43. Isidora-9. The loss of Anna. A Woman-Warrior.
Caraffa stared rudely at Sever as if the latter was a rare exotic animal. For some
incomprehensible reason the Pope’s face shone with confidence which frightened me more than his hurling "thunderbolts"
of terrible dissatisfaction...
– Well, well, venerable Sever! We meet at last! Once I’d promised, I knew that you would come to me; I don’t
change my promises, as a rule.
– Don’t flatter yourself, Caraffa. – Sever pronounced calmly. – I would never give you that kind of pleasure, as you
know perfectly well. My interest is in Madonna Isidora. She is too valuable to be in your hands. But, of course, you are
unable to understand that.
– Man’s value depends on in what way he can be of benefit to God. Well, Madonna Isidora, as you know, is a witch...
and a very mighty one. Therefore her attitude toward God does not leave a glimmer of hope of her changing for the better.
And, thus, her "value" for me and our holiest church comes to zero, dearest Sever.
– Why do you keep her locked up then, ceaselessly killing her family one by one, Caraffa? –Sever asked frostily.
– Good heavens, dearest Sever! Madonna Isidora is absolutely free in her acts and decisions! – And caustically
smiling, added: – As soon as she deigns to give to me what I ask, she is free to go wherever she wishes, even if it be
against my will.
The room "sparkled" with tension. The conversation, unpleasant for Sever and me, portended nothing good. But,
apparently, Caraffa pursued his own aim (as usual, unknown to others) which he was not going to uncover.
– Tell me, Sever, if Madonna Isidora is so valuable to you, why does not Meteora try to save her, hiding her behind
its "magic" walls?
– Because people come to us only at their desire. We offered her to stay, but Isidora did not wish to.
Caraffa sharply turned toward me. The greatest astonishment was written on his face…
– So, it’s true! You did not wish to stay yourself!
– I’ve told you but you did not believe me, – I shrugged my shoulders as indifferently as possible.
The Pope was obviously dumbfounded. He was unable to understand why I did not want to protect myself from
the danger that came from him?! Not to mention the chance to study the Knowledge hidden in Meteora...
– Tell me, Sever, how old are you? – Caraffa bluntly asked, sharply turning to Sever.
– Nine hundred and sixty three from the birth of your false God, – Sever answered calmly. – I think you're ignorant
of other systems of chronology.
– But you look as if you’re thirty... – Paying no attention to Sever’s caustic remark, the Pope pronounced in a low
voice. – This is what exactly I ask from Madonna Isidora!
– And she is absolutely right refusing to give what you ask for. Criminals have no right to live long, Caraffa, especially,
those like you. It is highly unlikely that you will repent of what you’ve done, even if you live a thousand years, is it not?
Moreover, there is no sense in it. In fact your God is in your soul, Caraffa... And there is no blacker soul in the world
than yours. Therefore, no matter how long you live, you will do only black and wicked things to the end of your life.
– Well, we’ll see! – Caraffa pronounced thoughtfully. – We’ll see... No matter how strong Madonna Isisora is, she
loves her daughter very much, doesn’t she? Well, a mother’s love, you know, works miracles sometimes!
Anna, silent until now, stepped forward and said as calmly as possible:
– So far we’ve heard only words from you, Caraffa. Do your business or don’t talk about what you are not going to
do! For it doesn’t do the Roman Pope any credit at all...
It escaped involuntarily from me... Because I knew for certain – if my daughter were to get into the basement, she
would not get out of there alive. All would be ended... for her... and for me.
– Well, Isidora, decide! Anna asked for that herself. Do you want to be free and quietly raise your wonderful daughter
or will her life end right now... in the basement.
I turned to Sever in hope. He intensely decided something…
– Tell me, Caraffa, aren’t you really afraid? You will live again after death... you know that. The thing is that your
next life will not be pleasant like this one. Does not even this make you think?
– Oh, my dearest Sever! It’s nothing compared to the attempt to reach immortality now. I have staked everything on
it! I shall get what I desire using anything I can, including crime...
I stood, unable to think... unable to come to any determination. There was only one thought in my head – this is the
end... I shall never see my dear brave girl again! Caraffa has lost his iron patience and the most terrible events will happen
Anna looked me right in the eyes and... smiled. I knew she was trying to calm me down! Although I saw the animal
fear that wildly squealed and tossed about deep in her heart; I felt it and was unable to help her, because I could not
betray her or myself... or the dead. I could not betray other gifted ones, who lived in horror day after day expecting their
I had to destroy Caraffa... in order that he did not destroy the Earth.
We were just specks of dust, my daughter and I, compared to all those he had murdered. The souls of gifted ones who
died in torture called me every night, demanding revenge...
Our lives (Anna’s and mine) did not matter, but for all that, I could not simply allow her to die. I could not reconcile
myself to her murderer…
– Try to delay him, hold him up, Isidora, – I heard Sever right in my brain. – I will go to the White Volkhv.
And he disappeared, sharply thawing... Most likely, it was just me who heard his last words, because Caraffa
perplexedly looked for several seconds at the place where Sever had just been. But, as usual, he very quickly came to
himself and asked with surprise in his voice:
– So, what? He deserted you so easily! Now what can you tell me about your friendship!? Or does nobody in Meteora
know what it is?
– No, Your Holiness, they know. And this is exactly what he tries to prove now.
For a moment Caraffa was submerged in deep thought, as if deciding what he should do with us next. Suddenly he
sharply turned around and shouted:
Two huge guardsmen barged into the room.
– Take her to the basement!
The guards sharply grasped Anna and dragged her to the door.
