News of the argument between Raoul and their master had spread like wildfire among the other slaves. None held any real admiration for the bravery of the knight. Indeed, only a silent terror gripped them as they contemplated the anger he had aroused in their harsh master. What if that temper caused their owner to lash out at them? But their fears were short lived; for soon thereafter, an armed soldier approached the Frenchman. The nervous slaves watched with some curiosity, but with little surprise, as the mercenary gruffly order Raoul to follow him - the master had sent for his slave again.
As Raoul was led to the Arab's chambers, he overheard the humiliating comments and jests of the slaves.
“Poor fool,” some of them muttered.
“Serves him right!” others chided. “Now he’ll suffer for his pride.”
“The master will show him.”
“He will see!”
“He'll whimper for mercy like a dog!”
And so the jeers continued, as if Raoul were being taken to a long delayed yet well-deserved punishment. But as the knight passed by the old slave, the elderly Muslim just shook his head.
“You will learn,” he warned solemnly, “You will learn the strength and power of Allah.”
When Raoul arrived at last in his master’s room, he found the Arab already standing, dressed in light garb and ready for travel. Without so much as a word, he motioned for the soldiers to withdraw, leaving the slave alone with him. Then, grasping the rope which bound Raoul’s hands, the master led his slave away from the house.
And so time passed… at an agonizingly slow pace. For in his very hope, Raoul was afflicted by a most acute torture. As is the nature of pain, it lengthened the days into seeming as if they were weeks, and, in turn, prolonged the weeks into feeling like months. And so when one day, Raoul’s master declared that a year had elapsed since his imprisonment in the tower, the weary Crusader could have mistaken it for a lifetime.
The courage that sustained him, however, in no way diminished his sufferings. And though his noble heart was fortified by God’s grace, the grief he endured weighed down heavily upon it. But this was sustained by the fervent and constant hope that, one unexpected and wonderful day, his ransom would come at last... and he would be free.
But the crown of all his tortures was the continual visits of his cruel master, who would incessantly exhort him to deny his faith. And upon each refusal, Raoul was mercilessly whipped until the blood streamed from his lacerated flesh. But despite these tortures, each of Raoul’s refusals was as steadfast as the first; his confidence in God was not shaken; his staunch resolve only intensified; and his ardor… his love for God was silently, steadily increasing - in purity and strength, as gold in the fire.
“An entire year,” the Muslim shook his head. “And yet you still cling to your errors,” he said, pacing before his slave. “Or is it your pride? You believe yourself to be so strong for enduring so long? A year is nothing!” He paused and stepped towards Raoul, who calmly faced him as he spoke “Do you think I will let you die? Oh no,” the Muslim fingered his whip. “You will give in, or you will live a long and painful life.”
Yet while he taunted and tormented his slave, the Arab could not help but wonder at the Crusader’s fortitude. But his astonishment had no admiration, for in his infuriated heart the Muslim was as determined as ever to conquer the resolute knight. And his frustration manifested itself in even more cruelty and torture. He would not be defeated by this French Catholic!
But what the poor wretch did not understand, was that the fury raging within him was fueled by a power other than his own. The Muslim’s cruelty was merely an outlet for the vehement hatred satan had for the steadfast Crusader. The devil saw, in the battered nobleman’s soul, Christ’s sacred Image - radiant and strong. And it was against Our Lord Himself that the demons directed the full vent of their loathing and malice. This they did by attacking His faithful servant.
Incensed at his failure and the knight’s strength, the devil resorted to a more deceptive and subtle means of assault. If he could not break Raoul from without, he would conquer him from within. Of course, he had already assailed the Crusader with the usual temptations and doubts. But these had not been enough to overcome him... yet.
Waiting like a lion for his prey, the evil spirit bided his time, searching for the first opportunity to slip in through his victim’s defenses. Being the coward that he is, satan would strike when Raoul was at his weakest… when his tortures were at their height and when his heart was the most vulnerable.
