He was the last of his kind and he was old. Once, there had been millions like him, roaming the nation and the wild lands, defending the faith, upholding righteousness, protecting the innocent.
But that was a long time ago.
His companions were not defeated by the sword or the lance, but by indifference and betrayal. Betrayed by the very populace they so cherished.
The leaders became corrupt and arrogant, they paid off the scribes to write untruths, the town criers cried lies, even the ballads sung in the taverns became twisted and perverted. Truth became falsehoods and outrageous slander became truth.
The nation’s heroes were branded cowards while cowards became heroes.
One by one, his comrades fell, lost, devalued, and finally crushed.
The last warrior endured. He fought back. He stood his ground, even when everyone turned against him, even when those who had once stood beside him became his enemies in the name of their new “justice” and “righteousness.”
The old warrior could not even take solace in the faith for it too had been perverted. Long held truths and principles of righteousness, justice, and peace were turned upside down by clergy who, being all too human, learned to believe the lies they were told by corrupt Kings and Queens who controlled the scribes and who silenced the warriors.
The sermons by preachers of the faith now differed little, if at all, from the propaganda of the scribes and town criers, for the ever-enduring word of the Creator was “progressively” interpreted to mean what it had never meant before.
One by one the other warriors fell, or just gave up to an intractable enemy, the nation, the populace, their friends and neighbors. One by one door upon door was closed to the last warrior. He had few friends left, and even those were embarrassed to be seen in his company, lest they be accused by association, of what the scribes and holy men now called heresy.
Heresy. The truth of God and man has become heresy. Up is now down, black is now white, women are now men. The world was impossible to understand. There were no battles left to fight, and even if there were, the old warrior was the last of his kind. He was all alone. He could not hope to sustain another battle by himself.
It was time to retire, to sit in his cottage in the last green forest, to sip his ale, and contemplate his decline. The fire was warm, it soothed his aching bones. Perhaps some pea and carrot soup tonight, then a book, an old one, a tale of glory and honor long since vanished.
A knock on the door.
“Oh by my grey beard. Who disturbs my solitude now?”
The warrior set down his ale and hoisted his frame from the chair by the fire.
Upon opening the door, “Oh, it’s you Smythe. I forgot you were coming. Did you bring my supplies from the village? I have the rabbit pelts…”
“No, warrior. It’s not that at all.”
Smythe was never a very calm man, but now he seemed on the verge of hysteria. Without a word, the warrior stood aside and allowed the grocer to enter.
“Sit. I’ll pour you an ale.” The old warrior waited upon his friend as Smythe took a seat next to where the warrior had been resting a few moments before.
Giving Smythe his ale, the warrior resumed his chair and picked up his own drink. “What troubles you my friend?” Indeed, Smythe was one of the few friends the warrior had left.
“You have to return, warrior. You have to take up the fight once again.”
“What has changed that I should do such a thing?”
“It’s gotten worse than ever. Children are being sacrificed for the sake of the gods of social progressiveness. The election is in six weeks and the two vying for the crown are so corrupt, they don’t even bother lying about their evil deeds and their numerous crimes. The church Vicar himself has ordained the unrighteous and practitioners of deeds most vile to run the local parishes. Someone must speak out. Someone must stop them!”
“Are you trying to say, ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope?'”
“Oh don’t even jest, warrior. I don’t think I can take much more.”
“Sorry my old friend.” The warrior gently patted Smythe on the shoulder. “I thought a little levity might be in order.”
“How can you joke at a time like this?”
“How can I do anything else? The whole world has become a joke.”
“Please, warrior. You must take up your pen again, you must write words of truth and justice, you must disseminate them across the countryside. You still have supporters…”
“Far too few, I’m afraid. Like the pagan gods of old, when one loses the last parishioner, one loses existence. When no one has faith in the old god, the old god vanishes. It’s the same with writers. When we are no longer read, we too are extinguished.”
“Please, I’m begging you. No one tells the truth anymore. Lies are all that are written and told. Falsehoods are our new ballads. Without you, no one will know how deceived we’ve become.”
“No one cares about how deceived they are, my friend Smythe. That is why I retired. That is why all of the other warriors are no more. The people want the lies, they crave the lies, because the lies tell them that to be a coward and a betrayer is to be a hero to the state. What do I have to offer to counter that? The truth requires a lot of hard work, and it isn’t easy to face your own faults and turn to God in contrition. I know. I’ve walked that path for many years, and it’s a rocky one.”
“Is this your final answer?”
“It is the only answer left.”
“Then our nation, our people are truly lost.”
“Except for the two of us and that handful of people out there you say still want me to write.”
Smythe sighed. Took another pull of his ale. It was beginning to calm his nerves. The warrior got up for a moment to stoke the fire and put on another log.
“How about this?” Smythe had a proposition. “What if those few of us left could visit you from time to time. Would you grace us by reading some of your old tales, ones that teach the truth, ones about honor and righteousness and glory?”
“From glory to glory, old friend? Is that what you’d like to hear?”
“Just keep the hope alive in us, warrior. If you won’t pen new tales of truth and expose the horrendous lies being told, at least remind us that it wasn’t always this way. That our world was once a garden, not the cesspool of corrupt values it’s become.”
“Yes, I suppose I could do that. Come around Friday evening just before sunset. We can sing the blessings, light the candles, share a meal, and I can read from The Book of Favorites.”
“The compilation of your best works? Excellent! I’ll spread the word. Friday before sunset. We will all bring contributions to the meal.”
“And ale, don’t forget a generous supply of ale,” the warrior reminded him.
Smythe was out of his seat like a shot. He drained the last of his ale and headed for the door. “I’ll go right now to tell Drusilla and Max. They’ll spread the word to the others.”
“And in the meantime, don’t forget about my regular delivery of supplies. I’m running low on coffee and beans. I’ve got the rabbit pelts cured and ready for trade.”
“Of course, warrior.” Smythe threw open the door in nervous excitement. “I’ll return with your delivery this afternoon.”
“Very good, friend Smythe.”
Smythe stopped suddenly, whirled about and almost attacked the old warrior with a hug. “There, there.” The warrior patted Smythe on the back and then gently pried himself loose. “Time for you to be off.”
“Yes, yes. I’ll be back soon.” Then Smythe darted outside and ascended his horse-drawn wagon. “I won’t forget those supplies.”
Then he was gone.
That Friday evening, Smythe, Drusilla, and Max brought a dozen or so to the warrior’s home, and they stayed up until nearly dawn eating, and drinking, singing the prayers, and eagerly devouring tale after tale written by the old warrior when he was at the height of his prowess.
The next Friday there were nearly two dozen guests, straining the limits of the small living room of the warrior’s cottage.
Six months later, they had to meet at the long abandoned amphitheater in the deep woods, all that was left of the former Hall of the Hero Kings, to accommodate the hundred or more who had come, some from neighboring towns, and a few from other states, to hear the tales of truth that were no longer told anywhere else in all the land.
There was a hunger. But to fill it, they had to meet in secret, for the devouring evil did not easily tolerate truth.
And the warrior was growing older. When he was gone, who would take his place in reading the tales of righteousness? Would a young warrior arise to write new tales?
The last warrior pondered. “Max and Drusilla’s son Marcus is about the right age if he were to start to apprentice under me. If I could stay the course for the next twenty years until he too qualified as a warrior, then perhaps a new age would emerge when the truth awakens again.”
“In the meantime,” he thought, “perhaps it wouldn’t hurt anything for me to compose a limerick or two denouncing Queen Chelsea and her lecherous father, just for old time’s sake.”