– This is the end. – I thought, paralyzed with fright.
But it was far from it. Anna sharply became straight and the two enormous guards flew to the door and fell on the
floor like heavy sacks.
– Well, well... – Caraffa whispered, fixing his piercing eyes at Anna. – She is truly your daughter, Madonna. Let’s
try to do otherwise.
He clapped his hands, calling new guards.
– Take the girl to my rooms and don’t let her out of your sight! – Caraffa sharply ordered.
I did not understand yet what he was going to do this time. I had to do something, to fight somehow... But how
could I fight without understanding with what I should do it? It was obvious that Caraffa planned to do something to
avoid Anna’s influence. But what could that be? Regrettably only his sharp mind knew that. I fell into a stupor, unable
to make up my mind to undertake further steps. I only hoped that Sever would appear soon...
But he failed to do that. It was getting dark. Restless I passed the night imagining the worst. Only the hope that
Anna still lived was throbbing in my horror-filled brain. Caraffa was going to torture her to break me. Therefore
he would certainly find it senseless to torture Anna in secret. He wanted to hurt exactly me, and that gave me
a tiny hope of seeing her once again…
The morning came.
I was unable to fall asleep the whole night long and felt tired and devastated.
Uncertainty drove me mad preventing me from relaxing and thinking clearly. Anna did not answer my calls. Most
likely Caraffa put his protective shield on her. But in my heart I knew that my girl was still alive.
Caraffa came in the late morning. To my surprise, he looked tense like an arrow ready to be released. His dictatorial
eyes looked at me with prickly attention, as if deciding my sad fate right now.
– Come with me, Madonna! You will have to see a very unpleasant show. And it’s totally your guilt, you know! I
asked you to think, but you thought too long. I don’t have any time left. I am sorry.
For some reason Caraffa was extremely angry. Something disturbed his sharp mind, but it was not fear of not getting
what he desired. It was another thing which I could not catch yet. But he was obviously angry and nervous, giving me no
time to understand what it was.
We came down to the familiar basement. Nothing changed there. People screamed like before. It smelled of death like
before. And the blood froze in my veins in horror like before.
– Before we enter there, I would like to ask you once again, Isidora, whether you’ve changed your decision. – Caraffa
whispered fixing his black eyes on me. – I would not like to torture Anna. Her life is very valuable. Don’t you really feel
sorry for her?
I gathered everything that was left of my wounded courage and tried to calm my trembling voice preparing an answer.
I was on the verge of fainting. The body refused to obey. My weakness killed me. I was terribly afraid to see what was hidden
behind the heavy door. I was not sure I could bear what the "holy" Pope had prepared for me.
– Of course, Holiness, I feel sorry for Anna... – I whispered in reply. – Like I feel sorry for all the ruined wonderful lives
which have already passed… and for those which will pass... I am unable to understand you, Caraffa and, I think, nobody
will... But believe me you’ll have to pay very dearly for everything you’ve done.
– Oh, my dearest Isidora! It won’t happen today! – Caraffa laughed. – And I shall think about what will happen in the
future when it comes.
He turned a rusty key in the lock and slowly pushed the heavy door...
I saw a soul-freezing picture. In the middle of a small stone room Anna sat in a strange iron arm-chair, chained to it...
My heart sank... and stopped beating. How on Earth could I allow such thing to happen?! But my fevered brain firmly
answered – you could!!! You had no choice.
Anna looked in my eyes, not frightened or begging. This girl showed much more courage than I had at that moment.
– Don’t give up! Please, just don’t give up, mother! – I heard.
Anna talked to me mentally, trying to support me. Knowing how much I love her, she was afraid that I would break.
She was afraid that Caraffa would get that for which he had craved so badly. And then everything we had to go through
would be in vain.
– Just like you, your daughter is so bellicose, Madonna. I had to replace eight executioners to tie her! We had to make
her drink a poppy decoction to put her to sleep... Have some mercy on her, Isidora!
A corpulent executioner in a leather apron prepared some frightful instruments… no doubt to torture my beloved
daughter... My dear and light girl…
My heart froze. It seemed that the world was converted into an endless solid pain. No longer feeling anything, I simply
– Wake up, Madonna! What’s wrong with you? Wake up!
Anxious Caraffa held a bottle of strong-smelling salts, bringing it to my nostrils from time to time, so willy-nilly I had
to breathe the stale basement air. I felt like a wax doll. It was not good at all. Caraffa perfectly understood that he finally
found that with the help of which he, probably, could break me. And, naturally, it was Anna who had to pay for it...
– Do you really hope that on living long, you will succeed in mowing down and clearing out all gifted ones? – I
whispered on regaining consciousness. – It’s madness, Holiness! People will always be born ... and the gifted will be
born too. You will never succeed in destroying them all! Think better of it, while it is not too late. You have a brilliant
mind, why do you use it for destruction?
Caraffa thoughtfully picked at a heavy gold cross hanging on his papal chest. It seemed that he had gone far away
from the usual world into some unknown expanses... Regrettably, he was never absent for long...
– As I already told you before, Isidora, most people are stupid. Look around. There is a lot of of cowards and idlers
who will give everything only to remain aside feeling safe and protected! They believe that they live in faith and truth,
spending whole days in idleness and enjoying the happiness of their stupid personal small world. They hide behind the
backs of the brave and strong who they use and then destroy. One doesn’t require a brilliant mind to do mean things,
Isidora... – his "Holiness" gave a wry smile, went silent for a second and then added:
– But regrettably, there is another kind of people. Those who always stand ahead and their life becomes a light that
points the way to others. They are incredibly dangerous! They don’t think like others wish them to. They carry their
damned light regardless of any danger without sparing their lives. You are one of them, Isidora, just like your sweet
daughter Anna. That is why, to be perfectly honest, I will never let you go, even if you give me what I ask... You will
stay here and be a queen, if you submit to me, or a prisoner, if you don’t. I cannot free you... despite that I love you.
