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Those Were The Years; att. Josema Zamorra
Topic Started: Jun 1 2013, 03:14 PM (742 Views)
Santiago Moreno
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Chago the Mercenary
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[align=center] Date: 27-th of October 1719
Place: Nueva Valencia del Rey, Nueva Granada[/align]


Chago was glad to be home. Pepita had received him warmly. It was clear for her, always perceptive, that he was somehow changed – and she was curious what had happened in the more than eight months he hadn’t been home. He was looking more tired than before, or rather worn out. His eyes were lacking his usual spark; she would say that even his voice had changed inflexions, except the moments when playing with his nephews and nieces. She knew better than to ask it right away, though.

After a first, rudest than ever, protest from him at her usual matchmaking attempts, this time she had understood and stepped back, determined that she would make him tell her what was the matter before he left again. Obviously something had happened, but he was not ready yet to talk about it. Feeding him well, letting him enjoy the children’s company, always glad of his presence, came first.

Chago had the most pleasant surprise though, when he learnt that his brother Josema had left his remote mission in the jungle and he had come to his hometown, right in time for commemorating the Feast of the Dead together. These were the best news! He hadn’t seen Josema for four years. Last time when they had met, Chago had run away from the pirates who had enslaved him, and Josema had barely turned 21, preparing himself for going to a mission. While Josema knew his path and his vocation, Chago, at that moment back in time, was disoriented and still weighing his options.

And how different was it now for Chago, when not work was what troubled him? He was glad to see again his brother, and he was glad to have him around exactly for All Saints’ Day. This year, it meant, for him, not only going to the grave of his mother, father and deceased siblings, filling it with flowers and surrounding it with candles, but also, at the mass, commemorating and praying for the soul of recently departed Hermione. If Josema was the one to do the mass, and to help him do a novena like he intended – besides the one he had prayed alone, with no church around, during the sea crossing – the better… Maybe Josema’s mere presence would show being helpful for Chago’s troubled soul…
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As Josema crossed the familiar front walk, the dust rose to meet the long black of his cassock. The last few days had been dry, but the young priest reminded himself again and again not to worry. He feeds the birds of the air he thought, and for the hundredth time that hour turned his heart and mind back to God.

In his hands he held a rosary, which he had been fingering all the long way up from the central market. He had stopped to talk to two or three villagers on the way, people he had known since childhood, and it was strange to be back in this familiar place, which had grown unfamiliar as well, with all the changes that had gone on since he was last at home here.

When he reached the house, he still had about four beads left. He planned to sit at the table and finish them as soon as he had had a chance to greet his sister. Stepping into the house, he fumbled to open the bag he had brought with him, calling out without looking, "Pepita! It's me. I've brought the bread you asked for from the ma--" But looking up, he stopped there.

He saw that the table was not empty, nor was it Pepita who stood next to it, though just as dear.

Josema's face broke into a smile. "Thanks be to God," he uttered, putting his hands out in welcome. "Chago."

[align=center]This post has been written by EMMA[/align]
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Santiago Moreno
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Chago had heard from Pepita that Josema was back, but right now, the visit came unexpected. He sat up from the table, where he had been given the task to persuade Chonita, his youngest niece, now two years and a half and rather a picky eater, to eat a banana, while Pepita, helped by the older children, was working in the garden.

His sister appreciated Chago’s presence and his love for his nephews and nieces – it meant she could take a little break sometimes from continuously supervising the little ones and focus on other chores. (Well, she appreciated also the fact that Chago was the one paying for the boys’ education too, and now even the youngest one, Pepito, had started school).

He ran to the door, to embrace his youngest brother, with a grin on his face and not intimidated at all by the priestly habit which would have inspired to reverence and sobriety in moves. For Chago, this wasn’t padre Jose Manuel in front of him. He was seeing Josema, his brother, and in this very moment, they were teens again.

”Welcome back, hermanito*! I have missed you a lot! Come on and tell me how is your mission! I am sure Chonita loves hearing stories too.”

Maybe she loved stories about animals and familiar things at her young age, and the older ones would appreciate more Josema’s, but Chago didn’t think this way. He was telling his own stories to her too, in order to make her eat.

The children’s sincere love had always been a balm to his heart.


* Little brother
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Josema came into the room and took a place at the table, picking up Chonita in his arms, and making a face to make her laugh, before setting her down on his knee, bouncing his leg gently, out of habit, though his attention was entirely on his brother and his unexpected appearance.

"The mission is fine," he answered, with a furrowed brow, obviously not interested in discussing this subject right away. There were far more pressing questions than day to day matters. "Chago - what has brought you here? Are you alright? Tell me that, first."


[size0][align=center]This post has been written by EMMA[/align]
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Santiago Moreno
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Chago looked at his brother with a faint smile. He wasn’t smiling as often as before, lately, and usually his widest smiles were reserved for the children. His physical pains, due to the torture, had healed; the soul’s, not yet.

