The baby girl was taken far away.=
She was placed in a rectory in some remote hills or northern Khazurkstan to be raised by nuns. An Abbot and a few learned monks would stop by twice a year to check on the child’s health and progress.
The rectory was a respectable size. There were several stone and wood buildings and numerous tunnels underneath and secret passageways behind the walls. The nuns were mostly quiet and the buildings full of empty, lopnely spaces. A somber atmosphere always seemed to fills the air except during sunrise and sunset hymns, which were beautiful and transcendent.
Still, it was a silent and lonenly life for a little girl. Doctors would argue whether such an atmostphere helped drive her insane or whether she was predisposed, on her mother’s side of course, to madness.
The rectory was full of one thing of color: icons.
Icons of saints could be found in every corner and their colorful, sometimes almost cartoonish depictions delighted the little girl. They became her friends, her playmates, her confidants. They kept her company, played games with her, explored the many secret nooks and crannies of the property with her and most interestingly, they taught her things. They taught her all sorts opf things, from theology to reading, to math.
They were as real to the little girl as the nuns and as she grew from toddler to actual girl the nuns could not help but notice she was “touched”, but whether divinely, by madness, or by the Disorderly One they feared to guess.
The Khazurks believed in a Divine duality of Order and Chaos. These were represented as sister gods, Osa and Aza. Osa was the god of Order, of righteousness and light, and it was She they mostly worshiped. Aza was the Nemesis, the god of Chaos, necessary in Her way, but only as servant to Osa. Troubles in the world arose whenever Aza, always jealous of Her sister’s rightful place as ruler and dominant one, attempted all sorts of coups, upsets and act of violation. She was never to be trusted and was only righteous when operating in subservience with Osa’s will.
This is why the little girl’s invisible friends were a problem. Either it was her imagination run wild or she really was seeing entities unseen by anyone else. Neither of these options seemed to smack of Osa’s influence, but felt much more like Aza’s influence, either on her soul or mind.
During the girl’s 6 year she was visited often by the Abbot and his two monks, assessing her mental and spiritual state. Finally, when the girl was seven, she was declared legally insane. This diagnosis was actually a mercy, as being declared spiritually subversive would have been much worse. So they came to take her away.
We need to pause here to mention an important point about the various characters who interacted with the little girl. While she was fond of them all, and they were all quite kind and helpful, she would still lay in her room at night and wish with all her might that her mother might appear. She had no memory of her mother, but longed for her anyway and called out in her mind every single night. She would beg her icon friends to bring her mother to her, but alas, they told her they could not.
Her mother, Danijela, lived far away of course, and ever since the loss of her baby and her husband had carried on as best she could, but always with a broken heart that never healed. When, several years after her baby was taken from her, she began to hear a little girl’s voice every night crying out for her mother, she did not ignore it as fantasy or madness, but took it quite seriously.
She would try to call back to the voice of the little girl, but the voice seemed never to hear her. She consulted village witches, priests and finally ended up in one of the holiest monasteries in the region where the head monk, who many were sure would end up a saint, prayed on it and then told her the voice was indeed from her daughter. Alas, she was far away. He could not say where. She was surrounded by dead saints, for some reason she was a beacon for them, so for that her poor mother could take heart.
Danijela thanked the priest went back home. She lay awake listening to her daughter’s calls night after night and thought and thought.
One day she began a seven day fast and cleansing ritual, the last three days of which she only drank water. She was in church from sun up to sundown. After the seven days, when she was completely cleansed and purified, she went to the hospital. She went into the children’s ward, the room with children dying of consumption. There were ten children there, slowly dying of the tragic illness. She went to the first one’s bed, bent over and kissed the child on the mouth, drawing deeply in, first his breath then his very sickness. After sucking the illness in she stumbled over to the next bed.
She truly, truly meant to attend to all ten beds, all ten children, but she was simply not strong enough. She died after the seventh one. After sucking in the illness, she fell to the bed. She wretched and wretched, vomiting a thick green bile, then collapsed, dying in the puddle of vomit.
Thus it was, that the next night when the girl called out to her mother, her mother finally came to her.
Her mother warned her men were coming to take her away, that she was in great danger and must hide. When the men came to take the girl away to the asylum she could not be found. No amount of scouring the grounds could turn her up. After hours of frustration they left, demanding that when the nuns find her she is to be detained, the authorities notified, and the girl placed where she belongs.
This is how the little girl Dijana came to spend the next seven years as the secret stowaway of the rectory.
She lived in the secret passageways, the stone tunnels, the attics about the grounds. Except for Sister Vesna, none of the sister ever saw her for the next seven years. Never the less, they would leave food and clothes out. They ignored sounds of running water in the washroom and some would sing lullabyes in their empty room at night where faint creeping could almost be heard on the floorboards above. Some would leave or find bracelets and tiaras of flowers in odd places, and many would bring various books to the rectory only to leave them in odd places and never seemed to be bothered that they never saw the books again.
Around the time the girl turned fifteen, a major campaign from a large band of southern Hajduks swept in to Khazurk territory to sack and raze everything in their way. One of these things was the rectory.
While the entire band numbered 150, only 30 were sent to sack the Abbey and take whatever valuables could be found.
It is a certain type of man who smiles lustfully and licks his chops and volunteers to raid a nunnery knowing the special perks such a sack will offer. Most of the 30 were this type of man and the only gifts they brought on their visit to the rectory were brutality and horror. They rode in whooping and laughing, swords drawn, smiles on ther faces.
Debates woud rage in the weeks that followed all the way to the capital city itself, how on earth it was possible for a small, isolated nunnery, full of peaceful women who had mostly been nuns their entire lives, to fight off and smash so efficiently and thoroughly such a band of armed, ruthless, battle hardened men.
This was made more complicated by the nuns’ insistence that they actually did very little. Some outlandish rumors surfaced of some feral child who haunted the nunnery having been the mastermind responsible, but the nuns would tut and shrug and wave their hands at such outlandish tales without ever actually commenting directly on it.
What is clear is that the rectory deployed a number of traps, very ingenious and deadly concoctions, which alone probably felled about 20 of the invaders. There traps however would have been built, meaning the nuns would have to have known the invaders were coming weeks ahead of time. Clearly impossible. Others of the invaders were slain in one to one combat, lured into easily defensible areas and out fought using fighting techniques no nun could possibly be prepared to deploy.
On old priest at the capital upon studying the matter declared it rather interested that all the techniques, from the traps to the probable combat methods all fit the exact description of Saint Evron, a saint from about two centuries earlier who had been a leading general before later in life turning to the church and devoting himself humbly and fully to the will of the gods. The situation at the nunnery looked like someone had certainly studied the general quite thoroughly, almost one would dare say, studied under him directly.
Some months later, the Vizier from Savonija, the very one who features elsewhere in our tale, showed up at the rectory personally. He stayed three days. He sat down with the Mother Superior and had a long, earnest discussion. On the third day he rode off, the girl Dijana with him. She was to be the first in a new, elite Janissary squad he was putting together.
Before he left, the Mother Superior told him in no uncertain terms, that it was wrong to think of the girl as a warrior. She was no such thing. Not truly. She was a new breed of monk, chosen by the gods, a very special piece on their board, although by which god Osa, Aza, or perhaps neither, perhaps another god, it was truly impossible to say.