He heard it on the street--a simple merchant, frustrated about some small trifle: "Why did he get so angry with me!? How was I supposed to remember him! We hadn't spoken in over ten years!
Gongora recalls a memory buried deep within his heart.
A dream has been revealed.
Wherever Gongora traveled, he kept a little black book at his side. It contained three columns, all of which he kept neatly filled out: "Name", "Birth" and "Death".
When he was younger, Gongora used to try to use his mind to keep track of the people he knew were alive and which of them had passed away. But an endless lifespan shifts his perception of time—sometimes he would come to a city to meet a friend he assumed was middle aged, only to meet the deceased man's great grandchildren. Other times he would come to a town only to find an empty, decaying ruin, the inhabitants long since gone.
It made his business very inconvenient.
This was not his first volume, nor would it be his last. He lost count long ago how many of these he had gone through, and how many had to be replaced over his ageless existence.
He looks over a certain entry carefully. Only two of the columns have been filled out.
Closing the book, Gongora walks over to the house he had approached and knocks on the door. This home is one of the largest in the city he is currently staying at. That is not saying much. Most of the nearby households are small and crumbling. There are many citizens, but little wealth to be spread around: it apparently is going to a different end than providing for the common good.
Gongora hears a man approaching the door, and who then opens it up wide. It is an elder, one who wears an officer's uniform decked with several medals. His face is greatly weathered, with wrinkles like canyons eroded into his earthtone cheeks. This great age doesn't prevent a smile from dawning on the old man's face like the first rays of the morning sun. "Gongora!" he cries out, "It's been ages!"
Without any delay, Gongora is invited into the house and is given a warm reception. It isn't long before the two are dining together, enjoying dark wine and warm mutton. The old soldier can't help but prattle on like a man a fraction of his age. "I'm very happy that you've returned to me. Since we last met, I've been fighting more than I ever thought possible. The war that we're in seems to go on forever—which suits me just fine. I don't have much of a purpose other than bloodletting," he says with a small laugh—one that sounds almost regretful
Gongora sips from his glass. He knows that this country has been at war for decades with the nation that borders it. Both lands contain rich but differing natural resources. Both believed that if they could obtain their enemy's territory, untold prosperity would follow. This has created a war which bridges generations, and also has no end in sight. The old soldier doesn't seem to mind. "I've really risen in the ranks, I'll have you know," he continued on, raising his spirits, "They now call me General Trayon."
Trayon taps the medals on his chest with a proud smile, as though he were showing off his children. Gongora nods briefly. "It is truly an honor to speak with a general such as yourself," he says bowing his head slightly.
"Don't you do that do me!" Trayon replies with a bright laugh, "We've been friends since youth—you even saved my life back then!"
Gongora smiles. He had almost forgotten how he had dragged Trayon, a young, wounded officer, to a medical tent during the opening skirmishes of this very war. The doctors were barely able to save him: had Gongora came even minutes later, the decorated general would've died without an exploit to his name.
Trayon's laugh gives way to a tired sigh. "That was a very long time ago, wasn't it? It's hard to believe we're still at war. I was hoping that I could've been the man to end it, but now I know that it's simply not possible. I suppose the next generation will have to fight on like the previous one."
A second passes before Gongora responds. "Have you ever considered one last, big push? It might be the surge needed to end the conflict."
The old soldier gives a sad smile. "The king has been telling me the same thing, but it's no use. Every battle we try to fight ends in a draw. We can barely keep the ranks full as it is—there are only so many young men we can recruit before we simply run out."
Gongora shakes his head slowly. "Is this hesitation how you became a great general?"
Trayon looks almost offended. "What do you mean?"
"The enemy is likely in the same situation you are. If you can muster a furious enough attack, you can surprise them and even break the stalemate. With the legendary General Trayon at the helm, I know they will take any offensive you make extremely seriously. You can defeat them, can't you?"
