In all the worlds that God has created, my heart has never bled so, as it did when I came upon a young soldier who carried a burden he never should have.
Some call us angels, but I do not deem myself as one. Since watching this young man’s experience with a despicable device called the Package, my heart aches to this day. I felt his pain, heard his thoughts as my own. And for those who read my account, you too shall experience his life as I did. This recount, as much as it is to tell the tale of a warrior, whom I respected, should also stand as a warning to those who would choose to enter into war. No mere thing is war, and never should it be started upon a whim.
During my travels, I came across a world I had known and loved, torn by war, trapped in torment and pain. In this beautiful world called Emeshreen, I found Captain Nove, lost in his despair. He was a young, handsome man – a tall, slender creature, who devoted his life to his work. I still recall his soft, curly, dark hair falling around his face as he sat there silent. His shoulders were broad and strong, his hands rough from fighting and hard from labour. His robes were a dark, deep blue, as was his cloak. One could see they were tarnished with blood. The garments were thick and looked as though, in that moment, as he sat there so dejected, they weighed him down. His boots were made of dyed leather and were a little darker than his robes. His sword and knives, which lay behind him, were finely crafted. The sharp blades were covered in blood and their sheaths lay nearby. He had thrown off his weapons in his despair; they lay scattered behind him in the sands. His dark eyes were serious and filled with pain.
I remember his face had been smeared with blood, but still you could make out the gentle features of a good-looking man. He may not have thought of himself as handsome, but to me, he had a quiet appeal. His sombre character drew one in and left one wondering what was going on in his mind. But I was different from others; unlike a human, I could read the thoughts of those I watched. That allowed me to see into the guarded mind of that lonely soldier who sat staring into the sea. From what I read in his mind, I knew his homeland was the Kingdom of Naris, a beautiful kingdom that lay to the North of the Bosian Continent. He was far away from his home, sitting in the sands of the forbidden East.
The East, once an exceptional land which once was home to many races, had become a forbidden place to all. A mere shadow of its glory remained. In the days of old, kings and queens called the East home. It was once known as paradise to some. But war and bloodshed tore through the lands like wildfire, leaving it desolate and abandoned.
Heartache was rampant in this world, and Nove was drowning in his. I wished that I could save him from his pain, but my hands were tied and all I could do was watch.
When all was lost, they found me sitting silently by the sea; they could not get me to speak. They were desperate to find out what had happened, but I could not bring myself to speak the truth. Such horrors I had not witnessed before and hoped never to see again. My eyes were bloodshot, and crimson-stained were my hands. My weapons lay behind me covered in blood; I dared not glance at them. An unopened package lay on the golden sands behind me: the reason we had ventured so far from home. Those who found me were ecstatic to discover the package unharmed, while, I, on the other hand, could not bear to look at it. That package had led my army and me into the depths of Hell; it was impossible for me to believe that anything could be worth all this death.
They told me to gather my things and they would carry me back home, but I did not want to leave. The beach was too beautiful; it was the only place I felt comfortable. Part of me did not know if I could return home. I had seen too much. Yet in all my distress, they persisted in badgering me for an explanation. I was lost, unable to make sense of all that had happened, even though I had seen it right before my very eyes; and this place, this beautiful place, was the only thing that kept me calm, kept me from going over the edge. It was hard to think that in such a beautiful land so much bloodshed could take place. My heart was heavy, and I wondered if something that had fallen so far could ever rise again.
They took me by the arms and tried to pull me to my feet, but I could not stand, at least not yet. They would not let me be and that is all I wanted at the moment—to be left as they had found me, sitting, staring into the sea. It was not until the Magus approached that they stopped pulling at me. He called out to them to let me sit for a while longer. It seemed to me that he was the only one who understood that I was in shock. The men heeded his order, and slowly, they withdrew from the beach, leaving me as I wished. Only the Magus stayed; remaining a few feet behind me. His presence was strong; I could feel him from where I sat. I could feel his eyes on me as though he was trying to read me, to make sense of what had happened. I wanted to say that even I could not make sense of it and that he should not waste his time, but I could not bring myself to speak the words.
“They tell me you will not speak,” his sing-song voice came floating to me on the wind. I did not respond, not even with movement. “It is all right. I understand you have gone through a great ordeal, and as such, you must need to sort it out for yourself first.”
Those words struck me. It was as though he had read my mind, and for a moment, I wondered if he had. I had heard of magi that could see right into the minds of the most guarded men, but I never expected to meet one. A part of me was curious and wanted to turn around and look at him, but I could not. I was unable to do anything.
