A young boy walks across a beach with a fishing rod over his shoulder. Above him at the top of the cliffs a castle looks out over the glittering Mediterranean. He grew up on his father’s stories about the Crusaders who had defended Europe here. Those knights have been gone for centuries but their ghosts still walk the ancient halls.
Now a new Order had come. Flags of Saint George fly from the towers. The arrow-slits glow with firelight. But these men on the walls carried rifles and the gaps in the old walls were filled with sandbags and razor wire.
They had arrived six months ago from out of nowhere. Some were local men. Others had answered the call from across Europe. They were a mixture of soldiers, adventurers and the dispossessed, come together under the flag of the Dragonslayer.
They drove the invaders into the sea and turned the boats around. They told the corrupt officials, judges and journalists that they would comply or else. Those impostors slouching on the thrones of Europe had not yet been deposed but out here on the Southern frontier they were a long way from the corrupt halls of government power. These men were a new order. A church within the church. A state within a state.
They repaired the fishing boats and nets and kept the seas clear of pirates. They built a school. They dug wells. They fixed the church roof and the pews started to fill up again. The drug dealers and pimps disappeared and nobody asked where they went.
There’s a chapel in the castle grounds. Chickens run in a courtyard. Men tend livestock and crops. Wheat fields and orchards line the surrounding hills and sheep roam in pastures. They train like soldiers in the open-air gymnasium and read like monks in the library. At night they eat together by candlelight in the great hall.
Sometimes a bell rings out from the tower and the men pile into their fast boats and skip away across the sea, the flag of the Dragonslayer streaming in the air behind them. The bell that once called the faithful to prayer now calls them to action.
The young boy with the fishing rod walks across the beach. A colourful piece of driftwood is tumbling in the surf. He stops to look at it. It looks like it came from the hull of a ship. He remembers how things used to be, with the boats crammed full of strange people, and when nobody dared to stop them. He looks back to the men with rifles dragging their boats up the shore.
‘One day that will be me,’ he says.
I know we think the same.