Author's Foreword

"Paint a picture, using only gray
Light your pillow, lay back, watch the flames
I tell a story, no one listen that long
It's hard to imagine, it's hard to imagine..."
(Pearl Jam, "Hard to Imagine")

DISCLAIMER: I don't own anything here. "Love And War" and all its characters are the property of the good Admiral Styles, and if he tells me to stop, I shall stop! Guest appearances from characters belonging to other universes are also the copyright of their respective authors - and as to why they're putting in an appearance, that will become evident with time! (Or so I hope, hmmm...)

So without any further ado, I present:

The Romance Of The Way
A "Love And War" fan-fic by Professor Q

Many tales have been told about the strange and wondrous events of 300 C.E., and what came after.

Some of them are almost certainly true. Some of them are probably poetic exaggerations. And yet others are sheer legends, of the sort that inevitably emerge after any sort of world-changing event, whether for good or for evil.

The story you are about to hear draws on all these sources. I have tried, after careful discussion with my fellow scholars at both King's College and Zion University, to separate the wheat from the chaff, but after almost two generations have passed, this is not as simple as it sounds. However, this version of events, though it may still be coloured by legend, still explains a good deal of what really did happen during that fateful time. I present it not so much as a history lesson (for history is not my subject) but simply as a story, one that many of the good citizens of Terra have drawn comfort and meaning from. Beyond this, I can make no guarantees.

I have also drawn extensively upon "Romancing The Way" by Karl Tremfein, Jr., the popular account of the Crisis of 300 C.E. that is traditionally performed once a year aboard the cruiser ships of the Kingdom of Galvenia and the Zion Empire. My very title is but a slight modification of this work's. But Mr. Tremfein, being a playwright and the descendant of playwrights, has almost certainly exaggerated some things and omitted others that are a part of the historical record - and I have taken the liberty of modifying his text where more reliable chronicles exist.

"Here, then, we shall begin our account without further ado; it would be nonsense to write a long preface to a story and then abbreviate the story itself."*

* 2 Maccabees, ch. 2, v. 32.



Author's note: For ease of reading, and to prevent the gentle reader* from sinking into monotony, I have taken the liberty - like most historians - of reconstructing conversations and speeches by the principal characters. Where these are available in documentary form, as is the case for Professor Spenson's lectures, I have reproduced them faithfully; in other cases, as in the current narrative, some free reconstruction has been used, without tampering with the facts.

"...These are the mighty men of old, men of renown." (Genesis 6: 4)

For all its current, harmless appearance, the Children's Recreation Club at Lorean has had a long and chequered history. It was not seventy years ago that this modest-looking building was known as the Explorers' Guild - nominally a guild recognized by the King of Galvenia, but in truth a place of doubtful reputation, where mercenaries, rogue mages, and conspirators could meet under conditions of relative anonymity. Later, in the aftermath of the Crisis, the Guild was used as a base for operations by underground resistance forces, until they were able to move more freely. About a decade ago, in 352 C.E., the Galvenian Government - torn between consigning a place with such a dubious history to oblivion, and recognizing its brief association with the heroic events of generations past - decided to reconstruct it as a centre for the amusement of the children of Lorean; and thus did it pass from the explorers to the guilds of storytellers, ministrels, and teachers of Galvenia. Sic transit gloria mundi, as the Itarians would say.

Today, at the Club, a group of young children - aged between seven and ten, and enjoying a half-holiday from Raymond Chester School - were listening with rapt attention to one such storyteller, though it must be confessed that, if you were asked to guess his occupation from his appearance, you would probably hazard that he was a Palace guard, so impressive a physical specimen was he. His baggy green trousers and simple white singlet made him look like a trainee at the Military Academy, but his voice was surprisingly gentle. This man's ancestors - like the Club he now worked for - had played their own part in the legendary events of yesteryear, but he - like his Government - was quite content to live peacefully in peace-time.

"Arr," he said in a broad Northern Galvenian accent, picking up a large stack of books that lay on the table, "I be a ... book lifter." The children giggled; they had seen him indulging in similar feats of strength earlier, and knew that when he began this way, he would always have a tale of adventure and bravery to follow. He never told the same story twice - at times, he would talk about the first men and women who had ever lived on Terra, the "first Generation"; at other times, he would tell them about gentle St. Mikhail, or about the great empires of days gone by, whose only remnants were exhibits in museums. But today, he was telling them a tale of much more recent events, and it was clear that this was a subject that was especially dear to him.

BOOK LIFTER: And now I must introduce you all to some of the heroes and heroines of this story. First of all, there was a young girl from the town of Davenport, whose name was Lavinia Regale...

LITTLE GIRL: Lavender!

