Once they were out of earshot of the cluster of listeners at the church, Father Bogdan turned to Svetlana, his eyebrows raised in enquiry.
"Father Yefim spoke of you very fondly. The whole village holds you in high regard. Why is this?"
"Well, Father, it began with my birth. You see, my mother had very little pain in giving birth to me, which is unusual for someone of her lithe frame. Her emotions remained fairly level during the pregnancy and when the time came for me to emerge not only did I slip out easily, I also came out clean. My mother has had five children before me and three after and she maintains that mine was the easiest birth she could ever hope for." Svetlana paused for a moment, in thought.
"You say it began with your birth, is there more?"
"Yes Father. Only, I am shocked you have not noticed."
"My eyes are weak, child, God has seen fit to punish me for my past deeds by removing part of my sight."
"May you return to God and your sight return to you."
"Thank you, child. Now, the tale."
"Yes Father. You know, of course, that upon birth babies' eyes are blue as the sky, yes?"
"When my eyes began to change, when they became their true colour, they did something the like of which no one had ever before seen. My left eye is blue as the sky, as it was in my birth. However, my right eye, is as green as the grass underneath our feet. At first, the villagers were shocked and, taking me for a demon, dragged me from my mother's arms and took me to Father Yefim, demanding to be rid of me. Father Yefim elected to keep me in the church for the night and watch over me, to see whether my nature was truly of Lucifer. After that night, he concluded that I was blessed by God. I do not know why he drew this conclusion, but I do know that Father Yefim is trusted by the villagers and once they had calmed they looked upon me and saw me as holy. Since then, I have been a second representative of God to them."
"Child, tell me, do you think yourself holy?" Svetlana pondered the question.
"I believe that we all have our role within God's kingdom. Some are set to be builders, some farmers, some wives and mothers and some never make it past childhood but they all have a purpose. If God's purpose for me is that I shall be close to him and spread his love, then I shall gladly fulfil that purpose."
"You are indeed fit for the cloth, child though you may be and I shall see to it that you are ordained as soon as possible."
"Thank you, Father. This means so much to me, to be able to serve God and speak his words. Thank you." "No, child, thank God. He sent me to you for this reason."
As they walked on, Svetlana talked of the village and the villagers, of old ties and old enemies and of new bonds and new rivals, of the social structure of the village and of the outlook on life of all within it. She found herself talking endlessly, pausing only to catch her breath and to allow Father Bogdan to ask questions or nod that he understood. He was so easy to talk to. She couldn't believe she had judged him by his appearance. She vowed to repent for her grave sin that night.
In the evening, she sat with Father Bogdan and Father Yefim in the church and prayed to God and the Virgin Mary. Then they sat, Father Bogdan on a pew, Svetlana at his feet and Father Yefim fetching juice and bread and cheese. Svetlana offered to help but he refused. She was slightly puzzled at this arrangement, particularly when Father Bogdan began to tell tales of his youth. He described awful sins, profanities, thieving, even sometimes hurting people. There was a huge sadness in his eyes as he spoke of these times, as though he was weighed down by his misdeeds. Svetlana found herself drawn to this sadness, wishing she could comfort him.
"One day I woke up and my vision was a little dimmer round the edges. Colours weren't as vivid anymore and distant objects blurred together. Panicked, I went to every doctor and alchemist I could before finally a priest visited me. Father Rodion, God bless his soul. He showed me that it was my sins that had condemned me. Thus I set out on a pilgrimage, to atone for my sins and to spread the word of God. At first I thought that it was the large cities that were rife with corruption, however I now know that smaller communities, communities cut off from others, can become twisted in their isolation beyond what any city can in their business. Cities have all manner of people cramped in a small place, you see and everyone shouts and rants about everyone else, so it's a diverse community. Little villages, like this? One person can influence everyone's views with just a few words. Take your case: if not for the words of Father Yefim, you may not have been alive today. Nothing like that happens in a city. It's a place full of deceit and corruption but everybody knows that and everybody knows what corruption to expect. Out here, where there is no noise to prevent you from thinking too much, people begin to think strange things. I am so old now, so very old, my dear child and I have seen so very much. I warn you, do not take the task of God lightly. I have seen things, things no one should ever have to see. But I have endured. I have endured thus far and my journey is not over yet. I shall not rest in my grave until my task is complete or someone has taken over the task for me."
"Task? Father, what task do you speak of?"
"The task to make every person on this Earth a child of God. To lift the sinners from Lucifer and send them to heaven. I know it is impossible in one lifetime child, but now there is your lifetime as well as mine."
"This is a noble task, Father. I should be glad to assist you in it."
"Blessed child, you are so innocent. I hope you keep your innocence, for your sake."
So it was that Svetlana fond herself leaving the only place she had ever known and venturing out into the wide world. Father Bogdan taught her many things, wild plants which were safe to eat and wild plants which were not. How to find water, how to set traps, how to find good shelter for the night. All the while they discussed the nature of people, of different kinds of people and how they reacted to different environments. After a few days of straight travelling, they arrived at the next village. The people were welcoming and kind. They provided them with shelter for the night and food and drink. Father Bogdan introduced Svetlana as his disciple, with the instruction to keep her head bowed. He gave a sermon at their church. They had two resident priests, both of whom took to Svetlana instantaneously and exchanged with her interpretations of certain passages. They were enthralled to discover that she knew most of the Holy Bible by heart. The village seemed to be normal, happy and healthy and the two left there feeling pleased. They passed through two more settlements pleasantly and found that they were making good progress.