They are coming.
The messenger rode in fast, early this morning and the villagers know the invaders will be here in a few hours. Men and boys spread out all over the countryside to sound their warning. The people are fleeing – into the woods, the wild country, anywhere to escape this season’s attacks. We, who are left in the church, pray that none of our people will run into war parties as the invaders sweep across the land.
This place is our home, and we will only leave it at the last minute. It is perilous to stay and protect it. We have heard, and some of us have seen in past summers, what the invaders do to the villages they overcome. They show no mercy. Homes and crops are burned. Men and boys slaughtered. Women are raped and young girls taken captive. We pray every day for those who have been taken. Their fate is the worst of all. The marauders drive off the animals; take whatever possessions they want; and set the torch to all the rest. There is nothing left.
Brother Osmond has been tasked with a heavy responsibility. The Father Abbot has instructed him to take the monastery’s treasure into the woods and hide it there under good soil, and cover it with leaves and moss. Then he is to return to us. We pray that it will be kept safe until we can recover it and restore it to its rightful place in the altar of our church. For whatever happens this day, we believe that we will rebuild. This church is God’s church and nothing will stand against it.
So Osmond broke open the vault beneath the altar and lifted out the jar hidden inside. He handled it with great care for he was the first to touch it in decades. We watched him run into the woods, fear giving him speed that was born of desperation. He was aware of the smoke above the horizon.
Although we wait until the last possible moment he does not return and we fear for his life and for the treasure he carried. We pray for rest for his soul – and for all the others who will be killed this day. We pray for the safety of the treasure that it may fall into the right hands in God’s time.