"Of course I can!" Trayon replies, puffing out his chest, "I've been doing so for years!"
Gongora gives a firm, knowing nod. "Then you only need to defeat them one more time," he finishes, looking his old companion in the eyes, "Trust me,"
Trayon frowns, thinking over his options carefully. Moments later, he forces a smile. "I will, Gongora," he says, "I shall end this war."
Less than a week later, Trayon gathers a respectable portion of his army and marches to the border. The other nation, sensing an opportunity both defeat the feared general and use that momentum to make an attack themselves, gather a majority of their troops into a huge legion, drastically outnumbering Trayon's forces. Gongora receives a letter the night before the fated evening. Trayon, normally cool and composed, has written that he worries that victory is impossible with such horrible odds. Gongora sends a letter of his own. It is a simple, unassuming message.
The day of the battle, Gongora surveys the battlefield from a far off mountain. To his side is the king of Trayon's country. The king looks over the field of battle. From afar, he can see Trayon's finest staring down the masses that the other country had sent: the general's forces look like a single, teetering rock confronted by a vast, roaring ocean. He smiles darkly. "This couldn't have gone any better, Gongora."
Soon, the other nation's army charges Trayon's forces. The king turns around and signals to a few technicians to man a pair of consoles nearby. The familiar sound of machinery fills Gongora's ears as giant slabs of stone shift away from the cliff face, revealing a huge cannon powered by magical energy, the first of its kind. As the first soldiers of the other nation strike Trayon's army, the cannon fires. The dusk of evening suddenly gives way to day as a light as bright as the sun itself envelops the battlefield, causing the king and the operators to hide their eyes. Gongora alone watches the explosion, blooming almost like a flower over the battle-plains.
The results of the battle were clear.
Both sides had been totally wiped away in the dazzling light. Everything, from the strongest soldier to the countless blades of grass that covered the earth, had been reduced to nothing. The other nation had assumed that the legendary General Trayon was leading their opponent's last hope. Instead, those rulers discovered that the massive casualties they acquired meant that the age-old balance of power had been irredeemably shifted. In a matter of days, Trayon's country was able to seize and burn their foe's capital. The endless war had finally come to a conclusion.
The first country grew rich off the spoils of war. The city which Gongora had met Trayon at morphed from poverty to opulence, and the small hutlike homes soon burst into large, luxurious dwellings. Children who used to go shoeless and hungry were comfortable and happy.
All the promises the country's citizens were fed about the glorious future that awaited them upon the war's end were completely true.
The citizens of the other country suffered a very different fate.
As he was about to leave the now splendid capital, Gongora visited what used to be an empty plot of land. It had been converted into a massive public park, dubbed by the citizens as 'Victory Garden'. In the center of it there was a massive statue dedicated to the hero who made it all possible—the beloved General Trayon. No one knew what really happened on the battlefield. Gongora's cannon could only fire once before it was damaged beyond repair, and the country quickly spread the news that Trayon had perished in a heroic last stand. This would be accepted by both the citizens of the day and future historians alike.
Gongora suddenly remembered something. He quickly took out his black book and opened it up wide. Scanning the names, he found what he was looking for. The name 'Trayon', along with his birth date. Wasting no more time, Gongora casually completed the final column. All three of Trayon's lines had been filled out. There was no more reason to have the book open. Gongora closed it.
He would occasionally read Trayon's name again when he consulted the volume. If he even caught sight of it, he had the distinct sensation that he was remembering some character from a novel that he hadn't read in some time. Years later, Gongora would replace this book, too, as he had so many times in the past, as he continued his endless, undying journey. His mind only could remember so much, after all.
Many, many years later, Gongora entered a park and sat near a statue, so old and unkempt that its features had eroded away under years of weathering. Gongora opened a new black book and scanned the columns. Once again, he found a name that only had two columns filled out. He stood and left the park as the old, forgotten statue stood alone, crumbling away under the ceaseless heel of time.