Twisting Paths

Grzegorzh got shakily to his feet and stumbled out of the room he was allotted by the bishop, Jan. He was hyperventilating now, and leaning against the door frame. His eyes were wide with terror as the nightmare faded from his memory. “What happened to me!?” He shouted to nobody in particular. Jan heard him and rushed over, asking “What do you mean?” Grzegorzh stumbled back as Jan confronted him, “Who cleaned the mud off of me? I was on the road for half a week, who took the clothes off of my body and cleaned me while I was asleep?” He demanded. It was a creepy experience for someone like him. Jan looked perplexed, and a little ashamed as well. “We thought you were dead, as I said, so we were preparing you for a funeral. We had issued you last rites, and cleaned your body. We have a graveyard prepared for unknown travelers.” This calmed Grzegorzh substantially. If they treated the dead with such respect, then perhaps there was some truth behind that “Good Samaritan” story that he had been told by Jan as a justification for his actions. “I, I am sorry I did not trust you.” He stammered out. Jan nodded faintly to acknowledge him. “It is understandable, you have no experience with this sort of thing, and you are scared. Breakfast will be happening soon, if you wish to, you may go back to your room and rest.” Grzegorzh shook his head “I’d like to help if I can.” Jan gave him a pat on the arm. “If you would like, you can help us slice the bread.” He offered. Grzegorzh smiled softly. He was happy to have a job now, even if it was just for a short little while. They got to the kitchen and Jan handed him a bread knife. There were several large loaves of bread still hot out of the oven, they would be served with breakfast. Jan explained that he was to cut them into eight pieces each, and place them in a basket with a cloth in it. He nodded and set to work. It was easy enough to do, but it took Grzegorzh a little bit longer than Jan normally took. He was weak after the long voyage, but he was happy to be doing some sort of work. When he was done, he brought it to Jan. Jan was at the head of a table, where several other men were gathered. They wore simple clothes and had shaved heads. Jan informed Grzegorzh that they were monks. He was told to sit at the empty seat at a table. While it was not the feast he had in his dreams, he could not argue with the fact that he was being given free food by a complete stranger. He was still in rough shape, but he was eating a meal for the second time recently. He remembered Jan’s advice and ate slowly. There was water, bread, and fish. He was used to such meals, and did not complain. Before he ate, Jan said a blessing over the food and the monks bowed their heads. Then it was time to eat. The fresh baked bread was the most delicious he had ever eaten, and the smoked fish was cooked perfectly, though that may have just been a side effect of his hungry mind. He kept quiet as the monks spoke, and felt himself relax. There was a knock at the door, and one of the monks stood to answer. Once the latch was opened, the door was kicked in, and several burly men rushed into the room. Among them was a man with a limp and a cut on his face. Seeing the prominent bruises on Grzegorzh’s cheek and under his eye, he extended a hand, a single finger pointed at him. “That’s the one I’m after. Do what you will with the rest, he’s mine.” The man said with a menacing scowl. There was some grey in his beard, and as the poor monk who went to answer the door stood up to intercede, he was struck with a club and fell unconscious on the floor. At this the others stood. They were pacifists, and instructed not to fight unless absolutely necessary. This meant they were no match for the bandits who raided the church that day. Jan was furious that someone would disturb the sanctity of such a place, however, where the monk had received the working end of a club, he took the bit of an axe, and fell, never again to stand. Grzegorzh drew his knife again, but the brute that had attacked him only two days ago hit his arm with a hammer. Before he even had a chance to shout in pain, another hammer blow caught him in the jaw and his world went black. He woke seeing double and spitting teeth. He was laying on his side in some sort of cart, but from where he was, he could see a column of smoke rising in the sky, and the path behind them branching off in several places. The one that these bandits followed led into some woods. He felt something tugging at his wrists as he went to rub his aching head. Looking down, he saw that his wrists were tied together. He also saw several others, some sitting, some kneeling, all wearing those same robes as the monks had. His vision was still double and unfocussed, plus his memory was scrambled, an his head ached. He tried to sit up, but one of the monks cautioned him to stay laying down. He wanted to fight, but looking down, there was the limper, the cut on his cheek still plainly visible, despite his impaired vision. Grzegorzh saw his knife tucked into the bandit’s belt, and he groaned. He tried to form words, but his mouth would not move properly. “Hahahahaha, looks like I broke that bastard’s jaw” he laughed with one of the other bandits. Both of them were carrying a weapon and a bag. It looked to Grzegorzh like they hadn’t just gone to kidnap him and repay what he had done to one of their own. He felt tears well up in his eyes. Had he not brought that knife to the gathering, then he would not have wound up on that road on that dark and stormy night. He couldn’t help but think that the fate of these monks was now on his shoulders, and he vowed to right what he had done wrong. He would help them be free once again, and get them back their church. He had never felt so sure of anything in his life, but he also knew that he would not be able to do this in a normal fight like he had done with the boys in his village. He would need to be sneaky about this, and he would need to get his knife back somehow.

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