S A N B E N I T O
Written on August 12, 2019 (♋)
Author's Notes: The sanbenito is the name of the penitent's garment that heretics were burnt in. This fic has a tiny little bit of my feelings about George Moore's Esther Waters and the way that thoughts and bodies sort of intermingle in it.
She walked quietly away from the gathered assembly after their eyes met. They could not betray one another in as small a gesture as that. Even marching through the Murond streets in yellow sackcloth, Olan had borne himself with a confidence that bordered on flippancy, as though he fully believed the gathering devout should see the absurdity of his predicament as clearly as he could. Balmafula tried not to let her thoughts dwell on what countenance he would bear at the end of the procession. She did her best to neither linger nor rush as she wound her way back towards the heart of the city. It was bad form not to watch, and she did not want to be caught bucking tradition by some overeager Templar. Spectacles such as these were carried to be necessary penitence for both sufferer and witness.
The swell of prayer, the clamor of bells, the “faram, faram, faram” that answered the Confessor’s invocations: it was a dismal end to five years’ work, and she knew that deepest cut to his heart had been the seizure of the document itself. Vellum was its own sort of flesh and life, and it burned far more easily.
She stopped suddenly, just as the spire of the holy palace came into sight, feeling that if she kept moving all the stars and their spheres might not keep accord. To walk on, it seemed, might throw her off the earth. The first trace of smoke on the wind caught her notice, and she thought she would vomit. Despite knowing it unwise, she sat down, leaning against the edge of a white fountain as she wept unthinkingly.
A black plume ascended the sky, and the ache in her belly began to warp, stretching itself alongside the tumult of her not quite thoughts until everything descended into soft thrashing flutters. She laughed, considering what a maudlin time it was for such a thing to happen. As the smoke bled into the coming dusk, she thought it oddly reassuring—that whatever nothingness one died into might so easily be displaced. The veil seemed permeable both ways at that instant, and it was some solace to imagine that she was not alone.
She rested a hand on her belly as she sat up and got ready to move again. They’d need to be at the docks before too much longer.