7

Dec

by thefourpartland

The tenth installment of a 30k word short story set in The Four Part Land. It takes place 400 years in the past from the time of Tarranau and Chloddio, and details the collapse of Hymerodraeth Heula, the Empire of the Sun.

Gwyth was breathing heavily now, his blade stained with the blood of many foes, and exhaustion was slowing his sword and shield, making each parry feel as if it took an age, each counter unbearable in its ages. It was a bad situation to be in, and the only reason he was still standing with no more than minor nicks and cuts was that those Lianese he faced were just as tired as he was, and for that Gwyth was thankful. He pressed forward all the same, letting his sword and his shield continue to do the work. For that was combat was to Gwyth, nothing more than work. Oh, perhaps if he had apprenticed himself to another, it might have gone differently, but at a young age, he had joined the army, and been there ever since, and so, this was a task to be completed. It involved killing, yes, but that was a minor part of all the marching and the practising and the rest, and so he moved forward behind each stroke, as unfeeling and unstoppable as an avalanche gathering speed down the hill. Rhy and Locsyn were dragged along in his wake, each standing to one flank, their weapons and shields protecting the mountain that stood between them. Rhy had seen Gwyth like this before, when he began bowling over and through enemies, and knew that if the squad was not careful, they would be pulled ahead and isolated, and then only luck and skill could rescue them. It had worked in the past, when the three men had been younger and more full of life, but now that they had grown older, the edge of their temperament, their invincibility, had slipped away. Well, slipped away from Locsyn and Rhyfelwyr. Locsyn didn’t think Gwyth would ever lose that, he wasn’t bright enough to realise he shouldn’t be able to do this.

As Rhy had feared, soon their attachment to the rest of the army became tenuous, as fighting began to spill around behind the squad, and the six of them, for Rhocas had recovered and rejoined, had to turn into a circle, moving as a slow unit through the Lianese forces. Thankfully, this close to the front line, most were already engaged, and so the fighting was no more hectic than it had been in the shield wall, and so Rhy’s squad continued to drive their way through, although Locsyn had succeeded in altering the course of Gwyth’s path so that it now cut across the battlefield, instead of straight through it.

An arrow clipped off Taflen’s shield, and he turned to his left to peer, and saw a small band of archers and javelin throwers gathering themselves to strike the squad’s huddled mass. “Shields!” came the cry, and the initial volley skittered away across the armour, leaving scrapes and nothing more. Seeing them ready another volley, Rhyfelwyr called “Charge!”, and the six men thundered down on the skirmishers, their shields held out in front to ward any incoming projectiles. There was only time for one more volley before the charge was upon them, but the archers stood their ground, and Rhocas screamed and began to fall, an arrow piercing him through the calf. Llofruddiwr slowed his charge, grabbing the recruit by the arm, and dragged him into a hopping run, only capable of using one leg. Using his free arm, Llofruddiwr began to fling daggers at the archers, daggers that had been sequestered somewhere on his person. Two archers fell beneath the flying knives, while one of the javelin throwers countered by whipping his weapon towards the Veryan soldiers. Gwyth caught it on his shield, but the throw had been so hard that it slammed straight through, the bolt coming to rest with its tip touching the soldier’s arm. Growling, Gwyth tossed away his shield, and taking his sword in a two-handed grip, fell amongst the skirmishers, his blade rising and falling as one after another died to that onslaught.

Bereft of his shield, Gwyth took several countering blows, but shrugged them off and continued to kill as Rhy and Locsyn arrived, their matching styles working through the lightly armoured and armed foes with ease. Soon all who stood near the squad had fled or been killed, and Llofruddiwr began the process of retrieving his knives from where they stuck in various foes. Surveying the field of battle, and the state of his soldiers, Rhy nodded once, then gestured back towards the advancing lines of soldiers. “We’ll rest, and get Rhocas here to a medic. If they need a pursuit, well, we’ll be in for it. Otherwise, we’ve done our work for the day.” Llofruddiwr and Taflen between them took Rhocas’s weight, and the squad began limping through the shield wall, although any such name was long since useless, for it was now mopping up the retreating and broken army of Lianese soldiers. Rhyfelwyr wondered how the battle had fared on a larger scale, but for now, he would take his soldiers back to where they could be treated, and then listen about, see what was being passed around the campfires tonight.

Comments

  1. Adam Byatt on 12.08.2010

    I think I’ll be spending my holidays immersed in the various parts of the lands. I like the style and this was a good battle sequence. Strongly focused on the characters rather than the gore of sword play.
    Adam B @revhappiness

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