This is an excerpt from the third novel, Laeccan Waters. Currently, the main characters and their Hálsiend allies are trying to extract themselves from a raid that went badly wrong.
Ceinder fought desperately to defend those Hálsiends around her, but their numbers were getting thinner and thinner each time she looked. Even with her assistance on their strikes, there were so many of the enemy that exhaustion was killing many of her allies, as they became slow, and too tired to block the next blow. Indeed, she was reaching that same level herself, and if she did not collapse right then, she would do soon. Still, she had managed to hold the line, preventing the Þracian troops from overwhelming them here.
On the other flank of the battle, Atyniadol and the two warriors were all but fallen, their armour covered in nicks and cuts, and with red seeping out from several places on Atyniadol, for her thinner armour could not turn blades aside the way the mountain plate of Tri-Hauwcerton could. Atyniadol knew that soon she would need to step back from the battle to staunch her wounds, but there was never a break, never a moment when she could disengage and take that time, for they were so closely pressed by the enemy Áðexe that losing the rhythm of attack and block would see her skewered on the end of a thrust. So she fought on as the crimson trails crept further up her arms.
Next to her, Sawwaed and Bwyell could both see the distress that Atyniadol was in, but despite their best efforts, they could not carve out a pocket of peace in the centre of the maelstrom either, and so they lashed left and right with their hammers, the blows less well-timed and more wild, as they relied again and again upon their armour to save them. Their shields were chipped and dented in many places, for they were as much weapon as protection, and often their most effective assault was to slam a foe with the heavy boss upon the shield’s face, and finish the matter with a second strike from the war hammer.
By now, they had built a bulwark of corpses about their position, and the Áðexe of Þracian were forced to climb over the bodies of their friends in order to get at the humans, but while that slowed the pace of the assault, it meant that the enemies came at the humans from on high, at the level of their heads, and thus were the humans continually forced backwards, into a tightening circle, their backs to their Hálsiendic allies.
Sawwaed risked a glance along the line of their retreat, and saw the dim figure of a man face down in the snow. Knowing that it could only be Tarranau, he shouted and bellowed over the field of battle, calling for all soldiers to pull back from the battlefield in a fighting retreat. They had probably left the matter for too long, for their were down to less than one hundred and fifty troops, but at least the casualties they had inflicted upon the Þracians were so grievous that their force could never been used again.
The Hálsiends now gave ground with every step, ceding the hilltop position to their foes as they clustered about the western edge of the rise. With them came Ceinder, still on her feet and still deflecting enemy blows, although now she staggered with each one that she pushed aside. Bwyell reached Tarranau’s body first, flipping him over and listening for a moment before nodding to Sawwaed. Sawwaed grabbed the two nearest Áðexe, detailing them to carry Tarranau during the retreat.
Of the Þracians following them, there were perhaps six hundred left, and while that matter meant that the casualties inflicted were far in the favour of the Hálsiends, the difference in size of force still looked to spell the end for the humans and their allies.
I have finished National Novel Writing Month as a winner, at 50700 words done for the month after the validation tool made me write another 700 to complete. That means I have done 86,000 words in two months, which is where Laeccan Waters sits today. I’m going to take a break from it for a little, to finish the first term of school, but I’m hoping it will be done by the end of January. Estimates for final length are around 125-145k, before edits.
In other good news, my first piece of flash fiction ever submitted for publication was accepted, and is now online at MiCrow. Go over there, take a look at all the pieces, and scroll down until you find mine.
Because I feel it’s finally time to do so, I’m going to begin editing stories and sending them off for submission (I don’t do either, up until now). Don’t fear that it will reduce the amount of content posted here, as I can still churn out plenty of material, although more of it will be flash.
And now I am off to enjoy today with a large cider and a cool apartment.
The outnumbered army of Hálsiend faces it’s greatest foe yet in this except from Laeccan Waters
The army marched onwards, another series of days slipping by in a landscape unchanging. Each day they rose to a white plain, the only distinguishing feature the wide trail laid by the army, and each day they strode across gently undulating terrain, leaving that trail behind them. And each night they would sleep atop a low rise, and scouts would survey the countryside, looking for signs of the Þracian occupiers.
A week and a half had passed since the Hálsiendic army had left B?ran, and in that time they had found no sign of the enemy, no rescue force sent to recapture the city. Any marks of those few Þracians who had fled from the city had long since been obliterated by the snow, and so they marched into the unknown, wondering if a Þracian army had slipped past them, hidden on the far side of a rise and their tracks wiped away by the snow and the wind.
Shovels and shafts of sharpened wood and bone had been passed out amongst the Áðexe soldiers, and each carried them strapped to their backs, with orders to dig them into the ground should the Þracians appear. The snow was too deep to disguise such actions, but it was hoped that even a thin palisade would prove of great assistance in the event of an attack.
Preparations made as best as could be done, the army marched onwards, until two days hence, when the first of the scouts came running back towards camp, cloak of stained white cloth streaming behind him. The humans, their Æbban allies and the Láttéow gathered to hear the report, and it confirmed what they had suspected – that the Þracian army lay but a day away, and was marching in their direction. The scout reported that it did not appear to be the full strength of the Þracians, and instead that it was the force expected to liberate B?ran, and that they carried weapons and armour that glinted in the sun, almost certainly made of metal.
As the hours passed and the day drew down to night, there came more reports, as the scouts pulled back and were replaced by fresh eyes. Despite only being a portion of the enemy army, it still outnumbered Hálsiend two to one in soldiers, not counting the false numbers added by the dead, and all but a few of the troops were sheathed in metal chain. No scout had been able to ascertain whether there were stonemages with the army, but all involved presumed that at least some had been chosen to make the journey.
Given the nature of the terrain through which they marched, it was certain that the Hálsiend army had been spotted just as surely as they had seen the Þracians, and so that night they made camp upon the highest of the low rises, and set about digging in. All through the night they dug trenches and built palisades, mounding and packing the snow into barriers over which attackers would have to climb. Throughout the camp they positioned the corpses from B?ran, some sleeping, some standing guard, others sitting about, but most in positions where they could be easily seen from below.
When dawn broke, and scouts from each side saw the camps of the other, the Þracians stood shocked, for they could see that the armies were evenly matched, rather than finding the Hálsiends sorely outnumbered, as had been the first reports from the day before. More soldiers must have arrived in the night with the baggage train, and the scouts dutifully carried those reports to their officers, who heard them with incredulous faces, and then demanded to see themselves.
The Hálsiend scouts watched as the officers came from inside their positions and stared at the great numbers who defended their enemy’s encampment, and then went back inside, hissing to themselves and thinking of new plans that needed to be made.
