Chapter 2: The Fall of Neld
I watched the fires burn in silence. The Vandarian army had advanced with a relentless persistence. Their cause was an ideology, and like all who served a particular ideology, they did so with a religious fervor that would make the temples jealous. At their head was a man named Feldar, a man who was locked into his ideology, devoted very singularly to his ideas. For Feldar the advancement of his particular form of imperial democracy was the key to enlightenment and freedom. Cultures needed to be brought the wisdom of that freedom, and any government other then that of Vandar was a form of despotism to be violently resisted. It did not matter that those Feldar sought to rescue did not wish to be saved. Indeed how could they know better, being raised and tortured under despotic tyrannies their entire life they had been deluded into thinking that such things were normal. For Feldar this tyranny extended especially to the temples. The Elemental Lords were the bitterest tyrants that existed, for centuries holding human kind in their wars of oppression. Religion was despotism as sure as any human king and religion was to be denied and fought as furiously. Vandar knew know people turned to the the church stripping thmeselves of their own strength. Which is not to say it had no temples. It had temples a plenty, after all the people must be allowed to choose their own faith, but to be a member of a faith to serve a temple was to be looked down upon. Where in many cultures being a servant of your deity was a respected profession to Feldar and his Ilk to be a servitor to the temple was to serve a lie counter to the very meaning of being a Vandarian.
Of course I could feel for his argument where my own nation was concerned. The Valesti family had ruled Neld with a singular military strength that brooked no arguments. As for the temples I bore them little love. Feldar’s argument was pretty persuasive on this point. The wars that seemed to so constantly plague us before the coming of the Vandarian democracy had all had their roots in the temple politick. The sheer fighting and lose of life for service to the deities was so massive and so dark that there was little doubt in my mind that the temples were the single greatest cause of pain the world had ever known.
Yet I was caused to wonder how the Derenian people would feel when Vandar took its war to their shores. The king of Derin, Draynor, was widely loved by his people as a peacemaker who had heralded a golden age of culture and growth. I realized rather surely that none of this would matter to Feldar. Draynor was a monarch and thus by nature a tyrant. Worse his kingdom ultimately was entrenched in the temples, it mattered not that their peculiar variety of faith had seemingly made peace among the warring elements. The symbol of the Draynor’s tyranny to Feldar was Tralin, the king’s aide, a Drakel of some note, whose family was known to be water casters. Tralin’s presence in the royal court of Derin was likely seen as a sure sign that the king was involved in the most diabolical of pacts with the elemental lords.
I also realized, from watching, that Feldar’s control over his own people was tenuous at best. He ruled at their pleasure, he would have it no other way, but this did not make him immune to intrigues. Feldar’s right hand man was Darin, and there was something very peculiar about him. Feldar seemed to trust him implicitly, and Darin seemed to play this trust for all its worth. Indeed in watching the attack upon my childhood home I was quite sure it was Darin and not Feldar that led the armies of Vandar against us.
I cursed silently not for the first time. Though I might share an objection to the royal family of my homeland, the destruction that the Vandarian’s brought in service to their idol was no less terrible then the rule had been, they burned entire cities, to undermine the royal base of power. That innocents died, lost their lives, lost their livelihoods, these things did not matter. They were the cost of war. Easy it must have been to take this attitude for Feldar, it was not his families paying those costs. For my own I had lost a brother, and my pregnant wife to Feldar’s advancing zeal. Where was Derin in this, I wondered, though Neld and Derin had an uneasy past they were by treaty our military ally, obligated to come to our aid, and Draynor was a man of honor. I could hardly imagine him neglecting his treaty born duty. Yet they were nowhere to be found. No I reasoned, its not a failure on Draynor’s part, rather it was the sheer suddenness and force which the Vandarian attack had displayed. Draynor had warning that we did not of the Vandarian coming but they had only had a short while to mobilize no less to ship their armies across the sea. At this point doing so would be madness. Neld had fallen, according to proclamation it was not a territory of the Nation of Vandar. Little would be gained by bringing their forces here.
I was startled from my reverie by the sounds of movement in the Vandarian tent town that had been erected to the side of the city and turning toward the crest of the hill and out toward the shore I became aware of the reason for their disquiet. Even as I was bemoaning the failure of the Derenian king to respond to our peril his ships had begun to land on our shores. If I remained where I was I would be caught in the middle and either way would be forced to take arms. I was not prepared for this and knowing its futility I did the only thing I could do. I fled into the smoking ruins, heading for the one set of buildings that remained relatively intact, the temple quarter, and here… and here I met my destiny….
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