Chapter 3 - Silk Road
I strongly recall a BLACK-FLOWERED PLANT tucked to the base of a huge standing stone. I was fascinated and reached to examine it. In the full light of day, among the mass of stones, walled in with rocks, and covered with an iron grating near the massacre arch. Along with the ruins under the blue heavens, I had been making my way to the tower. Vines in cupola shapes grip the thick walls. I gradually became aware of a HUMMING, like a beehive was inside a vacuum cleaner.
I looked around and zeroed in on the source, it was the touchstone at the apex of the arch. I peered above me to where the humming was the loudest, and I needed to touch it. I stood there for a moment until I touched the lower arch and the STONES SCREAMED. It was a natural, worldly scream from the world. The world began to vibrate in my perception, as my senses suddenly aware of sound and movement not normally perceived in the natural world.
All around me, SOUNDS of BATTLE emanated from the other stones on the hilltop: screaming men, terrified horses, the clang of weapons. I was lost in memories and wrestling my thoughts when light overpowered me. As if it was liquid poured on me.
When I staggered to my feet, I shook my head in vain to clear it. The cacophony grows more intense and my vision blurred as I stumbled forward, trying to find escape in any direction. My uncertain footsteps took me to the opposite archway stones and I reached out with a hand once more -- and the world kidnapped me.
As the rescuing ladies stood with me, I came to realize that I felt faint. Something didn’t feel right. My eyes left the horizon for a moment when the world is burst with white noise and dark light, then -- Quiet.
When I awoke I took stock of myself. I noticed fading rash hatching along my legs and my arms. I didn’t seem worse for wear save for my dry cotton-mouth and hunger warring in my belly. I wondered how long I was out for, so I looked about my surroundings. A wooden nailed door not particularly well-fitting hung on iron pintels set into the stonework. The gloomy room was ill-lit with a fat candle flickering flame. My eyes adjusted enough to notice that the surface I lied on was a wood board on top of large stones. The blanket was wool and deep brown in color.
I thought to myself, Am I in the castle?
There was an earthware bowl with bug-infested food. I choose not to consume that unless I have no other choice.
I felt the wall of stones, feeling the cool surface, and felt the slick condensation. It reminded me how thirsty I was.
On wobbly feet, I stood and moved to the door. I exited into a tight corridor. I did not see anyone, nor could I tell what time of day it was. I made my way in search of someone with any answers. Feeling shaky and out of my element, I took a few steps, reeling slightly. I put out a hand to steady myself.
Suddenly, a man came around a blind corner. His long hair tied back with a leather thong, his skin deeply tanned, and roughness about his features. He looks at me with a searching, piercing gaze. I glance to see he wears a blue tunic with a scarlet sash around his hips. Uniform. I thought. He stared at me blankly.
Behind him were three women.
Lady of the Castle, Agnes led them. Her braided hair sweeps down to her hips. A long dress with orange and pink hues smoothly blending. It fit close to her body, with full skirts, and long flaring sleeves. Her shoes were hidden under the outfit, but it could not hide the authentic smile on her face. She was small and lean with strength in her and smooth hands.
Head Chef, Aythe two steps behind Lady Agnes. Her round face gave strong context to the “never trust a skinny cook” idiom. Her hawkish nose gave way to thin lips but beautifully plain. Aythe carried a tray of cold cuts and a steamy beverage. Her apron shouted that it was well-used. There seemed to be enough spice and butter there to make a few cupcakes from scratch. Chef Aythe had the authority of the wooden spoon and her confidence screamed out to piss off the cook.
The final woman had to be coaxed by Lady Agnes to come in the room with us. She was modestly dressed in a tan, draped wool robe with an orange-red stripe over each breast and closed over her cleavage. She has dark brown unruly curls cascading over her features and soft brown doe eyes, with lightly freckled cheeks. Her Spanish heritage was evident in her physique despite her subservience. I noted a fierce personality when a clear, flash of electricity between us. She was petite compared to the two other ladies, but her calloused hands told volumes of her life.
Sancha had no surname, or at the least, she refused to share it. A fresh breeze chilled her skin.
The unpleasant smell of a cesspool wafted in. She put a hand to her mouth. We all did, wrinkling our noses. We could taste it on our tongues. The uniformed man grabbed two seconds to peek at the window slit as if to plug it. His sheer will work as the ghastly scent wafted away as the breeze changed direction.
Lady Agnes spoke to me, but thoughts had switched from the damp chill and fading injuries to dance between food and sex. I reminded myself I am a married man. If I could practice abstinence for all my deployments so I would return with a pure heart, I can do that until I figure out where I’m at and return to my cheating wife.
Lady Agnes spoke what sounded like a Germanic language. I was woefully ignorant of the language. She pantomimed eating. Universal gestures must translate the world. I’ve done the same actions to local peoples wherever I traveled.
I ate the meat off Chef Aythe wooden tray. Cold smoked to perfection. I didn’t realize my starvation until my stomach gave a prayer of thanks. I drank from the clay mug liquid heat. A yellow broth with a hint of spice soothed my parched system.
I thanked the women with a nod and a small belch. Chef Aythe wore an expression of smugness well-earned. I would bet a year’s salary she’d destroy any competition easily in her kitchen.
The Lady of the castle motioned for the Spanish lass to come forward. Despite her kind and compassionate disposition, the woman kept her eyes lowered from directly looking into mine. I wondered what that was about, but she listened to Lady Agnes speak for a few moments then turned to relay to me. It sounded Latin based, her words. Placing her features and romantic words, I guessed it was a Spanish dialect. Thankfully for my forced learned Latin in my unruly youth, I was able to decipher a few keywords.
It took me longer to interpret in my mind the gentle, but sane questions.
Who was I? Where had I come from? Why was I naked?
Common sense questions anyone would inquire of a stranger like myself. I hoped my Latin wasn’t as bad I knew it to be, so I keep my answers simple.
My name is Michael. I was traveling. I don’t know.
It took longer for her to figure my words. But her quick, insightful mind figured it out. Her eyes lit up with comprehension. She translated back my words then introduced themselves.
Lady Agnes. Guard Sighard. Aythe the cook.
Lady Agnes waved her hand to our interpreter and she spoke her name. Sancha.
Where had I come from? Was it the Silk Road?
I was stumped. I had not heard the phrase "Silk Road" since my younger days of sleeping in history class. My expression gave away my thoughts. Thankfully they thought I was confused by the questions. My mind spun quickly and on instinct I said,
Yes. I came by the Silk Road.
They grew at ease, but inside myself, I was a knot of anxiety.
Where... no.. when was I? What the hell happened?
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