A little recruiting
His earth leave over, Dante returned to purgatory and immediately recalled what had been troubling him. Although the thought he had killed someone disturbed him, when he saw Astrada, fierce and ready for action, he felt much better. There had been no choice; it was kill or be killed and his desire to save his guide and instructor, Astrada motivated the killing. He couldn’t justify killing, but he could justify the cost of providing protection.
As champion of a purgatorial domain, Dante was obliged never to enjoy or even accept killing another sentient being. As war chief, the major role of the champion and protector, his warrior training was an essential component of the position. It meant he would find himself in situations where he might have to kill or order his forces into battle, where they might kill or, tragically, be killed. As the philosopher said, the mantle of responsibility does not rest lightly, or something to that effect. This was what Dante needed to come to terms with before the advance marauders of Fluglaz’s army made it to earth’s domain.
His training and his work with the recruits became more intense. Some of the enjoyment that had developed as his skills improved faded. It wasn’t the anguish that he felt in those early times, but he no longer looked upon it as an advanced Physical Education class in high school. It was exactly what Astrada had been trying to impress on him. This was serious business.
Fluglaz was intent on conquest, and any dominion under his subjugation would not only lose its independence but also its wealth, as he would demand tribute after tribute until there was no more to give. The inhabitants, both the living and the atoners, would be subject to terrible oppression at the hands of the cruel and ruthless henchmen Fluglaz would leave in charge. Dante was the champion, and it was his duty to do whatever was necessary to prevent that.
This was the champion’s last lesson, and he passed with the proverbial flying colors. Tauren was now confident Dante was ready to face the major game changer of knowing who and what he was all the time. He will carry that knowledge back to earth’s plane and immediately discover everything had changed. His work will be meaningless to him, and he won’t be able to give it more than cursory attention. With that will come the recognition he has no need for the job. His relationship with his friends may completely change. He’ll learn to be champion is not a nine to five, or even an eleven to six position.
One of Dante’s most difficult earthly responsibilities would be to recruit. Tauren had begun the process sometime earlier. In short order he learned modern living humans, while they had many odd beliefs, were collectively sceptics. Those expressing belief in purgatory would not consider it an actual place living beings could get to without dying. Many others had no belief at all in the concept. Others had a fairy tale view of another dimension and while Tauren knew that many other dimensions existed and in nearly infinite numbers, they weren’t all that different from this one.
The only real magical realms were found in folktales and mythologies, the constructs of make believe and primitive fears. All this made it nearly impossible to convince anyone of purgatory’s present reality. And, with Fluglaz’s legions on the march, it was a real problem.
Tauren was honest with himself. Dante’s work among his fellows would be close to impossible, but he would have to try, and hopefully not appear to be moon struck. What was their word for it, lunatic? Dante was, however, the champion and his powers of leadership and tactical skills might be of some help. It would remain to be seen, but time was running short. The need to gather what recruits they could and train them was becoming imperative.
Dante would require a few days to come to terms with his new reality, but he would have to be the champion and not take too long getting down to business. Tauren outlined all of this to Dante in a short meeting at which he gave him a silver ring with a small blue stone that would light up to show him where the portals to purgatory could be found. It would also help Tauren know which portal he was near so he could send escorts for anyone he sent through.
Other recruiters were busy combing the earth for volunteers, so Dante need not go too far from home to sears out his. This would be a challenge, even for the champion, as people in this part of the world could be hard-headed. Tauren didn’t expect them to be coming in by the thousands, but even a few would be helpful to the cause.
Finally, Tauren brought Dante to a nearby portal that would take him to a new portal in his room so he could come and go without the bed and pallet and wished him well. Dante stepped through and found himself in his bedroom closet. “Nice,” he thought, as he opened the door to his room. He dressed for work and stepped out into the bright light of morning.
As he made his way to work, the knowledge of what he had been doing in purgatory while vivid seemed surreal and fantastical when contrasted with the familiar busy streets of his hometown. The office building with its large entrance and coffee shop in the foyer could not have been more different from his memories of the training grounds in purgatory. He could see the CEO standing with a large coffee in his hand, talking to one of the directors near the front doors. He nodded and greeted fellow workers as he stepped into the elevator to take him to his floor.
As usual, he was one of the first to arrive. He sat at his desk and shifted some papers around. Considering all he remembered, they didn’t seem that important. Was purgatory the reality and this the dream? There was no question he knew they were both reality, his reality. It was just hard to put it all together in this mundane world of cubicles and computers. Things brightened immeasurably when Merilee came in. Just her waving as she went to hang up her jacket made him feel better.
That went all awry when she stepped up to his desk, a grin on her face, asking, “Ok, boss, what’s on tap for today? Month’s end’s coming up.”
The grin he loved, the words not so much. “Oh yeah,” he answered, his voice expressionless, “No biggy! Let’s keep it low key today, I’ve got a lot on my mind,” and he wasn’t wrong about that.