BOOK DETAILS

Hanged for the Few

Hanged for the Few

by James T Carpenter

ISBN: 9781461040040

Publisher CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Published in Science Fiction & Fantasy/Fantasy, Literature & Fiction/Contemporary, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Literature & Fiction

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Book Description

FLANDIT

A label Billor has fled for the last ten years. Flandism is the most radical and rigid sect of Monidism, a sect that sometimes alienates its followers like Billor or angered kings like Merkvor.

Billor and four others are recruited by King Merkvor to find Weslin, the major city of Flandism, so that the king can destroy it with the huge army he has gathered.

Sample Chapter

Silence swept through the tavern as the five soldiers entered and began passing among the crowd. A flaming torch thrust through a noose was emblazoned on each soldier’s chest plate. The mark of Merkvor. Billor glanced at his dinner companion whose eyes followed the soldiers’ every move and whose face paled as the soldiers stopped in front of their table.

“Are you Sir Billor, son of Sir Rondolf?”

Standing quickly, Billor knocked over his chair as his companion scooted back and spat at his feet.

“Damn Flandit! Befriendin’ me before you try convertin’ me!”

“I’m not a Flandit!” he shouted.

His companion, an old farmer too old to join the large army, which camped in the surrounding countryside, laughed. “Sure you aren’t.”

“Hang ’im!” another suggested.

“That’s too good for ’im. Boil ’im in oil,” another diner volunteered.

A chorus of voices arose, each with its own unique punishment in mind.

One of the soldiers cleared his throat. “The king has sent us and we would appreciate full cooperation.”

Silence again filled the tavern. Receiving his demanded cooperation, the short soldier with a scruffy beard looked at Billor.

“Are you Sir Billor, son of Sir Rondolf?”

Pain lanced at Billor’s half full stomach. He hated being reminded of his Flandit past. He’d spent the last ten years, ever since that night, trying to escape it, but again it came to haunt him. Damn, he thought, I knew I should have avoided this kingdom when I saw all these soldiers gathered.

“Well?” asked the soldier.

“My name is Billor, not Sir Billor. I never gained that title.” The only way was by being Called Out, a ceremony in which Billor had chosen not to participate.

“Then come with us,” the soldier stated. “The king wishes to see you.”

As the former Flandit turned to leave the tavern, he saw the old farmer shake his head sadly. Does he feel sorry for me? Billor wondered. Maybe he hates Flandits but not so much as to see one captured by Merkvor.

The ways of Merkvor toward Flandits were well known. When Merkvor had been young, Flandits had been welcome in his kingdom, but not long after he gained the throne persecution of Flandits began. Throughout Billor’s childhood, Flandits had scolded, harassed and shamed nobility, clergy and the peasantry, all belonging to the Rebellant and Holyunionite churches of the West. Although Merkvor had persecuted Flandits for the last three decades, most rulers hadn’t begun until about five years ago after the Flandits in a possessed furor to gain converts had burned churches across the western lands.

Merkvor had begun persecuting Flandits in his kingdom, but after the Flandit Burn, other rulers had joined in the effort. Always, Merkvor led the way. For the last year, Billor had heard tales of the army he now saw in the surrounding countryside.

The soldiers led him from the inn to six awaiting horses. Billor recognized his mount; a gray and white horse he’d acquired before leaving his last home. His saddlebags were missing.

“My supplies?”

“Don’t worry,” the scruffy-bearded soldier assured him, “they’re being taken care of.”

The former Flandit and the soldiers mounted their horses. Staring once again at the squat wooden building, he read the inn’s name: Broken Escapes.

He kicked his horse into a gallop behind the soldiers and followed them toward the king’s imposing castle.

As they galloped along the road, they passed by the peasants’ cottages, taverns, inns, blacksmith shops, tanneries, armor shops and all the different shops run by artisans needed in the town circling the kingdom’s castle. Billor glanced from the huge castle, which seemed to dominate the countryside, to the small bonfires covering the hills that surrounded the city. Earlier that day he’d passed by these soldiers and their army, one of the largest he’d ever seen.