For their part, the humans and their allies examined the Þracian camp in great detail, and found that it was strongly guarded, although without a wooden palisade. Still, the Þracians had cut deep trenches in the snow, and built walls about their camp of snow and earth, stationing soldiers with javelins atop the defences.
It would be difficult for the outnumbered Hálsiend soldiers to break through, and so they waited in their palisades, and dug them deeper into the ground, and built more tricks and traps to catch attacking foes. Night drew a blanket over the day, and still the Þracians did not attack, and so they feared that a night attack would come, and they tripled the watch, with scouts out in the land between, listening for the crunch of claws upon snow.
No assault came in the nighttime hours, and when the sun rose, the watch was switched once more for fresh soldiers, who stared across the mile of land that separated them from their enemies. That day passed in boredom, and began a period of waiting. Messengers could be seen leaving from the Þracian camp, heading towards Telgian, but they were too far away to be intercepted.
Discussions should that it was likely they carried requests for more supplies and more troops, for in the few days that passed it became apparent that the Þracian soldiers had no intention of attacking, for they knew they held the upper hand in numbers and supplies if the conflict dragged on, for they could request reinforcements, while the Hálsiendic soldiers were all they hand. And with the numbers on either side appearing so even to the Þracian command, there was no urgency for them to assault the fortifications of the Hálsiend encampment.
A quite long excerpt from my NaNo novel, as the humans and their allies look to turn the tide of the war.
The humans had been charged with slipping through Bæran and striking straight for the buildings that were thought to hold the officers of the Þracian army. They were able to slip into the city proper with ease, for the troops guarding the harbour had been overwhelmed within moments, although not before they had been able to cry out a warning.
Soon the city brightened, as defenders lit torches and scattered them about. Unfortunately for the Hálsiendic troops, the primary Þracian encampment was outside the city, much as it had been with Telgian. The Þracians apparently did not like housing designed for Hálsiend families, and there were places where Þracian style towers had begun construction.
A javelin flew from the darkness, striking Sawwaed in the chest and knocking him to the ground. Cursing, he struggled to his feet as more flew, a rain that had the humans hiding against the walls of the buildings for shelter. They had been trying to slip through the alleys of Bæran, and had run into a Þracian patrol doing the same.
Dashing to the front, Bwyell and Sawwaed were able to block most of the narrow lane, and advanced upon the foe, shields held high. Their Áðexe enemies came snarling and hissing, driving forward with short cutting blows, some aimed at the less protected ankles. Atyniadol and Fynyddwr took up positions behind the two warriors, flinging blades and shooting arrows through the gaps. Áðexe fell under the attack, but they responded by arcing their javelins to carry into the second rank of the humans, and both were forced to dodge aside, less they be skewered.
Tarranau joined the fight then, a sheet of ice spears crashing down from above, slamming the Þracian soldiers to the ground and crushing or piercing many of them. In the moments of confusion that followed, Bwyell and Sawwaed leaped ahead, lashing out with their war hammers and slaying many. Seeing their attack shattered in a single instant broke the morale of the Þracians, and they turned and fled, spurred onwards by arrows from Fynyddwr.
The city became a running fight for the humans, being struck in the side or attacking into unsuspecting foes. Twice they met Á?ðan, who was leading an assault down a main avenue with a reckless grin on his face. He waved each time, before getting back to the business of killing his enemies.
As the battle meandered about, wounds and injuries began to accumulate. Atyniadol and Fyn both sported gashes to their ribs, courtesy of javelins that had not quite been deflected. Sawwaed was seeing stars, for a clubbing blow had broken the strap to his helmet and sent it spinning away, while Bwyell limped, blood running slowly from a leg wound. Only Tarranau and Ceinder were unwounded, but both were visibly tired, for multiple times had they had to use their talents to turn the outcome of a battle.
Still, they made progress as they struggled through Bæran, and the newly-constructed tower that was their goal lay ahead. According to spies that had remained in the city, that was where the officers of the Þracian kept themselves. Clearly visible, the tower was blocks and blocks of soldiers away, and they despaired of ever reaching their goal.
The ground creaked, and the building to their right fissured open, spraying them with shards of rock. Ceinder was able to deflect the worst of it, and armour caught the rest, but the grit stung their eyes and the attacks disoriented them, as a wave of Áðexe spilled out from the new opening and slammed into the humans, bowling over Fynyddwr and Sawwaed. Cursing, Tarranau ripped into the enemies with waves of ice, pulling the moisture from Áðexe bodies to make the weapons.
His attack sliced into many of the Áðexe, but they withstood his attack, and he saw that they wore armour, the first time the watermage had noted that on an enemy. Ceinder shouted a warning, and Tarranau dropped to the ground as a rock flew through the space where he had been. A thought flashed through his mind and he searched with his talents, finding a body of water tucked inside the opening blown from the building. A Þracian stonemage.
Bwyell hammered down, his weapon slamming a soldier off of Sawwaed. Thumping another with his shield, the bodyguard created enough space for the Veryan warrior to struggle to his feet, just catching another soldier’s attack on his armour. Growling at the Áðexe, Sawwaed and Bwyell locked shields, facing their enemies as they swarmed towards them, shields and swords glinting in the torchlight.
Fyn stabbed upwards, his short knife thrust catching the Áðexe in the throat before its jaws could close on his face. Throwing the body from him, he struggled to his feet, his arms heavy. A flick of the wrist sent the dagger spinning into the eye of a soldier attacking Atyniadol, who nodded in thanks. Turning, she fired off three daggers in quick succession, two of which skipped away into the night, the third punching through the thin armour at the shoulder and causing an Áðexe to drop his weapon. The opening let Fyn put an arrow through the Þracian’s throat.
Ceinder felt another surge building, and pushed back, hard, sending the Þracian stonemage tumbling. The mage crawled to his feet, visible to her talents, and she felt the rock all about them trembling as the Áðexe worked at many different areas at once. Unable to defend so many attacks at once, she pushed at the ground beneath his feet, tipping him to the ground once more. But the attacks did not stop, and as they burst she shouted for Tarranau to slay the stonemage.
Tarranau dove to the ground, moments before the stone ripped through the air where he had been standing. Even with the warning, his reactions had not been fast enough, and he could feel blood oozing from two wounds in his back, where the fragments had punched through his armour. That bastard would get it. Pulling more moisture from the air, he formed it into a thin layer of sleet and threw it at the struggling combatants, letting it momentarily blind all of them. Then he began to pull at the air all around him, at the Áðexe, at everything but his allies within reach. The moisture formed a great globe in front of him, and he directed his talent at it, cooling it down until it was nothing more than a great globe of ice.
