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In the Name of the King

April 21, 2013

Been a while since I’ve posted any fiction, which isn’t to say that I haven’t been writing any.  Mostly I’ve been going insane with trying to get one or two pieces out to every short story magazine still in existence.  A few things I’ve written in the interim though have either been rejected a few times or just not particularly what I want of them.

For example, this piece, “In The Name of the King,” I think it’s really cool if a bit obvious.  Enjoy.


Jerolt’s nose itched.

He knew that he couldn’t scratch it though. Not today.

He knew he wasn’t supposed to scratch it during most services but he couldn’t help it if his nose was itching. Besides, it didn’t matter most of the time. Weekly services weren’t really that important. The old cleric had said as much one morning when Jerolt helped him into his robes. It was just something for the people in the village to do, and if it kept them out of the public house then what harm was a little more praise in the name of the Gods?

Today was different though, Jerolt knew that he couldn’t scratch his nose today.

It was the herbs that the old cleric threw into the braziers for prayer. They made the smoke harsher and more acrid, and whenever it touched Jerolt’s nostrils his whole nose would wiggle and sting whether he wanted it to or not. Then, as always, his nose would start to itch.

Normally he would scratch it fast when he thought no one was looking.

But he knew they’d all be looking at him today. They’d be looking at him because he wasn’t what was in the center of the dais. No one would want to look at the center of the dais, at what rested directly in front of the old cleric.

Fedreth hadn’t been the brightest of the village’s native sons, but according to Jerolt’s father there were few braver. Fedreth wasn’t much older than Jerolt, but there was too much of a gap for them to have been boyhood friends. However, in a village of this size, there were few age gaps wide enough that they had no idea the other existed.

Apparently the older boy had a great laugh.

Jerolt could believe it. Even now it seemed like Fedreth were smiling beneath the shroud. His broad shoulders and barrel chest looked like they could fill a room with the sound of the older boy’s voice. Beneath the shroud, Fedreth was laid out in his finery like everyone else. Unlike the rest of the room though, his soul had long ago departed.

The old cleric had mourned that more than the loss of life. Who could know if his soul was properly guided into the afterlife when it had taken them so long to return his body home?

The old cleric tossed another handful of herbs into the brazier.

Now Jerolt’s eyes would sting a little too.

The long journey home was probably what caused the cleric to throw so many pungent herbs into the flames, though. It would be disrespectful to both the mourners and the deceased himself if anyone was aware that his soul’s vessel had deteriorated so much.

Everyone carried Tears of Leandra, the drooping bells of purple flowers that were said to be from the constant tears of the Goddess of Death. Their surprisingly sweet smell was welcome by all in attendance.

Except for Jerolt, stuck as he was behind the braziers.

As First Layman, Jerolt’s job was to stand beside the cleric and offer the voice of the congregation. It was still a great honor, but most of the villagers would offer the appropriate ritual responses to the cleric’s calls, and they’d sing for themselves. Jerolt’s real duties were to preserve the temple’s equipment, like the candle sticks and braziers, as best as he could. While also doing anything the old cleric might require.

Today, that meant largely looking his best, and not scratching his nose. Or adjusting his cassock.

Jerolt’s mother had made the cassock for him so he would look more appropriate standing next to the robed cleric. It was a fine piece of clothing, made of a comfortable gold cloth that matched the beige stone walls of the temple well. However, it was a little long so that Jerolt could, “grow into it.” The length made the shoulders awkward, and Jerolt wanted to do nothing more than shrug his shoulders to adjust how the piece of clothing sat upon his slight frame.

With a deep breath, Jerolt tried to push the concerns of his body aside, letting the cleric’s words wash over him.

“…truly, a noble sacrifice,” the old cleric intoned, his voice somehow finding strength that his thin shivering body just didn’t seem to have anymore.

“Hear, hear!” Called a voice from the back.

Silence reigned over the temple.

The old cleric was stunned mid-eulogy. Jerolt tried to inch ever so closer, attempting to stir the ancient holy man by force if necessary. In the congregation, he could see that most of the villagers were just as stunned the cleric. Through tear-streaked faces, Jerolt saw confusion and anger in the eyes of the mourners.

