Empires Of Faith

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Chapter 19: What Comes Next

5 Shawwal, 1663

"And after that," Garbiel Guerrero paused and smiled to his audience. His three children, two sons and a daughter, along with his pregnant wife, all sat at attention. Sitting on the soft green couch in their modest home, they were well pleased to have Gabriel back home in Spain after his long journey to the Muslim lands in the south. After being back a few days, he was excitedly telling them all tales of his adventure; from the places he'd seen to the people he'd met; from the dangers he'd faced to the knowledge he'd gained.

"Well, Papa?" his eager young daughter, Maria, asked. "What did you do?"

Gabriel grinned. "I forgave him."

"What?" Maria and her brothers asked in unison. Their mother and father both smiled at them.

"But how?" the oldest son, Miguel, asked. "How could you forgive him after he'd tried to rob you?"

"Because that's what turning the other cheek means," Gabriel explained. "And who am I to be cruel and unforgiving, when everyday I seek Kindness and Forgiveness from God? Jesus taught love and forgiveness, and so that is what we must follow and practice as true believers."

"Oh. Tell us another story, please?"

"Ooh, yeah," the youngest child, Manuel, piped up. "I want to hear another story about when you fought in the war and slaughtered those filthy Muslim perros*, Papa."

"Where did you hear these things?" Gabriel demanded, shocked by his young son's harsh words. "Who taught you that?"

"Miguel," the boy snitched.

Gabriel turned towards his son with a stern look. "But it's true," Miguel offered in his defense. "Everyone said. I heard the neighbors all saying what horrible people they are and how they're evil and attacked us. Jose from the village said that they worship a black brick house in the desert and hate Christians because we believe in God and Jesus. He said we should hate every single one of them and that will make Jesus happy and make God happy."

"I don't want you listening to this Jose anymore," Gabriel sighed.

"But I-"

"Come here son." Gabriel beckoned for his son to come to him. He kneeled down to his son's level and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Our belief is not to be full of hatred and aggression to others. This is not what pleases God. Jesus taught us to love and respect others."

"But they all hate us, and they hate him t-"

"They do not hate us, at least not all of them. And they certainly don't hate Jesus or God either."

"They don't?" Manuel asked as he and Maria walked in closer. Gabriel sat on the ground, crossing his legs and motioning for his children to join him on the floor. He sat young Manuel in his lap and looked to the other two as he spoke.

"They do not. In fact, Muslims believe in Jesus just as much as we do. They respect him and believe him to be one of the greatest Prophets of God. As for God, they believe in Him as well. They do not worship any stones or building or any other object. They worship God Alone. They're prayer is directed towards the Kab...Ka'b...Ka'bah as a centering and unifying direction. There was another reason, but I forgot it, I'm sorry. In any case, the Muslims are not too different from ourselves. The differences between our beliefs and there's is that they seem to believe in a Prophet after Jesus. His name was Muhammad."

"Oh I heard about him," Miguel said raising his hand. "Jose said he was-"

"I don't want to hear what Jose said. I want you to know that we should not disrespect him, nor his followers. From what I've learned on my journeys, he taught very good things, similar to our beliefs even. He preached about the Oneness of God and worshiping Him alone. This too was the Message of Jesus. And he taught about fairness and equality. So we should not be so quick to dismiss he and his followers. We respect them and accept our differences."

"But how?" Maria asked. "They're all in the desert and they don't understand our language or know our religion; they just want to kill us. Jose said-"

"Maria, what did you just hear me tell Miguel?"

"Sorry, Papa."

"It's okay, mija. Just don't do it again please. Jose is ignorant like his father. As I was saying, Muslims are not the wicked disbelievers they are made out to be. And they are not so foreign as you might believe. Why, Muslims once ruled this very land we live on."

"They did?" the three children asked in unison.

"Indeed. Many, many centuries ago. They ruled for years and years. During that time, it was a golden age. We had peace and prosperity, and there were so many advancements in knowledge of all kinds. It was such an enriching time period. There was religious tolerance such that even a Jew or a Christian was free to live in peace with his religion, his family, and his belongings safe. Things only went back to being bad when Christian Conquerors reclaimed Spain in the name of Christianity. Muslims and Jews were either slain, forced to convert, or got expelled from Spain."

