I was led a long distance until we reached Ephesus, a settlement of many gates and towers. At its center was a great palace, the court of the Red King. We entered his throne room and my captors, having prostrated themselves, began to explain our presence there. He nodded apprehensively as they spoke. For my part, I stared at the man in mute awe. I recognized his face immediately from our former encounter, but still unaware that I was asleep, the similarity was more confusing than enlightening. He was no longer dressed as a horseman, but was crowned with laurel and decked in robes of scarlet.
At last, he addressed me.
“Why have you appealed to meet with me?” he thundered. “I’m a busy man.”
“I must strike the Red Horseman. Then the Black must strike the Pale. Then the Pale must strike the Black. Then I must strike the Pale.”
“Indeed?” he scoffed. “And just who do you think you are?”
In the crowd, I caught sight of the Lamb from the corner of my eye, and took comfort in his presence.
“I am the White Horseman,” I intoned.
The crowd burst into laughter.
“That’s impossible,” snapped the Red King. “He disappeared long ago, before the war of the Seven Cities established my ancestor as monarch of this place. Since that time, a great famine has blighted this land season by season, and to avert catastrophe, we periodically hold a Tournament of Fire. Is that why you’re here? Well, you couldn’t compete, even if you wanted to. Only three nobles from each of the seven cities can join in the game, with me and my two brothers serving as judges. The participants have all been chosen.”
“If you won’t let me compete,” I said, “then I’ll have to take your place as Judge once I execute you.”
“Are you seriously challenging me to a duel?” he growled. “I’ll destroy you.”
“You can try.”
A ring of fire suddenly blazed forth, with me and the Red King materializing at its center. At my side, I found my old slingshot, and one stone in my grip.
“If you really are the White Horseman,” hissed the Red Horseman, “then tell me—what did my ancestor challenge you to do in the original Game of Stones?”
“To defend the concept of God,” I said confidently, “and this is how I began:
‘God is love,’ taught Christ, but ‘God is dead,’ wrote Nietzsche. If so, Nietzsche is now in good company.”
“How did you know that?” cried the Red Horseman.
“A little lamb told me,” I said. “Now hear my defense of God, and give way.”
Next Entry 9/4/2011