Now their campfires dotted the hills like stars shining in the night sky. He’d been surprised they hadn’t tried to recruit him. Maybe that’s all they’re planning to do now, he thought.

Ghostlight shone on the enormous castle of Merkvor. The six men galloped up the hill and slowed their horses as the drawbridge slowly fell over the moat surrounding the castle. The horses walked across the drawbridge and clip-clopped on the stone-paved courtyard. Billor quickly gazed at the fortress, a fortress constructed of limestone blocks, which reflected the light from the Ghost of Mindor’s former mount, a fortress with six walls, fifty feet tall each, and cylindrical towers at each corner.

Small one- and two-story buildings filled half the fortress. Billor glanced at these silent buildings constructed from mud blocks and knew here even the taverns were quiet. The king’s morality is kept here if not elsewhere, thought the former Flandit as he and his escort passed five other soldiers on horseback. They rode through the open gates of a thirty-foot wall, which surrounded taller, more intricately carved buildings in which Billor noticed candlelight slipping through the darkened windows. Evidently, the peasants weren’t the only ones who didn’t strictly obey the king’s morality.

Merkvor’s morality was known almost as well as his hatred of Flandits.

He and the priests and bishops of his kingdom decreed a high moral conduct of his subjects, but not enough soldiers existed to enforce these laws. The priests and bishops of the kingdom’s church, which had split from the Holy United Church under Merkvor’s great grandfather, enforced morality better through condemning the wrongdoers to eternal damnation in Hellif. In the reign of Merkvor’s father, the church had helped this king and others squelch the peasant uprisings in their kingdoms.

The soldiers halted their horses by a small doorway to an intricately decorated four-story building. Lights glowed in many of its rooms and shone on the statues of the saints and demons, which adorned the building. The scruffy-bearded soldier dismounted and ordered Billor to do the same. They entered the building, passing through a dimly lit hallway to a narrow winding staircase. At the top, they hurried through another narrow hallway to a small square room lit by candles and adorned with elegantly carved chairs, a table and a richly patterned rug.

“Sit,” the soldier ordered. “I’ll be back.” As the former Flandit sat, the short soldier exited the room through a door larger and opposite the one through which they’d entered.

Sitting alone, Billor remembered meeting a Flandit, Sir Richar by name, on the road to Merkvor’s kingdom. The Flandit had talked with Billor for the few miles they had ridden together. Billor had asked why Richar was risking his life by going to Merkvor’s kingdom where all were hostile to that movement. The Flandit had replied that Merkvor’s kingdom was filled with false Monidism. Priests, bishops and Merkvor proclaimed morality in Hreest’s name as peasants and nobility drank their fill, prostitutes received theirs and very few read the Mootle, the Word of God. Billor had wished Richar well but had been glad to see him go, and the Flandit had told Billor that it wasn’t too late to regain faith lost long ago. Billor’s stomach had hurt with this unwelcome reminder of his past. If Richar dies here, thought the former Flandit, it serves him right.

The soldier returned, carrying a torch. “Take this and follow the hall beyond this door.”

Billor shrugged, grabbed the torch, and exited through the doorway in which the soldier had returned. Slowly, he walked down the dark hallway and wondered what awaited him behind the lone door at the end. He breathed deeply before opening it.

The light of many torches blinded him momentarily.

“Come in,” commanded a deep voice. “Add your torch to ours in the wall receptacles.”

As Billor entered quietly and closed the door, which locked behind him, he stared at the circular room before him and the five other people in it.

His gaze fell on a man wearing a long black robe, which gathered around his feet. Well-combed dusty gray hair fell along his face and formed a mustache and beard. Wrinkles lined his face and were more numerous around his dark brown eyes. The former Flandit guessed this man to be much older than the others in this room whom Billor figured were about thirty years old or younger like himself.

Billor put the torch in a wall receptacle and bowed deeply.

