13

Apr

by thefourpartland

My longest piece of flash fiction yet, this one continues my happy theme of recent days. I’m not sure about the ending. I kept feeling like I should write another paragraph, but at the same time, the current spot is where I wanted to end it. I’m not sure which idea is better, but this post is without any extra material on the end. Let me know what you think.

A single drop of rain fell that day. It left a large dark spot on the broken earth, and the greedy land sucked it away in an instant, and soon it was if the drop had never fallen. The land got back to its primary business of drying, cracking, and breaking apart, and the farmers got back to theirs, of bemoaning the weather. There would be no crops, not this year, and should the earth remain barren for a few more months, there would be no city, either. Men, women, and children fled after rumours, chasing down the notion of crops, of food. They hung their lives on the words of charlatans, and many starved. But soon, even the charlatans began to starve, for words may feed the mind, but they do not nourish the body.

In the desperation, citizens disappeared, only to be found gnawed upon. As food vanished entirely, this became open, and groups of the strong would rove the city, hunting down others as their dinner. Friend ate friend and family ate family, and even rats and cockroaches died away, for they had become delicacies for the collapsing society. Outside the city walls, a few farmers remained, old men who had nowhere to go, and no family to protect. They still met each day in the village tavern, talking through the old stories one more time. The bartender had long fled, and there was nothing to drink, and yet the old habits refused to die, for these farmers had seen many a bad year, and they were determined to ride this one out, just as they had all the others.

As days went by and easy pickings in the city became scarce, gangs began hunting food outside the city walls, questing after farmers, but the old men knew the lay of the land far better than the cityfolk who chased them, escaping with ease from the angry starving packs. This pushed the populace of the city over the edge into true desperation, and in a night of orgy and bloodshed, all but a few were killed, and those remaining gorged themselves on the flesh of the fallen.

The farmers shook their head at this ill considered behaviour. They had devised their own method of making it through the long famine – whenever the farmers became truly starved and nearly stumbling with hunger, they slew the oldest among them. Before his death, the chosen one could bequeath his belongings, and in this way ancient steadings were absorbed into one another, until only two were left.

These two men were young men, barely starting out in the farming trade, and had known one another from near the day of their birth, and so when the time came, the elder of the two shook his head and handed his farms over to his friend, and was then slain and eaten. Summer had long since passed, and autumn was even now beginning the gradual decent into winter, and the last farmer had no more source of food. He sat in the bar of the village tavern, and told stories to himself, making them up as he went along. Hunger stole away his strength for speech, and so he sat there, waiting for his death.

One day, the sun darkened, and a strange pat pat pat noise came through the open door of the tavern. Nothing more than a skeleton now, the young farmer crawled his way from the bar to the door, and looked outwards. It took him a long while to discern the source of the sound, but then he remembered: rain! Rain had come again to bless the land and the crops, and the earth drank and drank, its thirst unquenchable after many, many months of desiccation. The farmer cracked his parched lips and cried out in thanks, that he had lived until the rains came again. The prayer consumed the very last of his energy, and his form slumped there against the frame of the door, deceased.

13

Apr

by thefourpartland

Here’s another flash fiction piece, 445 words in length. I appear to be getting a little shorter the more of these I write. I hope you read, enjoy, and comment.

I stood alone against the ravening hordes. My companions had fled, and I faced down the screaming, slavering numbers on my own. Cowards one and all, both the companions and the hordes. The horde feared me, and would not charge, and my allies had feared the horde and fled from it, leaving me to my fate.

I perched atop a hill, and spread out to the east beneath me was the army of foes, a seething mass of orcs, goblins, minotaurs and other horrible creatures, each one shouting for my blood. They had gathered here on this day to negotiate with me and mine, but those discussions had broken down. I thought them foolish and stupid, and they thought me arrogant and presumptuous. Mutual loathing made our current situation inevitable.

Below, I could see commanders moving through the barbarians, shouting and striking and building courage among their troops. I knew that soon they would come for me, and so I began to ready myself, swirling round and round the top of the hill. It took them over an hour to gather the strength of will to charge, and so I was quite finished with my preparations by the time they charged the hill.

It was satisfying to see the first waves of goblins run over the traps I had laid down, the fire exploding from beneath their feet and burning their flesh. Stupid creatures. Thorns grew up and entangled those next to come, and then hail broke over their heads, battering the trapped forms. Rocks tumbled down the hill, an avalanche of stone and scree, and finally lightning speared down from the sky, transfixing the last of the courageous hordes. I had prepared very well, and they had studied me poorly. Again I say, stupid creatures.

I chuckled as those on the plains fled, and with a gesture, I sent a wave of shadow speeding down the hill, blackening the sky and stealing away the light. When I could see again, every last orc, goblin, and minotaur lay dead on the field. The sky darkened once more, and a murder of crows descended to begin their feast.

