Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Prophets

The prisoner leaned forward over the interrogation table. "Why am I here?"

The soldier on the other side of the table sighed. "You are an enemy officer, the leader of the defense at the Breakwater. Until you answer our questions, you will remain here. Praise be to the Immortal and Eternal."

Shaking his head, the prisoner declaimed incredulously, "I don't understand! I'm just an ordinary soldier - drafted after the Defeat, given a week's training and then captured at the Breakwater. There must be some mistake. I was being held with the others, then I was moved to my own cell for no reason I could tell - and now this! It makes no sense!"

"Nvem," the soldier uttered ritualistically. "Prophesy. You are the enemy leader, and your denials are merely tiresome. Praise be to the Immortal and the Eternal."

"Prophesy?" the prisoner asked in confusion. "I know you have a prophetess as some sort of - leader or divinity, but I don't know why there'd be a prophesy about me, even if I weren't an ordinary soldier!"

The soldier sat back. "Nvem. I will tell you the history of the prophets. Then you will confess, or other means will be used. Praise be to the Immortal and the Eternal." He pointedly did not gesture at the torture implements hanging behind the prisoner.

After a long silence, the soldier spoke. "My name is Alesandro Guilani. And this is what I know of the history of the prophets."

"A long time ago, a young girl fell into the hands of our rulers. We were a small nation then, and we neither knew nor care where she came from. But she strode into the throne room one day, after having watched the councils of the high and mighty for a week (unobserved!), and told our ruling Prince: 'Your neighbor to the south is soon to collapse. Strike now, and all that was his will be yours.'"

"Our Prince ignored her, of course. Who would listen to a little girl claiming such outrageous things?"

"Within a month, the southern nation descended into anarchy. Before we could react, raiding parties of the far southern nomads had taken everything."

"Our Prince resigned, peacefully. Certain advice was given his successor by the girl, and, within days, a nest of well-hidden traitors was found and annihilated by royal troops. The girl spoke again, and a lightning strike took our neighbor to the west, as the bulk of its army was occupied in secret training exercises."

"This cemented the girl's status. She was given the rank of Royal Advisor, and through incredible wit and observational powers (as she had exercised all along), continued to give her wisdom: devastating to the Prince's enemies, but enriching to the nation. We grew fat and powerful, solely through this girl's cunning."

"Then one day, the girl told us that the Gennites were to invade - they live in a valley to the east, and were at that time ruled by their own king. We scoffed. Our empire had grown fourfold, and our army was six times the size of the Gennites'. Why would they invade? The girl told us that we must march now, were we to reach the east while the Gennites were vulnerable, split into raiding parties to loot the east. But it was harvest-time; our levies were occupied with the harvest that would feed the realm for the next year, and our regular army was occupied at the borders. And it was too much - that she might predict the actions of a nation we knew nothing about months into the future! We thought she was clever, but not divine. Too much."

"So we sent only messengers, warning the forts of the east of a possible attack. And the Gennites came - moving in the dark of night, taking forts in which carefully suborned locals (none too pleased about their conquest) were ready to open the gates. Just as predicted, they moved to loot and ravage; but by time word arrived, it was too late. The regulars were called up to march, but early snow closed the pass to the east before they arrived. And spies told us that fortifications were under way."

"We were devastated. A quarter of our newfound empire, gone in a season. And it had been foretold. A scapegoat was needed - and we found one. The Prince was overthrown. To say that is to truncate a three-year long epic of rebellion and treachery into four words - but it is the core of the thing. In his place, the girl was named Prophet and elevated to lead us, with one of the Prince's bastards as her right hand, the Executor."

"The first of the Prophets led us for two generations, turning us from a tiny nation to a empire ruling thirteen subject peoples and seventeen former kingdoms. We met defeats, especially in the field of battle (too chaotic to prophesy), but the long term was inevitably for us."

"On the death of the first Prophet, her student succeeded her. Many of our neighbors sought to take advantage of us in the change-over, hoping that her successor was her inferior. She may have been, but she was Prophet enough to doom our foes' efforts. And so it continued."

"The fourth Prophet rules now. From what we know of the land, we now rule two-thirds of the continent, and have colonies elsewhere. The Prophet is constantly surrounded by advisors, and is informed of events all across the land. She is never wrong."

"Praise be to the Immortal and the Eternal," the soldier finished.

The prisoner leaned forward with a sigh. "What do you want of me, anyway?" he asked.

"You will tell us what you know of the other army units, and of your nation's long term plans. Then you will be returned to your fellow prisoners, and, when the war ends, will be allowed either to join the Foreign Auxiliaries or to surrender your weapons and return to civilian life," the soldier told him.

The prisoner sat back. He thought for several minutes. Then he said, "All right," and began to talk.

More grist for the Prophet's mill, the soldier thought as he scribbled down notes. Praise be.

Author's Note: This made more sense when I thought of it originally.

Also, the soldier's name probably isn't significant, outside the story.


Oldboy said...

i don get it...

King Kessler said...

So the prophets are actually people who get a lot of information from spies?