Author's Note: So this is it. I finally finished it after a year of on-off work. Honestly, I didn't give it too much time, and I definitely intend to take all three parts of the Epic of James, polish them up and maybe make it into a great big short story. Not done with the story though. I'll continue on with Matthew. You might not understand the story fully without reading the previous (significantly shorter) parts, but it's still a story on its own.
I realize that my use of semicolons is sorely lacking, and punctuation is still a bit of an issue. I'm still learning about when to and when not to use punctuation. Overall, I tried to make it as 'Old Testament-y' as possible, but it's still utterly awful.
I'll be honest with you all. I'm not writer material. I started as a pitiful excuse for a writer, with absolutely no talent, just for the sake of it. And I clearly haven't improved much. I realize that the grammatical errors are plentiful, but I beg that you instead look at the quality of the story itself (which is likely quite low), because I've already been notified of the aforementioned errors. This work was posted without proper editing and rewriting, mainly because I wanted to find out of the story itself is worth editing and rewriting.
The Epic of James - Part 3
The Birth of Law
James walked the wastes alone, abandoned, the last souls of men glimmering faintly, losing hope. With the Gods dead, there was no power left to send rain, to sow seeds or fell crops, to deal justice and strip the flesh from he who would defile Heavenly law. The world was dark then, and gray, with no seeds being sown and no crops being felled, without time or desire for love or happiness. As the giant walked upon the sands and stones of a world once great, he looked upon the Heavens and said,
"I have conquered the skies and the stars alike, I have brought death in my search for power, and I took it upon myself to usurp the throne of Heaven. Yet I am not immortal. Yet I am not a God. I rule over no one and fight for nothing, for there is no one left to rule, and no one left to fight. To be alone, with no doubt, far worse than to have no power it is."
James built for himself an army of stone men and a palace of clay and wood, West of the inland sea. He carved them, all four thousand, for eighty years. He built his army to march upon the lair of a great nautilus, its existence foretold by a decrepit demon who long ago died by James' hand, for by all accounts, it held the key to immortality. They lay beneath the mountain upon which James' frail palace stood, and he preached to them for long hours. His words, however, fell upon deaf ears, for the stone men did not possess a life or a soul. This saddened him, and so he prayed to the Heavens.
"To those of you who remain, exalted still, I pray to you. Imbue my children with life as you had with man, and give them a soul, so that they may think and act willfully."
Only Gods may present the dead with life. Gods who now lay dishonored on their spiked beds of stone, black blood escaping the veins within. James had not been given the gift of iron flesh, for there were none left who possessed it, nor did his people receive divine mercy. His horde would forever remain petrified, and so he plead, howling from atop his palace, with the voice of a desperate hound, starved of flesh.
"Can I not be forgiven? Have my deeds brought nothing of desire? What must I do to give these sculptures life? Am I doomed forever to solitude? And how am I to defeat the last God in his lair? Cursed be the Heavens, I say to you, can I have no mercy?"
As he spoke those words, as he cursed the skies and stars and all the things between, lightning struck the land, and the palace, along with the stone men, caught ablaze. The palace turned to solid brick, harder, stronger, able to repel arrows and hurled stones alike, and the men came to life, brandishing their knives, holding their spears high in James' honor. A miracle from the sky, a machine from the Gods.
A storm raged that night and twelve nights after, with skulls as hailstones falling from the clouds. Four thousand skulls fell upon the earth, and four thousand shattered, and on the thirteenth day, the army began its march to the great inland sea, where the nautilus reigned. They waved their wives goodbye, leaving behind unborn sons and daughters, riding forth upon their steeds and chariots with zeal in their hearts, with James leading them to certain death. As James led the Eastern campaign, the women built around his palace a city and called it Zion, naming it a Holy City, for it is where their lives began.
James' army stopped where the inland sea began and called upon the nautilus. The sky turned red as it once did, in the great war which came before, and tentacles rose from the sea and struck the army in full force. Men flew feet across, some consumed by the monstrous mass, as the rest hacked and slashed and cut away at its flesh, wounding it slowly, breaking its strength. It was James who delivered the final blow, with his trusted companions, Isaac and Amaryt, who rode to battle beside him. The titan hurled his bronze spear, eleven cubits long, through the creature's shell. There he killed the nautilus, and its body turned to ash. Only its shell remained, and in it was hidden immortality.
