12

Mar

by thefourpartland

This is the opening of a new novella in an old setting, called Arhosa. I’ll be posting a thousand words a day of Work-in-Progress, with the end goal being five chapters of 10,000 words each, roughly.

“How many? How many did we lose today?”

“Enough. Some of them went willingly. You know our people, Iaprem. They are craven on every level. All their will has been stolen from them.”

Iaprem grunted in frustration. As Warleader of Cynlyaa, his home city, he was responsible for all that occurred here. Which mostly seemed to mean watching it shattered apart under the depredations of badnits and the weakness of those who resided amongst the broken down masonry.

“Fine. Pull back the cordon to the old palace. Defend those grounds, and no other. Harshness is our new best friend, so anyone who is known to have given up or given in is to be left outside. Those inside, cultivate the grounds, and stockpile everything we can lay our hands on. Even with all the raids we’ve suffered, there must be some things left in the city worth having.”

Yenque, his second, nodded in agreement. “I shall see that it’s done. But you know any show of strength will prompt another raid. And in greater force than before.”

“What will they take from us this time? Our lives? We have nothing of value left to offer them. Nothing that I know of.”

“We have our wills. Until those are gone, we will suffer. Of course, when they are gone, we will suffer more.”

Iaprem slumped onto the stone seat that served as his commandant’s office. It was little more than a broken lump from a column, carved slightly to provide a modicum of comfort. “When you leave, find Dregnon. He and I need to discuss figures after this last assault.”

With a bow, his second slipped from the room, leaving Iaprem to think in silence. Supposedly, his people had once been a great nation, one of the wealthiest in all of Arhosa. Although it was not really hard to see, living as he did in the ruins of of that wealth.

Yet they were called the War Lands of the Cynddeir, and had once, before civilizationhad come with its wealth and its lesure, conquered all that he saw about him. Now they were prey for petty thieves and bandits, ones who were so bold as to live within other districts of the same city they raided.

His people had fallen far, and fallen long, and there was nothing in the way of a structure upon which to build their resurrection. A point proven all the more strongly moments later when Dregnon walked into the room.

He went straight down to business. “There’s three thousand people left in Cynlyaa, give or take a hundred. The old palace can hold up to a thousand, if we’re being a little generous. Even with the extensive grounds, I don’t think it can provide enough food for them all though.”

“Soldiers?”

“Two hundred, and that’s being overly kind. When the palace was built, the walls were designed to hold five hundred, so we’ll be weak everywhere. And that doesn’t even account for the degredation to the fortifications.”

Iaprem snorted. They both knew the structure was riddled with collapsed architecture, and the walls were no different. In places, they would still serve their puprpose, but only a fool would attack there. And the bandit lords who plagued him were not that kind of fool.

“So at best what we do is a last gasp.”

“Well, do not discount the valour of our men. They fight well, and beyond the endurance of any of our opponents.”

“That I have seen time and time again. But for every ten that we lay, we still lose one, and that is far too harsh a price to play. Plus, that only counts those who do fight. Look around you and tell me how many of those there are.”

“There is but one solution that comes to mind then – recover the lost children of Cynlyaa.”

Iaprem burst out into laughter, his roars echoing from one side of the empty stone chamber to the other, disconcerting in their timbre.

“Those cretins who won’t raise a hand when the raiders take the last turnip from their children’s lips? Them? Had I a hundred thousand such men as those, I could not defeat a single true warrior!”

“Far be it from me to tell you your job, but have you considered that perhaps they are that way because it is all they know?”

Fury writ itself large across Iaprem’s face. “Are you telling me that when I fight to spare them, spare their children, from whatever fate has in store, they cannot see another way? That they think us the foolish ones for daring to resist? Then I curse them! Let Drancedigeath take their souls and shred them for all eternity!”

Dregnon fell back a step, his mind racing. Perhaps the strain of command was too much for Iaprem, he mused. Or perhaps I need to approach matters in a different way. Rather than face the wrath of a now-raging Warleader, he bowed and made a swift exit.

It was time to take his case to Yenque.

***

The next few days saw Dregnon busy with the logistics of moving what remained of the city’s population into the old palace. Remarkably, the structure amazed him with its ability to house the living, despite its abhorrent condition, and he was able to fit almost two thousand members of Cynlyaa within its walls. Of course, what that also indicated to him was just how far the city had fallen, for at its peak, the population must have numbered well into the tens of thousands, perhaps even higher. But those were considerations he could dwell upon at such time as he was at leisure.

Which probably meant only when he was in Drancedigeath’s embrace, and the God of Death had no use for him.

The last thousand of the city’s population he pulled in close to the walls, tucking them here and there amidst crumbled ruins and broken structures. Hopefully, they were in places that would be overlooked by the raiders when they came again. In truth, he knew he was leaving them to their deaths. Unless…

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