"Pillar of Flames" is episode 143 of the Berserk manga.
In a flashback, a younger Farnese lies in bed listening to the frightening sounds which come from the city square outside her home. She lifts herself from her bed to look out her window, where she sees a man condemned of being a heretic being burned at the stake.
In the present, Farnese gives the order to execute three heretics by burning them. The Holy Iron Chain Knights note how resolute Farnese becomes when it comes to burning people. Jerome listens as another knight explains that Farnese's home faced a plaza where heretics were regularly burned, and she earned her position as the leader of the search for the Black Swordsman in a display of faith by personally burning a group of heretics.
Farnese watches the three men go up in flames, thinking back on Mozgus' words about faith. A young child in the onlooking crowd cries for his father, one of the three heretics being burned. A paranoid man in the crowd advances on the child, thinking it also has heretical tendencies which run in the family, but before he can request that the child be burned, Serpico steps in, points his sword at the man, and explains that the child was deemed innocent at his father's trial.
After saving the child, Serpico asks Farnese if he may excuse himself from the burning, claiming he does not feel well, and she allows it. He decides to find a private place to recover, unable to handle watching people be burned at the stake. He is soon joined by Jerome, who compliments Serpico's saving of the child.
Serpico explains that he felt a personal connection with the child because, three years ago, Serpico's mother was burned at the stake before his very eyes. This story, along with its grim delivery, makes Jerome uncomfortable, and he apologizes for prying. Serpico accepts the apology and decides he feels well enough to return to his duties. Jerome watches him leave, realizing that both the burning of Serpico's mother and Farnese's first sentencing occurring three years ago may not be a coincidence.
Later in the evening, Farnese lays in her bed watching the fire crackle in the fireplace across the room. She remembers her childhood, how she descended the steps of her home to get a better view of the man being burned in the plaza outside. A torch had been shoved into her hand, and before she'd realized it, she had thrown it. A rush had come over her, and she found more and more torches to throw, addicted to the feeling it gave her.
In an attempt to relive the feeling, Farnese pulls down her trousers and begins to masturbate, staring deeply into the fire. Within it, she sees the illusion of a man burning in it. She curls up and begins to cry, trying desperately to find the good in all her actions.
Characters in Order of Appearance Edit