Rejection of Norms
gargantuan and majestic double doors opened to greet the young heroes of war.
The massive crowd erupted in applause as giant animal parade floats and smaller
bus shaped floats carried the soldiers through the designated entry point.
Parade floats displayed a multitude of animals both mundane and exotic; lions,
birds, cats, and certain extinct species of animals were built atop large
metallic platforms and moved by Orcs. The soldiers had arrived back from the
three month war campaign to be greeted with applause by their countrymen. The
soldiers of Noble pedigree sat in armchairs at the front of the tall floats as
was their exclusive right. The smaller floats moving along their sides had the
lower class soldiers seated together in groups. The lower classes of civilians cheered
from behind the metallic fences. Balloons flew across the air, the national
flag was cheerfully waved back and forth, and the crowds roared in elation.
Millions greeted the young heroes in a unanimous ovation of applause. Many
Noble born soldiers waved at the crowd and smiled; proudly adorning the gold
crested white robes of the Noblesse. The national symbol of the white lion was
visible upon all of their uniforms; the distinct markings tailored from
embroidered gold to shape a crowned white lion with a golden sun shining from
behind. The roaring applause helped encourage some of the young soldiers to stand
proudly and wave. The cheers encouraged them to bask in the celebration of
their valiant accomplishment.
I can’t believe this, thought one of the young Noblesse feeling a rush of surrealism and dissociation as he observed the massive crowd, how can they expect me to transition so easily from fighting the war to partaking in this celebration?
Orcs were assigned to either push the floats or stand guard nearby the fences. Any breach of security would hold them culpable for failing in their duty. The soldiers of the smaller floats wore more faded attire compared to the Nobles, the crests were made of yellow coloring instead of being embroidered with authentic gold, and they sat cumbersomely in large groups without much space on the compressed bus-shaped floats. The lower class soldiers on the far sides of the bus floats enthusiastically waved at the crowds provided they had enough space for themselves. By contrast, the Nobles sat upon the middle or front of cushioned seats bolted upon enormous floats and could leisurely wave at the massive crowd.
The floats made rounds across the entire ground sector of the city-state of Koroglu, known to be the smallest and least economically prosperous among the eight city-states of the country. The ground sectors of Luminomia’s city-states comprised of the lower income bracket of the country. The humble folk cheered on as the floats of their heroes were paraded around every street corner and dirt road throughout the afternoon. The parade floats finally began congregating on a robust open space on the far back of the ground sector of the city-state nearby the hotel area exclusive for wealthy patrons. The President and his staff stood at the podium to wait until all of the tall animal-shaped floats and compressed bus floats were in formation in the gymnasium stylized dome that was temporarily constructed for the heroic national event. The government officials presided atop a skyscraper of one of the most reputable hotels; known for catering the families of upper-class businesses and the Nobles. The staff and the President clapped in approval of the young war heroes as the crowd cheered from the sidelines. Elation swept through the busy streets of the national celebration, the length of the war effort was shorter than the government anticipated and all the children of the Noblesse came back alive.
The young man had remained seated throughout the tiresome celebration. He idly gazed upward at the horse float that he was seated upon. The horse was an extinct species that had died out during ancient times due to ancient perceptions of horses being bad luck. He knew that he would have to pretend to pay attention to the President’s oncoming speech soon. I don’t know what to make of anything anymore . . . I feel so . . . hollow.
Luminomia, the Kingdom of Light, celebrated the glory of being the most prosperous country in the world for precisely one hundred years. All of the floats finally reached the large circular dais; gated by metallic fences to keep the cheering crowd on the ground at a safe distance. The crowds within the bleachers of the domes all waved their flags. The crowd slowly quieted their ovations once the Peace Mediator, the most respected and eldest hero of the entire country, stood and made deliberate hand gestures for silence. Once the Peace Mediator sat back down, the President began speaking at the podium. Speakers were set in key locations to maximize the effect of the President’s voice so the audience further back could hear him. The crowd became silent in anticipation.