I looked at him being absolutely numb, totally drowning in the madness of his reasoning. Although there was
something in which Caraffa was, unfortunately, right. Too many cowards and scoundrels lived on earth. They were
bogged down in consumerism, gnawing the "bones" of personal prosperity they were occasionally thrown, which
suited Caraffa just perfectly. This was a crowd that was not dangerous for him. Well, Anna and I fell into the second,
– Your Holiness, if you understand that you cannot break people like us, why do you try then? In fact Anna is very
talented. Why don’t you want to preserve her? She could help you a lot. Why do you kill her?
– Because you are my only hope to get what I desire, Isidora. Therefore, Anna is my only trump which (trust me!)
I will play without any scruples. Do you wish to think, Madonna?
My head began to spin. How many times I intentionally imagined this moment to somehow adjust myself to it and
survive! How many times I tried simply to "get used" to this idea in order that (when the time comes) not to go totally
mad! But no matter how hard I tried the reality turned out to be much more frightful...
Somehow I managed to gather all my strength and my deadened lips pronounced words which pursued me for the
rest of my short remaining life and which I was unable to forget even there, in my distant new world...
– I already gave you the answer, Your Holiness... Anna is not worth of millions of other good lives which you will
destroy, if you live long... I cannot give her preference over those millions... despite the fact that she is my daughter.
– You are mad, Isidora! – Caraffa sharply pronounced, turned to the executioner and ordered: – Begin!
Bare horror yelled in Anna’s eyes. I knew how frightened she was, nevertheless, my girl did not give up. And I could
not betray her by surrendering to Caraffa...
The man came to the torture arm-chair and lifted red-hot heavy twig over Anna’s hands. The smell of singed meat
spread over the room. Anna began to scream. Immediately the tormentor clutched at his heart and slowly slipped down
on the floor.
– Stop it, Isidora! Or I shall be obliged to send you out of the room! – Caraffa bawled.
– But it was not me, Holiness! – I gave an exhausted smile. – Anna is the strongest Vedunia. Did you really think that
she would sit calmly while you torture her?
I was proud of my brave daughter, even knowing how cruelly she suffered. Her father’s courage lived in Anna and
she was not going to give her life easily. She tried to take with her as many of those inhuman creatures, which cause pain
to other gifted ones, as possible.
– So, it was Anna again? But she could not. We made her drink herbs that close the outlet of her force. How could
Caraffa let the cat out of the bag... He went mad! And I laughed in his face, having understood what truly happened
– Your Holiness, you have listened to some of the "broken" gifted ones, haven’t you? But they did not know how
truly strong Anna was. You knew it. So, you should not be mad, for that is in vain really!
Caraffa stopped right in front of me and gave an infuriated shriek:
– Can Anna go with her spirit out of her body? Answer, Madonna!
– Of course, she can, your Holiness! It is the simplest thing she can do.
It was a lie... But if it could save my girl from suffering, I was ready to repeat it again and again, a thousand times!
Caraffa intently reflected on something for a while.
– Well, Madonna Isidora, everything has been decided then. It’s useless to torture Anna. She will kill all my
executioners, which, forgive me, does suit me at all. She will repeat her Grandfather’s tricks and I simply don’t have
time for it. You will spend this night with your daughter, but it will be your last night together, because Anna will die
in the morning. She will go to the fire... You have one night to change your decision, Madonna.
Caraffa whipped round and left the room...
We were taken from the torture cell and driven to a dark and dirty "cage" with nothing in it except for the straw on
the floor, on which we collapsed firmly hugging each other, as if it could help us to survive... There was no hope for us,
only black despair.
I held my treasure in my arms, my only, amazingly gifted girl, and grieved... Oh, if only Anna had stayed in Meteora!
No Caraffa’s force would get her there! But she did not stay... Fearing for me, she came here offering her life in return
for mine. She knew that thus she would give me some time to try to kill Caraffa...
The images of our short life in the house of her father and grandfather, where I taught Anna to be strong so persistently,
flashed before my eyes. There I repeated to her so many times how wonderful life was and how happy hers would be...
But I was wrong... Anna’s life ended right now, preventing her from feeling the happiness I had felt in my life...
We sat in the corner on the straw hugging each other with our numb hands. I stroked her twisted, blood-sticky, long
hair, knowing that I did it for the last time. My eyes were dry, although my heart was torn with sobbing. I think the pain
was too strong to wash it with tears.
Firmly pressing Anna to my chest, I felt how quickly and cruelly time flowed into "nowhere", carrying away the last
hours of her surprisingly-brave life.
The night came to its end. And like it was the night before my father’s murder, I dozed! I gave a start and jumped in
horror to wake up my dear girl. But Anna did not sleep. She gently stroked my face with her now disfigured thin hands
and quietly whispered:
– You are so beautiful, mother... I love you so much! I beg you, hold on! Don’t give up! It’s all the same for me now...
It’s deliverance. There will be no more pain. So dad told me. I know they are waiting for me. And then we all will wait
for you. Hold on, mother! Hold on, dear!
Her voice was cracked and so sad! I would give myself one hundred times, if only she lived! But regrettably it was not
we who commanded our fate – lying and mean ones did…
– Mother, will you forgive me for not being able to help you? I tried so much... but I failed. – Anna whispered. – I
feel so guilty!
