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004 Letter 2

To Kergon, about whom Shetorac has told me much:

 

I understand that you wish to hear news of your uncle, an accounting of his deeds, and the events of the first war of the Jaipnites. As it happens, he was known to me those many years ago, and although we were not close, I do remember him. However, where he is now, if anywhere, would not have been known to me for a long time.

 

I shall tell you what I recall, but generally I do not speak of those days. However, Shetorac tells me that you are a respected man and a leader among your people.[1] To leaders fall the obligation of avoiding tragic mistakes as best they can. Thus, for your people’s sake, I speak to you. I know that Shetorac has already impressed upon you—and I repeat it here—that you must adhere to the path we took back then. Those who once worshiped Qualiae shall not return to the throne. Those who have tried suffered for it, and you must not be among them. Peace comes to those who do not seek war.

 

These are the events of those days[2]:

 

I was born in Becopton to a respected family, and when in my youth, Grelesten, the king at the time, sent out his son Philion to be educated in Becopton, and seeking a family with someone who could be his companion, the lord of the city honored us greatly and chose my father’s. Philion and I became the closest of friends, and he was like a brother to me although I certainly was never worthy of being considered his brother.

 

After a couple of years, Philion’s learning became complete, and the King recalled his son back to Arnrian and had me come along. I went to live in the castle, which at the time was a secured and walled area within the city limits near its southern gate. There I became an apprentice to Sir Prailis, the archivist of the royal library and an elder man of great repute. He finalized my training, and I spent much time copying the Umanon and castle records.

 

It was in this role that your uncle was known to me. Now there had been dissention between the pious Umanites of the capital, who supported the King, and the merchant class, which sought power and wealth. To garner the merchants’ support, the King had named Alcoren, one of the leading businessmen, as his vizier, and your uncle was one of his servants. Alcoren resided in a great house in Arnrian’s northeastern sector, and your uncle would visit the castle periodically delivering papers and coordinating audiences between the King and the Vizier. He knew how to write a little, if I recall, and he looked through the library from time to time. I know that I spoke with him, but my memory of our conversations is long gone. He was generally, though, a man who kept to himself and did not socialize with the castle guard as some in the Vizier’s household did.

 

Now it was during this time that Renliar, the young lord of Kaulo, rose among the Jaipnites in the South and sought conquest of all Naithan and brought turmoil to the land. He united all of the South except for Tilial and Kelceb, the lords of which remained loyal to King Grelesten. However, Renliar moved his forces against Kelceb and executed a coup in Tilial so that they too came under him by force. The people of the Valley prayed to Qualiae for help, and the King sent messengers to all of cities of the Valley and Coast to protect Naithan against this burgeoning insurrection. As the winter settled in, both the followers of Qualiae and the followers of Jaipni and the many gods set up watch on both sides of the Liantin River.

 

When the spring came, troops from many cities heeded the King’s request for help and gathered at the capital to prepare for conflict. One dreaded day, we learned that Renliar was indeed crossing the Liantin and invading the Valley, a stunning act of provocation that ended what had been a long peace. Because this side of the river was not suitable for defense, we stood our ground in front of Arnrian with each city’s forces encamped in the fields before the southern gate.

 

The night before the anticipated battle, the King called a council of the Coastal and Valley lords who had remained loyal and brought troops. My master, Sir Prailis, was secretary of the council, and I too was there as witness. We had expected that the lords would unite against this great threat, and the King entered the proceeding confident of this. “The danger before us requires unity,” said the King. However, some of the Coastal lords arose and said, “of prime importance is that we access the Bay of Conconin.”[3]

 

Turmoil arose in the room, and the King spoke again: “Such considerations can be resolved on another occasion. However, no such opportunity will arise without repelling the rebels. We all worship Qualiae, so let us ask him to protect us.” However, many Coastal lords would not relent, and to the shock and dismay of those of us from the Valley, the Vizier, having been quiet thus far, arose and said, “the Lords of the Coast are right. The King has not brought peace among us, and until we come to just terms, we cannot fight side by side.” He then strove from the room in protest, a brazen display of disloyalty.