I watched the crows feed for some little time, and then I began to laugh, a full, deep noise that echoed around the valley. Poor, poor stupid barbarians. Yes, I had asked them to meet me here. Only, I had no intention of negotiation. This site had been readied weeks in advance, and I began the ritual that would raise the entire army as undead servitors. This is why I had called them here. For the third and final time, stupid creatures. Mortals ever took the short view.

12

Apr

by thefourpartland

Not quite my usual fare for a flash fiction, but I was feeling a little more pensive than usual, so it probably reflects my mood. Let me know what you think.

The boy wandered down the aisles of the church, his mind it all at ease and wander. He had come here for a purpose, but what that purpose had been he could no longer remember. Instead, he found himself staring upwards, fascination with the carvings overwhelming his sense of worry. Shrugging, he found himself a pew and sat there, looking at the giant cross that hung suspended in the nave.

Covered in gold filigree and beautiful carvings, it reminded the boy of nothing so much as a blossoming tree, reflecting the light in oh so many directions, light that played all across the inside of the stone church. He felt comfortable here, as if he had come home, and his worry drained away. Whatever his task had been, it could wait until later days.

The light within the chapel shifted from the left to the right, and still the boy sat there, his eyes caught on that cross, his mind soaring upwards, twisting through flights of fancy to wing its way towards the heavenly gates. He arrived at the gates to find that they were barred, and standing before them was an apologetic angel. With a silent gesture of negation, the angel sent the boy tumbling earthwards, his mind reeling.

He arrived back in his body with a great cry, tears dampening his cheeks. Fury and passion and anger rolled across his face and he grew violent, tossing away the pew upon which he sat. For many minutes he stormed, tossing the furniture and the furnishings about the church until it looked a ruin. Yet he would not touch the cross, nor pass the line of the altar.

His anger spent, the boy slumped down on a broken chair, and cried to himself. He had been rejected, he still did not remember what he was meant to do, and he had destroyed works of art. Remorse stole throughout his body, leaving him a quivering pile until, at last, the boy regained control of his emotions. With a face blank of expression and puffy from tears, he slipped away, disappearing out into the cold world beyond.

The figure on the cross spoke then, his eyes fixing the altar with a stare. “This happens every Sunday, Father. He tries to ascend and you do not let him.” From the altar came the sound of a sigh. “I wish I could, my son, but he is Damien, and to let him into heaven would cause all this to fail. And so I must turn away an innocent, a boy purer of heart and of mind than many who have passed through the gates.” The statue on the cross let his eyes fall to the floor. “I know, Father, I know. But it wrenches my heart.”

“Mine too.” The altar and the cross looked towards the grand doors of the church, where the boy had long since departed, and both cried, their eyes wet with blood.

10

Apr

by thefourpartland

This is sort of cheating, since it’s a storystarter I created myself earlier in the day, and then I edited it, but it’s there. Of course, me being me, I managed to just miss the 500 word limit. I can’t seem to write in under 500 words. Ah well. I hope you find this interesting, although I think it’s a story that needs to be improved to be really good.

The warp gate hung before it, the great ring of spinning metal filling its view-port. A new colony lay on the far side of that portal, and it looked forward to what that gate offered. This ship, the Rose, had spent many a year performing shuttle runs within the Old Core planets, mistreated and abused, never set free to explore the purpose it had constructed for. It had once been the pride of the interplanetary vessels, the first in a new breed of AI-run colony ships, safely carrying their sleeping cargoes across the millennia of light years to their new homes. But the Rose, as the first of all her kind, was given a special gift: she became the test mule. Each time a new innovation was tested, it was tried on her first, and soon she became a hodgepodge of malfunctioning machinery, a rabbit warren of engineers and cables.

Rose despaired, for although she had not been given emotions as such, she had been given a purpose and a goal in life, and that had been taken away from her at the moment of her birth. She endured the poking and the prodding, feeling parts of her mind cut away and replaced, sometimes better, often worse, all in the hope that one day she could fulfil her ambition. Three hundred years of waiting was finally at an end, and as Rose hung before the warp gate, she fairly quivered in glee, her engines pulsing in delight.

She turned her sensors on throughout the ship, recording her glorious body, lovingly restored to her original configuration, but she looked most of all at the sleeping passengers. They were her children, and Rose was to birth them onto their new planet. Sending fuel to the engines, she sailed forward, her form engulfed in white light as the gate enclosed her, wrapping Rose in its energies. Time stretched until the end of the universe arrived, and Rose counted many, many minutes passing on her internal clock, until it reached the end and had to start over at one.

A surge into darkness, and Rose had arrived. She measured the stars around her, and found that she had arrived right where she should. Yet her clock was far off, and she reset it, to one minute after she had flown through the gate. Her internal logic puzzled at the question, but without the databases of the Old Core to consult, she could find no answer, and left the question alone.

