“Your return went quite well, Valeric.”
Theodon, though quite political in his speech with the Leaders, had no qualms with getting directly to the point when he spoke to me.
“The Leaders are pleased by how the battle went,” he continued, “and from the sounds of it, they should be. We had little casualties and we inflicted much damage to their ranks and resources. Very well indeed.”
“Thank you, the glory goes to Him,” I said. “Many of the men followed along with me in giving thanks.”
“I know. This, too, has gotten around quite quickly.”
“Is this bad?” I asked.
“It’s too early to know for certain, but I think if you continue to have these successes, just as you were before while not receiving much trouble from the Leaders, you should be fine for the time being.”
After stating this, Theodon stared off into the distance blankly, and the blankness in his eyes caused some unease to arise within me. That, as well as the unconvincing tone in which he responded to me. However, I didn’t push the issue, because I knew he would eventually fill me in.
“I’ll continue to lead my men and do what I think is right,” I told him. “Have you any news on your end?”
I know Theodon heard my question clearly but he didn’t answer right away, as he continued to stare ahead. He was searching for the right words to say, making what used to be unusual — a lack of forthrightness with me — usual because of the frequency in which it was now occurring. And when he finally did answer, he looked at the floor as he talked, something else he never used to do; he always looked me directly in the eyes.
“A Leader approached me the other day and quite subtly told me to keep under control the things that I can and to let them worry about the grander scheme of the Cause. It was subtle because he said it to me in such a confident and approving tone, like he was pleased with what I had done but asking that I not get too far ahead of myself. He repeated his affirmation but I also sensed a hint of scolding in his tone… I think he wanted me to sense it. They’re not happy with my questions, whether I ask them aloud or they see my inward questioning. They don’t like to be questioned, period… And this is all enhanced by you being my brother… and your recent actions.”
I knew that last part of what my brother said, he hesitated to say, and that he was in no way asking me to stop. It was a simple statement of fact. But that was the part I had respond to first.
“Brother, I have no desire to cause you any trouble.”
“No, no,” he interjected. “You must keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t worry about me.”
“But if I went and spoke with them and said that my actions are my own and only my own...”
“No. I doubt they would believe you, and it wouldn’t matter either way. Blood is what’s important to our Leaders. Keep leading the Cause to victories and we’ll take this day by day. And another thing…”
Blood is what’s important to our Leaders. This was true. It could be interpreted many different ways, too, but in my brother’s context he of course meant familial ties. And I wondered if that was the most important interpretation in the Leaders’ eyes.
Theodon continued with his last point and became more assured in this his last plea:
“I can’t help but wonder if you should have shown more mercy to the enemy as they were surrendering.”
Theodon was now looking straight into my eyes as he said this last thing. He framed the statement as if it were mere wonder but he said it with conviction, however, also with a tone that would allow for me to explain myself. So I told him the same as I told the men when I decided that we would not spare the remaining enemy their lives. I believed that the decision I had made was the right one for the Cause.
“I understand,” he said. “I am not convinced that what you did was wrong, but nor am I convinced that it was right. It may not have been either. But just remember, it is said, that as the Son was dying on that cross, He chose to provide mercy to one of the thieves, someone who had been guilty of doing wrong. And he did that just before He took His final breath.”
“I will give that some thought, brother, thank you.”
Our victory proved to be just as vital as we thought it would be. We had inflicted a severe wound upon the enemy and, while they scrambled to recover from their loss, our side was hoping to build upon our gains and experience further strengthening. Unfortunately, there was only so much we could do.
Coming out of the victory there seemed to be a unified mindset of not wanting to allow a let-up, as well as a determination to continue on in our quest to crush the enemy; crush them while they were still physically and mentally down. I would have been all for going through with this determination, but geographically it was not feasible. The camp we had just destroyed was the enemy’s closest known one to us. They had a few other smaller camps that were near enough to attack without having to make a lengthy trip, but once they heard of our victory, they retreated from those camps, abandoning them completely. It was assumed that they retreated back to their main camp where they would begin their recovery process. Hitting them there, at their main camp, was something that was always in the back of my mind, but it would take several days to even go over a planned strategy, as well as map out and find our best way to make a difficult trek with a large enough army to do the job. We were not yet ready for that assault.
After me and my regiment returned the Leaders did send out a couple of the other generals and their regiments to scout and ensure that there were no other enemy camps nearby. It was unlikely they would find any, though. And it was likely that this job being placed on these regiments could cause another divide to grow; scouting for camps that may or may not exist had become a bit of a norm for the regiments that weren’t led by me. There was no rhyme or reason to the way in which the Leaders delegated missions to each general. Often it was as simple as mine being the best as well as the most motivated.
But for the time being we had to be content with what we had accomplished, knowing that the enemy would be taking part in some recuperation. I did take solace in the idea that, although they were recovering, there was only so much they could gain back, and that was not much considering the losses they had experienced. They would never be able to bring back the hundreds of men lost to our swords. Those were lasting damages that could never be regained.
For the first time since my still short-lived spiritual journey, I was able to sit back and breathe for a little while. After the victory and returning to the Main Village, I desperately tried to find some shadows in which I could hide behind for a spell. I could sense the people of the Cause finding their way back to adoring me, and I felt that if I could make myself present within the camp as little as possible, then I could perhaps ward off, or at least repress, those human urges for a little bit. In my attempts at accomplishing this, I left camp and went up into a small mountain, only telling my brother where I could be found.
The trip wasn’t to be like my previous one in trying to re-discover myself and my motives, but rather a time to meditate on what I had already discovered. Also a way to get away from the spectacle that good feelings bring upon the people. Because not only were the people of the Cause feeling good, but so too were the Leaders of the Cause.
And I was becoming cognizant of the fact that the Leaders had a way of making one feel both important as well as the reason for bringing about good feelings to the Cause — but that while doing this they reinforced to the person they made feel important that they were still the ones in charge of the movement. I personally had not yet experienced it, but I was becoming more aware of the idea that they would go to great lengths in making a person feel their authority if they felt they needed to. They were grateful for the glories but were also cautious to not let go of the grip they had on the direction of the Cause.
And as I thought upon this, I realized that they had allowed me to become a god for the Cause because, due to my pride and my ego, they knew they could still control me. Yes, I went rogue from time to time, but they knew that a certain allowance of freedom would give me the perception that I had the ultimate freedom, when in fact they still maintained a complete stranglehold on the ultimate direction of the Cause. Had I failed in that dangerous endeavor which changed me, they could’ve easily placed all blame on me and would have been right in doing so. Since we came out of it alive, they could reprimand me for doing wrong and still look good in the process because we did win the battle. They came away from the ordeal on the good side of a two-sided picture due to the victory, as I came out on the bad side of that same picture due to the ugliness of the victory.
Pondering this didn’t bother me in the sense that I no longer wanted to fight for the Cause and its Leaders. But it did cause me to worry even more about our Leaders. More than anything, it caused me to worry about Theodon. Because while I was on the outside fighting the physical battles of the Cause, he was on the inside, seemingly fighting its internal ones. I eventually forced myself to stop thinking about such things, though. I needed to rest.