I'm very sorry I couldn't post this last night; my internet was down.
You’ve heard of the Ethelgarnians, of course. Cruel, evil people they are, slaughtering their enemy’s children and drinking the blood. Disgusting barbarians. They’ve no mercy, no compassion; they care for nothing but butchery. Their queen is the worst of them, ordering people tortured to death for her own amusement and eating the flesh of her enemies. It’s hard living in Solingia, sharing a border with those savages.
Fortunately, the good Solingians marched on Ethelgarnia, and vanquished those evil beasts. After all, everyone knows that good always defeats evil. The hero always wins, and the winner is always the hero. What kind of world would it be, if it were otherwise?
In truth it is only that the winner gets to tell the story. Even if the defeated is still around to give their side, who will credit it? The loser is the villain, and villains lie. And if tiny doubts stir in the back of minds, they’re quickly squashed. The victor had the power to defeat the loser, and the doubters don’t want to be next. Might really does make right, in the eyes of the world. So I’m not expecting you to believe my story, you who know that my entertainment consists of watching torture and my meals consist of your children. You know because King Parthus, ruler of Solingia and leader of the Solingian army, told you. He’s the good guy. He won. So it has to be true.
There were two sides, neither good or evil, just two countries who could have used more land. One of them attacked the other, long ago. In Ethelgarnia they say Solingia attacked first; in Solingia they say the opposite. It’s been hundreds of years since anyone was alive to remember, hundreds of years of attacking back and forth and seeing each other as enemies and believing the other evil.
It’s not that Solingia and Ethelgarnia were really much different. They were both about the same size, both had a coast and some mountains and cities and a whole lot of farmland, both were full of people who wanted pretty much the same kind of thing. The stories told in each were even the same, for the most part, and in both, the good guys always won.
That’s just background, though. Everything went on pretty much the same way for a few hundred years. Sometimes one of the countries would have more power, sometimes the other. Despite the rhetoric, nobody ever really thought one would wipe out the other.
It was bad, that last war. I doubt any were good, but I don’t think they can have been worse. When I close my eyes I see the aftermath of the Battle of Tremtiaen, all the bloody, broken bodies with those beautiful mountains standing over them, under a flawless blue sky. And when my eyes are open, when I’m in the middle of something else and not thinking about it at all, I’ll suddenly see a spray of blood or rotting corpses or any number of horrors from that war.
We lost. I guess you’ve gathered that by now, but I need to say it anyway. We lost. Not just the war, as we’d lost plenty of the other wars, but everything. I had ruled a good country. We’d had cities, farms, towns, fields. They led us past them, when they brought those of us who survived back in chains. There weren’t many who’d survived. They killed my people. That’s the worst of it, except maybe the fate of those of us they didn’t kill.
I don’t mean me, really. Sure, it was awful being marched across the country in chains, being displayed and sold and bought. I ruled Ethelgarnia, and now I’m considered someone’s property. I hate it, I can’t say how much I hate it, but I’m tough, and I can survive, and I got luckier that I’d have expected. It’s a long fall from ruling a country to being a merchant’s piece of property, responsible only for defeating dust, but it’s so much better than it could have been, and I don’t forget it for an instant. The worst of it for me is that I couldn’t protect my people. Even those who survived, who were chained to me as we were marched across the country…. The people of Ethelgarnia were alive and free, and it was my job to keep them that way, and I failed.
Not much of a story, really. No evil, baby-eating monsters. No deus-ex-machina come down at the last minute to ensure the hero wins. No happy ending.
I guess that’s how you can know it’s true.