It was the era of the great purge.
King Tyranis vowed to exterminate the heretics who blighted his world. However, the rebels remained stealth, always one step ahead of the troops who sought to destroy them.
The king, convinced a traitor was in his midst, guaranteed the insider who betrayed him would suffer a most unpleasant death.
While he held conference with his council of advisors, a currier delivered to the castle a simple one line message:
Peotra is captured!
My heart raced with disbelief, The leader of the believers, captured? And what of the rest of his coalition? Have we killed them? Or have they eluded our seekers once again?
“So you are the mighty Peotra?” Salas paced about the room. “You do not appear to be a great leader.”
The beleaguered man, his hands bound behind him, remained silent
“Why do you defy the will of your Imperious Leader?”
“I do not answer to Tyranis. I …”
“You and your kind shall be punished for your impudence!”
“We do not fear death. There are many, and our numbers grow.”
“The gods will ensure you die for your blasphemy!” Salas barked.
“The one true God promised we will live for eternity.”
“You will suffer for preaching your profane words,” his tone grew indignant.
“They are not my words. They are …”
“Lock the door!”
I heard the command many times and understood its meaning; Salas did not like interruptions while interrogating a prisoner. Peotra would be shown no mercy.
Cries of anguish echoed through the stone corridor.
Peotra awakened with a groan, the stench of mildew and burnt flesh overwhelming his senses.
“Be still,” I applied herbs to his wounds to quench his pain.
“Do you heal me so I can endure more punishment?” his eyes struggled to focus.
“Why do you not answer his questions? He will not allow you to die until you speak.”
“I will not betray my God!”
“Our God, my brother,” I whispered.
“You?” he gasped in pain. “You are the source of our information?”
I gave a slight nod, “Why did you not move on with the others?”
“There were many,” he winced as he tried to sit. “Many new to the Word. I caused delay to the soldiers so they might escape.”
“But you are their leader, they need you.”
“They follow God. I did only what was necessary for my colleagues to survive.”
The sound of an opening door resounded through the passageway.
“Forgive me, my friend,” I murmured, standing up next to the prisoner. “You dare resist the will of the king?” I shouted, slapping his face. “You should reconsider your position when next you get interviewed.”
“Commander,” an infantryman approached, holding his clinched on his chest to salute. “Lord Salas seeks a consult with you.”
The sentries guarding the door saluted as I walked past.
“The rebels continue to evade our scouts,” Salas sneered, pacing in circles.
“We have their key man, sir.”
“Perhaps. But without the traitor’s assistance we may have captured or killed more,” he sat near the table in the center of the room. “We nearly had them.”
“It is just a matter of time.”
“Our troops found a campsite recently abandoned. They found this smoldering in the pit where the fire was burning,” he placed a singed paper on the table. “What do you suppose it is?”
“It seems to be a map … a warning of where our seekers would patrol,” he growled.
I felt beads of sweat form on my brow. “Who would be privy to such information?”
“A person who has earned my trust, and that of our king.”
My heart pounded without control.
“This does look much like your writing,” hatred filled his glare, sending chills through me.
My heart heaved with fear and numbness overtook my faculties.
“I believe we know who the betrayer may be, Commander,” he lunged toward me and grabbed my shoulders. “Are you the one we seek?”
I was unable to speak, or think.
“Perhaps you are a believer,” spittle sprayed my face as his hot, foul breath engulfed me. “It is unfortunate you will not be alive to witness the annihilation of your kind.”
“There are many of us,” my eyes met his spiteful glower. “You will never silence the Word.”
“What has your disobedience gained you? You have thrown away all that was rightfully yours.”
“I do this for God, for the believers.”
Rage consumed his face. He pushed me into the chair, “Lock the door!”
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