The field was tended to with care. The harvest brought in in order to sustain the families who lived huddled together in this wilderness. The village so small and remote that a proper name was not given to it. This is the start of my story. The start of my journey. Who gave birth to me, who were my parents that does not matter. They were simple farmers living upon the land observing all that they had to do to care for my family. Brothers and sisters yet I can not recall all the names. You must forgive me time and death have removed them from being so fresh in my mind.
I remember how the fields were set up. The field on the left was brought in. The field on the right was almost done. The middle by older of the elder of the village was left bare. We had spent the summer throwing the contents of our chamber pots over this area. If you are wondering it was to improve the soil but the smell was terrible.
Those days I had little to do and even less to worry about. I would wake up early with my family and brothers who could work would head off to the fields. My mother and older sister would sit working the thread machine. They were skilled. The first younger would work on the small details to sell them to locals and to send them to the master. The youngest of the children would tend to preparing the food.
Foot traffic is an amazing thing. Today if we were to go and take you to the village you would find nothing present to let you know we had been present that for centuries our families had been there. I remember how often we walked. The grass broken and bent unable to rise after so many feet had stepped upon it. The cattle driven to eat it. If only I had known what was in store I would have pitied it more.
My last day in this village was the same as always. A daily routine in which I understood what I was to do. The day was over before I knew it. Darkness crept across the field and a part of me understood I would not be in the field tomorrow. You may say that I understood that tomorrow was a church day but a part of my soul knew that it was more than that.
It was cold that night. Even with the dogs and ourselves huddled together it was a miserable experience. I had spent hours watching the fog roll out of my mouth and hang in the air for a split second before disappearing. I had no way of knowing how long I laid for soon I was shaken awake by my mother as we left our home to go to the church in the village.
The sermon was about the need of the poor. To assist those who had nothing. It did not take us long to know he was talking about Anna. She was an older woman who the fate had denied ever seeing a child grow old. Her husband had died that year and she was alone. She was miserable the type of miserable you can be when your only reward awaits in death but a death you can't pursue. We had already chipped in a good amount of food to make sure she did not starve, wood she would not freeze. My mind pondered what more we would have to give to allow her to survive.
It was then that the noise came over us. The sound of the trumpet echoing into the wooden walls. The announcement of a herald to our village was almost unheard of save for the Lord coming to collect his taxes. The Elder and the priest both seemed so confused. It was as if the trumpet alone shattered the world they knew. The village arose together and went out to greet this messenger.
We had never seen a warrior before. We hunted with bows and worked with spears but that was work. The use of leather, metal, gold, silver. As a young man it made quite the impression of me. Me in my old ragged clothes kept together by a single worn piece of rope. He unfurled the parchment and he read the orders. We were to supply men for war. War who would attack us? What kingdom would be stupid enough to waste energy and time on us?
I do not know what happened but before I could say anything I was pushed forward. My eyes scanned backwards to see which neighbor had pushed me but all I saw was men in black cloaks. They were not from the village but they went around the crowd pushing other's like me forward. I at first did not understand than I realized that this was no mistake. This was deliberate they wanted the young and fit.
My mother was not one to panic but she panicked that day. She rushed to me and held out something of hers to me. She was screaming at me to have faith. Screaming at me to pray for my protection. I reached for her and though I was kept from embracing her I got the small golden item she wished to give me. The icon which she had held so dare being given to me to protect me. It was the last I would see them. The last image of my mother crying into my father before we were marched from the village and away from the life I knew.
The first part of his story down. The man drifted his eyes downward observing the Madonna as she stared back at him. He wondered how old this icon was. Who had painted it and where her family had collected it from but he could know none of these details. He merely shut the picture and with careful actions placed it around his neck again least he lose such a venerated object.