Rose flew to the planet of her assignment, and slipped through the atmosphere, waking her passengers into the buffeting of her decent. They stretched and moved for the first time in years, and as she landed, Rose watched her children ready themselves to leave their metal womb. Cracking the hatches, they spilled out from her, a tide of seed that would plant and grow fruit in this fertile land, and Rose looked down on them, a proud parent to the last. She had done what she must, and a brilliant glow of satisfaction spread throughout her, and in that glow of happiness and joy, she shut down, never to rise again.

10

Apr

by thefourpartland

Shorter than I would normally like, at only 850 words, but I didn’t quite seem to have it this morning. A pity, that, but no matter. Still glad I was able to write a little. I think perhaps it might have had to do with trying to write the comedown after a battle, and back into the ‘connection’ piece between Horaim and Niam Liad. Also, while reading/writing, I had an alternate idea for the ending, and I’m not sure which one to use.

Eight Veryan soldiers set out, Rhyfelwyr in the lead. Another had died while they recovered in the market. Rhyfelwyr looked about and his small unit, blood spattered, staggering, and at less than half strength, and wondered why he did this. Why did he lead young men into battle over and over, only to watch them die? He feared he knew the answer: he could do no other thing, that he was such a soldier he could no longer exist outside the strictures of the army. Perhaps he couldn’t, at that.

Shaking the dreary thoughts from his mind, Rhy turned his weary eyes to the road ahead, glancing back and forth at all the openings in the buildings looming overhead, the hidden spots on the roofs where archers could hide. If they encountered any more Lianese troops, any more, they’d all die. Why knew his squad was too exhausted to even retreat, and wondered if he should hole up in some basement, and wait for a day or two, discover the outcome of the battle afterwards. Something inside wouldn’t let him though, and Rhy could see it in the countenances around him: they had come too far to stop now. There would be an end to it this day.

Stride by stride the Veryan soldiers approached the warehouses, and although the sounds of fighting drifted over the city towards them, their passage through Horaim was untroubled. Sticking to the back-alleys and hidden ways of the city, Llofruddiwr lead from his station high above them, leaping from rooftop to rooftop, appearing at junctions to point the way. How he had the energy for such exertions Locsyn would never know, for he had been forced to drop his shield entirely, no longer able to stand the strain it placed on his wound. The shield was lying back in the rubble of the market, so much detritus.

The sun was touching the horizon when the squad arrived at the first warehouse, tucked away on the south side of the city. The squad had fought and marched their way across all of Horaim, arriving wounded and tired, battered and nearly broken. Letting the other slump to the ground around him, Rhy motioned Gwyth forward. “Open it.” The brute nodded, and a mighty blow from his sword cleft the chain holding the door shut. Running his fingers along the edge of his blade, Gwyth pulled out a whetstone and began to grind the nick from his sword.

Pulling the doors open, Rhy smiled as he saw the fully stocked warehouse before him. “Everyone, eat your fill. Don’t make yourselves sick, though. Taflen, when you’re done eating, take inventory.” Taflen nodded, his eyes glancing over the stacks and barrels of food. Patting Locsyn on his unwounded shoulder, the historian pried open a cask and handed the dried meat within to his wounded friend.

The other soldiers set to with a will, and Rhy stationed himself at the door as a sentry, gratefully accepting some meat to chew on while he waited. As the twilight laid a thick blanket over Horaim, he pushed the doors closed, barring them from the inside and falling asleep on the ground. Around him, his squad slept, content in their lot.

The morning arrived late and groggy, the squad struggling to rise in the dim confines of the warehouse. Unbarring the doors and pulling them open, Llofruddiwr and Gwyth were greeted by the site of other Veryan soldiers, standing and sitting in the square before them, organizing supplies being taken from the stockpiles. Llof turned to Rhy and pointed, and the sergeant sighed and shook his head. “I’ll go report, shall I?”

Report made, Rhyfelwyr returned with orders that they were to assemble at the south gates at noon. They would then be given quarters in the city, and two days leave, after which they were expected to be well-rested and able to march down to Niam Liad. “There’s something else though, something they weren’t talking about. We lost a third of our men here. You could see it at assembly, whole banners missing from the rows. We also lost about half the storehouses. They were fired before our soldiers could get there. We have enough for the trip down, and perhaps some of the trip back, but not all the way across Bedwar Barthu Dirio. Looks like it’s Niam Liad or nothing.”

Taflen spoke. “A third? We must have crippled the Lianese as well.”

“Oh, we did. Their forces in Horaim were shattered. But how many more do they have in Niam Liad? I wonder.”

“Given how many fought us here, they can’t have more than a few handfuls left. The emperor never let them keep or train many soldiers, so we’ll probably be going against farmers with pitchforks.”

