we invented the remix 5

spot by terri: the messenger mix by stubbleglitter

The day was warm. He remembers that, although his memory is eaten through in places now -- remembers the pale yellow sun, like winter butter -- the way it shone down on his mother's washing, all that pure white raiment flicking gently as he ran in and out between it. He remembers how the warmth made him thirsty, and how the fresh strawberries he picked from near the Fairy Tree only made him thirstier. How his mouth had been filled with the taste of strawberry when he leaned out over the well to grab the bucket that his sister never remembered to fix to one side, and how it seemed to intensify in that one lurching moment when his hold and footing slipped and he started to topple into that neverending black.

Because it was then that he saw it first. A cloud of strawberry red at his back, over his head, pulling him from the chasm and back onto solid earth, and when he was panting and trying to calm his heart he saw it out of the corners of his eyes -- deeper red than he'd first thought and reluctant to reveal itself fully. That would come later. But at the moment he had been very young and very frightened, and now he can look back and wonder at the innocent grace that had led him to roll to his knees and murmur "le sang précieux!" before fervently reciting his Pater Noster over and over until his heart was flooded with gratitude for God's blessings and he collapsed, exhausted.

His mother had found him later and gathered him into her lap, smoothing his hair as he wept hot sweet tears into her yellow skirts under that pale, pale sun.


"Ah! Hiding from your friends again, Lance."

Lance looked up from his folded hands and let the sexton come slowly into focus. He said nothing for a moment, propping an elbow on his knee and letting his cheek rest against his palm. "You did not ring the bells for prayers as much as you should have today," he said chidingly. The sexton stopped and turned to face the boy, who regarded him with eyes that were no less unsettling for being set in the child's sideways-tilted head.

"You should not berate your elders," the man said, hearing his own petulant tone. The child slipped down from the pew where he was sitting and came over, looking determined.

"I've brought you moons," he said, withdrawing from his pocket two of the small loaves that the mothers of Domrémy baked for their children. "I don't mean to be cruel, m'sieur. I only feel God should be given his due." Lance paused and shifted to one side, glancing over at a corner of the chapel. The sexton followed the child's stare and saw nothing; he felt a slight shiver go through him and then felt the cakes pushed into his hands.

"Perhaps you are right to call me to task," the man said, crumbs on his fingers. "Perhaps you relay a message from a higher authority." He shook himself and looked at the little boy, smiling kindly and smoothing Lance's hair. "Child, I may be remiss in the promptness of my duty, but I still retain some of the trappings of clergy, including many blessed texts. Would you like to see one?"

Lance's eyes grew wide, then he glanced at that corner again and the sexton, thinking he knew why the boy hesitated, added, "it is a picture book, of the saints. Would you like to see the pictures, petit?"

The child nodded and the sexton took his hand, pleased with his own insight. He thought he may have seen a brief murmur of scarlet light ripple through that dark corner, but he would not have looked again.

In his spare moments, he dreamed. He dreamed of the pictures of the Virgin that they hung wreathed on the Tree, and he dreamed of the Dauphin being restored with God's grace to his rightful throne, and he dreamed most secretly of all of his friend Joseph.

They had been friends for so long and so closely that the villagers called Joseph la préférée; they had been baptized at Currant Spring together, they slept in each others' beds when night crept up on their play too quickly. But lately Lance had begun feeling different towards Joseph. He found himself looking at Joseph's mouth and wondering what it would be like to be kissed by it, to kiss it himself.

He thought these feelings might be wicked. He prayed over them, and each time he felt that sweet strawberry red of what he'd come to call Le Sang wrapping around him, suffusing him with warmth like wine. Surely it couldn't be wrong, surely if Le Sang had not deserted him.

Lance met Joseph the next day behind his house, early, in the lingering fog and dew of the wet summer night. He caught up Joseph's fingers, two of them, and kissed him with the scent of fresh bread and sunshine breaking through the damp. Joseph made a surprised sound but his icy fingers curled in Lance's clutch, and his lips were smooth and soft. It was every bit what Lance had dreamed.

When the changes came in Lance's thirteenth year, all of those childish dreams seemed to evaporate in a bright, glorious, scorching flash.

