Historical setting: 589 C.E. In the Vosges Mountains
I’m listening to Ana tell of her fear.
“I was raped by the pirates because I tried to escape but quickly discovered we were moored at Aletum, an Island; so I was easily captured back. I wasn’t raped because I was alluring. It was a punishment rape, like how ancient wars ended with sodomy. But I did escape on the mainland and there I saw a band of Irish monks who seemed Christian wandering into a wilderness of which they knew nothing.
“They debarked from an Irish ship and started on their journey into the depths of unknown forests looking for Father Columbanus at Annegray. I followed after them, torn and tattered as I was. I’m trained to heal people, so I expected my wounds would heal. But I’m still haunted with terror.
“The monks were all freshly shorn and dressed in their dull robes and like one body together they chanted psalms of thanksgiving for their safe journey. Then they turned toward the wilderness said by rumor to be filled with wild beasts, bears and wolves, even snakes and wild boars. They prayed for fearlessness. I stayed at a distance from them so I wouldn’t be noticed but I chanted the psalms with them, and I prayed with their prayers for courage to continue. They kept telling one another God was with them so no one need fear but I think they felt fear.
“The bruises from the pirates’ fists still blackened my face and I felt like some bloody monster of death. My dress was bloodied even though I’d tried to soak it clean at the briny edge of the sea. The dark stains were deep wounds beneath. I had no mantel to cover the rips in the cloth so my breasts couldn’t be hidden. My attempt to bind the dress as though it were a wound only made it look more revealing. Even these breasts were no longer virgin pure; they were bruised and hurting. I tried to stay a distance not to frighten them, but close enough to be safe and warmed by their fires and prayers.
“While we were still near the briny waters, I caught an eel. I was finding the abundance of the wild autumn harvest but the monks were looking for pots of porridge already made up for them.”
(Continues Tuesday, May 10)