Sawwaed swung high, his attack dodged by the Þracian soldier, who counted with a quick sword strike that left a line across his stomach. The armour held, screeching in protest, and the warrior lashed out with his shield, hoping to thump his foe to the ground. Dancing backwards, the Þracian’s place was taken by another Áðexe, who thrust over the shield, angled down at Sawwaed’s eyes. Bwyell’s shield intercepted the attack, and the countering blow from the bodyguard sent the Áðexe stumbling backwards, wounded but not out of the fight.
“This damn armour is a problem!” It was woven from layers of stone, with softer layers of earth packed in between, enough to deflect the full impact from the hammers.
“So hit harder!” Sawwaed drove forward again, his weapon coming about in a low slash, cutting at thigh of his enemy. The opponent’s shield came down to meet the blow, but Bwyell’s attack snaked over the top, and the spike on the war hammer sunk into the Áðexe’s thigh.
Atyniadol was forced back against a wall, a physically larger Þracian pressing in on her, its teeth gnashing at her face. It clawed at her face, and as she dropped to avoid the strikes it smashed its knee into her chest, leaving her doubled up on the ground, gasping for breath. A dagger flashed into the Áðexe’s hand, and the soldier struck downwards. A desperate twist and the dagger bit into her side, leaving her ribs gashed.
Another strike followed, this at her throat, but before it was completed a knife sprouted from the face of her opponent, and she waved her thanks to Fynyddwr. Pulling the dagger from the soldier’s hands, she turned to face another oncoming Áðexe, who sought to bowl her over. A quick dodge and a short thrust left the warrior bleeding out on the ground, but not before she had garnered another gash.
Fynyddwr slid backwards, trying to maintain his footing amidst the sea of corpses and blood that was forming on the ground. Pressed from the left and the right, the mountaineer faked an attack to one side, and then lashed out to the other, hoping that his speed would confuse his opponents. It did, but the Áðexe armour caught his attack and made it mostly harmless. The Þracian counted with a spear thrust from behind its shield, driving Fyn further backwards.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw his other foe coming in for an attack, but too slowly he turned to counter, and the Þracian blade bit home on the outside of his thigh, a deep strike. In desperation he flung his knife into the face of the Áðexe, thinking it no more than a delaying tactic. Luck was with him, for his blade struck true and pierced the eye of his enemy, giving Fyn enough time to twist away from a spear thrust. A second followed, and weaponless, the mountaineer could do no more than give ground, being forced away from his allies with each moment.
Ceinder raised her shield high, catching an oncoming spear thrust. The Þracian soldiers had broken through to her position, and she was forced to use the shields she held in front of her to block the strikes aside. Another attack, and she had to step backwards, stumbling over the body of a downed foe. Falling, she maintained her composure enough to push hard against the armour her Áðexe foe wore, sending him tumbling towards Sawwaed, who finished the lizard with a swift blow.
Climbing to her feet, she looked about, a momentary pause in the action allowing her the freedom. The battle was a complete mess, with corpses and blood and snow combining to form treacherous footing, now supplemented by the shards of rock and ice that the Áðexe stonemage and Tarranau had been using as weapons. Bwyell and Sawwaed were wounded, Fyn was struggling badly, and Atyniadol had blood running from a wound in her armour. Only Tarranau stood untouched, his eyes shut as he directed a great sphere of ice.
The watermage shoved with all of his talent, sending the ball crashing through the wall of the building, blasting it inwards. Once it had punched into the room, he gestured, shattering the sphere into a thousand fragments that sprayed about, eviscerating all that was within. Stones that had hung in the air and walls that had bulged with magical pressure groaned and collapsed, as the Þracian stonemage found his talent permanently silenced.
Turning his attention to the rest of the battle, Tarranau pulled the ice back to him, grabbing more liquid from the air before flinging it in great sheets at the foes about him. He was tired, and his aim was poor, and some some shards struck Atyniadol and Bwyell, one leaving a red gash across the warrior’s wife.
Sawwaed cursed at the watermage, even as the razors of ice cut through the foes in front of him, levelling them like so much wheat before a scythe. He was unable to follow up on the opening, almost as battered by the storm as his enemies were, and he stumbled before righting himself. Bwyell faired better, protected behind the bulk of Sawwaed. The bodyguard was able to strike in quick succession, downing three more Þracian warriors.
The Þracians seemed to come in waves, and yet more appeared as those in the front ranks fell. There were now twenty or thirty corpses on the ground, and the footing was so poor that Bwyell would often find his feet sliding with each strike he threw. If the Áðexe charged, he would be unable to brace himself, and once he was on his back, the armour and slipperiness would make it almost impossible for him to rise again. Hoping that no Áðexe was so bright, Bwyell turned so that his back was to one of the low walls of the surrounding buildings, hoping that would provide him some small support.
Fynyddwr’s leg left a trail of red as he dodged away from the spear of his enemy, and he shouted for assistance. There wasn’t any to be had, of course; all the other humans were equally engaged with enemies. And so the mountaineer did what he had to do, diving at the legs of his Þracian foe, tackling the larger creature to the ground. The spear was trapped between their bodies, and the shield made the Áðexe unable to use one of its claws to strike.
Pinning the other arm wide away from its body, Fyn headbutted the Áðexe as hard as he could, narrowly avoiding being caught in the snapping jaws. The attack stunned the soldier, and in the moment’s lapse, the mountaineer got to his feet and dashed back to his friends, grabbing weapons from the fallen corpses.
Now armed with two swords, he turned back to his enemy, who had risen with spear and shield intact. The spear flicked out, a lashing strike, but Fyn batted it away easily. He shifted his stance, and found that the wounded leg could barely take his weight. Gritting his teeth, he stepped forward onto it anyway, one blade flicking across high, the other coming in on a low arc. The upper blade lifted the shield high and out of the way, letting the second sword strike deep into the thigh of the Áðexe.
Bleeding from multiple wounds, Atyniadol lent against a structure, her breath coming in short sharp gasps. A flick of her wrist and a cry of pain sent a dagger spinning towards a soldier attacking her husband. The knife bit home enough to distract the Þracian, and with that opening, Sawwaed broke the skull of his foe. Fresh blood slipped from her wounds, and she sank tot he ground, exhausted and strangely tired.
Ceinder sent a spray of grit towards a foe harassing Tarranau. Too small to wound, still the spray was enough to distract, and a sword formed of ice split apart the Þracian’s head. More and more she found herself pushing the very boundaries of killing, for she had become adept at catching the attention of enemies, and letting that momentary lapse form an opening for one of her allies. No, she did not strike the killing blow, but only barely.
Looking about her at all the bodies that lay upon the ground, she realized that despite her personal conviction that she not kill, she must have already crossed the boundary that Tarranau had so feared, for she had caused death, and it lived all about her now. Still, she held the line, and sent a wave rippling through the earth, upsetting several Áðexe as they charged at the warriors.
