Posted by: lordkyler | February 27, 2016

Short Story – Two Nations (Part Four)

This is the concluding segment of Two Nations, an early reveal of the novella that accompanies Lithra III: The Legacy of Lions. You can read Part One, Part Two, and Part Three at their respective links. Commentary on this section and notes on the story as a whole can be found below. I hope you’ve enjoyed this story.


Sennius stared at the blood on his hands. His fingers trembled, and he couldn’t seem to focus. Everything had been turned upside down, inside out.

Just moments ago, he had been overseeing the construction of the camp where they would meet with the Karod. Nemia wanted to hold the summit before the harvest, and it had to be somewhere outside the village, since she did not trust the Karod. Necharthius had appointed Sennius to make sure the arrangements were suitable for the Karod leaders, and he had not argued for fear of Nemia changing her mind.

They were nearly finished when the messenger came.

He came galloping in like a hurricane, his horse quaking from exhaustion and lathered in sweat. It was one of Dhomian’s priests, a young man named Cardus. He was nearly incoherent, having ridden non-stop from the village, and it took some time to calm him enough to speak. When he did, the words seared themselves into Sennius’s mind, burned into his soul.

They’re dead. She killed them, all of them. 

He hadn’t understood at first. Who had Nemia killed? When? Cardus answered hesitantly, tearfully.

They came to the village and feasted. They grew drowsy, and Nemia drew her sword, and men stepped from the shadows… I’m so sorry. There was nothing I could do. 

Each new fact hit Sennius like the stroke of a lash. Deceit. Treachery. Murder.

Nemia had played him for a fool. Versian and Necharthius had lied to his face. Had this betrayal damned them all? Surely the wrath of the gods would fall upon them.

But how could it have happened in the first place?

Sennius had demanded more answers, but when Hanach realized what had happened, he had drawn a dagger…

Sennius shuddered, falling to his knees, clutching bloody hands to his temples as though trying to keep his skull from splitting.

Hanach had killed poor, faithful Cardus. A priest. He had buried his knife in the young man’s chest, screaming curses vile enough to make a stone blush. He had pulled the weapon free with a spray of blood, and brought it down again, and again, and again…

And then Sennius had buried his sword in the Amavoi’s heart.

Everything was backwards. The Karod were not Amavoi, but deceivers. Monsters pretending to glory and divine power. Pure blasphemy.

Nemia was right, but she had betrayed him. Now, instead of the promise of peace, war was assured. Everything he had spent the last decade building and believing was gone, broken like an egg beneath a boulder.

He felt anger. Sorrow. Revulsion. Fear.

And then, after a timeless agony in turmoil, he felt nothing at all. Something inside him had died, just as surely as Hanach had, struck lifeless in a single blow.

Two corpses lay before him, eyes staring sightlessly, faces vacant, bodies still transfixed by the weapons that had killed them. They were dead, but Sennius felt nothing; no sadness at Cardus’s passing, no pleasure at Hanach’s demise. It was done. There was no going back. No moving on. He could only give up or begin again.

Dhomian approached, ashen-faced. “It was all a sham, wasn’t it?”

Sennius didn’t reply.

“What are we to do?”

“My sister… Necharthius’s wife will have a plan to drive out the rest of the Karod. I think- I think it might be best to just start over.”

“Where will we go?”

Sennius stared into the distance. “I have no more answers, Patris. I have no more house. All I have left are the gods.”

“You… still believe? After all this?”

Sennius paused to consider. “I have taken a strange path to faith, Patris. But yes, I believe. The gods are all I have left to lean on.”

Dhomian nodded. “We will need their help now more than ever. These blasphemers must be destroyed.”

“I will do it,” Sennius said. He felt anger flare back into life within his chest, but it was cold. “But I cannot guide this people anymore. Lead us to a new land, Patris, and I will cleanse it. Then you may lead.”

Dhomian looked at the corpse of the fallen angel for a moment. “I cannot do it alone. We will lead together. Begin again, in greater wisdom, I pray. A new state. Chiaris.”

It was the only way forward.

“Very well,” Sennius said.

“What of Necharthius?” Dhomian asked. “Should we tell him of your decision? Learn of their plan?”

“Gather those who wish to follow,” Sennius answered blankly. “We will make our own path, and answer only to the gods.”

“…and what of your sister?”

Sennius turned away, staring at the dead men. “If I never see her again, I will count it a blessing. Come, we have work to do.”

