It is a cold day as General Leanun Harius stares at the frozen waters surrounding his camp, he sits at the precipice of a decision – to move towards the south; long regarded as forbidden – or to winter his remaining army here. It is not an easy decision to make. Out in the woods, he knows that the eyes of the Truth lay upon him, but if they remain here – then their food supplies will dwindle and they – the entirety of CIREN – will turn on each other. The General sighs wearily, his overcoat shifting on a emaciated form, before returning to camp. This day will get worse, the sightings of Truthers in the surrounding hills has all but confirmed it.
We see here a General, a military leader and man from a long tradition of the same, contemplating his next move. Harius was a strong statesman and a brilliant military commander, but he lacked the two qualities that would’ve made for a better outcome. He wasn’t patient, and he wasn’t using any foresight.
Harius had proved himself well capable over the years and his victories in the field were talked of around the tables of noted individuals – he was a masterful tactician to them – but we on the outside know that he had many failings as well. His military prowess paled in comparison to McCaffrey’s, and his love of worldly pleasures had led him to many poor decisions. (See Herra Lumino) In this way, Harius had failed his duties before, but now – at this crucial point – it was his frail ability to foresee possible outcomes that would take him and others to doom.
For you see, the General knew one thing well, and that was war. His every viewpoint was shadowed by this specter; he knew of tactics, martial strategies, attrition, siege, covert operations, and a great deal of many others – but he knew little of faith and what it can drive men to do. Simply put, he underestimated the Truthers’ desire to please their beliefs and so – based on his own faithlessness – he assumed victory. And why not? These were mostly civilians who had lived off the fat of the Oligarchy for so long that they couldn’t even hunt for themselves. Harius had a trained military with many experienced soldiers and operatives – he even had CIREN agents that had turned up alive from the frays. From this perspective, Harius was correct in assuming he would win, because he should have, but we will see that his decisions alone did not inform this loss and the subsequent collapse of CIREN – in fact, history indicates that Harius had little to do with it – it was a face from the spotted past that caused this end – a face of a friend and cohort, someone who had pledged themselves to CIREN in total.
The General is interrupted in his quarters, which stink of distilled liquor and bad wine. He eyes the door for a few minutes, then allows entry with a word. His aide does not seem too pleased to interrupt his superior either, but quickly glances at the charts on the desk anyhow. Sprawled engagement locations written in blue pencil and shaded with red dot the charts, Harius’s neat writing near each one indicating elevation and various other battlefield conditions. The aide nods and speaks a few words – most of which Harius doesn’t hear, his attention is drawn to a shadow behind his door – a tall and lanky figure cut to the uniform it is wearing. The General waves the figure in and then dismisses his relieved aide, the cold travels in with the figure – a man who was thought lost and written as dead. The General pours two drinks and raises on in his hand. The tide of this battle has now turned – or so he thinks. Muroka Vanderkien sits across from him, his uniform spiffed and cut to fit as in the old days, Harius places the charts in front of Agent 0 and proceeds to discuss strategy for an engagement in Azure Fields, near the final remaining statue of Lysander the Falcon. Vanderkien is his old, jovial self and takes the offered drink with gusto, they sip and discuss late into the night, until the fires around the camp wear down.
Here we see the first fatal mistake of the campaign to reach the South, Harius doesn’t dwell on the thought or idea that this Muroka isn’t all it seems, he never stops to recall the Dark Man’s shape-shifting or the strange magic wielded by the Truth. He sees an old and valued friend, not a farce, the General sees what is most needed for him and never thinks twice about its inherent convenience. Once more, Harius’s inability to understand faith and all it can cause, is ironically on display in this scene. He has utmost faith that this is his long lost Agent, back from the dead. But Harius has forgotten one major thing in the annals of his world’s history.
The Human Imperium
But before we dive too deeply into this aspect of our world, let us first discuss the things that have led Harius to this point and what – ultimately – brings about the Battle of Azure Fields. To do so, we must first take a look at the victories and defeats of the last Commandant General of CIREN. Let us begin with his earliest fronts and how he joined the eponymous oligarchy that he would one day lead.
Leanun Noller Harius was born unto Karia Leann Jadiver and Oliver Klein Harius sometime in the later third part of the summer season known as Alijad in the common tongue. The year was most likely either 17812 or 17813 EA. There is debate that the man may have been born earlier and was merely kept – like so many other children born into the Famine Years – as a last resort to maintain a genetic line. It would appear that his parents were capable of sustaining a decent living at this point as it would be at least 16 years until CIREN would debut its new food creation processors and end world hunger entirely. Unfortunately, as all of us in this era know, the records kept during the surge in population were terrible and do little to aid posterity in unfolding that particular time. But I digress, as is my wont as a historian.
Leanun joined the New CIREN shortly after his 18th birthday, leaving behind his family and allies from those mean times – probably in hope of the bright future CIREN emphasized. It was here that we see the man begin to grow into the legend that would become a name lasting for centuries and eons after death.
