A knock sounded on my door. Wiping sleep from my eyes, I staggered over through the cold morning air. Floorboards squeaked and cracked as I reached for the doorknob. As soon as I touched it, an armor-clad boot burst through knocking me backwards and onto the floor.
“I thought we had a deal?” a man said with a raspy voice.
“You serve me, I give you what you want and everything’s taken care of. No disagreements, no betrayals, nothing. So what happened?”
My head ached from hitting the ground so heavily. I rubbed my temples trying to think of a response.
“Hey! Can you hear me?” his boot dug into my stomach several times. “Answer me!”
I looked up into the most hateful eyes I had ever seen. Whatever stood over me was dressed in black armor and carried a rusty sword at his side. His eyes were a horrifying mix of yellow, green, gray with streaks of red, as though he had been awake for centuries.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I muttered.
“Don’t know what I’m talking about? How does this sound?” his boot pounded against my face in one swift swipe. Barely remaining conscious, I tried to get away.
“Oh no you don’t!” claws dug into my shoulders as he grabbed me, lifted me off the ground and threw me across the room.
“My soldiers tell me you’ve jumped sides, started serving the Enemy; is this true?”
“What do you mean?”
He pinned me to the ground.
“This is what I mean!” a rusty dagger was held to my throat, “You stop serving the Enemy, stop caring about others more than yourself, and start doing what I tell you, alright? You don’t know Who you’re serving when you jump sides; I do! He’s a lying, thieving, murdering, bloodthirsty child who broke a few toys He created. And since He can’t fix them, He’s turning them into puppets. Do you want to be a puppet?”
I didn’t know what to say.
“Do you want to be a puppet?”
“Good! Now I’m going to leave and get back to doing what I do best: setting people free. If I hear of even the slightest rumor that you’ve done something kind for somebody else, if I hear that you’ve danced to the strings He pulls, I’m going to end it all, understood?”
I closed my eyes ready to accept death.
“Yes! Yes, I understand!”
“Good,” he threw me to the side and stormed through the broken door. Lying on the ground of my own home for just a moment, I felt a cold, deadly chill settle over me. I watched as he disappeared into the darkness. And before I turned away, I noticed a silhouette standing far outside my home, just staring back at me. I blinked and he was gone.
Serving the king was the easiest thing anyone could do: you stick to your own life, mind your own business, help no one and you’ll be okay. You only swear your allegiance to his crown, to his thrown, and everything else was taken care of. But there was a catch; those who didn’t bow down to him were killed on the spot. I didn’t think much of it until he started killing women and children, the elderly and sick. There were even people who were deaf and didn’t know what he was saying. And since they didn’t reply, he killed them. Only a few others and I realized what we had gotten ourselves into and for a while we weren’t able to do anything about it. It wasn’t until we started watching for his soldiers and their regular patrols that we got the idea and the guts to meet underground.
Only three or four of us gathered, but we knew we had to do something. There was no telling what this lunatic king would do next if we didn’t work to stop him. We would go around the town and find all the women, children, sick, old, or anybody else who needed protecting and we hid them underground with us. Though they didn’t get to see sunlight much, it was far safer down there than above ground with those demon soldiers wandering the streets. None of us were skilled with a sword, so challenging them face to face was basically suicide.
After I composed myself, I fixed my broken door, threw a few logs into the fire to warm the place back up, and then went outside for some fresh air. When I did, two orphans were being interrogated by a squad of demons across the street. I froze a moment while snow fell softly all around me. I just told the king himself that I was his servant, but what I was looking at compelled me to rebel. His soldiers were beating these kids mercilessly, forcing them to bow down. I took a step forward, but a hand grabbed my shoulder. Frightened, I turned to see who it was, fearing the king. But I saw only a hooded figure signaling with his hand for me to remain quite. I then heard a small whisper from the man.
“You should stay back and let me handle this,” he said.
“Who are you? And what can you do against six demons?”
He chuckled softly.
“What I’m going to do to these six demons, I could do to a whole army of them,” and then he turned away, drew a sword (the most peculiar of swords, for it wasn’t yet complete), and charged like a mad man into the squad of demons. Within a few moments, the children ran away freed while six demons breathed their last from the snow-covered, stone ground. Shocked, I approached the man slowly, afraid he might turn on me.
“Who are you?”
He stood a moment with his hood up and his sword in hand. I listened to the sound of a sheathed blade echo off the house walls. Turning and removing his hood, he faced me.
“Do you know the words of the Scrolls?” he asked.
“Yes, I learned them when I was little.”
“Do you remember the words of the Prophet Isaiah that go like this: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor’?”
“Well I don’t remember them quite like that, but I’ll take your word for it. But what does that make you?”
“I am the Anointed One. Now there isn’t much time, you must go quickly!”
“Why? What’s happening? I thought you could do what you just did to a thousand demons? Who’s going to stop you?”
“There is something I must do, something I must fulfill. You can’t be following me in public just yet. The time hasn’t come for that.”
“When will the time come? And who says I’m supposed to follow you?”
“Cephas!” He cried, “Listen to me! You must go now, but believe me when I say that I shall return. And trust me, in three days’ time; I will bring a force that will overthrow even the darkest of corners of this “king’s” kingdom. Quickly, return to your home!”
Horses cried in the distant air, signifying the coming of dozens of more soldiers. I looked down the road and back to the Man before me, who suddenly, in the brief, beautiful moonlight, appeared to me a King, and the most Majestic of Kings at that. There is no measurement in all the earth to reveal the amount of hope, joy, and love that filled me in that moment. It all mixed together into a refreshing potion and filled my veins. I felt it pump even to my fingertips. As the roar of horses’ hooves drew near, I was filled with so much courage that I was ready to stand at this King’s side – sword-less even – to the bitter end. But He waved me on and I stole away just as the first of two dozen horses rounded the corner and came into view. I ducked behind my window and watched.