He would attack when Raoul thought of home…
The large door squeaked open to reveal a small, dark corridor. At the far end, Raoul could make out a single beam of light spilling down a dilapidated set of steps, somberly winding their way to the turret’s top. As his master stepped into the tower, Raoul distractedly tripped after him as he was jolted along by the rope. Slowly, the Arab led him up the musty stairs, long untrodden. With every step he took, a prayer instinctively escaped the Crusader’s heart. For all this while, his master had maintained a menacing silence.
When they at last reached the top, Raoul noticed that the decaying tower had long since lost its roof - hence the light which spiraled down the stairwell.
Sir Raoul's gaze returned to the interior of the turret. His master, sullen and impatient, had finally broken the silence.
Raoul’s eyes followed the Arab’s pointing finger to the location indicated. He stiffened slightly when he beheld the iron hooks and chains which covered the appointed wall. Calmly, the knight strode across the sunlit chamber and obediently sat upon the low bench which was built into the wall.
With a proud, set face, the Arab briskly crossed the tower room and seized up the chains. One by one, he clasped first the knight’s hands, and then his feet, linking them together in pairs. With wicked glee, he proceeded to load the slave down with even heavier and needless chains, until Raoul bent beneath their weight. The tall nobleman said nothing as his master carefully executed his cruel designs. At length, the Muslim, seemingly satisfied with his work, stepped back to eye his prisoner.
He then noticed, to his pleasure, that the Crusader was striving to avoid eye contact with him. Delighted, the master continued to scrutinize his slave. A sinister grin flickered across his wicked face. Yes, it was well nigh impossible for the wretched knight to move, much less leave the tower. Yet the master’s cruelty was still not satiated.
Picking up three more loose chains, the Arab hooked them onto the iron rings embedded in the wall. Then, grasping Raoul's shackled wrists, he separately linked each one to an opposing chain. Lastly, he fastened the third chain around the knight’s waist, completely securing Raoul’s body to the wall.
As the last echo of the clanking irons died away, the French lord braced himself for what lay next. There was a quiet pause. Sensing his master’s stare, Raoul forced himself to raise his head. A broad and taunting smile awaited him on his master’s face.
“Well then,” the Muslim grinned, closely approaching him. “You will see what happens to those who dare to defy me.” He leaned forward towards his captive.
“I will suffer the opposition of no man… much less a slave.” With a sneer he spat in the knight’s face. Instinctively, Raoul tried to turn his head away, but his master caught him by the beard.
“No one,” the Arab breathed, pulling him forward, “refuses me, my foolish Crusader.” His dark eyes locked on Raoul’s. “And you will pay dearly for your offense.”
Quickly jerking his hand aside, the Arab released his hold on the prisoner's beard. Straightening himself, he looked down upon the knight with disdain.
“I will leave you now to contemplate your insufferable crime.”
So saying, the Muslim promptly turned around and left the miserable cell. The French lord listened until the sound of his master’s footsteps, reverberating back up the stairwell, faded away completely. Next, he heard the door at the base of the turret being re-locked and securely fastened. Straining slightly, the last noise he could detect was the jangling of keys at his warden's side, as the proud Arab triumphantly strode away from the towering prison.
Then... all was still.
In the quiet which ensued with his master’s departure, Raoul felt at peace. Looking at the chains which covered him, a calm look, almost a smile, came over the knight’s face. Despite this newest cruelty of his master, something inside the slave was filling him with peace… and strength. For the first time in his many years of slavery and captivity, Raoul was being punished solely for his Catholic Faith.
There is a quiet excitement which a soldier experiences when he is honored with suffering personally for the sake of his king, even if his sovereign will never learn of it. But as a Crusader, his King knows all things – and nothing will ever pass by unnoticed or unrewarded.
Still, there is a burden to every trial, and some more so than others. Raoul sighed… It was very difficult to find joy in bearing this cross, and he felt its weight keenly. But his heart was filled with such a courage that he did not need joy. He was a Crusader of Christ. If his Heavenly Master could suffer torture and death for his sake, then Raoul would endure this punishment for His.
