Soldier, Sailor, Scholar, King

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I, being of sound mind and memory, declare this to be my final confession.

In the first century of my life, I was Sokanis the soldier.
I was not born, as most are. I was created in the dark laboratories of the Avaron Empire to fight the worst war history has ever known. These days it is commonly called the War in Heaven, a title drenched in blood. In those dark days my siblings and I were not called upon to fight Legions, but rather to battle the horrors already spawned by the war. The Beast of Faces, the Shadow Horsemen and Frost Giants, the Eater of Gods—things that should never have seen the light of day, but were unleashed as weapons anyway. It fell to us, the later children of the War in Heaven, to unmake the hubris and folly of our creators. They made me to die, but I survived.

In the second century of my life, I was Sokanis, a tinker.
The War in Heaven ended with ruin for so many, yet I emerged alive and unscathed, after a fashion. I left the army and kept a low profile, working and learning whatever I could. This may have been the hardest century, because I was not prepared for a world at peace. I struggled, I fled from place to place, I stole when I needed to. But I only needed to look after myself, and after some decades I finally had enough skills to be useful. I could fix a clock, work a forge, patch boots, and a thousand other tasks besides. So I accrued knowledge, experience, and coin.

In the fourth century of my life, I became Siruun the Sailor.
Wanderlust gripped me then, and I moved south to the seas. I served aboard first a privateer's ship and then a merchantman, plying the trade routes of the Thousand Islands over and over again. With a shrewd eye and some luck, I earned my first true fortune there, trading first timber and grain and eventually tea, rum, and spices. By the time I returned to the mainland, I was wealthy and knew the Thousand Islands better than the back of my hand, but more important to me was what I could do with my wealth: learn the arts of scientists before me, and discover new knowledge to teach to others.

In the fifth century of my life, I became Qaleta the Scholar.
No longer did I wander or travel to practice my trade. I could afford to attend the most prestigious centers of learning, and slowly master higher mathematics, each of the sciences, and every language still spoken. I made a name for myself as a scholar. It was not a major name, and that helped me. Even as the lives of Imperial subjects worsened and the Empire became crueler, I was able to evade the full hammer of hatred and discrimination by being valuable in my field but utterly unremarkable in wider interest.
I was happy to preserve my life, lifestyle, and reputation for a thousand years, ignoring the way those as long-lived as myself perpetuated their empire of excess, ignoring its decadent rot. Dozens of human generations passed in injustice.

In the fifteenth century of my life, I became Qaleta the Oathbreaker.
As the Empire I was born to die for invaded the lands it had once held as mere tributaries, rebellion broke out. Though I supported the rebellion, I was bound by sacred oaths to never raise arms against the Throne. Yet as rivers once again ran red with blood at the Empress' orders, and the war became the worst since the one that birthed me, I could not simply stand by. With the lives of millions on the line, I gathered my resources and knowledge to aid those I already knew were acting in secret to overthrow the Throne. We succeeded, by the breaking of blood-bonds and other betrayals, and brought low an empire that could not be brought low by anything save for the many armies of its own power-hungry lords hoping to become the new Emperor. Though many of my friends and co-conspirators were caught and killed, I saw our damnation through.

In the sixteenth century of my life, I became Sokanis the Warlord.
As the empire I had once served broke apart under the weight of warlord ambitions, I was lauded by some and hunted by others. Loyalists burned my school and my home, and I fled for my own life and those of my students as they pursued me. In time, I came into the grace of a prince-turned-king who offered me absolution and sanctuary if I served him. Valnelis trusted me despite my broken oath, because he understood why I had broken it and believed I had done the right thing. His trust, his respect, was… intoxicating. At his command, I once again took the name I had worn as a soldier, and wielded an army to battle other would-be kings and seizers of power. I was not alone; there were four of us, his lieutenants to wage war where he would or could not. So I was a Lord of Estea, carving out and expanding the realm for my king.

In the seventeenth century of my life, I became Sokanis the Butcher.
Twice the city of Ionagad had made war on Estea, and twice we brokered peace. But the third time, there could be no peace. Ionagad found and used weapons from the War in Heaven I thought lost and forgotten. They were the least of all of the great weapons, mere colossi of fire and metal, but they meant much the same intent as if Ionagad had unsealed and unleashed the God-Eater itself: there would be no lasting peace, nor could there be. They aimed for nothing less than our complete subjugation. It fell to me, the one among Valnelis' lords who knew these weapons and how to defeat them, to protect Estea in its entirety. The weight of my responsibility was no more than what I had borne before, yet it seemed all the heavier, and this drove me to darker strategies. I am not proud of how I waged the war, for there could be no peace treaty that did not invite another betrayal and invasion in the future. Then, in the ashes of Ionagad, I gained a reputation as Valnelis' butcher, his final sanction when all other lieutenants failed. That I spared all I could, offering safe haven to any who would leave and incorporating Ionagad as fairly as my king permitted, did not absolve me of the crime of breaking a proud city and grinding it into servitude.
I regret this century, more than any other save the eighteenth.

