Gods among us: The End of the beginning

Whatever deity may guide my life,
Lord, let me not die tonight
And if I do, before I wake
Then I accept my fate

That prayer was probably a blasphemy (in the eyes of the Grand Vicar, anyway, and that ultimately made Jay Z a pagan), and Stephen was a born Christian through and through, but at this stage, he was ready to accept help from any being who would render it. They had all being crying hoarsely unto the Lord for the past two weeks for a miracle, and though the Vicar always preached that He worked in mysterious ways and at his own time, Stephen was afraid He was using a different time zone from theirs.
Below, spread out before the walls of the city of Heath were soldiers dressed in Alexandrian livery and screaming for all of Caldor to hear. For the past two weeks they had been camped out there, waiting patiently for the defenders’ resources to dwindle while supplies arrived for them on a regular basis. And now that the storehouses were just houses without the store function and the Lord of Heath still refused to surrender, they knew that the time had come. And they were ready.
“The Lord is our shepherd!” The Vicar cried from the top of the battlements, as though in a bid to prevail over the storm that the soldiers were screaming up (almost quite literally, since a storm was also brewing on the horizon). Stephen wondered how the man still had enough energy to scream at such a volume; all the soldiers had involuntarily taken to whispering the past few days as food resources dwindled and then winked out.

“I shall not want,” the soldiers droned dully, and Stephen snickered at the irony. What were they now, if not wanting? But he made sure nobody saw him, especially the Vicar. Fanatical didn’t even come close to describing the Father Daniel, and dull as the people might seem, they were never too out of sorts to burn suspected pagans at the stake.

The Psalm droned on, with the Father’s voice, gaunt as the rest of him, almost drowning out even that of his soldiers’. Stephen silently recited his mantra, over and over again.

Whatever deity may guide my life…
Never mind the savior that came for him; he was wide open to options despite the subservient surrender at the end. And fuck Father Daniel’s views. A horn sounded, and the soldiers began charging towards the walls. “Those pagans have been at our doorsteps for weeks,” Father Daniel yelled after the psalm had run its course. “Unprovoked, they come marching down on us, seeking to take our homes and our families away from us. And for what reason? Why? Why?”

If the Vicar was expecting some sort of reply, he was bound to be disappointed. That was the same question that had been running rampant throughout the city for the past two weeks, and no one was near to supplying an answer. A real life Clash of Clans expedition, maybe? Fortunately, the Vicar wasn’t expecting any reply; he forged right on.

“They may think that their victory is assured because there’s no hope in sight for us,” he yelled vigorously, and the rising wind helped spread his spraying spittle far and wide. After surrounding the city, the Alexandrians sent out a small force that torched the forests between Heath and Marina, starting one hell of a forest fire that meant that reinforcements would have to take the long way around. They were bound to be late. Very late. And the Alexandrians, already charging, were much closer and drawing nearer by the moment. The first volley of arrows from the defenders rained into their ranks, and Stephen had no idea whether or not his found a mark; he just let loose another. The cannons boomed a staccato rhythm, lighting the night with sporadic flashes of flame and infusing the air with the smell of cordite.

“They may think we’re doomed!” Father Daniel screamed, his spittle yet again heralding the imminent rain and vying with the cannons for the decibel trophy. “But we have one thing that they don’t, and that is faith in an unfailing God. The God of miracles is on our side, and we won’t be dying tonight…”

Another horn from down below finally managed to drown out the Vicar’s voice, and the rapidly darkening sky was further darkened by a multitude of arrows gaining altitude and heading straight at them intent on repaying their gruesome favor in kind. Everyone scrambled for cover or hoisted their shields, but Father Daniel just turned around and spread his arms right in the rain of deadly projectiles. Arrows thudded against shield, sparked off the merlons, went through the embrasures to find the odd unlucky body part, but Father Daniel remained standing in the end, terribly unscathed. “See?” He turned around and began walking through the throngs of soldiers gathered on the wall.

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” He seized a soldier with an arrow in his leg by the shoulder. “Put on the whole armor of God; let your faith be your shield, and no harm shall befall you.” When the next hail of arrows came, however, Father Daniel had already vacated the scene, leaving the soldiers to their bloody business. Comrades fell left and right; black-nosed Andrew, who had almost lost said nose to frostbite at one time, David the tanner’s son, Paul the casanova. Even Matilda, the tomboy who insisted they called her Matt but whose curves belonged on no boy and was the wetdream of every boy. They all fell, but each time the volley slackened for a bit, Stephen found himself still rising to donate his share of death into the fray.

Shoot, shoot, duck, rise. Rinse and repeat. He just thanked God there were no catapults. But try as they might, the advancing soldiers were not to be deterred by a few pointy sticks and balls trailing flame. Soon, they were at the walls, madly throwing themselves into the churning miasma of death that the defenders rained down in the form of burning oil, rocks and of course, more cannon fire. Ladders stretched their hands upwards, bearing men intent on scaling the walls, and for everyone that was displaced, another took its place. A battering ram was produced from God knows where, and the walls began shaking with each attempt that it made at its job.

 

…To be continued.

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