on a number of faces in these cells, shortly after he had given them the vial. There had not been many of those, no, but enough to matter. "I told you not to think that," Severo whispered savagely. "Do as I say. The worst it could be is poison, and grant you a swift death. You do not think that could be worse than the Inquisition offers you, do you." He backed away. "Say to me that you understand."
Silence. Then, at last: "Yes." The young man's fingers squeezed tighter, tucked the vial deeper into the concealment of his palm.
Severo allowed himself one last look at his face, one last chance to fix those odd-colored eyes with his own fierce glare of command. Then he turned, moved to the door, and called to the guard.
"Dead." Severo allowed his fingertips to fall from the young hidalgo's throat. "Fools! Who was responsible for searching him when he arrived at the prison?" He brandished the little vial, taken from de Alfarerez's limp fingers. "Poison. He might as well have had a sword! Fools!"
The prison lackeys stood abashed, none able to meet his eyes. "Padre--it was none of our doing--they said he had been searched already when he--"
Severo did not allow him to continue, spitting out a derisive noise. "Excuses will not serve. He is dead now, and did not confess. His soul is forfeit because of his crime and your stupidity!"
Silence from the men, who knew better than to continue their protests. "Nothing can be done now," muttered Severo. "He must be disposed of properly."
"Yes, Padre," said one, eager to make himself of use and be forgiven. "We will take him to the mass grave--"
Severo turned as if he would strike the man. "Idiota! The mass grave is on Church grounds. He is a suicide! He cannot lie in holy earth!" He made a dismissive gesture as if it were all he could do not to come to blows with them all. "Go! Send me the half-wit who hauls out the refuse. Yes, the gigante. I will have him perform the duty."
When the half-wit came, the others left, partly because the man was so hulking he took up most of the cell and partly because his slack, oafish face unnerved even men so low as to be prison lackeys. Severo said, loudly, "Take him. The suicide's grave. You understand, yes?" And then, not quite so loud, and with a different look, because there was no one to see them now: "You understand?"
A flicker of something that might have passed for intelligence. "Sí." And then it had fled, and the loutish expression was back as the man lifted the hidalgo's body, tenderly, for all his great size and strength.
When he had gone, Severo replaced the potion vial into his sleeve; from the same pocket he took another, this one empty save for a drop or two of cyaneous liquor, smelling of almonds.
Carrying it, Father Severo left the cell and went to make his report.
"...take full responsibility, Father Torquemada."
The Grand Inquisitor sniffed at the little vial, carefully. "You are a dedicated son of the church to do so." He turned his gaze to the Queen, held out the vial to her in offer for her inspection as well, but she moved her hand in a gesture of declining. "But I cannot punish you for the fanaticism of these heretics. If a man would sooner take his own life and cast himself to eternal damnation than be cleansed by the Church, I cannot imagine any could have redeemed him."
Severo bowed his head. "It is my duty to do all I can."
"Which you shall. I have no doubt." The vial was capped, replaced in Severo's hand.
"I recall this is not the first such suicide by poison in our prisons, Padre," said the Queen, her tone sharper than Torquemada's had been.
"Your illustrious majesty is correct." Severo did not even hesitate. "It makes me suspect these conversos have a secret connection among them. Some apothecary in their midst, perhaps, who supplies them with deadly poison in the event they might be brought before the Inquisition."
"You must expand your questioning, then, Padre. Unearth this sorceror among them."
"It is my privilege to serve, Reina mía. Grand Inquisitor."
Severo bowed his way from the room, vial in hand. Tiny as its weight was, the presence of the twin vial, hidden in his sleeve, seemed to burn his arm.
He did not let himself react to it. He closed his eyes, inhaled; the smell of the young hidalgo was still upon him. Severo did not delude himself that de Alfarerez, assuming he did escape, would ever forgive him, just as he was sure the others who had survived had not forgiven him the tortures and depravities he had inflicted upon them, for all that he had saved their lives. It did not matter. He did not require forgiveness, never had.
The bells were ringing for evening prayer, and he went.
Don't forget to vote and review!
Voting is now closed. Thank you for participating in the Snarry Games!