Free Write Friday #12: Let Us Begin

[SP] The Amish create a military.

"I still say it's sinful, Ezekial. We've always kept to ourselves and minded our own business."

"The world doesn't always care about us and our business, Jebediah," the other man replied. "Our beliefs are under attack. We have to defend the community."

The two men were walking across a field toward a large hill. At the top of the hill, there was the skeleton of a barn that had been erected that morning. Reaching the bottom of the hill, they began to hike up it, even as the man named Jebediah shifted uncomfortably. "Defending the community is one thing," he said. "This. This is something else entirely."

For so long, life had been simple. They kept to themselves. Practiced their faith. The young would have their rumspringa and some would leave, others would come back to be accepted into the faith and get married and raise families of their own. There had been an order and a rhythm to it all. Some would deal with the English and were good at growing their farms and businesses. Others would have nothing to do with the English and only trade within the Community. Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year- it had gone that way for centuries, until the English had suffered their Great Cataclysm.

The cities fell and refugees brought stories of horror and despair as civilization teetered all around them. But life had been simple. Then warlords and militias had taken over the area. Raids began. Barns were burned. Crops taken. Some in the community had wanted to bare the burden and accept it as part of God's plan for them, but others had been arguing that faith without works was dead. A dead faith, plowed under by the godless barbarians all around them, was of no good to anyone. They needed to protect the community.

It was a question that had nearly torn them apart, but one raid too many, one barn too many...  it had just become too much and the Elders had gotten together and issued an edict: enough was enough. They would take up arms to protect their community.

Jebediah and Ezekial were both winded from the exertions of climbing the steep hill and they finally made it up the last few feet to the crest of the hill and both of them stopped sunned by the sheer numbers that the Elders had managed to gather in the valley below.

"I did not know we were so many," Ezekial said quietly.

"Neither did I, Brother Ezekial," Jebediah replied. "Neither did I."

The two men wasted no more time and walked briskly over to the gathering of the Council of Elders at the table under the frame of the barn. They were not members of the Council of Elders, of course- but they gathered in the back of the small crowd around the Council of Elders to listen to what they had decided.

"Amos," one of them was saying. "This an unprecedented step."

"We have been over this Jeremiah," the ancient bearded elder at the head of the table said. "We have a right and a duty to defend ourselves."

"And if God has a different plan for us? What if we are making this decision out of pride? Vanity? Ego?"

"If it is not God's plan for us," Amos said. "We will be defeated. Our people will be scattered to the winds. Our barns will be burned. Our fields put to the torch. That will be the way our people will end."

"And what if it is God's plan for us?" Another Elder asked. "Are we prepared to rule over the English?"

"I think the English will welcome our rule," Amos said. "They suffered at hte hands of these warlords more than we have."

Jeremiah looked as though he was about to speak, but Amos raised a hand to forestall him. "It is enough, Jeremiah. We must vote. You all know the question before us. Who is in favor?"

Hands shot up around the table, some quicker than others and finally, only Jeremiah was left. He and Amos stared at one another for the longest time as the rest watched in silence, until finally, with a shake of his head, Jeremiah too raised his hand. Amos nodded in satisfaction. "Then it is agreed. Send word to our forces and let us begin."

Years later, people would speak of the legend that began that day. Of the army that seemingly sprang from nowhere near Lancaster and was suddenly everywhere. They stormed across what had been eastern Pennsylvania, taken everything between the Susquehanna and the Delaware. Then they crossed the rivers and kept going from there. They were courageous on the battlefield, girded with their spartan armor, rounded helmets and their unshakeable faith. They were merciful to their enemies, rendered aid to all who requested it of them. In the war torns lands through which their forces passed, they fed the hungry and clothed the poor.

Before long, even the English had rallied to their cause and soon states were reunited one by one. Civilization crawled back from the Great Cataclysm and they faded away, little by little, going back to the farms and their faith. History would have forgotten them, but if you know which road to travel down in Lancaster County, you'll find a tall green hill and a long wide valley beyond. The skeleton of the barn has long since rotted away, but someone erected a cenotaph, simple and modest and on were inscribed three words: "Let us begin."

That is the only memorial to the armies of legend over which no flags flew.

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