Summary: Three years ago, in the poor country of Corando, a star fell from the heavens. The young glassblower’s apprentice who found it had it encased in glass. People wondered whether that star might be the key to unlocking supernatural powers or bringing about miracles. But when a criminal took the lives of a king, a queen and many other people in a neighboring country overnight, then disappeared, and noone could determine just how the massacre had been possible, the king and queen of Corando feared that the culprit would come for the star next, leaving more destruction and terror in his wake.
9-year-old Isadoa is a sickly orphan who, thanks to the massacre, has lost everything. But she is a dreamer who hopes to turn her life around by proving herself worthy of being named an elite knight - a ke-sweii. With the help of friends who have the same dream and some magic, will Isadoa be able to stand up and save her country and those of her friends from further destruction?
On the continent of Ruhenan, across Lake Sakamuraya from Corando, lay Mareydland. For centuries now, Mareydland had been one of the wealthiest and most powerful nations on the continent. To this day, its affluence and military might were rivaled only by its brother country and neighbor Uniosen, which lay south of Mareydland, on the other side of the vast Fitana River.
Mareydland was a hilly country, lushly forested, full of the small rivers and streams that had branched out from Fitana, and rich in marshlands. The climate was humid; the weather could range from warm to hot, but the air was always damp. Economically, the climate, terrain and soil had led Mareydland to rely mainly on rice and silk cultivation, the raising of livestock, hunting, fishing, lumbering, control of the waterways and shipbuilding. Still, towns and cities had formed alongside the rural communities, and Hisui City, the kingdom city of Mareydland, was the largest and the second-oldest of them all.
It was in Hisui City that King Akil Shan Ragama resided. On the day on which this story begins, he stood out on the balcony of the royal palace, hands behind his back, staring off into the horizon without truly seeing it. He was an old man, somewhere between sixty and seventy years of age, short-statured, slight of build, white-haired, bearded, wrinkled and brown. His garb was rather plain and modest, consisting only of a blue woolen robe and a matching skullcap, both of which had been embroidered with large, white crescent moons in honor of the symbol of Mareydland, the moon. The simplicity of his dress was not unusual and would have surprised noone who was acquainted with him; after all, Ragama had long been renowned for his austerity and humility. More than that, his reputation had preceded his career as king, which was a little less than two years old now, and he was known - and loved - for being a passionate lover, protector and defender of his country.
“Let none of us speak or think in selfish terms, concerning himself only with his own needs, desires and affairs or those of his family,” Ragama had admonished his people publicly and privately, verbally and with his pen, amid the solemn murmurs of the ladies and men of court and the raucous cheers of adoring crowds of ordinary people. “We are all a single family - the people of Mareydland and all of those who love and are true to her. Because of our love for one another and for Mareydland, our hearts are as one - no, our hearts ARE one!”
Ragama began to pace the balcony. After a minute or two of this, he slowed, came to a stop, and sighed. He was the king of just one land, but recent troubles had made him feel as though the weight of an entire continent were resting on his thin old shoulders. Gazing off into the distance once again, he shook his head and repeated to himself the words that he’d spoken to his people countless times.
“All a single family - the people of Mareydland… and all of those who love and are true to Mareydland, as well. Those words taste sweet on the tongue. But the history of our relationships with Corando, Tangeii and Uniosen has been more bitter than sweet.”
Mareydland had found itself at war with its neighboring countries many times throughout the years. Corando was a poor country, heavily reliant upon its trade with its wealthier neighbors, Mareydland and Uniosen in particular. In the wake of the assassination of King and Queen Shan Sitsuke, Ragama had perceived that he might have cause for concern regarding the Fallen Star of Corando. If its origins were, as many wise men suspected they were, supernatural, Ragama feared that it could be used as a powerful weapon. A person who was hotheaded, arrogant and power-mad enough to weaponize this object would most certainly doom Corando and Mareydland, if not the entire continent, to the horrors of a new war.
With this concern in mind, about a year into his rulership, Ragama had attempted to negotiate with Corando over the Fallen Star.
“I fear,” he had written to the king, “that the possession of an extremely powerful weapon by a country that has become a dear friend to Mareydland, the object of her respect, love and trust and a close trade partner to her would, in light of past hostilities that existed only decades ago - recently enough for me to be able to recall them and the pain and grief that they had brought us all, albeit only as clearly as an old man who remembers his boyhood can be expected to - cause our still-young love and friendship to lose some of its ardour, to be forgotten, even, by reckless and unscrupulous minds and hearts and replaced with haughtiness, resentment and violent covetousness. Moreover, it is the belief of Mareydians that the hearts of people who love one another are as one.