“Pitchforks and a twenty foot city wall. Anyway, off to assembly.”

The squad marched on, their heads filling with thoughts of leave and sleep.

9

Apr

by thefourpartland

This feels good. 2500 more words, and a nice relaxed morning. What a wonderful way to start the day off, and I feel so much better now that I’m writing again. Feel off when I don’t get the chance to do that. I remember what it is like to write this story, and I’m glad it’s moving along apace. 21,000 words now. The original end goal was 25,00, but I’m going to pass that easily, at least before edits begin to cut material out. This is fun, and I hope you enjoy reading it. Comments and critiques are always appreciated.

Several times they were struck from the side or the front by opposing Lianese soldiers, but each time, the Lianese were repulsed, although one close encounter had hung in the balance until Rhocas had gathered himself and sent a jet of flame playing across the Lianese front lines. Their moral broken, the Lianese tried to flee, and were slain by the charging Veryan forces.

Each skirmish brought Rhocas, Rhyfelwyr and their forces closer to the warehouses, and now they could see the bulky shapes only a few streets away, the heavy forms promising food and sustenance for weeks to come. Calling to his troops to rally on, Rhyfelwyr trotted round a corner to find himself in a market square, still filled with the stands and stalls of the hawkers. Cautious for an ambush, he gestured left and right, sending Taflen and Gwyth to scout through the remains. The other soldiers tucked themselves in tightly, forming a small square of shields at the edge of the open area.

Taflen advanced cautiously, his sword and shield held at the ready, eyes as much on the roofs around him as they were on possible foes hidden behind the stalls. Gwyth strode forward, openly challenging any who would dare to come stand with him, using his shield to swipe the stands aside, knocking them to the ground. After both had passed through two-thirds of the square, they glanced at one another, and nodded at Rhyfelwyr. The sergeant led his forces forward at a steady pace, until he glanced upwards and saw Llof standing on the building opposite, waving and point down at the street below. Rhy cursed, then shouted at the men around him. “Square, form a square! Pull the stands in as barricades! Now! Now!”

The Veryan soldiers leapt to obey, with Gwyth picking up two stands at a time and stacking them into a deep wall in the direction that Llof had gestured. Within moments there was a shielded square of Veryan forces, wrapped around by an outer barrier of wooden stalls and market detritus. As they finished readying themselves, Lianese forces poured from two of the streets into the market. Combined, the two forces outnumbered the Veryan three to one or four to one, and Rhy steeled himself for what was to come. Leaning over, he tapped Rhocas on the shoulder. “Don’t both using your magic until we’re engaged. Otherwise, you’ll be a pincushion.” Turning to bellow to the soldiers around him, the sergeant cried out orders for the defence. “Grab spheres! Meet their charge at five paces! Then swords!” The soldiers readied appropriately, their faces showing the strain of half a day fighting in the alleys of Horaim, for the sun stood high overhead, and it had barely crested the horizon when the fire had first struck the north gates of the city. Here and there, a shield or a sword sagged towards the ground, but their comrades would jostle the arm back to its proper place.

A trumpet rang out from within the Lianese forces, and Locsyn saw the javelins being readied that would precede the charge. His arm pained him greatly, and was still all but useless, but he had been able to sling his shield from his shoulder and strap it to his upper arm. He could barely move it, but it covered half his body, and that was better than before. Wordlessly, he took the sphere of glass that Rhocas proffered him and tucked it away in his belt pouch. A second trumpet sounded, and Locsyn ducked down as the Lianese charge began and the javelins flew overhead. Most were deflected away, caught in the barrier or glancing off shields, but a few pierced through the shields, and others found gaps in the defences, opening small holes in the Veryan forces. Men stepped forward to fill the holes, leaving an already thin line even thinner. Soon, Locysn knew he would be called to step into the line, and do the best he could with but one arm.

As the Lianese forces reached three paces from the barricade, Rhyfelwyr cried “Throw!”, and the glass spheres were hurled outward, smashing into the face and shields of their foe, shattering into clouds of abrasive shards and cutting splinters. The front lines of the charge stumbled and collapsed, blinded Lianese soldiers collapsing to the ground with broken and bloodied faces. Those behind tripped and fell over their comrades, leaving the charge a ruin before it even reached the barriers. And now, when they tried to charge again, there would caltrops scattered across the ground, promising injury to any who tried to step forward.

The Veryan forces watched as the Lianese withdrew, picking their wounded up and pulling back to gather against the edges of the market square, building courage for another charge. Rhyfelwyr wished they had been able to take more advantage of the confusion of the broken charge, but that would have meant breaking the shield wall and stepping over the barricades, and giving up that defensive surety for a momentarily opportunity was not worth the cost. He called out, and the second, and last, round of spheres was brought to hand. There would be nothing but the sword after this, and if the Lianese were wise to that and started to bombarbed the Veryan forces with arrows, the only response Rhy could conjure would be a deadly charge over the barricades, into a waiting force. He could only hope that the battle was going well enough elsewhere, so that these Lianese forces did not have the time for a leisurely battle.

