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I’ve been working on an allegorical novel for some time now. It’s a fantasy with an emphasis upon the great battle against darkness and how truth differs with different perceptions. But as with this life, I find that, to get through the dark battles it is best to first know the victorious ending.

Thus, I will publish the final chapter first. When the book is fully completed, I will have the final chapter printed in the front as the prologue, as well as in the back, as the ending.

This scene takes place after the final battle with darkness. Yet, do not worry if you do not know who all the characters are. That will come. Just relax and enjoy the victorious ending. That is what we need to see, in order to make this present darkness passable.

Perception

By Gregga J. Johnn

 Final Chapter

Gentle moved toward the makeshift central command tent. The leaders of all the cities were already hard at debate, divvying up the spoils, and establishing boundaries.

“Lady Warrior! Welcome to the Victory Tent.” The General of First City raised a glass of fresh grape juice to salute her.

Gentle turned around in the tent doors and looked back outside to the rabble city of tents, hostages, fighters, supports, and general chaos of the post-war setting. Everyone, everywhere, looked beaten and bruised. There was dust and blood covering everything. Ruling over it all, a strong militia from all the cities collected in a moment of brief unity, as they oppressed everyone equally.

Off in the center of it all was the gathering of misfits and broken souls that Gentle had pulled and led out of the dark regions. They hovered together like a conglomerate wounded bear, bellowing insupportable threats if anyone came near. But no one did. Not if they could help it.

One of the young girls within this wounded conglomeration caught Gentle’s attention. She bore the mark of a sister of the Dark Regent’s forced sex-slavery. The girl smiled through all the smoke around her; the smoke of burning death. She was horribly young, wearing the scars of a ripped and torn innocence.

Gentle felt tears, over her agony, burn behind unveiled eyes. But then the young girl smiled directly at her. That smile sparkled with immeasurable faith as she waved to her Gentle Warrior. It sparkled in faith that their hero would keep them all safe.

The Gentle hero smiled and waved back. She set her heart like flint to her task ahead.

Turning back toward the Victor’s tent, Gentle Warrior acknowledged the washed and bathed leaders, prowling hungrily, snacking on the luxuries hidden within exclusivity.

She asked,

“What victory is that, General?”

“Why our victory. Look at us! We haven’t all met as leaders, combined in unity like this in… ever before. Such a glorious victory did our God bring us.” The First City General proclaimed loudly.

“I don’t know about your god, General.” The Commander of Humanity-First City retorted. “It was my men who bled and died to get this victory.”

Someone else instantly argued that their soldiers had bled and died just as much, if not more. And the tales of heroes from each individual city began to be told.

Gentle gazed around. She was restless. The vision she’d had, long ago in the darkness, of that valley full of hope, burned with relentless clarity in her mind. She cleared her throat.

The General of First-Family City brought her back into everyone’s attention, by coming behind her and bellowing,

“Our Victorious Lady Warrior wishes to speak!”

Everyone in the tent looked at her expectantly.

Gentle quietly asked,

“My people…?”

But General First City interrupted her,

“Yes, yes, we have that all under control.”

The General of Nature-First Plantation agreed, explaining,

“We have delegated the beautiful, lush region all along the river to be set up as a special sanctuary for your people.”

“Yes,” inserted the Chief of Native-First Plantation. She was too excited to remain quiet, “And we will set up special protective boarders all along it, so that you never need worry about being stolen away again.” She looked so proud of herself.

“Isn’t that great news?” General First-Family City clapped her on the back, congratulating her on their triumphant decree.

“You’ve already decided this?” Gentle asked.

“Well, we didn’t want you to have to worry about it. You’ve already done so much for us all.” The High Priest of All-First Temple assured her.

Gentle sought to clarify,

“A Sanctuary, all along the river, beneath the city fjords and bridges, with high walls closing everyone in for safety?”

“Exactly.” Every leader in the room was excited to get this great work of helping the destitute into action. It would look perfect on each of their resumes come next election season.

Gentle sighed,

“Call me Gentle.”

“What?” Said General Humanity-First. He questioned the randomness of her answer.

Gentle emphasized,

“Please don’t call me Lady Warrior anymore.”

“But that’s your name.” The Humanity-First General insisted.

“That’s part of my name. I wish to claim the Gentle part now.” Then Gentle Warrior turned to leave.

“Where are you going?” First City General pursued her. He was deflated by not receiving her accolades.

Gentle responded,

“I have had a vision of a Valley…”

“A vision?” snorted the Admiral of First-Militia Barracks. He could remain quiet no longer. “No war was ever won on a vision. You need strategy.” He was quite disgusted.

“We aren’t in a war anymore.” Gentle reminded him as she continued walking out of the tent.

But the whole party of leaders followed her like a class of small children crying over a popped balloon. General First City called at her,

“You can’t just walk away, Lady Warrior.”

Gentle frowned at him.

