The Barricades of Heaven

1146 AD (The period between the First and the Second Crusades), The Principality of Antioch (Northern Syria)

She knelt at the altar in the chapel, staring straight ahead at the golden cross placed on the massive stone altar. It occupied the length and breadth of her attention. She did not even notice the cold from the rough stone against her knees, or the heat from the desert seeping through the two arrow slits in the semi circular room. The highest level of the citadel, this was the safest and most peaceful place in the castle.
She did not need the security of the castle though, her faith would keep her safe. Her conviction would shelter her. Her belief would preserve her. Her muttered prayers would reach the ears of God and he would send down his angels to protect her as they were protecting her beloved husband, the Lord of Saone, and the men he had taken with him to defend his charge. She bowed her head and closed her eyes.
She did not hear the grunts and screams of the few soldiers left to guard the castle as they fell to the arrows that arced over the walls. She did not hear the rattle of the chains as the gates were opened to let in the invaders. She did not hear the doors and windows of the houses in the little town slam shut. She did not hear the children whimper in the arms of their mothers. The sound of the hooves on the cobblestones below did not reach her ears. She was listening so hard for the word of God that she could hear nothing else.
Blood flowed down the curved grey steps of the citadel. Blood of the defenders and the attackers, both the same shade of red. Broadsword and scimitar fell on tempered steel and cured hide, tore through mail and flesh, clattered on the stone stairs.
The large oak doors, polished almost to the colour of night, opened behind her. Soft, measured footfalls and fervent muttered prayers echoed in the room. His baggy clothes hissing as he walked around the altar.
"Look at me", he said. His voice was barely over a whisper, sounded like a snake.
She opened her eyes and looked up at him, standing behind the cross on the other side of the altar. The desert had made his skin like leather, stiff and dry. A great black beard covered most of his face. The whites of his eyes gave the impression of two moons in the night sky of his face. He placed a helmet on the altar with both hands.
"You know this helm", he said. It wasn't a question.
She nodded, the gossamer trail of her headdress swaying behind her.
"He fought bravely", there was no sarcasm in his voice.
He bent his head slightly and placed a finger on top of the cross, tilting it slightly, dropped it to the ground. The corners of her eyes twitched as it fell to the floor. She fought the impulse to get to her feet and place the cross in its position of privilege.
He rounded the altar and placed the edge of his sword at her throat. The steel felt cold against her skin. She heard the screams of the women and children from the courtyard below. She smoke from the burning houses assaulted her. Her eyes glazed over with the tears she was fighting.
She asked, her voice quivering, "Why are you doing this?"
"For Allah," he replied, his voice barely over a whisper. "For heaven".
"And what will you do when they won't let you in? Will you storm the barricades of heaven?"
He twisted his wrist.

7 comments:

Suman Shivashankar said...

Brilliant...

rammy said...

Totally. Unbelievably brilliant.

Rize said...

nice....

Anonymous said...

Wow…
Good stuff!
Would have been better if the word Allah wasn’t used.

Almost all religions kill in the name of God.

Rohit said...

its different man..in a good way. btw,im a friend of suman

'Smee! said...

Ah. Divine. Pun intended :P

~R~ said...

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