His head throbbing and his eyes threatening to leap from his head, Tarranau pulled yet more water to him, lifting snow from the ground, grabbing at the spilled blood of so many foes, as he formed more and more sabres of ice. Each went flickering into battle over the shoulders of the warriors, cutting through Áðexe after Áðexe, striking from high above or down low.
He staggered as the eight sabres entered the fray, and moments later the watermage was sitting on the ground, still jousting with eight limbs. He let his physical body lie still as his talents roamed free, attacking with devastating speed, carving through the ranks of the Þracian soldiers. Despite their bravery, the morale of the Áðexe weakened, until a wave of panic broke over them, and they turned and fled. Then he blacked out.
Fynyddwr’s swords described two halves of a circle, cutting in at his foe. Both bled from multiple wounds, but the Áðexe had the worst of it. Seeing his allies routed, the soldier leaped forward, spear aimed between the mountaineer’s legs to tangle them. Fyn managed to stay on his feet, but the now free hand of the Þracian came over the top, landing a crushing strike to his head, sending the human stumbling.
Seeing its opening, the soldier leaped at the fallen man, only to find that his leap had impaled the Þracian on a sword. In his last dying moments, the warrior bit down hard, teeth sawing against the edge of the helmet, claws scraping against armour. Too tired to fend off the assaults, Fynyddwr prayed that the armour would hold. It did, barely, but the mountaineer had passed out.
After not writing NaNo for four days, I’ve managed to cudgel my brains back into working, so here’s another excerpt. Brief context: The human heroes and their allies from Æbb are planning the attack on Telgian with the leaders of Hálsiend
It was strange, not to see the sun, and in the dim light of the torches, the remaining humans fell asleep, as did the Áðexe. The next morning they were summoned for breakfast with the matriarch, and introduced to the Láttéow, the leaders of the Hálsiend army. Little was said as the food was consumed, but then the discussion commenced, with the generals pressing the humans and the Æbban Áðexe for all that they knew about the disposition of enemy forces.
With the high concentration around Telgian, and their knowledge of the fortresses that protected the inlet, there was little thought of a direct attack against the city. The matriarch was soon to remind Á?ðan that he had had a plan in mind the night before, but not until she cooed at him. The spy was rigid in his seat, and begged if he could leave the conference to explore the city. His request was summarily rejected, and the Láttéow leaned forward in interest, waiting to hear what he had to say.
“The old bint over there told you what I said last night? Good. That’ll make this easier.” He winked in the direction of the matriarch. She glared at him for the insult. “Wait. Bring a map.” A servant was sent scurrying, and returned presently with a large map that was laid upon the table. “Right, so, we’re here in Hálsiend, so we’re fairly close to the exit from Telgian. It’s why the Þracians chose that as the port to attack from. It gives you the least warning, because you can’t look past the fortresses, and it means you can’t raid them. So Telgian is out. But B?ran, round the coast, is much better. There’s no natural defences, and it’s almost the size of Telgian, but we know their army isn’t there. Is the architecture different there?”
One of the Láttéow nodded. “There’s some of the tunnels, but with less wind, more of the structures are above-ground, and there’s a lot that have wooden sides that can be raised. So we won’t have to do the brutal tunnel warfare, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
“Exactly what I had in mind, and that makes life even better. So, we swoop down there in the winter, before they expect an attack, and we crush the small force that’s guarding the city. I don’t think they have metal weapons there, because I think those are all either in Þracian or Telgian, but I’m not sure. If there are, we’ll work out some way of dealing with it. Anyway, as soon as the fleet drops the troops off there, it zips back round to sit off the Telgian channel. We can’t go in there, but it’s a damn hard place to get out of as well. And we’ll leave a couple vessels in B?ran to act as messengers to the main fleet. I think we’ll need them.”
“And if the army moves from Telgian to B?ran?”
“Well, here I’m guessing. There’s too many variables. But how good are your troops as skirmishers compared to the Þracians?”
“As skirmishers? On those plains, the best of us can cover twice the distance of any miserable Þracian.”
“Are any of them airmages?”
“We have a few who are warriors. Most sail with the ships.”
“Good enough. Because here’s how I think we might have some fun. We don’t really want to capture B?ran to keep it. Sieges are horrible things. But if we get the Telgian army to move, I think we pull most of our forces out of the city via the fleet, and leave a skirmisher detachment there to harass the Þracians without ever engaging in battle. Keep them annoyed.” Á?ðan grinned. “I like annoying Þracians. And then we send the rest of the fleet to Telgian, racing past the sentinels at night, and we hit the harbour and sack everything we can, destroying or stealing all of the ships and supplies they’ve built up for their campaign. They can’t attack you without those ships, so all we need is one successful raid and you’re safe.”
The Láttéow sat back in their chairs, their faces pensive. “You’re assuming that they pull their entire army out of Telgian. Why would they be that stupid? All their supplies are there, and the boats for the invasion. I can’t see them leaving those undefended.”
Á?ðan shrugged. “Those vessels have to be sunk for Hálsiend to stay alive. You tell me how to do it.”
“That’s probably the best way to go about it, but we’ll not just be raiding, we’ll have to fight to hold part of the port and then flee back up the channel, and through the fortresses. And they’ll cut us to shreds.”
“You don’t think you could stay and hold the city?”
“Not against the whole army, which would come back as soon as they heard we had landed, skirmishers be damned. And then we’d be caught, the army on the one side and the fortresses on the other.”
Tarranau leaned forward. “These fortresses, how many men do each of them hold?”
“Unless the Þracians changed them, they held about five hundred Áðexe each. But they’re high on promontories that overlook the channel, and the only approach is a single track of road up a narrow hill to the cliff. It’s wide enough you could assault with twenty or thirty abreast and a siege engine or two, but there are catapults on the landward side, and you would get cut to pieces by them.”
“There’s no possibility of stealth?”
“If the Áðexe manning the forts are idiots. When we held them, we planted torches along the road, and placed sentinel posts out there. Unless they’ve stopped all of that, there’s no way in but a direct assault. Seaward is completely inaccessible.”
“So once you’ve slid past them in the night, you can’t get your ships back out?”
“We could try a night escape, but with wind and current against us, I doubt we’d get past. Getting in is the easy part. It would be the getting out. And if we lose all of our ships in there, and many of our soldiers, it’s not a victory. It’s delaying the inevitable. So I like your plan, Á?ðan. It has bravado. But until we can escape from Telgian, with our ships, we’re done for.”
The spy thought for a moment. “Overland assault?”
“Þracians would be closer to Telgian, and we’d not get the chance at the ships.”
“Could we strike with half of Hálsiend’s vessels?”