“Just give me Your strength, O Lord.” Raoul prayed. “Blessed Mother, I entrust my heart to You. Protect it and shield it from every fear of pain or loss. I dread nothing - except losing Your Love. And in this new trial, I find hope for my deliverance. I know that You are merely testing Your servant before his exile is over.”
The storm had begun... and still, the flame in his soul burned bright and strong. But the knight little realized that the darkest was yet to come.
The next day, Raoul was awakened by the blinding rays of the sunrise. It did not take long for the morning desert air to burn under their piercing heat. The knight’s solitude was eventually broken by the sound of footsteps ascending the tower stairs. As he watched, the door slowly opened and a somber faced slave entered, carrying a cracked jug and an old plate. The French lord shifted himself into a sitting position as the servant hurriedly placed his burdens on the ground. The knight silently surveyed his rations; a handful of rice and a piece of black bread barely covered the clay dish, while the chipped pitcher beside it sat filled with water.
“That’s your breakfast,” the slave muttered gruffly. Then, thinking perhaps the chained prisoner could not reach the meal, he shoved the dishes closer. But though Raoul’s arms were separated, they still had some liberty, and the knight slanted himself forward as he reached for the jug.
“Don’t eat it all at once!” the man warned. “That’s all you’re getting today.”
Raoul stopped, glancing first at his companion and then back at the food. The scanty amount would barely make a meal, much less stay his hunger all day. And the liquid in that cracked earthen jug of water…? In this heat?
As if reading the knight’s thoughts, the man wiped the sweat from his own brow.
Raoul said nothing as he watched his companion hasten towards the stairs. Shooting a final warning glance at Raoul over his shoulder, the gruff slave shut the door behind him as he left the sweltering prison. His rapid footfalls could be heard scurrying down and away from the tower.
“So this is my master's revenge.” Raoul said aloud to himself when he was alone. “It is a torture,” he admitted, shutting his eyes from the piercing sun. “But if my master thinks this will teach me a lesson… then he has a great deal to learn himself.”
Opening his eyes, the knight's gaze fell upon his daily meal. Already his parched tongue was burning with thirst, and he reached eagerly for the water. The jug had barely touched his lips though when he suddenly, but thoughtfully, stopped. Leaning forward, he gently set the pitcher beside him and closed his eyes. Though he couldn't quite make the Sign of the Cross, Raoul thanked God for the food he was about to receive - being possibly the only one in that poor wretched country to do so.
As he wisely took a moderate sip from the jug, he looked at the meager meal before him.
“Thank you, God,” he said aloud. “Considering my master’s mood, it could be nothing at all.”
But to sustain the energy of a tall, strong knight, it might as well have been nothing. And his master’s generosity never exceeded the sparse ration of arid food. Every day, without fail, Raoul's meal consisted of water, black bread, and a handful of rice.
And thus it continued, day after day.
Glad at first that he no longer was subject to the long hours of exhausting slave labors, the knight quickly realized that his solitude was a slowly becoming a steady torture. At the mercy of the weather, Raoul was forced to spend each passing hour without a single sound or sight to distract him from his agonizing torments. The suffocating air surrounding him only taunted his mind with the shade he could not feel, the water he could not drink and the heat he could not escape. His tough skin rapidly sweltered with burns from the scorching sun. Sweat fell from his blistered face like rain. And in the blinding, ceaseless rays beating down upon him, the knight’s mind was flooded with, and tormented by, the memory of those from whom his captivity held him.
It was in such a state of existence, not long after his imprisonment in the tower, that Raoul was revisited by his master. Though he anticipated his return, Raoul was surprised to see his master escorted by a rough looking companion. The armed man appeared to be one of the Muslim’s mercenaries.
Upon entering the cell, the master silently eyed his prisoner. He nodded with a certain satisfaction.
“Has your pride been broken?” he asked haughtily. The knight looked at him warily.
“Has yours healed?” was the guarded response. The soldier glanced awkwardly at the master, who merely tossed his head back with a resentful laugh.
“I see your arrogance has not died,” the Arabian answered with disdain. “Perhaps,” he added thoughtfully, “another month in this prison and you will be prepared to listen to reason. Or can we bring you to your senses now?” He motioned for his accompanying guard to lengthen Raoul’s chains.
