Chapter 5. The Wars of the Dead
An important part of human warfare in Cea has inevitable connotations regarding the Arqa. These part woman, part serpent species were described in the works of Cervinus years before my birth, and are such, one of the most ancient lifeforms inhabiting our lands. Their goddess was born amidst their kind, Avassea, yet her later reincarnations were always among humans. The Goddess had the responsibilities of watching over the king, or queen of all men. It is therefore understandable that the worst of times is upon us when Avassea does not bother to teach our rulers the etiquette and honor of proper kings-work.
The Arqa hate humans with a passion, unrivaled by even humans themselves. They have worded prophecies regarding the return of Avassea, as if she hasn't abandoned us all. Much of the world has suffered from the Arqan invasions into the Cean mainland, but as of the time when this story took place, the Arqa had taken vast portions of land West of Cea, into the lands of the cannibalistic tribes.
I saw Elyren chained to rocks, where the Arqa kept him contained. Upon my arrival, the Arqa hit me in my occiput, making me unconscious. I had merely a moment to tell Elyren, of the death of his beloved.
For I had seen the skeleton of Nesinre outside the caves of the Arqa, and the implications were horrifying. Nesinre had been killed and consumed, if only my brain could comprehend such horror. Upon realization, Elyren broke his chains. While I was in the realms of confusion and in a stupor, Elyren has killed the Arqa with his bare hands.
"Arcasu!" shouted the Arqa, in horror, as he slaughtered the Arqa, strangling two at a time with his palms, while asphyxiating another with his knee on her chest, forbidding the Arqa from letting out even their breath. Many of the Arqas fled the site, but the skeleton of Nesinre bore the final straw for Elyren. Not the Arqa, but the cannibals had done this.
And thus was Elyren named Arcasu, the slaughterer or the tamer of the Arqa, when he rid the land of Cea of the threat it faced from the West. Elyren proceeded to lay waste to the lands of the cannibals, of whom we do not speak of now, ever since they dared touch the Lady Nesinre.
War is a broad concept, where one loses himself. Death is a subtle horror that may be inflicted upon one, but Elyren had suffered loss all over his life. His greatest feats may be thought of as the product of this event, and one may as well venture to say that the death of Nesinre made Elyren a hero.
Elyren vowed never to return to Cea again until he had erased the entirety of the cannibals from the face of the world. He ordered me to leave the caves of the Arqa, and when he uttered those words, the mark of Threla burned red, and Elyren's face, embellished by his thick beard of brown, shook. Elyren had the white streaks of age, at his young age, for he was not without imperfections. One would say his imperfections made him more of a hero, but I disagree. His acts were virtuous, unlike a few who deserve a lot worse.
I was surprised, a year later, when news from the Western mainland, from a dear friend in the north of the separate continent, arrived. Elyren had wreaked havoc upon the cannibals, and they ceased to exist. I was unsure of the powers Elyren possessed. His arms were strong as an average man, and he had no magical powers whatsoever. His only advantage over his enemies was his desperation to do good by his people.
His genocide of the cannibals was perceived widely as an evil on the land, however. Politicians in the north, where the new city was now being constructed in honor of the lost glory, had decided unanimously to charge Lord Arell for his son's deeds. It was unfair of them to claim right over a kingdom of cannibals, but it was considered wrong to have killed them all.
It is strange how politics works, since the very government that had campaigned over the extermination of the cannibals for the safety of the south-western city-states and villages, had now debased its ideologies to extract monetary benefits from the rich Lord Arell. Their captive, the Heir of Arell, was also a liability, but Lord Arell was not to be toyed with.
Lord Arell's family stretched over eight generations from a family of extended royalty from the reigns of Urleti-ellis, a distant cousin of a then ruling king. He would not bow to such claims and threats of compensation when the army threatened his lands.
Lord Arell was extremely crafty, even after he had been devastated by the loss of his daughter. He arranged for legions of loyal men to arrive at Yoren, who apparently were sent by the remnants of the council and the newly formed 'royal' family.
Upon arrival, however, the legions found themselves amid hordes of supporters of the wide pastures of Yoren, all supporting their Lord, Lord Arell, and a massacre was known. Many men were killed, and before the plans of Lord Arell were known, the army was decimated.
A lack of an army was still a zero against a hundred thousand strong one, even when the latter just numbered among the thousands now. Yoren was ready to be annexed, sieged, even, what with all the grain and meat for eight months kept ready within the walls of their capital city.
It was then, that a miracle happened. The few who survived that war, related their experiences with the son of Arell, the one with the mark of Threla, riding a mysterious beast with a body of azure, and antlers over the entirety of its body, cover vast areas of the battleground, killing hundreds with what appeared to be the sword of Threla.
Elyren had killed all of the cannibals, and his actions still speak now. Not a single one of the race exists, and not a single grey child survived the war. It was Elyren who had killed them all, the women and their children, all for the death of Nesinre.
Why do we portray him as a hero? A man who killed thousands, exterminating a race upon his vengeance? Is he anymore human than those he killed, and did he ever feel the weight of lives he released to the afterlife?
The answer is complex. Elyren killed men, but not of ours. This, combined with the fact that the enemy was exceedingly strong, and he persevered, elevates his strength to godly standards.
We tend to understand many things at different levels. a man killing your miserly master would be considered good, while he isn't at any favors when he kills you, if you were the miserly master. Perspective varies, and not every death evokes the same note of sorrow. History favors the victorious, or so it may seem.
But why am I inclined to portraying Elyren the hero, as he is?
The other detail, though at the extreme end of philosophy, was the actual reason. Elyren killed the cannibals for a reason. The reason was unknown before I confess, to my instructions from Werva.
The God of Wisdom gave many thoughts to the life of Elyren and decided my role in his life to be more vital than probably even his own.
Werva, blessed by name, told me of the great lengths one had to go to purify the world. In fourteen years, there was a war, inevitable by standards, and of such scale, that the spoils will invite the scavengers, the cannibals to the Cean mainland. The cannibals, to all of their lack of knowledge as to farming, or even to hunting and gathering, shall be the destruction of knowledge as Cea knew it. They would die off in sixty-five years, but the only difference that Elyren would make was in the survival of all of Cea while ensuring the death of the cannibals.
And indeed, Werva confirmed my doubts about the prophecies of the Arqa. The Goddess Avassea shall indeed return to the land of Cea again, exactly thirteen centuries from Elyren's time, and shall aid in the purification of Cea.
As to worldly affairs, the Arqa had retreated to the farthest reaches of the Valley of Serpents, and no human who ever ventured there has since survived. They were smart, and since their stomachs allowed them to live on rats and the most poisonous of plants did not harm their guts, they have become one of the most deadly threats for humans to venture from Cea into the Western continent.
The war foretold by Werva did indeed occur. But there was a centerpiece, held in place by the careful maneuvering of Werva.
Elyren Arell stood outside the gates of Yoren, having killed all the men of the Council and the new royals. Many fleed and many lay wounded on the battlefield. Elyren was upon a beast nobody had seen since the Eastern Trisept Mountains had been erected when the continents clashed. Caredews, people had named them, ephemeral creatures, of the color of the sky, sporting blunt antlers like those of stags covered all over their luminous body.
And Elyren came back, not entering the gates of Yoren.
He knew that he needn't go where he was not needed.