"But it was their home too," Miguel said, confused about why they'd do that. "¿Por qué?*"

"Because those men were not practicing the true teachings of Jesus. They did not follow the guidance and accept others; they didn't love and respect anyone. They falsely claimed to be fighting for God, when they were only fighting for greed and power. That is the type of thing that will destroy a people."

"Oooooh. Okay. Papa, can I ask you something?"

"Yes, mijo?"

"How come your Muslim friend doesn't just become Christian like you?"

"Muslim friend?"

"The man with the turban on his face. Everyone says he's your friend and that you protected him because you said he's not an enemy."

"And he's not. He's a very good man I believe."

"Well, if he's a good person, and he believes in Jesus and God already, how come he doesn't just be a Christian like you?"

"He's fine as he is, mijo. He believes as he wants and his beliefs are fine. He is not following anything new or oppressive like the evil Kwaadi people who seek to wipe out anyone who believes in God. His beliefs are fine and so he is fine."

"Papa?" Maria asked concernedly.

"Yes, mija?"

"Are you going to become Muslim like him?"

Gabriel let out a hardy laughter. He smiled at his innocent young daughter and cupped his hand on the side of her face. "His religion is for him and mine is for me. I respect him and his religion, but that does not mean I am going to convert."

"Okay, Papa," Maria smiled. She got up and hugged him, wrapping her tiny arms around his broad shoulders. "I don't want you to go Hell fire." Gabriel chuckled as he hugged his daughter back. He brought in his two sons and hugged them all at once.

"God Willing, we'll all be safe from the Fire."

"Yes," his wife, Ramona, agreed. "God willing, we will all be safe from that. Now, children, go wash up for dinner. Miguel and Maria I need you to help me set the table."

"Me too?" Manuel asked.

"You can help too," his mother beamed back. The three children excitedly ran to go and prepare themselves for dinner. Ramona leaned forward, her large, pregnant belly made it a struggle.

"Perhaps you should allow me and the children to set up the table," Gabriel suggested. "I don't want you to strain yourself with anything, Cariño*."

"I'm fine," she insisted, still struggling to stand. Gabriel quickly leapt up gently helped her up. After she was standing, Ramona smiled warmly at her loving husband. Gabriel kept his hands on her shoulder and her stomach, feeling the baby inside kicking, he smiled. He moved to stand behind his wife, nuzzling his bearded chin between her neck and shoulder while both hands rubbed her stomach "The baby will be coming soon," Ramona said, breaking the silence.

"I hope so," Gabriel sighed under his breath. "I want to hold our little angel myself."

"Yes. And I wanted to speak with you concerning that."

"¿Que es la problema?*"

"This war. I do not want you to fight and die, leaving me behind with our children, struggling to survive."

"Ramona, mi amor,*" Gabriel sighed deeply. He took her hands into his and stroked the back of her palms with his thumbs. "I am not leaving you without any purpose. I am going for the sake of God. God has blessed me with a beautiful esposa*, and four wonderful children. How can I refuse to be a willing servant to Him and fight to defend His believers? And still yet, I am going for all of your sake as well. I must fight to defend those whom I love. If the Kwaadi infiltrate our lands and conquer our homes, we will be slain for practicing our religion and believing in God. I cannot bear the thought of any harm befalling my beloved family, and so I fight for you all as well. If I am slain in this, then it is the Will of God and we must accept that if we are true believers."

Ramona sighed. She knew he was right, but..."What's the matter?" Gabriel asked, his eyes full of concern.

"You're speaking like them," Ramona said, turning her head away. "It's almost like you are one of them."

"One of who? What do you mean?"

"A Muslim."

"Oh, not you too."

"I didn't mean it like that," she defended. Ramona turned and held her hand to Gabriel's jaw. She smiled as she looked into his autumn brown eyes. The small wrinkles on her face were no subtraction to her beauty as Gabriel raised his hand to hold her olive brown face. Her green eyes sparkled as she beamed at him. "I love you," she spoke. "And I don't want to lose you, through death or some big change because of some Muslim companion."

"As I told our daughter, I have a mutual respect for Ishaq and his religion as I have come to learn much about it on my journey. That is all. Do not worry so much about a small change. Now, sit here and rest while the children and I prepare the table. I will come back to get you shortly."

Gabriel smiled as his helped his wife to sit down and then left to the kitchen. She watched in slight sorrow as he walked away. "My fear is that a small change may bring about large ones," she said to herself. "One change could change everything." She rubbed the kicking baby inside her stomach as she thought deeply about her family.