Somebody's wicked invisible hand squeezed my throat. I could not utter a word of answer.
My soul screamed, but nobody heard it...
How could I outlive such a torture?!!
How could I watch the only one left in my life die, my marvellous girl, blood of my blood who gave such happiness
to people in her short life that others could not in all their long ones?
What EVIL could she have possibly done to Earth to be killed so brutally? What has my light pure child
done? She has not even had time to understand what LIFE really is!
– Mother, look! The sun is rising!
Anna’s enormous eyes shone... I understood – she had overcome horror and pain. She had crossed the border behind
which a person feels no fear. She tried to pass with dignity, as her Grandfather had asked her, just like he did.
– Destroy him, mother! You are alone now. Maybe Sever will help you. Caraffa has no right to live. Destroy him, mother.
Guards appeared in the doorway. Anna got up, proudly tossing her long mane, and fixed her ardent eyes on my face.
– Everything is all right, mother. I am not afraid. I am not afraid at all! They are cowards. They hate us and therefore
they burn us. I love you, dear. I love you so much!
Caraffa stood on the threshold.
Oh, how much I hated him!!! If hatred could kill, he would be dead a long time ago! But he continued to live... And
I was going to die.
– I suppose that you keep sticking to your opinion?! – The "holy" Pope asked me, attentively looking into my eyes,
and on thinking a little, added: – Come on, Isidora! This is your daughter that will die in fire! What’s wrong with you,
I found myself lying on somebody's hands. My brain refused to understand what was happening and my poor heart
threatened to stop unable to endure such pain... Anna sadly looked into my eyes, trying to support... She was
trying to calm me down!!!
– Where is your heart, Madonna? – Caraffa asked, openly exposing his bitternes. – Are you really so bad a mother?
– Leave her alone, Caraffa. It is I who decides my own fate! – Anna angrily shouted. – She will never comply with
your request, no matter how strongly you wish it! Get out!
A grimace of rage distorted Caraffa’s face. He sharply turned to leave the room and hissed:
– Well, in this case I should not be better than you! You are a mother who sends her child to death... You are a
This was precisely how I felt! But should I save Anna, she would never forgive me, on the other hand, letting her die
in fire, I betrayed her as her mother. Was there any way out of this vicious circle? There was none. I sincerely began to
think that hundreds of those who fought, who believed and in whom the truth burned so brightly died, as if there was
nobody to save them...
I remembered Magdalena... Radomir... Vesta... How badly they hindered the Thinking Dark ones! How all-consuming
the hatred in the hearts of the killers, who destroyed their Light Lives, must be.
– Mother! Wake up, mother! – I heard Anna’s agitated voice. – Are you all right, mother?
I just nodded, understanding that I must summon my strength and go.
The carriage which carried me was comfortable and soft. That which carried my poor Anna was made of rough planks
and slightly bearded logs. Her hands tied by rough cordes to the logs rubbed against them, and I saw how thorns every
now and then pierced her maimed skin, cruelly hurting her, but Anna only smiled. Her consciousness was long since
beyond the verge of reality, very far away, where pain already did not matter, because it could not get her anymore...
Finally we reached the little square where my father had died several months ago... The memory of that still brightly
lived in my heart, refusing to fade... And today Anna’s fate was about to join to these mournful recollections! I could not
believe it! I could not accept it with either my mind or my heart! But it was happening. It was real and Caraffa personified
– Well, Isidora, I am extremely disappointed in you. You are not what I imagined and you are not worthy of being
He scorched me with his gaze full of hatred and waved his hand, ordering it to begin.
I looked at a frightful "show", feeling nothing, understanding nothing... It seemed that somebody had "switched off"
all my feelings, feeling sorry for my dying soul... Someone still wanted me to live.
– I am sorry, Isidora. I lost. I cannot help you. The White Volkhv said no to me. – A tender voice pronounced quietly.
Sever stood behind my back. I only nodded, unable to say anything. The last hope disappeared. The only thing that
was left for Anna was to die with dignity...
I looked at her, wishing to memorize every line of her wonderful face. Turning into stone and becoming deaf, I
absorbed her light which flowed and filled with its golden stream all people around... Unexpectedly, as if they felt it,
people became silent. And in a short while the square exploded with with loud cries:
– Mercy upon her!!! Save her youth! Let the girl go!!! Murderers! Spare the child!
A fragile hope glimmered in my heart, but Caraffa cruelly strangled it at once. He angrily waved his hand, ordering
to begin the execution.
Anna stood at a post light and pure, as if the terrible reality did not touch her. She did not take her shining eyes off
me and smiled.
– Be brave, mother! Don’t give in to him! – Anna mentally told me. – I will always love you... even there. Don’t
forget me, mother!
My heart thumped in iron vice. I lacked air... It seemed to me that I was going to go with Anna, unable to endure
this pain anymore. But I did not know how inhuman this pain was about to become...
– I am sorry, mother, but you have to help me. I cannot go away by myself... Will you help me, mother?
Suddenly the surrounding world disappeared somewhere. Only my beloved girl was left and to my horror she
asked me to help her to go away... which meant that she asked me to kill her, stopping her beating heart.
The whole world turned upside down. My physical body refused to obey... I was scared that I would die failing to
fulfill my daughter's request! Anna could not help herself. I was left to save her from the suffering from which there was
no other way to be rescued...
The executioner came and set fire to the dry straw... The flame blazed easily and victoriously, merrily climbing higher
and higher, threatening to seize the helpless body...
