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Chapter Six: Absolution


Viggianello, 30 September 1635

The next day Johannes awoke me, without a hint of exhaustion from the journey the night before – he was full of energy, and enthusiasm.

“Pietro, I know! You have shown me! They have shown me!”

I didn’t understand. Perhaps it was too early. He waited while I tried to focus.

“It’s definitely a woman. I think – I think Ilaria – she is the key. The Pantheon – it was built so that I would find you there, Pietro! You have led me here, to… to your family, Pietro… to Ilaria!”

He wants to give his powers to Ilaria? This was confusing.

“But… didn’t you say it needs to be someone in the future? Not from our time?”

“Yes, Pietro… someone descended from her. Another little Ilaria!”

I thought back to the day we had arrived. The tree, the storm. Johannes had saved her life. And she had saved his, it would seem.

So, Ilaria’s child, or grandchild, or much further ahead than that. Johannes had decided, and he was elated about it. I, however, began to sink. The cost to him would be great. It would be his last journey. We would never know if it made a difference.



I love Uncle Johannes. He is so big, tall and strong, and always smiling. I love his grey hair. He says he is my knight and I am his princess and that my mothers are the queens.

Today I was helping him rebuild the stone wall around the herb garden. He can lift the stones all by himself. I’m too little, I can’t budge them, but instead I help by choosing the stones.

When we finished we pretended that it was a castle wall and we had to defend it against attack from the dragons. Day and night they attack. We take turns to fight the dragons so the other can sleep. When it is his turn to sleep he drinks some beer and watches me fight the dragons. We don’t actually hurt the dragons, even though they try to burn us with fire, because they have souls. We just try to shoo them away. After a hundred years of fighting all the dragons are gone, so I can play him a song on the lyre he gave me, to celebrate.

Soon it will be time to eat and after that he and Pietro will disappear. I don’t like it when they do this because I want to play and afterwards Johannes is always so tired and weak and sometimes I think he’s very sad. So I try to play him a song that will make him stay with me, and be happy.

He crouches down on one knee so his head is the same height as mine, and he tells me:

“That was a beautiful song, Ilaria. You have learnt so quickly from Pietro!”

“Actually I made it up. Pietro showed me that first night you arrived. But since then I have learnt by myself.”

“Well, that is amazing! Self-taught, and in a few days you already play almost as well as…”

Johannes went quiet. I knew he was thinking about his children. He missed them. I hoped that when they were together, they had as much fun with him as I was having.

“What was she like, your little girl?”

Johannes bowed his head towards the ground.

“She was the light of my life, Ilaria. The most beautiful gift God ever gave me.”

I didn’t want to make him sad. I think he liked telling me about her.

“Is she in heaven?”

“I don’t know that there is a heaven, Ilaria. Except the one right here…”

He touched his heart. “And here…”

He touched my head. “And all around us…”

He waved to everything. The garden, the wall, the house, the sky. We could see for miles and miles, from the top of our castle.

“And so she is everywhere, always with me – if that is heaven, then yes, that’s where she is.”

“I don’t want you to go away, Uncle.”

“I don’t want to either, Ilaria, but I have to. I have to find someone, another little girl, just like you, but far away, who needs something from me.”

“A present?”

“Perhaps, but not the sort of present anyone would actually want. More like a task. A difficult task.”

“Then give it to me, uncle! Then you could stay!”

“It is for her, not for you, Ilaria. I’m afraid that even if I did give it to you, I would still have to go.”

I didn’t understand. “Why?”

“Ilaria, my princess, you are going to be very safe up here on the hill, having your adventures. And one day you will have children of your own. You will be a wonderful mother, just like Sofia and Angela are to you. And then one day one of your daughters will have a daughter, and one day she will have a daughter, and so on. Like little flowers, you will bloom through the ages. One of them, one of your children, Ilaria, is going to be so special. She has something very important to do. I wish I could show you, but I need to save my strength, so that I can find her.”

“Are you going to give the present to her?”

“Yes, Ilaria, I am.”

“How will you find her?”

“I don’t know. Like I found you, perhaps.”

“You found me on this hill. Maybe she’ll be on a mountain.”

“If you say that’s where she’ll be, then that’s where I’ll look! I will search every mountain.”

I put my hand on his heart. I didn’t want Uncle Johannes to be all alone. I wanted him to be here with us, for ever. But I knew I couldn’t change his mind. With my hand on his heart, maybe he would still feel I was with him, even if he was far away.

“And then you will be in heaven?”

“I hope so, Ilaria. We’ll all be together again.”

“In the stars?”

“Yes Ilaria, in the stars. Let’s go to eat now!”



This is my final voyage. Reaching through time to find a person, who I can pass this burden on to. A child of Ilaria.

I think I know, thanks to Pietro, the kind of person I need to find. A child, some of whose future I can see, someone who is fixed in time so that they will always come to be, there and then, no matter what happens between now and then. A child of Ilaria.

How long? It looks like five hundred years. The world will almost end in the 20th century, as a result of my sin, millions of lives lost, war upon war, brother killing brother. Someone born after that, but before the next worldwide turmoil. Someone wiser than me, fairer than me. Innocent. Stronger. A child of Ilaria.

A woman? Yes. I am certain. I have seen so many times, they are stronger, wiser than the men. Pietro agrees, now he has seen Sofia and Angela, and their child, Ilaria. Here, flying through time…

…only now have I mastered this? The connections, the strands of this web… all so clear now… near the end…

What a terrible burden I will give her. She will forget most of what I tell her, just as I will remember what was said to me, finally, and then I will sleep…

My child, Ilaria. She is in danger.



“Father, it is time! Quickly, before my strength fades!”

My friend Johannes lay in his bed, in his hand a quill pen. He’d just come back from his final journey, and had scrawled something on a piece of paper. I’d have to try to read it later. I took his hand for his final confession.

Johannes, confess your sins! Repent them so that you may enter God’s grace and join Him!

“I am a cheat. A gambler.”

God forgives you.

“I have used my abilities for evil. For revenge!”

God forgives you.

“I have killed, murdered, cast millions into the depths of hell!”

God forgives you.

“I have failed to prevent the apocalypse!”

God forgives you.

“I have ruined the life of an innocent by passing my burden on to her!”

God forgives you.

“I die knowing that my actions may have cast the world into the abyss!”

God forgives you.

“I have cursed God, for giving me these powers, yet making me powerless, making me the harbinger of death, and I have spurned his Love as he spurned mine!”

God forgives you.

Lord, take this tortured soul and forgive him his sins, take him as your loyal servant, take him into your heart and your Grace and give him the peace he seeks.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, I absolve you.

Your penance: death. Go in peace, my son.

I did this for you, my friend, Johannes, but not for you, my Lord. Give me the strength to love you again after all you have taken from me, from him, from us. Why did you visit this upon us?



I, Johannes, stand alone in the Pantheon. There is nobody here. No priest. No congregation. The rock, it still approaches.

I remember what I said to the child. And I remember what was said to me, as I take my last breaths.

Pietro has absolved me of my sin, Pietro alone. There is no God here. But I look up at the oculus, at the rock, and beyond it, I see something I did not see before. A light. It was not there to see before, but now it is. A bright new star.

Next Chapter: Chapter Seven :  Dreams and Nightmares