As the winters grew longer and robbed people of their harvests, populations across Europe began striking southwards in search of more fertile lands to call home. Not all would find the prosperity they sought.
We are on the road now. We are ragged, and we are failing.
Two score of us set out when the crops withered, and sixteen of us remain. To leave our hearth and kin behind was unbearable, but our meager store would feed only half the village. As the foremost of the tribe, the decision fell to me. And so we make our way south.
We measure the passage of time not by the rise and fall of the weakening sun, but by the meals we beg from others as we approach their camps - and they are precious few. In truth, we offer thanks to God if we are not simply turned away at the point of a spear.
The road has not been kind.
Bandits attacked us in the forest, and seven of our number fell to their blades. When they realised we had nothing, they killed two more to spite us and moved on. They wore the armour and livery of Roman soldiers, but we heard no clamour, we saw no smoke; no sign of any kind to indicate an army was nearby.
Nine succumbed to some malady of the flesh, among them my son Hercynius. He was dealt the warrior’s share at each meal, but it made no difference. He shivered and he wasted, and one day he did not awaken. The ground is hard and cold, and our strength so slight, we could not even bury him. He lies now beneath a Rowan bush, a meal for the beasts. It is a mark of these evil times that a father cannot honour his son in death.
Six simply disappeared in the night. They did not return to us.
Yesterday, we came to the town of Casurgis. As we approached, our hopes of deliverance were dashed as we saw a great crowd surging weakly at the gates, begging for entry. There were hundreds of them. Thin, weak, pathetic – a congregation of ghosts. The soldiers on the palisade looked on with faces of stone. Perhaps they are hungry, too.
We are ragged, and we are failing. And so we head south, to what fate we do not know.