Martin Luther crept out of his front door. He was being watched, that he knew. The Pope had spies everywhere. The eve of All Saint's Day, October 31, 1517; this would be the day that they would take notice of his fears, of his criticisms.
The ideas were set, they had been printed and were to be posted on the on the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg, as it was done according to university custom.
His was a protest of thought, but a protest against simony and indulgences. There was no way to gain admission to heaven other than through the lord. He would show them that he was right and that their practices must end.
It was daybreak and there were a passing few in the square as he made his way with the parchment rolled up, nailsand hammer concealed in his habit.
At the door, a few watched, knowing that some priest was doing something. They were here at the turning point, of that he was sure. He could hear them breathing, their mutterings, and their discontent as he took out the hammer. Then their silence as he held the first nail. Hammer poised over it.
He turned and saw their silence made flesh. Ten, maybe more, black cloaks, Dominican Friars edged towards him from the periphery of the square: appearing like shadows form the doorways, from the shadows. They were masters of concealment, masters of deceit.
They had known, he was betrayed.
Luther took the parchment in his hand and held it aloft. He would tell the people and they would tell their children and their neighbours, someone would take what he had written and read it and know he was right. The people of Wittenberg scattered, not daring to look him in the eye.
He bellowed his words.
‘I charge the church…’ his cry cut short with a twang of a crossbow. He looked down and saw the bolt protrude from his chest before he ever felt the pain. It was an explosion through his bones and sinews. He lost breath, his raised arm drooped limply to his side, the parchment fell to the floor and covered the slowly growing pool of red.
He sunk to his knees. He hadn’t realised three more had struck him. His chest, his torso pegged out in the Stations of the Cross. The dark figures continued to move closer. He tried to move his arms,his legs, to breathe, but nothing was working. He tried to speak, to say something, maybe a final word, a last plea would be carried from his dead tongue to others through a sympathiser amongst them.
He opened his mouth.
‘Nothing?’ A dark, Castilian voice came from a hood not three metres in front of him, ‘no final words heretic?’
Luther tried to communicate, tried to force his words upon those who would not hear them, but all he could speak with were his closing eyes, saddened that he had come so far and yet made so little difference. He felt his weight fall forward.
‘Burn him’ he heard as he fell, ‘and his followers. Let god sort them out.’