Once upon a time, there were two big kingdoms and two small kingdoms. The two big kingdoms were called Khakia and Doogland. The two small kingdoms were called Bibbleton and Langora.
There were two religions in the land. Some people believed in a god called Yob and others in a god called Bingo. In the distant past, the Yobbers and the Bingoites had fought many wars against each other. Now there was relative peace, but tensions remained between the followers of the two different faiths. Most of the people in Khakia and Bibbleton were Yobbers while most people in Doogland and Langora were Bingoites.
Despite this, the kings of Khakia and Doogland allied their kingdoms. One day, there was a meeting between King Arnold of Khakia and King Todd of Doogland.
"It is so good that we do not let religion divide us as it divided the kings of the past," King Todd said proudly.
"I agree," said King Arnold. "Peaceful trade between our countries is more important."
After King Todd left, King Arnold told his brother Larry about the meeting. A zealous Yobber, Larry had a different view on the situation.
"How can you form an alliance with Bingoites?" he asked angrily. "They are the enemy of our people! Langora rightfully belongs to the Yobbers, but Doogland has allowed the Bingoites to take it over."
Meanwhile, King Robert of Bibbleton had a similar idea. The people in Bibbleton were known for taking their religion more seriously than the people in any other country. The Yobbers in Bibbleton still observed several ancient traditions which most of the Yobbers in Khakia had long forgotten. Some called the Bibbletoners conservative, but they would have said that they were the true followers of Yob. It was therefore not hard for King Robert to convince his people to go to war with Langora. Bibbleton won the war easily.
"Today, Langora no longer exists as an independent country!" King Robert declared triumphantly. "It is now a part of the Bibbleton Kingdom as it rightfully should be!"
The next day, King Todd stormed furiously into the court of King Arnold.
"Have you heard what King Robert has done?!" he yelled. "He has violated every treaty in our land by invading Langora and claiming it as part of his kingdom! We cannot allow King Robert's aggression to continue! In this modern era, it the duty of powerful countries such as ours to defend the small countries and safeguard their independence."
Over his brother's objections, King Arnold reluctantly agreed. Soon, the combined armies of Khakia and Doogland entered Langora and forced the Bibbletoners to retreat back to their country. The Langoran king was subsequently restored to his throne.
"We must make sure this never happens again," said King Todd. "Your country is closer to Bibbleton than ours, so would it be okay if we based some of our troops in your country to keep an eye on what King Robert's forces are doing?"
"I suppose that would be all right," said King Arnold.
"Also, King Robert must be punished for his actions," King Todd continued. "I have demanded that he give up one treasure chest of gold, but he has refused to pay it. I propose that we end all trade with Bibbleton until he complies."
King Arnold agreed and his brother Larry was aghast.
"Your alliance with Doogland has gone much too far!" Larry yelled. "Now we have Bingoite troops in our country, right next to our holiest sites! The Dooglanders are anti-Yobber criminals! They're trying to make us all worship Bingo just like in the olden days!"
At this point, King Arnold had had enough of his brother and banished him from the country. Larry moved to Bibbleton and started to gather like-minded followers. Ten years passed and the people of Bibbleton suffered under the trade embargo as King Robert still refused to give up a treasure chest of gold. As he watched the suffering, Larry's hatred of Doogland grew. Doogland, he was convinced, was the source of all the problems in the world. They allowed the Bingoites to run Langora, put Bingoite troops near the holy Yobber sites in Khakia, and left the children of Bibbleton to starve.
One day, a group of Larry's followers entered Doogland and sacked one of its greatest cities. The people of Doogland were shocked and demanded retribution. King Todd went to Bibbleton to meet with King Robert.
"The criminal Larry has declared war on Doogland!" he shouted. "I demand that you hand him over to us immediately!"
"How about this?" King Robert suggested. "We hand Larry over to Khakia, where he will have a fair Yobber trial."
"Don't play these games with me!" King Todd raged. "We know he's guilty!"
When King Robert still refused, King Todd declared war on Bibbleton.
"The King of Bibbleton has sided with the criminals," King Todd told his people, "and will therefore be counted among them. We are now at war, but I wish to emphasize that this is not a war like in the old days. We are not at war with Yobbers, but with criminals who happen to be Yobbers. As a modern country, we have no quarrel with honest people who worship Yob."
Unfortunately, many people in Doogland didn't listen to their king's words. They were strong Bingoites and all too eager to blame Larry's actions on their country's Yobber minority.
The armies of Doogland soon conquered Bibbleton, but failed to stop Larry and his followers from fleeing the country. King Robert was killed and replaced with King Sam. King Sam was a Yobber too, but a much more moderate one than King Robert had been. King Todd hoped that King Sam would end Bibbleton's backwards traditions and make it a modern Yobber country like Khakia. After all, King Todd thought, this had all happened because Bibbleton was so far behind the times.
This all added up to the Bibbletoners thinking that it looked very much like Doogland was at war with Yobbers, despite King Todd's denial. Soon, many of the Bibbletoners began to rebel against their new king, whom they now viewed as a puppet. Perhaps King Sam wasn't a Yobber at all, they said. Perhaps he would be forcing them to worship Bingo one day.
Meanwhile, Larry returned to his brother's palace in Khakia. King Arnold agreed to hide Larry and his followers from the Dooglanders. Larry and his followers continued to plot against Doogland and several Khakian generals aided the Bibbletoner rebels, even as King Arnold still called himself an ally of Doogland and officially supported King Sam. Eventually, a band of King Todd's knights found Larry hiding in the cellar of the Khakian palace and killed him. Celebrations spread through Doogland. At last, the evil Larry had been defeated! King Todd chose to ignore the fact that King Arnold had concealed Larry from him. After all, he needed Khakia as an ally.
As years passed, it became clearer and clearer that King Todd's army was the only thing keeping King Sam in power. The people of Doogland grew war-weary and demanded their troops return home, but how could King Todd allow such a thing? If his army left now, another extremist like King Robert would surly come to power and the whole war would have been for nothing. Or even worse, Bibbleton might became a place where Larry's remaining followers could regroup and plot to sack another Doogland city.
And so, the war continued.
Matthew McAyeal is a writer from Portland, Oregon. His short stories have been published in the literary magazines Bards and Sages Quarterly, cc&d, The Fear of Monkeys, The Metaworker, Danse Macabre, and Scarlet Leaf Magazine. In 2008, two screenplays he wrote were semi-finalists in the Screenplay Festival.