All of a sudden, I felt his hand on my shoulder, and I jumped and stared up at him. Had he walked over to me? Could he move so silently, or had he teleported himself over to me? I knew not the answer.
“Forgive me for startling you. I suppose I should have given you more warning,” he said with a warm smile. “It just seemed as though you were in need of comfort. You must forgive my men. They are so desperate for the wars to be over that they forget themselves and lose their tact. They should have let you be.” He looked out towards the ocean. “Beautiful is it not? I do not know when last I visited this beach.”
My mouth dropped agape. He did not look that old to me; he could not be more than thirty years of age. But that would have been impossible because no one had ventured this far in centuries.
It had been eight centuries since the Gates of the Valaran had been opened, allowing anyone passage into the East. As a child, I had been told many stories about the wars that had come and left despair in their wake—one of the many reasons the Gates had been closed. My father said that death was the only thing man had truly perfected in all their years. And now I understood without a doubt what he meant. As beautiful as these lands were, the Gates never should have been opened, once closed. Too much death came in such little time; I wished I had never taken up the cause.
I looked out to the sea, and my eyes welled up with tears. I wanted desperately to speak all the horrors I had seen, but I could not bring myself to utter a word. I longed for home, but could not even force my body to move from where I sat. I hated this land, and yet, at the same time, I had no desire to leave it. The waters were too splendid a thing to turn away from; I had not the chance before to witness the magnificence of the sea. I suppose that was the reason, I never had the time to see. I had no time. Now, here was time, and I could not even enjoy it, not after what I had seen.
My chest rose and fell as deep breaths of despair and agony left me. The Magus clutched my shoulder tighter, and I wept hard, plunging my face into my knees.
“Cry, and wash away the pain with your tears,” said the Magus in a soft whisper. “Take the time needed to heal. We are in no rush to return. We will set up camp in the valley, and start our journey home in the morning.”
His words gave me comfort, albeit little.
As I wept, I felt another strong presence approaching. I heard no steps, but merely the soft voice of a woman call out, “Lya, the tents are ready, as will dinner be in a little while.”
“Thank you, Vendine, we shall join you later,” replied the Magus. After he said that, the presence left.
We remained on the beach late into the evening; it took time for me to muster up the strength to leave the seaside.
As we walked, the Magus whispered, “We have tended to the bodies of your men, laid them to rest, so that you need not worry. In the morning, you can pay your respects to them.”
Sadness welled up in me, as he spoke of my men. I wanted to tell him, how desperately sorry I was for entering the East, but the words would not come. My head felt heavy. I felt lifeless; it was sheer will power that forced my feet to move forward. The Magus noticed my lack of energy and took me by the arm to assist me. He was very strong, I was somewhat shocked by his strength; he was practically carrying me.
As we approached the valley, we were greeted by the woman who had called out to Lya before.
“Nove, allow me to introduce you to Vendine, daughter of Sarvye. She is a healer. She has accompanied my men and me on many missions.”
I still could not utter a word, so I bowed my head to her.
“Worry not, Nove. I understand you are exhausted and grievously worried. I do not expect you to stand on ceremony for my sake.”
As grateful as I was for her excusing my inability to address her properly, I was more taken aback by the fact that she understood that I was worried. Had she too read my mind?
“I have kept your food warm. Shall you and Nove eat now?” asked Vendine.
“I will, but I can make no answer for Nove,” answered Lya, as he turned to look at me.
I declined the offer of food; I could not stomach a meal that night. Vendine and the Magus accompanied me to my tent. It seemed to me that neither of them wished to leave me alone, but they also had no desire to encroach upon my privacy. They sat themselves down outside my tent, as the Magus had his meal. I could hear their voices as I tried to find my way to sleep, but sleep did not come easily that night.
“He has said nothing of the Package?” I could hear Vendine ask.
“He has said nothing at all. I fear he is still too distressed to relate his tale to us,” answered Lya.
“Do you believe it is starting all over again, Lya?” whispered Vendine.
“I will not jump to any conclusions, Vendine, but let us pray that is not the case,” he answered.
I sat up in my tent, my mind now whirling. What had she meant by ‘starting all over again?’ I stood up fast, but found that I was very dizzy. My legs had not the strength to sustain me. Quickly, I lowered myself back onto my bed. My questions would have to wait until morning.
The night was passing me by as I lay in my tent, and all I longed for was to sit by the sea. In all my anguish, it truly was the greatest comfort I had.
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