A large beast descended the first horse and strode up to the King who had now replaced his hood. This was the king who had woken me just hours ago. His soldiers had now surrounded the cloaked King and drew their swords. I listened carefully as the two kings met, eye to eye.
“So, this is what He’s having you do, Immanuel? He’s having you give it all up to hopefully fix His broken toys?”
“They’re more than toys, Lucifer, and you know this as well as I!”
“Lucifer,” I whispered to myself, amazed that the King had known both my name and our king’s name.
“No, see, they aren’t more than toys, not yet. I can fix them!” Lucifer replied, his voice trembling with frustration.
“You don’t understand the mess your Father has made!”
“And you don’t understand the power that I possess!” Immanuel boomed, rumbling even the earth beneath my feet.
“Fair enough,” Lucifer now turned away, “I will prove both of you false. Seize him!”
Soldiers pounced in like mad hyenas, removing the King’s unfinished blade, throwing it into the woods and binding him hand and foot. Before they left, several demons ripped off His shirt, leaving His back bear before the cold night air. Lucifer produced a whip with pieces of bone and metal woven through its tips. He cried with joy as he begun ravaging the bear back of the King. It seemed as though hours had passed before he was through. Hot tears of pain poured down my cheeks as I watched as they tied Him to the end of a horse by His hands, intending to drag Him away.
“No!” a cry escaped my mouth. Lucifer’s hateful eyes glared with a grin in my direction. I jumped back from the door, trying to get out the back way. But before I knew it, I heard the entire wall crash to pieces as the king charged in after me.
“So, we have a little spy, do we?” his claws tore deep into my shoulder this time. It felt as though a poison began to pour through my blood. “You don’t realize what you’ve done, young little Cephas…but you will.”
The prison cell faced the execution courtyard. Those who made adamant and violent rebellions against king Lucifer were subjected to torture before death. In the old days this tactic was used to give the prisoner one last chance of repenting his betrayal. But Lucifer did this for fun. I glanced around at the prisoners beside me; old men, lame men, children, and just about any kind of physically weakened human were there with me. Hundreds of us, it seemed, were bunched into one cell, forced to watch what the king called the greatest execution of his time. Immanuel had been tortured with Lucifer’s whip once more; His flesh dangled with the wind.
“You are all going to watch and enjoy your King’s meaningless death!” Lucifer growled while glaring at me.
The real King gave a loud, soul-piercing cry as a nail was hammered through each of His hands and both of His legs. In the hours that passed while He hung ten feet above ground, we nearly fell asleep because we were overwrought with distress. We were woken, though, when Immanuel gave a loud shout that echoed throughout the heavens and caused the lightning to flash and the thunder to roll. Even the earth shook as He died. And though we stared in horror upon His dead body, His words echoed in my mind; “I shall return.”
The following morning we were all whipped, though not as severely as the King had suffered. Lucifer’s soldiers beat us and dragged us through the streets, giving us our final torture before our awaiting deaths. We fell asleep from exhaustion that night. But what awoke us that morning, no one expected.
“His tomb is empty! His tomb is empty! His tomb is empty!” two women were crying in the streets. These women had sworn allegiance to king Lucifer and were being heavily chastised by his soldiers. But still they shouted. Eventually, Lucifer himself arrived to ask them what they had seen.
“Ha, ha, ha, ha!” the women laughed in Lucifer’s face. “You wish for us to tell you something you already know?”
Lucifer slapped them to the ground.
“This can’t be!” I heard him mutter to himself.
And as the morning light flooded through the streets, a stillness came about the whole scene that calmed and yet encouraged our very souls. An old man began to hum a tune at the back of the prison, a tune that others had recognized and eventually put words to. When, like a gentle trickle that amasses to a tidal wave, it had reached my ears, everyone was already singing it aloud.
“Rejoice, rejoice! Immanuel shall come to thee O Israel!”
“Shut up!” Lucifer cried.
Someone started to stomp in rhythm with their feet.
“I said shut up!” he now turned towards us and threw a small rock in our direction.
We only sung louder.
Lucifer charged towards the prison, reached through and grabbed my shirt and slammed me against the bars.
His breath was foul.
“I told you to shut up!”
A small tickle of joy swam through my veins. I snickered in reply.
“You can kill our King, dear Lucifer, but His people will continue to sing!”
He growled and ordered his soldiers to draw their bows and arrows and aim them at us. I remained staring at him while his soldiers prepare to fire. He dropped his arm in signal to fire, and hundreds of darts hissed through the air. A tremor of triumph appeared on Lucifer’s evil features. That is, until he realized we were still standing.
“What happened?” he cried.
A glow emanated from beneath our clothes, and tore them open to find ourselves dressed in the most glorious of armor. At each of our sides rested shields that no arrow could pierce, and swords with blades so sharp no army could dull. Metal snapped as the chains that bound our prison together fell to the ground, setting us free.
“Prepare to fire another volley!” Lucifer cried again.
We listened to the sound of leather being stretched and just as Lucifer raised his arm to give the signal, we listened to the sound of a massive trumpet blaring in the distance. Lucifer’s arm dropped, the arrows flew, and yet we stood. Frustrated to a violent rage, Lucifer drew the rusty blade at his side and called for a charge. His eyes were fixed upon me.
I watched as each pounding step stirred a cloud of dust behind him. And with each thrust of his powerful legs, his muscles vibrated all throughout his body. His blade whistled through the air as it descended towards me, but snapped in half as it met the fiery Sword raised between us. The King stood before me in His glorious shining armor and bore His hatred of everything evil directly at Lucifer, who had begun to cower backwards like a whipped dog.
“And so it begins,” He said.
We rallied to His war cry.