Marsin walked out
of the golden train to the top level of the capital of Luminomia. Gnostican
resided on the very south of the country and the ground floor existed on a
slope above a giant mountainous terrain. Gnostican’s top level held the most
important government offices and most buildings had a pristine marble
appearance to them. The most important building, the Gnost Pyramid, held the
offices of the Noble Court, the President, and the Peace Mediator.
Marsin entered the pristine pyramid-shaped building. He looked around the red carpet furnishings and the multitude of statues and plaques all signifying commemorative stories of war and the heroes who sacrificed themselves for the good of the country. Marsin paused as he tried to ignore the unsettling feelings. I must have been more ill than I first thought.
Marsin slowly walked over to the large gold-encrusted doors of the oldest and most famous hero of Luminomia. He knocked on the door in a total of three strokes and patiently waited.
“Please come in,” said a solemn and strong voice through the door.
Marsin opened the door and greeted the sagely looking figure dressed in robes of white with gold embroidery designed with the national flag faintly visible.
Crassus Gwenael Valtheofric Lewenhart was an ancient figure of 116 years of age. He had long white hair that reached past his shoulders, a long white beard and mustache that had a cleanly appearance, and sharp silver eyes. Aside from a few creases on his forehead, Crassus displayed a physically fit and manly appearance considering his age. He was renowned for his deep knowledge of magic, revolutionizing the use of light magic used by Luminomia to fight the forces of darkness, and successfully winning two major wars against enemy nations across the continent. He had previously held the position of President and reformed the government to be more responsive to the needs of the people. During his tenure, he had created vast construction projects to rebuild the country and modernize it into what it was today. Crassus had also evidently accomplished the impossible by creating a purified form of dark magic and changing it to a new form of harmonious light magic. Marsin was always fascinated by the golden hue that would sometimes exude from Crassus’s porcelain skin due to his magical prowess. It was a unique form of magic that only an accomplished Lumin warrior like Crassus could master. Marsin had only learned of it through his proximity and close relationship to his grandfather figure as the knowledge behind how the unique form of magic was formed was kept as a state secret so that potential terrorists and seditionists didn’t gain knowledge that could put the people in danger. Crassus’s current position as Peace Mediator gave him a strong voice for debate on foreign affairs and Crassus always opted for a peaceful but realistic resolution during such debates with the President and the People’s Assembly.
Marsin noticed the long golden scythe, named Dyeus, out of the corner of his eye. It was Crassus’s famous and personally crafted weapon of choice and known to be the most powerful combat weapon in the country. Much of the room was decorated in rich Noblesse styled furnishings from purple draperies to antique ornaments with the Luminomia flag insignia engraved in them. Much of the room was furnished with several ornaments from former soldiers that served under Crassus. Some had the honorary markings “Almighty Conqueror”, “Peace Lord”, and “Lewenhart the Great” among the more official titles such as his renown military name “Forseti” and his current job title as Peace Mediator of the country. Crassus G.V. Lewenhart’s illustrious military career had afforded him many titles among the citizens of the country as he was celebrated as the greatest national hero that Luminomia had to offer.
“Hello, Master Lewenhart,” said Marsin politely; he smiled at his long-time mentor and surrogate grandfather. His master gestured for him to sit and Marsin sat on the plush cushion on the opposite of the broad desk. “how have you been these past three months?”
“My boy, it is good to see you again,” said Crassus smiling kindly, “I’m glad to see that you are alive and unharmed. How have you been adjusting back to civilian life? No complications, I hope? Feel free to speak with me regarding any problems. The war was short and you did admirably but even a short war can have nefarious consequences on a young mind.”
“That’s what I came for actually,” said Marsin sighing tiredly.
“Oh? What is the problem?” said Crassus looking Marsin directly in the eyes and getting straight to the point.
Crassus had always been direct with Marsin and always tried to get to the root of the matter; no matter how large or small the problem. He was always there to listen and help Marsin. Sometimes, Marsin felt closer to Crassus than even his own parents; especially during periods where his parents were fighting and Marsin had nobody else to talk to about these problems. Horatius and Viona had always insisted that he exaggerated his problems when he told them about the yelling when he was younger.