The Book Lifter looked around for the source of this quite unexpected interruption. She was a young girl of about ten, with long brown hair that had been arranged - apparently with much parental attention - in a rather aristocratic fashion, but wearing a simple green dress. She looked down at the floor for a moment, as if embarrassed at having spoken out, but then looked up again to face him. Strangely, he did not remember having seen her before this day.

BOOK LIFTER: Arr! I beg your pardon, little lady?

LITTLE GIRL (blushing): Sorry to interupt you, Mr. Book Lifter Man, but her name was Lavender, not Lavinia.

BOOK LIFTER (smiling): Arr, right you are! I canna think how I came to make that mistake. But tell me, my young friend, how did you know?

LITTLE GIRL (in a low tone): I just...knew, that's all!

BOOK LIFTER (beaming): I say, you may actually grow up to be a Storyteller yourself, Miss...

LITTLE GIRL: Emily. Emily Anderson.

BOOK LIFTER: Arr... that's a nice name. Let's have a round of applause for Emily here, friends...

The little incident gone by, the Storyteller resumed his tale, and time flew away gently, until a bell began to ring, loud and slow, chiming twelve times.

BOOK LIFTER: Arr... that's twelve o'clock now, my bairns. And you know what that means...

CHILDREN (all together): Aww! That was such a great story, Mr. Book Lifter! We want to hear more of it!...

BOOK LIFTER (booming above all the children's voices): Sorry, little ones. I canna lift the bell from the clock tower, after all. But we'll meet again in just two days more, and...

CHILDREN (all together): Yay!

BOOK LIFTER (smiling): Run along, then. Your folks will be waiting for you, that's for sure!

The story over for the day, the Storyteller's young audience rushed excitedly out of the Club, and into the lane where their parents, grandparents, and elder siblings were waiting eagerly to take them home for the weekend. Or rather, they all rushed out, except one, who was looking sheepishly at the Book Lifter, as though she wanted to ask him a question, but was not sure how to.

BOOK LIFTER (kindly): Arr, run along, little Emily! Your mum and dad must be waiting for you, and I promise I'll tell you the rest later...

EMILY (taking her courage in her hands): That's not it, Mr. Book Lifter... I just wanted to...

BOOK LIFTER: Ask me a question, perhaps? Arr, ask away. As long as it's not a question about crates!

EMILY (puzzled): Crates?

BOOK LIFTER (laughing): Just my little joke, dear. Now, what was it you wanted to say?

EMILY: Mr. Book Lifter... that story you just told us... Is it... really true?

BOOK LIFTER (kindly): Arr, of course it is, child. You'll even find it in the history books when you're a little older, though I do say my version's a lot more fun! (chuckles)

EMILY (quickly and breathlessly): So...does that mean my Gran really did all those things you said?

BOOK LIFTER (surprised): Your...Gran?

EMILY (brightly): Yes! My Gran's name is Lavender Regale... or, rather, that's what she was called, before she married Grandpa.

BOOK LIFTER: Arr, I... see. (Cautiously) And what is your Grandpa's name, Emily?

EMILY: Ryan Eramond. Just like in your story... (looks down) ... was that part also true?

BOOK LIFTER (very, very surprised!): Well, I never!... So you're their grand-daughter, I see. Arr..strange, very strange. If I'd known... Well, Emily, yes, it is all true. You know... why don't you ask your Gran about it? Maybe she could tell you the story better than I could. (laughs)

EMILY: Ask Gran? But...

BOOK LIFTER (smiling): Arr? Doesn't your Gran tell you stories, child? Mine certainly did….

EMILY (a little sadly): Well... she used to. I used to come and visit her often, here in Lorean, with Mummy and Daddy, and she'd tell me a story every night. But last year...

BOOK LIFTER (understanding all of a sudden): ...your Grandpa... He passed on, didn't he...

EMILY (wiping tears from her eyes): Yes..

The Book Lifter pulled an enormous, checked red handkerchief from the back pocket of his pantaloons, and slowly dried Emily's face with it.

EMILY (trying to smile): Thank you..

BOOK LIFTER: Arr, think nothing of it. So do you still get to see your Gran now?

EMILY: Yes, Mr. Book Lifter. After...that happened, Mummy and Daddy brought me here, and I've been staying with Gran for, umm, almost a year now. They thought she might feel better if I was around.

BOOK LIFTER: Arr, I'm sure you must be making things a little cheerful for her!

EMILY: Oh, I do try! And Gran's happy to have me around, I know! It's just that (looking down, sadly)... she doesn't tell me any more stories. When I ask her for one, she just smiles - but she doesn't look happy, and she says, "Emily, there's one story I must tell you some day, but I'm not sure if you're ready to hear it, or if I'm ready to tell it. Some other day, Emily..."