“We could try. But if Þracian has kept a fair chunk of the army there, that would be a suicide mission and they might not burn the fleet. In terms of success, I’d think we need most of the army and navy. Þracian is that much larger than us. But if we can’t get them out again, we’ve given our land to ?gflota or Þracian.”
“So to succeed, we need to draw Þracian away from Telgian, strike, destroy the vessels, and then either defeat the Þracian army in battle or escape with Hálsiend’s forces intact. And you say we can’t escape.”
“I don’t think we can escape or defeat them in battle.”
“Well, escape looks the worse option at the moment.” Sawwaed stepped in. “Why can’t you defeat them? There are more Þracians, but if you split their numbers in half, and manage to harass one group all across the plains, why can’t your entire army defeat half of Þracian’s army in a city you used to control?”
Another of the Láttéow spoke. “Because it is ‘used to’. Þracian has held the city for two years now, and we do not know what they have done with it. And it will be full of hostile soldiers, dug into a series of tunnels that runs throughout Telgian. And your escape by bursting around the Þracian army will have alerted them, and they will rethink the defences. I think Telgian would be the death of Hálsiend.”
“Could you not break through to the plains and use your speed and skill there?”
“Why do you think we no longer hold Telgian now? That does not work against the Þracians, not in large numbers. We would not have the supplies to feed our army, and when we were forced to battle, we would lose as we did before. Our weapons cannot penetrate their metal, except with luck. And they will not pull all of their metal soldiers out of Telgian to recapture B?ran.”
Ceinder spoke, the first time Tarranau could remember her speaking Áðexe. “What would you do then? Sit here and bemoan your fate? The Þracians are too good for you, so you’re going to give up? You’re going to let them have your kingdom? Cowards. Humans will fight to the end. You won’t even start to fight.” She winked at her husband, and spoke in human. “The Áwendennes taught us some, and we’ve been trying to pick up the rest. Seems to work.”
The matriarch had a small smile on her face after Ceinder’s speech, remembering how she had been lectured the day before by Á?ðan. She hoped that this new arrival of fresh passion would spur the Láttéow to life as it had spurred her. And if it didn’t, well, she had an idea or two.
“We will not sink our kingdom when we could still save it by destroying the Þracian as they cross the ocean.”
The stonemage snorted. “Really? You’ll risk all of your ships against all of theirs, and think to come out the victor?” She paused a moment, then chuckled. “You think your airmages will lead you. Do you think the Þracians are unaware of this? They have fought and defeated them before. I think they will win, because they have too many mages of stone for you to counter. You’ll destroy many of their vessels, and lose all of yours, and that will be the end of Hálsiend as a kingdom. You’ll need to do better than that, and the only way is to attack. Á?ðan has told you, Tarranau has told you, Sawwaed has told you, I have told you, your matriarch has told you. And you will not listen. Fools.”
The matriarch broke out laughing. “I think they shall listen.” She waved her hand at the humans and the Áðexe from Æbb. “From now on, these nine are the leaders of the army and the navy. You will take orders from them, and if those orders are not obeyed with the utmost speed, I will gladly find them someone who can follow orders. Now, I suggest that the Láttéow should go and ready the troops to meet their new commanders.”
The humans stared at one another as the Láttéow burst out into furious disagreement. A single slice of the claw silenced them, and the matriarch sent them from the room, before turning back to her new commanders. “Did you not want command?”
Atyniadol spoke first. “I would not, no. I think your kingdom will be a heavy burden to bear.”
“You needn’t worry. I’ll bear the weight. You just make sure it stays on my shoulders.” At that, the humans and their Æbban allies pored over the map before them, cudgelling their brains to see if they could discern a new avenue of attack.
Another NaNo excerpt. Brief context: They have arrived in Hálsiend, and are speaking to the queen/matriarch.
They had but a few scant months before the Æbban assault on Þracian, and all wished to have the Hálsiendic army fighting the Þracian soldiers, drawing them off from their home, before that happened, so it was with much relief that the nine of them answered the summons from the Hálsiendic guard, whom they followed until he deposited them in a chamber full of stuffed bags that served as chairs.
Taking a seat, the humans and their allies waited for the arrival of the Hálsiend contingent. “How should I address their leader?” Sawwaed spoke to Á?ðan.
“Depends on who she is. I don’t think we’ll speak to the matriarch first time out.”
“Matriarch? The country is run by women?”
“What, you do it differently? Didn’t you know most of the important people you were speaking to were women?”
“How could I tell the difference? You all look identical to me.”
“It’s the bulges on the shoulders. That’s where the eggs come from. You can’t seriously tell me you didn’t notice that? I can tell which ones of you humans are female.”
“No, I didn’t. And your language using neutral titles didn’t help either.”
The spy shrugged. “A title is a title. It has meaning regardless of who holds it. Why would they be tied to male or female?” The Áðexe shook his head. “You humans really are strange sometimes. I’ll have to come visit you. I’d get a good laugh out of it.”
“Thanks.” Tarranau rolled his eyes at Á?ðan, but his comeback was interrupted by the arrival of their interrogators. Four Áðexe sat down opposite, and despite the spy’s assistance, the watermage could still not tell which was female and which wasn’t. He must be blind.
The largest of the Áðexe spoke, secondary arms writhing. The humans could not tell if it was nervousness, or something else. “You have come to us in an Þracian barquentine, but your crew is from Æbban, and you wear the markings of Æbban clans. And you bring Veryans with you, foul creatures that they are. Are you from Þracian? Do you seek to taunt us with a show of countries united against us? For I tell you now, it will not work, and we will fight you until the last breath leaves our body. You will not have Hálsiend, now or ever.”
The Áwendennes held up a claw in a placating gesture. “Matriarch, I fear you have us wrong. We are Æbban, all of us Áðexe, but these are not Veryans. They come from Tri-Hauwcerton, a kingdom in conflict with Bhreac Veryan, and the Þracian vessel was stolen from their anchorage at Telgian.”
“You lie. That one is Veryan.” Her claw pointed straight at Sawwaed.
The Áwendennes raised an eyebrow at Sawwaed, who spoke for himself. “Yes, milady, I was born in Bhreac Veryan, but I do not owe them my allegiance. I have chosen to give my strength and my skills to Tri-Hauwcerton, in the hopes that it would overthrow the foul men who have captured control of my home.”
“Pah! No creature can side with any but his own clan. Your very words paint you a liar.”
“And what of spies? You have none of those?” Á?ðan chuckled. “You’re playing the fool to gauge our reactions. Be done with it. It grows tiring.”
The other three Áðexe from Hálsiend hissed at that, but the matriarch smiled. “I like your bold tongue. I think I shall take you as a mate.”
