A Heretic

"'Tis time," he said, surveying the now quiet battlefield as it smoldered.

"Indeed, brother," he replied, still breathless from battle. "Time to lay waste to this village and make merry in its dregs!"

"Neigh, brother," there was a look of disgust on their leader's bloodied face. "Time to shift our thinking into a new and glorious direction. It is time for every last man in the kingdom to realize, the dawn of civilization is upon us."

"Brother, you are wise but a damned fool. We squelched this resistance and we must take what is rightfully ours! Right brothers?!" he shouted at the conquerors.

"Rah!" they shouted in unison.

"Dear brothers... We have an opportunity to change the course of human history. We, here today, could be a new race, an improved race. Understand that we could be the legends of books written in a time when ours is forgotten. We could be the anomaly that marks a new era of existence. Do you understand brothers? We could be Gods, of the living earth."

The others shifted unsteadily over sodden ground.

"I say, hear me brother, this is not a place for your poetry. These grand illusions of time and space have no place on a battlefield. Now take up your arms, brother, and set them to work. The work of our forefathers."

"Our forefathers? They are those of whom I speak! Dear brother, the dead are gone, buried beneath our feet. They stood against the test of time, and time proved victorious. These men were not living in vain, but I say their deaths were in vain. I tell you brothers, the brutality of war consumed these precious hearts and minds before they could ever fulfill their true potential."

"Of how you blaspheme foolish brother. These men were Kings, and artists of their brutality. Simon the Strong conquered seven villages in his life, and our people reaped the benefits of them all! You say they died in vain, I say you're an ungrateful heretic!"

"And by whom were the spoils not recaptured, blind brother? Don't you see, that this tide of oppression is perpetual? This game will never end until we decide to stop playing. Right here, right now."

The others began murmuring to one another, some in disgust, others in curiosity.

"A game?... A GAME?!" he roared. "You think that this battle was a game, that we did not lose Haggar and Gredon, and Samuel. These brave brothers gave their lives for you! And you stand here preaching like a damned saint, that we should not have the women, should not indulge in their wine. Brother, you are wearing out my graces!"

"Take the wine, and pour it out. Give it to the forefathers buried under you. Take the women, if she may please you, make her your bride. Take the gold, the silver, the glass, the iron; make them into something beautiful and pure... and divine. Take this ransacked land, and rebuild it into something better than it was before. Brothers, this is our chance at life! Not a chance to kill, but a chance to truly live."

The other brother stood, staring blankly at the wet ground. He peered over the smoldering town as women carried wailing babes away from the fires. The heavy blood of men streamed in the water at their feet. Dirt and ash smeared through battle paint dripped from their faces. He looked at his men. Their eyes were weary, their shoulders hung like a pig over the spit. Their axes and swords drooped from their grasps. Most were breathing heavily, their breath condensing into a fog over the group. He turned and looked at his brother who stood there full of life; standing tall atop his stature - his face reverent despite the rainfall, his breath calm despite the length of his words. His brother stared back at him with pleading sincerity. He walked over to his brother and placed his hand in camaraderie on the back of his neck. He smiled, and they began to stride towards the men.

"Hear me brother. You won't be disappointed. This is more than our forefathers, more than their deaths, this is about li-"

The prophet collapsed into the puddles, the handle of a knife buried into his spine. He knelt down to retrieve his weapon, and with a tenderness he knew not he contained, said:

"Today just wasn't your day brother, now was not your time... You will find peace in the land of the eternal. There you will be understood, and they will welcome your magnificence. This place was never right for you, dear brother. Idealism never carries far with the hungry, and as a leader of men, I supply them their rations. Your portions of hope were enough to feed even a mighty ox, but the wolves of this world would have picked you clean of your pure mind. Don't be sorry, brother, for who you are, be sorry for who you could have become, and please be grateful in the land of the eternal that I spared you of such a fate."

He stood, lifted his bloody knife in the air and announced to his men, "Brothers... Tonight we eat and drink. Gather your bounty and be merry!"

With a new found resilience, the men hoisted their arms in the air with a heavy thrust, "Hoo RAH!"

— J. Christopher James

J. Christopher James is an avid fiction writer and poet. As a former journalist, the Colorado State graduate has been published in over a dozen publications, including two national awards. He lives in Parker, Colorado.