“There is no room, then, for one Ruhenanian country to cling to and proclaim ownership of an object that is believed to have been sent down by the Maker of us all. I implore you to allow Mareydland to house the Fallen Star. Mareydland is one of the strongest nations on the continent and is also one of Corando’s closest friends. There exists no better country to which to entrust the keeping, guarding and defending of the Star.”
King Raajin had written back to claim that he had had the Fallen Star destroyed out of fear that Shizuki might attempt to attack Corando for it. Ragama had not been convinced of the truthfulness of his story, and unease had begun to fester between the two countries. Not long after this exchange, however, something had happened that had caused the tension to thicken. Corando and Uniosen had begun to discuss the forging of an alliance through marriage.
King Nagashi Shan Matt of Uniosen had insisted that his 17-year-old son Salmaan and 16-year-old Princess Hatya Shan Raajin of Corando had met and developed feelings for one another not long ago, but Ragama had never heard anything about a formal courtship prior to all of the talk of marriage. He could not see what a country that was as prosperous as Uniosen was would have to gain by allying itself with Corando, so perhaps Salmaan really had taken a liking to Hatya. On the other hand, Mareydland and Uniosen, though they were often referred to as brother countries, had been enemies in several long and bloody wars in the past. Ragama could only see this abrupt move towards marriage and an alliance as a prelude to the weakening of relations between Corando and Mareydland and, subsequently, to Corandian obduracy towards Mareydland, especially regarding the matter of the Fallen Star. All of this could only end in warfare.
Once again, Ragama had appealed to Raajin, and he had also appealed to Nagashi, requesting the cessation of all talk of an alliance and warning of the international discomfort and distrust that such an alliance would create. His requests had been ignored. As a last resort, Ragama had offered to arrange a marriage between one of his sons and Princess Hatya, but his offer had been declined. Every attempt at diplomacy on Ragama’s part had failed, and the Uniosen-Mareydian wedding was to be formalized a week from this day.
Ragama had gone out onto the balcony in the hopes that the fresh air would help him to clear his mind and put his thoughts in order. Still staring off into the horizon, he stroked his beard and conversed aloud with himself.
“If this so-called alliance between Uniosen and Corando should be solidified, the influence that Mareydland enjoys as a valuable trade partner of Corando may - no, certainly will - be weakened. We’ll be unable to make use of that influence to obtain Corando’s cooperation regarding the Fallen Star or ensure the continuation of friendly relations between us. As for Uniosen - it has always been a competitor to Mareydland. It is as if it would please the Unioseines to see our quest for peace and unity end in failure."
He paused. "I have no desire to go to war with either country. I wish for the friendship and cooperation between Corando and Mareydland to continue to exist. A war would cause the loss not only of Corandian and Unioseine lives, but of Mareydian lives, as well. The loss of the life of even one person whose heart is true to Mareydian is one loss too many. But the behavior of Corando and Uniosen has made trouble inevitable. Above all else, the Mareydian people deserve to live without fear of the horrible consequences of Corandian obstinacy and Unioseine pugnacity.
"With the nuclear weapon we’ve purchased from Reitezel, we have the power to deal out damage to either Corando or Uniosen without sending Mareydian men out to fight and die. And yet - my aim is not to kill or dethrone the king of Uniosen, nor do I want to take the lives of countless innocent people in order to make a point to him or to Corando, least of all when they haven’t yet declared war. The longer that I reflect on this conflict, the more certain I become of the need for a preemptive strike. But that strike need not and must not be against Corando directly - not if it involves the weapon of mass destruction. By bringing destruction to Corando, we put our chances of locating the Fallen Star at risk. If we can get Uniosen in check, however, Corando is sure to lose its nerve and will also fall in line.”
Ragama now knew what he must do, and, though the weight had been lifted from his mind, his heart was heavy. Slowly, he turned to head for the inside of the palace.
“What is needed is a symbolic strike on Uniosen. Just as an older brother strikes his younger brother with a bundle of reeds not to harm him, but to teach him what is right, in spite of the fact that it grieves the older one to do so, so Mareydland must chasten its brother as a warning and restore peace to Ruhenan.”