Too many things were happening all at once. Screaming, clashing of swords, thrusting shields, bodies slamming against the floor as blood stained the soldier's shoes.
And in the midst of it all, a girl.
Francis's gaze locked on her fighting form, watching as she raised a shield in defense as a Burgundian dealt a downward thrust with his sword. She pulled back and leaned into her shield, forcefully pushing the enemy away. She ran a dirt-stained hand across her forehead, leaving a trail of smudged black and turned to catch Francis's azure gaze.
"What are you doing, Francis?" she croaked, eyebrows knit together in confusion and impatience. "Fight!"
Francis shook his head, as if to clear away any stray thoughts, and rushed to her side, drawing his sword his sword from its sheath at his hip. He slashed the blade into an opposing Burgundian and whipped around to stab another. He fought his way to the girl until he stood back to back with her.
"Jeanne." He muttered, driving his sword into a Burgundian soldier, watching as blood spilled through the cracks of his armor, red pooling at his feet. "We shouldn't have come."
"Don't patronize me, Francis." She growled, striking an opposing sword with her own blade.
"Of course, my dearest." He scoffed dryly. "But tell me this, how could have this been the Lord's will? Our men are dropping too fast! How can it be his will to let us die?"
"God will not compromise man's freedom to choose, to act. And Charles's choice, the little rat, was to betray us. He is a cheap coward, and we pay his consequence. France pays his consequence." Francis winced at her words, but continued to fight. "But we, Francis, we must continue to fight for a free France." Jeanne retorted, huffing heavily as she continued to battle.
Warmth and adoration swelled in his chest, but Francis did not allow himself to dwell on those feelings. This was war and war was no place for love.
There was a moment of silence, save it be for the wails and cries of pain, and there Francis stood alone with Jeanne. He turned to meet her cerulean gaze, and the other living soldiers, whether Burgundian or French, paused in an unspoken treaty of a moment's rest. A moment to collect the dead and tend to the living. As Francis turned to inspect the body of a fallen comrade, he watched Jeanne follow after him, limping slightly as she struggled to walk. "Are you alright, Jeanne?"
"Perfectly fine, Francis. I don't need you to baby me." She pouted, fingers tapping at her sword's handle in unease, eyes fluttering across the field of Compiègne. Francis shook his head, blonde waves caked with blood dirt, as he had to remind himself that she was only seventeen and would want independence and self-reliance.
Francis then moved on to a moaning body of a French soldier and moved to snap his broken leg into place. Along with him and Jeanne, several other French soldiers worked to heal their living comrades. A tense silence hung in the air, settling uncomfortably on Francis's shoulders.
"No! Francis! HELP! NO!" A scream pierced the air, and Francis whipped around to search wildly for Jeanne -her panicked voice was unmistakable- shaking uncontrollably as unsheathed his sword and finally spotted the girl.
Six or seven Burgundians had snatched her, wrestling her down into the ground. Without thought, Francis sprung forward, reaching forward to save Jeanne. But too many pairs of hands pulled him back and he looked up to find Burgundian faces, glaring down at him. Francis hissed and spat in the face of one, struggling and trying to worm his way out of their iron grip.
"FRANCIS! FRANCIS, PLEASE!" She lamented, eyes wide with fear as the tied her hands. "FRA-" She coughed as they gagged her.
"No! Jeanne! No! NO!" Francis cried, trying with all his might to break from the enemies' grasp. Tears welled at his eyes and streamed down his cheeks as the Burgundians pushed to girl into the ground, dealing harsh kicks to her stomach and punches to her head. "NO! DON'T! STOP!" He croaked, ire boiling to his throat, a throat constricted with a doleful heart breaking. "NO!"
Her wide doe, blue eyes met his and Francis choked on his tears as the Burgundians pulled his hair back forcefully, tearing his gaze away from her. He couldn't see, eyes trained on the gray sky. But her could hear.
He could hear her coughs and moans of pain. And he could hear the laughs, the sick cackles, of the Burgundians as they carried her off and her coughs soon died off and Francis could hear no more but that the fragile, fluttering thing inside his chest cracking and crumbling and breaking.
And Francis could hear no more, could feel no more, could see no more. And a wave of numbing black washed over him and Francis slid into nothing
He ought to have killed the man. He ought to have grabbed his mortal throat with his hands and wrung it until the lying traitor breathed no Francis could not bring himself, despite all the anger churning inside him, to end the life of Charles VII.
And it was no longer anger that flooded over Francis, but rather a dark depression that drowned him and tossed him back and forth in its wake mercilessly.
The streets were bustling and people whispered. Too much whispering. It sounded like nails scratching against his ears. He was motionless as he stood among the crowd in Normandy, eyes a mournful blue as he waited. Why was he even here? This was not something he wanted to see.