Without resistance, the knight was shoved from his seat and onto the floor. Wiping the sweat from his face, Raoul noticed his master fingering something beneath his tunic. The Muslim, however, had his eyes fixed on his slave.
“Tell me truly, Frenchman,” he said, “have you had time to think things over? Are you prepared to win your freedom?”
“If your conditions are the same,” replied the slave, “then so is my answer.”
The Muslim shook his head in pretended sympathy. He remained, however, in perfect control of his temper. And in calm and coaxing tones, he began to list off all of the many riches and gifts that he would bestow on the noble lord, if the Crusader accepted his offer. Again, the brave knight refused. With feigned patience, the Arab only smiled. In an entreaty coated with flattering praise, he urged his lordly prisoner to return to a life of grandeur and honor.
“Your will is strong,” his master admitted approvingly. “But your pride does you no good here. Yours is the strength and splendor that deserves a host of subjects and admiration.” He went on to promise the land, estate, servants and family that would so readily be Raoul’s to command and enjoy. If the Crusader would only say the word….
But once again the answer came without hesitation.
“No, master,” said the slave. “You are wasting your time.”
Proud disappointment flooded the Arabian’s face. His promises would have been enough to turn the heart of any man, much less a tortured and enslaved one.
“Are - are you so base?” the Muslim stuttered. “That none of this… magnificence, appeals to your noble nature?”
“It is a greater glory that I seek,” the knight replied staunchly.
“The glory of a crucified God?”
“The glory of a God Who nobly and willingly submitted to such a death; and then, gloriously arising, defeated it!”
“Oh spare me your disgusting doctrine,” the Arab scoffed.
“And spare me your fruitless lies,” responded the weary Crusader.
“Fool! Will you never learn…?” Anger was breaking through the Arab’s charming facade. “I will accept no refusal.”
“And I refuse to accept your proposal.”
“You do not understand. I will draw this out of you. You will stay in this tower until your will is broken.” There was a terrifying power behind the Muslim’s words. His dark eyes came piercing from under his silken turban.
But Raoul made no answer. Nor did he return his master’s gaze. He realized now that this was not the punishment of a single offense. It was a planned persecution to break Raoul’s will and conquer his Faith.
Exhausted, and burning from the heat, Raoul’s head drooped wearily as he passed a hand over his sweaty brow. His master, irritated at his silence, continued to threaten him.
“And I will not let you enjoy a premature death!” he taunted. “You will grow old and gray, rotting away beneath this ferocious sun. You will die alone and forgotten.”
At this, the nobleman raised his face, which answered clearer than his words. “So be it,” Raoul responded with a nod.
“You do not know what you are asking for,” the Muslim warned, reaching again beneath his robes. But Raoul took no notice.
“Neither do you!” the slave answered vehemently. “You may have no faith in the True God. But you will not rob me of mine.”
“No...” the Muslim's concealed hand now came out from behind his tunic. He was holding a long whip. “I will destroy it.”
With a silent gesture, he beckoned for the guard. Raoul's eyes quietly followed the husky man as he came around from behind and approached his master. Still staring at Raoul, the Arab slowly handed the whip to his soldier.
Then, like a vulture, the master began slowly circling around his captive, resuming his interrogation.
“Once more then,” the Muslim said, stopping behind the knight, “Will you embrace the faith of Mohammed?”
With downcast eyes, Raoul firmly shook his head. “Never,” was the quiet response.
His master too, turned his head. At this signal, the guard obediently unleashed the whip with a startling crack across the knight's shoulders.
Lurching forward, Sir Raoul bit his lip against the sudden pain. His parched and swollen skin, burnt from hours in the desert sun, made even the least movement rife with torture. But as another whiplash came thrashing upon his back, a surge of courage swelled throughout the Crusader.
Raoul’s master had circled back around and was now standing before him, as the soldier continued adding blow upon blow. After some time, the Arab raised his hand and gave pause to the whipping. With grim satisfaction, he eyed his prisoner’s staggered efforts to raise himself.
