Preface from Suvaraih's War Journal
I suppose that before I delve into the meat of things, it would be an idea to give a glimpse into my formative years, partially to give a better frame of reference for why I am who I am, and in part out of sheer self-indulgence. Forgive me, for beginnings are rarely interesting.
My father was a legionnaire of middling repute- An average record of service with no noteworthy commendations to render him exceptional, though the same could not be said for one of his childhood friends, a fact that would come back to haunt me later in life, but I digress. My father was content in his mediocrity, believing that he was doing enough to serve the empire by merely belting on his gladius and standing around in his polished armour. So content was he, in fact, that when an enemy spear lanced through his leg, he accepted the offer to withdraw from the front and take a comfortable post at a garrison in a small town well within the safety of the Empire's inner regions. A better man, I think, would have instead stayed on to help in another capacity.
I won't bore you with the minutiae of how my parents met, but suffice to say that my mother was a custodian of the town library, who had never ventured outside the comfortable confines of her home town. My father was a 'retired veteran' who had valiantly taken a wound in a comrade's stead while serving on the harsh frontier of the imperial expansion, or so he professed. She found him to be terribly exciting, I'm sure, so it should come as little surprise that not a year after they met, I came into the world. I would like to say that I was born in the midst of a portentous storm, with sword clenched in tiny hand and a steely glint in my eye, but alas, I was born on a dreary Vhalar trial, with no sword in my pudgy fist. I was told that I wailed horribly.
I have little memory of my younger years, so I must rely on what my parents recounted to me, so I'm certain there is no small amount of bias colouring their views, for which I must apologise.
According to them, I was a bright, inquisitive child, full of vigour and possessed, even then, a keen interest in war. My father would often, laughingly, regale his friends with stories of how I would assault the family barghest with my toy gladius and infant-sized tower shield. Poor Brutus was such a patient and good-natured beast that he suffered my attentions with good grace, though I'm sure the clumsy thrusts of a child's wooden sword barely registered, given how thick a barghest's hide is. Lucky for both of us, I suppose. When I wasn't busy torturing poor old Brutus, I was either playing with small figurines of soldiers, or out pretending to be legionnaires with the other children.
As I grew older, I relented in my constant bothering of Brutus, which I am sure he was grateful for, and instead began to read. My fondness of romantic tales stems from the abundance of such books my mother owned, which I devoured when I had an inclination to relax for a time. Usually, however, I pored over tomes dealing with my favourite subject; War. From a basic guide to what is expected of a legionnaire, to analyses of imperial battle formations and treatises on the nature of conquest, I read them from cover to cover with a desperate hunger. The toy soldiers from my earlier years proved useful for practicing and studying the various scenarios from the books, and I would often task myself with solving tactical problems with the little wooden men, much to my parent's amusement. Playing with the local youths evolved into gathering them together after our schooling in order to practice formations and to brawl with one another in the dust. It was an early taste of the camaraderie between soldiers, in a way, and I found it to be a fine thing indeed. As for my education, I excelled when it came to the more martial subjects, and my tutors praised me, telling me that I would make a fine legionnaire one day. I couldn't have been happier. My parents, on the other hand, were not so pleased.
My continuing dedication to striving towards my dream of serving in the legions was beginning to concern them, as while it was all well and good to play soldier, my parents considered the real thing to be too dangerous by far. My father's limp was proof of such, according to them, and I would later find out that they conspired to keep me from active service.
When I finished my education, I was eager to sign up to the legions as soon as I possibly could. My mother and father, however, bade me to wait, and instead spend some time rounding myself out so that I could be a more proper imperial citizen, which would behoove me well should I be promoted and be honoured with meeting the more prestigious members of the Empire, or so they argued. For some reason, I listened.
What followed was three long, dull years of being educated on the 'finer things in life'. This, I discovered, meant attending dinners, balls and other frivolous events, in the name of moulding me into a man of refinement and culture. It bored me nearly to tears, but it at least gave me a high tolerance for enduring such social events. I can now attend a formal dinner with good grace. I've even managed to stop vividly picturing stabbing my conversational partner in the eye with silverware, for the most part. Mother would be proud.
