A long time ago, long before the time of the Turks, when the Franks were ruling the land, there was a rich feudal lord by the name of Markéllos. Markéllos had a daughter, Lavoura, who was of marriage age. Lavoura was a difficult woman, hard to please and very proud, and she rejected all proposed husbands her father found for her. As she was growing older, rumours started to spread that she was a witch and no man could ever have her as she was already married to Satan. As the peasantry in the area was fascinated and terrified by the stories, Markéllos desperately tried to find her a suitable husband to take her off his hands. He brought the village priest and even the bishop to bless her and drive away all evils, but to no avail-Lavoura’s attitude became even more difficult and she appeared destined to end up a spinster.
Lavoura was not what you ‘d call a beautiful woman. Her dark complexion and curly raven hair were only matched by eyes of burning coal. She was rather eccentric and always wore funereal black-something which fuelled the witch rumours about her. However, she had an inner beauty-she was a creature of great determination, loyalty, and above all intelligence. She resented the fact that she was seen as this burden to be rid of, this liability in the household. So much so, that her father was even willing to forego the traditional gift a groom had to pay for the marriage to take place. This attracted many eligible, if penniless bachelors from the area. Markéllos’ wealth and social standing was not to be sniffed at, being married to a ‘witch’ was a small price to pay for those eager to climb the ladder.
Lavoura spent her days doing embroidery, and reading the chronicles and histories, descriptions of events and places far away. Her only friend was her milkmaid Ploumou. Together they embarked on long walks in the fields where Lavoura talked to the birds and flowers. They often went on pilgrimage to the deserted chapel of St George, hidden among the cypress trees outside the village. Ploumou was the only person who understood her, and always defended her when the villagers talked about her. She knew that Lavoura was a prisoner of her fate, her gender and her social standing. That fact increased Lavoura’s resentment towards all the hopeful grooms-to-be. These ranged from sons of well-to-do landowners who were eager to marry the wealth to wealth, to the dregs of feudal society, rogues who’d spent their little property on gambling and ambitious and foolish pirating ventures they masqueraded as crusading. These were little more than raids on hapless villagers on the Anatolian mainland, where they plundered and kidnapped with a view to ransom and handsome profits. Inevitably, their meagre profits were blown on either more foolish ventures or drinking.
One of these, Franjéskos, was determined to lay his hands on Lavoura’s dowry and the land it came accompanied with. He had had enough of the fighting life and wanted to settle down, and Lavoura’s wealth represented a golden ticket for him, one he wasn’t prepared to let get away. When Lavoura treated him with cold contempt, he wasn’t put off. He knew of her reputation but thought he’d manage to break her resistance. He tried everything, approached her with sweet caution and honey-glazed stubbornness. When that didn’t work, he played the hard man role, treated her harshly and appeared arrogant and sure of his chances with her. Lavoura came to detest him and couldn’t wait for him to lose hope and join the hordes of the other failed suitors. In vain. Franjéskos was different in that he never gave up the chase until the day he died.
Markéllos felt that Franjéskos was the one who would finally make Lavoura his wife, and so allowed him extraordinary access to his daughter. He even allowed him to join Lavoura and Ploumou in their long walks in the country, which fuelled Lavoura’s hatred even more. Franjéskos, this vile, brutish man, had managed to invade one of the few spaces where she could find calm and joy. As Franjéskos became bolder and more forward with his approaches, Lavoura became increasingly uneasy and alarmed at the unprecedented intrusion and threat.
And so it came to that fateful day before the 15th of August, when the peasants believe that unless the Virgin goes to sleep on the day of her dormation, one should be extremely mindful of accidents and carelessness. There was nothing accidental or careless about what happened that morning inside the perimeter of St George’s chapel. Lavoura and Franjéskos were sitting on a large rock, under the cypress trees, with Ploumou at a cautious distance. Lavoura’s hatred boiled over and Franjéskos’ considerable patience finally ran out. Like two cats cornered against a wall, they began hissing and growling at each other. Lavoura, in a fit of rage, called him a vagrant and a bandit, when the violence which ran through Franjéskos’ blood began to surface, and he started waving his fist at her, calling her a witch and a hag. Lavoura had heard this once too many-the witch thing had become harder to swallow and hit her hard. She sat down with her face in her hands, weeping. Franjéskos looked at her, thinking that he was finally victorious in this battle of wills and that he had finally broken Lavoura’s pride. He immediately changed his tone, and stooped over to her with kind words, hoping that it was the coup de grâce for Lavoura’s stubbornness. He suddenly staggered back, both shocked and surprised at the pain caused by the dagger stuck in his throat. What swarms of pirates and town garrison men had failed to do, was delivered by a woman. Lavoura had thrusted the dagger so swiftly that Franjéskos could hardly react. He held the dagger from the handle, blood spurting out, and as he looked at Lavoura incredulously he opened his mouth to say something, but he instead fell flat on his face, bleeding to death.
Lavoura then disappeared. Markéllos searched everywhere for her, had his men scour the countryside and notified his contacts in the cities to look for her, but to no avail. It was as if the very ground which was soaked with Franjéskos’ blood had opened up and swallowed her, bringing her unfortunate life to an end. Markéllos could not contain his grief and the great shame the crime brought upon his name. He roamed the village streets, the fields and orchards at night, wailing and calling out her name until his legs could carry him no more and he ended up a crazed old man with no heirs.
Part of The Army Tales
Picture from here