“…I mean, Gentle. We have so much work to do to set up policy, and draw up new boundaries. Times of Peace don’t exist upon a whim.”

Gentle was resolute,

“I am leaving, and I’m taking my people with me, if they care to follow.”

The leaders burst with shock. A babble of exclaimed reasoning assaulted the woman’s ears. It was enough of a vocal explosion as to draw the attention of everyone within hearing distance. But as the whole united assembly looked to the heroine for answer, the wave of curiosity expanded beyond hearing.

Gentle looked at the rabble of her people in the center of the commotion. Their eyes were full of hope that was still yet tethered by mistrust of the helpful leaders who were so eager to lord over and protect their pitiful lives. That sister slave girl stood, expecting to follow wherever Gentle walked.

Gentle stepped up onto a nearby chariot and spoke out,

“I have had a vision,” she proclaimed loudly. The acoustics of the flat war-lands before the mountain, echoed her voice as far as it could go, where it was then picked up and carried by others who eagerly proclaimed her words to the furthest in the crowd.

“At the top of the mountain, beyond the clouds, is a valley; a Valley of Hope.”

The leaders tried to interrupt her with proof that no such place existed. But Gentle silenced them with her determination in a shout,

“I am going there.” She waited for the echoes to die down a little, then she took courage from the solidarity of her people as they stood as one, intent upon going with her.

“If you want to stay here, these good people,” she gestured to the leaders (a couple of whom blushed at being called good). “These good people will delegate, devise, and set policies to protect you in all your cities.” She paused again to give a respectful nod to the leaders to warn them that she hoped they would keep the good of the people in mind.

Then she continued,

“But, if you want,” she swallowed still a little unsure of herself, “I am going to climb up and find that valley.” She continued confident in her resolve, “I will clearly mark the way as I go, so any who wish to follow may come up after me.”

There was a loud bustling as thousands prepared to pick up their belongings and go with her, but Gentle shouted,

“Leave everything behind that weighs you down.”

She repeated herself to assure the crowd’s confusion,

“Leave EVERYTHING behind that weighs you down.”

Her dog Tiri appeared and nudged up against her legs as she continued her encouragement,

“All that you will ever need, and more, will be provided for you by the mountain, and the King of the Mountain.”

Gentle then turned to face the leaders and moved to walk through them,

“Excuse me.” She said as she politely passed by.

“But you can’t lead all these people.” First City General exclaimed as she moved passed him. He called to her back, “You’re a woman. It’s not…”

“Not what?” The Chief of Native-First Plantation warned him with her threatening presence.

“Not easy.” First City General corrected himself in a bad attempt to rescue his patriarchal dignity.

Gentle turned one last time and said to them,

“No one else has stepped up.” She looked with accusatory questioning at each of the leaders, specifically the men.

“Yes we have.” Humanity-First’s General defended himself. “We are making preparations to give them a home and security.

Gentle allowed her patient anger to bubble as she whispered,

“There is a big difference between leading as one of the People and dumping those you perceive as problem-makers where you can keep them under your control.”

Then Gentle turned and followed her dog, Tiri, up the lowest plains of the mountain.

The path set before her, bypassed each of the twin cities and their bridges that wove up the river as it flowed around the mountain. It went straight up to the First City river outlet and onto the hillsides where she had grown up playing with the Shepherd. The way then went up to the wild, rugged slopes above, through the cloud line, and on, into the beyond.

Tiri barked and bounded forward as the Shepherd, himself, appeared and waited for Gentle to catch up to him.

Her sister slave-girl watched all this eagerly, dropped her bags, and ran to catch up. The Shepard, Prince of the Mountain, greeted both girls with a huge hug and cheek kisses.

A rough party of ragged soldiers, who had followed Gentle out of their own dark regions, also jogged to catch up and shake empty hands with the Prince Shepherd. They receive back-pounding welcome hugs.

The climb began, to the astounded observation of the whole crowd below. But many thousands decided joined in. Most of the followers still carried their belongings. They simply hoisted all they had on their backs and walked as they could.

The way up the mountain was long, steep, and rough. It took weeks to pursue the path. The complaints of those carrying their baggage lifted up loudest.

Slowly the new pathway up the mountain became spotted with fires of mini settlements. Over the days and weeks of the journey, many decided that those following on behind would need a place to rest, so they built shelters, wells were dug, and houses of rest began developing.

But at the place where the clouds permanently hovered, hiding the top of the mountain, the last settlement set itself up as a warning. Some who had gone on ahead came back to assure those behind that the road above was so rough, it was impossible to carry anything with you. A shop was set up where travelers could sell the last of all their belongings, should they wish to make the final climb, to who knew where.

Gentle pushed on with her Shepherd Prince and Tiri. A small troupe of a hundred or so had stuck with her. They ate berries and fruits, and cooked meals from the sheep, goats, rabbits, and other wild creatures that crossed their path. Water was plentiful as springs and river outlets ran alongside their path all the way. No matter where they stopped to rest, there was never a lack of what they needed.

