The turning point of any novel or film, and often the turning point for any protagonist, is when that point comes when you must do something. Making a choice between continued silence down Path A or to stand up and be counted and possibly put yourself in unimaginable danger of Path B is essential to the hero or heroine being heroic. It was J.K. Rowling through Dumbledore who worded it perfectly: “Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.”
This is the choice that my protagonist Peter faces after an incident where a number of Catholic protesters (protesting the arrival of the Inquisition soldiers) are butchered:
As the procession passed, Peter heard the mounted soldiers singing their triumph over the devil and complaining of hunger because they’d been forced to leave their meal half way through. Peter forced himself look into the eyes of the four men and tried to convey his pity and guilt. Not one of them dared look at him, assuming they noticed the sickened holy man leaning against the stone pillar. Peter waited for them to pass from sight on the other side of the bridge before making his way to the pile of corpses.
The embankment had largely deserted. Everyone now seemed to congregate around the market asking the stall owners for their own version of events. Ultimately, the massacred bodies were left where they had been piled. The smell of drying blood was unbearable and flies were already beginning to congregate; he waved them away pointlessly. They would return in their hundreds and together with the rats would make a meal of the corpses. This was no way for any human being to die.
His mouth still burned in the aftermath of vomiting but Peter focussed on the bodies and on one in particular. It was a young woman, perhaps twenty-five years old with matted long red hair and dazzling eyes. In life she would have been beautiful with a gaze to captivate a man’s heart with a single look. But her eyes were far from seductive now; they were accusing and looking straight at Peter and into the very pit of his soul. Her throat had been cut and blood splayed lightly across her face. He could not tear his gaze from hers as he imagined her speaking to him. This is your fault.
‘No it isn’t.’ He whispered.
Yes it is your fault Peter Scolatti, the unspoken accusation, You could have stopped them.
‘How much power do you think I have?’
More than I ever had. You could have stopped them coming if you had tried.
‘Only an act of God could have stopped the wishes of Rome.’
Free will is your doctrine Peter.
‘And yours.’ He replied soulfully.
Not any more. I’m dead and doctrine no longer matters, only God’s Judgement.
‘And I will be judged also.’
We are not just judged on our actions Peter Scolatti, but our inaction too.
So what are you going to do?
‘The only thing I can.’ Peter said solemnly.