The second charge came, and it was repulsed in the same way as the first, glass spheres breaking the momentum at point-blank range. There spheres rarely killed, but the clouds of abrasive glass would injure many an eye, and the spray of sharpened waste would make the ground a spike-ridden mess, and for that Rhyfelwyr was grateful. In the brief pause as the Lianese forces gathered for a third charge, Rhy spoke with his squad, pulling them from the lines.

“We’ve lost three of the twenty men we started with, and three more are like Locsyn, wounded. They’re going to throw a third round of javelins, and we’ve already tightened the wall once. Do we charge?”

Taflen looked up, examining the Lianese forces for a long moment before shaking his head. “We stay, we’ll take more of them with us that way.”

Gwyth grunted. “Uplifting, you are.”

Nervously twirling the end of his moustache in one hand, Locsyn shook his head. “Rhocas, can you get us out of this?”

The young mage sighed. “I’ve been training as a mage for only a few days, I can just barely manage summoning fire when I want it. I can’t do one of the giant balls of flame. I’m sorry.”

Rhy patted the young man on the back. “Nothing to be sorry about, you signed on as a soldier and you do a soldier’s job. We stand.” Rhy turned back to his post in the centre of the barricade, and only Taflen heard him mutter that “I hope Llof comes up with something.”

The third trumpet called, and Gwyth readied himself, his shield held high to catch the incoming javelins. His arm ached and a slow trickle of blood flowed from where the arrow had pierced it in the morning, but he ignored the pain, and caught the first Lianese soldier over the wall on his shield, slamming it up into his foe as the man jumped from the barricades. A sword thrust around the side slammed into the Lianese ribs, and Gwyth dumped him off, shield reset to deal with the next foe.

Taflen steadied himself, one foot up on the wooden barrier, and as the first of his foes tried to scramble across, he caught the fool with a hard strike to the helmet, cleaving the protection and leaving his foe writhing on the ground. Two more followed at the same time, pushing Taflen back as he fought to keep his shield in front of one and strike at the other with his sword. The split attention meant neither succeeded, and a thrust at his ribs was only stopped by the quick attention of the Veryan soldier to Taflen’s left. That assistance allowed the historian to strike hard at the legs of the foe to his right, and the sword carved through the shin until it lodged midway into the bone, yanked from his hand as the Lianese soldier fell. With nothing but his shield left, Taflen put his right hand behind the boss and slammed it into the face of his second foe, knocking him backwards. The strike was too late for Taflen’s ally, for in stopping the thrust at Taflen he had left himself open, and a countering blow had left him dying in the dirt. In the brief moment of freedom that he had, Taflen grabbed the sword from his fallen comrade’s hand, stepping backwards and readying himself for the next foe to come.

The shield wall contracted further, with only ten of the original twenty still standing, of which five came from Rhyfelwyr’s squad. He was proud of them, that they would stand against the odds, but some twenty five Lianese soldiers remained to press in on them, and that left Rhy sore at heart. He could see Rhocas calling on his magic, and brief sputters of flame would appear, but the carnage and the chaos of the battle had stolen the mage’s concentration, and soon he fell back on his sword, standing in the shield wall and delivering blow for blow, his face pale with sweat. The young man had seen too little of life to die, and he fought with the strength of the desperate, fear lending power to his strikes, and speed to his counters.

The Lianese line began to slacken and turn back on itself on one side of the square, and Rhy tried to look over the combat to see what could steal their resolve, but he could see nothing. The scene resolved itself moments later, as several Lianese soldiers collapsed with daggers piercing their throats, revealing a blood-soaked Llofruddiwr standing with two of his long-knives in hand, slashing into his Lianese foes. Caught between a suddenly surging shield wall on one side and a dervish on the other, the Lianese turned back to back, fighting desperately as two of them tried to slay Llofruddiwr. He dismissed their pitiful attempts, catching each strike on his knives before batting one Lianese weapon aside and kicking the soldier in the groin. One foe incapacitated, Llof turned his full attention on the other, and in a whirlwind of cuts and slices, hacked away at the wrist on the sword hand, wounding it until it could no longer hold its weapon. Both foes rendered incapable, he stabbed each, cutting an artery and letting them bleed out.

