copyright © 1996 Dennis Paul Himes

The Captain

Based on a dream I had on the night of 4 July 1974

The General made him a captain and put him in charge of ten men, although nine of them were women. It never became an issue that he was a man commanding women, the military was traditionally a male profession in that land, and none of the women (or the other man) cared much to be captain. And they all knew that he was a friend of The General and had been trained at The University. He had two first lieutenants and four second lieutenants and various enlisteds, but rank meant nothing except that he was the leader. His horse was a werehorse but she was more a horse which would become human than the opposite, and would show not much more intelligence than an intelligent horse when in human form.

He had some of the best archers in the land with him although he relied on his saber. His problems were few: The redhead was intent upon marrying someone who had been at The University and would be always courting him. Anne would never wear any clothes, whether out of innocence, to be provocative, or to dare impropriety he never could tell, but even when his ranks began to fill up with men no one seemed to notice (nudity was not uncommon in that land). He wasn't comfortable treating his horse like a child when she became human. But his main problem was that he was once a Christian and he dreaded the possibility that he would have to kill someone.

They were sent out to rout some Imperials who had landed for fresh water at the mouth of the Winterwell River, which was not really more than a creek. When they got there the Imperials were already leaving so they let loose a few arrows in their direction and called it a victory.

FLASHBACK: Back at The University it was a ceremonial night. They had been parading around on horse in uniform sabers flashing. After while the entire School of Natural Sciences was out getting so smashed they couldn't stand up the military was milling around in a several quad party in what was acre upon acre of Escheresque medieval architecture. At the entrance to an archway his horse in human form was flirting with a cadet.

Still a lieutenant, he said, "Having a bit of fun, my dear?"

She looked reproached, "It's alright? Is it? It's alright?"

"Yes, yes, of course. Didn't mean to frighten you." He left wondering what the cadet must think of him, treating a woman as a child, like men did in olden times. He started to feel sick.

Later he met The General and was made a captain. The General had been a captain in the war, and they said she was a hero.

After Winterwell they started wandering around taking a vacation. Their weapons showed they were military, although only the captain had a uniform, and it was usually too hot to wear. The military was an idle profession then, no one had died in a fight since the war, and that was before he was born.

The police picked up a traveler in a store in Wickshall and the chief started going through his things throwing them all over as was the wont of police in that land. The traveler objected and tried to stop him. He ended up beaten and hurled through a window. And two agitators saw this and started agitating and were also beaten. A cameraman recorded all of this on film but the policeman who was to beat him only feigned assault and let the cameraman escape.

The cameraman found the captain and showed him the film. The soldiers marched on the police station. When the chief came to greet him he was met with a sword at his neck. They looted the police station and burnt it to the ground. The two agitators and seventeen townspeople joined in his ranks.

On the road the next day they met the police of Williamstown who, after judging the odds, surrendered without a fight.

Word started getting around that there was a hero roaming around and people soon joined his ranks in large numbers. Others would flee before him and leave their homes to be looted.

Priests and wolves which had been causing trouble in the south fled on only rumors of his coming. He had nothing to do but let the stories be told and feast his small but growing army in whatever festivals the locals would dig up. In Weberfield Vicki, one of his first lieutenants, asked him, "What next?"

"The ship. We march on the ship."

The ship was a slave ship sometimes, he had worked there once, and, as everyone who did, he had hated working there.

A lot of The Captain's Army was decoration, but when the ship's crew saw them coming the original eleven rushed aboard before the crew could do anything. The ship wasn't defended, so they sunk it and left the crew naked on the beach.

Then he received and order from The General to return and resign his commission. He returned, but he made himself colonel, his first and second lieutenants majors and captains, the rest of the first ten first lieutenants and the people of Wickshall second lieutenants.

Marching on The University they picked up a great following, enough to topple the government if it came to that. He was troubled by talks of violence, talks of war. The gates to The University were open and he and his officers marched in military formation down the main roadway with the multitude behind them. They stopped in The Main Square where The General and the entire University military were waiting in military formation.

He had little idea what he was going to do but The General took it out of his hands by dismounting and saying, "The government is yours. You have only to kill me."

The Captain's Army was relieved to hear they would not have to fight a real army. And they started to smile in anticipation of the feasts ahead.

And he dismounted and held his saber at The General's neck. And he muttered, "Damn you. Damn you, you knew I was once a Christian." And he plunged the sword into his own heart.

And his horse changed into a woman and cried over his body.

- Dennis Paul Himes