Something shakes me from sleep, a rhythmic clanging, harsher than the church bell. And closer too.
I sit up. The walls flicker in the dim light of the hearth fire. Across the room, Father’s side of the bed is empty, but Mother’s is not. She can sleep through anything.
I wrap myself in a thick shawl, open the door.
Clouds cover the moon, the cold air heavy with shadows and a scent like burning blood. The only light is a raging red glow near the barn. There he is, arm swinging, back bent over a small stone forge that he must have built just this afternoon.
He does not seem surprised to see me standing there.
“Father, surely they can hear you all the way in the village.”
“The invaders,” he says. “They hurt Monsieur Leblanc’s daughter. They will harm you or your mother – only over my dead body, or my name isn’t Jacques d’Arc.”
He stops pounding.
“I borrowed a mold from the blacksmith. He showed me how to make a fire hot,” he says between deep breaths. “With these old plow blades melted down, I don’t need money to have a good weapon.”
After a few more clangs, the new sword sizzles in the water trough, but I barely notice. I gaze only at the heart of the forge fire where the flame itself becomes something new. In this moment, I know that I have become this place where the burning stops and ashes are made beautiful. The place down deep where danger-red turns water-blue.
People here in this village are always teaching me what I should be, but the ever-blue embers glow with their own light like the stories in the church windows. Marguerite slaying the dragon that would swallow her, Catherine shattering the wheel that would crush her, women whose very presence burns to ashes all around them except what is True.
“See? There have been others like you before now,” the Voices of women in the windows do not whisper but sing.
“You are but a farm girl,” the village-voices say. Sometimes I believe them—until I remember Marguerite and Catherine.
The village-voices may look at the church windows, but they never see them. If they did, they would know that even tax collectors and harlots become saints, become themselves by the beckoning blue touch of One who is more than a carpenter.
“Jeanne. Jeanne!” Father is talking to me. “Did you not hear what I said? There you go again in one of your trances. Go back to bed so you can dream in your sleep like everyone else.”
The night clouds break, and the Voices come through rustling branches of reaching trees caught in the soul of moonlight. Fear and doubt, those clinging shadows, retreat into some hiding place among the bushes.
“About the invaders, Father. I know what we must do.”
And my own voice is a leaping blue blaze blowing all that is wrong into puffs of smoke.