– Farewell, mother! – Anna exclaimed. – Farewell, dear!
I tried to help her, but for some reason failed! I scolded myself for faint-heartedness. I tried again. Anna looked at me
seized with flame and mentally begged:
– Mother, help me!... Mother!!!
Once again I gathered my last forces and at the same instant her fragile body was helplessly hanged on cords...
My wonderful daughter, my light girl was dead. I killed her, opening the way for her into a longed-for eternity...
Afterwards I did not remember anything…
Days flew by... I was ill...
My consciousness constantly fell into nonexistence, now returning for a short while, now going for long, long hours,
thus rescuing me from plunging into complete madness. The hours of rest replaced the hours of delirium, where familiar
images were exchanged for unknown ones, making my soul yell and writhe and seek sanctuary...
It seemed sometimes that I had gone at last... I saw dear faces – father, Girolamo, Anna... They smiled at me, thus
helping me to survive. Sometimes I saw Caraffa’s image. For some reason he was always extremely worried... His black
eyes devoured me, as if looking for an answer…
Finally, over some time, the fever began to retreat. Days seemed clearer, the state of delirium disappeared. It seemed
that the most frightful thing had passed, or so others thought... The most frightful thing for me was my awakening and
remembering what had so cruelly tossed in my fevered brain in the lonely island of black-out. I remembered Anna’s
death and boundless pain gushed like a waterfall into my withered soul! To my surprise the pain REVIVED me!
Probably all other feelings were simply dead in my soul a long time ago.
One day I heard the voice I wished to hear most in the world:
– Mother! Oh, mother, I worried so much about you!
It was my sweet child... My Anna!
To my utter surprise I wanted to see Caraffa! Most likely my heart tortured by misfortunes and sufferings wished to
harden. As usual, I did not expect too long...
It was a warm and light morning. The smell of jasmine wafted through the open window. The sun tenderly and proudly
shone, as if telling me that it was time to get back to LIFE. I lay, still helpless, but quickly gaining the strength,
which my last and only aim required...
The door noiselessly opened. Caraffa quietly entered the room.
But what was that? What could have happened to him? The Pope’s face was weary and old and grown lean. His eyes
were feverish... It seemed that Caraffa had aged by twenty years!!! What could have exhausted him so terribly?
– At last you awoke, Madonna?! Thank God! I had lost any hope of seeing you alive! My doctors gave way to despair!
They said that your brain went into darkness... that you would never return. Oh, I am so glad! I greet you, Madonna!
Dumbfounded by the stream of his stormy delight, I could not utter a word. Unexpectedly the Pope began to fuss and
on growling out that he would come later, darted out of the room...
What could that mean? Was it a proof that he sincerely worried about my health? Or he simply was afraid that if I die
now, his dream will never come true? I think that only he was able to understand himself. I decided not to rack my brain
concerning his person and again submerged into a saving dream.
I did not know how many days my escape into "between worlds" lasted. Was it days or weeks, and whether it mattered
at all? The most important thing was that it helped me to endure the loss of my girl and not to break. The rest was not
important. Now I was absolutely alone and had no reason whatsoever to worry about my family. They all, killed by
Caraffa, went to the best world... I could fully dedicate myself to revenge without being afraid of the consequences,
because now he could kill only me alone.
Unexpectedly a terrible thing happened! Stella, Isidora, Anna and everything that surrounded me disappeared!!!
I felt that a huge vacuum cleaner pulled me in and I appeared in my usual physical world, where my indignant grandmother
waited for me. As usual I jumped into my abandoned physical body... or rather I tried to jump. The feeling was terribly
unpleasant! I felt as if my poor spirit smashed into a cold iron barrier. I cried out in my fright and stared at my grandmother.
– I cannot enter for some reason! Something keeps me out!
Indeed it was very scary. I saw my frozen physical body which simply did not want to let me in! I knew that
I was not dead, but for some reason I failed to get into it.
– Granny! Please, help!!! – I cried being scared out of my wits.
Or rather it was my spirit that cried and nobody except my grandmother heard it.
Gradually the "door" into my physical body began to open and at last I fluidly slipped into what on Earth was called
– What? Were you going to leave? Are you tired of carrying this burden? Don’t even think about it, dear. Your life
will be very long. So, live!
I saw that my grandmother was very alarmed which did not happen often and I could not understand what the reason
was for that. I visited the floors almost every day and it never caused any trouble. What could have happened to make her
– Do you know what time it is? – Grandmother asked hardly restraining her indignation.
I shook my head negatively. When she brought a clock right to my nose, I was terrified – my journey had lasted
FIVE HOURS!!! I never I went for a walk there for so long! I did not quite understand why it was so bad, but
judging by the way my physical body felt it was clear that I had come very close to a line behind which everything could
have ended very badly for me. My body was unusually cold, as if I was in a refrigerator. It did not want to obey. It did
not want to get warm. Grandmother put me into what felt like a boiling-hot bathtub (then we did not have a central heating
and heated the water on the stove), apparently preparing it before I came. My teeth chattered from a strange internal cold
and I could not speak. This strange cold became stronger, although it seemed that everything should be vice versa. On
seeing my helpless attempts to say something, garandmother finally warmly smiled:
– All right, be silent, little traveller... But you should remember very well – when you are alone, never go so far for a
long time. If I had not backed you up, you would be dead by now...
I felt icy tingles down my spine! How can it be? Does it mean that I could not visit the floors for as long as I wished?!
Does it mean that my body has limitations and there is a definite period of time for which I could be out of it? But
grandmother never told me about that before!
