With a silent nod, the hooded figure dipped the ladle into the bubbling oil and with consummate care, emptied it over the blistered feet above the brazier. It was an essential part of the process, as it allowed the flesh to roast slowly, instead of burning and deadening the pain.
He fanned the coals in the brazier and added a little fuel as the woman's whispered prayers became a moan and then an empty, hopeless scream.
"Answer the question, please".
Despite his best professional intentions, a weary impatience crept into his voice. He looked over at the others to see if they'd noticed, but all their eyes and ears were on the woman, writhing against the ropes.
Under other circumstances, her movements might have been suggestive, but here it was simply a sign that she was still resisting. They did sometimes, but in the end he would get what he wanted - not simply because he was a master of his craft, but because he was on a mission from God.