Friday, April 11, 2008

Faith: Revelations

In the house of her parents, Thera dreamed silently, motionless. Then she twitched; her eyes opened, and she bolted upright. "I have it!" she whispered fiercely. After a moment, she looked out the window, saw the darkness outside, and settled slowly back to sleep.

But she did not forget.

The next day found Thera circled by other children. She spoke passionately and quickly: "It has come time for the world to end. Everyone must die." The other youths nodded, and Thera continued without pausing. "They do not believe this; so we must convert who we can, kill the rest, and then kill ourselves to end it all." The children nodded again, this was nothing new to them. "Do you have anything new to say?" jeered one of the older boys, Rob, looking bored. "I wanna get back to the tackleball."

A muttering rose in the crowd, and Thera instinctively knew that she was losing them; but another boy, Jared, younger than Thera, called out "Aw, Rob, don't be a half-bake. Let her finish. You know she's smarter than the rest of us."

The children's attention turned back to Thera, whose cheeks had coloured at the compliment. She smiled at Jared with thanks and resumed her speech with an even greater intensity. "So we've gotta kill everyone else. Yes, great, absolutely. But think about what'll happen then? We'll be all alone, the whole world all to ourselves. Who says we couldn't continue a little longer, then? All the nastiness comes from the other guys - the blind and the faithless who deny the Truth. Once we're the only ones left, things will be great - like Heaven, really! And once we're tired of things, we can just kill ourselves - there won't be any hurry."

Now she had their attention. Some of the children didn't understand, but most did, and those leaned in closer, fascinated by the notion. Thera clenched her fists in satisfaction.

Then another girl, less excited than the rest, asked skeptically, "But what's it matter anyway? We aren't ever really going to kill anyone. We're just living in this valley, and the most fighting any of us will ever do is in some sheep-raid gone wrong."

Thera scowled. "No! We will do it. I'll talk to the War-Leader, I'll show her what we have to do."

A boy laughed. "Like old Fussy-Warts would ever go more'n half a mile from her house, for fear her little baby would stub his toe."

Thera shook her head emphatically. "It doesn't matter! If she won't fight, then I'll take her post, and do the fighting myself. But I want you all - all of you - to promise me that when the time comes, you'll fight and help our triumph, just like the Writ says - that you'll support me against everyone."

For a moment, no-one did anything; then Jared raised his arm, shouting "You can count on me, Thera!" Rob's hand went up next; then the others. Thera was filled with satisfaction. Against even her own expectation, she'd pulled it off.

The next few weeks were quiet; Thera went about her errands and chores dutifully, thinking about what to do next. Some of the children sworn to her asked when she would make her move; she shoved them off, thinking. The only excitement in all that time was one of the Elders, who visited Thera's house, saying that he'd had rumors of heresy. Thera stared him down, sending him away with nothing; then she hunted down the tattler, pummeling him with the other children. From that point on she would have no dissension.

Finally, one turn of the moon later, Thera felt satisfied enough to approach the War-Leader. She was older, older even than Thera's parents, and scarred; still she was fit, though not so much as Thera thought she might have been in her prime. Thera implored her, using all her passion and speaking skill: Attack! Strike the infidel! End the world!

But the War-Leader refused. Shaking her head, she told Thera that she would have no such thing. The time was not yet; not in her generation, not even in the next, perhaps. The time would come, the War-Leader said with certainty; but their people were too few and too weak to attempt any such thing. "But," the War-Leader said smiling, "With such passion as yours, I'm sure you'll be a strong candidate for the position when I step down - and won't that be fun?"

"To hell with that," Thera said. "I challenge you now."

The War-Leader's expression froze; then she nodded, and took the ritual weapons down from their racks. Two staves made of hardwood, they could stun if used with restraint, mangle or kill if swung with force behind them.

The War-Leader took one; she gave Thera the other. They faced each-other outside the War-Leader's cabin, a small crowd quickly gathering around them. Jared was among them; Thera smiled at him, then lost the smile as she turned to the War-Leader. Her grip on the staff was strong.

The fight began. Thera was younger, stronger, faster. The War-Leader had the advantage of skill; but it had been years since there was any serious battle. The only reason she was still War-Leader was that no-one else wanted the position.

Thera fought viciously, and what experience the War-Leader had sufficed to keep her in the fight for less than a minute. Falling, she swung at Thera's unprotected chest; but paused first, for an instant, unwilling to really hurt the girl.

Thera showed no such reluctance. Her staff snapped out, blocked the blow just short of her body, then swiveled around the center, slamming into the War-Leader's head, leaving her limp and bleeding on the ground.

"Damn 'the next generation'; I am the War-Leader now," Thera declared. "And there will be no more delay."

Her parents looked on anxiously, arriving late to the scene; too late. For Thera was War-Leader now - beyond their control.

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