“My countrymen, on this triumphant day, we celebrate the success of our youth for their bravery and swiftness in driving back the evil of the world!” The President paused as the crowd roared in unison. Many of the youth smiled at the recognition of their achievements. Patriotic shouts of reverence echoed throughout the attending crowd. Once the cheering abated, he continued. “It is through the values instilled upon our progeny; through the values we share as a nation and a country under the approval of our supreme Lord that we have been fortuitous. Never before has our Lord seen such a consecration of reverence and virtue so attuned to Him.”
Louder cheers spread throughout the crowd. Some of the crowd began to bow in prayer to the one true God that the people of Luminomia believed in wholeheartedly. Every morning the vast majority of citizens went to the largest churches of their respective cities to pay their respects to the fallen heroes of their prosperous country and to God Himself.
“That is precisely why we must never forget our humble origins nor the holy teachings of our Prophet so that the auspices of God remain everlasting.” began the President, “Our glorious nation-state first began during the Dark Era of 1986 Aknad, when events constituting unspeakable crimes of killings and child sacrifices was brought to a standstill by the peaceful teachings of our Holy Prophet Zoroaster.”
The crowd listened in rapt attention at the riveting tale of their country’s foundation. The citizens were all taught of their country’s founding since their youth and took part in ceremonies dedicated to revering the fallen habitually. “Our Holy Prophet graced our ancestors with compassion and empathy to bring an end to the bloodshed and misery that was fraught throughout our country so that we would begin the righteous path under the teachings of God. Holy Prophet Zoroaster shed light unto the dark times, under his tutelage we renamed the old adage Nomia into Luminomia to signify our commitment to God and henceforth identified ourselves as Lumin to accept the blessings of our supreme Lord in heaven, Ahura Mazda.”
“Upon the success of spiritual revitalization and creation of our oldest Church in 2003 Aknad, our Holy Prophet received a message from God to identify the individuals that shared in the Holy bloodline,” said the President, “Prophet Zoroaster discovered, to his shock, that God had blessed him in mysterious ways, for his greatest apostles were of the Lord’s bloodline. Undoubtedly, they had felt the compassion from their Father in Heaven, and sought to bring peace to our great land so that we may enjoy the bountifulness of success thereafter. Hence, from 2013 Aknad onward, we were blessed with the knowledge that our Nobles are descendants of Ahura Mazda.”
“We as a peoples proceeded to teach the lessons of compassion and love that Zoroaster taught us,” continued the President proudly, “and defended ourselves, our families and children, when threatened by the lure of dark magic. While practitioners of the dark arts gave into their lusts for power, promiscuity, and blood sacrifices; we stayed humble and taught peace and love. We did not give in to evil; that is why we have so triumphed now in the modern age.”
The President continued. “From 2014 Aknad to 2056 Aknad, We proceeded to establish monuments, churches, and communities to properly revere our Lord. For many years, we enjoyed the holy awakening given to us by Ahura Mazda. The Dark Empire, in its jealousy, attacked us and attempted to destroy our Noble country because we stood against their evil. They invaded and launched a full-fledged military assault on us in 2124 Aknad, immeasurable amounts of our women and children were raped and slaughtered in their wake, and the forces of Darkness proceeded to threaten a full-scale invasion by building a military base close to our borders after committing such heinous crimes. Their acts of shameless depravity were boundless and we suffered greatly under their imperialistic regime.”
“Therewith, from 2125 Aknad onward, the Nobles protected and preserved our country by uniting the businesspeople under their banner and maintained stability under the threats of monstrous dark creatures, the darkest of magic, and the seditionists who harbored a lust for power. For 75 years, we endured tumultuous odds and it was only the bravery and wit of the Noble families that protected us from total annihilation. From 2200 Aknad, our Nobles charted a course towards our freedom, and many young Nobles gave their lives to protect us from the evil empire. May we forever honor and cherish those heroes who protected our freedoms through their sacrifices so that we may live peacefully!” said the President, a standing ovation of clapping and cheers renewed. The President and his staff waited for it to quiet down before completing his speech. “Through their era, a Noble hero finally did bring revolution and freedom from tyranny! He who led the War on Dark Aggression! Our greatest hero, still acting as the Peace Mediator of our Noble government; Crassus Gwenael Valtheofric Lewenhart!”
