Historical setting: 563 C.E., remembering a villa in 462
Remembering 462 C.E., A very earthly enemy invasion was coming down on us from the eastern coast of Hispania. The first arrow arced through the vines of portico into the midst of our meeting. The next seemed to take an eternity to arrive, though it was only a few seconds. It was the stop of time we needed to realize we were under siege. Everyone, the family, the cult worshipers, the servants, all the able-bodied people who were neither guards nor soldiers crowded into the few wagons and carts available at the stables. As I prepared to ride ahead with the warning of the invasion, the elderly don, with his own sword already in hand, stopped me to hand me the gospel to take it back with me to Bracara for “safe keeping.” Then right behind him was Susannah begging me, before I left, to help get those who were too weak from hunger into the wagons for safety. Arrows were landing all around us like sleet in an oddly-seasoned storm, and we knew in another instant there would be spears and swords and cavalry. We must have already been in their sights, because the arrows were finding marks. Susannah was felled as we were lifting a starving ascetic onto the wagon bed; Susannah died there to save the life of one who had already chosen heaven over earth. I laid both women onto the wagon before an arrow came into my own shoulder.
I only stumbled for a moment and then was able to mount my horse and go at full gallop toward the west to warn the others, but even then the rumors of war were spreading ahead of me like a torch dropped onto a parched summer’s field, so by the time I neared Bracara I was riding into the mighty storm of dust at the hooves of the Suebi fighters plundering into their newest war which was, for that moment, behind me.
How I wish, at this remembrance, that the ancient truth wasn’t of her heroic death, but that Susannah with the yellow braid was … What have I done? Have I chased an empty, imagined romantic whim from another century only to be reminded that the single shred of reality left of it all is my own grief? And is this instant of grief what we have come all this way in search of?
What can I say to Nic?