history lesson-


God Will Know His Own
by Wendy

In the Year of our Lord, 1209

When I returned to the Ile d'France, I had expected to find my Slayer a farmer's daughter, or perhaps the daughter of some nobleman, whose household I would be expected to infiltrate. I had my documentation and references to back up any story I chose to tell.

I had not expected to find Isabelle d'Houdain in the camp of Philip Augustus and his crusaders. I understood that Innocent had called a crusade to combat the insidious heresy that was present in the southern regions that the Capetians saw as their rightful lands. I stayed quiet on the subject. Living for so many years in the fiercely contested country of England had taught me two things: never involve yourself in a war, and never admit to being a Frenchman. I had hoped that returning home would absolve me of heeding these lessons.

The Watcher's Council had educated me after the death of my father. He had been slain by one of the foul beasts that the Slayers must fight against. His Slayer had been English, and it had been while supervising her that he had met my mother. I had been told tales of the Slayer from my cradle, and now had the chance to prove my skills in education and training. I am perhaps over young for this duty, but the Council has been short on staff as King John wages war against his barons.

The previous Slayer had been a strong Slayer, and a careful one. She had lived for many years, and killed for many more. It was sickness that took her, and the Council, halfway across the world, had known instantly. The divination of the new Slayer had taken days, and her location was not clear. A name, Isabelle d'Houdain, and a location, Lyons, were all the details I was given.

It has taken me nearly a month to traverse the distance from London to Lyons, but now I am here, I see why her exact location is difficult to discover. There must be 10,000 men here, not to mention their women and the squalling brats that seem to follow any troop of armed men. The town itself has all but shut its gates to the vast swell of humanity that has camped near its walls. I asked for her by name, and was surprised to be directed to one of the mercenary encampments.

Isabelle was not to be found among the common labourers and whores. She was not spreading her legs for the mercenaries, nor preparing their food. The new Slayer's ability had shown itself in her youth, and she stood before me in armour.

"I did not know that women were allowed in this holy army." I was embarrassed that these were the first words from my mouth. All my speeches about her duty, her destiny, were forgotten in the face of my surprise.

"Well. Any sword is needed against the heretics. And, God isn't paying me, is he?" She swung the burnished metal towards me. "Who are you? Another priest convinced that I would serve God better in a nunnery?"

"I... I am a Watcher. We guide the Slayers." The speech may have come from my mouth, yet I could not comprehend my saying of it. "I was sent to guide you."

"And I'm a Slayer? That's a new one. I like that title. Isabelle d'Houitain, Slayer." She looked at me with bitter doubt in her eyes. "Tell me why I should be listening to you."

Tradition came to my rescue here. "There is one girl, in all the world, the Chosen One, who can stand against the demons, vampires and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer."

"Vampires? Demons? Father Arnald-Amaury had better not hear you say that." She turned away.

"You will have noticed a change in yourself lately. You are faster, stronger and more aware of your enemies and their actions. It is your destiny, and I can teach you." I had obviously struck some chord in her, as she returned to my side.

"I thought it a miracle when I fled a badly aimed blade during practise." Her eyes were wild. "I have been dreaming of girls who can do the same."

It was then that I knew that my Slayer and I would be able to amicably survive together. We headed towards her tent, all her questions being answered.


Isabelle is very independent. She was abandoned as a child, and found herself in the care of a camp of mercenaries. She has learned how to fight from an early age, and I am keen to further her techniques with the more unusual implements of her new trade. We have not yet came across any vampires, although I suspect that some are following the army as it heads into the Languedoc. We have patrolled, as part of her guard duties, but have not seen anything.

She is worried about this crusade. The holy men slow down our march with their prayers and blessings. They worship the relics they carry with them, seeing this battle against the heretics as a God given victory. Isabelle is not as certain, and talks to me of the strengths and weaknesses of the area. She is very skilled in her knowledge of siege warfare, and I learn daily of her skills in the other areas of battle.