Uproar began again as the Peace Mediator stood and humbly accepted the jubilant applause. The more rowdy crowd members chanted Lewenhart’s de facto titles ever since winning the two greatest wars in Luminomia’s modern history. “Almighty Conqueror! Peace Lord! Almighty Conqueror! Peace Lord!”
“After the valiant war on Dark Aggression between 2226 through 2255 Aknad, in which we defeated the vile Triumvirate rulers of the Dark Empire and of which Peace Mediator Lewenhart triumphed over all three in successive single combat, we heralded a renewed golden era of our values and restored the majesty of our country through the blessing of Ahura Mazda.
Of course, terrorists in the form of elves conspired with the dragons to destroy our humble kingdom from 2270 to 2279 Aknad, but we defended ourselves from the cultic blood magic and put an end to their barbaric child sacrifices. We were forced into a war to defend ourselves after that from 2280 to 2290 Aknad, against the restoration of the ancient and terrifying Dragon and Elf society, but even they could not stand up against the justice of our God! We fought and put a stop the War of Great Fear as triumphant as ever! Since then, we’ve used sophisticated Probe technology to zone in and neutralize threats to our countrymen. Although the Dark ones insist that they have changed their mannerisms under their so-called reformation movement, the new government of Marasura, similar to the Dark Empire that preceded it, has been found culpable of aiding terrorists to attack our holy land and the outskirts of their borders are rife with terrorist sympathizers. We have used the most merciful means to root out these evildoers with our sophisticated aircraft technology but once they threatened war, we deployed our heroes to the frontlines to show that we are not afraid of evil. We, who champion peace and stability, who honor our heroes and who cherish our civilians instead of using them as human shields shall always be the ones to triumph over tribal theology and hatemongering, we Lumins are the true peoples of God and that is why on this day, March 15th, 2325 Aknad, we celebrate our heroism, valor, and humbleness! Always strive to be good!”
Before the war, I felt certainty of our uniqueness as a country and fondness for my home whenever I truly listened, He thought feeling tired, but when I listen now, it only brings me emptiness . . .
The masses erupted in ovation at the end of the President’s speech. The festivities slowly winded down from there. Many of the President’s cabinet members began their respective speeches for the remaining populous in attendance. The main event had ended and the dark-skinned helpers began moving the Noble floats to the train station for departure. Upon arrival to the station, the Nobles stepped down from their floats and made their way to the golden station where they would be whisked away to their respective castles at the top of the respective city-states that they ruled. The specific train was meant for only the Noble families and the wealthiest business owners.
The young Nobles climbed aboard the train and sat themselves upon the plush seats of the train. Maidservants of the train came to offer foodstuffs, snacks, and beverages to the young heroes. The crasser Nobles conducted playful boyhood fun by slapping or pinching the maids rears from behind. The maids would smile suggestively at the war heroes, giggle, or blush at being chosen. Some of the more brave men, through playful banter from their fellow Nobles, gave chase to the women after they had finished serving foodstuffs and beverages for the duration of the trip.
Marsin Amvernox sat near the window of one of the benches and idly watched the towns, factories, and shopping centers pass by the window. Ostensibly calm, Marsin had suppressed his feelings of surrealism and detachment throughout the victory parade. He had sat back and simply stared at his surroundings silently when the floats had entered the parade floor. He hadn’t participated in engaging the crowd like the other Nobles and felt apathetic to the entire ceremony. He had kept quiet and ruminated during the President’s speech; he couldn’t bring himself to care about the celebration despite the customs. A poignant sadness and anger would occasionally grip him at different intervals during the speech and he kept to himself in an attempt to better control his animus and confusion.
I just don’t understand . . . thought Marsin as the knot in his chest tightened, what good did we truly achieve?