The climb was still hard and exhausting. Food was just enough to satisfy hunger and no more. Excess weight melted off everyone as they pushed their bodies higher and higher in extreme exertion.

“How far now?” Gentle asked her Shepherd as the crew slept, scattered about the pathway.

Shepherd smiled and chuckled his customary,

“Just far enough.”

A few of the weary travelers still tossed and turned uncomfortably in their nightmares.

“Is there really hope?” Gentle asked, allowing her weary expectations to sigh their impatience.

“I have a plan and a future hope for you. I won’t harm you. There is abundant posterity where I lead you.” He assured her, taking her hand, and wrapping his arm around her.

Gentle melted into his comforting embrace and rested her weary head in his lap. He continued whispering over her as her brushed her hair with his fingers,

“I have hope set aside for you, a hope not deferred. It is faith I will prove to you; faith in me.”

Gentle fell asleep and rested well in the embrace of her Shepherd.

When they awoke in the morning to a quick breakfast of plums, fish, and fresh water, they followed the Shepherd as he walked with an extra bounce in his step. He was excited about something.

“What’s got you in such a good mood?” Gentle asked with a laugh, caught up in his exuberance.

Shepherd smiled and reached into his knapsack that he’d secretly kept some treasures in. He’d been working on special gifts for each one of them in the early morning hours while they slept. But now, with them all finished, he pulled one out and handed it to Gentle. It was a smooth, palm-sized stone that he had carved her name into and painted it with a glimmering red paint.

Shepherd had been busy. There was a carved and painted stone for everyone. They all took their stones with grateful, praise-filled, hugs. It was a beautiful and precious gift.

“Come on, come on!” urged the Shepherd with teasing delight.

He led them, on hands and feet, climbing up and around the steep rocky edging of the mountain. As Gentle followed close behind, she edged herself around the narrow cliff-face, clinging to the side so as to not fall thousands of feet to her death.

Shepherd whistled happily as he clung on and climbed.

Rounding the edge, with sweat dripping, they came out to an open ledge on the other side. Each climber stopped with a gasp as they rounded the corner and collected together, standing before the valley below.

Shepherd called them to follow him on down the grassy slope, and they followed in wondrous shock.

There beneath them all was a crater at the very center of the mountain. There was a blinding column of light burning out of a crystal lake in the very middle. It shone brilliantly without end, all the way up and into the atmosphere above.

As their eyes adjusted to the bursting light, that lake in the center shone upon more than they ever would have imagined. Foundations of a great city sprawled across the floor of the massive crater. Brand new, bare foundations circled the light as a city, ready to be built, reaching far out into the lush basin valley.

The straggling band of climbers staggered down the hillside. On the far edge of the valley was an abundant forest of massive trees that might provide for hundreds of buildings for hundreds of years. The glimmering lake, around the central burst of light, reflected rainbows all across the new foundations laid out as boarders of homes and businesses, circling about each other.

A great city of Hope waited to be built.

Some already citizens moved out of their homes in the city to greet and welcome the climbers as the lost and wandering pilgrims that they were.

Their Shepherd Prince pointed to a muddy bog at the valley entrance and instructed them,

“Take a handful of the mud and enter into the city.” He stood in the open foundations of the city gate. “When you find your home, the one you want to live in, plaster your stone to the entry base and claim it as yours.”

There was a shout of joy as everyone in the company took turns grabbing a handful of sloppy mud. Then they all ran through, and over, and around the foundations; jumping, dashing, chasing, and catching up to each other with such glee. It was as if everyone’s youthful vigor had returned to them.

They found the homes they sought, wherever they pleased to settle themselves.

Gentle skipped with purpose, directly toward the lake in the center. On the edge there, in closest view of the Glory of the King, Gentle found a pleasant foundation with room enough for herself and all her family.

She paused at the entrance, kneeling at the foundation stones that bordered the house, courtyard, and grassed in property. There on the right-hand corner stone, Gentle slapped on her mud. It had drained some in her walking and was of near solid consistency now. She then pressed on her beautiful stone with her name carved in it. She held it there until it dried enough to stay in place.

Then, she walked through the boarders of the place, once again, claiming this as her home. Many shed tears of joy helped wash the mud from her hands.

A few of her crew suddenly ran past her place, laughing hysterically, and chasing each other. The dove directly into the lake. Gentle dashed after them to join in the group splashing as they played about in the clear waters.

Shepherd called to them in the evening, to build a bonfire. He cooked more fish for them and they celebrated in a festival dance. Each climber had their own home, still yet to be built. But there was plenty of time for that, and plenty of hands to make everyone’s work light-hearted.

There were still many, many open foundations available to be claimed. Gentle was so glad to have found such abundance that she couldn’t wait to build up and then return to fetch more family there.

The Valley of Hope echoed with much joy and the stars came out to dance over them.

***

Look for more books and happenings on the official website of GreggaJJohnn

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