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Prince of Nothing

Compendium of the First Holy War

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The Compendium of the First Holy War is a work written by Drusas Achamian during the time between the end of The Thousandfold Thought (c. 4112) and the beginning of The Judging Eye (c. 4131), detailing the events of the Holy War. It has been banned by Anasûrimbor Kellhus.

ExcerptsEdit

"The author has often observed that in the genesis of great events, men generally possess no inkling of what their actions portend. The problem is not, as one might suppose, a result of men's blindness to the consequences of their actions. Rather it is a result of the mad way the dreadful turns on the trivial when the ends of one man cross the ends of another. The Schoolmen of the Scarlet Spires have an old saying: "When one man chases a hare, he finds a hare. But when many men chase a hare, they find a dragon." In the prosecution of competing human interests, the result is always unknown, and all too often terrifying."[1]

"But despite stories of Fanim atrocities, the fact of the matter is that the Kianene, heathen or no, were suprisingly tolerant of Inrithi pilgrimages to Shimeh -- before the Holy War, that is. Why would a people devoted to the destruction of the Tusk extend this courtesy to "idolaters"? Perhaps they were partially motivated by the prospect of trade, as others have suggested. But the fundamental motive lies in their desert heritage. The Kianene word for a holy place is si'ihkhalis, which means, literally, "great oasis". On the open desert it is their strict custom to never begrudge travellers water, even if they be enemies."[2]

"What the Men of the Tusk never understand was that the Nansur and the Kianene were old enemies. When two civilized peoples find themselves at war for centuries, any number of common interests will arise in the midst of the pursuit of their greater antagonism. Ancestral foes share many things: mutual respect, a common history, triumph in stalemate, and a plethora of unspoken truces. The Men of the Tusk were interlopers, an impertinent flood that threatened to wash away the observed channels of a far older enmity."[3]

"...and in Old Sheyic, the language of the ruling and religious castes of the Nansurium, skilvenas means "catastrophe" or "apocalypse", as though the Scylvendi have somehow transcended the role of peoples in history and become a principle."[4]

"How shall one describe the terrible majesty of the Holy War? Even then, still unblooded, it was both frightening and wondrous to behold, a great beast whose limbs were comprised of entire nations -- Galeoth, Thunyerus, Ce Tydonn, Conriya, High Ainon, and the Nansurium -- and with the Scarlet Spires as the dragon's maw, no less. Not since the days of the Ceneian Empire or the Ancient North has the world witnessed such an assembly. Even diseased by politics, it was a thing of awe."[5]

"I have explained how Maithanet yoked the vast resources of the Thousand Temples to ensure the viability of the Holy War. I have described, in detail, the first steps taken by the Emperor to bind the Holy War to his imperial ambitions. I have attempted to reconstruct the initial reaction of the Cishaurim in Shimeh from their correspondence with the Padirajah in Nenciphon. And I have even mentioned the hated Consult, of whom I can at long last speak without ridicule. I have spoken, in other words, almost exclusively of powerful factions and their impersonal ends. What of vengeance? What of hope? Against the frame of competing nations and warring faiths, how did these small passions come to rule the Holy War?"[6]

"So who were the heroes and the cravens of the Holy War? There are already songs enough to answer that question. Needless to say, the Holy War provided further violent proof of Ajencis's old proverb, "Though all men be equally frail before the world, the differences between them are terrifying.""[7]

"Many have condemned those who joined the Holy War for mercenary reasons, and doubtless, should this humble history find its way into their idle libraries, they will blast me as well. Admittedly, my reasons for joining the Holy War were "mercenary", if by that one means I joined in order to procure ends outside the destruction of the heathen and the reconquest of Shimeh. But there were a great many mercenaries such as myself, and like myself, they inadvertently furthered the Holy War by killing their fair share of heathen. The failure of the Holy War had nothing to do with us. Did I say failure? Perhaps "transformation" would be a better word."[8]

"Those of us who survived will always be bewildered when we recall his arrival. And not just because he was so different then. In a strange sense he never changed. We changed. If he seems so different to us now, it is because he was the figure that transformed the ground."[9]

"The event was unprecedented: not since the fall of Cenei to the Scylvendi hordes had so many potentates gathered in one place. But few knew Mankind itself lay upon the balance. And who could guess that a brief exchange of glances, not the Shriah's edict, would tip that balance? But is this not the very enigma of history? When one peers deep enough, one always finds that catastrophe and triumph, the proper objects of the historian's scrutiny, inevitably turn upon the small, the trivial, the nightmarishly accidental. When I reflect overmuch on this fact, I do not fear that we are "drunks at the sacred dance", as Protathis writes, but that there is no dance at all."[10]

"The Emperor, the consensus seems to be, was an excessively suspicious man. Fear has many forms, but it is never so dangerous as when it is combined with power and perpetual uncertainty."[11]

