And still no answer came.
Orzibald shrieked once more in his triumph. Would God not bless him? Would God not honor his sacrifice this very day?
Around the field lay bodies. Some in horrific grimaces that only the truly brave or sadly misguided could attain through violence. Some were in parts and machinations unrecognizable. Some were of young men looking peaceful without their blades and headdressings; how pathetic in such a man’s world as this one. And some were still slithering, their last breaths a veil to what kind of stillness they would most certainly attain in bare moments.
There was smoke. There was ash. A silent horse here. A broken shield there. Swords and daggers strewn about with emblems that would have better been labeled “almost.” There was wailing and gnashing of teeth from the less-than-peaceful. Dust filled the air in pockets, the rain having long been absent from this dry place.
But all were united in one common approaching truth: nothingness. The dead were already visiting There. The dying were making their own travel plans. And Orzibald was spinning and roaring to disprove what his heart had long buried: nothingness always comes. Nothingness is the final victor regardless of pomp and circumstance.
“It is all for You, Oh Mightiest of Kings! From Jerusalem to the very heavens themselves, we have claimed all in Your honor!”
But no reply came.
Orzibald spun and saw a trail of Saracen blood dripping from a body inching away. He approached the heretic whose one good arm was his only mode of transportation, rolling him onto his back, looking him directly in the eye.
“How mighty is Him that has blessed us this very day. Repent now and save your soul. Beg His mercy and surely it will be yours. He has died for your sins, as you die, let Him know that you die for Him.”
Terror and choking. This was all the heretic could muster.
“Please, warrior. Plead His forgiveness. It can be yours.”
Through the blood now dribbling out of the lower left side if his anguished mouth, the once true spoke a phrase Orzibald did not understand: “la shey’a haqeeqiyun wa kulu shey’in mubaah.”
It meant nothing to the victorious knight, dying mutterings from a soon to be gone dog. It indeed was as his father had told him: These heathens have no soul to save. Their eyes could feign humanity, but their tongue and their customs betrayed their ability to learn, to love, and most importantly, to be saved.
With that thought, Orzibald raised his blade to help the poor mutt on his way. As he flowed the final drops from the cooling Saracen body, he felt sorrow for a moment, for surely he was dispatching this unwitting fool to an infernal eternity. But even that compassion was obliterated with the recall of his uncle’s proud claim that every soul that writhes in agony in Hell was a soul justly punished as promised by HIm and one more bit of proof of His truth and the promise of God’s love. And with that thought, the blade touched earth, and it was done.
Once again, Orzibald reviewed the scene about him. 40 non-believers dead. 19 of his own dead. Only he was left. There had been no deserters, he knew this for certain. God’s men had been put to the test and died for HIm, and for that sacrifice, He had granted another victory for Christendom.
And in that instance, it became so clear.
Yes, God indeed was speaking. Orzibald knew it. The wailing of the dying was thunderous applause. The taste of ash was the draw of truth from Him. The cloudy sky the cloak of the theater for this show. The few dead equine arranged on the field looked as audience members to testify to the true greatness of this moment. God was speaking and he was very pleased.
Emotion overtook the victorious survivor. So long had he wished to be here. He remembered the crying of his wife and children as he marched off into the unknown for what would become years. He remembered the scowls of his father when he was but a sentinel for the village, unproven in battle. He remembered the cries of his own men he made examples of when they talked of returning home. He remembered his previous feeling of shock and shame at taking of women in village after village in these foreign lands. It all rushed back to him because now…..now he knew he was righteous and true.
As a boy he had lamented often the horrors he had seen. But no more. God’s will be done, these things were as it had always been told him by the elders. Fortitude. Steel. Singularity of purpose. Ruthlessness in the name of the righteous. These were lessons Orzibald now felt much humor in ever doubting.
The gape of a dead man’s mouth was as it should be. The dogs he had dispatched to the Devil were indeed all deserving because it was His plan. The limbs that had become unusable by friend and foe alike in marching this cursed desert were all for His glory. There was nothing in the whole world that had ever been untrue.
He had to sit and think about the glory. It was too much to maintain balance. A slight smile ran across his bloodied face.
He had no care of the future. The depleted rations and the water lost in the journey and battle mattered not, though the desert heat seemingly never ceased to rise. Nor did it matter that that the map had been dispensed with on Orzibald’s orders as to prove his faith in finding infidel blood to spill, essentially putting him in the middle of nowhere. None of it mattered because, Orzibald had faith. The moment was now and he was one with Him.
“Victory!” The word rang from Orzibald’s lips. In such an open area he expected to hear the ringing of an echo, nature shouting back the truth of the matter. But he heard nothing.
“Praise Him!” Still nothing.
The battle had ended. They had won. Glory to God.
Orzibald turned to walk. His armor had long been dispensed with. His bleeding leg from the deep wound he received early in the battle was still painful, but so much less now. His undergarments tattered and torn from weeks and months and years of use. There was nothing to carry and nothing to carry him. He cared not. It did not matter which way he walked into the desert. He had faith that God would see him through.
As he walked from this small space of a battlefield, his armored brothers looked no different than the heretics laying aside them. The deadness in their eyes was almost like a call, a final statement that he should already know. With the last dead soldier’s eyes he caught, he remembered that dog’s mutterings. “la shey’a haqeeqiyun wa kulu shey’in mubaah.” Meaningless babble, he was certain.
Slowly Orzibald strode into the nothingness of the desert. If only his family could see him now. How proud they would be. Now that he had accepted the truth of his elders’ lessons, he would be considered such a man as had never been seen in his village. They would not only understand his deeds and misdeeds, they would love him even more for his faith.
Orzibald thought, “Faith has led me here. Faith has delivered me. I shall see my family again soon.”
Quiet filled the air and the desert stretched