“I’ve . . . been experiencing nightmares over . . . events during the war,” said Marsin carefully, he hoped not to offend his mentor. Crassus raised an eyebrow as he fixed Marsin with a piercing gaze. “to the point that I’ve had terrible headaches and chest pain. I . . . I don’t know how to deal with this or why I was sent to the village of Magatsuhi in the first place. What I saw . . . I just don’t know how to cope with it. I tried going to the family priest in my city-state but that didn’t help at all. I’m at a loss of what to do about these mental images.”
“Ah, this certainly is a grave matter,” said Crassus, “however much they may give you emotional grief . . . it is good that you’ve considered the moral qualms of the recent war. Rest assured, as the proverb goes, the wicked truly don’t give us any accord. In my peace talks with the current leader of the so-called enlightened country of Marasura; their dictator, known as the Imperator and seen more as a Presidential figure to their own people, has continuously rejected my peace and coordination proposals. He has staunchly refused to cooperate and he has ignored the damage that his decisions are causing to his own people.”
Marsin was stunned. His shock was apparently evident in his face as Crassus nodded solemnly. Crassus continued. “He has continuously refused to cooperate with us to minimize the civilian casualties in his own country. I proposed a peace resolution that would allow us to stymie the civilian casualties and target the terrorist threats more decisively. We tried to maintain that it was a strike of utmost precision. All he had to do was announce to his people that we were not trying to kill his civilians, we were trying to save lives and that our cause is a humanitarian one, and that we were solely targeting the terrorists who strike at us with ill intent. We hoped that he would support our efforts so we didn’t look like we were trying to conquer their country or some other barbaric nonsense. Instead, he has made wild conspiracy theories about our people attempting to destroy his country; its heightened paranoia and potential terrorist recruitment. He’s invoked a special law of theirs to take oversight over their charlatan excuse for a congressional assembly and has argued they’re under constant threat of airstrikes so the people have no true understanding of what we’re trying to achieve. This is simply not a leader that we can deal with peaceably.”
Of course, thought Marsin woefully, there’s always some dictator type over there or in the Isles of Kisla that try to grab power for themselves.
Despite his own reassurances of the problems with those foreign countries, the haunting images of the damage to Magatsuhi came back in full force. Marsin held his head in pain as a sharp migraine suddenly emerged. Marsin couldn’t ignore these painful feelings.
“There’s no better way?” asked Marsin softly, his voice sounding pathetic.
“I’m afraid not,” said Crassus, his eyes softening even as his tone was stern. “if it is that much trouble for you then you could try to spend more time on meditation techniques. The unfortunate reality is that the dictator of Marasura will not listen to rational discourse. He will continue to use his own people as human shields and he is ultimately responsible for the unnecessary deaths of his civilians by not following any of our peaceful resolutions to minimize civilian deaths. We offered many monetary rewards, made assurances that he would keep his power as ruler, and all that we asked was for him to give support to our war against the terrorists but he’s continually refused. There’s simply nothing more that I or President Archor could do to convince him during negotiations.”
Marsin felt a flurry of emotions that he couldn’t quite explain. He slouched in his chair and tried to mask the rage and self-contempt as best as he could manage. Crassus had definitely noticed and began speaking again. “My boy, fighting a war is never easy, especially for first-timers. Try to follow the principles that I instilled upon you at an early age. Suffering is an unavoidable aspect of life and one should take necessary precautions to reduce our own emotional turmoil. My perspective of meditation and adhering to the four Noble truths that I taught you are the best way to manage such suffering.”
“ . . . Was there anything more to the latest war beyond defending ourselves from their attacks?” asked Marsin in hesitant curiosity. He hoped that he hadn’t overstepped his bounds yet Crassus didn’t seem offended. “The damage to Magatsuhi village . . . was not what I expected.”
“Beyond finding the terrorist leader known only as ‘Dark Lord Mithustra’? Not much else. As you were briefed before the war, we hoped to find his right hand, the so-called Dark Sorceress Anann, because our reports indicated that they had a falling out. If she had been captured then we could have bribed or interrogated her for information. Originally, it was meant to reduce the amount of soldiers sent to fight,” said Crassus casually, “yet the lack of ground troops may have simply caused them to change their methods to hide from us. I was hoping to root them out in one fell swoop but that man, Imperator Ivanok, recruited and sent a militia group from their local villages to stop us and then immediately abandoned his own soldiers when I redeployed aerial power. I had no choice in the matter because the President authorized it. His re-election is coming up soon and he wanted to show a stance of solidarity against evil. I would have urged to stay and look more thoroughly into the tunnels that the terrorists are using. I’m afraid that we may have to redeploy soldiers to examine the southern villages of Marasura so that we can find those tunnels. We cannot simply allow the terrorists to escape into the Eastern forests or the snowcapped mountains. They’re likely to regroup, train themselves in one of their training camps, and try to find new methods to attack us. We must stop them from hurting our country at all costs but we have a lack of intel on their whereabouts as of now.”