Á?ðan scrambled back, tumbling out of his chair onto the ground. “No, no, I must decline. It’s too cold here, too breezy, and I’m much better suited for southern climates.”
The matriarch hissed with laughter, and the room joined her. “You would stand up to me, yet you cannot lie down with me. You are a strange Áðexe.”
Á?ðan had recovered himself enough to retort. “One that values his freedom above all else.”
“Freedom? Is that what you call it? I think you and I will need to talk again. “ The spy blanched. “But enough of that matter. If you are indeed from Æbban, what has brought you here?”
The Áwendennes took up the telling. “We were sent here by the leaders of Æbb, although we were not the only couriers that brought the message. Have no others come this way?”
“None, to my knowledge.”
“Then they have fallen into Þracian hands. They, and we, brought a message of allegiance from Æbb, pledging that we would attack seven months from our departure, our entire force committed to a strike against Þracian itself, and we had hoped that you might join us in that attack. But what we have seen since then shows that Þracian is arming itself for an invasion of your country, and to wait for the spring thaw to assault would doom both our kingdoms.”
“And you have conveyed this information to Æbb?”
“No, matriarch, we have not.”
“Then you ask me to be the mortar, taking the blows from Þracian, while you are the pestle, grinding them down to nothing. I see little in it for me, for my people will suffer greatly either way, but we have an advantage on the sea, and will sink many Þracian ships as they come to seek our shores.”
“The Þracian army comes armed with metal, and already has many ships like the one we stole sitting in harbour. You would have to fight that battle and win many times over if you sought to see your country safe.”
“Do not forget that we have nature on our side, that the gales and hurricanes that give this place its lure will come and come again, smashing their ships and sending them to the bottom. With luck, we will barely have to fight, and instead Air will spare us.”
“This is why Þracians will come during the spring calm, when the weather clears and the snow recedes. They are no more fools than you or I. And think you they do not have an agreement with ?gflota? Þracians are a cunning foe, and have shown their diplomatic skills to be a great advantage. I think they shall land at Gárwiga, protected by the ?gflotan fortress city there. And then you will have to cope with them on the land, where none have stood against them.”
The matriarch waved her hand in resignation. “And if I attack them in Telgian, I must run the barrier of the fortresses, and be caught in a narrow harbour from which there is no escape. And if I strike them any place but there, my fleet shall be too far to recover should they launch across the channel, and Hálsiend will fall with little resistance. And before you ask, I do not have the forces to defend Hálsiend, defend against an ?gflotan incursion, and go on the offensive.”
Á?ðan broke in. “Then pull back into Hálsiend. You defeated ?gflota in the past, so you can do it again. Þracian defeated you, ran you out of Telgian. In a war of attrition, you know they’ll win. There’s more of them, and they have better weapons. So be interesting, be unexpected. Attack them. You’re going to lose your kingdom if you don’t.”
“And I shall lose my kingdom if I do, so what you propose offers me little hope. I had thought you were smarter than that, but I see not.”
“Stick a twig in your ear. You can’t win this war on the defensive, and you’re blind if you don’t see that. And holding on by your claws for a little longer just means more suffering for everyone involved. So get out of that throne and act like a matriarch or go surrender.”
The monarch stormed from her chair, her claws clashing as she stalked towards Á?ðan. She hissed at an earsplitting pitch, and the humans clapped their hands to their ears, trying to block out the noise. The Hálsiendic nobles leapt from their seats and restrained her before she got far, and gently urged her back to her seat. She took their advice with much bad grace, spitting at Á?ðan before resuming her place upon the throne.
“You will never, ever, insult me like that again. I do the absolute best that I can for Hálsiend, and I shall see that we remain free for as long as possible.”
Á?ðan waved at the room around him. “Is this what you call your best? You live in constant fear of an invasion, you’d rather watch yourself slowly lose than try and win, and when someone speaks to you straight you attack them. Some leader you are. I’d take any of this lot over you.” He gestured at his allies. “Go on, get out of that seat again. You’re a coward and a bully, not a leader. Roll the bones. You’ve lost everything if you don’t. Even you know that.”
The matriarch fumed as she listened to Á?ðan’s words, but she held onto her self-control by the thinnest of margins. Then she slumped, defeated. “What would you have me do? If I attack Þracian, I give my land to ?gflota. If I attack ?gflota, I give my land to Þracian.”
“Pull back from those damn cities over near Gárwiga, and leave a small detachment to harass any invasion. They won’t notice for a while, and anyway, they aren’t so stupid to gear for an invasion in the dead of winter or in thaw season across that patch of land. Throw everything else you’ve got into the water, and send it towards Telgian or B?ran.”
Tarranau shook his head. “Not Telgian. The city isn’t that well defended, but the Þracian army is on the plains about the city, and digging enemies out of the tunnel system would be hell.”
“If we go for B?ran, our navy will be out of position, and they can strike at our homes.”
Á?ðan bared his teeth. “Think more! If your navy doesn’t get spotted on the way to B?ran, by the time a messenger can make it from there to Telgian, your navy can be blockading the mouth of the channel. Sure, Þracians are good sailors, but they sail the inner sea, not the open ocean, and trying to beat upwind into combat coming out of that channel will see them cut to shreds. You’re really going to tell me you couldn’t out-sail them if they were bottled in there?”
“And if they send the army to the relief of B?ran? What then?”
By now, the spy was laughing out loud. “Oh, I think we might have a surprise or two for them if they do that.”
The others looked at him, waiting for him to elaborate, but he said nothing more, and chuckled to himself. The matriarch shook her head in exasperation at the recalcitrant spy. “Very well. Mobilize the troops, and give the order to abandon Heardlic and Herewulf. And I want every windmage on the boats. Leave enough to discourage ?gflota, but every other, regardless of age or infirmity, is going to war.”
“Now you’re starting to think like a leader. Much better.”
“And I think you shall be a most suitable mate.” At that, Á?ðan fled into the tunnels.
Another NaNo excerpt. Brief context: They are fleeing past two Þracian forts, on the way to Hálsiend.
The days passed in swift chain, and the barquentine drew closer to the forts. Behind them, two Þracian vessels had appeared, shadowing their movements but unable to catch the commandeered ship. The days did not pass idly, for the crew gathered sand and buckets against the possibility of a fire being started, and they examined the rope locker for spares, should the rigging be cut.
All was in readiness as the dawn broke on the day the barquentine would run the gauntlet, and Tarranau and Ceinder had a hearty meal to break their fast. It had been agreed that she would take the near shore and he the further, for he could not act upon the rocks directly, and so would need more time to deflect them. The ship’s mage would act as the last line of defense for the ship, taking over when one of them faltered or failed.
The hour approached, and it was apparent the fortresses had dragged extra catapults into position, for on either shore three could be seen above the ramparts, two in their normal towers and a third stationed on a temporary platform.
