The Diary of Ken-Shalot
The arc of history is long, and it bends toward justice; this I have long believed. But as the night grows ever longer over this sickened land of our birth, despair grows within me.
Another legion of Breathless left the city today, some two-thousand bodies, marching in perfect unison, not a hair out of place. They march to the coast, to the very hill upon which Sisifane was burned all those years ago. The town-criers, notoriously thin-lipped on important matters at the best of times, have little enough to say about the march's purpose, but I have been told by one I trust that the Empire is staging another invasion of its old province, our Lemuire. The stamp of those feet marching in perfect time, the silence of the legion’s troops… I am sure the Empire will fail in its endeavour.
And so my despair grows.
Senedar whispers to me that our time draws near, that the day of Valour is soon upon us. I am sure that he is a wiser man than I, for I cannot yet see any glimmer of light on the horizon.
The adjudicators arrested some merchants today, for hoarding produce against regulation. The town-criers shout that such an act is cowardice and base treason, as the crime was committed in the speculation that our Lemuire would crumble against the foreign invasion, and that our city might endure siege. I heard what was happening from one of our young Eyes, J, and went to see for myself. It was a public event, and the adjudicators allowed a crowd to gather before announcing the punishment. Treason is a crime against both our Lemuire, and He Who Guides, they announced, and so He would act, as always, for our benefit, and protection. The merchants were brought before the obelisk, and He emerged to take them. That Voice…
As it whispered their names, it was like the ground itself gave protest. The hoarders fell, as so many have, and rose again. The adjudicators announced it a great victory that such cowardly men would work off their debt to our Lemuire. It was, they proclaimed, a great mercy that in death they would maintain order.
Once He would have announced such words Himself. He remains, the town-criers will tell you, the greatest of teachers.
I crouch here in the ruins of one of the old mansions. There are tall murals, and garden beds gone to gravel and dust. I think you would have loved it here, in another time.
They say He is ageless, that He is the First Immortal. Would it be too irreverent to say that I think he is tired? He was only there for a few moments, to enact His justice, but he did not linger. Perhaps his “lessons” no longer amuse him as they once did.
The valleys are burning. The Empire has played its hand, and it is a brutal one. The savage men of the hills and forests crossed the southern borders in force three nights ago, and dealt our Lemuire a savage defeat in the Valley of Bones. Senedar crows that this is a sign of great things to come, but I wonder how that can be the case. Can justice come from one man’s injustice to another? The savage men have been our enemies since before His coming, when the Empire’s governor in our Lemuire dealt with them most harshly. They come to avenge the injuries of men long dead, and because they have been bought with the gold of the Empire that held that governor’s leash. The irony, I think, must be lost on them.
Last night the streets were thick with loyalists, carrying torches, truncheons, or even swords. We lost two of our Eyes, but most were sensible enough to stay clear. The simple folk, with no bolt-holes or look-outs were not so lucky. The adjudicators issued an official reprimand for the violence, but offer no reprisals. The streets have already been cleared of the fallen, and I am sure another legion will be ready to depart for the south soon.
Senedar urges me to practise, to maintain my edge should an opportunity arise. But we are not the only ones with Eyes, and so my efforts are circuitous and half hearted. I know the words; every syllable is etched into my memory.
But still, I have my doubts. Our Lemuire has grown used to tyranny. Will we even recognize the light of a new dawn, if it comes?
A general muster has been called for all fighting men within the city. The Seneschals of the North and East have been recalled, as have their Legions and armsmen. Those frontiers must be all but unprotected now; the extremities abandoned to protect the heart. How strange it feels, for defeat to loom so suggestively over centuries of His rule.
He has finally left the great obelisk that marks the centre of our city, and returned to walk among us, who He calls His children. Not that he walks as He once did, as a man of the people standing defiant against a corrupt governor, but the city remembers His presence, and reacts as if He has not changed; as if He has not changed the heart of our Lemuire.
There was a rally in the great square, on the steps that was once the Governor’s Palace, and He spoke to thousands, to roars of triumph and adulation. J spoke to me of what he saw, and it must have been as the days of His early rule, when warlords despoiled the valleys and tundra, and the city lay a world apart, safe, its guardian firm and resolute.
They have crossed the mountains. The sky is full of smoke. The streets, in any other city, would be in chaos, but ours are deathly quiet. I saw a child wandering alone, frightened, calling for its mother. My instinct was to help it, but Senedar’s voice spoke in the back of my mind, unbidden. Ours, he said, is a greater calling. We must suffer injustice, and await the dawn. We must abide. I fretted, unsure, until an adjudicator, clad in plate-mail, and atop a sable courser, spied the urchin. My heart lurched in my chest as he approached her, Beloved. So much pain, so much violence and injustice have been wrought by hands such as his. He quieted her concerns, discovered she had been lost for hours, wandering between districts, and pulled her onto his horse, in front of him. I could not tear my eyes away, and found myself following them as he rode on toward one of the secure quarters, where only our Eyes dare to tread, and then only infrequently. Her crying stopped, and I heard the adjudicator rumbling out a tune. It was a simple rhyme, one I remember hearing from my mother in my own youth, though his voice was deep and authoritative, if reassuring. The voice, that must have announced the death of dozens, if not hundreds, quieted this lost child.
He took her to an administrative centre and detailed a clerk and two guards to see her safely home. This man, closer to seven feet than six, one of the very hands of He Who Guides, offered solace to the helpless and lost, while I hid and watched.
I know. Beloved I know that what has been done cannot be undone, and what has been said cannot be unsaid. The dawn must come, and the night be cast away. Time marches on, with or without my misgivings, just as armies march toward the heart of our Lemuire, as they have not marched in centuries. Senedar says it must be my words, and his hand, that only together can we end the endless night.
But how can justice come from one man’s injustice to another?