She kept me in the very hot water for about ten minutes then wiped me dry and put me to bed, covering me with all
the blankets she could find in the house. Nevertheless, I still felt cold...
Very soon my temperature sharply rose. It must have been very high because I tossed about in bed, delirious. I did not
remember that. My faithful grandmother told me about everything much later. The fever and delirium lasted two days.
Mother thought that I just had a severe cold. And grandmother, naturally, kept silent about the real reason.
Two days later the fever finally abated. I had a very good nights sleep and woke up fresh as a daisy ready for new
exploits. And then I remembered what had happened on the floors during my unexpected "leaving" and the thought of
what I might have missed pierced my mind!
– Grandma!!! Granny dear, I have to go back there!!! – I gave a frenzied shriek.
I was so bitterly disappointed that eveything happened so foolishly! Isidora has certainly left and now I will never
know how her story ended! I will never know what had happened to her and Caraffa! How could I miss THAT?!!!
– Grandma! Dear, please, help!
I was in the grip of such deep emotion that I almost lost my voice. I was ready to go through fire and water and promise
to do anything, if only she helped me! Although I did not even know how she could, I felt that she knew something and
therefore she was able to help me somehow.
But grandmother did not answer; apparently, she was out in the garden. I tried to get up but the room at once begun to
whirl and I fell down on the floor slap-bang failing to grip the bed. It was a hopeless undertaking. I was very weak and
understood that it was out of the question to continue my journey now. The bitter child's offense gained the upper hand
over me and I burst into tears, forgetting about my "courage and strength" with which I constantly tried to inbue myself...
Grandmother came in approximately half an hour later and found me in my bed, upset and blubbering. She knew
exactly that I would never cry without a good reason. Therefore, she attentively looked into my eyes, sat on the edge of
the bed and quietly, as usual, pronounced:
– Well, what do we have here? Tell me.
I tried to tell her Isidora’s story as detailed as possible. She listened attentively, without interrupting or correcting,
and when I finished, sympathetically said:
– And you grieve now because you’ll never know the end of the story?
– Remember, my dear. Everything that happens in our life always happens for a reason. Probably she wanted you to
hear her story for some reason.
– But I am still little. What can I do? – I was honestly surprised.
– But you will grow up, and who knows, maybe you can help people to know about Isidora.
– How will I help, if I don’t know what happened to her next? – I was indignant.
– I’ll help, dear. You need to get a bit better, then I’ll help you, – grandmother answered very calmly. – But you must
promise me that you won’t be there very long!
– But how will you help me, if Isidora has already told everything? It’s too late! – I was terribly distressed.
– It isn’t, dear. I’ll help you to return to the moment from which you left, – grandmother said with all calmness in the
As usual, I showered her with questions. But she paid no attention to them, only commented that it was possible to
do many other things, much greater than that, but it was too early for me to know about them... And no matter how
zealously I pressed her, I succeeded in nothing.
Several days later, as soon as my mother went to work, grandmother mysteriously looked at me and seriously
– Well, are you ready, little traveller?
I had a lump in my throat. Frankly speaking I did not entirely believe that the miracle was possible, but grandmother
was my only hope and I could not miss the attempt.
Suddenly, grandmother and my room disappeared, and I found myself in exactly the same place and time I
left several days ago, as if I had just left it right now! The squeaking Stella threw herself to me:
– Well, really! I thought you had disappeared! And you are here!! Very well then; please, continue, Isidora!
Stella always was herself, even when sad and incomprehensible things happened. And I dearly loved her for that.
Isidora smiled and quietly continued her story...
Still being unable to leave the room, I spent the days in complete tranquility. Caraffa did not appear for some
reason. I thought that he could not decide what to do next. It fully suited me, because it gave me an opportunity to
recover forces which I needed for the struggle against him.
I felt very strange most of the time... There was no pain, or rather there was nothing. As if somebody pitied me and
put all feelings into a pitch-dark room and tightly closed the door and I could not open it. It was the right thing to do.
It was much easier for me. It gave me a spark of hope to stand to the end and wreak vengeance on my enemy.
I wanted so much to see Sever, but he also did not come for some reason. I missed his wonderful stories and the lack
of his warm support made me sad. He became my real friend, and I had almost no friends left. The world that surrounded
me was intimidating and cold without any faint resemblance of humaneness.
At last, one fine sunny day Sever appeared. He seemed different in some way. I just could not catch in what. Harsh
and at the same time sad, he attentively scrutinized my face long enough, as if looking for confirmation that I lived... that
I will LIVE … for the time being...
– Hello, Sever! I am very glad you came.
– Peace to your Soul, Isidora. Have you succeeded in withstanding, my friend? Forgive me for all your pain. I was
unable to help you.
– I think I have, Sever. Caraffa cannot frighten me anymore. He has nothing left that could break me. And that is why
I am stronger than he. Now I will fight him until I destroy him.
– Are you sure, my friend, that your heart will not let your down? You became so calm and remote! – Sever continued
to peer into my face, as if he tried to understand whether my soul was still alive.
– Don’t worry, Sever. I have enough strength to live while Caraffa lives. But I don’t want to talk about him today! Tell
me, my friend, can you give me the next present today? Can you tell me about Vidomir? Do you remember you promised
He again looked at me attentively, but on seeing just a sincere request, nodded with relief. I knew that my calmness
surprised him just as much as it surprised me... as if I became a stone on which I wrote my story now.
– What would you like to know about him, Isidora? – Sever tenderly asked.
– Everything since that day when he managed to escape the death in fire... – I smiled. – Everything since his birth.