James searched the shell, many feet tall and wide, for thirty-two days. At the end of his search, he uncovered a stone tablet, inscribed with words he knew not. With sorrow and anger he left the shell and rode home. When he arrived at the gates of his city, he had with him two thousand, nine hundred and twenty-one men. He had lost over a thousand good troops, and now their wives would weep. They died in vain, however, for the tablet held nothing of use, and seemingly no mention of immortality. And so James, now seven hundred years old, took hold of his throne and ruled over the people justly and honorably, as the Gods would have done, naming Isaac and Amaryt his disciples.
Isaac led the bowmen, and upon his return home, he created four sons and lived for six hundred years to come. Amaryt was the son of Amyr, and he led forth the spearmen in this great battle, which raged on for twenty-one days and nights. Upon his return home, he created no sons, but two daughters, and lived for four hundred and thirty years to come. His daughters would later become the carriers of his lineage, and they too held a great future in James' land. The deaths of his disciples wounded James deeply, but he did not forsake his duties, and continued ruling righteously.
Word reached James of an empire not far from his own, which stood between two rivers, the remnants of the great inland sea where the nautilus once reigned, now many years ago. The empire had consisted of multiple large cities, though no larger than Zion, ruled by a common king and conqueror, Sargon. James looked upon the heavens and asked,
"What drives forth the bowmen of Akkad? What fuels the fires that burn so hot? Who sows the crops and tends the land? Who dyes the cloth? No Gods live on, though the folk amidst the rivers endure yet!"
James visited Akkad and the surrounding city-states, and spoke with Sargon for many hours. He found friendship and common ground with the great uniter, speaking of war and the sciences of nature, discussing with him the question of immortality. James often rode to Akkad and conversed with Sargon, yet he too would eventually perish, and the death of his only true friend shook him to the core. He realized once more, after all these centuries, that even great men died of old age, and that his own era would soon inevitably come to an end. As he left Akkad, viewing its majestic walls as he rode away, he remembered the stone tablet and looked upon it once more. He did not understand the tongue still. He looked upon the Heavens and prayed,
"Am I to surrender? To forfeit my quest? I have walked this path for many decades, yet I have reached nothing. My people will die with me. Must our fate be so cruel? Must I be punished endlessly until I too lie rotting in the earth? Show me the path, I beg, so that I may survive, unlike Sargon, for whom I now weep."
Exactly five hundred and forty-eight years passed before James met the Godlike giver of law, Hammurabi. The Akkadian Empire became the Empire of Babylon, and many rulers lived and died in those days. James spoke with Hammurabi in Babylon, gazing upon his great wall of laws. It struck him as clear that even his own people would fare better with law, benefiting from order and peace, and so he too became an ancient lawgiver. Upon his departure from Babylon, he waved Hammurabi goodbye and wished him good fortune, and when he returned to his city, he stood before his people and preached,
"You shall not take what is not yours, for if all men stole, there would be nothing left to steal. I say to you now, he who steals from his fellow man shall not rise with me.
You shall not harm one another without just cause, for if all men did harm, no one would stand to sow the seeds or fell the crops. I say to you now, he who harms without just cause shall not rise with me.
You shall stay true to your wife, for a man who deceives his wife is no man at all. I say to you now, he who dishonors his wife shall not rise with me, and would his wife dishonor him in return, she too will be forsaken.
You shall not succumb to hypocrisy, for he who preaches emptily should not be taken to heart, rather he would be banished under my rule. I say to you now, he who preaches emptily shall not rise with me.
The men of Babylon would have you pluck out the eye of the man who has wronged you, but I say to you now; do not pluck out the eye of the man who has wronged you, instead bring him before me and have him beg for forgiveness. Pray for him, and hope that he may see reason, for he is your brother. Your suffering shall be repaid in my true kingdom.
You shall repent your sins to me, and would you do this, I would forgive everything you have committed, and you will rise with me to the heavens. Be wary, however, for even mercy knows bounds, and you must pay for your crimes in my true kingdom, for that is where you will be judged."