Finally, however, I had had enough. I would tolerate no more of their stalling tactics, and despite my parents' protests, I enrolled in the imperial military. Basic training awaited me, and I could not have been more eager to finally immerse myself in the first steps of becoming a legionnaire. It did not disappoint. The training was unforgiving and the instructors as warm as the heart of winter itself, but I relished every minute. Every ache and pain, every barked command was proof that I was well on my way to serving the empire as I'd always wanted, an extra step closer to seizing my childhood dream. Or so I thought.
As well as I was doing, once again my parents schemed to keep me from the front lines. While it was now clear to them that I would not be dissuaded from my course, my father had other resources to call upon. I mentioned earlier that he had a childhood friend that distinguished himself in the military, and it was this friend that was begged to pull some strings to keep me from throwing myself on an enemy sword somewhere in a place with a name nobody could pronounce. Unfortunately for me, they succeeded. Upon graduating form training, I was informed that i would not, in fact, be going to war, and that I would instead be serving the empire in another, but equally important role. Guard duty.
I can still feel the unusual combination of my stomach sinking to my boots while my chest filled with pure, white hot rage at once again being denied my true course. I railed against my parents, and I think you would have been hard pressed to find a more bitter young man in the entirety of the empire. I would not, however, disgrace myself by shirking my new duty, no matter how much it rankled.
For five long, mind-numbing years I served as a guard. I chafed at the inactivity, at the keen awareness that I could have been well into my career as a legionnaire while I stood, standing guard in some quiet little town, desperate for some small taste of action. I was not idle during those years, of course, as while I was forced to swallow the bitter pill of my lot in life, I was not content to give in to indolence. So I spent much of my free time striving to keep the skills that I'd learned from legionnaire training sharp, going through the forms and reading what I could to keep the lessons fresh.
My salvation, as it turned out, was in the form of an old and grizzled guard by the name of Avitus. Tough as old leather and about as friendly as a rabid volareon, he was a true veteran, having served in multiple campaigns over the years as a legionnaire. To begin with, he had little time for me, as for all intents and appearances I was another lazy waste of air that begged out of true service to the empire in favour of a cushy post standing around all day. It didn't take long for the old bastard to notice my intense dissatisfaction with the lot I had been forced into, and we got to talking. After I'd given my story and conveyed how frustrating I found being stuck there, he decided that I might not be a complete loss altogether. This change of attitude manifested as Avitus telling me about his time as a soldier, and I hung on to every word. He'd never admit to it, but I could tell he was pleased to have someone so interested in his tales. He even suffered my endless deluge of questions amiably enough, for him.
Truth be told, I loved the old man. He was older than dirt and had no time for anyone, but he was, to me, a man who had gladly given everything in service to the empire, and even when he became too elderly to serve in the legions, he insisted on doing something
, which is how he ended up as a guard. We grew closer, in our own way, and he was instrumental in keeping me from falling prey to despair. Unfortunately, age was a foe no man could hope to best, and Avitus' time came in my fifth year. He grew frail, tiring so quickly that he could no longer perform his duty as a guard, but he hung on to life long enough to do me the greatest kindness any soul has ever shown me. It turns out that he'd been keeping a few secrets from me. For one, he had apparently been sending letters to any military officer that would read them, trying his best to get me into a legion somewhere. It paid off. One of his old friends turned out to be in charge of a new project within the army, a unit of fresh soldiers to be sent to Yaralon. There, they would learn from the combat-hardened natives and study, enduring what hardships they must in order to emerge from the other side as an experienced, elite squad of veteran troops. Unusual, certainly, but I heard read of Yaralon and knew that it would likely be a place I could come to love. I will not cheapen his gesture by pretending that it did not move me to tears; he had worked for some time to ensure my dream became reality, and I could not thank him enough.
Lastly, he gave to me an old, worn gladius that was older than myself by far; his very first weapon. It has served him for many years, in countless battles, and as he had no children of his own to pass it on to, he bestowed it upon me. He bade me to have it restored, so that even in death, he could still help spill the blood of the empire's enemies, in his own way. He passed not long after that, and I had little time indeed to grieve before I was collecting my belongings and preparing to set out o, filled with pride and eager to finally, finally
become a legionnaire. Yaralon awaited.