”Well, hermanito, I could ask you the same, since I have been visiting Pepita more often than you could in the latest four years and a half. Where is it better than at home?”

It wasn’t exactly his home, but his sister’s. However, she and Josema were the only family he had, and fortunately he was getting along well with his brother-in-law too. (How would Juanba not receive well the one who was paying for his sons’ education, anyway?)

Nevertheless, he was not going to lie Josema, if he was feeling that something was off. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have inquired first if he was allright.

”I don’t think I am, lately, but this is a long story which I am not sure where to start from, and if to tell it to you under the secret of confession, so that I could receive from you both a brotherly and a priestly advice, or only like I have told you everything in our young years. It is clear to me, though, that no other priest than you would ever hear it. And also the fact that I would need you to pray, the upcoming days, at the mass for the rest of the departed souls, for someone whose tormented soul needs all the prayers. Maybe we’ll pray together a novena too.”

There would have been only one other priest in this world to whom he would have dared confessing everything now, without fear of being judged severely, but that one was across the ocean, in Compostela… if still alive, as he had been old nine years ago, during Chago’s pilgrimage. He had succeeded to keep the nightmares and the guilt off regarding the pacifying mission in the jungle which had determined him to cross the ocean.

He met Josema’s eyes, and grief was obvious in his own gaze.
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Josema recognized the sadness in his brother's smile right away and knew this could only be serious. There was something different in his face today, something afraid of brokenness. He directed to Chago all his attention as he spoke.

In response to his brother's answer about coming home, Josema outstretched his hand across the table in offer to take Chago's own as a welcome back. He understood the special appeal of returning to a familiar place where you knew you were loved and cared for.

"Speak in whatever context you wish," he offered softly once he was back in front of Chago, taking his hand again. "Tell whatever's in your heart. Perhaps you would rather be outside in the garden?"

[align=center]This post has been written by EMMA[/align]
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Santiago Moreno
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Chago smiled alleviated.

”Yes, the garden might be a good idea.”

It meant that Chonita would play with Pepito, and he could have the needed privacy with Josema. Chago had nothing against having an eye on her though. Only that he knew from his previous experience with his nephews that they kept in their memory parts of discussions, distorted upon their understanding, and prone to be said back in the most unexpected moments and to the people it was least intended for to hear.

He followed his brother, then he made sure that Chonita got to be with the other children, under Pepita’s supervision.

”She ate the whole fruit, bit by bit,” he explained her that he had done his duty of a loving uncle.

Then, once alone with Josema, he looked at him and sighed.

”I want to tell you so many things that nobody else knows or should know... and my heart is so full that I am not sure where to start from. From the fact that I am not exactly the sailor Pepita knows me as? I was one, it is true...but when we had met latest, after I succeeded to run away from the pirates... I couldn’t go back to be a sailor again. It was too fresh... and too prone to meet again my enemies. How I couldn’t get back to the army either, after so many years, as the only survivor of that ship... I did what I could do best. I became a mercenary. In these four years, I have saved kidnapped women and children and I have killed enough villains, both on the continent and in the islands belonging to all countries. I hunted pirates, catching the captain who had sunk the Morning Star. I always chose my missions, I never accepted anything which didn’t feel right.”

Well, this was a start. And if Josema wasn’t shocked enough, he would be for the second part of his confession.

”This was necessary for you to know, in order to understand that I have been roaming all the West Indies, under a Venetian name where a Spanish one wasn’t recommendable. And one day in Kingston, I fell in love with a woman named Hermione. This meant that I went to Kingston a few more times, only to see her. I didn’t know she was married; she didn’t know I was Spanish. Bad luck, and one day in August everything got revealed. There was a Venetian woman in Kingston; Hermione thought I’d like to meet a compatriot. I got busted that I didn’t speak Venetian, and she got greeted as Mrs. Sledge. We confessed the truth to each other and we accepted each other how we were; only that we had an unknown witness to the first scene, who denounced me to the authorities as being a Spanish spy. Soldiers came to arrest us all three. Hermione got out of prison, I was tortured to tell everything they wanted me to confess."

It pained him to talk about it, as if reliving again those damn days. When arriving to the torture, he unfastened the string of his shirt and let his brother see some of the scars. But he had to continue... up to the novena, so he gave the briefest summary possible:

"Hermione, once freed, called to my help the only one who could guarrantee that I was not a spy, and I got released. Then, after I left, feverish and in pain, they emprisoned her again, out of spite, and killed her instead of me. So I have her on my conscience.”

