Historical setting: A Dark Age
The third day of rowing in the calm we come around rocks to see a small cove with charred pilings marking a one-time quay and now abandoned shore. At a deep distance we drop anchor and the officer tells me this is the harbor of Constantia.
“Are you an able swimmer or must we all risk the rocks to take you ashore?”
“I am able, thank you.”
The water is still winter cold and I choose to wear my tunic in order to keep it with me. So with slow strokes stretching on the water I make my way to shore. Thank you God for strength and assurance. Amen.
The sun has been high heating this sand beach for several hours, so my clothing is quickly dried and my shivers forgotten. Alone, I choose to simply bask in the quiet and warmth catching a day’s rest while nights have been spent on guard duty. With such a noble name as Constantia I was expecting a busy port city not a vacant beach. Only the gulls notice this stranger here.
I wake rested, and find the tide is out, so I can ease these hunger pangs with an abundance of gifts of the sea. I dine on oysters. I don’t wish to be caught unprepared again, so I also gather arms full of deep and fresh varieties of kelp from this beach, and rinse it free of sand and crumbs of land twigs gone awash at sea; and I spread the salty leaves out on the sun-warmed rocks to dry. I don’t remember when I first learned to sip the deep dark broth made from boiling these dried sea ribbons but the opportunity to prepare in this way for another hunger answers my hollow hope with possibility. I find I’m nourished in optimism. Thank you God.
Now I need to explore and find where this great city is thriving. It was named as though it were Constantine’s own child.
Walking back through the saplings sprouting in the char I soon realize the silence hides a lost battlefield. Under the thickets are outlines of cottages seared unto earth. Just beyond these burnt dwellings are graves.
Someone must have survived to bury these dead. The road to this place is lost under the same underbrush that obscures the ruin, but there is a fresh footpath leading inland from these graves so I follow into a younger wood.
(Continues Tuesday, June 2, Chapter 9 “Keepers of the Light”)