This is about 100 words over. I hope this is still OK. The agent wants a 2 page synopsis -- what does that anchor mean?
From the shadows just outside Geneva, MARTIN watches as Calvinist fanatics tie his favorite philosopher to the pyre. His lectures on skepticism had been controversial—that men might change religions not from piety or divine intervention, but for money or power—but he never thought it would come to this. He burrowed into his cloak and fled toward Paris. He would be safe there with his parents and should arrive in time to celebrate the Feast of Saint Bartholomew with them.
Ten years later in Vacquenoux, Salm, fourteen-year-old CATHERINE grapples with being an outcast, witchcraft rumors about her adoptive grandmother, and her brother’s irrational anger. It hadn’t always been this way. In fact, her father, a staunch Catholic, loved their former priest, calling him Papa, and encouraging his eldest son, Jean-Baptiste, to be an altar boy. However, the elderly priest was reassigned just before Catherine’s birth and something terrible must have happened after that because neither Catherine nor her younger siblings had ever stepped inside a church. Instead of being christened formally, they were baptized according to an old legend.
Scarred both mentally and physically from his ordeal in Paris, Martin flees to Vacquenoux, a small town in Salm. The unsung country was a haven for both Catholic and Protestant, as it was ruled by two counts, one of each religion. The mayor took Martin in, nursed him back to health, and now ten years later, treats him more like a son. When one of his “brothers,” is injured, Martin takes sixteen-year-old, NICOLAS to the local herbalist.
Nicolas doesn’t recognize the farm as he shuffles into the house and lies on the table until an old woman blusters in shouting instructions in a thick accent. The realization hits him—this is the witch’s lair. Martin stays by his side while he recovers, but when Nicolas’ panicked mother sends for Father Michel, he is sent away, and Papa, Father Brignon, comes to calm her fears.
The incident with Martin and the hated priest brings back disturbing memories for the herbalist, FRANCISCA. She heals Nicolas but can’t shake the apprehension. When Papa asks her if something is wrong, she confesses that she didn’t just travel to Salm. She had been kidnapped, was raped, bore a child, and was forced to abandon it at an abbey before escaping her captors.
Though unnerved by the unconventional healer, her lovely granddaughter, Catherine infatuates Nicolas. Martin had taught him to read, and he uses his knowledge to impress the young girl. It works. She asks him to teach her, and he eagerly accepts, but when his mother refuses to allow it, they meet secretly and fall in love. Of course, they get caught and are forced apart.
Fate brings Nicolas and Catherine back together, but when Nicolas goes to schedule their wedding with Father Michel, he finds the priest shackled and being hauled away by the provost who gives no explanation. Father Edmond, a replacement priest arrives, marries them, they have children, and live happily for a while, but this story is based on actual events, and happily-ever-after is only in fantasy.
Years later, Nicolas’ brother catches the plague and Francisca goes to nurse him. While there, she meets her long-lost daughter, now a Benedictine nun. Their reunion is short-lived as the sister dies of the pestilence. Though Francisca risks her life to help those affected, Father Edmond learns that the bishop has blamed the local bane of the town for starting the plague. From Edmond’s description, Nicolas determines the bishop is their hated former parish priest.
That evening, Nicolas advises the family of the accusations, and Catherine’s brother, Jean-Baptiste storms out to speak to Edmond. Nicolas follows him to the church where they find the priest ready to ring the bells. They wait in the sacristy where the smell of stale frankincense and candles fills the room. Jean-Baptiste pales and Nicolas shoves a stool under him as he slides down the wall. Edmond enters the room, his face hidden in the shadows of the stained-glass window. Jean-Baptiste shouts, “Never again,” and throws himself on the priest, pummeling him. Nicolas pulls him off, and they stare at each other incredulous. Jean-Baptiste runs away leaving Nicolas to attend to the priest. With no idea what had just happened, Edmond and Nicolas go back to the farm, hoping to talk to Jean-Baptiste. Upon seeing the bruised and battered priest, his mother divulges the reason they hated Father Michel. Though Edmond is not familiar with this type of counseling, Nicolas convinces Jean-Baptiste to talk to him and deal with his anger.
When Catherine and Nicolas discuss apprenticeship options for their son, Martin suggests his printer friend may have something available. The boy eagerly agrees, and the three men travel to Strasbourg. After receiving a coveted position, they tour the engineering marvel, the Notre Dame Cathedral. Martin leads them to the tower where they look out over the city, however, when Nicolas turns to speak to his son, he finds he has not followed them. He looks down and sees the boy pointing to the rose window and speaking to a bishop—Bishop Michel! He bounds down the stairs to see the bishop in the distance leading his son into a building across the yard. Nicolas chases them and breaks down the door, saving his son. Aghast, Martin throws Nicolas and the boy outside, apologizes for misunderstanding, and rushes home.
Almost immediately, the fury of the bishop is thrust upon them. Warned of her impending arrest, for witchcraft, Francisca commits suicide to avoid the stake. Nicolas is murdered, and his body thrown on a bonfire of burning books. Though part of mayor’s respectable family, Catherine’s reputation is not enough to save her from her destiny, and she is arrested for witchcraft. While in prison, she finds courage she didn’t know she possessed and fights for her life. The shocked cardinals of the tribunal warn her nevertheless she persists in condemning the duplicity of the church. She is sentenced to be burned.
Martin frantically tries to think of something, anything, to minimize her ordeal. As a last resort, he arranges for a guard to slip her some psychedelic mushrooms. On April 25, 1622, Catherine is burned at the stake. In her dreamlike state, Nicolas comes for her on his horse, and they ride into the clouds on the trail of smoke. Martin acquires Catherine’s ashes and buries them at Lake de la Maix, a place of magic and myths. As he plays his violin, the family dries their tears and dances in celebration of Catherine’s life, sparking a new legend: The Devil Fiddler of Lake de la Maix. That legend still exists today.