 

The King then adjourned the council seeing that the room was in chaos. As the lords retired to their camps outside of the city walls, the King gathered his family and closest advisors for private discussion. By the time it ended, the night was late, so the King told us to rest.

 

Returning to my chambers, I eventually fell asleep only to be awakened abruptly as men with weapons and torches burst into my room. Like a fool, disoriented and blinded by the light, I lunged for my knife but realistically would have died then and there if they had been traitors. However, they were loyal castle guards who grabbed me and, pushing me into the hall, told me that the Vizier had just committed treachery and that soldiers loyal to him had tried to attack the castle complex.

 

They took me to the castle tower since it could most easily be guarded. Chaos was reigning as others gathered in it too, and there I saw the Princess. She had been like a sister to me, and I went and sat by her, holding my knife in case she was at risk.

 

It was not until dawn that we began to understand what had happened: Vizier Alcoren had been a traitor all along and had long been communicating secretly with some Coastal lords. He had promised them their terms over the Bay of Conconin if they declared him king. After the council, they had done so as planned, and based on a prior arrangement, Alcoren had launched his attack. However, loyalists had repelled them, and the King had quickly departed to the Ulnortem camp outside of the city. He knew that he could trust them and brought them back into the city to regain order.

 

Upon King Grelesten’s arrival early that morning, he moved quickly to fortify the city walls and warn the camps of those cities still loyal to him lest Alcoren’s partisans initiate violence. The King then sought to secure the city’s interior and publicly hanged two men: the captain of the guards who had rebelled, a man who repaid years of trust with grotesque treason, and one of Alcoren’s advisors, who was caught trying to raise violent sedition in the marketplace that morning. The King also appointed Shershon, a merchant who had remained loyal, as vizier, and paraded him on the castle balcony so that the whole city could see Alcoren’s removal from power. The King then sent troops to surround Alcoren’s home, and when the traitor and his remaining supporters barricaded themselves in it, the loyalists attacked. In the ensuing fire, Alcoren was killed and his people died or were scattered.

 

Upon learning this, many of the Coastal lords withdrew their forces and began marching back to their homes, preferring neutrality with the South now that their coup had failed. The other Coastal cities still allied with the King had to depart too, fearing conflict with their neighbors upon their return. By mid-afternoon, the King’s forces had been greatly depleted, and even some of the Valley soldiers had abandoned their camps.

 

Any optimism of victory over the South had turned to foreboding, and the King called a council again among the Valley lords. They knew that Renliar and the Southern confederates would take full advantage of the previous night’s disaster, so they decided to fight and protect their homes. I began preparing for my own death, for I knew that swords and arrows now awaited us all.

 

However, I was spared that end although I did not deserve it. I was summoned into the King’s presence, and he said to me, “it is not fitting for the Princess to be destroyed in this conflict. Since you are in her trust, I appoint you to my court[4] and put her in your custody. Go, and take with you a few soldiers, her handmaidens, and the entire library of the court north and into safety.” Hearing this, I was humbled and honored profoundly and proceeded to carry out my orders.

 

Our small entourage departed almost immediately, and we went into the Velian Plains. Of the events that then transpired around Arnrian, I know little, and others who were there can recount those horrid days better than I. After we encamped, I sent a soldier back to Arnrian disguised as a peasant to perform reconnaissance, and upon his return, I learned that the battle had occurred. Renliar had won decisively, and both King Grelesten and Crown Prince Vaulhan had fallen on the battlefield. The Southern confederates had then taken the city and publicly hanged the captured courtiers, including Prince Pendelen, the King’s uncle, and Prince Philion, my dear friend. Many others also died in those days.

 

In mourning, we continued to travel farther north, for it was now apparent that all of Naithan would quickly come under the Jaipnites’ control. After a few days, we reunited with other refugees and learned that both Vizier Shershon and the fallen King’s youngest son[5] had survived. Upon their arrival, we held council, but Shershon fell into foolishness and commanded us to prepare to attack the Valley. However, I counseled the young prince against this, for we were few in number and utterly unfit for any military action, either explicit or covert.

