Brief Respite

After sleeping for several hours, Grzegorz awoke on a stone slab, it was still cold, but at least it was dry. His head ached mightily, but a numb chill ran through the rest of his body. He was injured and alone in a cold dark room, needless to say he was scared. He managed to croak a tentative “Hello?” out of his dry throat. He was ready to give up at this point. He was starved, cold, and physically exhausted, when he saw a man with a lantern approach him. He could not discern much “Wh-where am I?” He asked. The man looked at Grzegorz with a concerned expression “You are at a village, a village with a church, I am the bishop. I must apologize, I thought you were dead.” He said, sitting down next to Grzegorz. “When was the last time you ate?” He asked, looking Grzegorz up and down “You look starved, sick, and beaten. If I had to guess, you would not have survived much longer out on the road.” Grzegorz nodded and leaned his head up to get a better view of the person who sat near him. “what is your name?” He asked the Bishop, very concerned that this man may have been a bandit or slave taker. “I am Jan, like I said, I am the Bishop in this village, if you are hungry, I can get you some food.” This offer set Grzegorz on edge. Almost nobody would offer food if they did not want something in return. He had known this since birth, and he only ever trusted people from his village when it came to food. “What’s your price?” He asked, resting his head back down on the stone slab while waiting for a reply. The Bishop shook his head “none, I want nothing in return.” Grzegorz let out a hoarse laugh “I don’t believe that. I have only just met you, I do not know your intent, and I don’t trust you. For all I know you want to sell me into slavery.” The Bishop was patient, and gave him a gentle pat on the arm. “I will return with food, once you have eaten, we can talk.” He said, leaving Grzegorz alone in this dark, cold room on an equally cold and uninviting stone slab. Alone with his thoughts, Grzegorz pondered his fate. He still had his knife, but without his strength, he doubted that he could overpower the Bishop. He pulled his cloak tighter around himself, though it was still damp, it comforted him. It was one of his last reminders of home. He began to fade again into unconsciousness, the numbness being replaced by a strange warmth in his limbs, and the emptiness in his belly began to fade, as he watched a dream form in front of his eyes. He was home again, and it was a celebration. They had been cooking for hours, and the smells that filled the air were enough to make his mouth water. Freshly baked bread, fried dumplings, and cider, this time from apples, and not that rancid pear juice Konrad had given him. It seemed everyone had brought something. Fish stew, sausages, and even honey cake, a rare treat, were all spread out on the table, just waiting to be eaten. A fire popped and crackled in the hearth, as his family sat around. He no longer wore the tattered old traveling clothes that he remembered, but instead, his clothes were intact, and, more surprisingly, they seemed sturdy compared to anything he had worn before. He was warm, he was safe, and he was happy. He reached down and speared a fried dumpling on his knife, bringing it up to his mouth, he could still smell the frying oil on it and, while it was supposed to be a mystery, he knew this one was filled with potatoes and onions, one of his favorites. As he was about to take his first bite, he was brought back to the present by the bishop coaxing him out of his dream. “Ahh, how long was I asleep?” he asked. “About five minutes.” Jan said, with a patient tone. “I dreamed I was home, there was a feast, and I was wearing new clothes, there was a fire going and…well do you suppose it means anything?” He asked. Jan nodded “Yes, it means you are hungry, tired, cold, and lonely. Come, eat. Once you have some food in you I will bring you upstairs and we can see what good a fire does you.” Grzegorz nodded and slowly sat up. His whole body ached, his face especially, and he felt lightheaded. The numbing chill was gone, but in its place, was a stinging pain in his fingers and toes. Jan handed him a simple wooden bowl of stew and a chunk of bread. He dipped the bread in the stew and took a bite, wolfing it down, he nearly gagged as his three days starved stomach was introduced again to food. “Slow down, the food isn’t going anywhere, and you will get sick if you eat too quickly.” His eyes watered as he swallowed hard to make sure he kept the food down and this time he simply sipped at the broth. Grzegorz came to the conclusion that whether or not he trusted him, Jan meant him no harm just yet. He ate slowly, as recommended, and eventually finished the stew and bread. He got to his feet and Jan came up to support him. “Here, I will take you to someplace more comfortable.” Grzegorz tried to move on his own, but he stumbled and had to steady himself against a wall. Begrudgingly, he accepted Jan’s help. Seeing nothing else to do, he asked “So, what is a bishop?” Jan smiled “A bishop is a holy man, he is typically entrusted with great responsibility in the Christian church.” Grzegorz was out of his depth here, he had lived in an isolated village for his whole life, and never learned how to read. Concepts like Christianity, Bishops, and even written language seemed foreign to him. “Why are you helping me?” He asked next, to which Jan replied “In my faith, we learned the lesson of the good Samaritan, a stranger with no reason to help, and with no expectation of compensation, helps a stranger who, just like you, appears to be on death’s door. He does it for no other reason than it is the right thing to do.” Jan replied. He helped Grzegorz to a room with a simple bed. “We will be holding a communal meal at sunrise tomorrow, I will wake you for the meal, but I will ask one question before I leave you to rest, what is your name?” Jan asks. “Grzegorz” he replied calmly, however Jan misheard it as “Gregor”. With that settled, Jan left him to rest. Grzegorz fell back asleep, and his mind was plagued my nightmares this time. Now that his needs for survival were met, his mind drifted to what may come. He was in the wild again, he was running from something, he was at a dead sprint at this point. Cold rain and bitter wind lashed at his face, his feet sank into the mud at first up to the ankle, but eventually up to the knee, as he sprinted. Whatever it was that he ran from had him terrified, but he didn’t know why he was running. He tripped and landed hard in the mud, his face landing in a puddle. He woke up gasping for air, the roof was leaking and the drips were landing on his face. It was hard for him to tell what time it was, because the room he was in had no external view, but he decided to stay awake instead. His body still ached, but the numbness was gone because he was not sleeping in the wild. However something else had him concerned now that he had time to think about it. He was much cleaner than he should have been. The mud of several days in the wilderness had been washed off of him and his clothing.

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