But then, why could he not bring himself to move?
They brought her out and the conglomeration of people silenced themselves as they took her in. She was pushed unto the platform, her head held high. Her hair had grown longer, just past her shoulders, mousy and brown. What had happened to her golden hair? Her face was pale and almost translucent. She was skinny, too thin and Francis could see her every vein. He almost cried at the mere, pathetic sight of the girl.
"Jeanne d'Arc, you have been sentenced here by the charges of the bishop of Beauvais as guilty for witchcraft and heresy. You have been sentenced, under the order of the Church, to burn at the stake for your sins. Have you nothing to say? We offer you one more chance to confess and repent."
"I have done nothing wrong in the eyes of the Lord. But to you people, I have been seen as a witch of dark magic, a sinner, a traitor of God. I only apologize for the heart ache and pain caused by this war, and for that I am filled with guilt."
Francis could've have smiled at that. Because that remark was so strong, so heart-filled, so Jeanne. But this was her trial, her death sentence, and no such happiness would cross his face.
"So you have confessed your guilt for the lives lost?"
"For that, yes, I will take ownership and consequence of."
"Then we revoke your burning to a life-time in prison."
She blinked down at the bishop, almost emotionless, but did make any movement from the platform with the looming stake behind her. Then she looked confused, and blinked up at the sky. Francis gasped; he knew this look of hers, this attentiveness to what appeared to be nothing. Nothing but to the girl who listened diligently to her Lord.
"What is it, Jeanne?" Francis whispered to himself, exhaling heavily. "What is He saying?"
There was once more a commotion and yelling and thrashing, but Francis paid no mind to the arguing English, only to the girl whose eyes were filled with life once more, and maybe it was just him, but a but of color rushed back to her cheeks. A small smile etched itself on her pale lips.
"I understand, my Lord."
Francis barely heard her, but his heart pained at the sound of her voice.
"This Thirtieth of the Month May, in the One Thousandth and Thirty-First year of our Lord, we present Jeanne d'Arc before the English authorities, who have claimed her to be guilty of witchery and heresy. By decree of the English crown, Jeanne d'Arc to burn."
A feeling left Francis, a numbness creeping over him. No. This wasn't supposed to happen. She was pardoned from the stake. The bishop had said so. But as he turned around to face the man who spoke her death sentence, he met a pair of emerald eyes behind the line of English authorities. A pair of ageless emerald eyes that were unmistakable. A smug smile. No. No. This wasn't fair. This wasn't right. As tears pooled at his eyes and Francis sunk his teeth into his bottom lip, the green eyes softened only the slightest. The rival personification turned away, as if guilty to see this broken-hearted man. As if almost guilty to see this girl burn.
And he had every right to be guilty.
But when Francis looked once more at the girl now being tied to the stake, she did not cry. She did not wail. She did not protest.
Her head was held up high, the smallest of smiles on her lips, and a sense of peace radiating from her still form. She screamed not, she cried not.
But he did.
The birds held their silence, as if they knew is loss. But the crowd murmured and some even wailed in agony, having loved this young girl dearly. But most just jested and whooped and hollered in happiness, sick boastfulness.
And he held back, silently chocking on his sobs. She glanced down at him once, and smiled, then returned her gaze to the heavens. Flames licked her thighs, but she said nothing. She said nothing save it be for one sentence.
"I am ready, my God."
And the orange beast swallowed her whole, smoke billowing into the air and Francis had to turn away.
His heart had been broken long ago and he thought he could never know such pain again. But here he was, clutching at his chest. He had often loved to deeply, wearing his heart on his sleeve. But how could he not? Love was everything to France and love was something so special.
But this was war and war was no place for love.
The Pope found, in 1456, that Jeanne was innocent of the charges against her. In 1909, nearly 500 years later, Pope Pius X beatified Jeanne.
On May 16, 1920, she was canonized and declared a Saint by Pope Benedict XV.
June 24, 1920, the French parliament decreed and yearly national festival in her honor to take place on the second Sunday in May. Her feast day is the anniversary of her death: May 30.
Jeanne d'Arc is the patron saint of France and France's greatest national heroine. She was decisive in awakening French nationalism and unity.
A.N. One-shot prize for arlechinna-rosa. She requested for her one-shot to be of France and Jeanne d'Arc, and ta da! I hope you liked it, arlechinna. E
r. I know I've been slacking. But seeing, as it's Novel Writing November, I was inspired to get back on the ball and start writing again. Expect to see some updates and more prizes and AmeBel! Also, some PruLiech.
Also- requests! If any one has any requests, I'd love to hear them.