The Abbey is a monastary of sorts — at least for those wishing solitude for contemplation — or a haven from life’s ills. All monastaries are not this, and certainly not in the middle ages. Here is a story from my book “Songs of the Gusari” to enjoy
I half expected the huge iron gate to creak and then clang shut like the door of an ancient keep, but it only whispered in the shadows, until its own long, darkly projected fingers lent stretching texture to the sunlit tile floor. As I turned back to the monk who had gestured me to enter, I listened for the click of a lock — none came; nor did the questions I had expected from my guide, for the silent, robed figure had vanished. Only the fountain remained — majestic in its simplicity, and solidly rooted in the earth. Sanctuary!
I turned to inspect the arboreal portico, the tinkling softness of the falling water calming and nurturing. It took me home to Milan and the University gardens. The massive stones of the walls were rough-hewn but fitted together perfectly in random, yet somehow purposeful fashion. The scent of familiar herbs betrayed the identity of the many small plants surrounding the fountain and the base of the gnarled wisteria that wrestled with the twisted trunk of an ancient Russian Olive tree. The waters of the fountain beckoned, glistening in the late afternoon sun. A slight depression in one of the massive boulders created a waist high pool from which the magic waters seemed to pulse and ebb in rhythm with the throbbing in my temples.
I remember plunging my hand into the tranquil surface and bending to lift the pure drops to parched lips. The face that glowered back at me from the reflecting depths seemed that of a stranger. I drank — and examined the stranger carefully. The three-month growth of beard scarcely hid the scars on chin and cheek from the chase, beating and fall of long ago — decades — only yesterday? It had been a long trip without the Gusari’s mystic footsteps. I closed my eyes against memories pain and drank again — deeply. Open! The terrible visage of my past was still there — I had never looked more fearful, but could not pull away from the reflected gaze. Behind me, the passing crimson clouds were likewise reflected in amazing clarity. Between the two, support beams of the open roof formed a cross behind my head and pressed down — down until each breath became short.
“Come,” said a quiet voice and I was instantly released. The Prelate stood alone by the archway in the northern wall. I was shocked to be in the presence of a Knight of Saint John! No one had told me. Even without the legends and paintings, the commanding presence of the fighting monk alone would have placed him apart from other men. There were others who wore habits of white with brown edges. People of many lands and races had shaved heads and sun-parched skin. But only a Knight of Saint John carried the light of his favor, his God, in a bright yellow cross over his heart and down his robe, looking more like a sword than the crucifix in his belt. The famous Black cross of the Crusades had been replaced by a sign of light and hope. When the priest turned toward the exit, I could see the simple wooden cross stitched into the back of the robe. Just like Kiyan! What is the connection?
I handed him the sealed message which disappeared into a flowing sleeve. I do not know if I was intended to glimpse the small dagger sheathed on his forearm. Had the Gusari trained him, or…
No thanks were given — none expected — this had never happened. “You will have company on the trip down the mountain,” he whispered. “treat them gently. There is much for them to learn.” He genuflected before a crucifix and flickering candle that matched the fading sunset — red and gold and silent and magnificent. I bowed my head. He was gone!