"I am the way into the city of woe. I am the way to a forsaken people. I am the way into everlasting pain. I am a creature of sacred power, of wisdom and of primal love. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."
Deciphered from "Sacralexicon": Edit
There are few forces more feared in battle than a mighty emperor. The ultimate killing machines, these abominations are said to be mindless soulless beasts. Perhaps even, War itself. Few things can drive the gods out into the world, but War is one of them. What inspires conflict more than one of these twisted shadows of the Lightweaver's creations?
People seem to crave War much more than her siblings, even eagerly finding reasons to invoke her, eager to turn to violence. Some soldiers would relentlessly chase the next kill, chase War's favour. The cynics call it bloodlust, that those who seek out War simply seek cheap thrills. But then again, War is said to be very beautiful, in a horrible sort of way. Perhaps it's not that far-fetched, to think that men would go to war for beauty.
We were young once, and full of violence.
Now, sitting by the waning campfire, the circle of subdued gazes all lowered towards the crackling wood, I think back to those days, days of adventure and glory. A young man’s joy of life, and joy of slaughter.
My second cousin or whatever is still bragging about something or other, and some odd force possesses me to leap up, and shout in disgust.
“I knew a woman who fought as well as you.” I can barely stop the words from pouring out, could barely think over the roaring in my head. “She hunted down her enemies and obliterated them.”
They all stare at me in surprise, but I am no longer there. Before my eyes, I see only the rolling hills, barren and brown. The stench of blood so strong it suffocated the air.
“This will be the great war of our time,” my brother had said quietly, his eyes haunted. “When we are dead, when even our grandchildren’s grandchildren are dead, they will still be talking about this war. They will whisper of it around fires, sing of it in the great halls. Who lived and died, who fought and who cowered.”
My brother was a brave man. It was him who taught me the art of the blade. I had scoffed at the notion, for we were born in a time of peace, where scholarly men can focus on greater aspirations, and everyone was better off for it.
“Peace is beautiful,” he chided, “but not to be trusted.”
War was some distant monster to me, some senseless assertion of arrogance and bigotry where the good guys always win. It sounded like a great waste of time. But I had been called to duty, my country needs more men, and are growing less and less caring for how they are obtained.
On the road there, I met a lone woman. Her hair was red as blood, her skin pale and flawless. She transfixed me with her eyes and I couldn’t move, my brother rolled his eyes and nudged me.
“This is no place to fall in love, little brother.” He said dryly.
I shoved him back, but when I looked again, the woman was gone.
I found her again on the edge of camp, and caught a moment with her that night, standing in the firelight, a hawk screaming overhead. She was smiling faintly, eyes turned towards the sky.
“Are you looking forward to the battle?” She asked me.
Like the teenager I was, I rolled my eyes and said, “Of course not, only idiots start wars!”
She seemed amused by my answer but did not question me further.
But then, I was there, and my eyes were opened. And everything changed.
Even if we stow all the world’s evils behind a door and tell everyone that they must never, ever, open it, it will be opened because there is pure joy in destruction.
Since the creation of the world, steel has been the universal currency. With it, one can purchase what they pleased. Perhaps this darkness has always been within me, but out in the fields of battle, with only the howling winds as a witness, I found love. Within the circle of my own blade, I am a law unto myself. A power unto myself.
I loved it. I could do as I wished, and when the swords of another clashed with mine, I set their limits and continued on my way. I discovered the purpose of this shard of metal within my hand. Not for sparring or display or intimidation, its only purpose is to kill.
I laughed over the bodies I’ve created, looted for gold and glory, and slew without a care in the world. I wasn't a murderer, I was a war hero. My brother fell sometime within those bloodsoaked years, but he blended with the countless bodies of the damned until I could no longer pick out his face.
The woman was on the battlefield too, her greatsword stained with so much blood it seemed almost black. I called out to her, she met my eyes for a moment, in that dervish of battle.
The weeks turned into months, into years. It was always the same story, we would regroup, would parlay with the enemy, then the women would show up and inevitably, we would be called cut them down once more.
I think she was a god... I never learned her name. She only left a note with two lines. "For wherever you need to go - and then some. Find me again where the battleships sail and where the warhorns call."
I had left that piece of paper in the boxes with my sword when the war passed. Both sides, exhausted, had fought until there were not enough people left for war.
A tentative peace is here, but peace is not what I am after now. I had tasted blood, and that is not so easily forgotten. I know that my country is no longer at war, but in a box by the bed there lies a crumpled piece of paper and a bloodstained sword. And somewhere, out there, battleships are sailing, warhorns are calling, and bodies are building.
The woman I love heads into war, brings war, even. And I intend to follow her.
"I spied her passing amongst the dead that day, obscured by the steel that clashed from dawn to dusk. She held her sword, and she smiled like a knife. She was beautiful, but she was beautiful in the way a forest fire was beautiful: something to be admired from a distance, not up close. She was spattered blood and slaughter, she was war." - Brume