Clack, clack, clack, clack.
The world around you rumbles and shakes along to the frenzied cadence of a horse being pushed to its limit. A hooded oil lamp clacks discordantly against a carriage wall and struggles to cast light down a ragged country road, assisted only by the subtle glow of a crescent moon hanging high in the night sky.
A man whips the animal in a futile bid to coax the creature into quickening its pace. Beside him a woman is screaming with the manic energy of the broken hearted. You have no real idea of what is happening because you are just an infant, and the world is confusing and strange.
“Please!” The woman cries against the wind and over the creaking and calmour of the cart as it flies down the dark road. Between sobs she paws at the man and shakes uncontrollably. Although you don’t know what her words mean, you recognize the voice of your mother and you instinctively fear her pleading tone.
The man stays silent aside from an angry “Geddup!” as he cracks the whip again, venting his own fear and anger onto the poor animal.
“No!” Your mother cries. Again and again. “No! Please no!” Tears and mucus run down the woman’s face as she writhes in the misery only a powerless mother can know. You shake in her arms, swaddled in a bundle of white cloth. The carriage, a simple cart belonging to a simple farmer, bounces and moans as the horse that draws it flees from the stings upon its back.
Time doesn’t mean anything to you yet, and the terror you feel radiating off of your mother occupies all of your simple thoughts until you are lurched forward violently as the driver, your father yanks hard on the reins and the horse skids to a exhausted stop with a terrified, screaming bray. You hear a heavy thump upon the ground and the cart, relieved of some of its weight, shifts.
“No… no no no no no!” Your mother desperately pleads as she tightens her grip upon you and shrinks to the side of the cart.
“Give him here!” Your father growls.
You feel a pair of rough hands grab hold of you and tear you away from your mother without a hint of gentleness. Crunching feet upon gravel… you feel the chilly night air invade your swaddle, leeching the comforting heat of your mother’s body away from you for the final time of your life. You are deposited roughly upon the ground, and with your little limbs paralyzed inside your tight cloth bundle, all you can do is stare upward at the starry sky framing your father's severe face and wonder at the strangeness of tonight. Your father stares down at you for a long moment. You don’t understand the look on his weathered features, but it’s uncomfortable. The poor farmer purses his lips and turns away. You hear the crunch of his feet upon the road again… getting more distant with each step. A grunt... the crack of the whip. You lay where you are and listen to the fading sounds of wagon wheels punctuated by the incoherent screaming of a broken woman.
The night becomes peaceful as the wagon retreats into the darkness. The screaming and banging is replaced by a steady chorus of nocturnal insects and the rush of a gentle breeze.
You hear another noise. Very close, but you can’t turn your head to look. First the sharp click of metal drawn across metal, and then a deep creaking. Light fills your vision as a stranger appears above you holding a thick wax candle.
“What have w….” The stranger starts with a smile, but the smile fades as soon as he gets a good look at you. He turns away quickly in a flurry of thick brown robes. Before long he returns, this time with two others.
“By all the saints and prophets….” One of them says.
“This can’t be the work of the saints.” Comes the reply.
“What do we do with it?”
The three men stand around you, quiet in contemplation.
“We will show compassion, brother.” says one, breaking the silence. The one who says this picks you up and cradles you in his arms. “We will do what we do with any lost child: Warm up some colostrum and prepare a crib.” The kindly man smiles cautiously at you. “Fear not little one, you will be safe here. I am brother Keegan and you will be called Lisias.”
You wake up as you do any other day. On a hard mattress in a small, cold room with sheets that are too thin.
You’ve been living in the monastery of St. Hector ever since you were abandoned here by your parents four years ago. The monastery is a self-contained community of several thousand monks who are mostly farmers and gardeners, though many professions are represented by at least one monk, even if only in an artisanal way.
The monks have taught you how to talk, how to walk, how to pray, how to say thank you and how to humble yourself before the gods. There are a handful of other orphans here, some close to your age, others not. You scare the other children... in no small part due to certain senior monks telling them that you are soulless and cursed. The children often make a show of keeping away from you during play time or pointing warding gestures in your direction when the older monks aren’t looking. Your life is a lonely one. The only friend you have is brother Keegan who was among those that found you on the threshold of the monastery and who seems to have a particular soft spot for you, and while at least you have him, it isn’t the same as having a friend your own age that you could play with.
There is a knocking upon your door that immediately dispels any hope you had of getting more rest. Irregular. It’s still too early for prayers, and even if it weren’t, you’re always called out of bed by the morning bell. Who could it be?