Sever nodded, and at his wish the "door" into the past was open for me again to tell me the next unique story…
The castle of Usson. Early picture
– After the four fugitives made an enormous fire on the Bidorta mountain – a sign for Montsegur – they got warm
a little and continued their hard journey which had to bring them to their friends, to the secluded castle of Usson. The
castle was hidden from the curious eyes by the surrounding mountains and seemed to be the most suitable place to hide
the priceless guest for a while.
It was an outstanding place, Isidora. And the owners (seigniors) of the castle were outstanding people too, especially
Lady Esclarmonde de Usson. Oh, yes! Do not be surprised, my friend, in that terrible time the Cathars had five Ladies
Esclarmonde! They said that this name brought luck to the person. Well, to my mind, it was quite the contrary... But the
name was truly very beautiful. I will tell to you a little bit about Lady Esclarmonde de Usson... She deserves that people
know the truth about her. Exactly the truth, not those fables which the church spread about her... – and on catching my
interrogative look, Sever sadly answered: – Yes, my friend... It is another sad story about an amazing person, a
woman-warrior, whose life was extraordinarily brave and light and around whom the "dark" later created a disgusting
image. Like Magdalena, she was depicted as a "woman of easy virtue" and a "mad witch" who roamed lost about the
Occitan Mountains. There was even a certain "brother Robert" who confirmed in written form to the Inquisition that he
met the naked Esclarmonde in the wood surrounded by a pack of white wolves... which had human faces.
The castle of Usson before
it was destroyed by the church army in 1258.
(You may read a detailed description of Lady Esclarmonde de Usson’s amazing life in my next book
The Children of Sun).
She was an illegitimate child of Raimond Roger, Count de Foix, and the Abbess Ermingarda. The girl was
given the name Esclarmonde d'Alion.
At that time it was quite normal for a rich seignior to have as many illegitimate children as he was able to maintain.
The difference between them was whether the mother of a child was rich and noble or not. If she was a noble lady, the
father adopted the child without any problem, just as happened in this case...
One day, or rather night, Count Raimond hunted wolves in the forests of Ariege and got lost, being too carried away
by the chase. After the long and tiresome search for the way home, exhausted, he suddenly felt, as if somebody quietly
called him and saw a very high white stone wall right in front of him. It was the famous Nunnery of Ariege.
The castle of Usson today.
The Count demanded that someone bring the Abbess over to get shelter for the night. A tall and charming young
woman went to meet him. It was the Abbess of the monastery – Ermingarda...
Count Raymond had the reputation of being a great admirer of female beauty. One of his nicknames was "Raimond
the Beloved". Certainly, the charming Abbess did not pass unnoticed by him. The next morning Abbess Ermingarda had
just an afterglow about her and the head of an enormous wolf he had killed was nailed to the door of the monastery.
As Ermingarda was of noble blood, she soon had to leave the monastery and return to her family lands in Telho to
avoide dishonour and wait there for the forthcoming delivery. Several months later she had charming twins, a girl and a
boy. Poor Ermingarda did not have the chance to see her children because she died in childbirth. Count Raymond knew
about the newly-born children and took them under his tutelage. Regrettably, a year later Count Raymond was wounded
at the siege of the castle Miropoix and soon died.
His children grew very strong, clever and handsome which caused delight in some relatives and a bit of envy in others,
because the enormous family de Foix-Miropoix-Pereilles to which the children belonged now did not regard with favour
too handsome and too clever illigitimate relatives. Therefore, the children were taken out of sight for a while – the boy was
sent to study in a monastery (to correspond to his position in society later), and the girl was settled in the manor of Belpech
under the supervision of Count Raymond’s faithful vassal, the old Raiax...
This is an official version of Esclarmonde de Usson’s life told by the holy church... and local notaries
at the insistance of interested people, if any…
Lady Esclarmonde de Usson
The real life of this unusual girl, and later amazing woman, was (as you already know!) a little different. Regrettably
not one "official" letter or document tells about it. Moreover, the servants of the church destroyed everything truthful
that was written long ago, because they were afraid that people would believe the old legends and set out in search of
truth about an outstanding woman-warrior which still lived among her Occitans...
Legends called her living Temple of Ancient Gods.
Friends called her an Avatar of the Ancient ones.
Well, the church saw her as an incarnate Antichrist, blue-eyed Devil or simply a Witch. It placed a huge
reward on her head, if only not to see her alive anymore...
But the Cathars, especially the "old" ones, admired her outstanding courage and loved her big and pure heart which
gave light and peace to everybody...
– Where did you get all these details, Sever? You tell everything so minutely, as if you knew her. – I could not help
Lady Esclarmonde de Usson.
– Just a few persons knew the truth of her birth, Isidora. I was one of them. I came at the time of her birth to
"rejoice" for her Life... She was a Battle Magician... not taught, but born with this rare gift. I named her Rada (giving Rà).
Then nobody knew what unforeseeable and difficult Fate awaited her.
From the beginning of her life the girl was clever and tenacious. Whilst she was a still little child, Esclarmonde
could communicate with warriors who had died a long long time ago. She could easily move very heavy objects without
touching them and speak mentally. She was very talented, and sincerely proud of that. I visited her now and then to
advance her studies in the necessary direction. Every time I was surprised how quickly and correctly the brain of little
Esclarmonde worked! She always reached for new Knowledge. She wanted to know EVERYTHING and
NOW independent of how difficult it was or how hard she had to work to get it! She showered the old Volkhv
Raiax, appointed to look after the girl almost from her birth, with her eternal "why"s? He did his best to satisfy her thirst
for knowledge, but she always found newer and newer questions...
