There are three different types of lies that people tell from time to time. The first type is the little white lie that doesn’t really effect anyone in particular, lies like “I’ll get that for you as soon as I can” or “Yellow is so your colour”. People tell little lies like that all the time. The second type is the more major lies such as “Of course I’m not cheating” or “I did not murder him” ,lies that are a bit more serious, where bad things will go down of you are caught out. The third type of lie, the type of which we are basing this story, are the most rare and the biggest. These are the type of lies that change the world.
Many, many years ago, on the edge of a vast empire, there was a small border garrison filled with very frightened young men.
They had every reason to be frightened. The part of the empire they guarded was far away from their homes and all they knew. But the place was far from empty. The plains to the north were filled with all kinds of monsters and wild men. They ignored the border and regularly swooped down onto whoever was foolish enough to live within their reach. Perhaps the worse of the wild men was a tribe called a Scarleh, savage brutes to a man and by far the most savage was their leader Jasook the terrible. This monster of a man was over seven feet tall with arms like tree trunks. There were stories that he would eat five grown men each day for his dinner, though that was probably an exaggeration, he probably couldn’t have fit more than two men in a single sitting.
Jasook made it a point of visiting the little garrison every few days and calling out a soldier to fight him. No one man could stand against him and it usually ended quickly and gruesomely. They couldn’t just lock themselves inside, Jasook would get angered by the affront and smash open the building, killing all inside. So whenever he appeared, the poor men huddled in the garrison would draw lots and whoever lost would be sent out to meet their fate.
It so happened that one day, when Jasook was making one his regular raids, that one of these young men called Jon lost the draw and was sent outside. He was a thin, reedy man about as far from suited to the rigours of the brutal frontier as any man could be. As he stumbled out of the garrison gates after being pushed by his colleagues his thin armour rattled with his terror. Peering from behind his shield, he could see Jasook waiting for him, mocking him with his eyes. “Is this the best that you can field against me?” The monster roared, “This puny thing is barely even worth my time. I expect something better next time” As closed his eyes and waited the inevitable he could hear the thud, thud of Jasook’s immense feet on the ground as he approached, closer and closer.
But then there was something else a heavy beating getting louder and louder. Willing himself to ignore the terror running through him, Jon pulled his head out from behind the shield and opened his eyes. Behind Jasook, its immense wings still outstretched, was a dragon, the biggest that Jon had ever seen. It was right behind Jasook and the warrior had turned to face it. Raising his sword and shouting a battle cry, he threw himself at the beast, but it was much faster. It snapped up the warrior in an instant, his blood curdling screams cut short by shaking its head violently. Dragons are notoriously messy eaters and bits and pieces of the Scarleh champion flew all around, some even hitting Jon on the shield and sword. Big as he was, Jasook did not last long as a meal and without so much as a whisper, the dragon was back in the air, soaring up into the clouds.
Jon just stood there for the longest time, shocked at what had just happened, and surprised to be alive. He was startled to hear a noise from behind him. He turned and saw the gate of the garrison open up, and one of the other men’s head stick out. His face turned from fear to amazement. There, standing in front of the door was Jon, his shield and sword splattered with blood and assorted pieces of Jasook splayed around the ground. The soldier was flabbergasted, he asked Jon “My God, did you do this?”
Jon probably should have gone and told the truth right there, but his head must still have been swimming from the adrenaline and instead he said “You damn right I did! That Scarleh thug will never be troubling us again.”
The gates were thrown and Jon was hailed as a hero by the rest of the soldiers. Extra rations of beer and wine were shared out and Jon told the epic (and completely fabricated) story of how he defeated Jasook. The officer in charge called out all of the riders and pigeons and every other method they had to send a message, to spread the word about this remarkable upset.
Within hours, men where appearing from other border posts asking to meet the man who defeated Jasook. Jon was given pride of place at every meal and each time he would tell the story, adding a little more embellishment, all lapped up by his adoring audience.
Eventually the look outs spotted a trio of riders approach from the south, their flags flying long behind them. They were imperial messengers, summoning Jon to the court of the emperor. Jon travelled in style, stopping at every castle and town along the route, staying at the finest homes and inns, and telling his tale to rapt audiences.
Eventually Jon and his retinue reached the imperial capital on the warm shores of the southern sea. He was immediately rushed to the emperors throne-room where he told the most magnificent version of his story yet.
