Ghosts of Glory and War

A man writes on the death of his people. Threw this together late at night, would appreciate criticism.

When I was a boy, I used to enjoy going with my father to the parade grounds, to see the Grand Army march and twirl their batons. There was such grace in their movements, such symphony in the clatter of marching feet. My father used to tell me that one day I would become strong, and I would take their place on those grounds, fighting to free our people from the tyranny of the Empire. I could have not imagined a greater honor than marching among those proud men.

There had been only the War for many years, beyond the reaches of my parent's memories. My grandparents would tell of the old days, before the Imperial armies came, a time that seemed unimaginable to me. They would try to tell me of peace, of quiet nights, but the War had never touched our city. The ground did not shake, and no buildings crumbled to ash. I could not imagine life without the magnificent soldiers that marched in the streets. At night, I would fall asleep to the distant music of artillery shells, completely at peace.

There is none of that left now. One night I awoke to the wail of the air raid sirens. There was the sound of cannons, closer and louder than I had ever head it before. I ran to find my father, but his room was empty, his uniform gone from the hangar that had held it reverently since the beginning of my memory.

The streets were littered with bodies, and I noticed for the first time that death chose indiscriminately between soldiers and neighbors. I could smell fire, and the artillery that had once lulled me to sleep had grown into a bestial thing that ripped at my ears and led me to stumble across the pavement. The statue in the square had been battered to rubble, the flag it once supported lay tattered and smoking on the blackened grass. All about me, soldiers rushed with frantic determination, clutching their guns with white-knuckled hands.

In the harbor, there was devastation. I could hear the roar of the Naiad's guns as she fought bravely while her brother the Sentinel was embraced by the icy waters. In time, the Naiad would join her kin at the bottom of the bay.

That day was the beginning of the end.

Now, our cities have burned to ash and been battered to rubble. Once a proud people, we are but echoes of our former selves, our spirits sunken with the Grand Battle Fleet in the depths of New Corsica Bay. Once I might have been a soldier, but there is no war now, no enemy. The Imperials have been gone for many years, and in their wake left irreparable damage. Once soldiers, we are but ghosts now, cowering in our holes and waiting for the final blow that will never come. There are stories of secrets, lost in the war, that might restore us, secrets of unknowable power. But they are only stories now, whatever truth they once held has been long-lost to time, inhabiting the same dark corner of our minds as the Citadel, and the Witch. We are a dying race, with no time nor heart now for stories. 

I fear now that these words may be among our last. We cannot save ourselves, for there is nothing left to save. I hope that you, traveler, do not shoulder our burdens, for they are terrible to bear. We, I fear, will have been long dead now, our only legacies these words and the stories that once brought us hope.

I cannot imagine what your future is. Perhaps one day, the forests and deserts will reclaim our cities, and this desolation may finally be erased, though it will be millennia before the poisons are expelled from this land. I can only wish you luck in your travels, and leave you a story that may bring hope to you now, as it has ceased to do for us.

My people say that our salvation lies with the Witch that never lived, and Eleanor, for she will point the way. These words are nothing to us now, their meaning swept away by the tide of war. Perhaps now they will grant you hope, so that you may succeed where we have failed.

Go, now, and heed my words if that is your choosing. Find the Witch, and you may find your salvation

The End

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