“Arise,” Merkvor ordered. The son of a Flandit stood and noticed the large wooden door behind the king. He wondered what surprises their host had in store for them. “I presume you all know me, and I certainly know all of you.”

“What’s going on here?” demanded the small man to Merkvor’s left. The small man’s raspy voice caused the others to stare at him. He was short and slim, about a head shorter than Billor, and wore a weather-beaten leather tunic and trousers with a belt containing strangely shaped metal objects. His scarlet hair was cut like a bowl had been placed on his head, and his dark green eyes darted around suspiciously.

“Quiet, Lorbon.” The king cleared his throat. Motioning at the small man, he continued, “This is Lorbon, an expert in ancient weapons created in the Time Before the Crash, a time forgotten by us, but also a time with extraordinarily powerful weapons. The priests of Mindor kept those weapons in adequate shape so people like Lorbon could use them. Weapons from a time before Mindor crashed the sun—”

“That’s all religious nonsense,” snapped the woman to Billor’s left. She stood a bit taller than the former Flandit and wore leather armor, which followed the contours of her body. Curly brown hair fell no lower than her neck, and blue eyes stared above her pudgy nose and cheeks at the other occupants of the room.

Merkvor smiled slightly at this woman’s comment. “Perhaps, Margona, perhaps.”

Billor himself was uncertain about the legends of Mindor. According to legend, Mindor was a giant who lived in a distant mountain range and daily rode the sun across the sky. Once, some people said, he had crashed the sun against the world to punish the people for their sins. Even Monidists and Jagdobarians usually believed in these legends despite their not fitting precisely in either faith. Billor didn’t doubt the legends but wondered about the tales of Mindor’s former mount, a ghost of its former self, nightly changing in shape. The various stories explaining how this former fiery mount had been created and changed its shape throughout each month had never satisfied him.

“Our doubter of Mindor is Margona, who will serve as your scout and guide,” Merkvor explained. “She has been known to follow horse trails years after the horses have left their tracks.”

“But can she fight?” inquired the huge woman to Billor’s right. She stood about a head taller than the former Flandit. Straight pitch-black hair fell to her broad shoulders and surrounded her grim face. Her brown eyes glowed above her small nose as her mouth, which looked like a slit in writing paper, twitched uncomfortably. She wore chain mail armor, and her right hand fingered the hilt of her long sword.

“Would you care to try it?” Margona dared.

The king sighed. “Now, now, women, don’t fight. Margona, your challenger is Helen, an excellent fighter known throughout our land. She shall be your fighter, although I know the rest of you can perfectly well defend yourselves.”

“But why in Hellif are we here?” Lorbon asked angrily.

Merkvor smiled. “Which brings us, shall we say, to the religious members of your party.”

Margona interrupted, “Don’t involve me in any religious crap.”

“You’re so entertaining,” the king laughed, staring at the guide. “To my right is Allon, a former Miltar. He has lost interest in the fact or legend that Jagdobar was the last and truest prophet of Lisfon.”

Billor stared at the man to Merkvor’s right. Like the king the Miltar wore a black robe, but Allon’s had a belt from which a two-handed long sword hung. The Miltar’s dark complexioned face was surrounded by short black hair cropped close to his scalp. Two brown eyes glowed on either side of his hawk like nose.

The former Flandit listened distantly to the king’s description of Allon’s fighting ability. None of the room’s occupants needed an explanation about Miltars. Billor knew that Miltars were the most militant faction of the Jagdobarians. Jagdobarians believed in the true prophet Jagdobar and the one and only God Lisfon, their name for the Monidist God Jagdew. Miltars, more than the other factions, believed that holy war could be used to spread the truth.

“—Flandits, on the other hand—” Merkvor was saying.

“Flandits are like men who turn into wolves when a town rejects their ways,” cut in Allon.

Margona glanced at the Miltar in disgust. “Sounds like that old religious argument. If you believe in my god, you’ll gain eternal bliss. As if any god exists at all.”

“Religious intolerance,” the short man spat.

Quite a little group here, thought Billor. I’m glad Merkvor is the one in charge.

