16

May

by thefourpartland

This is an excerpt from an upcoming Splintered Lands story titled Kingdoms in Conflict.

Galdere muttered and cursed and shouted at the soldiers that reported to him as they struggled to fit together the second of the lever-armed devices. The technologically-minded soldier still hadn’t come up with a name for his creation, but he would, eventually. It was hardly relevant at the moment. And most people just called them giant slings anyway, which was accurate enough. It was what he’d based them on, after all. Just using the power of nature to do the tossing, instead of the power of a human’s arm.

As they assembled the second of the devices, there was another team in the woods, hunting down appropriately shaped trees and limbs to be used to create a third. And to create more spare parts, which were in constant demand. There was now a second set of embankments around the giant slings, one facing outwards, in case of an enemy raid, and the other at the rear, with a low trench behind it. That was where everyone stood when the device was being fired. No one trusted it not to throw splinters all over the place. Especially not after it had almost taken the arm from one unlucky soldier. Still, the risks were worth it.

Nearby, Hálsung and Iudas stood watching the assembly process, occasionally turning when there was a thump from the more distant device. First to see if anyone had been killed, and second to follow the flight of the ball as it impacted into the wall or flew over into the town. Although it was clearly damaging the walls, progress was slow, much to slow for the liking of the baron, and of his army’s food supplies. So now he debated ways to speed the matter up with his subordinate.

“And what would you fling into a town you wished to conquer, Hálsung?”

“I’ve always used arrows and sling stones, lord.”

“So have I, but neither of those seem to be that effective.” He drummed his fingers on his chin as he paced up and down, staring at the walls of Abboddóm. “Perhaps fire?”

“How would we do that?”

“Well, we’re throwing stones, right? Why not carve the spheres from wood, hollow them out a bit, and fill them with burning tinder? If we fire them fast enough they won’t damage the slings. Galdere, come here!” That last was in a shout that carried across the battlefield and cut through the technological soldiers meandering curses.

“Would firing partially hollow spheres of wood that were on fire work?”

Galdere pondered for a moment. “I don’t see why not. We might need to weight them down with a few stones so they flew farther, but I’m sure we can manage. I’ll play around with a few designs this afternoon after I get the sling up and firing, and we’ll try them out overnight.”

Iudas clapped him on the shoulder. “Good man. Just don’t take too long.”

The veteran blanched.

7

May

by thefourpartland

This is an excerpt from an upcoming Splintered Lands story titled Kingdoms in Conflict.

“If that is a precursor to the battle for Abboddóm, then we have already won. They die almost man for man with our poorer troops.” Hálsung gestured at the carnage around them.

“You’re an idiot.” Iudas waved his arm in the torchlight. “They used peasants, same as we do. And they managed to chew up better equipped troops without losing many of their own. They mistimed the ambush, but otherwise, it went well for them. Anyway, spend the night digging graves for our men. We’ll camp here for the night and bury them with the rising of the dawn light.”

“Don’t you mean organizing the men to dig graves?”

“I don’t think I said that. In fact, I’m sure I didn’t say that. So you can either dig a grave, or sleep in it.”

Hálsung grabbed a shovel.

The next morning saw Iudas’s troops advance on Castel. There was little doubt that they would meet resistance there, after the ambush in the woods, but even so Iudas kept them in tight formation, and sent out scouts. If nothing else, it was practice for those soldiers that needed the discipline.

They came out of the woods to find the village was still mostly occupied by those who lived there, a strange occurrence that surprised all of the men in the army. Iudas looked at the pitiful walls of the village, barely more than rotten timber, and began giggling.

Iudas rode to the front of his troops, waving at the village behind him. “The man who brings me the prettiest woman in Castel gets first pick of the loot, plus a gift from me!”

The troops surged forward, the peasants charging in headlong, the more experienced professional soldiers holding back and watching. Although those with bows did unlimber them and begin taking pot-shots at the peasants on the walls. It was pitiful covering fire, but would be enough to keep the defenders discouraged.

Iudas glanced over at Hálsung. “Do you think I should have used this as practice for siege warfare?”

Hálsung shrugged. “I’m not sure. I don’t think they would have gotten that much practice out of it. And the peasants need blooding. They need an easy fight they can win, so they think all fights are easy fights. Better that they cover themselves in slaughter this time around I think.”

“I like that thinking. Perhaps a little mayhem afterwards as well?”

“If there are any creatures left to play with.”

“No village ever dies in the first wave. But Castel won’t survive the day. Not any of it.”

There were screams coming from the village now, for Iudas’s soldiers had broken the barricades and charged through the mud streets, pulling people from buildings, slashing down any who dared to resist. The weaponry of Iudas’s peasants was rudimentary, and broken on occasion, but a stone mace was a brutal weapon against unprotected flesh, and soon the howls of the wounded began to float over the village, providing a backdrop to the scenes of slaughter.

The women, however, were kept unharmed, and as each of the few pretty young girls were found, the soldiers who captured them left the village, eventually forming a line before Iudas. Their ruler strode up and down, glancing at a face, touching their hair, and occasionally ripping their clothes open for a closer look at the important parts.

Hálsung gestured to the village. “They’re all done, lord. There won’t be any more to inspect.”

“Pity. None of them are particularly attractive. But I keep my promise to the troops.” Iudas meandered through the women once more, his hands roaming freely. After a little while, he settled on a young brunette, maybe fifteen years of age. “Take her to my tent, and tie her up there.”

Iudas glanced at the village. It was deserted, aside from the wounded who howled in its streets. “Hálsung, round up all the loot and pile it before the village gate. The men who found me my woman for the night get first choice. And anyone who does not share the loot they’ve found is to be locked into a hovel. I’ll burn them alive later.”

As those words were communicated through the peasants who had sacked the tiny village, there was a mad rush to drop any goods they had found in the communal pile. Losing out on a little bit of stolen food was far better than dying.

“Oh, and Hálsung. Tonight’s entertainments. I think we should have some gladiatorial games. Make fathers fight sons, women fight husbands. That sort of thing. And for the finale, I want to see two healthy men fight. Except cut a leg off of one, and an arm from another. And give them each big heavy weapons they can’t swing well. A large branch or something. You know, usual promise of freedom to the victor and all that. See to it, would you?” Iudas strode for his tent without waiting for an answer.

Hálsung looked over at the little collection of prisoners and walking wounded and grinned. Tonight was going to be a fun night.