Quotes: Memories of the Great War

While the series that “Tears from Iron” begins is called “Memories of the Cataclysm,” the Cataclysm was the second of two devastating events that struck Isfalinis. It was immediately preceded by the Great War where Cydion, the Lord of Life and Death, sought dominion over the world.

Several of the opening chapter quotes were introduced as a means to capture impressions of those times. You might call these “Memories of the Great War.” In today’s article, I’ll discuss two of them.

“I remember the day the Great War began. The lilies were in bloom and my children played in the garden beneath the sun. They are dead now.”

Elvarie of Oneilla

Lady Elvarie was a young woman of the lesser nobility in the royal court of Oneilla, the first kingdom to fall to Cydion. Its eastern reaches were buried in ash and fire as a precursor to Cydion’s invasion that shattered Oneilla’s armies and broke its people. Elvarie among the ‘fortunates’ who escaped the initial devastation and thus was one of the first to join in the long retreat that crossed over a thousand miles to the Hill of Kensethir where Cydion was finally slain. By the time of that final battle, everyone she had ever known and loved was dead.

Her words strike a jarring dichotomy. In the second statement, there is an air of fond remembrance of pleasant things… dreams and memories the likes of which we probably can all share in some way or another. But this is destroyed by what follows. Not just the truth of the statement about the deaths of her children, but more in the cold void of that emotionless conclusion. Who would say such a thing without displaying even a morsel of grief about their own children? Children, as suggested by the prior statement, that she loved dearly? It is a woman who has seen so much, that, though she still lives, her heart is empty and dead. It is a personification of the devastating shock of a war that shattered the spirits of its survivors.

“When I close my eyes, I still see the towering golden spires of lost Ilera and the radiant blue of Lake Esverin speckled with the white masts of a hundred ships. But then I waken to a sky choked with ash and fire, to water gray, muddy, and brackish. I crouch in my crude hut of rotting deerskin and clutch my knife of stone. Before a sputtering fire, my family shivers, hungry and too tired to weep. I pray for the day His Highest Above will end my life.”

Author Unknown

We don’t know who this author is, but I doubt he is alone in his sentiment. While Elvarie’s words were likely written near the end or shortly after the Great War, this author probably penned his thoughts a few years later. The issue for him isn’t just the immediate devastation of the Great War, but of its lasting harm. During the Lost Age, Lake Esverin was the largest of the many interior lakes of Isfalinis and was the focus of thriving trade between the prosperous kingdoms that lined her shores. If the lake still existed in the period of “Tears from Iron”, it would have lain several hundred miles north of the Kayrstaran Empire. But it has vanished without a trace. Early in the Cataclysm, tectonic forces split the plates beneath Lake Esverin and most of it drained into the ocean. What remained was flooded with salt water that killed whatever fresh water life wasn’t already dead from the choking ash that fell from the skies with the rain.

The ruin of the Great War coupled with the ravages of the early years of the Cataclysm that followed destroyed kingdoms and shattered societies. Ideas of law and justice vanished to be replaced by desperate struggles for survival as the remnants fought over the scraps that remained. The ripples of this conflict can still be felt nearly two millennia later in “Tears from Iron.” The wildmen tribes remain in stone age cultures, eking out a harsh living of hunting and gathering in a world still punctuated by fits of violent volcanoes and earthquakes. Even the ageless Syraestari remain far from their old glories as they huddle in a proto-empire, as afraid of the bleak world around them as they are proud to be above it.