“As the I looked at the smashed pieces of my evil foe, the blood dripping off my sword, I knew that though he had fought well I was ultimately victorious. And that, your majesty, is my story” Jon then bowed in front of the emperor. He could hear clapping from the throne, quickly joined by all those around him. The emperor then bade him to stand “A hero such as you, should not bow before any other man, not even me!” As Jon nervously stood up the emperor sat up and stepped down from his throne. He grabbed Jon’s hands and embraced him “It is an honour to embrace the hero of the north. You have proven yourself a man of true worth. I have been waiting for such as you for many years, come come!”
Leading Jon by the arm. The emperor crossed the ornate throne-room, flunkies and courtesans jumping out of his way like the seas parting. He slowed at tables covered in jewels and gold, at robes of nobility and office and at his beautiful daughter each time bringing a lump to Jon’s throat. But the emperor came to a stop at a case, within which an elegant bejewelled helmet. “Do you have any idea what this is son?” asked the emperor. “Is that the Darik’s helmet?” Jon spoke in hushed tones about the great hero of imperial legend. “It is my boy, the very same and until now I have been unable to find a man worthy to wear it again. With this as your standard and my armies under your command the savages to the north will finally be stopped”
“Come again? Lead your army?” Jon was shocked “Of course my boy I can think of no man more deserving. My spies have told me that the Scarleh have already heard of your great deeds, they are quivering in their boots over the thought of facing you again. Your country needs you Jon, we are in a time of need, you cannot refuse”
That last line was filled with just enough menace to tell Jon not to say no and within a month Jon was marching back along the great northern plain with over a million men behind him. While all the officers and men fawned over Jon with his shiny new armour, the emperor and his generals issued most of the orders, Jon was expected to lead from the front “By example!” Word came from scouts that the whole Scarleh horde, hundreds of thousands of men were moving to intercept them. They would be there within the hour.
As the rest of the army formed up and prepared Jon found himself with very little to do, just to ride around in his horse and look good. “You’re inspiring the men brilliantly!” shouted the emperor over the noise of marching armour “Now get to the front of the army so that they can see you and know victory is at hand”
From the leading edge, on his massive warhorse, Jon could see the massive Scarleh force arraying before them. None of the men there were as big as Jasook had been, but they were still far larger than any man in his army. He wanted to just run and hide but that wasn’t possible. He looked at the men behind him, looking at him with hope in their eyes, he then turned to the imperial camp were a red flag was being waved, the signal. Jon raised his hand shouted “Advance!” and the great war machine started to move.
Jon’s experience of the ensuing battle was confusing to say the least. From ordering the charge his next memory was in the midst of the fighting with imperial soldiers and Scarleh all around him. Funnily enough, it seemed that a great deal of the Scarleh were already dead, while not as many of his men had fallen. Occasionally one of the fierce warriors would appear out of the nowhere and try to bring Jon down. As he would try to fend off the attack, dozens of his troops would gang up around the fighter and his battle cry would turn to a scream of terror as he was laid low by attacks from all sides. Within an hour all of the Scarleh that hadn’t died or fled had been captured. Jon’s army had won.
It was miraculous. With the Scarleh defeated, the armies turned their attention to the other wild men. With Jon leading the charge each battle was a rousing victory. Jon was getting braver and braver and by the end of the campaign he had many stories that he didn’t have to lie about. There was even an expedition to the northern mountains to destroy the roosts of the dragons. By the end of the season the entire northern plain was under imperial control and at peace.
When Jon returned to the Capital he was treated as a hero. Honours, riches and title were heaped upon him. In the end he married the emperors beautiful daughter and became his heir. With empire at peace and commerce able to flow again, prosperity returned to the world. Those were good years.
It was many years later that Jon figured it out. His father in law was no fool, he couldn’t have believed Jon’s story, especially after he met him, but he also knew people. The empire at the time had been demoralised by constant harassing from the north. People saw no way out and even the emperor couldn’t change their minds. Then along came Jon and his beating Jasook. Here was a normal man, one of them who had beat a Scarleh champion, they weren’t unbeatable. The army could always have beaten the Scarleh and all the other threats from the north, they just had to realise that.
Jon may have lied that day, many years ago. But his words certainly changed the world.