•••

“Lord Necharthius has made great progress,” Versian reported. “The death of their leaders has left the Karod vulnerable. We have slain thousands, and chased the rest until the weather forced us back.”

“How far?” Lady Nemia asked. She was seated in shadow, on the throne of the unfinished hall. It was nearly midnight, but she did not sleep much these days.

“Leagues, my lady. To lands where the snows have already begun to fall.”

“Is there any chance of retaliation?”

Versian paused. “No. I do not believe they will be able to strike back for generations. By then we shall be fully established, and can keep them contained.”

“Very well,” Nemia said. For a moment, the only sound was the crackling of the braziers. She could not bring herself to ask what she really wanted to know. “Is it… a good land?”

Versian nodded slowly. “Yes. it is beautiful. Your husband desires to begin a new settlement there, and leave this valley to others.” Nemia said nothing to this. Once the thought would have been unspeakable, but when Sennius had left for good… she had nothing left to keep her here. Better to start fresh.

Versian noted her silence and continued. “You were right to do as you did. If you had not, our two nations would come to war sooner or later, and we would be either enslaved or extinct.”

A ring glinted in the light as Nemia tapped her finger on the arm of the throne. “And now the Karod are extinct, but two nations in enmity remain.”

“The Chiarians have no desire for war, your excellence–” Versian began, but Nemia cut him off with the raise of a finger.

“Perhaps not in our lifetimes, or the next, but the rift runs too deep, Versian. Today we are rivals, tomorrow adversaries. I have vanquished one foe at the cost of another.”

Versian did not look up at her. Ever since the fateful day – the Day of Blood, they called it – he had given up on his fatherly affections. Now, like most of her subjects, he treated her with the respect due a warlord.

This is what she had dreamed of since she was a girl. Married to a prince. Sovereign of a nation. A conqueror on par with legend. So why did she feel so hollow?

Versian bowed and walked away, but just before he left, he turned back. “You did what you had to,” he said quietly. “Nothing less.”

Nemia wished she could believe that.


 

First Section Notes: This is a section that could have done with yet another rewrite, perhaps, as the chronology is a bit goofy, but it serves its purpose. I wanted to wrap things up quickly, but there were also a lot of notes I wanted to hit. This could have been fleshed out more, but it gets the point across. Not much more to say.

Second Section Notes: And this concludes the story. A sad ending, to be sure. Like the last section, this one is also short, but I think it worked a little better here.

The title Two Nations, as we finally see, refers not only to Nevinia and Karod, as you might expect, but to the newly-founded nations of Mithere and Chiaris, which you will recognize if you’ve read Lithra (and if you haven’t, you should. It’s online for free!)

I had originally planned to go a little further with the story, ending on some symbolic gesture like the flower into the flames, but I decided that this made a more poignant ending.

•••

Now, for my notes and thoughts on the overall story. As I said in Part One, this story was a beast to write, particularly since it came after a period of several months without writing.

Even with that in mind, as I read back over it now, I’m pretty pleased with it. There are some things I might change if I did it again, but if I went back and “fixed” everything over and over, I’d never get anywhere. Sometimes you’ve got to edit, sometimes you’ve got to move on. This edit was enough.

It’s probably difficult to see with story split up into segments like this, but I tried an interesting storytelling structure for this story. Chiasmus is an ancient literary technique where points or phrases are mirrored in opposite order, to reinforce (perhaps reverse!) a particular point.

Thus, the outline for this story looked something like this:

  • [Sennius] Together, the siblings arrive in a new land
    • [Nemia] Sennius is chosen by the Karod
      • [Sennius] Sennius makes a play and arranges a deal with the Karod
        • [Nemia] Nemia tries to convince Sennius to abandon his plan
          • [Sennius] Sennius abandons Nemia and seizes power. (This is the turning point)
          • [Nemia] Nemia seizes power, overshadowing Sennius
        • [Sennius] Sennius tries to convince Nemia to abandon her plan
      • [Nemia] Nemia makes her play and breaks the alliance with the Karod
    • [Sennius] Sennius turns on the Karod
  • [Nemia] Apart, the two siblings leave for new lands

There are other themes, parallels, and reversals as minor themes throughout the story, such as the reversal of faiths and fortunes, or Nemia’s constant trumping of her earnest brother, but this was the main structure I used.

I don’t plan on using chiasmus again – at least not this strictly – but it was an interesting experiment that I think led to a strong and thematically powerful story.

Feel free to wonder and marvel or call me out on my pretentiousness in the comments below, and let me know what you thought of the story.

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