BOOK LIFTER: Arr, I know just the thing!

EMILY (looking up): You do?

Without a word, the Book Lifter lifted Emily up - gently, but surely - with no more effort that if she had been a stack of books. Taken aback for a moment, Emily began to laugh at the sheer unexpectedness of it all.

BOOK LIFTER: Arr, I be a... little girl lifter! (laughs)

EMILY (laughing): You're funny, Mr. Book Lifter!

BOOK LIFTER (seating her on a chair): I'll tell you what, Emily. It looks like your Gran's a Storyteller, like me. And we Storytellers... well, we know things about each other. So here's what you should do. Listen carefully. (drops his voice to a whisper)

EMILY (conspiratorially): What should I do?

BOOK LIFTER: When you go home and meet your Gran, say that you want to tell her a story today. Then tell her all the things I just told you about. And watch what happens.

EMILY: Do you really think I should do that?

BOOK LIFTER: Arr, trust me, Emily. Us Storytellers know. Trust me, and try it out. But now you'd best be getting home, you've got a story to tell!

EMILY (throwing her arms around his neck): Thank you, Mr. Book Lifter, thank you! Thank you!

BOOK LIFTER (blushing): Arr, it's nothing, my little friend. Run along, now.

Emily needed no further encouragement, and ran happily out of the Club, while the Book Lifter smiled to himself and nodded slowly.

"Arr, the spitting image of her grandmother, she be. She's going to hear the greatest story of her life now, that's for sure..."

The old lady came running down the lane to meet her granddaughter, with a bounce in her step that belied her eighty-odd years.

OLD LADY: "And what was my favourite granddaughter in the whole world doing in there for so long? Tell me about it!"

EMILY (slipping her hand into the old lady's): "I've got a story to tell you, Gran."

OLD LADY: "A story? Now isn't that nice. You know, when I was your age, I used to love listening to stories... and telling them, as well. It looks like you're taking after me in more ways than one."

EMILY: "But this story is special, Gran!"

OLD LADY: "Every story is special, Emily, as long as you tell it right..."

EMILY (insistent): "This one is more special than any other old story!"

OLD LADY: "Oh dear, what are they telling you at that Club these days? Let me guess. When I was your age, I loved stories about sailors and ships. Has that Storyteller been telling you stories about them? Did I guess right?"

EMILY (smiling): "Wrong guess, Gran."

OLD LADY: "My, my. I'm getting old, Emily. But let me guess again. Ah... I've got it! Pirates! You look all flushed and excited, dearie. He must've been telling you about pirates!"

EMILY (laughing): "Wrong again, Gran!"

While they were chatting away in this agreeable manner, the little girl and her grandmother - walking briskly, hand in hand - had come to a small but elegant house, tucked away in a corner of the northern district of Lorean.

OLD LADY: "Wrong again? I see you've inherited my brains as well, young lady!" (chuckles) "But here we are at home, sweetie. You can tell me all about it once we get inside."

EMILY: "I will, Gran!"

With an ease born of years of familiarity, Emily reached up to grasp the large knocker on the gate - shaped strangely like a crocodile - and brought it down firmly against the gate. As if on cue, a plump, middle-aged woman in a black dress, with her white cap slightly askew, came running up to it with a look of concern on her face. "Good afternoon, Ma'am! And Miss Emily! I was just starting to worry about the two of you. Goodness, what kept you for so long? I do hope you've been careful!"

OLD LADY (laughing): "You always say that, Maria. As did your mother before you. But we're always careful, aren't we, Emily?"

EMILY (laughing): "Yes, Gran, we always are! I was just telling Gran about a story I wanted to tell her today!"

MARIA (beaming): "A story! Now isn't that clever, Miss Emily! I must hear this too."

EMILY: "No, Maria, this is a story I have to tell Gran first! We'll tell you about it later, I promise, but Gran has to hear it first!"

MARIA (smiling): "Is that so! Well, come on in, you must be starving! I've made all your f..."

Emily, on hearing this last statement, had already begun to run into the house excitedly, to conduct her own investigations in the kitchen.

OLD LADY: "Emily! Don't forget to wash your hands, sweetheart! Goodness gracious, that child is the living image of me, when I was her age..."

MARIA: "So my mother always said, ma'am."

OLD LADY: "Your mother! Goodness, that brings back memories. Why, it seems like only yesterday that Carmen would be calling after me, or cleaning up after my, ahem, first efforts at housework. How time does fly.."

MARIA: "Indeed it does, Mrs. Eramond, ma'am. Indeed it does."



* The late, great Isaac Asimov, one of the Professor's literary heroes, was in the habit of addressing his audience in this fashion.