Seal of Albrecht MarFrom Albrecht Mar of Tilyun—Royal Scribe and Royal Historian of the Court of the Castellonian Empire—writing to His Eminent Lord Cammen Castell III—Emporer of the Central Lands, King of Ten Thousand Kings, Liege Lord of the Castellonian Empire—on this, the 17th day of the Silona (17.8), in the 157th year of the Castellonian Era (157 c.e.), being 1126 years after the conclusion of the Ventian Era (1126 p.v.).

On the Question of Heroes

You have asked me, My Most Eminent Liege Lord, to write you concerning the journey I wish to undertake. While I hope its political and diplomatic benefits are satisfactory on their own merits, the true questions of this voyage are tied to history (as my position inclines me) and philosophy. I have spent much time researching the history of heroes, and I believe our common mistakes in discussing heroism lead to questions well worth asking.

The first great misstep we often make is believing that heroes are the foundation of the world. Often, histories are told with only the mention of great men who led movements or armies or kingdoms, while little mention is made of the things these men led. In truth, even the greatest among us are but a weak force in the creation of the world. Heroes are made of the same flesh, blood, and bone as the rest of us. They are toppled by steel and spellwork. Their mightiest plans are felled by sickness and storm and momentary lust. When they die, even kings are laid to rest and make that final descent to dust with the aid of nothing but heavy time.

Perhaps it is merely easier to believe that a few great men created the world around us. It gives a comfort, for those who believe themselves capable of heroism may then believe the world within their control, while those who think of themselves as simple people may rest more easily, comforted by the knowledge that these great men will continue to move the wheels of history onward in a direction determined by choice rather than chance.

Surely, the wise among us know that history cannot be controlled so simply. The inevitability of death, sickness, and decay will overpower even the mightiest of humankind. Control, it seems, is so far from our grasp that the very notion of heroism is mere wishful thinking.

And yet we must pause. For the second great misstep we often make is to believe that there are no heroes.

Would the Saga of Ventius have been written and proclaimed had Ventius never taken up his sword? Would the Ralbani Empire have formed without Emperor Imsech dreaming of his armies taking to the world like locusts to a field? Would today’s Castellon have sprung up from the earth of its own accord had the founder of your own royal lineage not been present to slay the Shadow Dragon, overthrow the old tyrants, and unite the people?

Surely not. It is poor thinking to believe that heroes have no influence. While they may have no ability to weave the strands of fate in a tapestry of their own precise choosing, all humankind is able to tug at those strands. Heroes are those who pull most strongly, and who sway others to pull alongside them.

I believe that heroes do not create history. Rather, history creates heroes. Some may believe heroes exist only in legend and never in the earthy dryness of our present lives, while others claim that, in the final balance, heroes carry the weight of wind. But a mighty wind can carry vast fleets. Enough air can sway the tides. Thunder, being but a heavy burst of air, can crack through stone.

When you ask for word on the specifics of what I seek, I must speak plainly: I seek the truth of heroes.

I do not think you ignorant of the stories of the Lotus Wars. You are, after all, a great student of history. And as you well know, the world was shaped, for better and worse, by the lengthy chaos of that conflict. Today’s skirmishes and alliances, along with tomorrows strategems and betrayals, seem to be dragged toward us by a chain whose links were forged in the fires of those battles. The stories of those years, while now more than a century old, seem to moving through history like ripples from a single stone spreading across a great lake.

Yet what of the war itself? Of the myths and rumors we have, what shall we trust? What old loyalties may still remain? Is it more than mere myth that immortality was on the line? Why did the war conclude in that seemingly incomprehensible blaze?

To find these answers, I feel I must pursue the question of heroes, for I find myself drawn irresistibly to the story of the one they called “White Silk.” What little is known is not known for certain. Most sources are unreliable, most narratives coming from folk legends or speculative histories. Yet so many of these stories agree in saying White Silk was not merely the catalyst that began the war, but the hero around which the famous Defender’s Army gathered and the one who ended the fighting for good.

Is it true? What unknown power gave one person so much sway in a war that involved tens upon tens of thousands? What conspiracy of chance and fate could lead a single person to carry so much weight upon their young shoulders? And of all the people history could have selected for the role of hero, why would it choose a young girl from a place all sane people had abandoned?

Helman Loth’s Chronicles of the Lotus Wars, along with Northmage archives on a variety of related topics, have proved invaluable to me in researching this topic from afar. Now, I feel it is time to journey to the Westlands to discover the truth of these stories for myself. In so doing, I aim to bring clarity to these histories, re-affirm old alliances, open new space for diplomacy, and unearth what remnants of military and arcane knowledge may still be found on those old battlefields, buried under a layer of myth and metaphor.

Yet the greatest and truest of my desires is this: To follow in the footsteps of White Silk, and in so doing, find my answers to what forces can forge this human clay into the steel of heroism—and what strange happenings of fate or chance or choice can transform an otherwise unremarkable life into the stuff of legends.

Let the journey begin.

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