An hour or so later Gabriel had just set out on a full stomach though he almost wished he hadn't had to leave the dinner table at all. His wife had made his favorite dish, her special family recipe for cocido madrileño* and afterwards she'd served his favorite dessert, pestiños*. He was so happy to be home again, enjoying time with his family and enjoying his wife's delicious cooking. Leaving all that behind was difficult, but necessary; there was work to be done.

Gabriel walked out to the old stable behind his stony home. Entering the stable, he was greeted by the happy puppy he'd taken in months ago. He smiled and petted the dog's head before continuing on to his horse. He walked up to his white stallion to see that the horse's mane was clean and groomed. His wife had taken care of him in Gabriel's absence, even though Gabriel asked her not to trouble herself. He sighed. After opening the stable doors, Gabriel strapped on the horse's saddle and bridle before climbing atop its back. He rode the strong horse from the stable and onto the stone paved streets of his city.

The night was cool and calm, a gentle breeze blowing over. The black sky held scattered puffs of gray and purple clouds, while a shining bright moon radiated a blue light over the town. The streets were mostly quiet as the town folk were in their homes, still having dinner or preparing for bed. Gabriel smiled as his horse walked slowly through the streets, passing by an old Church. Of all the buildings in the town, the Church was the first to be built. Gabriel was pleased at the deep roots of Christianity and worship of God his town held. Even among the other cities and villages throughout Spain, his town was the most prominent in terms of its citizens' worship and God-consciousness.

Gabriel continued on through, eventually passing by the old hut belonging to Juan Gutierrez, in which all previous meetings had been held. This meeting would not be held under his property, this would be a meeting lead by The Cross. There was a special arrangement made previously for all Cross meetings within the town. On the outskirts of town, there was a large wooden cabin. Throughout most of the year it remained vacant, however during the times when a delegation of Cross members would come for a check up or other official business, the cabin was used for their lodging. The most important reason being the central meeting room, with a large map of the country and neighboring nations plastered on the flooring. It was set up perfectly for their planning of war strategies or governing plans, or simple visitation plans. Just as well, it was easily accessible to the most important figures in the towns, convenient and fair for all.

When Gabriel arrived at said lodging, he dismounted his horse and tied it to a post. He did not see any other horses or riding animals to indicate the presence of any other travelers, but he heard voices coming from inside. He left his horse and moved to the cabin door. After knocking three times, Gabriel stood outside the door until a young boy opened it up and motioned for him to come inside. During their stay, members of The Cross were always welcomed to the servitude of hospitable villagers.

Gabriel walked inside, the sound of his boots thumping faded out under the loud voices of the men in the central room. He ran his hands alongside the logs of wood that made up all the walls as he walked through the halls into the meeting room. Gabriel knocked at the entrance and the speaking ceased as all of the men looked up from the table at which they sat.

"Ah, happy return, O Lion," General White spoke, standing at the table's far end. To his right sat Captain Ylittaa, his pale face holding a beaming smile. To the general's left was Captain Croiser, twisting at the curls of his long mustache of brown color. There were two men from the board of officials to his left, and two empty seats across from them. One additional seat also remained empty directly across from the general. Gabriel calmly walked in, waving a friendly salute to all of the guests. He saw neither the governor, Juan, nor the other messenger Ishaq. His face held a look of concern as he stared at the two empty seats, then he sat in the third chair across from the general.

"My apologies for my lateness," Gabriel spoke to the general. "Having been away from my family so long I-"

"No worries," General White smiled. "You're here now and that's all that matters."

"Where are the others? Ishaq and Juan?"

"We've yet to hear from either," Captain Ylittaa spoke, his voice high pitched and nasally as always.

"You haven't heard from Juan either?"

"I'm afraid not," General White replied. "Juan hasn't returned yet, nor has anyone heard any news of him."

"But he's merely in another town; I thought surely he'd have come back by now. He hasn't even sent word of his success or failure in penning an agreement with those cities?"

"No, nothing at all. In any case, after I heard news of your return I decided to hold the meeting tonight, with or without him. I wish that the Fox could have returned in time, but alas a decision must be made before our time is up. We are behind schedule a few days as it is, with no certainty that he will return even within a week."

"I understand. So what have you discussed until this point?"

