#AtoZChallenge: April 25 – V is for Vagabonde

As a small child, she had lost her parents early, in the poor village where she was born, when the famine struck. Since then she had survived, a little tramp, living from begging, from village to village, eating what she found in the forest, or what poor peasants gave her when they took pity on her. Her small body was often cold. She hid at night, from predators and bands of thugs that were ravaging the country, raping and murdering the poor. Now it was war. Vast armies were fighting across the land. People were suffering and dying.

That morning, half starved, she was walking through the woods, when she heard the sound of battle. Slowly, cautiously, she came nearer, perhaps prompted by her deep hunger. She had so little to lose now. A knight was fighting, one against ten, surrounded, holding a sword in each hand. His assailants were huge, ugly people from the hills, armed with axes and long spears. She’d never seen a knight like him, his armour was black, of a thin mail texture she did not recognise, his swords curved and wonderfully decorated, reflecting the morning sun. As she crouched in the low bushes, shivering, he killed four of them, slicing their heads off as if they were of straw. Soon the others were hesitating, circling around him cautiously. She noticed his horse a short distance away, a horse of a sort she’d never seen. The knight decapitated two more bandits, and the others attempted to flee. He was now standing, holding a short thick bow: he killed the rest within seconds, with arrows that appeared made of silver, at a speed she could not comprehend.

He now turned towards her: she was so frightened, had he seen her? Yes he had, and he was walking slowly towards her, she was petrified. The knight was moving silently under the canopy, bare-headed, light reflecting in his dark hair like glass. She had eyes only for him: the shimmer of air around his weapons, an overwhelming sense of power. He now stood above her, her, terrorised, her belly all contracted, her heart beating so fast. Slowly he picked her up, shivering, small tears running down her dirty little face, her thin body shivering. With one hand he pushed her hair back from her face and, holding her in his arms, whistled for his horse. His eyes were of a deep blue, like the water of icy streams.

She had a glimpse of him: the two swords held behind his back, the short bow, a shorter sword on his side: in one swift move he mounted his horse, holding her carefully in front of him in the saddle, his horse waiting for his signal. She felt safe in his arms, suddenly. He gave her a drink from a small bottle: soon she was asleep, a soft doll in rags, ignoring the horse’s gallop through the forest.

She woke up, lying down, near a bright wood fire. A warm blanket around her, a soft pillow behind her head, she saw him: without his armour, he was sitting in front of her, on the other side of the fire, smiling. She saw the big scars on his naked chest, the powerful arms, the beautiful archangel face, the icy eyes. His long black hair was tightened behind his nape. The two swords were next to him, reflecting the flames. He did not say a word, but she heard him. He was telling her his story: the story of a soldier, visiting her world and fighting for justice. He was very old, unfathomably old, and she understood he felt lonely, he could do with a companion. But he wanted to know: would she have him as her guardian, knowing he was merely a soldier of God, in the name of Whom he was fighting, for ever. She cried, and he stood up, came to her, holding a little bowl full of water, to wash her face with infinite tenderness. And then she knew who He was, and she thanked the Lord.

Vagabonde

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