Disclaimer: This page is a piece of fiction following the War of Paranoia/the First War. While this is fiction, it is based on real people, real emotions, and most of all, a true story.
It had seemed fun at first. Noble. Grandiose even. If only we had known how long it would have lasted, how many would die, how many would sacrifice their friends, their family, their heritage, for their own skin.
It lasted six months. It might not seem long, but six months feeling exposed, feeling as though your back was wide open, six months feeling as though you might have to defend yourself any moment was very tiring, and very long indeed.
I had been a simple soldier when I started my military career. I liked the feeling of brotherhood, it had been like nothing else. Everything else, every other association, every other empire had just felt like a big favor exchange market. There had been no bonds, no friendship, no human contact, nothing of the kind. Yet this empire, Imperia, had brought to me some sort of emotional support, no matter how small it was. It quickly grew on me. I began to think of my fellow soldiers as more than that. Soon, we began hanging out together. We would talk and banter with each other. When we needed help, everyone was always ready to help, no matter their rank, no matter their age, no matter their origins. Whether it was the King, or the Commander of the Knights, or my captain, everyone was helpful, kind, and most of all, humane. As such, I did my best within the military, and rose to the rank of sergeant. I was proud of those I was in charge of, and I was proud of my nation. Everyday was...wonderful.
Why could that not last?
On the first day of December, the Rogue King of Imperia, Harau, declared war on my nation. Some were in shock, some were insulted, some were angry, but most were scared. I was part of the majority. Yet, even if I was scared, I would defend my nation. Quickly, Imperia began to prepare itself for battle. The Commanders met, and Commander Kentiman of the Royal Army made a brilliant plan to defeat the enemy. Training sessions were organized everyday by Captains. We could not lose.
Yet, we started losing from the very start.
What the Basceys did not have in terms of economy and soldiers, they made up in information and cunning. They struck when we were defenseless. They retreated when help would come. They attacked key figures of the officer core. They avoided our ambushes. Quickly, it became clear there were internal spies in Imperia. The purges began. Some became more witch-hunters than soldiers. Nobody could trust ANYONE anymore. Even I was questioned. However, it was futile. No matter how many spies they found, the Bacseys were still so well informed...
Had I dreamt of this feeling of friendship, this bond between soldiers? Was it all a lie? Was it the war that had made people so uncaring, so selfish, or was it that war had exposed the true nature of my "brothers"?
I didn't know it, but I had become much less trusting myself. The war had affected me, and I did not even know. It took me years of therapy to understand it.
Anyways, the war continued. Soldiers began defecting to the Bacseys. Soon, they outnumbered us. We started hiding. We, the proud Imperians, were forced into hiding. Nobody cared about values anymore. There was only survival. Soon, the only ones who went out in the field was the Mad Commander Xinke Han and the King of Imperia, Auel Vist. The Commander had apparently trained so much he could take the entire Bacsey elite out by himself. However, in exchange, he trusted no one, not even himself. He was one of the more scarred by the war, along with his King, yet he fought on.
The King and the Commander soon began to inspire some soldiers to not be afraid, that the Bacseys were not so threatening, that there was hope. With some of our confidence returned, we won some battles. Yet, with every battle we won, more people deserted to the Bacseys in exchange for better ranks, and every time the Bacseys won, more people left Imperia, more people quit and surrendered. Our confidence was the kind a broken man has facing impossible odds. We believed in ourselves because the situation was so dire that it made no difference. Our end was coming. With every day approaching, we knew our death was coming. It was coming too soon...
One day, we were asked to go to the old Imperian Province of Snowtown. We met there, in a meeting hall, 30 of us, some dressed in Bacsey clothes, and in the crowd was the most infamous traitor of them all, Zaer. The traitor asked us to hide in the pots, under the tables, everywhere possible. Everyone hid except the Bacseyians and Auel. I knew this was the end. Auel would surrender us for his own skin, like half the Kingdom had done. This was just a twisted game, for Harau to have his perfect vengeance, to be able to hunt us down and kill us himself.
The True King of Imperia and the Rogue King of the Bacseys talked, but not politics. They talked of the latter's past, of his betrayal, and why he had left the Kingdom. Harau was...furious. He told our King, my King, that he had betrayed him! It was all a lie of course... We all knew that Harau had left in a quest to obtain more power. Harau finished his accusations. Standing proud, tall, mighty, in front of Harau Bacsey, who had fifteen of his elite behind him, all standing at attention, ready to slaughter us any minute now. Yet, Auel spoke a final order, the last order he would give in this war:
"Imperians! You have waited long enough for this moment! Kill the traitor and show him no mercy."
Suddenly, fifteen Imperians sprang out of nowhere, including myself, and we attacked Harau. I was ready to defend myself from the blade of the Bacseys... Yet they did not attack me. Instead, they unsheated their daggers and stabbed Harau all the same as us. Soon, we stood before a mutilated, flayed horror, with a crumbled mask besides him. Harau Bacsey was dead. The war was over.
All thirty of us went to celebrate. We were all in the mood, except the common soldiers like me. Once we gazed at the faces of our commanders, we understood what had happened.
This plan, this travesty on honor, had been planned by the Commanders and kept secret from us all this time. They had trust the traitors more than us. We, who had fought everyday for Imperia, who had murdered for this nation for six long months now! We who had broken bones, lost family, lost precious limbs and our youth to defend our country, were not part of the plan like the traitors had!
I finally understood Harau. He had been betrayed wrongfully. He had never deserved this fate. He had fought the way he fought because he knew his opponent, Auel, would have no mercy. He knew that Imperia would shed its values, its integrity, its honor, for a victory. We had won the war, yet we had lost everything. This was not Imperia.
As I stood there, watching everyone dance like madmen, drinking together like best friends even though they hated each other mere days ago, I understood that this was all a facade. We had lost the brotherhood, the feeling of love for each other in this war, as well as everything we stood for. Even as the King drank with Zaer, he eyed the rogue's hands, hidden deep inside the pockets of his coat. Even as the Mad Commander danced with a female soldier, he eyed not her face, nor her body, but the unnatural, hilt-like shape sticking out of under the woman's dress.
We could not trust again. We had won the name of Imperia back, but in exchange, we had given the nature of Imperia to the enemy.