This is just more incompetence under the pretense of complexity, thought Marsin dolefully, so politics as usual. Nothing ever seems to change for the better.
Marsin had expected to feel assuaged by the explanation from his mentor but instead an intense level of contempt grew within him. Bile began to rise from his throat as the harrowing events just wouldn’t stop in his mind. Somehow, his divisive thoughts always seemed to circle back to images of the war in a self-depreciating pattern and he honestly couldn’t explain why. He felt sick of it but there was nothing that he could do.
Am I going crazy? He thought. Why does this keep happening? I already knew that people die in war and that it’s an unavoidable fact . . . so why?
“Master Lewenhart . . . I’ve begun to doubt God’s existence,” said Marsin sullenly, Crassus stared at him more intently. “It first began two years ago but it only grew worse as the years went on. I’m just not sure if I can believe in God anymore. I hope you don’t think less of me, sir. I was wondering . . . what do you suggest that I should do? I can’t talk about this with anyone else and I don’t dare to risk it.”
There was a brief pause. Marsin looked up at his mentor. Crassus’s calm and imposing gaze never wavered.
“Don’t be preposterous, I would never think less of you for that,” said Crassus sternly. Marsin looked directly at his mentor in surprise and felt a bit of hope. “As for what you should do? That is entirely up for you to decide, my boy. I cannot infringe on your personal journey. Your spiritual experiences are unique to yourself and I’ve already taught you my meditative exercises. There really isn’t anything more that I can teach you on topics pertaining to spirituality. I’m sorry if that answer isn’t to your satisfaction.”
“It’s alright, sir. I understand what you mean. I have to go through my own spiritual journey,” said Marsin feeling more at ease. “but thank you for telling me that. It helped a little.”
Marsin sighed as he thought it best to bring up what Viona had asked before he forgot. Marsin thought over how he should ask about the topic before he spoke. “I wanted to talk about something else. The Women’s fight bill that will soon be voted on by the Noble Assembly, Viona wanted me to ask you whether you would support the bill. I . . . told her what your opinion would be but out of respect for my friendship with her, I thought I’d just ask you anyway.”
“That young woman is certainly spirited about her opinions,” said Crassus as his visage shifted to a contemplative one. Marsin mentally hit himself for bringing it up. I should have known better . . . “but as with all idealistic girls; she does not think too deeply about these intricate matters and their logical consequences.”
Marsin squirmed as his mentor gave him a piercing gaze. Crassus shook his head slightly in disappointment before continuing. “You already know why I am personally against this matter but it is greater than just me. Our country doesn’t allow women to fight because we have a more realistic and modern approach to those political issues. Women who serve a military are often exposed to savage situations and war rape is a real issue that these women would face in a war zone. It may sound nice to argue that they’ll get training and fight off attackers but nobody is prepared one hundred percent of the time and a war zone isn’t a place where their prowess is determined under the same circumstances as a record of improvement at a gymnasium competition. The true, disgusting fact of the matter is that soldiers of the Kisla and the terrorists of Marasura will commit war rapes because women have historically been seen as spoils of war to be used and disposed of by enemy soldiers. That isn’t even mentioning the systematic war rapes that occurred during the Dark Empire’s dictatorial rule here over one hundred years ago. Much of the damage is well documented.”
Marsin nodded tiredly at the expected answer. He hadn’t wished to push due to the inexcusable crime that occurred and the ramifications that it had for House Amvernox. Marsin grimaced as he thought of what he learned in his history books during his schooling.
Eighteen years ago, the traitor Malthaniel Amvernox had kidnapped Persina Lewenhart, Crassus’s last living relative. The history books had explained that she had foolishly gone to fight enemy soldiers at a Lumin base that formerly existed on the outskirts of Marasura’s borders. She had ignored Crassus’s warnings and conspicuously traveled to the base in hopes of seeking glory according to history books. Donatas had sought to bring her back when Crassus ordered him and several soldiers under Donatas’s command to stop the chaotic unrest that threatened the lives of their soldiers. In the ensuing chaos, many Lumin soldiers were brutally murdered by a coalition of enemy soldiers and civilians of Marasura. Malthaniel appeared to have led the charge and he had captured Persina after knocking her unconscious. He had nearly been defeated by Donatas but Malthaniel’s coalition had forced Donatas to retreat or face certain death as the base was overrun.