He had projected an air of quiet detachment during the parade but feelings of ambivalence coursed through his mind. Marsin had tried to maintain his composure during the ceremony while he suffered from a splitting migraine, chest pain, and attempted to fight against the restless thoughts that were beginning to make his existence feel insufferable. Within his own mind, he felt trapped by a vicious pattern of reasoning that kept taking hold of his thoughts. He felt that his sanity would soon deplete should this emotional pain go unresolved.
I can’t talk about it to anybody here, He thought in frustration. It’ll just make me look weak and Father may hear of it. I’ll just try to talk to the family priest since Master Lewenhart will be busy because of the meetings with the President and to re-adjust the normal citizens back into civilian life.
“Pluton!” snapped the passenger beside him. Marsin felt a spike of anger after hearing the shout. Marsin had jolted before he moved his head to address the person using his military name.
Under Luminomia’s military laws and social customs, young trainees were encouraged to choose their own military names at an early age. Once it was verified that their choice didn’t conflict with earlier name choices; the name would be used to identify the individual during their military exercises, excursions, and would supplant their names when they rose in military ranks. From what Marsin knew, the names were meant to distinguish military life from the social classes of civilian life. It was meant to separate their military personae from their civilian life. While the parades and floats celebrated the Nobles as the main entourage, the internal military protocol required them to follow and obey commands of lower classes that would otherwise have no status above them. To the military, the actions of individuals was more important than who they were born from. Social class was never allowed to trump military experience. Nobles learned to respect the chain of command of their country’s military or faced severe legal consequences.
Marsin briefly entertained the prospect of killing whoever had shouted his name but dismissed the violent notion immediately. Clearly, the stress from the war had made him easily irritable. He silently hoped that the violent thoughts going through his mind would disappear once he readjusted back to civilian life. I need to speak to the family priest by tomorrow. I feel like I’m losing my mind.
“What is it, Horatius?” asked Marsin attempting to hold back his gnawing negativity.
“You were zoning out for ten minutes,” said Horatius scowling at him, “the food cart containing snacks already left. Here, I bought you some sandwiches and water.”
Marsin flushed in embarrassment and promptly accepted the food and water bottle. “Sorry, I just feel a bit ill. Thanks for buying them for me.”
Horatius rolled his eyes. “Don’t worry, Pluton. We both know that you would be lost without me at your side.”
Marsin snorted in response to Horatius’s sarcastic comment. His childhood friend and fellow Noble, Horatius Balzer, had grown alongside him throughout both his schooling as a child and within the military. Horatius had sandy brown hair, a ceramic skin tone, brown eyes, and had a lanky build. Horatius had made a habit of referring to Marsin by his military name for the past couple of years. Upon Marsin’s questioning, Horatius had firmly maintained that they were required to act in a professional manner as active-duty soldiers and he never wanted to be viewed as shirking his responsibilities. Marsin felt that Horatius was taking the concept of professionalism too far.
“Well, thank you, Invictus,” responded Marsin with a sarcastic tone. He had used Horatius’s military name in his response because he felt that it was fair game to reply in such a manner. Feeling awkward after that statement and feeling grateful for the food, Marsin tried to ameliorate his troubling thoughts. “Sincerely, thank you for getting me the food. Like I said before, I just feel a bit ill.”
Horatius’s eyes widened slightly after Marsin’s declaration. “You’re welcome; don’t trouble yourself over what happened too much. We need to focus on our future expectations because I’m sure our families already have important plans lined up for both of us.”
Marsin nodded in response and unpackaged the food to eat it. He looked outside to see that they were already within the middle sector and would be within the Noble sector, the highest sector that was exclusive to the Noble families, towards their respective destinations soon. Marsin tried to keep himself distracted from his debilitating thoughts.
