There is an old book in the Chasseur family. François Chasseur had called it his grandpappy’s War Journal. Of course, if he had paid just a bit more attention, he would have known that *his* grandpappy had called it the same thing. There really was no telling how old the thing was. The paper was wrinkled, and of a deep brown that felt delightful to the touch. The leather was of an even darker brown and had the dry look of well cared for leather that should have long since turned to dust. The writing had been in charcoal, and much had faded over the years. None in the Family could remember how to sound the letters, but they all liked to look at it from time to time and pretend. Henri’s recollection of his Uncle before he’d left for military work included a wide array of the book being brandished and thumped for emphasis, spouting tales of knights battling great monsters of old.
The dirty figure hunched over it ran a filthy fingernail over the page lovingly, imagining in the complexity of his mind’s eye, that the words made sense.
** … we have chased the beast through the wood and into the hills. Its voice drive them to madness. I swear to the Almighty God, in whom I have entrusted my soul, never have I witnessed such horrors. It spoke of hunger, and we were hungry. Some of the men turned on each other, eating of their flesh and drinking of their blood. Their minds warped; there was no saving them after. Their screams haunt my dreams. The bliss in their eyes as they chewed the intestines of their children haunt me. There can be no redemption after such things. I pray to God for forgiveness for what I have seen and done in this war.
We have sealed the beast in with the sacred rites. The King has decreed…**
He knew what it said, in his heart he knew. It was talking about a dragon sitting atop a horde, and the brave knights that slew it. Something noble and pretty, like his when the girls dance in the spring with flowers in their hair. A smile splits the weathered face of the man. He dips a corner of the rag into the shallow dish of water and gently rubs it along the page to pull off the words. Gently, he blows on the page to dry it once more. Then the tip of charcoal touches the page and he closes his eyes.
“How den dat go? La-th-eye-a had a youngin’ fer a king, who was called Benny-lass. Benny-lass raised up as a king of this scary city, was protector of them bad religions and their exotic rites. La-th-eye-a had cults with great wealth to its king for dis protection of der sacred places where their differen’ worship could do their endless circle of sacrifice and orgy,” he said with his brow furrowed. “Alright den.”
The charcoal tip started to draw simple images. Lethia was a tower with a halo. Benalus was lion in a crown. There is a pause. This was a young king. The image is wiped away, and the tip drew a lion in a crown without a mane. A shield comes after the lion cub in a crown. Then three simple robes wearing spiked halos. Then a coin. Then an alter with a robed figure behind it.
It felt good to write down the good book. The dirty figure smiled as he accented the halo over the lion.
“Das good,” he said, feeling warm inside.