A distant thump sounded, and a splash rose off the port bow. The nearer of the fortresses was testing the range, using lighter shot to let it carry further. The engineers had marked where that ball fell, for when the barquentine passed that line, three catapults fired, and their shot arced overhead.
Ceinder judged that two would fall short, and she gave them only the lightest of nudges to ensure the miss. The third she had to push aside more forcefully, and its momentum pushed back against her, for stone does not like to be deflected from its chosen path.
As the first wave of shot hit the water, the second fortress opened fire. They too had dragged a spare catapult into action, and a ragged cheer went up from the vessel when the scaffolding that supported it collapsed under the strain of the bucking arm.
Tarranau reached out, his talent forming the water into thick panes of ice, held at an angle. The stones smashed them, but the loss of velocity and the change of pitch dropped the stones into the water well short.
Three more barrages came from each side, and by the third Ceinder was near to collapse, her head throbbing, her body aching and sweat pouring from her brow. Tarranau felt the strain too, for forming the panes so quickly and in the path of the catapult shot required great effort. The stonemage gestured to the the waiting Áðexe, and he stepped into her place against the next wave of rocks.
His technique differed from Tarranau’s, for he formed great globes of water, letting the spheres take the impact and slow the shot enough that it would fall short. Again and again the siege engines fired, and each time their ammunition failed to reach the target, slapped out of the air by the strength of water. Bur each deflection took its toll, and the barquentine was within the range of the catapults for a long time as it tacked across the channel.
The ship’s mage flagged, and Ceinder stepped in for him, somewhat refreshed from a deep drink and a brief snack. On the other side, still Tarranau swept aside the incoming attacks. Sweat stood on his brow and he now saw on the deck, but as each catapult boomed, he would form the shields of ice, and let them send the rocks flying away.
It was as they were nearing the edge of the catapults range that both husband and wife failed, collapsing on the same salvo. The Áðexe mage fought furiously to deflect the incoming attack, but he could not react so quickly, and three rocks struck the ship, two upon the deck and one beneath the prow. All punched holes through the wood of the vessel, and one struck a crewman, killing him instantly.
The ship shuddered from the impacts, and the waves that broke over the barquentine began to hammer through the hole in the bow. The sailors rushed below, and within moments there came the sound of hammering, as boards were being patched over the damage. Later, they would have the chance to fix the break from the outside, but this was not the time. Others manned the bilge pumps, and streams of water spurted over the side as the sailors ejected the water that had washed on board.
A final round of shot cascaded down, and the ship’s mage fell after deflecting three. One landed short, unable to reach the vessel, but the other struck the stern of the boat and punched into the cabins, sending splinters flying. Thankfully, none were inside and few were hurt from the rain of wood, for Áðexe hide was thick, and resisted the shards easily.
Another day, another NaNo excerpt. Brief context: They have set an ambush for Þracian soldiers pursuing them. Nieithr is the spirit of a warrior many years dead. Ddifeddianedig is the spiritmage hosting his soul (it’s a time share arrangement).
A shout was all the warning that was to be had, as Fynyddwr spun behind a tree to dodge a throw javelin. The stone-tipped projectile speared into the ground behind him, and he spat, for the mountaineer had seen no sight of his attacker. Another spear came a moment later, this aimed at Atyniadol, and she dove to the ground, tucking herself into the snow to avoid the cast. With her down, the Þracian scouts began their attack, and Fyn saw that it was not merely a few scouts, but a whole line of skirmishers, some twenty in number. The humans’ disappearance into the forest had not been as unobserved as they would have hoped.
Nocking his bow, the mountaineer sent shaft after shaft towards the oncoming skirmishers. Two went down in a moment, but then they were too close for him to fire, and he threw away the bow and pulled out long knives. Cursing at his foe, he stood his ground as the Þracian soldiers attacked.
Atyniadol stood, knives in her hands, and sent them spinning at the Áðexe. One struck a scout in the eye, killing him. Another glanced away off of the shoulder, and a third clipped a limb. The Áðexe hissed at her in response, and she backed away, for she had no armour. Dashing backwards, she made for the path, shouting for the help of Ddifeddianedig.
Neither Ceinder nor Tarranau were struck in the first wave, and they were too far away to help with their talents. Tarranau felt a terrible quandary. He was the only mage skilled in combat, yet if he deserted his position and the Áðexe attempted to sneak past, they would succeed, for Ceinder had little experience of combat, or willingness to kill. But if he did not, his friends would suffer for the lack of his talents.
Pointing, the watermage sent his wife back towards the trail, hoping that she could assist with her magic. It would have to do. He shifted his post somewhat closer in, and reached out with his talent, searching through the thick trees for the barest sign of an Áðexe.
Bwyell and Sawwaed found themselves assaulted down the middle, as five Þracian soldiers came at them. Obsidian spears flew, and although the aim was true, the tips were too weak to penetrate the massive armour of the Tri-Hauwcerton warriors. Yet the soldiers came on, for they had not experienced the stopping power of heavy steel and stone plate. Leaving themselves wide open for counters, Sawwaed and Bwyell hammered at their foes, and the first two were crushed easily, before they realized what had happened. The second pair fought more cautiously, using their long arms and the tips of their sword to cut at joints.
In the tight confines of the woods, they could not find the space they needed to get past the shields of the warriors, and the Áðexe joined their brethren as corpses on the ground. The last of the Áðexe to come at Sawwaed and Bwyell broke away, and the warriors would not give chase.
Fifteen had come at Fynyddwr and Atyniadol, and with Atyniadol retreating to the safety of the warriors, Fyn found himself facing the foes alone. Three had been killed, but the remaining twelve would overwhelm him if he stood his ground. Taking the better part of valour, he flipped one knife at the nearest Áðexe, catching him in the throat, before dodging back towards Ddifeddianedig, who had come to join him.
The spiritmage had eyes of bright fire that night, and when Fyn recounted the tale of what happened next, the others did not believe him at first, until they came to see the carnage. Nieithr stepped past a thrusting spear from the first skirmisher, his right hand slicing down across the wrists of the warrior, the left striking straight for the throat.
The Áðexe died in a noisy gurgle, and the spiritmage spun away, batting two javelins out of the air. Next came three scouts armed with sword and shield, and they spread through the trees to surround him. Rather than let that happen, Nieithr charged the centre, launching into the air and kicking off of a low hanging branch to add more height to his leap. Unprepared to be attacked from above, a single thrust speared the skirmisher’s head. That attacked pulled the sword from the spirit’s hand, but he did not slow or stutter, and sprinted towards the line of enemy troops.