He looked out the window to view the swiftly moving scenery. Marsin thought over the home that he knew for the 18 years of his young life. The country of Luminomia inhabited a sprawling mountainous terrain that, depending upon the weather, gave a foreboding or divine appearance from the outskirts of the country’s boundaries. Within the country, there were three distinct sectors that established which areas that different socioeconomic groups were permitted entry. The sectors were divided by concrete high walls that signified the city-state of each of the Noblesse. The eight Noble families lived in either mansions or castle-like structures at the top sector; the innermost section of the top sector contained the government buildings ruled by the Noble families. Unsurprisingly, the majority of people and the Noblesse themselves referred to the top sector as the Noble sector.
The middle sector consisted of business leaders and mostly skilled laborers. It was often nicknamed the Business sector although the term wasn’t wholly accurate. The middle sectors contained pristine homes and manufacturing industries that were operated by citizens who proved themselves capable of running successful enterprises. The Nobles regulated the businesses through laws to keep workers and infrastructure safe. Much of the industrial plants were required to meet the safety standards of the military. Citizens who proved to have made valuable contributions in each city-state would be selected to marry into the Noble family that ruled the specific city-state. All citizens of Luminomia could compete for the right to run their own businesses provided they fulfilled the proper testing and filed the paperwork to obtain licenses.
The third sector, often nicknamed the ground sector, harbored mostly cob houses and agricultural work. Only citizens that gained enough money to move their families to the middle sectors, after meeting the legal requirements of the Noble families, could begin looking for better employment opportunities and eventually gain the proper licensing to start a business. The golden train that the Nobles currently occupied were reserved for them and catered to the needs of the Noblesse to quickly speed through all sectors of the country. The average citizens relied on a more metallic and slower train reserved for them in the middle sector and contained tolls from each of the individual city-states that were priced separately among each city-state. There were workmen and emergency military trains that allowed for workers and military folk to move crucial resources to assigned locations.
The image of a giant flash of light came unbidden in his mind. Frustration spiked within him, Marsin gulped down water from the plastic bottle and resumed eating. Stop thinking about it, it isn’t your fault that violence occurs. These are all complex and sensitive political decisions . . .
To Marsin’s dismay, the gnawing despair and chest pain didn’t disappear. The throbbing headache had weakened somewhat but his chest still felt heavy. It seemed that nothing he did on his own would alleviate these feelings. He kept thinking back to the bright flash and dreadful noises of what he witnessed. He closed his eyes to stop himself from crying because he didn’t want to feel ashamed in the company of his fellow Nobles. He took a deep breath and opened his eyes to look over to his left at Horatius.
“Did your family say anything about an arranged marriage before we left?” asked Marsin attempting to focus on something else – anything else – to distract himself from these horrid feelings and flickering images of his experience during the brief war. “I think my father will be planning my marriage to Callista shortly.”
Marsin attempted to keep his tone cordial when speaking of it but failed. He knew Horatius could clearly hear his annoyed tone of voice. The truth of the matter was that he detested the whole prospect of an arranged marriage. The war served as a brief distraction from the humdrum of daily life. I was fooling myself about pushing it back and now I have to contend with these horrid feelings on top of that stupid arranged marriage.
“You’re being too negative, you’re marrying someone that you’ve known for at least two years now.” said Horatius flatly, sending Marsin a disgruntled visage. “You know what you’re getting into. And to answer your question, the answer is no. My parents haven’t told me anything. I might not even meet the woman I’ll be expected to marry before our wedding.”
Marsin hastily tried to cut in. “They wouldn’t –”
“I told you before that you don’t know my parents like I do,” rebuked Horatius in a cold tone before Marsin could finish.
“Sorry,” replied Marsin quickly. Marsin hoped that he hadn’t angered his childhood friend too much. Marsin had always thought Horatius acted too resentful towards his parents. Marsin was keenly aware that Horatius’s parents spoiled Horatius and his twin sister. Marsin was certain that Horatius’s parents would tell him the details far before the arranged wedding ceremony. “I’m just . . . feeling exhausted about everything. I know father wants me to take over the family house soon. Callista is excited and her family paid the dowry arrangements before I left. I feel like everything is happening too fast though . . . they’re all just making these arrangements and I barely have any say.”