The king cleared his throat as the others quieted. “Thank you. The purpose of this meeting will only become clear if I explain it, and that requires silence on your part. Representing the Flandits, although he is quite disillusioned with the entire movement, is Billor, who is opposite me—”

The former Flandit felt the others’ eyes fall on him and imagined what they saw. He was about five and a half feet tall, about the same height as the Miltar. His blond hair was cut similar to Lorbon’s, and his blue eyes, he hoped, stared defiantly at the others. He wore leather armor with a broad sword in its sheath at his side.

“A Flandit,” Allon interrupted, “is never lost from the fold.”

Comments about Flandits Billor didn’t mind, he’d made many himself, but ones concerning him he did. “Sounds like you aren’t totally disheartened by the Miltar movement yourself.”

Allon’s face reddened.

“Gentlemen, gentlemen,” the king interjected. “Please allow me to explain. Billor will be your leader.”

“What are you—” the former Flandit protested as the others joined in.

“Quiet!” Merkvor shouted as he stared angrily at the party of mixed individuals. “I can always find others to undertake this expedition. However, if such is necessary, your fate will be the dungeon or worse.”

The five others stared at the king silently. Billor wondered what each was thinking.

“Thank you for your attention. I have brought you together because I have a task for you to perform, a task, which requires the help of all of you and Billor as your leader.

“We all know of the great religions of the world: Hebruism, Monidism, Jagdobarism, and Mindorism. Each religion has one or more cities that have historical or political significance today. For Hebruism and Monidism, the city of Tellav in the Promised Land for the Hebers and where Monid Hreest died for the sins of the world for Monidists. The Hebers now rule this city after regaining control from the Jagdobarians to form a new nation. For Monidism, the Holyunionites look toward Washdiscol to the Execope for spiritual guidance. Although Rebellants look there as well, each different Rebellant sect has a city of its own importance, usually where the rebellion against the Execope and Holyunionism took place. And the Jagdobarians have Trayir, where Jagdobar was born and to which every Jagdobarian must journey sometime during his life.”

“Spare us the geography lesson,” Lorbon muttered.

Allon remarked, “Those who do not wish to know are usually the ones who need to.”

The short man stared angrily at the Miltar.

Merkvor smirked. “And Mindorism has Tarswen, deep in the Mountains of Mindor, where, according to legend, Mindor keeps the sun at night before taking it on another trek across the sky the next day.”

Listening to the king, the former Flandit shook his head. In his Flandit training sessions so long ago, he’d learned about all those religions, all of which had their roots in Hebruism. The Hebers had been the chosen people of God, or Jagdew, but also had been oppressed and conquered many a time, leading the prophets to predict the coming of the messiah. The Hebers still awaited him. The Monidists believed that the messiah had come as Monid Hreest, a man who was also god who had come to the Heber people. But Monid wasn’t the type of messiah the Hebers wanted. He didn’t overthrow the great Amer Empire. Instead, he met a disgraceful death and died for the sins of the whole world only to rise again in three days. Over a century ago, Monidism had broken into many factions like Jagdobarism had done even longer ago.

The newest religion by far was Mindorism in which its followers and most of the rest of the world believed that Mindor, the second son of God, had crashed the sun against the earth to punish mankind for its sins.

Mindorism was a fresh religion with Mindor’s deeds and creatures always present. Again, shaking his head, Billor let his mind return to Merkvor’s speech in which the ruler was describing the different Rebellant centers of learning.

“Indeed, every sect has its great city, including Flandism. The city of Weslin. Built on the grave of the great Reverend Jimmy of the Time Before the Crash. Center of Flandit literature and doctrine. From there came the decision for the Tobias’ Revolt—”

Billor knew people hated Flandits because of the Burn, but rulers, the kings and queens, also hated and feared Flandits because of the Tobias’ Revolt.

A peasant named Tobias, who had proclaimed that all men had equal rights be they nobles, peasants or kings, had been the leader. He had said the wealth should be more evenly distributed among all. The peasants and a strong group of Flandits had followed Tobias to defeat by the rulers’ armies, joined to fight a common cause.