This piece is an excerpt from what I wrote today for NaNo. Context is missing, so here’s a brief run down: Tarranau has been transformed into an Áðexe, and is journeying through Þracian to meet allied spies.
Looking forward once more, Tarranau was just able to shout a warning as three Áðexe stepped from behind a closed door, and into their path.
“Guess they want to bring us in earlier than expected.”
The five Áðexe all drew those strange wood and obsidian swords from underneath their cloaks. Racentéah cursed his lack of weapons and crouched down, his teeth baring in an ugly grin.
“Cover me.” Tarranau began forming the ice into a heavy mace, more serviceable against the hides of their enemies.
“With what, you fool?”
Tarranau ignored the response and spent a ball of ice whipping down from the ceiling at the two Áðexe behind them. The first never saw it coming, and his head was stove in with the first blow. The second shouted and dodged aside from the lashing blow, tumbling to the ground. Racentéah took that opportunity to dive at him, and they engaged in a crashing, tumbling wrestling match of gnashing teeth and rending claws.
Turning his attention to the three in front, the watermage was forced to duck away as one of the obsidian swords whizzed past, but not before it clipped him on the shoulder, leaving a bright red gash. All three of the warriors charged him, and he could do little more than run before their assault. He flipped the ball of ice over his head at them, but they were able to dodge it easily, for he had not thrown it with much force. A strike lash it at Tarranau’s back, and he dove to the ground to get away from it.
An Áðexe thudded down on top of him, his mouth open wide to bite out the human’s throat. Grasping him with all four arms, Tarranau was able to hold the creature back, long enough for the watermage to crush his foe’s skull with the mace of ice. Seeing their friend fall, the other two Áðexe slash at Tarranau with their swords. Able to roll away from one, the other caught him in the thigh, leaving a deep gash that bled profusely.
Flinging the ice mace at them, the watermage reached out with his talent and grabbed at the water within the Áðexe, pulling it from them. Both staggered when they felt Tarranau’s attacked, and then they charged, for they could tell he was weakening them somehow. Another strike caught Tarranau on the upper arm, and it flopped uselessly to his side. He was able to keep his concentration as he tumbled, and the ball of ice launched into the ribs of one foe, cracking them and driving him back.
Rising to a knee, Tarranau stared down the last remaining Áðexe foe, still pulling at the moisture inside of his enemy’s body. The watermage was in poor shape, with three deep cuts marking him, making him weak. He had to let go of his attack, and focus on slowing the bleeding, using his talents to keep his blood inside of his body. To keep it flowing in rhythm demanded almost all of Tarranau’s skill, and so when the swordsman came at him, weapon held low, he could do little more than spin away from the thrust, taking another nick along the ribs for his efforts.
A stumble put Tarranau on his back, and with a grin the swordsman advanced, raising his weapon for a killing stroke. There was a thump, and the Áðexe’s eyes glazed over and he fell, his weight crushing Tarranau beneath it. Cursing and crying out in pain, he looked up to see Racentéah standing over him, holding a damp blade.
“Can you walk?” The spy wobbled, his body covered with claw marks and the tell-tale wounds of teeth. It was apparent he was in a poor way, and one of his secondary arms was clearly broken.
Tarranau nodded, shoving the corpse off of him with his good arms, then rising to his feet to lean heavily on Racentéah. Together, they cut up the cloth of their foes’ cloaks, using it to bind the wounds as best they could. That done, the two Áðexe staggered onwards, sticking to the darkest corners of the tower complexes.
“You know where we are?”
“I know a place that was safe last time I was in the city. I have to hope it still is, I wasn’t told about it in the brief.”
Wounds caused them both to lapse into silence, and all that could be heard from them was grunting, as each step brought agony. Tarranau’s head began to throb, for building in the back was a thunderous headache, the warning that his body was drained from using his talent too much. He knew that soon he would collapse and faint, for he was weak from his wounds and from using his talent so strongly.
The watermage was able to stumble another block before he collapsed to the ground. Racentéah was able to drag him some little way into the shadows before departing, too wounded to carry the burden of another Áðexe. Blood began to seep into the cloth binding Tarranau’s wounds, as his talent no longer forced it to stay within his body. He stirred briefly, and then slipped away.
This piece is an excerpt from what I wrote today for NaNo. For some reason it just struck me. And no, this scene was not in the plot for the chapter, either. Context is somewhat missing, so here’s a brief run down: They’re about the only humans in a land full of six-limbed lizard creatures, and Nieithr is the spirit of a warrior many years dead. Ddifeddianedig is the spiritmage hosting his soul (it’s a time share arrangement).
When the Áwendennes came to tell the humans they could unstopper the portholes and venture onto the porch once more, then grinned in delight and threw open the doors to dash outside. The cold air and falling snow did little to dissuade them, and they danced and caught flakes on their tongue. It was a time of revelry and joy, and even as the chill began to steal into their bones, they simply grabbed more cloaks and stayed outside.
Hours passed in the biting air and still they smiled and chattered and danced and sung, and to all their surprise, the best singer of the group was Bwyell, whose voice provided a deep tenor of pure note and strong volume. He and Atyniadol made a wonderful pair, and serenaded the others with melodies from Tri-Hauwcerton. When they finally tired, it was Nieithr who sang next. The spirit found it difficult to use Ddifeddianedig’s body at first, but soon he adapted and was able to bring forth songs he had last heard many hundreds of years ago, in his time.
To the others’ ears, the tunes were of unusual note, mournful and sad, and brought to mind a funeral dirge. The pacing felt more than passing odd, with galloping sections interspersed among great long moments of slow march, and the others found their joy being stolen away. They turned to look away, out into the falling snow, and they rested their arms on the balcony and thought melancholy thoughts, for that is what the song induced in them.
When Nieithr finished, he slunk away inside Ddifeddianedig’s body, for he was saddened to see what his song had wrought. It was only after gentle coaxing that he came to the fore again, and when Ceinder asked what the song meant, Nieithr shied away again. Only after some prompting did he answer.
“It’s the lament of my home. When I died, the Empire of the Sun had not yet risen, and the land was different than what you know today. No kingdom had the same name, but men had the same greed in their hearts. My city was destroyed because it chose to stand against an oppressor. We were made example of, and those of us that escaped fled to the four corners of the earth. Before we left, the best singers among us composed that tune. It contains our story, and our death, and we vowed we would sing it until our final day. Thank you for letting me sing it one last time.” Nieithr slipped away, and deep inside Ddifeddianedig could feel the warrior crying, broken-hearted at the destruction of his home.
Atyniadol saw the expression on the spiritmage’s face. “He was the only one, wasn’t he?”
The gentleman nodded, and Atyniadol’s face fell. “He fled so far he never saw another human face. And that song contains all that drove him here… I wonder that he would ever sing it again.”