The End of the Old Order
Six years have passed since I woke up in a hospital bed surrounded by Trina, my girls, and my most trusted troops. One cannot put a price on this kind of loyalty. It’s hard to earn, but the returns are immeasurable. Without my soldiers, my children would be dead. Trina would be dead. I would be dead.
That’s what happened to Avir, and God help us, her children. It’s devastating to me that I couldn’t protect them—that I couldn’t keep my promise to the prince. But the truth is Avir wouldn’t let me. I don’t know if it was her pride or somehow, like Bramir, she thought I drove that knife into the prince’s heart. She saw with her own eyes that it was his sacrifice. But maybe she thought I was the one who should have paid the price.
Or maybe she just lost faith in men.
In the end, Avir and her five children were murdered. The King publicly hanged her. It was aired throughout Erabia. It was a studio-level production strikingly similar to The War Show. It’s safe to assume the same production team, minus Equis of course, was involved. Avir was painted as a whore who was unfaithful to her husband. She was branded a heretic—disrespectful to the King and contemptuous of God and the Great Prophet. And she was vilified as a traitor who conspired against the crown. She was hung in the courtyard of the Royal Erabian Palace.
The details surrounding the children’s deaths are less clear. But Ayesha and I are certain they’re gone. Ayesha’s hacker friends intercepted a number of communiques confirming their deaths. Poor Daveem was the last to be killed. His executioners begged the King for a reprieve. They struggled to kill this boy as he rocked aimlessly, incapable of understanding even the most basic concept of wrong. But the King said God’s will was that they all die. The truth was the King couldn’t leave any loose ends. Avir and Bramir were true threats to his rule. But not the other children. That he had them all killed just goes to show how insecure a man the King really is. He must have feared that the public would sympathize with these children and turn them into martyrs. So, he told the public that the children’s lives were in danger and that they were living happily with relatives in an unidentified location. Then he killed them all.
A few weeks after Salen’s death, Ayesha, with help of Caracal, contacted me through a secure communication channel. They knew, based on all The War Show footage they had watched, that I could be trusted and was probably sympathetic to their cause.
“Good afternoon, Colonel Wyles,” Ayesha said to me. Her voice was camouflaged and there was a constant buzzing in the background that I assume had to do with jamming any devices that might detect her location or who she was talking to. “I know everything you did for the prince and Avir, and I assume you tried to protect the children and Salen as well. I know you’re a good man.”
“I’m so sorry for all the loss you have suffered, Ayesha. I desperately wanted to protect Avir and the children. And Salen’s death was utterly pointless.” I didn’t want to mention to Ayesha that the shooter told me Bramir had ordered the attack that accidentally killed Salen. Either Ayesha already knew or there was no reason to cause her added pain. “I can’t say I know what it’s like to lose so many people in such a short time. But I can tell you that my father was murdered and the pain at the time was unbearable. I’m sure you’re filled with hate, as I was. I hated the Holy Roman Church for killing him, just as I’m sure you hate your King.”
“I’m sorry for your loss as well.” She then paused. “May I ask why the Holy Roman Church would kill your father. It seems odd for the Church to kill an Anglican man.”
“I honestly don’t know. My father was a religious man and he was very active in the Church. But, one day, out of nowhere, he went missing. A week later, I opened up the front door and there was my father’s body, neatly stacked in twelve sections, vacuum-packed in a plastic bag with the Son Savior’s cross on it.”
“Oh my God. That’s unbelievable.”
“Yes, it was awful.”
“Awful … yes … of course. But that’s not what I mean … I mean … I know why your father was killed.”
“How can you—"
“He was what they call a Keeper of The Prophecy, a believer in its message. This is what the Church did to people who kept copies of The Prophecy. They cut them up into twelve sections and sent them home in a plastic bag with the Son Savior’s cross on it. The twelve sections were symbolic of the twelve stories in The Prophecy. In other words, the Church was saying that if we catch you reading theses twelve stories, we’ll cut you into twelve pieces.”
