He knelt on one knee among the bodies of the men he had slain, his hand on the hilt of his sword, which was stuck down into the ground. His head was bowed, his eyes were closed, his lips moved in silent prayer.
"What prayer is it, M'Lord, that I may join you in it?"
The knight paused and look up at his squire. "I pray the Third Takbir of the Islamic prayers for the dead. It asks forgiveness."
"Forgiveness, M'Lord? What have you done that needs forgiveness? You have done nothing but fight well and bravely, M'Lord. What forgiveness is it you seek?"
"The prayer is not for myself, Squire. The prayer asks forgiveness for the dead."
"You're praying for THEM, M'Lord?"
"Yes, Squire, I pray for them, for there is no other to do so, and their religion requires that the prayers be said."
"THEIR religion? These heathens? You pray to THEIR God?"
"Their God is the same God you pray to each night, Squire, as you go to your bed. The same God you worship each morning at Mass. The same God. The God we, as Christians, inherited from the Jews. Jehovah, Yahweh, Allah, God the Father - they are all one and the same."
"But you pray their prayers, My Lord. Is that not a sacrilege?"
"If it is a sacrilege to show respect for your enemy, to KNOW your enemy, then yes, I have committed a sacrilege. Look about you, Squire. Tell me what you see."
"I see a dozen of the enemy, M'Lord, all dead by your sword."
"Look closer, Squire. Look into the faces of the dead and tell me, again, what you see."
The squire moved about, bending over, looking into the face of each of the dead Islamic warriors. He sat, then, and looked up at the knight, tears streaming down his face. "They have no beards, M'Lord. They are but children."
"Children with swords in their hands, Squire, and the strength of arm to use them, and well."
"But why, M'Lord? Why children?"
"To them, good Squire, WE are the heathens. They call us 'Infidels'. It means 'one without faith'. And they are taught from the cradle that those without faith shall not be suffered to live. "Death to the Infidel" they are taught from their mother's breast. They join in their "Holy War" as soon as they are able, knowing that should they die in battle they will go to heaven and upon their arrival there, they will be served by 27 virgins."
"Most of these be virgins, I think. They'll not be any thing else, if that's what they were."
"True, Squire. Just the point I would make, were I trying to make a point. You see about you the whole and terrible truth of war - there is no honor here, no glory here, just the bodies of dead young men who died before they should, for a cause they don't understand and killed by a man who has no clearer understanding of the reason why it all took place. So yes, I pray their prayers, I complete their ceremony to the extent I can, in hopes I can speed them on their way to heaven and their eternity with 27 virgins."
"So what do we do now, M'Lord?"
"Now, Squire? Now we bury them. And when we finish our labors, we shall refresh ourselves in that village yonder, for serving God is thirsty work, if you survive it."
"Well, that seems not fair to me, M'Lord."
"What is not fair?"
"They get virgins, M'Lord and all WE get is work."
"Would you rather trade places with them, Squire?"
"I know not, M'Lord. Do we get virgins?"