He did not speak of what he saw -- at least, not then, and not to his family or friends or the priests. He wouldn't have known how to form the words. It would have been easy to be frightened, and he probably would have been if that strawberry red presence hadn't been there through it all, curling around the corners of his consciousness while he listened awestruck to the instructions he was given.

par le commandement de Dieu, they say, and
libérez le dauphin and over and over they say
sacrifice sacrifice sacrifice

They laid out his future, laid it at the feet of a thirteen year-old boy in pictures of mud and pain and blood. "Yes," he told them. "I am God's creature in this, as in all things."

That was the end of Lance's life as he had known it. It was the beginning of something he could not have ever imagined, and would not have ever wanted. It was hard to think that any person would.

"I must tell you something," Lance said. Christophe looked up from where he was sitting, extracting pebbles from his shoe.

"If it is about the pitiful state of my shoe leather, I quite know it already," he said ruefully, shaking out a tumble of sand and grass. "Shank's mare may be cheap, Lance, but it costs you in shoes what you save in ... horseshoes." Christophe laughed, but Lance was not really listening.

"I must tell you," he said breathlessly, "I must go to France. I must help the Dauphin regain his rightful crown."

Christophe paused in wedging his foot back into his tattered shoe. He stared at the ground for a long time before saying in an odd voice, "Why must you do this?"

Lance crouched down next to his friend, catching up his hand earnestly. "In service of the glory of God," he told him. Christophe lifted his gaze to Lance, seeming to search his face for some answer.

"Christophe," Lance said, "this is no childish fancy. I have known this was to be my duty for almost four years now, and I have accepted it with--" he stopped and swallowed, composing himself, "--with a heart glad to do the bidding of the Lord. Will you help me?"

Strawberry light lashed and twisted around their heads so violently that Lance wondered Christophe could not see it. His friend scrubbed at his dusty dark hair until it was sticking up in places and then stood, drawing Lance up with him.

"Sire De Baudricourt sends a dispatch tomorrow morning to Chinon," he said. "We should hurry if we wish to meet them."

"Thank you, thank you!" Lance embraced his friend to the sound of Le Sang's hot roar, never noticing the worried resignation in Christophe's eyes.

The assembled courtiers made a loud noise of wonder, but all Lance was aware of was the warmth of Le Sang coiled about him and the slight, genteely nonplussed person he was on his knees before. "I am come to conduct you to Reims, Noble One, in order that you shall receive your coronation and sacrament."

"You recognized me even hidden within this tinsel crowd," the Dauphin said, reaching out to tip Lance's chin up. "Walk apart with me, petit, and tell me how you did it."

They walked deeper into the castle, along the long lonely colonnades and corridors, until the Dauphin turned to Lance with eyes sparkling. "It is true, isn't it?" he demanded. "You truly are come by the will of God. I truly am to be King of France!"

"It is true," Lance said. "I will go to Orléans first and secure a victory there; once the English are gone, I shall conduct you safely to your throne." His heart thrummed hard in his chest, hard as the licks of strawberry-orange fire that were pulsing and racing up the long slim columns of the corridor. Saying the words out loud was different, so different from hearing them told to him by the Voices, and he couldn't quite tell if what he was feeling was terror or exhileration.

The Dauphin, however, was clearly delighted; he clapped his hands and spun in a circle, stopping to grab Lance's shoulders. "You shall go to Orléans with all possible haste," he promised. His eyes were bright, sparking blue as he said, "and you, Lance, you shall be my chef de guerre, my war chief. You shall lead us to victory, oui?"

Overcome, Lance could only nod. So much change, so fast, and he knew what came at the end.


He can recall that first battle with such clarity that he almost doubts that it even happened and in darker moments fears that it might all be fancy and madness. But Le Sang comforts him even through this, and he recalls what it was like to ride out in the first breaking sunlight to the battlefield, in his white armour and with his white fleur-de-lys standard flapping overhead to the sound of strawberry wings.

How strange it had been! How glorious and evil, that he should have ridden to battle for God and for France but to see men die without the grace of Confession! How fierce the enemy godon had been, and what dreadful pain when one of their arrows pierced his shoulder through half a foot deep!

He had learned then what the Voices could do, for it was their dulcet tones that leeched the torment from his flesh as his wound was dressed with lard and olive oil. He had learned war, but had yet held himself apart from the dirty viscerality of sword and shield. He had brought hope to the depleted and weary French soldiers who had been defending the Orléans bastilles for seven months, and he had done it in three days.