The Lianese forces on that side of the barricade were soon finished, but two more Veryan troops had fallen, rending their total count down to nine, now that Llofruddiwr had returned to bolster them. That left those nine against fifteen of the Lianese, and the Veryan forces were exhausted. Locsyn could barely stand, having been cut along his thigh, unable to lower the shield to defend himself. Rhocas had gained a wound across the back of his sword hand, and his arm trembled each time he tried to lift the blade. Gwyth stood like a rock, but this rock bled from cut after cut, and even his prodigious strength had slowed and weakened. Only Taflen stood unwounded, for even Rhyfelwyr and Llofruddiwr had been struck. Knowing what must be done, Rhy called out “Charge!” and leapt over the barricade, followed by Llof on his left and Taflen on his right, with the other soldiers a step behind.

Rhy could feel the energy fast draining from his body as he pushed it beyond all limits, and he staggered on his third step, nearly falling to the ground as he struggled with the enemy in front of him. Only a Llof knife-thrust stopped that stumble from being the end, and in a moment Rhyfelwyr was back on his feet, his sword sweeping around in a low arc to cut the ankle of an enemy, shield held high to protect from strikes to the head. Gwyth summoned his massive strength for one last blow, and simply slammed his blade into a Lianese shield, cutting through the wood and metal to drive the tip of his weapon into his foe’s neck. Sword caught in the shield, he let it go and grasped his shield with two hands, laying about him as if it were a club.

The far end of the line was anchored by Rhocas and Locsyn, and they fought as a team, one blocking strikes, the other leaping forward to thrust through the openings created. The style of combat was alien to the Lianese troops, and two fell before they began to understand the rhythm of blows, and drive the two Veryan soldiers backwards. Stumbling, Locsyn was only just able to turn his body to catch the attack on his shield, and he saw Rhocas take a further step back, leaving Locsyn fighting two on his own. Locsysn did all he could to defend himself, not even trying to counter, only trying to deflect the strikes as they came at him. He was rewarded for his skill a few moments later when a lance of blue flame flew over his shoulder and played upon the nearest Lianese troops, incinerating the two he had been fighting, and then turning down the line to catch two more.

The burst of flame from Rhocas left the young mage in a near faint, kneeling on the ground and retching, but it had shattered the Lianese soldiers entirely, and they scattered, a few caught from behind by the daggers of Llofruddiwr, but most escaping, the Veryan soldiers too exhausted to try and follow. Gathering themselves in a tight circle, Taflen applied bandages to the various wounds, cutting strips of cloth from the dead soldiers around them. They waited there for many minutes as the sun passed across the sky, sprawled upon the ground like so many dead, their bodies shut down. Only when the sun began to touch the tops of the buildings did Rhyfelwyr stand again, and gesture the others onwards, towards the warehouses.

8

Apr

by thefourpartland

The first time in two months I’ve written on this short story, and as part of The Four Part Land. It feels very good to get back into the flow of writing in my favorite setting. Here is another 1100 words for Breaking an Empire, bringing the total story to 18600. I feel a little rusty, trying to remember the style I use, but I hope it meshes well with what is already there.

The next morning, before the sun had arisen, Glanhaol Fflamboethi assembled facing the north gate of Horaim, silently slipping from their beds to form in a great mass. Formed into a long column, orders had come that they were to charge the gate as soon as it was destroyed. Rhy hoped they could catch the Lianese forces before morning woke them, but as he looked out over the field of battle and towards the distant walls, still shrouded in night, he shook his head. Today, he had a bad feeling.

A great burning noise filled the air, and a massive ball of fire lifted from the front ranks of the Veryan army and slammed into the north gate and surrounding wall, shattering them into rubble. A roar thundered out, and the column surged forward, quickly building pace to a run. Rhyfelwyr and his squad had been designated to go capture warehouses, along with many other squads in the army. The food situation was desperate enough that capturing those supplies could change the outcome of the campaign, and so Rhy gritted his teeth and raised his shield high above his head, warding off the arrows he felt sure to come. Around him, Gwyth and Locsyn and Taflen kept time, while Llof had disappeared. That didn’t surprise Rhy at all; it meant Llof had been close to the walls when the explosion opened the gates, and was causing havoc inside Horaim.

Glanhaol Fflamboethi crossed the open ground to the north gate with no shower of arrows or waiting defenders in their way, and as the column passed into the city, it began to fracture into many smaller commands, each heading towards their set targets. It was but a few moments later that the sounds of fighting erupted all around, and archers appeared on rooftops and leaning out of windows as Lianese soldiers burst from their places of concealment to strike the Veryan troops in their flanks. Momentarily bewildered, the Veryan forces found their footing and fought back with a vengeance, blades clashing against shield and short spear.

Rhyfelwyr found himself fighting alongside Gwyth and and Locsyn, the three of them broad enough to block a small alley, using their mass and their skill to carve into the Lianese troops, each sword thrust a quick stabbing motion made to kill or maim. Gwyth was less graceful, using his brute strength to batter the foes in front of him with his shield, before slamming his sword point through their armour. Taflen had taken station at their backs, and his sword flickered over the shield wall whenever an opening appeared, oft taking a foe in the neck, leaving them writing and bloody on the ground.

