I learned how to read and write, and feel compelled to reveal my secrets in this book. Some of my secrets are confessions because I’m a thief; even the quill I write with is stolen! I wasn’t always this way. I was trying to live as a proper Christian, and wanted to make my parents proud of me. I was never perfect, but everything changed in one horrific day. My downfall was set in motion that day, so I’ll go back and tell you how this all began.
Many already know the events of that fateful day, but I’ve kept my personal experience private. That morning I woke to my mother urging me to get up to help my father at the forge, and she questioned me about why I was out so late the night before. I explained that I was talking with a wayfarer at the tavern, and listened to his stories for hours. It’s true that I lost track of time, just as I told her, but it wasn’t the whole story. The man also offered to sell me some ancient treasure maps he acquired during his adventures. They could’ve been worthless forgeries, but I was fascinated by the offer either way. I stayed late into the night to make the sale.
That day began like any other. I set out to help Father with forging a special sword for Sir Radzig, and had to collect a debt from Kunesh–the town drunkard. It didn’t go well and we fought. I’m proud to say I put up a good fight, but he’s an ox of a man and he beat me until my head was badly wounded. Then I played around with my best mates: Matthew, Fritz and Matthias. At last, I stopped at the tavern and visited my true love, Bianca.
Everyone knows that this was the day when Sigismund’s army of foreign mercenaries attacked Skalitz, ruthlessly slaughtered every poor soul they could, and set the whole town ablaze! I watched in horror as my beautiful Bianca was cut down in the street when she tried to flee from the Tavern. A split second later, my mother screamed and I witnessed both my parents murdered, while I was unable to do a thing to protect my dearest loved ones. People were shouting to get inside the castle for protection and I ran there, but they were closing the gates when I reached it.
I was urged to run toward Talmberg and warn them of the attack. I ran so fast down the hill I almost toppled over and busted my already wounded head, but I managed to stay on my feet. At the base of the hill, I saw a gang of filthy soldiers trying to have their way with Teresa, a girl I knew from around town. I wanted to save someone that day, and I had Sir Radzig’s sword with me, so I ran up behind them and stabbed one in the back. I turned and ran when the gang came after me, and I stole one of their horses to escape. I raced to Talmberg, was shot with a couple arrows by the soldiers pursuing me, and guards on the castle wall shot at the attackers. I told them about the attack while they tended to my injuries.
That night, I was visited by the Lady of the castle–the beautiful and kind Lady Stephanie. She wanted to comfort me and convinced me to talk about the ordeal I’d been through. When she handed me a drink of wine, she lightly touched my hand. There was something purposely intimate about that touch, or at least I felt that way. Perhaps I simply couldn’t bear the touch of another woman after losing my sweetheart, so I told her about Bianca. I had to tell someone. Everyone knew I lost my parents, but I lost everyone that day!
Not long after our talk, I went to help keep watch on the battlements. Thankfully, Sir Radzig passed by the castle in the middle of a storm, and he was leading many survivors from Skalitz. I was relieved and eager to find out who made it out alive, but Sir Radzig insisted that I be confined to the castle in Talmberg when I told him I wanted to return and bury by parents. I couldn’t abide by that of course, so in the morning I mounted the horse I took from the attackers–called Cumans–and rode her over to the drawbridge, then managed to get her to jump down. I raced away and was nearly caught by a guard. He let me go when I told him about my parents.
I continued North and discovered a horrific pile of corpses in front of the church in Rovna, the little settlement near Skalitz. I had nothing, so I looted useful items and coins from the bodies. I hate that I was stealing from dead bodies, but I had to because I needed boots and supplies, and they couldn’t use them anymore. I continued on my way, and the whole road was littered with fallen victims. The horror began to break my spirit and I felt like crying, but there was no time for childish reactions like that. However, I was not prepared for what I saw.
I found Bianca laying in the mud. I fell to my knees beside her and cried. I loved her so much! We were going to marry, but she was taken from me. I carefully removed the ring I gave her. “I’ll keep this with me forever, to remember you always! I’m going to bury my parents, then I’ll come right back for you.”
My ordeal in Skalitz wasn’t over when I found my mother and father. I couldn’t find a spade to dig a grave, and the one living survivor I came across was Zbyshek. He’s always been a thug and a scoundrel, but I caught him trying to loot the butcher’s body and he was none too pleased about it. He had a spade and when I asked to use it, he wanted me to give him the sword. “No, this is the sword my father made for Sir Radzig, and I’m going to bring it to him,” I answered. It made me angry that he wouldn’t just lend the damned thing to me, so I lashed out at him. “You’re a real bastard, Zbyshek, and I’m glad I got to punch your ugly face in yesterday afternoon. Now if you don’t give me that spade, I’ll do it again!”
He gave it over and ran from me, so I got to work digging the grave for my parents under the Linden tree beside our family home. The rain was cold and my heart was broken. I stopped for a moment to catch my breath and mourn. The butcher’s dog came over to me and comforted me when I needed it most. He went with me to finish the job of laying my parents to rest. Before I could lift my father’s body to carry home, I heard someone approaching from behind.
I turned and saw a gang of very sinister looking bandits, and Zbyshek was with them! He pointed at me and said something to the leader of the gang. “What’s going on here?” I questioned. “What did you do, Zbyshek?”
The leader stepped forward and threatened me with a massive spiked club. He wanted Sir Radzig’s sword, but I wasn’t going to give it away! I did my best to fight to keep it, but it only took one swing of that club to knock me down. As I fought to remain conscious, the bastard picked up the sword and taunted me with it. Just as he was about to slay me, a woman shouted and mounted soldiers rushed into town, and then I passed out.
To be continued…
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