In the eighteenth century of my life, I became Sokanis the Destroyer. A pariah.
When the Thousand Islands fell into civil war, I was sent to aid the royal houses who had sworn alliance with Estea. At first I was merely evening the odds, providing strength and acumen enough to assist the admirals who had asked for my help. But one lord sensed that the tide was still against us, and took a deal to betray us in exchange for amnesty and titles. When she betrayed and killed my own trusted subordinates, my friends, I lost myself. I burned her islands to ash, telling myself it was to deny my enemy resources, to weaken them and then rebuild once the war was won. I extended this practice elsewhere, and it did win us the war. I even rebuilt everything that I destroyed. But all of it, all of it, was merely to rationalize revenge. To convince myself that I was better than the monsters that made me. Even as forgiving as he was, Valnelis would have had me exiled had he learned the true measure of what I did, the full extent of my immolating wrath. Yet in rebuilding afterward, I convinced others, I almost convinced myself, that I could be forgiven.
I should never have returned to the Thousand Islands. I should have thrown myself to the seas.

In the nineteenth century of my life, I became Sokanis the Architect.
We finally had a measure of peace, after centuries of strife. I could finally turn my authority to something beneficial, to atone for the simple sin of war. I built, at times with my own hands, aqueducts, schools, libraries, and roads. Slowly, over many years, I redeemed my reputation. It was also then that I funded scientists and scholars in their researches, never to create new weapons but only to improve the lives of the common folk and increase prosperity.

In the twentieth century of my life, I became known as Sokanis the Scientist.
Though I had long practiced the sciences, and favored the use of knowledge over force even as a leader of armies, it was not until I had already served Valnelis for almost half a millennium that my other epithets faded and I was defined by my support of intellectuals. Again I settled into my pattern of academia. I dreamed of making a better tomorrow, not just for myself, but for everyone.

In the twenty-second century of my life, Valnelis died without an heir.
By all means, he should have had an heir. But he considered each of his lords, even his own daughter, lacking. I will never know whether he was on the verge of a decision when he died, or if he simply did not care what happened, but it plunged Estea into civil war. Princess Amzira, by right of blood and seniority second only to my own, took the throne, but there were challengers. One in particular raised armies to march on our capital and seize the throne by force, laying waste to all that tried to stop him. Whatever I tried, I could not stop it all from crashing down as bandits and rebels alike destroyed my projects. My dream of a better tomorrow died on a pyre of burned books. Even Amzira's victory could not preserve Estea, which continued to fracture like the bloody Avaron Empire before it. My will to fight was broken then; I refused to take part in further bloodshed, and abdicated my own lordship, my own name, rather than retake rebel territories by force. I faked my death, and became Qaleta the Wanderer.

In the twenty-eighth century of my life, I became Qaleta the Wise.
I wandered for a long time. But again I stopped my travels for a while, and founded a new academy. I taught reading, writing, arithmetic, and the sciences of biology and chemistry. Thousands of students came under my tutelage, and I ensured that each left me with knowledge that they in turn could teach to others. I finally put my own personal knowledge to use. In time, word of my academy spread. I became revered by some, respected by others, and simply known of by everyone else.

In the thirtieth century of my life, I became a father.
I have sired some children across the lengthy span of my life, but they… none of them survived until adulthood, despite my efforts. I had given up on being a parent, until I fell in love one last time. But there were complications, as there always are when I am involved, and my wife did not survive. It is pathetic that I have so much knowledge and power at my disposal, yet once again I could not save a single life. What use is power to influence the entire world if I cannot save one person from basic nature? But our child survived, and I raised her as best as I could. I would fight to the end of the world for her sake. I do not think she likes me much anymore, but that is because of my crimes, not how I raised her. I accept this scorn, and I deserve it, but I am glad she is well..But I do love you, dad. I don't blame you. I wish you could see that.

Now, in the thirty-second century of my life, I am an atoner.
I do not care what name I bear, for each has committed crimes that cannot be forgiven, nor undone. I wish nothing more than that I could travel back and stop myself committing them in the first place, but I know I never will. Each day, I try to improve the life of at least one person, not because it can wipe away my guilt but because I have no right to plague this world any longer if I do not. But, regardless of what I do each day, it seems that time has finally caught up with me, for I was never meant to be immortal. I was made to die: surviving was my first failure, one that I will finally correct. I do not ask for redemption, only that I am remembered for all I have done. I leave everything still in my possession to my daughter. Now I go to greet Death for the last time, and face its final judgement..Dad, please—come back.

I have done enough.

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