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
“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
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
“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
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.
“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
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
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
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
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
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
“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,
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
“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
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
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
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
“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
The five others stared at the king silently. Billor wondered what each
“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
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.
“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
“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
“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
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.”
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?
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.