After the Fire, What?

The first time that Yagac approached the shrine he was carrying a stick he had cut from a tree and sharpened.

“What do you bring for the god?” said the aged priest. Villagers said he had been at the shrine more than a hundred years. He looked it.

“I bring this spear,” said Yagac, his young voice trembling.

The priest saw a thin, or better scrawny boy who might be in his teens, though he could be taken for younger. He knew the villagers had very little to eat.

“That? That’s a stick.”

“It’s a spear. My father says that the God accepts whatever is the best you can bring. You must let me offer it.”

The priest thought a moment. It was true that he had told the villagers the god would accept their best. He had meant “only their best” but perhaps this was the best the boy could offer. It wouldn’t do to give the villagers the idea of withholding things.

“Go in, offer it, and say your prayers.”

Inside Yagac laid his spear on the altar, then prayed. “You know that the lord in the castle takes what he wants. Now he has even taken my sister. I would like you to do something about it.”

He felt very peaceful and wanted to laugh–a joyful laugh. But he didn’t do either. He put on a sober look and walked from the shrine.

“Did you receive peace?” asked the priest.

“I wasn’t praying for peace,” said Yagac. Then he walked off toward the village.

The second time Yagac came to the shrine he was carrying a knife made of flint. It was very well formed, and had a wooden handle attached to it with some twine that looked hand woven.

This time the priest just waved him in. At the same time he got an idea. Why not benefit from the repeated returns of the boy?

Inside Yagac laid his knife on the altar, then prayed. “You know that the lord in the castle takes what he wants. Now he has even taken my sister. I would like you to do something about it.”

This time the peace and joy that came over him was nearly overwhelming. He was sure there was some divine presence in the shrine. But he wasn’t satisfied. He carefully straightened his face as he walked out past the priest.

The priest stopped him. “If you come again to offer a weapon, you must bring food with it. The guards from the castle will be suspicious if they see you bringing weapons as sacrifices. Traditionally they are sacrifices to give one courage and victory in battle.”

Yagac nodded and walked away toward the village.

The third time Yagac came to the shrine he was carrying a basket with some vegetables in it. Amongst the vegetables was a very respectable hammer made of a hard rock carefully attached to a wooden handle.

This time the priest decided to make use of provisions he had made to listen to the prayers of worshipers. He had ignored the boy because he figured he was praying for some childish thing and he had no interest.

Inside Yagac laid his basket on the altar, pulled the hammer out and put it beside the basket, then prayed. “You know that the lord in the castle takes what he wants. Now he has even taken my sister. I would like you to do something about it.”

This time the feeling of peace and joy truly was overwhelming. Yagac fell on the floor laughing hysterically. Then he got up, straightened the rags he wore for clothes, wiped any smile from his face, and left.

The priest intercepted him. “You have been touched by the god. I can see it on you. You should be satisfied with what has happened. His peace and joy have come upon you.”

“I wasn’t praying for peace and joy,” said Yagac.

A bit of fear came over the priest. He liked the way things were in the village and at the shrine. While the village produced little, something came to him from everyone, and then he received a monthly payment from the castle lord for help in keeping the villagers quiet.

It wasn’t that he didn’t believe in the god, though he had never seen anything that could definitely be crediting to his activity. The peace and joy? That was a secret ingredient in the incense.

“Be very careful what you pray for, child,” he said, trying for a fatherly expression and tone. “The gods always demand much of those they aid! Be happy with his peace, lest you find the price of an answer too high.”

He didn’t say this because he thought anything might happen. He just didn’t want word of a child with such a prayer getting back to the village. He considered reporting the child to the castle guards, but he decided there was no real threat. He’d just bring trouble on himself.

The final time Yagac went to the shrine he was running. He was carrying a short sword in its scabbard. He could barely carry it and run. The priest could hear the sound of horses’ hoofs further in the distance. He moved to block the boy, but he was old and slow, and the boy ran directly into the shrine.

Yagac slammed the sword down on the altar and said, “You know that the lord in the castle takes what he wants. Now he has even taken my sister. I would like you to do something about it.”

But this time he continued. “I don’t want peace. I don’t want joy. I want revenge. I want things changed. I don’t care what it costs.”

The guards were already outside the door, and the priest turned away so as not to see the boy killed. The priest didn’t really believe anything might happen.

Suddenly the ground shook. Something emerged from the temple, but it wasn’t anything that could be recognized as Yagac. As it took steps the ground shook. Fire surrounded it. The guards fled in terror.


Yagac felt no different. He was still just Yagac just a boy. But as he returned from the castle, riding into the village on a horse he had appropriated the villagers bowed down in the street, hailing him as a conquering hero.

He was no hero! He was Yagac, who could plow the straightest furrow. Yagac, who loved his family and missed his sister. He’d found her dead in the castle. It wasn’t fair! These people wanted food. They wanted protection.

Yagac spurred his horse and rode down the trail away from the village. But even as he did it he knew he would be returning. The god demanded it.

He was also Yagac the responsible, and he would pay the price.

3Our God comes
but he doesn’t keep silent.
Fire devours before him,
A furious windstorm surrounds him. — Psalm 50:3

(See my devotional on this verse.)