"We are only just beginning now, and in fact, I need to see the letter you've brought from the King."

"Ah, yes." Gabriel reached down and pulled out the scroll he carried with him. Bound with a sealing from the King, the scroll contained an important message for The Cross leaders concerning their desire for an allied force. Gabriel stood and walked around the table, handed the letter to the general, and went back to sit. The general smiled and opened the letter, holding it to the light from the burning candles so that he could read it.

The men sat in silence as the general read the letter quietly to himself. They watched his face, trying to decipher the wording as he read on. When he completed the letter, he rolled it back up and placed it on the table. He placed both hands firmly on the table and looked to all of the men. Then his eyes stayed on Gabriel and he smiled.

"You are pleased with his reply I suspect?" Gabriel asked.

"Delighted," the general replied. "And this king seemed to be pleased with you, he mentions you as very admirable and your intentions noble." Gabriel humbly lowered his head while the other men smiled and nodded in agreement. "He also seems to believe in our cause. He said he has sent with you a force of 2,000 men, camping outside the city. We have already seen this, so his word is true. He also tells me that he made arrangements to leave 3 weeks after you set out."

"What?" Gabriel asked, this being new information to him.

"Yes. He says he supports us fully and will come himself, leading an army of three thousand men, to fight alongside us. He further says he's sent word to your Amir requesting the aid of even more men from the mainland. He estimates that overall there may be some ten thousand men from the combined Muslim forces in the end."

"Hallelujah, praise God," Gabriel and the other men all cheered in excitement.

"Yes, praise God," the general continued. "Now, we've yet to determine a strategy or plan of attack though. Juan has yet to bring word of our own Christian neighbors, and we have no certainty on our own numbers. We have been working endlessly to prepare and train the newly assembled army of men from this town, and while their numbers are few, we believe that they are skilled and ready for combat. We must now work to devise a battle plan for removing the Kwaadi hold from the region. There are several lands we must reach; from the northern lands, to the far east Caucus villages, we must completely remove all Kwaadi power in the area."

General White stood and walked over to the large map scale on the ground. There were small figures grouped together along the various masses of land. There were currently three colors of figures: yellow to represent Christian soldiers, green to represent Muslim warriors, and red to represent the Kwaadi. Using a long stick to move the pieces, General White lined the pieces as he thought over an attack plan. "We have the element of surprise on our hand," he began as the other men gathered around. "The Kwaadi will not expect a large army of Christians and Muslims working together. So we must take advantage of our increased numbers and our surprise element."

"Perhaps one strong unified assault on their central command," Captain Ylittaa suggested. "Who is the main commander amongst them?"

"Doesn't matter," the general replied. "A brash move like that is too risky. They still have the advantage of numbers, and if we are defeated there, our efforts will be in vain. The people will lose heart and we will fall. No. I'm thinking that perhaps..." The general moved a line of yellow figures towards the top of the map's Spain. He then moved a large line of green figures on a westward path until they met at the top with the yellow. "It is well known that the western walls are the most heavily guarded Kwaadi controlled lands within this area. However, if we send a Christian unit up north, they will certainly send in troops to combat them. With their defenses spread out, their guard will be weakened. Moving upward from the western ways, the Muslim unit will be able to overcome the weakened Kwaadi forces. As the two forces surround the Kwaadi they will drive each group towards the center until they meet in the middle and either succeed in vanquishing them or force them to surrender."

"But sir," one of the governing men interrupted. "Won't the Kwaadi simply send word to the outside forces to come to their aid? Surely they could send a larger force and surround our own Christian men between the two forces, whilst the Muslims are far off in the west unable to assist us. What then?"

"I've already considered this," the general said with a confident smile. He moved a line of yellow figures from near the northern tip. "And so it is for that reason that we will deploy a double unit north. As they near the Kwaadi lands, a second Christian unit will branch off into a defensive post. They will line the southeastern lands in divided camps and guard against any Kwaadi reinforcements."

"Brillante*," Gabriel praised. "Pero*, this only takes care of the northern lands. What of the east? And the Caucus regions?"

