12 September 2020 / Fiction The Dialogues of the Acolytes: -- and there was war in heaven. So it was that the King stood atop his citadel, athwart the pillars of his Hall of Wonders, and there he did weep in the sight of the Preacher. The clamor from below did rise to their ears as the battle waxed in confusion throughout the city. Whether it was battle in truth or wanton riot was unknown. The gate of meeting was aflame to the south, and the old pagan wall collapsed in great heaps of smoke and ruin. The shining armor of knights in battle shon' unto the very place of the king and Preacher. Whether the knights fought in loyalty or turned traitorous was unknown."How came my people to rebel in this manner?" The King spoke to the winds around them atop the citadel. Still the battle continued below, without cessation, careless of the words of one man, though King indeed. A knight who was a member of the King's entourage arrived at the oaken gate of the Hall of Wonders to deliver a message."My lord, the armies encamped to the north and to the south have raised camp to join the struggle. We know not yet any of their loyalty. The battle has moved off from our citadel towards the city walls; we have been granted respite for the now." After this the messenger departed.Again spoke the King, "I have failed my people. I sought righteousness, and they believe even now that they strive for such as they burn, pillage, and kill. They fight for it with the instincts I sought to grant them from cradle to grave."Again, the only sound which did proceed in response was the empty winds and the cries of conflict. The Preacher felt the sorrow of the age overwhelming his heart. The King continued, "Verily, I have sinned. My failure existeth not just as that of an impotent liege and lord, but of a sinful man. But what repentance shalt there be for me, what mercy, indeed? For I, being the King, hath gotten sins more deeply than any of my subjects. Unto the hands that hold the sword and scepter are the greater sorrows and judgements laid."The Preacher rejected this notion, "My King, how hast thou sinned?""I know not how to describe it in common language, as of yet, young cleric, but lookest thou upon this terrible sight? If any hath sinned it is I! These fires burn the town squares and the flags of the Distaff women, fires kindled with a holy zeal I lit. Whither shall it end and to what purpose?"To the south, the army of the southern camp met with their fellow troth-breakers and unified themselves into a concerted whole. After this, they made their way through the city streets and established positions of strength in central marketplaces. To the northern wall, things proceeded differently: the army of the north unleashed the ballistae which were based within their ranks, and caused the old pagan wall to collapse into ruin speedily, as it was old and useless. They proceeded over the ruins in that section of the wall which fell, and met with some small resistance from the rebels, the which they handily dispatched, sending them howling to the southern parts of the city where their positions began to become secure. The lad whom the King chose from the mountains commanded the army to split into three prongs by their respective brigades, like unto a trident; then he commanded them to make their approach toward the citadel along the main streets, thus defeating any ancillary resistance which remained. The fighting in this part was reportedly of a dishonorable nature, for the rebels burnt houses in the course of their retreat, incensed with a holy fervor which denied any possession which the One had given them. If they had been allowed to continue, doubtless they, too, would have set themselves high upon pillars in the arid deserts of the south, clothed in nought but loincloths of wool. The scent of acrid smoke, thick and dark, reached the nostrils of the King and Preacher even unto the promontorious position at which they were established. The King spoke again, "Now they burn the city my fathers gave unto them, the city which the Kings greater than I established in righteousness, to do the deeds of the Oracle at all times and in all places. This Gospel of the Eastern One cannot be a Gospel indeed. Look upon its works."It was then that the Preacher felt a strange wisdom come to dwell in his breast, a wisdom that he had never felt until that moment surrounded by buffeting winds, clamor below, and fumes of smoke. It was a wisdom which would serve him well in the hereafter years when he was given the place to serve and shepherd the congregation."My King, haven't we all sought the place of the One, where he sits in the heavenly places interceding for us? These also hath sought him, but gone astray. Even now, thy mercy must seek them, to seek and to save that which was lost.""Verily, shall I be that which savest them unto holiness?" The King retorted.Below them, the last of the resistance north of the citadel was driven from the sight of the knights, whose faces shone with a holy rage terribe to behold. They proceeded past the broken gates of the outer court which lay in a rack of ruin, and the countenance of their faces quickly changed to that of deepest sorrow at the sight which presented itself to their eyes. There they beheld the bloodied forms of their brothers, some pierced through many times with the fiery darts of the enemy, fallen away from the whole; others, hewn and cut many times by cruel blades of common make; still others, near the center of the mass of bodies, were smitten in the very act of their righteous war, splayed out in contortion as if they fled from life only at great behest. The outer court never heard a song after that night, and even to this day the knights remain silent upon entering it. No tales or songs tell of what they did there or what they said, but their wailing went up unto the very ears of the Preacher and King upon the citadel's summit.They were struck silent by that sound for some moments, but the Preacher felt carried along by his stream of thought."My King, hast thou not been the Person of the State and the Person of the Assembly unto them? Thou hast stood as the One's vice-regent upon earth. Thou must turn them unto thyself yet again, or no one will. To turn to thee is to turn unto the One!"The King seemed taken aback by this thought."Verily, the One owneth no share of power, but holdeth all, even that which floweth through his emissaries. Whereat hath thou found the authority for thy claim? Proceedeth it from some private interpretation or from some familial tradition or some other source altogether?""Verily, my King, I merely observe that which thou hast set into motion. Thou must remedy the mien of thy people."The King seemed to look aghast all the more, but even so his eyes held a new light of knowledge."I have sinned, indeed, for none can shepherd the flock of the One but those whom he hath chosen thereto... He hath chosen me to wield the sword."The King's voice broke, but his words echoed the realization of some truth important to his person."Behold the River of Mercy, O King; Behold the Table of Delight. Are they not also for thee, O King, gifts from the One, though signs only?"The King's face softened at the Preacher's words. "I shall claim the rivers of mercy for the washing of my heart, and shall drink the wine in rememberance of the blood of the One which maketh a sure atonement, as I eat the Bread of his Presence, that which sustaineth me aright. The signs are his alone...His body broke itself for even a foolish King who forgot to hear the advice of a young cleric. Now, my body also must break. Come, young cleric, help me garb myself in the armor of my fathers, for the kingdom falleth nigh unto destruction. We must save it with the power of that sword given to Our arm for such a purpose. There shall be order."The Preacher felt the driving spirit within cease, for the end of his questioning had been reached. Thus spake the Preacher:"Go thy way, O King, garb thyself in thy armor, buckle on thy shield, and wield thy sword with most manful might. Execute thy war with all of the power which God hath given unto thy State. The State is thine and thou art the State until the One deigneth to take it and thee away from this brutal physical sphere. Restore order with vigorous war if'n thou must, even if the blood of rebellion must flow thick in the streets."