“No, that can’t be. I never once ….” I stopped myself. My father kept a gun in a lockbox in our basement. When I was a very young boy, I snuck down there, found the lockbox and jiggled the lock open. I pulled out the gun, but underneath was an old book. Ancient-looking in fact. My father was not a man to read books, so I was quite surprised. Just as I lifted the book out, my father stormed in and caught me red-handed. I asked about the book, but he said I was never to mention anything about it to anyone. I didn’t make much of it. I thought my father, a working-class man with little education, was embarrassed that he kept a book, maybe even one he loved, safely locked away in a lockbox. And that was the end of it for me.
“Colonel Wyles. Are you still there?”
“I am. But let’s not talk any further about my father. We’ll save that for another day.” The truth was that from the moment I learned why he was killed, it didn’t really seem to matter. I already had every reason to hate Anglica and Erabia. What was one more nation to hate?
Ayesha then proceeded to tell me about her plan to tell the world the truth about the King, Prime Minister, and Rhone Block. I cautioned her against moving too fast against the King and Prime Minister. I explained that it might cause lives to be lost. But she didn’t listen. She was looking to speak with someone sympathetic to her cause. She wasn’t looking for input.
Soon after my call with Ayesha, she launched her plan. Caracal and other former RNTM hackers managed to take over every major broadcast in Anglica and Erabia. For a few minutes, they held the world’s attention. Ayesha told the world that Mother Suri was nothing more than artificial intelligence and that Rhone Block was the mastermind behind the unholy alliance between the King and Prime Minister.
Not much changed after Ayesha’s broadcast—not initially. Ayesha and Caracal were only able to get out this one broadcast before the experts from Prescient Labs blocked them. The King and Prime Minister each quickly called news conferences and tied Ayesha to a larger conspiracy by the prince, Avir, and Salen to overthrow the King. Ayesha effectively became Mother Suri—
a made-up enemy that the King and Prime Minister could point the finger at. Clearly that was their new plan. But, Ayesha had already planted the seed. And although she couldn’t broadcast to the entire world any more, there were enough believers for a movement to build.
Slowly things started to change. So much so, that within a few years of the broadcast, the King and Prime Minister could no longer keep up the pretense that they needed to band together to fight this new common enemy. Anglican and Erabian military generals were suspect of the King and Prime Minister. War broke out again. Causalities mounted on both sides. The Wars of Understanding, as the press is now calling them, continue to rage today. Peace between Erabia and Anglica is as unlikely as ever.
When the wars started, Trina asked me to retire from active duty. I had no problem agreeing to her request. I knew that my days of fighting should be over. I teach military strategy at the university now and do my best to keep my head down. It’s not a courageous stance and I’m not overly proud of myself. But I want to see my little girls grow old.
A few months ago, I was sitting on the front terrace of my home when my youngest daughter came running to me. “Daddy, daddy, a drone just dropped this container in front of our door. It’s addressed to you. Can I open it?”
Normally, I wouldn’t mind if she opened it, but there have been some terrorist attacks of late, and in an abundance of caution, I tell her to leave the container and go inside. The container looks harmless, but I open it slowly. It’s safe. Inside is a simple reader. I press the touchpad and it opens to the first page, a dedication to people I will never forget.
Centuries ago, women and men of all walks of life wrote brilliant stories—allegories and fables—predicting the End of the Old Order. The Holy Roman Church of Yerusalom deemed these stories blasphemy and censored them all. But one brave soul was courageous enough to gather some of the stories together, choose what he believed to be the best, and create an anthology called the Prophecy of the End of the Old Order. Twelve stories that should guide us.
For years now, I have been trying to recreate this anthology based on oral histories and documents I have been able to uncover. Fortunately, I am now able to share this with the rest of the world.
I dedicate The Prophecy to the love of my life, Salen Tumeron, and her cousins, who were like my cousins, Prince Briyad and Princess Avir, and their five children. May God protect your souls in heaven, while I protect your dreams on earth.
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