Chapter One: The University Council
"It's dark now… so quiet… and peaceful… where am I? What is this place? Screaming? Who's screaming? Why? It's so loud. The women are screaming. Swords clashing. Fire rustling. Horses bound in clanking armor beating the dry ground cruelly. People running, falling, fighting, screaming, burning. What's going on? The noise is overwhelming. Blood pouring onto the dead earth. The enemy is nearing. They're going to kill us. They're going to kill us all. Why? What's going on here? I need to run. I need to run now. They're after me. They're going to kill me. Run."
"The passage was written by an unknown author some time after the beginning of the war. No one is sure as to the author's identity, their affiliation, or their purpose in writing this passage. It outlines the chaos and confusion felt at the time of this war. The war had begun some fifty years ago. No one is sure as to the exact reason for this, as all those involved in the relations between the villages and the Gods were the first to perish" said a tall, lean woman, wearing a dull beige toga tightly around her body. She stood before a council sitting solemnly around a faded wooden table. "We must get to the bottom of this. Our God may not let these affairs go on without our knowledge. We follow behind this mysterious entity, and yet we know not why, or for what. This must come to an end!" she slammed the desk that lay in the center of the dimly lit conference room. The scholars seated around the table looked uneasily at each other.
"How do you even know that there is a God, Sarali." A dashing young scholar protested. Though young for the University council, he had quickly risen in rank as he impressed his fellow students and professors with his knowledge and infallible logic. "What I mean to say is, we can't see this 'God' and we can't possibly be sure that it has any affect on our civilization. You wouldn't be able to produce any evidence to the contrary if I were to ask for it, am I correct?" He sat back with a smirk on his face, crossing his legs and holding his knee with a certain degree of self-satisfaction.
Sarali turned her head sharply and glared at him, "I'm disappointed, Gasan. We're not here to debate religion. We're here to discuss how to get answers about this war we're in for reasons unknown –"
"And I'm here to say we don't have to be in this ridiculous war that you claim was caused by an invisible man in the sky!" Gasan yelled, leaning forward and slamming his fists on the desk passionately.
Sarali recoiled slowly, removing her hands from the desk and standing up straight, her eyes remaining locked on him. She turned away slowly to face a map and snapped her head back to the council, "We must take immediate action. If we don't do something about this war, our armies will soon be unable to defend this cities walls and our society will fall to the enemy. The council behind the initiation of this war was the first to perish nearly fifty years ago, and with them went the reason, rationale, and explanation of this war. The enemies refuse to negotiate and our ability to mobilize or even to call for our allies has been compromised because the roads have come under control of the enemy."
A middle-aged woman with a pudgy face and gentle demeanor spoke up, "Is the rationale for this enemy assault over territory or resources? We could perhaps work out some compromise or trade agreement with them and that would surely end the –"
"No. It has been tried in the past. This is not a war over territory nor resources. The enemy holds a location of as much value as ours."
An elderly man interrupted with a raspy cough. He rubbed his chair against the abrasive granite floor, calling the attentions of the other council members to him. He leaned forward now that he had their attention and stroked his wispy beard as though he were recalling a distant memory. "The enemy wants nothing more than to destroy our society and the people in it. That is the rationale for this war."
The members stared at the old man in total surprise. The light entering from the sloppily covered windows sank through, lightly touching points on the desk and the members' solemn faces. Sarali tilted her head curiously and furrowed her eyebrows. She asked calmly, "Solon, please, enlighten the council. What do you know about this war and about our enemy?"
The old man shook his dry patchy head, "Little more than you, child." He took a deep breath and rubbed his temples fixedly, "I was a youth, Gasan's age, when the war began. Then it was the decision made by the religious councils. The council of the priests initiated this war, but they were only one of two religious councils – the other being the council of the priestesses – who supposedly had personal contact with the God that created this city and helped our struggling society thrive in the land's harsh conditions. The council of the priestesses opposed the idea of the war against the enemies and called the priests liars driven by greed and corruption. The priests accused the priestesses of having unsavory affairs with the enemies and that their opposition to the war jeopardized the people of this city.
