Anno Domini 1229

"...are demons of the utmost cruelty which torture anyone who cometh to this diabolical place with red hot irons and their sharp claws, poisoned with the poison of the devil himself."

The Monks walking across the market place of the city of Danzig, some praying quietly, some preaching to the crowd definitely not quietly, had everybody's attention.

"Thou should gratefully give thanks to God," continued the main preacher, at which the listeners hastily crossed themselves, "that thou are of God's elect who have the chance to be granted entry into the bliss of paradise when the time for thee has come. Of course," he continued, remembering something,"thou might not be welcomed by St. Peter if thou has not proven yourself one of those worthy Christians, who give generously unto the poor and the church, but, thou are, at least, to be considered for eternal bliss."

His face darkened.

"There are those, however, who refuse to bend their knees before his Holiness the Pope and our Lord Jesus Christ. There are those who persist in worshiping the golden calf, thereby not only endangering their own souls, the fools, but insulting God and ourselves, his faithful children."

The preacher raised a hand, threateningly. "Not more than twenty miles away they are, beyond the safe borders of the Holy Roman Empire: the heathens, the foes of God, and yet, what, what does our Emperor Frederick II do? What do we do? Do we storm their lands? Do we force them to accept the only true faith? Do we spread the word of the Lord, as St Paul and St Peter did? No! We stay here and do nothing. That cannot be!"

Now the preacher raised both hands to heaven, and then folded them. "Join me, my faithful brothers in Christendom, join me in my prayer that one will come and make the heathens see the light of God."

Satisfied, the monk watched as all passers-by stopped and put their hands together to pray. Yet then the preacher noticed one man, whose behavior made his brow furrow. It was not so much that the man had not raised his hands in prayer. In fact, the man was standing with his back to the preacher, so he could not actually see whether his hands were raised or not, but the mere fact that he had his back turned on a religious sermon, preferring instead to talk to a merchant behind his stall, pointed to a certain lack of religious interest.

"My good friend," the monk called out, stepping forward and tapping the uninterested man on the shoulder, "will you not cast aside worldly matters for a while? Will you not turn around and pray with all the rest of us for the conversion of all who do not believe in the one, true God to the only true faith?"

At this, the merchant behind the stall suddenly had a fit of hilarity totally inappropriate, considering the serious matter at hand and the pious atmosphere. As the merchant ducked out of sight, giggling, the monk shot him an angry look and only then returned his gaze to the merchant's customer, who by then had turned around.

"Now, as I said, will you pray with us for the conversion of all who do not believe in the one, true God to the only true fai-"

He stopped. He was looking into a very bright smile. The smile was so bright because the rest of the man's face in front of the monk was not. In fact it was dark. Darker than dark. There were several other aspects to it, such as the round form, the long nose in the center, the warm, golden-brown eyes or the high hairline of the curly black hair in danger of early extinction, but at the moment the monk was not paying attention to those.

"Gladly", the stranger answered in an accent telling of cypresses and the hot desert sun. "I only thought that you might not be very pleased."

"Begone, accursed infidel!"

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