The First War

So there’s been radio silence on here for a while about my new writing project, and I think it’s about time to change that. My writing has been progressing, though it’s going much, much more slowly than I’d originally anticipated. I have first drafts of chapters 5-8 (yes, I started writing chapter 5 first) complete at this time, which translates to approximately 24,000 words, which means roughly 6% of my first draft is complete. If I keep this current pace up, that means I will have my entire first draft done in just under, uh, 4 years. We’re gonna need to pick up the pace here a little bit, speedy.

Anyways, that’s neither here nor there for right now. Right now, it’s time to post up a bit more backstory! In my last post I gave you all a sneak peek at some of the magic that’s going to be present in The War of the Five Gods. In this post, instead I’m going to set the stage and present the scope of the tale, in a manner of speaking. Do keep in mind, of course, that anything written here is not final and may change at any time. Also of note: this is almost certainly an early version of the book’s prologue, but I expect to add some things to it between now and the final version. For now, however, enjoy!

The Five Gods smile upon you, friend. Please, come in, lie down, make yourself comfortable. I’ve been waiting for you to visit me for some time now, and I’m so glad you have arrived unscathed. Not everyone is so fortunate, you know. What’s that, milady? My apologies, you’ll have to speak loudly. It’s too quiet in here to hear soft voices.

Oh, how did I know you were coming, you say? Everyone comes to visit me eventually, so all I have to do is wait for them to show up. Very much like that old saying, you know the one: “The fastest way to get to the end of the race is to move the finish line.” Maybe you haven’t heard that one before. It’s a very old saying.

Anyways, I do hope you’ll stay a while. I can tell that we have much to discuss, you and I. I know you have questions for me. After all, that’s why you came to visit, is it not? To ask me questions? That’s why most people come. So let’s have it—what do you want to know?

Oh, of course. You have all the normal sorts of questions. Yes, he really did love you, but no, it wouldn’t have worked out. So sorry for that. Your grandmother’s wedding band? Well, you lost it when you were out hiking on the cliffs. It was so cold, you know, and it just slipped off your finger. No, she wasn’t too upset with you—it went to a good cause, after all. A young starving boy found it and was able to get a few more meals. You know he eventually was crowned king, right? So in a way, you were instrumental in maintaining the political stability of the land. Good for you!

Dear me, I’m afraid I haven’t been a very good host. Here I am just jumping into the thick of things, and not even seeing to your comfort. You do look a little bit pale and out of breath. Can I get you anything? A glass of water, perhaps, or some fruit? No? Well, ok. Perhaps we should continue this later. It has been a long journey for you. Take your time. Rest, relax, sleep, recover. I’ll be here when you wake.

Ah, you’re awake. Did you have a nice rest? You were asleep for quite some time. It probably didn’t feel that long to you. Time’s funny like that here. Never seems to go at the same speed as anything else. Sort of like life, in that way, I suppose. Guess you’d know a lot about that.

Shall we continue with your questions, then? There’s not so much else to do here. You could say that I like the ascetic lifestyle. I don’t keep too many things around here to distract me. So, please, ask away!

Who am I? Ah, well, now that’d be telling, now wouldn’t it? This is the point where I’m supposed wink mischievously, except that I never really figured out how to wink. Never could make those muscles work.

Where are you? Another good question. I can see that you’re moving on to the more serious questions now. That’s pretty typical. People get tired of the easy questions pretty fast. Maybe if the questions are too easy, you can’t put much stock in the answers that you get. Or maybe you already knew the answers to the easy questions, and were just pretending you didn’t. And maybe it’s not so fun when I tell you the answers to questions that you’ve been burying for the last fifty years. I’ve been called—if you can believe it!—kind of a killjoy about certain things.

What’s that? Do speak up, lad, it’s just so silent here. How do I know so much about everything? Well, like I said, there’s not too much else to do around here but talk, and I do a lot of talking. Actually I don’t even need to ask too many questions. It’s amazing what you can learn by just listening to the questions that other people ask. And speaking of questions, I’m getting the sense that there’s something else on your mind. Something you’ve been wanting to ask for a long time… In fact, that’s the real reason you’re here, isn’t it. To ask that one question? Well come on, then, out with it. I don’t like being kept waiting.

Ahhh… now that’s an interesting one. I haven’t heard that question in many centuries. The First War. You want to know what really happened? That is a very good question. You are to be commended, good sir—not too many have the courage to hear that tale. It’s a long tale, for sure, and you may not be too satisfied with it when it ends. But it is an important tale—perhaps the most important tale of all.

Let me see, then… where to start. Beginnings are everything, you know, and there are so many things to tell about that time that it makes things difficult to keep them all straight. Perhaps I should start with Verenus, the Lady of Blood. We were consorts, once, her and I. A splendid woman, a fierce sort of soul. And even more so back then. Why, I remember when she first gathered the Five together for their parliament; this was before the War began, you understand, before her rivalry with the Lord Khezer was so bitter. They were never really friends, per se, but at least in the early days she could speak to him with a civil tongue in her head.

But I can see already that’s not the best place to start. There are too many things left unsaid, too many details glossed over. To really understand Verenus, you have to understand Khezer, the Lord of Darkness. So perhaps I should tell the story of his birth; he was of course blind from the moment he took his first breath, gasping for precious air even as his mother breathed her last. I’ve always wondered how things might have been different had she raised him instead.

Or mayhap I’ll begin with the wisdom of Isadomeld the Peacemaker. She was the plaster that bound the Five together. She wove their individual strands together into one pattern, a pattern that was much stronger than any of them could have been individually. You know, she would have called it a nexus point, or an inflection point sometimes. That point when everything changes, when you’re in two worlds at once—or sometimes Five. I could begin by telling you the tale of her magic mirror, which reflected the hopes and dreams of mortals back at them and shackled them to her weave.

The simplest place to start would be with Morenth. You know, of course, that she started the War. That’s the trouble with love, it’s always using hatred as a means to its end. Yes, perhaps I will start with her tale, the legend of the scorpion. Did you know that she loved Verenus just as much as she loved Khezer? Not many know that of the Five. But it’s true. Morenth the Scorpion once loved Verenus. And the First War began because of that love.

However, I would be remiss to leave out Master Oughom, though it would be easy to do with any of those tales. He never shows up in any of the old tales, I mean the really old tales. You’d be forgiven for thinking that he wasn’t even real, that he’d just been added in later because Five is a more sacred number than Four. But believe me this, little girl: Master Oughom is as real as they get. He was there when the war began, when the tortoises felt the first bloodrains fall upon the earth as Verenus’s armies marched to battle. He was there when the frogs were blinded as the Lord of Darkness blacked out the skies in response to Verenus’s challenge. He, too, was there as the vultures took wing, startled from their quiet scavenging as Morenth sounded her wicked Horn. And he was there at the last with Isadomeld as the fireflies came out in the twilight of the bruised and torn battlefield. Oh yes, yes indeed. Master Oughom is always there. He is just the most difficult to see.

But, oh dear. I’ve been talking, but I’m not really answering your question, am I? You’ve heard all those tales and legends before. Of course you have, silly me. You wanted to know what really happened in the First War, didn’t you. You wanted to know whether it was real, or if it was all just a bunch of nonsense. You wanted to know whether it was a War worth fighting, whether it was worth d—well, never mind that for now.

Alas, I’m afraid that’s the one question I can’t answer for you. You’ll have to decide that one for yourself. All I can do is set the scene for you. And to do that—well, there’s really only one place to begin. If you truly want to know the story of the First War, you first must understand the Second War.

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