I was merely a student at this very University at the time. I couldn't be sure which of the councils to trust since both councils' affairs were kept in the strictest confidentiality. Conditions were not the best. Our enemies constantly threatened our city with raids, volcanoes, meteors, plague, and anything else evil in this world. The public was in denial about an impending war. I suppose life was hard enough… No one wanted to believe that it was only to become harder. They chose to ignore the feuding between the two councils since it was often that they would butt heads and publicly ridicule one another. Despite the priestesses' opposition, the armies were dispatched to the enemy's walls and that is how the war began." The old man gently rubbed his bony knuckles and continued his story in an aging and raspy voice, "To my knowledge, there had been no actual conflict with the enemy… at least not one initiated by our city. I haven't any theory as to why the enemy is as hostile to us as they are." He paused and thoughtfully looked around the room at the council members' intrigued faces. "Soon after the war, all of the members in the council of priests were found dead. The public had at first blamed the council of priestesses, but they soon went missing. No one heard from them nor were their bodies found. To this day, no one can be sure what happened to the two councils, though many who had lived during that time still blame the council of priestesses for the mysterious deaths of the council of priests. Though the evidence would appear damning… for some reason … I don't believe the priestesses had anything to do with the death of the priests..." he groaned and rubbed his forehead. "I stayed at the University to investigate this matter, but to no avail. There is simply no hard evidence to suggest anything about the deaths of the priests."
All of the council members looked at Solon ponderously, thinking about what he had said, and wondering about the situation themselves.
"As I said, Sarali, it was not a 'God' that got us involved in this war. It was the council of priests!" Gasan shouted eagerly. He smirked at her in an air of smug superiority.
Solon slowly turned toward Gasan, shaking his head tiredly, "Now now, young man. I never said that. The council of priests initiated the war because of their contact with our God. It is interesting to me why there was dissent between the two as to the exact wishes of our God, but it is important to determine why we were led into war when there would be no benefit to warring with this enemy."
Gasan snarled his face into a look of pure disgust "When you read between the lines, Solon, you can clearly see that the two groups were operating out of their desires to fill their own agendas. If something that should be as straightforward as whether or not to enter a meaningless war is a point of argument between these two groups, they are obviously not operating through a 'God'."
Sarali slammed her hands onto the desk and glared angrily at Gasan, "That's enough! We'll have none of this disrespect, Gasan!" Gasan leaned back quickly and crossed his arms, glaring hatefully at Sarali. "What needs to be done is we must first assign roles to each of our members. If we split up and search for information about the councils, our enemy, and our God, we will surely be able to devise a plan of attack. Who will be the first to volunteer?"
A meek-looking man rose his hand timidly, "I shall. I will be glad to research the former religious councils if that so pleases the council."
"Of course it will. Thank you, Tehan."
"If Tehan chooses to pick a topic so robust as the religious councils, I am sure that my assistance will be needed." Gasan blurted out, still leaning against the back of his chair with his arms crossed.
"If you so wish, Gasan."
The council fell quiet. Sarali carefully looked over all of the council members, waiting for another volunteer to speak up.
Solon creaked out his offer, "I shall lead a group in researching our enemy, seeing as I have the most memory of them."
"Honorably so, Solon. Thank you."
"I would be happy to assist Solon in his research" spoke up the mild middle-aged woman.
"Absolutely. Thank you, Viena" Sarali let out a deep sigh and carefully examined the remaining members of the council. "I suppose that leaves Darnel, Taika, and myself to find more information about our God. I hope that we all would have enough information to come up with a reasonable plan in say, two weeks from today?" The council members nodded in agreement. "It is agreed then. We shall begin researching immediately. No one rests until we have found every last bit of information available. No matter what the cost."
The members of the council rose from their seats hesitantly as they made their way into the dusty halls of the University. They would begin their tireless search for answers to save their city from the evils of a meaningless war.