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Dulce et Decorum
Dr. Johnathan Roussard walked along the quiet road. The sound his feet made on the pavement was the only noise one could hear, and the stillness of the night was like a sacred silence, casting its baleful gaze on all who would dare break it. Yet Dr. Roussard dared. He walked up to the house, a blissfully peaceful isle in a world that was about to go to war. He knocked on the door, and was received by a frightened-looking woman in an apron.
“Dr. Roussard, thank God. Quickly, come in. It does not do to linger.” Dr. Roussard stepped purposefully over the threshold, hoisting his bag of medicines and setting it down on the table.
“I came as soon as I heard there was trouble,” Dr. Roussard said, “In times like these, one doesn’t know what to expect.”
“And yet, you came too late. The King’s men came, demanding payments for wrongs they said we had committed…we offered them everything we had, but still they wanted more. Enraged, Harry shot them.”
“Oh,” he started softly “My dear Louise, that was not wise.”
“The wisdom of the thing hardly matters. Now Harrison is on the run, and the King’s eye falls upon us. It is only a matter of time before he decides to deal more harshly with our House of Solsburg, and when he delivers our death notice on the point of a bayonet.”
Dr. Roussard settled his glasses on his nose, looking his hostess square in the eyes, his penetrating glance more than enough to draw forth even the most well-hidden secrets out of one’s past.
“There is one thing I can do…”
King Philippe Girard looked over his court of nobles. Pathetic, every one of them, he thought to himself. Yet together, they held a power to match his own, and had to be treated gently, as one would handle a hot poker. As it is, the kingdom was plagued by troubles of late. Rebels on the Northern front threatened to overrun his borders, civil insurrection was wearing down his police, and there was not one damn thing he could do! He hated the looks they cast as he passed by, the way they muttered that he wasn’t half the king his father was. The kingdom was his to command, its rule his divine right, and his people would do as he wished…Indeed, they would do it, or they would die.
Captain Victor Hugo rode under the King’s Banner at Turkey. The kingdom was pressing South, and the burden fell to him and his men to ensure that its flag flew over the capital by nightfall. Yet whatever training his king had given him was nothing compared to what he faced. He fought an army that was giving everything it had to keep his feet off its soil, a people that sincerely hated him and what his nation stood for. He could see it in their eyes, in their hate-filled faces, as he rode, sword drawn, armor set, fast, and gleaming, into the fray. But why? He wondered, as he killed another native.
Dr. Roussard continued his journey. The clouds sagged low overhead, the wind rustled ominously through the trees, and the very mountains were alive with eyes, watching him, noting his every move. But he rode on. He had to, after all. There was a man, a man who could free them all…
Captain Hugo entered the interrogation room. The prisoner sat there, bound by the tightest ropes his men could find, but even these were strained taut as he struggled with all his will, his eyes blazing with fury and hatred.
“Remove his gags,” Hugo said, despite the glances his men threw him. It was time to find out the reason for this campaign, why the natives fought so valiantly against it. For he knew this was no ordinary war. From the moment the Bishops called it, to the draft that was raised, to the hurried nature of its inception, and to what happened to all who questioned it, he knew that this was a war like any other.
“Scum,” the man began, “Hated, putrid, stinking, scum!” Hugo endured his abuses for a moment, before striking him sharply to quiet him.
“Why does my King fight you?” he asked the man simply. The prisoner looked up, first in surprise, and then in mockery as a slow leer overtook his features.
“You mean you do not know?” he asked. Hugo’s lack of response was enough to give him an answer. “We are fighting for a myth – for a glimmer of hope that shines amidst the ruins of war. We are fighting for God’s lost Commandment – for words whose existence would shape the future of our religion, and the world at large.”
And then Hugo knew. Why the religious police came and abducted all who inquired. Why one had to guard his tongue and watch his back. Because his kingdom was not fighting to unearth this secret, but to destroy it.
King Philippe looked at the Archbishop. “What did you say?” he asked, his heart beginning to pound, stains of sweat forming on his clothes.
“There was an incident, in Turkey. A prisoner, has told lies…terrible lies. Now Captain Victor Hugo has sided with the natives. They are working to unearth the secret, and even now they are fortifying the city…”
“In our Academy, we have a concoction, a poison of the veins and of the soul. Archbishop Luke, I bid you, to unleash this poison upon the land, to purify the realm until not a soul tainted with that secret within survives upon this Earth.”
“You are understood, sir. In the name of God. Soli Deo Gloria.”
“Soli Deo Gloria.”
Dr. Roussard stared aghast at the city. The land before it was in flames, with legions of the King’s men camped in front of it. On the walls King’s flag flew, yet the gates did not swing open. Rather, fire-bombs and cocktails still hurtled from the ramparts. And within the walls, a frantic search was being conducted, a search for a secret that would redefine the modern world.
He was at a loss. He could not reveal himself to the soldiers, and neither could he approach the city gates. It was all he could do to keep himself hidden.
Victor Hugo entered the city. The ruins of war lay all around him, yet his was a task of greatest import. He was to find the missing Commandment, and to reveal it to the world. His government could not suppress such a document, could not cripple the world for its own greed and gain. He thought of the moment, when he was merely a boy, when he had to pledge loyalty to the King, and the sunny days of his youth were overcast by a lingering malice. And he knew now that was the day Phippe Girard took power, the day his kingdom became engaged in the greatest conspiracy on the face of the Earth. And now he, Victor Hugo, had the chance to put an end to it.
And, in a forgotten corner underneath the city, waiting for those who might find it, was a scroll. A scroll written long ago, in a tongue lost to all but the wise, a scroll whose words had been fought over for centuries, in a war between those who would bring it to the light, and those who would keep the truth forever hidden. It read
“Thou shalt have peace.”