A cold eastern wind blew over the banks of the frost encased Lake Ilmen, a few solitary reeds stood strong against the bitter winds. The monks at the Yuriev monastery were out braving the elements to try and protect their little crops from the on coming winter.
Around a mile down an unbeaten track held the ancient Russian capital of Novgorod. The chilling winter winds wiped and weathered the ancient perimeter walls built around eldest Russian strong hold, banks of snow flurries whirled in and out of small arrow holes designed to protect the city in case any wars, but now they were letting the enemy in, and this was a war they lost year on year. Inside of the battlements the Kremlin towered over the discarded market places and wooden cabins. At one point this battlement was once the centre of trade and export of Russia. That all changed when Peter returned. Peter Romanov had supposedly ruled from 1672, but no one had seen him, until recently. Around three years ago in 1700 Peter declared war on the neighbouring Swedes, and obviously in time he needed troops. Novgorod being the first outpost by the Swedish border, was the first place they turned for troops. A local blacksmith, Nikolai Gregorivich, his ancestors had lived within the walls of Novgorod for as long as anyone could remember; but that wasn't uncommon, for only tradesmen and soldiers ever moved about, and even then their families would always stay at home till the husband returned or died. Now back to the matter in hand, early on during the Great northern war, a large group of armed officials travelled through the city. At first they just looked like normal soldiers on their way to battle until a small group stayed behind after the main party disappeared into setting sun, not soon after did the soldiers issue every one into the Kremlin's wall; it was truly an exciting event, they were only ever let in there on holidays or royal visits. But it was an event which had an air of danger too it, armed guards shepherded every one inside before he could return to his cabin. Once inside his fears where confirmed and before long all the cities men were being taken off to fight upon the western front, what got Nikolai out of his duty to the Tsars was the fact that he was the towns blacksmith. Now in any other place he would of been sent off without a second glance, but as nearly all the soldiers would be travelling through there, they would have need of his services. As men upon men made camp outside the city word grew about this blacksmiths handy work with iron, and before any soldiers went of to face any barbaric Sweeds they'd get need to have horse shoes re-fitted after the long trek from Moscow and beyond.
Few where left within the city walls, a small shanty town of tents and horses where now constantly stationed on the eastern side, that cold November night, as a fierce eastern wind blew, Nikolai was on watch at the eastern gate. A small fire from the barracks bellow gave little light on the surroundings bellow, but not enough to illuminate the road ahead. Little men came through the gates now, most of the people below where messengers with one message. The war is over, Nyenskans is ours. He imagined that before long masses of builders and slaves would travel through these gates, but the journey ahead was long and hard, even if any messengers made it back to tell any one it would be a year from now. The weak winter sun started to break out over the snow caked trail. As he was preparing to take leave he spotted the glint of a helmet on the horizon. As he stood planted, trying to make out how many there were, a middle aged battle scarred man came to relive him of his duties.He had scars all over his face and an expression to match, he was missing his left leg and was leaning on a cavern out wooden pole.
"You can go Nikolai"
"Not yet Dmitri!" Nikolai retorted.
"What is it?" The wounded man inquired, edging closer to the wall.
"Men, I think on horse back, armoured, not sure how many."
"You stay here, I'll alert others." And with that he disappeared off the wall and into the city centre.
As the dawn drew on and the light increased the men drew closer. There where several armed men at the front on horse back going at walking pace. Behind where lines of men, women and children, some where shackled but the rest looked like they had come on their own accord. A large crowd of what remained of the towns people had gathered around the gates by late morning. At noon the front men dismounted at the barracks and walked up to the gate house whilst others guarded the slaves. As the gate was opened the towns people backed off, they had ran into many military leaders in the past couple of years, a lot of them were cruel and brutal men, savage and bloodthirsty, but all of them were proud and true men which showed in their eyes and stance. But these men weren't, from the instant they had entered the walls they knew these were different, crueller and more savage. That these were slave traders. They were lead into the Kremlin by the Father superior of the St. Sophia Cathedral, where they addressed the people in the square.
"the Tsar has captured Nyenskans!" The slaver boomed to a murmur of disapproval. "He demands men to build his new capital of Saint Petersburg!" With that the crowd perked up, this was the first they had heard of it and it was big news. "All men in a fit condition are ordered to leave here at once and go to the city." As he was talking the other slave owners where going about the Kremlin locking the gates, the crowd started to get agitated and uncomfortable. "My friends! Panic not! You will be let out in time. But before that we demand one hundred of you, until we have that amount nobody leaves!" And with that they retreated to the gate house. The crowd started to get anxious, since the war started the towns population had vastly plummeted, there was only around six hundred people left and only about two hundred men with only sixty eight that were up to any physical labour. By nightfall they had their hundred, in fact they had one hundred and three. Nikolai had chosen to go, he had no more business here, all his family was gone including his wife and daughter who had both died of pneumonia two years ago. The slavers opened the fortress and let the people out. Nikolai went straight to his cabin and gathered all he had left, a small knife from his father, a couple of shawls and a small carved wooden box with his great grandfather's wooden flute which he had carved during the time of troubles when the city was under Swedish occupation. He strung all this into a sack and left the blacksmiths to his apprentice Boris Ulinovovich. As they and the rest of the slaves were marched out of his home he looked back upon the city, Saint Sofia's bells where chiming in the night sky under a blanket of snow. They passed through the gates next to the frozen river Volkhov and took the last look upon the home of his ancestors and of Russia.