Finally, Jerolt placed a hand upon the cleric’s shoulder, and the old man solemnly nodded. With another deep breath, he began anew, “It is with great sorrow that we must accept that we can only celebrate his deeds in his name, rather than in his presence.”

As he returned to the traditional position of the First Layman, Jerolt swore that he heard something beyond the wall of the temple. A low clanking noise. The clinks and clanks themselves weren’t very loud but they were quick. It sounded like someone was driving a team of horses with bells attached to the lines.

It didn’t seem to bother the old cleric though, or anyone else in the congregation for that matter.

“We now give him over to the embrace of our eternal mistress, the Divine Lady Leandra, who shall forever mourn him, as she mourns for us all.”

The clanking began to get louder. Others were sensing it by now, though there was nothing to indicate exactly what it was.

All that the cleric could do was go on. “Let us call to her…” he began, though it was a sentence he would never finish.

There was a sound like a rock slide as the wall to Jerolt’s right exploded.

Standing in the empty space where the wall once stood was a being taller than a man standing upon the shoulders of a draft horse. If not for its freakish size, it would be easy to assume that it was a man in a suit of armor. But no man was that tall.

As the dust cleared, Jerolt realized that the armor wasn’t right either. Where normally one would see seams and segments from the way the plates of metal were jointed together, Jerolt saw only smooth contours where the metal seemed to be bound directly to pieces of wood and stone. The being’s armor was polished to a high sheen, glimmering in the candlelight like a looking glass.

Still, it was what lay within the helmet that struck a chord with Jerolt.

The helmet lacked a face, like so many helmets Jerolt had found left over from the countless wars that were waged before his birth it was as close to a featureless skull as it could be. It was what Jerolt saw in the eye slit that terrified him. There were no eyes staring back, at least not a person’s eyes. A life-like fire burned in the helmet’s darkness; an orange glow that seemed to stare back into the world with knowledge. With a purpose.

People were screaming, and many in the congregation were pouring out of their seats as the being stood surveying the crowd, as if searching for something. Suddenly, with a speed unexpected for a being so large, the great metallic man rushed into the crowd.

It moved without concern for what might stand in its way. Its great legs began to pump furiously, and its arms swung back and forth, knocking people into the stone floors and walls. Everyone it touched was flung about like a rag doll, and the monster’s stone and metal limbs caused their bones to snap and crunch in a sickening chorus. Jerolt was barely able to make out that it was barreling down upon a hooded young man in the back of the room. The same youth who had called out during the eulogy.

The young man panicked and tried to run. As he spun about, his hood fell away revealing a boy with only a harvest or two more under his belt than Fedreth had. Backed into the wall, the youth pulled out a short sword, and raised it high above his head in his right hand. His left hand was in front of him, as if the sheer act of hoping hard enough might ward away the magically animated golem.

A deep resonating bass voice ground out from within the metal man’s chest, “You have been judged guilty of rebellion by the King’s court. By his order, you are sentenced to execution.” The great golem’s fist swung back before crashing into the youth so hard it drove him deep into the wall. A wet crunching sound reverberated throughout the temple as the golem’s fist continued to follow through, leaving another gaping hole in the building’s wall.

Some kept trying to flee, others tried to pick up the wounded.

The golem came back, plowing through the crowd, its head a swivel searching once again.

It found nothing.

Jerolt could only gaze out at the destruction it had left behind.

Men, women, and children were dead or maimed.

The old cleric had fallen over, and Jerolt crept up to the elderly man. As soon as he touched the loose flesh of the ancient holy man, Jerolt knew that he had passed. Carefully, he leaned over, taking the old man’s body into his arms. Jerolt looked the old cleric in his dead brown eyes, and recited the words he had memorized not long after becoming First Layman, “May you leave this harsh world, into the warm embrace of our eternal mistress. May the Divine Lady Leandra take your soul to worlds beyond. Where you shall know peace.”

All throughout the temple, others began to speak the ancient verse in quiet choked voices while gazing into the eyes of their loved ones. Those who were never judged, but still sentenced.

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