"Ah, now see, that is where your friend, The Wandering Fox, comes in." The general took several lines of green and yellow figures, meeting them to a line of red figures out in the seas. "We will need the forces of the island Muslims for this task. You see, they are in the ideal position to launch a naval attack. Undoubtedly they are a small people, however their skill in navigating the open seas is unmatched in the region. Thus, with the King's men, along with a supporting troop of Christian soldiers to increase their numbers, we can launch an assault simultaneously with the northern attack. This surprise will send panic through their lands. The naval forces here, they cannot match the Muslims of those islands, but a united attack will be able to overcome the coasts of the Kwaadi lands and from there we will send in a ground fleet of Muslims to navigate the lands and clear the place for the major troops we can send in afterwards. We must act quickly to establish a deep rooted presence here to stave off any Kwaadi attempts at regaining control. We will drive them far back into the Caucus mountains and beyond. The Muslim nations beyond that will easily be able to wipe them out after they have been weakened from their battles with us. Thus we will be rid of them at last."

"And that leaves only the Kwaadi and Ikeqi in the southeast to be dealt with," Gabriel stated. "The King will be away assisting our attacks here though. How can his men fight against their eastern enemies?"

"They won't have to." The general put a line of red soldiers in a slanted line around the Maghreb lands. "You see, news will certainly spread of our attacks. The Kwaadi will be on guard and reinforcements will inevitably be called in. They will likely double or triple their defenses in the region, making an impenetrable force to face off against any invading Muslim forces to the west and from the south and also the east should anyone come from the Muslim mainlands. As a compact nation, filled to the brim with mostly soldiers strictly inhabiting the land for defensive purposes, they will have defeated themselves. We will send the Muslim forces to surround the area, keeping them closed into a small encased unit of weary soldiers with no connection to the Kwaadi empire. With no control or governance, they will eventually fall apart until they are forced to surrender themselves with minimal fighting. Once all Kwaadi control in the region is loosened and overtaken, the lands will be left to our Christian brethren and their Muslim neighbors."

"Will they not fall into conflict thereafter?" Captain Ylittaa queried.

"Indeed they would. However, this is why after our initial successes, God Willing, I intend to send word to our Head Priest. I will beseech him to strike a truce with the Muslim Amir absolving all prior conflicts between our peoples in the land. This would be of great benefit to us, as we would then gain access to the Holy Lands once again without distrust and fighting. Furthermore it would give us the advantage of trading and travelling the foreign lands currently under Muslim or Kwaadi control. As for the Muslims, they will gain a greater power in the land and be rid of the greater enemy. And all those unassociated will enjoy the general peace between our peoples regardless of their varying religions, as neither we nor the Muslims would have reason to suppress or persecute them like under the Kwaadi, nor would they fear death in an unrelated invasion."

"This plan of yours," Gabriel began, stroking his mustache methodically. "This isn't just about defeating Kwaadi in this region at all, is it?"

"What, pray tell, do you mean by that?"

"What I mean is, while you are now discussing battle strategy, your mind is more focused on something later. Isn't it?"

"Well my dear friend, you are right in that; I am not only thinking of this battle. I have long desired an end to the wars that plague our peoples. The Great Wars sparked an unending chain of events that lead to more bloodshed and death than ever before. The survival of our different peoples isn't even possible if all of our efforts are in violence. If you remove the threat of extinction from Kwaade and his anti-religion movement, what do we have left in this world? Christians, Muslims, and various other peoples struggling to survive? No. We have those groups struggling to wipe out each other first and take over their lands from them. Survival has become a false ideal, an excuse, a lie. Perhaps through a combined effort to remove the grip of the wicked man forcing the world to kneel at his feet, the two larger groups may set precedence for a united effort for survival. An effort for peace. The removal of the greatest enemy can bring together the greatest allies. This is my hope. This has been my hope for years, and will be so for years to come. A world of peace so that God may be worshiped as He ought to be in the future generations. You will hear me say this time and again, I do not consider only the now. My thoughts and wishes are always on what comes next..."


GLOSSARY/TRANSLATIONS

Perros: dogs

Por que: Why/ for what?

Cariño: Darling

Que es la problema: What is the problem

Mi amor: My love

Esposa: Wife

Cocido madrileño: A popular beef-and-vegetable stew. Consisting of chickpeas, meat (usually beef), vegetables, and sausage, the dish is served in three courses. The first course consists of a broth-based soup, the second includes the beans and vegetables, and the final course contains the meat and sausage.

Pestinos: a pastry that is popular in Andalusia and other regions of Southern Spain. It is a piece of dough, deep fried in olive oil and glazed with honey or sugar.

Brillante: Brilliant


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