A/N: I don't own anything, only the OC's. Enjoy the story, dear readers!
Qui tollis peccata mundi,
Dona nobis pacem."
- A Catholic liturgical invocation
Toledo, Kingdom of Spain, 1482
Sancha did not wake up that day expecting her life to change. It was a day like any other, and she was comfortable in its lack of remarkability. She went about her morning as usual, paying respects to her parents and doing her chores after breakfast. It was only in the middle of the day, when her mother, Jeanne, burst into her room, did Sancha look up from her needlework and realize something was very wrong.
"Mama?" she started, but her words were drowned out by the look on her mother's face.
"Sancha, hurry." Jeanne, wild-eyed and pale, was carrying an old satchel. "Get your things. We – You need to leave."
The older woman proceeded to pace her daughter's room and pull out clothes, jewelry, and other valuables from various chests and boxes. She thrust them into the bag by hand- and armfuls. Watching her, Sancha abandoned her sewing and leapt to her feet.
"Mama, what's wrong?" she demanded.
Jeanne looked up from the chest at the foot of the bed, and for a moment, Sancha thought her mother was going to be physically ill.
"It's Tavera," she said in a hushed voice. "He's here about the boy…"
Immediately, Sancha contracted her mother's panic. There had been a tragedy in the city recently: The remains of a young boy named Alfonso de la Vega had been found in the forest just outside the city walls. Rumour had it he had been snatched off the streets and spirited away by criminals in broad daylight. There were whispers of foul play, and even of the dreaded ritual of blood libel…
Or so that was what Cardinal Tomas de Tavera thought. And anything the most powerful clergyman in Castile suspected, so too did the general public.
But Sancha was innocent. Her family was innocent. They should have been safe.
"He's at the Ben Jehiel household now. He's going to come here next." Jeanne handed her the satchel, now bloated with clothes and assorted items. "You're going to leave out the window and climb down the trellis – Don't argue with me, Sancha, do as I say. You're going to climb down, run to the main street, and you're going to get out of the city. There's a pilgrimage headed through Toledo – It should be easy enough for you to blend in." She made a point of tapping the back of Sancha's left hand, which was bedecked with three rings of gold and semi-precious stones. "Hide those. And cover your hair. And do not cut through the judería. Tavera will have men all over the place."
"Leave?" Sancha's voice cracked. "I have to leave Toledo?"
"You have to leave Castile."
A crushing silence enveloped the two women. Jeanne shook her head, her expression momentarily relaxed by sorrow.
"Times are changing, my dear. There's no room in Spain for people like us anymore."
Tears pricked the back of Sancha's eyes. Ever since she was a child she had felt the tension between her community – the conversos, Jewish converts to Christianity – and the rest of Toledo. She knew she was not welcome in certain circles, but she never suspected the animosity would become this bad.
She swallowed down and clutched the straps of her bag. "Where will I find you?"
"Follow the pilgrims." Jeanne walked her daughter to the window. "They are headed for Montmartre, in France. Your father and I will meet you along the way. If we do not find you, wait for us at Notre Dame de Paris – It's the largest cathedral in the city, you can't miss it. Don't stay at Montmartre. For all the moralizing these pilgrims do, they misbehave when left idle in one place. I want you to stay safe."
Outside the window, the sky undulated with dark grey clouds. The wind was warm, but the breeze made Sancha's arms break out in goosebumps. Turning from the open shutters, she asked her mother, "Will you promise to find me?"
She felt like a child in that moment, small and petulant, but it couldn't be helped. Jeanne, with tears in her eyes, couldn't seem to answer, either. All she did was gather her girl up in her arms for a tight and all too short hug.
"I love you, Sancha."
A loud thudding sound bludgeoned the relative quiet in the room. A muffled voice from downstairs cried out, "Tribunal of the Inquisition! Open this door!"
And that was when Jeanne released her child and shooed her out the window.
"Go," she whispered shakily, "and may God protect you."
Sancha did as she was told. Swallowing back her fear, she slung her satchel over her shoulder and climbed down the trellis on quivering legs. When she got down to the street, she resisted the urge to take off instantly. Instead, she pressed her back to the brick wall and peeked around the corner.
Nothing could have prepared her for the sight of her father, Avram, in handcuffs. She bit back a cry as she watched him get dragged from the front door by a guard, his protests and her mother's cries ignored by the monster that presided over the horrible scene.
Cardinal Tomas de Tavera, the Grand Inquisitor himself, sat atop a white horse. Still a relatively young man of thirty, the cleric was adorned in red robes and all the self-righteousness of a man drunk on his own power. He watched Avram and the hysterical Jeanne with a poorly concealed grin and a hard glean in his dark eyes. Behind his horse, a line of men and women stood in chains, flanked by a handful of soldiers. Most of them were stunned into terrified silence, but some were weeping. Tavera didn't notice.
And in a moment's breadth, he was suddenly looking at Sancha. His angular face went red from his chin to the top of his dark, tonsured head.
"You there!" He pointed at her and shouted to his guards, "Bring her here!"
Without a second thought, Sancha ran. She didn't wait to see if Tavera's men would obey, as she knew they would. She didn't look back to see if her parents noticed what happened. She didn't even think about the indecency of hitching up her skirts so she could run unobstructed. The twisted, chaotic streets of Toledo worked to her advantage, and though she heard the footfalls of the soldiers behind her, she didn't risk a glance over her shoulder, lest she fall or get lost. Instead, she leapt over gates, hurried down alleys, squeezed between houses, and prayed to whoever was listening that she would not be caught by the Inquisition.
Thankfully, someone did hear. Just when she though her legs were going to fall off, the footsteps of her pursuers receded, and Sancha was able to do just as her mother told her: Reach the main road without cutting through the judería and join the pilgrimage that was just leaving through the city gates.
It would take her twelve days to reach Paris. And, when neither parent met her along the way, she left the crowds at Montmartre to find Notre Dame Cathedral.