Written on request by recrudescence (as is her name at LJ) during the yuletide challenge 2009.
I have to say my thanks to the following people:
1. Rodo, who gave me hope when I was about to give up. Yes, I was close to defaulting more than once! If you like this story, give your thanks to Rodo, for without her I never would have finished it. My additional thanks to her for first proofreading and her very useful advice. I don't know if she's here. Rodo is the nickname she uses at LJ.
2. Noctifer. I don't know if she's here, but ... she was the second person who read this story. She's a highly talented writer (in my opinion) and that she liked (or didn't entirely dislike) this story means a lot to me. Thanks to her for the additional suggestions, and also my apologies that I didn't replace the Latin quotes from the Dies Irea by lines from the Mea Culpa. There was not enough time left, and then ... forgive me, dear friend, but in my opinion the lines I used fit perfectly. Noctifer is the pseud she uses at LJ.
3. athenejen, my wonderful beta. You have been exactly what the perfect beta should be like: you not only corrected my misspellings, wrong punctuation, unnecessary word repetitions and so on; you also explained why I should change this and that. Oh my, even if it was only a missing comma, you still wrote a whole comment. Thank you so much for your hard work. athenejen is how she calls herself at LJ.
Pater noster, qui es in caelis,
Our Shepherd, they call you, our salvation, the God of Love, the One who watches over us and protects omni mundis creatura—every single creature in this world—which surely is a place of evil, not of good. Even in this abbey—a place meant to be a holy sanctuary for the faithful—sin rules, not faith.
Ingemisco tamquam reus, culpa rubet vultus meus
[I groan, as the accused: my face grows red from (my) fault]
Jorge was right: I am lost, a tainted soul who will suffer the wrath of justice; for me there will be no redemption. Eternal damnation awaits me for what I've done, there's no denying it and no escape. In Hell I will burn, and I deserve it.
I can barely feel the cold, the wind, the hail while I am standing here at the balustrade above the cliff. You did not hear my prayers in the chapel, dear Lord, of that I am sure. How could you ever forgive me? Jorge has already told me that there's no absolution for me, that no penance can ever be enough to pay for what I've done.
Was my first Cardinal sin that I loved to add a new point of view to everything I painted? It was never my intention to insult you, dear Lord, it was just … laughter is something that never did come easily to me. Was it so wrong that I loved to listen to the merry laughter of my brothers whenever they looked at my illuminations? (Whenever Jorge was far away, that is.) Probably so, as during my lifetime, I was punished for it.
Pride is one of the Seven Sins, as is … Lust.
Oh, Berengar … Might he forgive me, my beautiful teacher, my beloved torturer and destroyer of my innocence? All of this should never have happened. Was that part of my punishment or just another unforgivable sin?
Whenever I remember our first meeting (which I should forget, oh my Lord), the colors are incredibly clear. I still can feel the wind in my hair, I see his smiling face, I hear his voice: deep, somewhat cold, but friendly at the same time. Oh, how he lowered his almost-bald head like he was mocking me! He probably was. Still, I couldn't resist. If there really were secret books in the library, forbidden fruits of knowledge almost no one had ever seen, how could I resist?
There was a price to pay, of course. First I did it to get access to the books, treasures I just had to hold in my own two hands. I had to! It felt wrong, but it was over quickly—and, finally, I was able to learn the secrets of geniuses from foreign countries and times long past. It was hard to forget about my sin, as sodomy is against nature, an abnormality the temtation and—desire—for which only Satan himself could plant inside the bodies and minds of human beings. When I held the ancient manuscripts for the first time, though, reading those lines and seeing those wonderful illuminations of awesome beauty inspired my mind so much that I almost forgot. Almost.
Bad enough that Berengar came again: now I had to pay him for keeping to himself what he called our little secret. Even worse, after a while a part of me started to like his kisses and touches, even yearned for them. Oh, what a horrible sin!
It was then that I heard about the finis Africae. Another, even darker secret? How was I supposed to resist? Knowledge has been all I longed for throughout my whole life, these two decades dedicated to painting and praying, praising you, my Lord, and learning. Yes, learning. What he, Berengar, taught me though …
His strong hands, which could be so soft and gentle sometimes, and then again so hard, even cruel. His hungry lips. Oh, I know that I have been used, that I was never more to him than a puppet on a string, something to play with. Call me a fool for still falling for him. Oh, how much I hated him, albeit not as much as I hated myself! I despised the look on his face whenever I knew that he would soon request another secret meeting. How can it be, then, that at the same time I longed for these hours spent together?
The worst of it was that I could never predict what it was going to be like—a soft caressing of my face, his fingers gently tracing my features, sweet kisses all over my body, or a short brutal act, me being no more than a tool to fulfill his damnable lust. Oh the pain, that sweet horrible pain when he once again did not wait until I was ready but just lifted my cowl, pushed me down and forced himself inside that part of my body which was never meant by nature—or you, dear Lord – to be filled like that.
Oh, Berengar, I still don't know if I should despise him or love him. This evening, when I came to him to learn the secret I had paid and sinned for too much already, what he did … how he looked at me, longingly, which was more than he could have said with any word. I saw it in his eyes even before his hands fumbled at my clothing, carefully this time. He kissed my closed eyelids; he nibbled at my earlobes like a hungry mouse would nibble at what is left of cheese in a monastery during these times. I feel guilty for saying this, but when our tongues finally met this evening, for me it felt like the Paradise I will never be granted. Ah, and when his tongue wandered down my body … how could I ever explain that feeling? There are no words for it. When he caressed what for a man must be the most sensible spot? The mere thought of another man—him—kissing what is not meant to be touched at all. Dear God, our Lord, did you really intend to … I don't think so.
Lacrimosa dies illa, qua resurget ex favilla i udicandus homo reus: huic ergo parce, Deus.
[That sorrowful day, on which will arise from the buring coals Man accused to be judged: therefore, O God, do Thou spare him.]
May he forgive me, my dear beloved—and sometimes hated—wonderful teacher, but it was then that I couldn't bear it any longer! I had to confess, even though it meant that I betrayed the one I love and maybe even myself. I … don't know why I told Venantius, really, it was probably my last try to get rid of a tainted secret, to pass on what shall not be of any use to me now that there's nothing left of my soul and no reason to stay in this abbey – in this, my forfeit life - any longer. Dear God, our LorDear God, our Lord, please spare him, for what I did was entirely my fault, and I can't bear the thought that he might join me in Hell one day.
Why? Why do I love him so much, my Berengar? Why does my heart beat faster at the mere thought of him even though I know for sure that I have been used? Deep inside my heart I can feel that there was more to our amour than he ever would have admitted. I hope so, at least. That he loved me, too in a way, for sometimes—like this evening—he tried to give me pleasure instead of just satisfying himself.
Quid sum miser tunc dicturus, quem patronum rogaturus, cum vix iustus sit securus?
[What am I the wretch then to say? What patron I am to beseech? When scarcely the just (man) be secure.]
Do not forgive me, oh my Lord, for now I will commit an even greater sin as I can't bear this guilt any longer. Do you like this place, this so-called 'holy' abbey and what your holy brothers do here? I don't think so. Even the fires of Hell can't burn as hot as my unholy desire and the hate I feel for myself.
Down below, the stony ground is waiting for a lost soul; it almost seems like it's calling to me. I'm coming, Lucifer, I'm coming now, so open the gates of Hell to welcome this entirely worthless sinner.
Latin passages and translations were taken from: see link "Dies Irae" on my profile.