I’ve always wished that I could draw. I can sketch maps, sure, but when it comes to pictures, especially of people, my aptitude ends with stick figures. Needless to say, I’ve never been able to capture feeling.
Early in my writing journey, I thought about the old expression, “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words.” Assuming that it’s true, is it also safe to say that the inverse is correct? With that in mind, many of my earliest writings were short single scenes more akin to a painting than a plot. Here is one recounting a scene from the Great War that ushered in the Cataclysm:
From the Letters of Dartrinan of Fhineros
Triumph is bitter sweet. I learned this from the harshest teacher.
I had shouted in joy with my countrymen when we learned of the march of Trion and the Fallsmen. Our old enemies had left themselves vulnerable at last. It was a messenger of darkness who brought us the news and led us in our invasion to the very gates of Estrya’s capital. With their king and his warriors gone there was nothing to oppose us.
And so I found myself watching a kingdom die. The great walls that had shattered a hundred armies were broken and breached in a dozen places. My fellows raced through the empty streets putting the few remaining defenders to the sword. For the city was a ghost, all of its inhabitants had fled to the mountains or lay dead. Its buildings burned and smoke billowed down its once-lovely tree shaded lanes. The falls itself flowed murky and brown-black with sludge and debris.
Unbidden, regret came to my heart. I, who had so eagerly marched to war with images of victory and glory dancing before my eyes. And why truly were we here? Was it greed and jealousy that drove us? Was it an age-old rage for our own failings? But the song of glory had held us in its sway so we followed darkness to darkness even as the world trembled. And I found that here amid the stench of death, for the first time in my life the veil of hatred was lifted from my eyes.
Thus as my friends and countrymen raced with torch and sword through the streets, I stood upon the broken outer ramparts and watched. I watched one of the most beautiful cities of the world burn. I watched the smoke and ash curl upward to the blasted sky. Though it was noonday, the gritty haze made it dark as dusk.
As I stood silent, helpless, immobile, I beheld a tiny figure emerge alone upon the roof of the great citadel. It was a woman in a gown of white. Although I had never before seen her, I knew her. It was Fialdryn, Lady of the Flowers, Queen of the Falls. The sword Truth was in her hands.
As she appeared upon the towering ramparts, a cry arose from the city below and my countrymen surged forward through the gates of the citadel. Its last guardians lay dead upon the steps and no one stood to oppose them. As they charged, she lifted the sword high over her head. Her mouth moved but whatever she said was lost to the wind and drowned in the roar of her dying city.
Then she was still. Truth glimmered faintly in her hands. For a moment it seemed that time itself had stopped. The crackling flames were silent, the shouts of triumph and cries of anguish faded to nothing, even the great falls themselves held their peace. A whisper of wind touched my cheek like a faint breath. “Trion, I’m sorry.”
The sky shattered and the heavens roared. From the dark looming clouds, a single brilliant line of light seared across my vision to touch Fialdryn, her outstretched hand, the sword Truth. The light faded to a heartbeat of preternatural calm. Wind rushed past me, racing toward the queen on her tower. And then the citadel burst apart.
In a flash of white liquid fire, the towers and ramparts, Fialdryn, and her besiegers vanished.
A wave of heat and noise washed over me. Consuming all my senses, it flung me back into darkness.
I awoke dazed and deafened. Painfully, I picked myself up from the ground. My soot covered face burned from the heat of the blast and my mind was numb. Beyond me, a blackened scar marked where the citadel had once stood tall and proud. I raised my hands feeling droplets of water on my face and arms. Even the heavens wept and I wept with them.