Historical setting: 563 C.E., the Inn at Bragda
Back at the inn now, and it’s the disappointment I’d feared. The Rose is not in the stall. Nic’s things are already gone from the loft. The innkeeper says he paid ahead for me and my horse for this night and he will pay more if I need to stay longer. He left no message for me at all. But Nic’s kindness was nearly said to this innkeeper with the same words as in the story Jesus told of the stranger who was rescued by an eternal enemy-Samaritan-“neighbor” whom tradition has renamed as “good.”
With Nic gone from the loft and no other travelers here to offer their peaceful chorus of snores this night is too silent for sleep. The sharp spear of moonlight jabs a path between the loose tiles of the roof and I know I won’t sleep at all.
Dear God, stay near to Nic wherever he has gone. Forgive my wanderings. Amen.
The rising on this new day is muffled by my own sleepless fatigue. There is nothing to drive me to journey except the nothingness of here. I mount my gelding named for the dull color he is, but in that simplicity he offers a wideness of solace; so we set our faces East to follow the river, Umber and I.
I remember this path by the river. It is easily a two-day journey to the villa, but along the way, after the place where all those years ago I passed through the Suebi army on my way back to Bracara with the warning, I found a place where the river slowed and spread to soften the earth for a pasture land of tender grasses. That was where I rested then.
In the days after the raid I followed this trail along the rivers as I am now, to return to the villa, the tabula rasa of a war field.
After that raid when I came back to the ruin I found the full silence of devastation. The gardens were ashes, and the outbuildings gone with wafts of smoke still rising. That last wagon in the flight had no one left to drive it and no beast to pull it. Both the horse and the driver were still in their places stricken by arrows. I buried Susannah, then I buried her father along with his sword in what seemed to me the family burial ground outside the villa. But the woman of the cult Susannah was trying to rescue was not amid the ruins of the wagon. And the villa itself was nearly unscathed.
In the bishop’s telling of the story I learned what I didn’t know then.