“Are you ready?” he asked the knight. “Are you ready to claim your freedom?”
Slowly regaining his breath, Raoul looked up at his master. “God is my freedom.”
“Don’t be a fool…” the Muslim threatened. But the Crusader was not so easily intimidated.
“I do not fear you,” he answered boldly.
“Then you are a fool,” the Arab sneered. “And your pride has blinded you to my power.”
“You have no power over me but what God permits,” the slave replied, almost to himself. “And you can only do what He has ordained for my salvation.”
“It is Allah who is punishing you,” his master retorted, snatching the whip from the soldier’s hand. “And if you do not yield now, you will feel the full fury of his wrath.”
He glared menacingly at his slave, who for a moment responded with nothing but a silent, peaceful look.
“Do what you will,” Raoul said. “I have no fear of your false god or faith.”
Rigid with pride, the Muslim calmly handed the weapon back to his soldier. “So be it,” he whispered.
The armed guard, receiving another commanding nod, took up the whip and resumed his attack with greater fervor. Squaring his shoulders against the onslaught, Sir Raoul whispered a fervent prayer. He did not pray because he feared a failure, for his will was as set as iron, but rather out of instinct; a plea for strength in this hour of trial.
Steadying himself from the blows, Raoul shut his eyes. Amidst the hissing of the whip, his ears were flooded with a continued stream of threats and promises. At length, he looked up, only to see his master was once more encircling him. Bent over from another whiplash, the knight turned away from his master’s taunting glare and relentless urges to deny the Catholic Faith.
“Renounce Jesus Christ,” the Arab prodded, “and I will let you go.”
But the knight, bracing himself from the beatings, turned towards him with unwavering resilience. “You will have to kill me first.”
“Praise Allah and I will release you!” pressed the Muslim, torn between rage and astonishment at the French Lord’s fortitude. “Embrace Mohammed’s faith.”
The whip cracked on Raoul’s face, and the knight quickly clenched his teeth, stifling a cry. His head shook vigorously. “No.”
And thus the battle continued between master and slave. Feeding off his master’s fury, the guard’s strong arm quickened and blood soon began to flow from the slave’s open wounds.
At length, exhausted by his own efforts, the mercenary dealt a blow to the knight’s head and Raoul collapsed to the ground. At this, his master put a hand on the guard’s arm.
“I don’t want to kill him,” he muttered angrily, snatching the whip out of his hand. Then with an impatient gesture, he ordered the soldier to take hold of Raoul.
“Bring him over here!”
Half conscious, the knight was dragged back across the open chamber and fastened to the wall.
“Pull them more tightly,” the Muslim ordered, pointing at the chains, “The wretch can sit when he sleeps.”
The soldier obediently strapped Raoul’s bleeding arms directly to the wall. The master then approached his slave and, with the whip’s handle, raised the nobleman’s chin. A moment passed, and the two said nothing, except with their eyes. The Muslim, with seething emotion, repeated once more, “Will you renounce your foolish faith?”
Squinting from the piercing sun, the Crusader shook his head.
“I would rather suffer… every outrage,” he breathed, “…and every torture.”
The Muslim stared. With a flick of his wrist, he pulled the whip from beneath Raoul’s chin and pointed it squarely between the slave’s eyes.
“And you shall, my stubborn knight.” A menacing smile lit his dark face, “You will feel the punishment reserved for those who reject Allah.”
Listening to their fading steps, the Crusader felt something trickling down his face, and instinctively went to wipe it. His hands, however, merely yanked in place against the chains. A shadow of smile crossed the weary man’s face. He had forgotten about his arms. Not knowing if what he felt was sweat or blood, the knight gently shook it from his eyes and peered out over the tower’s edge.
“This is Your desire, God.” Raoul’s voice was as strong as his will. “So be it. I shall prove that Your confidence in me is well placed. For I will never betray You. And I…” the French lord looked longingly at the distant horizon. “… will wait.” He wiped his bloody cheek against his shoulder. “And I only wait… because I know that You will answer me. Blessed Mother,” his eyes shut once more, “my hope is in you.”