The Vellum Citadel was a huge structure, designed both as a repository of knowledge and as fortification against assault. It had stood for centuries, created and guarded by a circle of mages known as the “School of Ink and Quill,” carving it out of the very mountains themselves. The scholars claimed to pay homage to Kyros, but it was long past time to prove their loyalty or suffer the consequences.

Sirin, the Scarlet Chorus’ Archon of Song, used her power to enthrall some of the mages who stood watch from the tall Citadel parapets, convincing them to join our cause. One by one they emerged from hidden passages and tunnels, right into the waiting arms of the Disfavored. They did not want the entranced wizards to reveal hidden and dangerous knowledge to the Scarlet Chorus, and so began executing them immediately. As punishment for thinking so low of Kyros’ other army, and their sense of right and wrong, I ordered several prominent Disfavored soldiers be permanently stationed as the Archon of Song’s personal bodyguards. The mages had sworn to join the Scarlet Chorus, willingly or not, and our tradition was always to allow them their conscripts.

Shortly thereafter many new Scarlet Chorus recruits rose up against their bosses in open rebellion. The army’s leadership quelled the upstarts, but the Disfavored pointed to this event as yet another example of the Archon of Song’s ability to cause chaos. The Scarlet Chorus countered that the “Rite of Command” was a proper and respected ritual, designed to ensure only the most able had positions of responsibility. I came down hard on them, while attempting to respect their traditions – our reinforcements were weeks, if not longer, behind and we needed every able-bodied soldier at the fore, not squabbling among themselves. Resentfully the Rite of Command was put on hold for the duration of the campaign.

After months of siege warfare, it seemed our generals had underestimated our scholastic enemies. Expecting to be able to take the library by force, or at least through attrition, it seems the mages had spent years or even decades preparing for an assault of this kind, and were better-prepared to survive than we were. Food and morale dwindled among the troops in equal measure, when a private missive from Tunon arrived.

Kyros himself had grown weary of the stalemate and had devised an Edict of Fire for use against the library. His Edicts were legendary, spells of almost limitless power, having been used to raise the dead, turn rain to acid, enchant whole countrysides, even reduce mountains to sand. That he felt it necessary to issue an Edict in this campaign spoke either very poorly of the army commanders, or very well of me, in that it was Tunon’s direction that I myself utter the words which would bring ruin upon the treasonous library.

Able and willing to perform the task set upon me, the only question was whether to give the enemy quarter – a chance to prepare for and possibly atone for what fury they had wrought. I rose early in the morning and prepared to cast the Edict; these scholars had plenty of opportunity to submit. No more chances. The Scarlet Chorus proclaimed that their spies inside the library would die without a warning, but I knew that giving the mages a chance to counter the Edict was not a chance I could take.

Opening the steel scroll-case as the new sun rose behind the Citadel, I began reading the Edict of Fire aloud, focusing Kyros’ imprinted will upon the library fortress. The earth shook and red-orange light glowed in the foundation of the sprawling building. Bubbling up from under the structure, a torrent of lava heaved with explosive force, gushing from the windows and between loose bricks, melting steaming and smoldering trenches in the surrounding land. The mages inside woke to smoke and fire – too late to mount a defense. Only a scant handful managed to escape as their former home collapsed about them.

The survivors were put to the sword.

Destroying the library was an undisputed loss of resources, knowledge, culture, and life. Unimagined secrets would have been opened unto us, had the armies been able to succeed. With the reading of the Edict however, a message had been sent not only to the dying mages inside their towers, but to the whole of the peninsula itself – defiance would not be tolerated, whatever the cost.