Years flew by. Esclarmonde grew up. The amusing curly haired little girl grew into a beautiful young woman who
surprised with her strength and wisdom even the Eldest ones. She became a fearless warrior. The strangers called her a
"wild huntress" while her friends and followers called her a "sunny warrior".
«The Birth of a Battle Magician»
by Boris Olshansky conveys quite
exactly the real ceremony of
of a newly-born Battle Magician
by a Volkhv
That was a time of terrible human fires, devasting sieges and long and bloody war with the "servants of God".
Esclarmonde zealously fought for Occitania. She fought desperately, with all her might and with any weapon that was
at her disposal. Count Miropoix, who loved her very much and was sincerely afraid for his indefatigable relative, tried
to somehow hush the bellicose Esclarmonde. But in reply to his admonitions, Esclarmonde fought more furiously for
her Cathars... She fought both with magic and ordinary weapons. She wielded a sword splendidly (thanks to her uncle,
Count Miropoix). She led her warriors at night. Each of them was ready to give his life for her. She knew her beloved
mountains well enough and arranged night raids, sharply diminishing the number of church warriors which surrounded
Montsegur. In the day-time, knowing the places of their camps, Esclarmonde used her magic and brought down rocks on
them, set their tents on fire and frightened their horses. She fought... and was ruthlessly hunted... Crusaders were afraid
of this marvellous, fair-haired and blue-eyed Witch, who fearessly attacked them from the most unbelievable and
unexpected sides, exterminating them like a flock of ravens which devoured her beloved Occitania. Esclarmonde fought.
But she was almost alone. All defenders of Montsegur were inside the besieged castle. But Esclarmonde was kept
out there. Her uncle, being the head of the defenders of the castle, ordered her to fight outside, probably trying to protect
the girl from their bitter and tragic fate.
Being a Perfecti, Count Miropoix, as well as his bellicose niece, knew wery well different sciences, alchemy and, of
course, the military art chronicles of the Slavs-Aryans. So before he began a battle, he drew protective signs of warrior-
Aryans on the faces of his warriors which horrified crusaders. When they saw the knights covered with strange signs on
the walls of Montsegur, and the same signs on the wonderful face of a long-haired woman who attacked them from the
rear, they began to panic. As is generally known, crusaders considered themselves fearless warriors, who were not afraid
of "either God or devil", but as soon as something mystic or incomprehensible appeared, their bravado suddenly disappeared
without a trace... And they became just the ordinary frightened people who avoided the incomprehensible within the limits
of the possible.
(The official records of Carcassonne inquisition contain the information about the knights-warriors of the Cathar
Perfecti, Count Miropoix, "coloured" with old symbols.)
Esclarmonde did not limit herself to the battle raids. She also delivered food to Montsegur at night, which was
more dangerous than a battle. The Seneschal of Carcassonne, Arsis, ordered his warriors on pain of death to watch every
path or crack that would serve as a passage-way to the castle. But Esclarmonde knew the most carefully guarded secret
of the underground tunnels,
and came right into the "internal" (as it was called) underground room of the castle. And, certainly, she was awaited
so much! These arrivals helped the famished people exhausted by the long siege to restore a bit of their forces to stand
to the end. She was glad when she saw how their faces grew lighter. She did not think of herself or remember about fear.
She truly was an old Perfecti, young Esclarmonde. She was one of those who still fought...
One could reach the "internal" underground
room f Monsegur only through a
corridor in the place
Wishing to protect his sweet but absolutely disobedient niece, her uncle decided to take serious measures. He found
a wonderful husband for her. His name was Bernard de Usson. He was thirty eight years old, twenty years older then
Esclarmonde. Despite such a difference in years, Esclarmonde sincerely loved her husband who was a faithful and kind
Cathar and helped his brother in Faith to endure those frightful days.
It was 1243. Montsegur, a sunny sacred object of the Cathars, still held on. But Esclarmonde knew that it would
not last long. She knew that Montsegur would fall in a year.
Seigniors de Usson hurried to reinforce the castle, preparing it for receiving refugees from Montsegur in case some
of them succeeded in surviving. Esclarmonde’s husband, Bernard, concluded a treaty with the Spanish mercenary
Corbario’s hirelings and transferred to them 150 'livres melgorien', which at that time was a significant amount of
money. It was paid for help in the liberation of Montsegur which, unfortunately, never came.
Disappointed by the treachery of the Spaniards, Seigniors de Usson, nevertheless, did not fall in despair. Realizing
the danger that threatened Montsegur,
they decided to offer their help to Svetozar and Esclarmonde to protect their child
– the descendant of Radomir and Magdalena – ready to come into this dangerous World. The castle of Usson was the most
protected of all that remained and was very close to Montsegur. Therefore it was the most comfortable refuge for the
fugitives exhausted by hunger and continuous insomnia. The help was accepted with gratitude.
The side of Motsegur where was a
«Carriere» – the entrance to the secret tunnel.
They met at Bidorta Mountain where Svetozar had to give the sign to Esclarmonde that they all were well and that her
son was alive.
The night was slushy and misty. Large drops hung in the air, sticking to their clothing... The benumbed fugitives shivered from the piercing cold but did not stop, wishing to go away as far as possible. Little Vidomir peacefully slept in the arms of the unknown woman, unaware of the fact that his mother very soon would go to her death. Esclarmonde clasped a newly-born child to her bosom and with every minute grew into his little world with the whole of her heart, knowing that she could never part with him even for a second... until he grew up into a young Vidomir.
She did not know yet how tightly capricious Fate would bind their lives together…