Tears came to his eyes... and he couldn't say anything anymore until swallowing them.
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Josema felt his jaw start to go slack as his brother spoke, but caught himself and schooled his expression into that of thoughtful consideration, one he had mastered in his time training to be a priest. His brother was a mercenary. One that made his living killing others. The fact that he did so in order to save children and women helped soothe his mind a bit, but not nearly enough. His thoughts continued to reel as Chago went on, though Josema's expression remained in its thoughtful posture.

When his brother finished speaking, Josema took a few moments to gather his thoughts. "I... understand why you took a Venetian name. Even thought lying is against His word, not all of God's creatures acknowledge him or follow his teachings of love and mercy to all of his children. You had to do it in order to survive amongst them." He took a deep breath and looked into his brother's eyes. It pained him to see Chago's eyes filled with tears. He leaned forward and gripped Chago's shoulder while he wiped away a tear with his other hand.

"Love is not a sin, though we are guided to pursue only those not already in wedlock..." He gave his brother a faint smile, "Still, you were both led under false pretenses, I know these things happen. I may be a priest, but I have not lived with my eyes closed." He inspected his brother's scars, his face blank. He pressed his forehead against Chago's and said, "Hermione's undoing was not because of you. The Lord has his own plans for his children, plans that you nor I can fathom. Perhaps he desired her company in Heaven or perhaps he took her as a test of your faith. Whatever the reason, it does not matter. All we can do now is ask that he keep her close and watch over her."

[align=center]This post has been written by Thomas[/align]
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Santiago Moreno
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Chago breathed a little alleviated when his brother didn’t seem as shocked as he might have been. Well, he sort of understood that a priest had to listen to various confessions, so he might have heard worse things and he might have learnt to keep his composure exactly how Chago had learnt it from another perspective, of the gambler and mercenary.

If Josema was of the principle to condemn the sin, not the sinner, he had known other priests who preferred to condemn the sinner louder than the sin. Fortunately, his brother wasn’t this kind. His words were comforting and understanding. Had he shown disgust and scolded Chago for it, the older brother would have asked humblely for penance and forgiveness, not holding it against Josema. He was right, he was the voice of God.

”Thank you for your understanding,” he said, deeply moved, and resisting the impulse to add his usual caress for the younger, hermanito.

Yes, they were brothers, but now he was speaking with him in both perspectives, of beloved sibling and priest. And he was glad that he had got an idea of what he had been through, and he didn’t ask more.

”Yes, indeed. I had to, where the laws of war wouldn’t have allowed the access of a Spanish citizen.”

He met Josema’s gaze, only sadness and confusion in his own. Definitely not exactly the same gaze his siblings knew. The grip on his shoulder, and the delicate wiping of his tear, made him smile embarrasedly:

”Be sure that you are the only one to have seen my weakness,” he whispered.

Men didn’t cry. He sort of didn’t either. But he had been to hell and back, which had affected him even before knowing that, unlike Orpheus, he had the bad luck to have returned without Eurydice.

”I know, Josema, and, as far as I knew, I had kept myself away from married women. I think, if I knew from the start, I wouldn’t allow myself... but I guess this was our destiny. To meet in a church, to live intensely, to be separated, then reunited again, then separated for good, by death… To know how it would have been to live in a different time, just to understand what I am missing,” he said on a resigned, sorrowful tone.

Josema’s words were wise and comforting, and their foreheads gathered together, like when they were little boys.

”I have thought at it as a test of my faith. He gave me strength not to be broken under torture, He sent Hermione to the right person to save me... then He claimed her. And yes, thank you, I would love praying with you the novena for the rest of the departed. I had done it, by myself, until now, since I learnt the sad news.”
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It wasn’t easy for Josema to be so accepting. Still, it was not a stranger in front of him; it was his own brother, a brother he loved and whom he wanted not only to comfort, but also to show the right way now, when he had obviously been led into temptation. Of course he understood some things, and he accepted as such what he couldn’t understand. Flaming against the past errors would do no good. He had got a part of the punishment already, and it was up to God to judge him, not to a man. Praying and showing kindness were the only solutions for now, because a healing soul was open for God’s work. And Chago’s words told him clearly that he hadn’t done anything with evil intentions.

When Chago apologized for the expression of his feelings, Josema smiled back, answering on a low, kind tone:

”I haven’t seen anything. Only God above us had been witness of what you have said now. Yes, I want to know more about the way you are thinking, I want to understand you better. And I will be praying with you, starting today.”

He further listened to how Chago had seen everything as a test of his faith.

”Most likely you are right. It was a test, and a way of showing Lord’s plan for you. For now, anything you feel like telling me, you may tell it sub rosa, under the secret of holy confession. I am ready to listen.”

Josema was ready to ease Chago’s load as much as possible. The carefree years of childhood and early teens were far behind them. They had grown up, each one taking a different path. Nevertheless, they have met again, and Josema hoped to be able to offer what his brother needed now the most: comfort, advice, prayer and, maybe, God’s absolution.

[align=center] – THE END – [/align]
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