Buber’s Basque Story: Part 22

“Anyways,” continued Marina, “I was alone. I couldn’t go back to my home, since the other villagers were always watching, afraid that some new evil would rise from it. At one point, the fear became so great that they burned it down. I made a new home in the woods, but those that needed help, needed a healer, soon found me. I tried to be as discreet as possible, not wanting to draw any attention to myself, but my only skills were those my ama and aita had taught me and I had no other way of supporting myself. Not to boast, but I was very talented, much more so than my own ama, and my fame, despite my best efforts, grew.” Marina looked down. “And, I admit, my own ego got the best of me. I reveled in the attention, in the powerful abilities I had cultivated, and I forgot the lessons of my parents.

“It wasn’t long before my name was on the lips of the local authorities. They brought in Judge de Lancre to settle some dispute about the Lord of Urtubi being a witch, a sorgin.”

Buber’s Basque Story is a weekly serial. While it is a work of fiction, it has elements from both my own experiences and stories I’ve heard from various people. The characters, while in some cases inspired by real people, aren’t directly modeled on anyone in particular. I expect there will be inconsistencies and factual errors. I don’t know where it is going, and I’ll probably forget where it’s been. Why am I doing this? To give me an excuse and a deadline for some creative writing and because I thought people might enjoy it. Gozatu!

“De Lancre?” interrupted Kepa. “As in Pierre de Lancre?”

“The very same,” confirmed Marina. Kepa looked at Maite, his eyes wide, as she simply shook her head at him.

“As the Judge began investigating,” continued Marina, “he saw sorginak and sorcerers — agents of the devil — everywhere. It wasn’t long before I was hauled before him, some poor client having given up my location when he had been confronted, and likely tortured, by the Judge. I was held in a dark cell, interrogated repeatedly, tortured to reveal my secret association with the devil. I was forced to watch as others, ones I knew were no sorgin and had no special abilities, were burned at the stake. Even so, I never said a word to that evil man. Eventually, exasperated, he condemned my body to death and my soul to damnation.

“I was dragged to the burning place, where they had burned the others. I was helpless as they pulled me up the pile of wood and tied me to the stake. I watched with horror as the flames caught and rose around me. But, in the background, I could see de Lancre, his eyes on me and his smile penetrating the smoke. 

“My anger grew. You see, the Judge didn’t care about who was a sorgin or not. He was after something else. He wanted our power, our magics, for himself. His destruction of untold numbers of lives was all about his own quest for power. He had tortured me, often smiling in my face as they turned the screws that stretched my arms from their sockets. While he told his superiors that he found thousands of witches that needed purging to keep the Church pure, he was really trying to learn our secrets, learn where our power came from. 

“As I hung by the stake, the flames rising around me, licking at my skin, I lashed out. New-found power grew within me. I could feel it flowing into my body from literally everything around me. All of the magic of the country, all of the power that de Lancre was searching for, coursed through me. I could feel it almost crystalize inside of me. In my last act before the flames consumed me, my body literally exploded, shattering that magic into little crystallites, fragments of our magic — zatiak — sending them across space and time so that the Judge could never find the magic, never claim it as his own. I threw them to wherever and whenever we Basques have been, with the hopes that he could never find them. The last thing I saw was de Lancre’s face filled with horror and rage as he realized that everything he had searched for, had killed for, was suddenly right in front of him and then, just as suddenly, was gone.

“Unfortunately, that didn’t stop him as I hoped, it only delayed him. That’s why he was here. He found a way to find the zatiak I had thrown across the millennia. I’m doing my best to stop him, but he is often just one step ahead.”

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