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Bard of Pain (The Three Lands)

Bard of Pain (The Three Lands) - Dusk Peterson This story is very dark with its tale of betrayal. The story flips back and forth in time, making the story complex.Probably though the most telling part for me was the section where the Commander is questioned about why he invaded the other lands.Time, it seemed, was going backward. Quentin-Andrew could now see the scenes he had witnessed before – the wide arc of destruction growing narrow and yet more narrow, until it began to center on its origins: particular places, particular acts, particular men. The Great Peninsula no longer held any trade routes; this was due to the greediness of the Commander's troops, who plundered the goods of merchants. The Great Peninsula no longer possessed ambassadors or peace treaties; this was due to a peace oath that had been broken long ago by one of the Commander's emissaries. The Great Peninsula no longer contained mighty men and women, capable of upholding the law; their graves could be seen, or in some cases simply their bodies, when the Commander had not bothered to order their burial."This makes no sense." The Commander's voice wavered. "How could the gods punish me? What I did in the war, I did for their sake, to bring peace. War is evil – I always said that – but I had no choice in my methods. My enemies forced me—"... Quentin-Andrew looked over at the Commander. He was on his knees, hiding his eyes; he had not witnessed the final scene. "I had no choice," he whispered."No choice, sir?" Quentin-Andrew allowed his voice to take on a note of scorn. "You had no choice but to do what you did – is that what you are saying?"He waited. With any other man, he would have supplied the answer, but the Commander was capable of doing so on his own.The Commander's response was a long time in coming. Quentin-Andrew, shivering, wondered how many centuries were passing by. Finally the Commander said in a broken voice, "I could have retreated. I need not have continued the war. But if I had done that – if I had let Koretia exist under rulerless anarchy or if I had let Emor continue under a tyrant . . .""They would have been worse off than under your protection." The old excuse given by many a leader who blinds themselves to the consequence of their actions.The story is also about sacrifice, as the Lieutenant finally redeems himself by going down that road.