James stepped down from the mountain peak, his law now in place, and all was good. The law grew more advanced by the season, and the men and women of Zion lived peacefully for decades to come. There were those, however, who did not hear the words of James, and left the city. They forged a new city, calling it Antes, after the firstborn son of Isaac. James looked upon the city and saw great injustice and lawlessness within it, and men defiled one another, just as they defiled nature with their Godless orgies. He did not punish the men of Antes, for they were not his to punish, and so he merely watched as the den of sin grew in size and might. One day, James heard from his disciple, Matthew, that the men of Antes spoke wrongly of Zion, claiming their own city to have stood in greater light. He said to James:
"My King, the men of Antes, sodomists and hopeless sinners, they taint the name of Zion. They climb on top of the other and commit acts against the nature of mankind, they drink, steal and murder, and they preach as hypocrites do in their caves. One of them, Azmat is his name, denounced you as the giver of life and law. My king, will you not punish them?"
"Matthew, listen to my words, for they are true. I will not punish the men of Antes, for their will is free as I have said it would be. They will not rise with me to my true kingdom, and so they will be punished. Do not judge them for their acts, instead pray that they see light, and pray for me as well, so that I may judge them rightly when the day comes at last."
The men of Antes continued in their pursuit of sin and heresy, defying their Father in Zion, staying true to their terrible ways. Fifteen years after Matthew conversed with James, the heretics launched an attack upon Zion with many trained soldiers, with Azmat at their head. James expected this, however, and stood upon the walls as the foe approached. He spoke to Azmat firmly,
"I know of your name, Azmat, and I know of your cause. The city of Antes rivals the strength of Zion, and you have taken it upon yourself to conquer my lands and denounce your Father. I, however, would forgive your wrong-doings, were you to lie down your arms and walk away. You need not acknowledge me as your Father, for your words do not change the truth. I ask only that you leave Zion in peace, if you truly wish to forsake me."
Azmat did not listen, however, and his men attacked the city. With faith, zeal and heart, the defenders of Zion repelled the attack and stood victorious at dawn. Joyful, they celebrated James once again. James summoned Matthew and said to him:
"Go to Antes and seek out Azmat. Come in peace and speak to him as a man speaks to his brother. Tell him that I summon him to my court, and that I shall forgive his sins and the sins of his people. If he refuses, look to the horizon and watch for the North star. When you see it, leave Antes and do not look upon it as you walk to Zion."
Matthew did as James commanded and spoke to Azmat, who refused to repent. The disciple left when the last slivers of light crept below the horizon and did not look back as he walked to Zion. The next morning, the city of Antes lay in ruin, turned to sand and dust. No memory was left of Antes, and no one would bear recollection of its past. No one disobeyed the law of James from that day forward.
When Moses brought the Israelites East of Zion, three hundred years passed since the creation of James' law. The Lawgiver did not speak to Moses, nor did he visit him, for his days were numbered. He fell terribly ill, locked away in his palace, wasting away with every passing day, anticipating death. He did not pray, however, for he knew that no prayer could save him from his end. James summoned Matthew, his brothers and their wives, and spoke to them,
"My sons, my daughters, you have served me well. I have sought immortality for many centuries, and now I prepare to depart from our world at last. I have done many things and lived through many ages, though I have not done enough. I have tried to perform miracles, though I have not done enough. I beg of you, successors of Isaac, nothing more than forgiveness. I have preached, and times came when my deeds were wrong. Forgive me, pray that I may find peace.
My deeds, those heroic deeds worthy of song; they seem so distant now, almost mythical and surreal. Have I truly fought the Gods? Have I wandered endless wastes? Have I given you life? As I approach my end, I see that it matters not. What matters is that which remains, and I am proud to have led you to greatness.
Matthew, son of Isaac, lead our people to Jerusalem, and name it Zion. Take with you the stones and uncover their secrets, as I have failed to do. Preach our law without fear, and think back on me with joy. I say to you now, you shall rise with me."
And so James' final hour dawned, and life escaped his lips. Matthew gathered the people and grieved for three days and nights, and on the fourth day, they departed to Jerusalem, naming it Zion in honor of James. As they left their home, the Earth quaked and salt waters consumed the city behind them, never to be found.