When Crassus and Donatas had personally demanded her safe return from Marasura and convinced the former President to threaten Marasura with sanctions; the former Imperator had resolutely refused to cooperate and insisted that her kidnapping was just a conspiracy theory. The possibility of a future attack on Luminomia had led Crassus and Donatas to personally seek out Malthaniel so that he wouldn’t threaten the country again. The history books never delved into how deeply Malthaniel had exposed state secrets to the enemy country. A year later, their suspicions of an imminent attack were proven correct. Malthaniel had been found fleeing House Amvernox for some nefarious purpose that was never elaborated upon. Donatas had pursued Malthaniel. Donatas had chased after him deep into the lush forestation to the west of Luminomia to the mountainous terrain. Once Malthaniel was found, Donatas fought and killed Malthaniel in single combat but the damage was already done. Crassus had arrived and his search found the body of Persina, brutally raped and murdered at the hands of Malthaniel.
The story of Persina Lewenhart becoming a victim of incestuous war rape and the savagery of her murder had shocked the country when papers wrote of the story the next day. The Noblesse of the other families never looked at House Amvernox with favor for nearly a decade after that incident. One Noble family, House Alinat, vehemently accused House Amvernox of consorting with Marasura because Malthaniel had managed to get past security checks to get inside House Amvernox when he was discovered by an off-duty Peaceguard. The details of Donatas going on the manhunt to fight and kill his evil brother hadn’t helped. Everyone had focused on the part of Crassus having searched the area for any sign of Persina only to find the grisly details. From then on, the small reforms in the military that Persina herself had pushed for had been disbanded and women were no longer allowed to put themselves in danger for the sake of political correctness. The Noblesse and the popular opinion of the country held the view that it was for the best to safeguard women from such brutality and moved on. It was highly unlikely that Viona would ever see changes to what was still thought to be common sense by the overwhelming majority of Luminomia. The majority of people believed women were all the safer for not having to go through any form of aggressive combat.
It’s probably for the best, thought Marsin, Marasura seemed to fall into ruins when they allowed women to fight for whatever reason. I’ve never heard or learned of historical examples where women learned to fight and kept the country safe. There doesn’t seem to be anything more to it.
“If there is nothing further,” said Crassus, “then I shall return to my paperwork.”
“Yes, that was all,” said Marsin, “thank you, Master Lewenhart. I appreciate the fact you took the time to talk to me about these problems.”
“It is of no trouble, you’re always welcome to converse with me, my boy,” said Crassus smiling. Marsin rose to leave. “Ah, before I forget, I was called by your family priest inquiring if I had indeed scheduled an appointment with you. He seemed eager to call House Amvernox directly to have your parents pressure you into attending a theater event pertaining to important sermons made by Holy Prophet Zoroaster.”
Marsin felt a flash of disgust and anger. Crassus chuckled at Marsin’s annoyed expression.
“Not to worry, I covered for you,” said Crassus, Marsin noticed a sly smile on Crassus’s face and felt a terrible foreboding. Oh no, I don’t want to be part of another depraved mental torture session. “but you will need to attend a children’s event later today and act as an assistant teacher for the duration of the event.”
Marsin groaned and held his face in his hands. Crassus let out another chuckle. “Now, now, no need for that. These are positive duties that help inspire younger generations and give poorer families a sense of hope and purpose. They may feel draining but it is of the utmost importance that the Noblesse fulfills their roles to our prosperous nation-state. Statistics have shown that the number of volunteer works by the younger Noblesse is dwindling and I may have to lobby a required mandate to change that. I’m hoping that you, as my personal protégé and devoted student, will help inspire change so that such a law won’t be necessary.”
“Very well, sir,” said Marsin respectfully, “when is the appointed time?”
“In the afternoon around seven pm,” replied Crassus, “I was told by the lead caretaker that their parents usually arrive afterhours because of the work schedule for the majority of them. The caretakers have set-up these activities to give them an advantage in the lower income schools.”
Marsin nodded and bade farewell to his trusted mentor before exiting. There is a lot of work to be done.