This area was built to be impregnable. We arrive slowly, spies no doubt allowing the town plenty of time to stock their cupboards with their needs. It is our camp that will suffer as we run the risk of camp fever and boredom. This slow progress has one benefit. Isabelle is free to listen to my tales, my myths and my training.

She loves the stories. As a child, I suppose she was never told a bedtime tale as she was put to sleep. My mother, or my nurse were always there, sliding me into the darkness with familiar tales of kings and queens and fairies. Whilst the historical tomes that I impart to the illiterate Isabelle are much drier, she derives much the same enjoyment. Her weapons skills are formidable, yet she finds that practise with the stake difficult. She is used to the reach of a sword, and I teach her to make blows to the head, to decapitate. If all she has is her hands, she will do well.

The time to attack the lands of Trencavel arrive at last. We are guided by his Uncle of Toulouse to the best areas to camp, to hunt and to march ever onwards. Our many soldiers mean that our order of march covers more than a league of road as we penetrate these historic lands. We are set to attack Beziers, where hills and river make it difficult to surround.

Isabelle and I are to celebrate the feast of Mary Magdalene - perhaps a Slayer too, and a women whom Isabelle feels close to. An outcast accepted by the greatest lord of all. It is together that we watch the leader of this crusade, Arnald-Amaury, raise the fire in our hearts as he tells us of the wicked deeds these Cathars are performing on God's own earth. We cry for their blood with them, and listen as he delivers his immortal instructions. "Kill them all. God will know his own." It is only later that Isabelle fully comprehends the horror that this will engender.

We settle into the siege comfortably, our austere tents near the east wall of the city. It does not last. Later this very day, we are allowed into the city walls by some idiotic youths whose brawn certainly outweighed their brains. Every member of our crusade burst into the town, killing the congregation in the churches, the children in the street. Lord or peasant, the blood crazed fervour was with them all, as I followed Isabelle, as she did her duty by her captain.

The bells were tolling for the dead, and for aid. It was too late for them. The soldiers and Isabelle massacred the entire city - Catholic or Cathar, it did not matter. She weeps now as she swings her sword rhythmically through the mass of huddled women sheltering in the cathedral at the top of the city. All must be killed, for God will know his own. It is then that I tell her that her work has just begun.

The monsters that had followed at the rear of our army now swarmed over the dead, drinking the rivers of blood that flooded down the streets. Her exhausted body made sure that the victory was complete for the Church and God, as she stopped numerous vampires killing the looting men. Her sword was cast aside in favour of a lighter stake, as she fought and I followed behind, unable to help.

I found her as the cathedral started to burn. "I started the fires. There were too many of them. I had them trapped in a house and I cast a brand upon them." She sank to the mud, cradling her stake against her.

"You did well." I helped her back to the tent, and treated the burns and cuts and bruises she had acquired. "Many men were saved." She cast me from her tent then, yelling and cursing.

I encountered her once more watching the fires die down. "We march to Carcassone tomorrow. They tell me that my soul has been saved. That God will ensure my place among the saints now."

I do not know what she attempting to say to me, and I settle for a non-committal "Yes?"

"I do not know how they can say this. I killed so many innocent people today. Twenty thousand dead." She stares blankly at the walls, watching her compatriots casting goods from the walls. A bale of cloth opens and flutters in the wind as it falls.

"You killed a great many heretics and a great many vampires. More would have died otherwise."

"The streets ran with blood and I helped. I aided. I cannot do this again. The children." She slumps to the ground, her reclaimed sword clasped between her hands.

"You are the Slayer. You have a destiny, a higher calling. I could tell you that God is loving, and God is forgiving. Instead, I will tell you this. You are the Slayer, you have a duty to those children, to those innocents. You have to stop them."

"The soldiers?" She looks puzzled.

"The demons. The vampires. Serve in that way."

Isabelle and I left the encampment that very day. We have travelled south across the border to Castille, and we hunt the vampires here. She seems more content with her role everyday., A proper womanly role.