Douglas Niles: Measure and the Truth

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Douglas Niles Measure and the Truth
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    Measure and the Truth
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Douglas Niles


Measure and the Truth

PROLOGUE

THE RISE OF SOLAMNIA

The very name bespeaks history, legend, and ancient glory: Solamnia.

It hearkens back to the Age of Dreams and a time that ushered in the Age of Light. It is a place named for a man of legend who was a general, a rebel, an emperor who became greater than any king.

Vinas Solamnus was that rarest of heroes, a master leader of men who recognized the wrongness of his own cause, and who changed from an agent of imperial power to a champion of right and virtue. In the changing, he formed his own nation, at first a branch of the mighty Empire of Ergoth, but eventually an empire in its own right.

Solamnus founded the order of knights who still bear his name and who served the creed he laid down for them, prescribed in the Oath and the Measure. Est Sularus oth Mithas — my honor is my life. Such was the founder, and such is the nature of any man who swears fealty to the Knights of Solamnia.

As the Age of Light became the Age of Might, the Knights of Solamnia became the best hope of the world, and waged a great struggle. Their triumph assured the survival of freedom, goodness, and mortal choice on the face of Krynn. A magnificent hero, Huma, proved the eternal truth and power bound up in the Oath and the Measure.

But in the wake of that war, beginning more than a dozen centuries before the start of our own story, that empire and that credo began to fracture. Facing forces of modernity and opposition on every side, the Solamnic Knighthood was driven into the shadows, blamed-wrongly! — for much of the wickedness in the world. The knights became outlaws, their cities and nations reduced to minor fiefdoms, the domains of warlords and petty dukes and merchants.

Through the Cataclysm and the long centuries of the subsequent Age of Darkness, the nation remained torn, its knighthood in disgrace and disarray. Again falsely accused, the Knights of Solamnia were driven into hiding, even hunted and killed. It was not until the return of the dragons, and the War of the Lance, that Solamnia’s long night began to brighten into day. Another hero for the ages, this time the knight Sturm Brightblade, led the order toward the birth of a new era.

But it was a violent and grisly birthing. The crown jewel of Solamnia, the city of Palanthas, was subjected to special scourging, as the Dragon Highlord Kitiara led a brutal attack resulting in terrible damage. Magical storms wracked the city, and a convulsive spell caused the Tower of High Sorcery-a landmark of Palanthas from before the city even existed-to vanish from the known world.

When the Dragon Overlord Khellendros laid claim to northern Ansalon, an area that included Palanthas, the city’s doom might have seemed all but assured. Yet somehow the citizens not only survived, but managed to prosper, through the trade that had always been Solamnia’s lifeblood. Khellendros was eventually slain, and the Dark Knights ruled the land for a time, but soon after the War of Souls ended, the Knights of Solamnia struck in concert, reclaiming the heartland of their ancient regime by 40 SC.

Even then the lands of the historic nation lacked a soul, a binding force. Under the ostensible mastery of Lord Regent Bakkard du Chagne, appointed by the High Council as the Solamnic master of Palanthas, the old cities were divided among noble knights deemed worthy of holding power. Caergoth, Solanthus, Thelgaard, Vingaard, and Garnet were all ruled as independent city-states. They were in no sense a united nation.

Du Chagne was a merchant prince, who displayed the fabulous wealth of his treasury in pure yellow ingots enchanted to glow magically from the windowed room at the top of a tower he called the Golden Spire. Content to amass wealth in Palanthas, he let alone the cities on the plains, and the ruling dukes did as they pleased…

Until a new threat to the peace on those plains appeared in the form of a half-giant barbarian named Ankhar, who called himself The Truth. Ankhar was the tool of an evil god, Hiddukel, the Prince of Lies, but he did not see that he was not his own master. Born in the Garnet Mountains, Ankhar gathered a horde of goblins, ogres, draconians, and the like, and in 42 SC he emerged from his lofty heights to lay waste to the plains in a war that raged for nearly three years. Garnet and Thelgaard were sacked, and Solanthus was subjected to a siege of more than a year’s duration.

Then at last a leader who would reforge the ancient realm emerged. Jaymes Markham was not a man of noble ancestry; he bore no claim to the blood of kings or dukes. Yet he was a true leader of men and a general of surpassing skill. He was aided by the discovery of an explosive compound, a black powder he used with considerable effectiveness on the battlefields of Solamnia. He was aided, too, by a young mistress of magic, a prodigy of a wizard who embraced the cause of Solamnia and fought steadfastly at his side. Coryn the White was her name.

They became lovers, and they might have even been in love, once. But the man who would rule a nation discovered a higher calling. Jaymes Markham married Selinda du Chagne, the Princess of Palanthas and daughter of the Lord Mayor. Through her, he claimed rule-and gained access to her father’s nearly unlimited funds. There seemed to be none to challenge him.

As the lord marshal of all the Solamnic armies, Jaymes Markham waged war against the invader, and proved that The Truth was, in fact, a hollow lie. Slowly, at great cost in blood and treasure, the humans and their allies drove Ankhar’s barbarians back to the hinterlands. The three orders of the knights-the Rose, the Crown, and the Sword-served one master at last and finally defeated the invading horde in the Battle of the Foothills, a memorable day-long clash on the northeastern fringe of the Garnet Range.

With this costly victory, the last vestiges of ducal power were broken. The knights on the battlefield acclaimed their Lord Marshal as greater than any noble in their time. He became the master of all the elder nations of Solamnia-those that still flourished after the cataclysms-and he wove those lands into an empire, with himself firmly seated upon the emperor’s throne.

CHAPTER ONE

THE EMPEROR RIDES

It was important to be seen.

Jaymes understood this principle of command from his days as a sergeant of the line. To lead, one had to be observed in action, accepting the same risks as the men under his leadership. Once, he had practiced this principle as a captain of the Rose Knights, back when serving as Lord Lorimar’s aide de camp. As Lord Marshal, he had made certain all the men in his four armies knew his face.

As the emperor, he would see to it that the people of his empire knew him as well.

So it was that, even as his army gathered outside the gates of Palanthas, planning and preparing for a new campaign, he took the time to ride through the streets of the great city. He had a personal guard of one hundred men, the Freemen, who would all have been honored to accompany him, but he did not require such a display just then. Instead, he would present the face of courage… and calm. With but a single man-at-arms, the loyal and capable Sergeant Ian, riding at his side, the emperor, astride his white stallion, slowly promenaded through the streets of Palanthas. It was not a horse he would ride on campaign, but it was splendid for show. He made his way from his palace, a new structure that loomed over the city’s great central plaza, through the bustling mercantile districts, past the villas of nobles and merchants.

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