“—and that is why Billor is the appropriate leader.” Gazing at the former Flandit, the king said, “You are a second generation—”

“Third generation,” Billor corrected.

“Yes, third generation Flandit. He does not know where his grandparents came from, but his parents, as do all Flandits, received a steady stream of literary materials and instruction on doctrine from Weslin. He has connections within the Flandit community, which will help you find the city the Flandits like to call Home.”

“So we’re supposed to find Weslin?” asked Margona.

“I believe that is what I said.”

“And tell you where it is?” the small man inquired.

Merkvor nodded.

“Then destruction shall rain upon the enemies of the true faith as the infidels fight among themselves.” Allon smiled.

Margona put it more bluntly, “So that massive army outside can destroy it.”

“I think that is rather obvious.”

“Forget it, Merkvor,” Lorbon stated. “My duty—” He began moving toward the door behind Billor.

“I don’t participate in missions dealing with such religious crap,” the guide added.

King Merkvor smiled unhappily as he rapped his knuckles against the large door behind him. It creaked open, away from the room, and tall, muscular human figures appeared in the darkness and stepped into the room’s light. These creatures stood a head taller than Helen, wore only leather trousers and held drawn swords. Brown scales covered their arms and chest, and a ridge went from the center of their foreheads over their heads and down their backs. Over rounded muzzles and mouths filled with sharp teeth, bright brown eyes stared at the humans. Billor stepped back quickly. Lizardmen, only legends for him until now, entered the room behind Merkvor.

“Meet my lizardmen. Very few survived until our civilized time. Most such strange creatures and ones like them died as we humans and other creatures, which lived in the Time Before the Crash, regained control of this world. Luckily, my ancestors have kept raising them for such a time as this.”

“They don’t frighten me,” the short man announced. He drew a strange metal device from his belt. “I could kill—”

“One or two, perhaps,” interjected Merkvor. “The rest will be upon you before you’ll be able to injure more.”

Lorbon grimaced and returned the device to his belt.

The king grinned. “All of you shall agree to carry out this mission because my friends here shall be not far behind you at all times. They are even better trackers than our dear Margona, and they can travel as fast as any horse.” He glanced at his captives. Billor stared in the glistening eyes of the lizardmen behind Merkvor.

“I’ll go,” the former Flandit conceded.

“Me too,” Helen said. Why hasn’t she said more? Billor wondered.

Margona sighed, “I don’t like dealing in religious crap, but this time I’ll make an exception.”

“What Jagdobar commands, I shall follow,” Allon stated.

Billor glanced from the Miltar to the small man.

“All right,” whispered Lorbon.

“Very good,” the king concluded sarcastically. “Tonight you will be given rooms. Tomorrow you will be supplied and outfitted and given medallions to let you through the gathering forces.” He paused, then shouted, “Guards!”

As the door opened behind Billor, Merkvor added, “I’m sure Billor will be an excellent leader.”

Allon mumbled something. The guards emerging from the door escorted the prisoners, one for every two guards, past Merkvor and the lizardmen and through the open doorway. Billor was the last to be escorted.

“Halt,” ordered the king as the former Flandit passed. “Do you have any ideas how to begin your search?”

Billor smiled. “I would like to begin in your dungeon.”

“And then?”

Gazing into a the eyes of a nearby lizardman, the appointed leader replied, “Your lizardmen will see.”

“Take him to his room!”

Again Billor smiled as he walked between the guards through a long, dimly lit hall. Of course he knew where he would begin. How better to find the Flandits’ Holy City than by being led by Flandits?

Continues...

Excerpted from "Hanged for the Few" by James T Carpenter. Copyright © 2011 by James T Carpenter. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

James T Carpenter

James T Carpenter

James T. Carpenter is a senior procedure analyst at a property-casualty insurance company. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Russian area studies from Knox College in 1984. His previous book, Hanged for the Few, is a theological fantasy published in 2011.

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