The Sanctity of Time
Hiraz de Cornion Millennia
In the immortal words of Delaine Vaillée-Serrice l’Avoy: ‘Our greatest victories come from dedication; our greatest failures from desperation.’
And Castigar Taberron was nothing if not desperate.
The stage was set for a play in three acts – the Taberron estate on one side, Borleotti on the other, and a Queen too busy mounting imperial heads on spikes in the South to notice the calamity at home.
First blood was drawn just as cherries had gone to bloom, and to this day they claim no season before nor after bore fruit as red as that summer. Regardless of the poetic licence the bards have taken with the many saucy details before, during, and after the battles, its name is one I can never condone.
Whoever has heard it called the War of the White Blossoms and not pissed their breeches laughing?
I assure you the matter inspired little laughter when it was actually happening, although I am assured in turn by Allequin Ramont that ‘given enough time, every tragedy becomes comedy’.
Onwards, then, and may these lines one day cause you to choke on library dust as you read them.
In the first act, Duke Taberron displayed his pitiless pedigree, and led his army marching across the Serrice where it becomes slow and lazy in the plains, though before it turns fat and wide like a lady-beyond-waiting at the royal table.
He split his forces beyond the river, coaxed the youngest Borleotti in a fork and sent his handsome ass back to the palace. Only his ass. The head they kept on a pike until it rotted away, and the rest they fed to the dogs.
A similar fate met the other two scions of his nemesis – one on the slopes of Cal Navral, the other defending the walls of her city. It didn’t matter. Taberron had the experience, the numbers, and most importantly, the magic.
Once he’d mounted Lord and Lady Borleotti on the gates of their erstwhile castle, Castigar also had the misfortune of looking to the northern plains; the greed to consider making them his own; the arrogance to forget to whom they rightfully belonged.
In the second act, Duke Taberron grossly over-reached. It did not seem so at the time, naturally, but men of noble blood rarely have the capacity to see beyond their own ego before they are buried with it. It is, after all, exceedingly facile to gaze over a wall after it has been razed to the ground – this matter is no different, and likewise ordinarily requires that everything inside the walls be torn down as well.
Carrier pigeons are a reliable means of communication. They aren’t, however, reliably fast, and thus Taberron was already well into the siege of the middle bailey of the Turroi when I finally received word that the Queen’s army was marching home.
As you can imagine, the news was small comfort to the châtelain watching his chateau collapse under the flames set by the advancing enemy and wondering if the next pigeon to arrive will still have a coop to return to, or if that, too, will have turned to ash.
The answer was no.
Duke Taberron had made his meticulous way into the citadel by the end of the very same week, and disposed of Gardeoli in his favorite manner – a spike above the gate, and a flag to go with it, so as not to waste the pole, one supposes.
Magic was as helpful in starting fires as it was in dousing them, and Castigar, for his many faults, was an accomplished mage. By the time the Royal banners colored the horizon, Turroi had stopped smoldering altogether, and much of its charred bulwark had been repaired to meet the army coming from the south.
And if my first thought waiting on the opposite hill was that’s too few, Taberron didn’t seem to share these doubts, and gleefully invited the Queen to crash against her own walls.
The siege was not long. Taberron was hounded out of the city by the rebellious loyalists, forced to the field between the Royals in the south and Royals in the north. The rest of the Queen’s army had circled around Cal Navral days earlier and arrived to drive the cavalry into the Duke’s rear.
After that, they were shattered. Their ranks broke in the valley as the two wings of cavalry hunted them down like hares. Wardrums herded them together into the circle of the Royal banners, and the rope they were meant to hang from was no-one else but yours truly – waiting with the third wing of the army atop Navral to tighten the noose.
The dénouement of this tale is as quick as it is short. Abrupt, if I might. Duke Taberron, overcame by despair, wrenched all the magic left in his bones, and twisted the world around him until the field seemed empty, and the city unscathed – and, when I turned my shocked gaze to the horizon, I could even see the castle Borleotti, untainted.
It lasted a breath, but it was the breath of a mouse. A hummingbird. A mayfly on its deathbed.
Time rushed back in like a flood kept at bay by a rotten plank. If I were a more religious man – or indeed a religious man at all – I would say I heard waves of sand roar in the great hourglass of Aionus as it was righted again.
And the field; the field I watched wilt and fill with snow and sprout green again what seemed a hundred times over; and the men; the men I watched turn to bone to dust to soil; and the armor, the weapons; those I watched rust and rot until there was naught but levelled earth before me.
Levelled earth and a copse of blooming cherry trees.
— Count Hiraz de Cornion, from The Precepts of War, or the Instruction of Irony Categories: Core Lore