BROTHER ZOTIKOS WAS WORRIED ABOUT THE monastery’s cow. They had only one at the moment, because the older cow had died during the winter. The surviving cow was with calf, and she had been restless all afternoon. So when the other eight monks retired to the dormitory after vespers, Brother Zotikos went out to the barn. The fieldstone structure sat farther down the steep slope from the church, crouching against the eastern wall of the complex, so Zotikos took a brass oil lamp to light his way. He set the lamp carefully on the flagstone porch to the barn. (Too many fires had been caused by knocked-over lamps in barns . . .) Just as he was about to step inside, he heard a noise beyond the wall that made him freeze.
“Help!” someone called in a faint, breathless, but desperate voice. “Help!”
Brother Zotikos was in his early twenties, of burly build and robust health. He had joined the monastery two years earlier, but before that he had helped his father in their cooperage. He didn’t hesitate a moment. He ran to open the gate that gave access to the rugged track leading down to the main road from Kyrenia to Karpasia.
The gate was barred by a heavy timber beam, but Brother Zotikos lifted this clear of the supports and opened the gate. The youth who had been leaning against it fell inside, collapsing to the ground at his feet. “Help!” he repeated.
Brother Zotikos bent over him. The youth looked healthy, but he was hardly able to speak for breathing so heavily. He had apparently run up the steep hill from the coastal road. “They’re slaughtering us!” he gasped out, dragging himself upright by grasping Brother Zotikos’ legs and black cassock. “My dad—he sent me—to fetch—help!”
“Who is slaughtering you?” Brother Zotikos asked as he helped the youth up. He recognized him as Lakis, the younger son of the miller at the foot of the gorge.
“Franks! Lusignan’s wolves!”
“But why? That’s—” Brother Zotikos cut himself off. What was the point of protesting or questioning? The youth was clearly terrified, and something had to be happening to make him so. But they were just four servants, two shepherds, nine monks, and the abbot. Furthermore, except for himself and Brother Athanasios, the monks and servants were elderly, not to say feeble.
Lakis misunderstood his hesitation and gasped out: “They set fire to the oil press! If you don’t believe me, come and see!”
Yanking hard on Brother Zotikos’ hand, Lakis pulled him out of the walled compound and along the stony path that zigzagged steeply down the slope. At the first bend, a view opened up of the gorge falling sharply northeast to the fishing village that sat below the monastery on the coast. Brother Zotikos gasped. It wasn’t just one building that was on fire, but a half-dozen. The smell of smoke was in the air and his hair stood up on the back of his neck as a faint, high-pitched scream reached him on the breeze. It was a woman’s scream, and it made his blood run cold.
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