Story Of A Storyteller – Part 1
‘You would think that war is about honor, glory and heroism. That it is about wise generals making the right decisions, about merciful knights fighting for the greater good.
You would be wrong.
War is about blood, death and who strikes the coup de grace first. It is about generals struggling to save as many of their men as possible, about soldiers hoping they will come back home in one piece at the end of the day.
War is nothing like the stories portray it. It is nothing worth even becoming a story in the first place.
As far as he could remember, Carem’s bedtime stories had always been about war. His father, a sturdy woodcutter with honest brown eyes and a curly reddish beard, would sit on the edge of his bed and intone the many legendary exploits of many legendary men in his low, baritone voice.
When he was killed in a tavern brawl by a drunk soldier—one of those men he would praise in his tales—Carem was brought to a nearby monastery and told stories about peace instead.
He was taught that that place, his new home, was called Temple of Enerie and that Enerie was the most beautiful and kind among all the gods. That he had descended to Earth from the Palace-In-The-Sky, the celestial abode of the Divine Ones, to bring the gift of peace to the Chaotic Fathers, the very first men who walked on Earth, whose thirst for blood was comparable to that of dragons.
Without Enerie, they would have been at war until the last men had fallen.
Carem listened, learnt, and believed.
However, he didn’t forget any of his father’s tales either. Now, though, he knew there was dirt underneath their gilded surface.
Then Amia, the Goddess of War, spread her venom among men once again, inducing the Royal Army of Saidya to march against Adaras, one of the First Free Kingdoms of Men, still existing today for us to honor its vessel. The Saidyans pillaged and killed, tortured and raped, and left only ashes in their wake.
The Temple was a magnificent building.
After the Saidyans left, it simply was no more.
What had been Carem’s home for years was gone; what had been his family, scattered to pieces.
Those who survived were carried away in chains, destined to join the Saidyans’ ranks, the women to warm up the captors’ beds—priests and priestesses, who had only ever known the safe, detached serenity of the Temple.
Carem was sixteen when they gave him his first sword, a rusty scrap of metal barely capable of cutting paper, let alone kill people. He looked too fragile to be of any use on the battlefield and they didn’t have weapons to waste on walking corpses.
Carem was sixteen and the Temple had been burning for six days when he fought his first battle—and survived.
As the Saidyan army charged the disorganized lines of poorly-armed Adarasian farmers desperately trying to defend their small, insignificant village, Carem closed his eyes and bit down hard into his bottom lip to prevent himself from crying out in both pain and fear, because the imminent devastation was against everything he deemed sacred.
Then he opened his eyes again, and Enerie’s wrath shone bright in his green irises.
The god chose him as the harbinger of his revenge against the foolish mortals who had dared defy him and humiliate his devoted disciples.
His sword turned into scraps as soon as he landed his first blow, but he barely noticed it. He fought with his bare hands, ripping bodies apart as though they were toys, slitting throats with his nails, breaking bones and crushing armors like you could break an egg or crush an insect.
In the end, as unexpectedly as he had come, Enerie was gone and left Carem with a burning hollow inside of him, as if the god had taken his harbinger’s heart away.
Carem felt nothing but emptiness; and yet, when he lifted his blood-soaked hands up to touch his own face, to make sure he was still himself, he felt something wet on his cheeks and belatedly realized, with no small amount of surprise, that they were tears. Whose tears they were—his own or Enerie’s—no one could tell.
No Saidyan man left the village on his own legs. The sun kissed the earth at the end of the day and cast its dying rays over butchered bodies, lying in the dust in disturbingly unnatural positions, like puppets played with for too long and suddenly forgotten.
The inhabitants of the village thought it the blessing of Atsev, the Divine Harvester, protecting their crops from the invaders. The priests from the Temple, for once, didn’t complain about the massacre; rather they praised Enerie’s wisdom and mercy for sparing their lives.
Carem didn’t rejoice with them, though.
The god he had sworn to serve had proved to be no better than his father’s murderers and he himself had shed blood in his name.
When the priests and priestesses departed from the village to head back to the ruins of their Temple, there was no sixteen-year-old prophet among them.’
The storyteller paused, taking a long, noisy swig from his leather jug. Whatever the content, the nauseating reek suggested that it must have been there for a long time.
His figure was hidden by the many folds of a heavy, worn-out coat some two sizes too large for him, his face indistinguishable in the shadow of his hood. Only his eyes stood out, glinting somewhat mischievously in the darkness of the hood, as though he knew a joke no one else did.
At first uneasy around him, shortly after he had begun his story, a small crowd of children gathered around his stool and sat cross-legged at his feet. Their parents eyed the man suspiciously and made sure to linger in the vicinity, but soon they drew to the conclusion that he posed no real threat and lost interest in him.
As the storyteller placed his jug back in his lap, the children fussed quietly in anticipation, but this time he didn’t resume his story as he used to after a drink. The silence stretched, heavy and uncertain, until a little girl with big blue eyes and long red hair mustered up the courage to raise her hand. ‘And … what happened?’
As if surprised to be addressed, the man ducked his head to the side ever so slowly, like a doll trying out its every joint to make sure they worked. ‘What happened to whom?’ he replied, tone blank, questioning.
Bewildered, the child hesitated and stuttered: ‘To, er, to Carem? What’s the end of the story?’
To be continued tomorrow …
Bio: Veronica is an Italian writer and this is one of her first attempts at writing an original short story in English. She had only ever written fanfiction stories in English before this piece.