"...even though the skin-spies were exposed relatively early in the course of the Holy War, most believed the Cishaurim rather than the Consult to be responsible. This is the problem of all great revelations: their significance so often exceeds the frame of our comprehension. We understand only after, always after. Not simply when it is too late, but precisely because it is too late."[12]

"The days and weeks before battle are a strange thing. All the contingents, the Conriyans, the Galeoth, the Nansur, the Thunyeri, the Tydonni, the Ainoni, and the Scarlet Spires, marched to the fortress of Asgilioch, to the Southron Gates and the heathen frontier. And though many bent their thoughts to Skauras, the heathen Sapatishah who would contest us, he was still woven of the same cloth as a thousand other abstract concerns. One could still confuse war with everyday living..."[13]

"It seems a strange thing to recall these events, like waking to find I had narrowly missed a fatal fall in the darkness. Whenever I think back, I'm filled with wonder that I still live, and horror that I still travel by night."[14]

"One sorcerer, the ancients say, is worth a thousand warriors in battle and ten thousand sinners in Hell."[15]

"If one doubts that passion and unreason govern the fate of nations, one need only look to meetings between the Great. Kings and emperors are unused to treating with equals, and are often excessively relieved or repelled as a result. The Nilnameshi have a saying, "When princes meet, they find either brothers or themselves", which is to say, either peace or war.[16]

"The arrogance of the Inrithi waxed bright in the days following Anwurat. Though the sober-minded demanded they press the attack, the great majority clamored for respite. They though the Fanim doomed, just as they thought them doomed after Mengedda. But while the Men of the Tusk tarried the Padirajah plotted. He would make the world his shield."[17]

"For men, no circle is ever closed. We walk ever in spirals."[18]

"My heart shrivels even as my intellect bristles. Reasons -- I find myself desperate for reasons. Sometimes I think every word written is written for shame."[19]

"To merely recall the Apocalypse is to have survived it. This is what makes The Sagas, for all their cramped beauty, so monstrous. Despite their presentations, the poets who authored them do not tremble, even less do they grieve. They celebrate."[20]

"Some say I learned dread knowledge that night. But of this, as with so many other matters, I cannot write for fear of summary execution."[21]

"Ajencis, in the end, argued that ignorance was the only absolute. According to Parcis, he would tell his students that he knew only that he knew more than when he was an infant. This comparative assertion was the only nail, he would say, to which one could tie the carpenter-string of knowledge. This has come down to us as the famed "Ajencian Nail", and it is the only thing that prevented the Great Kyranean from falling into the tail-chasing scepticism of Nirsolfa, or the embarrassing dogmatism of well-nigh every philosopher and theologian who ever dared scratch ink across parchment. But even this metaphor, "nail", is faulty, a result of what happens when we confuse our notation with what is noted. Like the numeral "zero" used by the Nilnameshi mathematicians to work such wonders, ignorance is the occluded frame of all discourse, the unseen circumference of our every contention. Men are forever looking for the one point, the singular fulcrum they can use to dislodge all competing claims. Ignorance does not give us this. What it provides, rather, is the possibility of comparison, the assurance that not all claims are equal. And this, Ajencis would argue, is all that we need. For so long as we admit our ignorance, we can hope to improve our claims, and so long as we can improve our claims, we can aspire to the Truth, even if only in rank approximation. And this is why I mourn my love of the Great Kyranean. For despite the pull of his wisdom, there re many things of which I am absolutely certain, things that feed the hate which drives this very quill."[22]

ReferencesEdit

  1. The Darkness That Comes Before, Chapter 1
  2. The Darkness That Comes Before, Chapter 4
  3. The Darkness That Comes Before, Chapter 5
  4. The Darkness That Comes Before, Chapter 6
  5. The Darkness That Comes Before, Chapter 10
  6. The Darkness That Comes Before, Chapter 12
  7. The Darkness That Comes Before, Chapter 13
  8. The Darkness That Comes Before, Chapter 15
  9. The Darkness That Comes Before, Chapter 16
  10. The Darkness That Comes Before, Chapter 17
  11. The Darkness That Comes Before, Chapter 18
  12. The Darkness That Comes Before, Chapter 19
  13. The Warrior-Prophet, Chapter 2
  14. The Warrior-Prophet, Chapter 4
  15. The Warrior-Prophet, Chapter 6
  16. The Warrior-Prophet, Chapter 9
  17. The Warrior-Prophet, Chapter 16
  18. The Warrior-Prophet, Chapter 23
  19. The Thousandfold Thought, Chapter 1
  20. The Thousandfold Thought, Chapter 8
  21. The Thousandfold Thought, Chapter 14
  22. The Thousandfold Thought, Chapter 17

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