This is the prologue to a new story that popped into my head. As you can tell from the title, I don’t know what to call it yet, but I do love the main character. Came about from a series of audiobooks I was listening to.
My coming has long been foretold. Or rather, my return. No one predicted my coming the first time. Not very surprising, since I was the orphaned son of farmers. I know, I know, clichéd beginnings and all. Not that my parents died from anything noble. Common pneumonia, caught during a slightly worse than normal winter. And as for the farmer bit, well, there’s a lot more of us farmers than there are nobles. Stands to reason some of us are going to make a go at things.
I did, and a damn good go I made of it too. Looting, pillaging, winning battles, sacking cities, it was a grand old time. I even got given the title Bloodaxe by one of the cities I destroyed. I rather liked the imagery of it, and began to sign it as my name. It was a great piece of propaganda.
Time passed, and after a while I got bored with sacking. You see, the problem is if you sack a city, it gets mostly destroyed, and doesn’t make any money for a long time. But if you capture a city, and tax it, why, it makes money every year. So I overthrew a couple feudal lords, bundled their lands up into a nice little kingdom, and settled in as a monarch.
I never got too settled, of course. Got to keep the neighbours on their toes and weak. But after a while I got a bit older, and decided my son needed seasoning. So he took over the raiding for me. Kid’s got the nickname Forkbeard. Not quite as spectacular as my title, but he does have a damn fine beard. Took after his dad in all kinds of ways, but mostly in the fine family tradition of pillage and plunder.
So, Junior’s taking care of the military, I’m running the place (I named it Rudvic, after my old mum), and some prat shows up and says I’m going to be killed in a coup and return when the kingdom once again needs a great military leader. Me being a kind and gentle monarch, I have one of the guards punt him out the castle gate.
Of course, this silly bugger of a preacher decides he’s going to keep running his mouth about my coming doom. Now, most of the populace has the good sense to treat him like the nutter he was, but some of them actually believed him. Thinking back on it now, I should have had all of that lot slain for being gullible idiots.
I was nice and didn’t, although that was partly because all those gullible idiots started treating me like I was some kind of warrior saint who watched over the kingdom in times of need. I failed to point out that twenty years earlier, the kingdom hadn’t existed, and I had formed it by beating some nobles over the head with my axe until they wrote me into their last will and testament. Which I made sure got executed. Immediately.
Even I have my limits though, and when the prat didn’t shut up after several reminders, I had him nailed to the castle gate. Upside down. Silly bugger kept preaching right up until the moment he died. And given the coup happened about six months after he was killed, and it was Forkbeard who did it, well, maybe I should have listened a little closer. And paid attention to the fact my son really didn’t fall very far at all from the family tree. Took after dear old Dad just a little too closely there.
So, now I’m hanging around, wondering which god it was I nailed to the castle gates, and when he’s going to let me get off my ass and do a little victorious returning. Of course, I’m not sure which kingdom I’m going to be returning to. Mine fell apart in petty squabbles after my son proved he was as crap as a monarch as he was as good as a fighter. And now the lands are all bits and pieces of baronies and earldoms and ducal courts, and there’s fourteen civil wars carried on at any one time and five of them only using assassins and spies.
I thought I was ruthless, but these rulers today? They’ve made punitive taxation into an art form. Even some of the demons I run across around here are impressed. Bringing back my old style of pillage and plunder would probably be a boon to the ordinary peasants. At least I was one once.
Anyway, enough wittering on from this old fart of a warrior king. But you’ll hear from me again. I’ll come back, and when I do there’s going to be a rocking party. I can’t wait.
There are times I wish a man well, and times when I wish him poorly. But most days, I do not wish a man anything, for I know him not. Instead, I walk my own way, a way that is solitary, and in that loneliness I find comfort, for I know that no other can be as alone as I am. Thus I am the saddest of my kind, and all others above me.
Yet in that sadness I find company, for many others walk the ways of sadness with me. They do not walk beside me, no, nor do they often cross my path, but I can sense their sadness in the air about me, in the muted ripples of a shallow pond, in the last whisper of a leaf as it falls from the tree. It is a comforting touch, a gift that matches my loneliness stride for stride, and one that I share with others.
For that is the gift of loneliness – it brings sadness, but in that sadness is company and a grace found in no other place. Tragic figures we are called, and pitied by all who bestow glances upon us, but that tragedy gives us meaning, gives us stature. Otherwise, my companions and I, lonely and sad as we are, would have no meaning.
Perhaps we do not, at that. But leave us our illusions. We cherish our only children.
Now, you may not have noticed because I’ve been fairly quiet about it, but Breaking an Empire came out late last week. It’s a novella that details much of the backstory of Bedwar Barthu Dirio, and the war that built the kingdoms seen in Tarranau. I absolutely adored writing it, and, if I may, I shall quote an earlier post that I wrote when I finished the story.
Breaking an Empire was a short story I set out to write to bring Unfolding a New Continent up to the word limit I wanted it to be at before I started editing. It was supposed to be 25,000 words of backstory as to why the two main kingdoms of The Four Part Land hate one another so much. Effectively, it was a longer take on those history segments over on the main page. It turned out quite differently than that, for me. Oh, the story went where it was supposed to. I couldn’t change that without rewriting the setting. But I didn’t expect the six characters to mean this much to me. Every other time I’ve finished a longer piece of work I’ve been happy. It feels like a great accomplishment, and then with a little polish it’ll be great. This… this feels a little more like a loss, like closing the chapter on something that shouldn’t quite yet be over.
30,000 words from when I introduced them, here is the conclusion to the story of Rhyfelwyr, Locsyn, Taflen, Gwyth, Llofruddiwr, and Rhocas. I will miss them.
I really enjoyed writing these characters. So much so, that when the opportunity came, I wrote this, and brought these old Veryan soldiers back. I had to. I missed writing them so much I was willing to tweak the plot of books 5 and 6 of The Four Part Land series to make sure they could reappear. And, so, like the story says, the boys will be be back.
Now, on to the giveaway!
This one is pretty simple. All you have to do is buy a $0.99 copy of Breaking an Empire and forward the email receipt to jamestallett AT thefourpartland DOT com. The first 20 people to do so will receive free electronic copies of Tarranau, the first novel in the epic fantasy series Tales of The Four Part Land. Or you can just subscribe to the newsletter from over there on the left. Either way, you get an epic fantasy novel with multiple five star reviews for nothing! So why wait?