The first records of Leanun’s military activity are likewise spotty and sometimes unverified, however; it seems that as a basic grunt, the someday General was involved in many clandestine operations – most of which ended terminally for CIREN’s many political opponents. The records indicate that his soldiering was above the normal expectations but in no true way exceptional. Earning a few ranks from various and sundry operations, Leanun became known as a harsh and brutal soldier, able to survive in extreme circumstances and outliving many other – and more talented – squad mates. Perhaps it was this which led to his first command, or perhaps it was the need for willing and decent tacticians as The Strife began in earnest, regardless of the cause, Leanun became a commissioned officer and led the 54th Infantry Battalion, historically called the Thoroughbreds, into fame and infamy.
Leanun looks over the remnants of the battlefield, surveying the corpses – both unknown and known – that lay with arms about each other. Shaking his head and wincing as his broken shoulder sets with a grind, he sips on a cup of tea slowly. The sucking noise aids in forgetting the sadistic pain as the young officer replays the horrid events of the last week in his mind. Two CIREN battalions had met as civil comrades and turned on each other over only a few policies. There had been a disastrous battle front enacted. CIREN men and women had died in mass. The Major (for that was his rank of record) is confused and broken. These were his comrades in arms, soldiers he had respected – and yet – after all was said and the oaths taken – now he stood bloody and victorious over their deaths. Leanun explains his thoughts to one of his petty officers in great earnestness, hoping for a word or thought that would set the world right once more. He does not receive such, the officer only stares at him in fear and servitude – now afraid of the man that would soon be called ‘Butcher’ and ‘thorough disgrace’ by the Council of the Arc.
The battle it seemed, though unfavored by the sitting council of the times, would encourage an older and more experienced officer to grab the reigns of The Strife in one hand and the remnants of the old SEREN Corp in the other, before smashing them together and leaving only dust. That man was known at the time as “The Terror” and his ensuing activities would cement that reputation for all time to follow.
The Terror holds the article to his eyes, reading about the skirmish in the Nulin Woods and the battalion leader now called a butcher by those he serves. His voice cracks into the air of his mansion, drawing a ageing beauty to his side. A hand slaps the paper with practiced force, and he speaks slowly and well. " It’s a travesty this. A young soldier brought low by those he seeks to preserve – those damned fools in the COA. It’s a terrible shame that they use the military like scapegoats in these times – especially when this blasted Strife is all by their hand." The woman nods her head, long and red curls draping from her shoulder down. She has seen him like this before, she knows that her husband’s blood will boil and froth over injustice. His years in the field of war have granted him immunity from true rage, but they have similarly given him a judicious mind. She knows he cannot tolerate such blatant political hatred and she likewise knows – with an aching pain in her breast – that he will leave her once more for the field. In this way, the world will shiver, for The Terror has been awakened from its slumber, and her wedded name will strike fear into all. The drums of true war are beating in her ears, sadness not far behind.
The Terror stands before the fireplace, a figure of lithe grace and power honed by years of war. His eyes track through the photos on the mantle and settle on the aged armor of his father kept in continuity. There is a smudge on the print, she notices, and moves to clean it. Her husband’s hand comes up to her left breast. He moves to the print and breathes onto the engraving, then slowly wipes it away. She turns her body into his hand and holds him close by the arm, head on his shoulder layered in scars, then speaks to him.
“I love you Randall McCaffrey, and don’t you ever doubt it.”
The Terror would soon join the war after the Nulin Woods massacre, rising into a position of authority and ultimately becoming the Commandant – General of CIREN; ironically instituting the position that Harius would later hold due to Harius’ own mistreatment. The irony is palpable to any student of history. Soon McCaffrey, through a very clever use of law and earned favors, had put a bill forward that appointed a single military leader to handle The Strife. The Terror’s name was approved unanimously and Major Harius now found himself a national hero and held up to CIREN as a man of honor.
Harius would eventually come to understand that McCaffrey wanted to end all wars and ensure a militaristic peace – and on this they disagreed fervently. Harius wanted people and groups to pay for misdeed – whereas The Terror wanted accords and treaties that were binding. Regardless of this disagreement, the two met occasionally to discuss the state of things. It was one such meeting, in the balmy summer months, that would eventually lead to the Vandross Campaign and, afterwards, cement CIREN’s power until the Dark Man’s Rise 15 years later.During that time, both men became involved in the true nature of CIREN and what it had usurped from the previous throne and SEREN corps. Ulric had left behind vast notes about a place on their world – his dethronement was partially due to him appearing ‘mad’ – where the latticework of the universe met with what he called the ‘eye.’ CIREN knew this to be true, and had contracted Rio Airau – a scientist of some reknown – to explore the extent of these notes. Though Harius would not enter the halls of Herfled for many more years, his obsession began here. McCaffrey sought the old Auralite temple in the jungles to the North – believing them to be the key to discover the things that Ulric had hidden from others. Thus history unfolded and the Sarenestri – Muroka Vanderkien – was born from within the northern jungles, with the Agents by his side.