Svetlana made her way to the village church, greeting the villagers as she went with a smile and a
As she neared the church, she was bewildered to view a curious congregation. Vasili, a hulking man with no family to speak of, Ekatarina, a girl a little younger than Svetlana, Larisa, Svetlana's elder sister who hardly went to church without her. There were more, too, people who usually didn't have much to do with one another, all huddled around the entrance to the church, whispering.
"Svetlana," Larisa called, "Come here."
"Whatever is going on, Sestra?"
"There is a new arrival."
"A new arrival? Here?"
"Yes, a priest. He says he is on a pilgrimage, trying to stamp out sin and corruption in small villages. Perhaps he could take you under his wing."
"Do you really think so?" Svetlana's eyes lit up at a chance to be rid of the demon and return to God.
"Of course, God sent him to us for a reason."
"Is he in conference with Father Yefim?"
"Yes, he wishes to speak with him of the village and its customs, as well as the nature of individual villagers no doubt."
"What does he look like?"
"He is a thin, balding man, with kind eyes."
"What does he feel like?"
"I don't know, I haven't touched him."
"No, I mean, does he feel kind and gentle or harsh and brutal or calm and commanding, that sort of feeling? How does he make you feel when you're around him?"
"Oh, that sort of feeling. I suppose he makes me feel humble. Humble and trusting. I know I would trust him with anything he may ask for."
"He sounds truly amazing."
"I hope he recognises you for the svyatoy you are."
"I am no saint, Sestra, I merely carry out God's will."
"Only a true svyatoy would deny being one."
"You are incorrigibly devoted to me, Sestra."
"Of course, svyatoy." The two giggled.
All of a sudden, there resounded a great crash as the doors to the church were flung open with force. Out strode what could only have been the visiting priest. He was as Larisa had described, except not. Oh, he was thin, but too thin, skeletal and his skin was stretched taut. He was balding, but what remained of his hair was in random patches, sticking in tufts from his scalp as though they were straining to reach the heavens. His eyes were kind, but they were overshadowed by thunderous eyebrows that gave him a cruel look. Svetlana certainly felt humbled, but not in that she was in the presence of someone holy, no, he felt more like a tyrant, someone who would command her and she would obey him or face dire consequences. Trusting was the wrong word. She felt as though she would tell him anything, but only because she would be afraid of the consequences if she didn't. This priest was nothing like how she had imagined. Even so, God sent him here, so God must have plans for him. Svetlana stepped forward, trying to give off an atmosphere of calm and confidence.
"Hello, Father. We humbly welcome you to our village. Ask and we shall provide. You are our guest here."
"Hello, child. I thank you. But, without meaning to sound rude, what authority do you have here?" The priest's manner of speaking assured her that his outward appearance, though unpleasant, hid someone civilised and gentle.
"Svetlana, born to the mother that bore me, has been blessed by God." Larisa stepped in with a smile."
"Now, Sestra, stop that." Svetlana commanded, not unkindly, then turning to address the priest, "I am not blessed. I am merely a child of God, as are we all."
"My name is Father Bogdan. Svetlana, yes?"
"No, although some day I should like to take up the cloth." "Show me the village, perhaps introduce me to some of the villagers and let us talk." "Yes, Father."