Untrained and unskilled, a simple peasant boy, but the people had embraced him and hailed him as a messenger from God. The Dauphin had come to Reims and finally been crowned king of France, and perhaps that was where the end began to take root because he heeded the twisted words of his advisor La Trémouille instead of listening to his young chef de guerre. Lance urged action, and the Dauphin insisted on indolence.

And so it was that Lance had ridden unsupported into Margney on his white horse with Le Sang making strawberry snaps at his heels; it was there that the Burgundians had finally captured him and imprisoned him here in their sunless, slit-windowed tower.

"Lance. Come, come -- tell me more of what these Voices of yours said to you! Am I not your countryman and fellow prisoner? Should I not also be privy to these messages of the Lord?"

He looks at Justin and smiles, though the shackles are heavier than ever and it feels as though all of him aches through. "Of course," he says. "As much as I can remember, and tell."

Justin takes one of Lance's stiff, cold hands and pinches his fingers, rolling each bone-joint to spark some warmth in them. "Then tell," he says earnestly. His broad brow is clear and Lance wonders at it, for his Voices have already warned him that Justin is a spy of the tribunal and reports all that Lance tells him back to Cauchon, the chief questioner.

But he is here and he is warm, and for a few moments with his fingers interlaced with Justin's, Lance can believe that being different means nothing at all.

Some of the men on the tribunal protest Lance appearing before them in chains, but Cauchon is adamant that the shackles remain; Lance is after all a war figure, and should be counted dangerous. He stands before them for hours at a time struggling to answer their questions with truth and honour without allowing exhaustion to rob him of his wits or his strength, but it is hard, hard.

Do you know that some of those who follow you believe you are sent by God?

"I do not know it, for they may choose what they believe. But if they do or not, I am still sent by God."

Do you think you are in a state of grace?

"If I am not, God put me there; if I am, I pray God I remain."

Do you believe your Voices to be those of the blessed Holy Saints?

A cold rush of energy passes through Lance then, snatching his breath and filling him with a loud, scarlet sound of blood; the sound resounds like a trumpet in his ears as he hears himself say in a firm, calm voice:

"I believe them to be, and I believe they came from God."

responsio mortifera, one of the judges says, fatal answer. The tribunal closes their books. Le Sang's wail goes on and on in Lance's head.

Cauchon stands, commending his prisoner to the civil authorities. "Deal with him tenderly," Cauchon says as they are leading Lance away, and his voice is full of smoke and flames.

It is the next morning that they take him to his death. He wears a long white garment and the executioner's cart carries him to the open square of the Old Market in Rouen under a white sky.

There are people everywhere. Son of a tiny village, it still catches Lance's heart with surprise to see so many thronged all together like this; so many doleful faces, wet with tears. for me, Lance thinks with grateful wonder. for me, blessed am i! He clasps his hands and lifts his cracked voice in prayer, and he hears the people all around him murmuring along as he passes by. He feels it like balm for his soul.

The high plaster base with its single evil stake stabbing at the sky looms closer. He is hardly aware as the soldiers bundle him down from the cart, hoist him onto the scaffold and tie him to the stake; only then does he rouse himself enough to beg them for a cross. An English soldier gives him one and Lance clutches it to his pounding heart as the first torches set fire to the heaped, brambled tinder.

Everything seems to be happening so slowly. The flames curl and spiral upward in lazy red-gold lashes and the faces of the people blur and haze into formless grey.

Lance's eyes are stinging. He blinks and sees Justin's face among the others, white and stricken with the heavy, dreadful import of his betrayal. Lance flexes his stiff, cold fingers and utters the name of the Lord, asking forgiveness for Justin if only for the blessing of that last, simple touch.

The fire spirals ever upward and Lance knows it will not be long now, his tender death. He draws a shuddering, smoldering breath and finds his mouth full of the taste of strawberries, crimson tendrils crowding the corners of his vision; he stares down into the fire and hears himself cry out. The people watching would later say that his final cry sounded almost grateful, and it would confuse and humble them to think of Lance finding something to cause him happiness in those last terrible moments.

Lance was nineteen when he first saw his dragon.

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