Marsin felt more relieved after speaking about his troubles. He was glad that he could always speak his mind around Horatius.
“You’re whining too much.” said Horatius bluntly, he didn’t even look toward Marsin as he said that. Marsin’s relief shifted to annoyance. I should have known better. “Has it ever occurred to you that Callista might be feeling similar to how you feel? Maybe you should talk to your future wife about these matters and help each other. Knowing traditional expectations, your parents might expect a grandchild soon. Have you given any thought to that or taken time to speak with Callista about that?”
“I . . . shit,” said Marsin nonplussed as his mind began to race through the possibilities. He began to feel overwhelmed as he begun to understand what it would mean. Callista and I having a baby this early?! I’m not ready for that kind of commitment! “I hadn’t thought about that at all. Good God, I don’t want a child yet. I wouldn’t know how to begin raising one and I want to wait longer before I ever consider that.”
“Tell your father and Callistathat.” said Horatius unperturbed. “Don’t just tell it to me.”
I’ll forgo telling him about these depressing thoughts, decided Marsin internally, a pang of irritation briefly flashed in his mind. Judging from his reaction to my other issues, Horatius clearly doesn’t want to hear about any of my problems.
The golden train began to slow down until it stopped at the government station nearby the Lewenhart family house. None of them left the train as it began to move to the next Noble home. Marsin had thought of leaving from the government office but dismissed the idea quickly. He didn’t want to run into either his father or Callista’s parents as he was in no mood to discuss the upcoming marriage. He simply wished to head home quietly and sleep for the rest of the day. He was physically exhausted.
Hopefully, these damn feelings will disappear, thought Marsin, beginning to feel estranged from the bitter self-reflection over his own emotional turmoil. War is war; we had to fight to defend ourselves. If we didn’t, then our citizens would be in danger. Simple as that . . .
A bright flash briefly invaded his vision for a moment and sent him reeling back in his seat in bewilderment. Marsin recomposed himself and ignored Horatius’s questioning look.
Good God! Why won’t these fucking images stop?! thought Marsin as he closed his eyes to feign sleep, Why do I always think back to the war?! There was nothing I could have done! Why does this keep haunting me?! I . . . I’ll speak with the family priest tomorrow. If he proves incompetent then Master Lewenhart is who I’ll seek next. Someone must be able to help me with this! I can’t have been the first one; let alone the only one.
Marsin’s headache began to surge anew. He felt absolutely sick with himself and he desperately hoped that the priest would ameliorate the emotional pain that gripped him by tomorrow. Marsin had always held hope that spirituality would prove itself in his most stressed times. He recalled his parents mentioning how the church brought back the light in their lives during their most arduous times. Now, during the worst emotional turmoil that he had ever dealt with, he decided to seek the church’s aid. Marsin felt that there was obviously some aspect of the church that was genuine and pure that could help give an answer to his current suffering. After all, millions upon millions of Lumins believed in the church’s doctrine and came to pray every morning for religious services. Who am I to question the church when so many prosper under their services?
To Marsin’s chagrin, Horatius and others seemed to have left for their own homes while he was unaware. Horatius may have bid him farewell and he may not have noticed. The train stopped at the last Noble home, Marsin looked over the castle-like structure of his home. Marsin quickly stepped out of the golden train and trekked towards his castle-like home. He paused for a moment as his body became re-accustomed to the bracing air and coldness. During the late fall and winter months, the air was always colder at the top sector than the majority of the middle sector, and the ground sector. Marsin’s turmoil had made him forget to ask for a coat during the fitting outside of the gate before the parade. He looked up at the flag to the top right of the home that proudly displayed the national symbol of the Holion, the near-extinct magical creature known for its infamous body-shape and dangerous might, before walking into House Amvernox.
Marsin automatically navigated through his home and quickly locked the door to his room before stripping away his royal garments to leave them on a heap on the floor. He fell asleep just after quickly getting to bed and pulling the blue covers over himself.
The images of the war’s bloodshed gripped his dreams.