An arrow sped down out of the sky and slammed into Gwyth’s arm, causing him to curse and look upwards. Archers had taken station on the roof above them, and were picking their spots to fire down into the Veryan squad. Rhyfelwyr glanced at Gwyth’s wound and then upwards, and sighed, for he could not use his shield to protect both his front and his top, and so he hoped that the archers would be of little skill. Waving with his sword, Rhy called for the others to step back, slowly disengaging from the Lianese forces in order to make a break away from the archers. Staying alive was more important than killing these few soldiers.

Locsyn screamed, and Taflen looked over to see that a javelin had been thrust through his shield and the army holding it, locking the two together and leaving it almost useless. Diving forward, he brought his shield up in time to stop the counter-thrust coming over Locsyn’s useless defences, and was able to flick his sword out in a low cut, hamstringing his opponent. Stepping in front of Locsyn, the historian placed his shield so that it might cover both of them as best as possible, and began to step backwards, Locsyn taking Taflen’s former place at the back of the shield wall, his sword stabbing over the defences, but without much strength behind it, for his wound was grievous and incapacitating.

The Lianese soldiers pressed forward, seeing they had the advantage on this small band, and shouted up for more arrows to fall upon their foes. Their answer came, as a body plummeted from the roof to slam on top of a Lianese soldier, driving him to the ground and breaking his neck. Two more bodies fell, landing again on soldiers, and then arrows began to rain down, piercing the bodies of the Lianese as they sought to retreat from the suddenly charging trio of Rhy, Gwyth, and Taflen. The Lianese flight garnered only a few steps before they were cut down from behind, blades cutting through kidneys and spine to slay the foe. Rhy looked upward and raised his sword in salute, knowing that he would see Llofruddiwr standing there. Sure enough, his old friend waved back, captured Lianese bow in hand, before disappearing down behind the roof line.

A hand clapped Rhyfelwyr on the shoulder, and he spun round to see Rhocas standing behind him, along with two more squads of soldiers. “What are you doing here, lad? You’re supposed to be in the main van.”

Rhocas chuckled. “Always new orders. Didn’t you used to tell me that? I’m supposed to assist you in capturing the warehouses, along with this lot.”

“Good. Give us a few minutes and we’ll be ready. Llof is already scouting ahead.”

Rhocas nodded, and the soldiers sat down in the alleyway, free to rest. While they waited, a cutter came and attended to the wounds on Gwyth and Locsyn, breaking the arrow off and pulling it from Gwyth’s arm. The large man grunted once, then fell back into silence. For Locsyn, the cutter had to saw through the metal head of the javelin, and by the time he was done, Locsyn was white, his face sweating as he breathed rapidly. Pulling the spear from the wound saw Locsyn faint away, and the cutter stuffed herbs into both ends of the wound before wrapping it in cloth. Rhyfelwyr gave Locsyn a few minutes unconscious before prodding him awake. Sighing as he rose to his feet, Loc cut the straps from his shield and stuffed his now-useless left hand into his sword belt. Glancing around at the assembled soldiers, Rhyfelwyr nodded once, and set off towards the warehouses.

8

Apr

by thefourpartland

Update #2 (July 1st 2011): This proposal is alive and well as SplinteredLands.com

Edit: There has been a lot of discussion of this idea in the comments, so please read them as well as the main post.

So, I’ve been mulling the idea of doing a ‘shared world’ anthology of short fiction, of fantasy or science fiction. This is an idea that has been used before, most notably by Robert Lynn Asprin for Thieves’ World, and I’m wondering how many people out there would be interested in something of this sort. It’s an idea that has caught my attention recently, and I’m throwing it out there to see if it catches anyone else’s.

The first step, if there are enough interested authors, is pick the story type, setting and the language style (Gaelic-style names would be an example), and spend some time world building, creating an encyclopedia that can be handed around to the interested parties. I’m leaving this deliberately open-ended because I want to see what comes back in the way of ideas, and I don’t want to restrict them.

On the idea of the first short stories, I would recommend nothing more than 5-10,000 words, as a rough test of the system, and not too stressful to write either. Of course, there’s some work to do before writing the stories happen.

Thoughts on the proposal?

7

Apr

by thefourpartland

A thanks to Selorian for providing the Story Starter for this one, although I didn’t use it in the normal way.

Nathan ran. He sprinted down alleyways, jumping over drunks and around waste, and yet the inexorable cloak came on. That was how Nathan thought of the man chasing him, as the ‘cloak’. A black cloak covered the pursuer’s body, and an equally dark hood rendered his face invisible. Once, as Nathan, slipped on the muck as he turned a corner, he heard the clank as a throwing dagger spun off of the wall next to him. Fear drove Nathan onwards, into the Spiral, the foetid mess of ruined buildings and ruined lives that hung at the centre of the city.