 

The prince then arose and said, “if rule of the land were to come to anyone, it would come to me. Therefore, pay close heed: reign has passed from the worshipers of Qualiae though we stand bitterly disappointed in that fact. I am not nor ever will be the king, and it is now our duty to retire to obscurity. Our lives remain our own, so we must preserve them. We do not challenge the rule of the followers of Jaipni and the many gods.”

 

It was on this night that I saw your uncle one final time. He too had survived the conflict and had joined our assembly. However, when I saw that Shershon was persistent not only in continuing the conflict but also in purging those he thought had sided with Alcoren in the coup attempt, I feared for the safety of your uncle and others. I do not believe that your uncle was party to Alcoren’s treachery, for that plot must have been very closely guarded between the Valley’s powerful merchants and the lords of the Coast. Your uncle was but an apprentice, and I am sure that he served his master, whom he thought to be loyal, well. However, Shershon in his anger would not entertain such considerations, so I remember going to your uncle and others and saying to them, “this is not a safe place for you, for hatred remains over Alcoren’s treachery. Go on your way and disperse with each man tending to his own welfare.” I believe your uncle then did take his leave of the group before he could be seized, and this was the last of him that I know. I wish him well if he still exists in this world, for I have no reason to do otherwise.

 

As for the rest of us, many a person that day went in one direction or another, never seeing each other again. I hear that some have caused trouble since, but I know nothing of it and consider such action foolishly futile. As for King Grelesten’s children, they too went into obscurity that day and did not emerge from it. Likewise, Shershon too went beyond my knowledge, and if he ever did pursue his foolish ambitions, he surely paid a great price for it.[6]

 

Again, I say all of this only so that you can know the history of your people and understand the importance of the quiet lives everyone must live. Death comes to those who think otherwise. Let no man look back on those days with hope that another war will arise and overturn the previous ones. If we have our lives and welfare, let us be pleased with that and not suffer for seeking more. The past should not be forgotten, for forgetting is a human weakness and failure. However, remembrance should not imply action. That is the way of things.

 

Among all who joined Kireca, we know that power, wealth, and belief all pass away. In one day, a king is followed and a god or gods are revered, but other kings and purported gods have the devotion of people not far away at all. Eventually that devotion spreads and pushes aside what came before. Let no man say, “such and such are the practices of the people of this land.” It can only be said, “such and such are the practices of the people of this land in this time.” Later, they surely shall be replaced. It is not Kireca’s goal to bring the past back, for it is only now that we live.

 

Therefore live contentedly, for death should not be sought. Even those who claim with confidence that death brings goodness to them still fear it, for even so it remains a mystery. Indeed, even he who escapes life with death’s assistance does so reluctantly, for death’s asylum is an asylum made exclusively on death’s terms.

 

I would ask anything benevolent to be with you and your people and would do the same for your uncle if he still walks the land. If you ever travel north, you are welcome to rest with us.

 


[1] Nothing else is known of Kergon, the recipient of this letter. However, from Renent’s tone, he was probably a leading man in some predominantly Umanite village.

[2] What follows is a summarized and simplified version of a longer account in the Chronicle. Unlike this letter, Renent probably did not circulate the Chronicle during his own lifetime, so he was much more critical of the Jaipnites and their leader Renliar. This version is more cautious. For instance, note that individuals who are potentially still alive (Princess Raitrialla, Prince Tyclent, and Kergon’s uncle) are not mentioned by name.

[3] In the Chronicle’s account, Renent lays out in more detail that King Grelesten had previously ruled on a dispute over rights to shipping ports in the Bay of Conconin. A majority of Coastal lords had objected to this decision, so they are now demanding its renegotiate before they pledge to participate in combat.

[4] This means that the King essentially knighted Renent, elevating him from an apprentice to a member of the aristocracy in his own right. He had attained this status at the relatively young age of twenty one. Princess Raitrialla, incidentally, was almost exactly his same age.

[5] This is Prince Tyclent, who was sixteen years old and whom Renent would now take into his guardianship.

[6] Renent is actively playing dumb here. According to the Chronicle, he took Princess Raitrialla and Prince Tyclent with him and knew exactly where they were for at least many years. On the night that this group dispersed, he also engaged himself to Illya and took her with him too. Regarding his professed ignorance of Shershon’s later activities, it is unknown whether he is protecting himself here or telling the truth.