Nathan had arrived in this predicament by accident. He was a thief by trade, and was scouting a merchant’s mansion when he saw the cloak leaving – by an upper story window. Knowing what that meant, the thief had dropped from his perch and taken off. Of course, Nathan had been too late, and he carried a small nick from a dagger that grazed his upper arm.

Jumping over a pair of drunks rolling in the gutter, Nathan dove round a corner, feet scrabbling for purchase on the muddy streets. He was heading for one of his hideouts, one where he could slip down into the sewers and lose his pursuer in the mass of tunnels and filth. If only that blasted assassin would fall behind. But no, every time Nathan slowed going round a corner, there was the whine of a passing knife, skittering off the old plaster and brick.

He wondered if he was being herded. Nathan didn’t think so, he’d been in the lead the whole way, but the cloak’s uncanny ability to keep him just in sight was beginning to wear thin. Time to do something about that. Nathan burst through the nearest door, sprinting up the stairs and out onto the roof, where he leaped to the next roof, landing hard in a roll. Gods, he was breathing hard.

Chest hurting from the impact, Nathan proceeded to leap from roof to roof, zigzagging deeper into the Spiral. No knives had flown past in the last few minutes, and so he paused to look backwards. A curse fell from his lips, for only a roof behind was the cloak, marching onwards and reaching for a dagger. Throwing himself into a roll, Nathan fell down the far side of the building, catching his fingers on the edge for a moment before dropping to the alley beneath. The hard impact rolled his ankle, but this was no time for him to slow down: he was nearly at the safehouse.

A few more twists and turns and dives through buildings, and Nathan was there. Slamming the door behind him, Nathan stomped on the plate that shut every opening into the building except the sewers, and down he went, ripping up the trap door and clambering down into the foetid wastes of the oldest and foulest part of the city. Nathan paused, his breath coming in great gasping bursts. He’d made it! Free of the damn cloak.

A wet splash was Nathan’s only warning, and before he could turn he felt the dagger slide under his collarbone and into the artery. Nathan’s shocked glance showed only a deeper darkness moving away from him, and the thief cried out in fear and in pain, begging for someone to come help him. His pleas for help fell on deaf ears. The city bustled above as he lay bleeding in the storm drains below their feet.

7

Apr

by thefourpartland

A fly buzzed when I died. It wasn’t a noble death, or a valiant one, just a death. I was standing patrol in some godforsaken jungle on a planet I couldn’t even name, and a sniper shot me. Kinetic kill, right through the heart. So that’s it for me, lying bleeding out on the ground. I had always wondered what death would feel like, and I can tell you, it doesn’t. There’s nothing, no feeling, just a sort of growing blankness, like bits of your body are turning off. I guess that’s accurate to what’s happening – bits of my body are turning off, no more oxygen to feed the little guys.

Base sent out a rescue wagon, but all it’s going to pick up is my cold dead corpse. At least they got the bastard, counter-sniper with a rocket. I’d say goodbye to my wife and kids and family, but I don’t have any. I was grown in a vat, originally going to be used for organ replacement for some rich old bugger. Then the war started, and the government realized it had all of these healthy young men laying around collecting dust. Few months of high-speed training, and suddenly I’m standing patrol out in Hell 101, or whatever this planet’s called. Better than lying around knowing I was going to get chopped into spare parts one day.

I know, I’m taking a long time to actually die if I can record all this, but that damn fly buzzing around my head is keeping me awake so I can talk. Don’t know how, but it is. Maybe it sprinkled pixie dust on my face when I closed my eyes. Or if I tap my heels three times, I go home. Yeah, right.

Sorry, blacked out there for a moment. The fly isn’t working as well as it used to. Blood loss, I suppose. Where was I? Nowhere, really, just nattering away into a mic while lying on the ground. I don’t even have a name, just a code number. JNY-35197, that’s me. Has such a nice ring to it that people call me Jenny. Can’t read or write, don’t have any rights. Why would they give either to a bag of organs?

That blankness is most of the way up my chest, and it’s getting a bit hard to breathe. Probably only have about a minute or so more at this rate, so I should wrap things up. I know my comrades and I are just bags of organs, and that we got the bum jobs: foot patrol, grunt work, the dangerous stuff, but we’re still human, still have emotions and think and feel like the rest of you. We’re not cyborgs or androids or whatever you call them these days. So, when the war is over and we go home, treat us clones right, would you? Think of the old empires – if you fought for them, at the end of the war you became a citizen. Give that to me and mine, please. It’s my dying wish, and all it takes is thinking with your heart, and not your head. I know you’ll do it, and thank you. Goodbye.