I’ve finished the rewrite. The story now clocks in just a shade under 104,000 words. And it’s a hell of a lot better than it was before this whole process started. For the first time in a while, I’m looking forward to editing it and getting it out the door, because now I think I have a story that’s worth publishing. Of course, I’m sure I’ll turn into a pessimist as soon as I go back for another round of edits, but that’s a long way off.
For now, I’m just going to spend the weekend basking in the fact I’ve ‘finished’ another novel. But before I go, here’s the opening page.
Chloddio’s hammer crashed against the shield of his instructor, a muffled thud as the training weapon impacted solid metal. Chloddio followed with a sweeping strike, coming in high and from the right, aimed at the side of Cavrel’s head. The instructor’s shield rose as he ducked slightly, and the blow glanced away, momentum carrying the warhammer above his helmet. Chloddio threw his strength into reversing the strike, pulling it into a backhand aimed at Cavrel’s skull. A frown spread across the instructor’s features as his weapon came across, the cloth-swathed head slamming into the haft of Chloddio’s weapon, knocking it flying.
“You are a dead man Chloddio. Again. A sweeping side-arm blow with a warhammer? I could have stepped inside and gutted you. I just chose to knock it high and then disarm you. It’s flashier, and it proves a point. Either way, you’re dead. You use great swinging strikes, building from your shoulder. I’m not a rock, and will not meekly stand still while you mine me. Those spikes” Cavrel pointed at the top of Chloddio’s weapon, lying on the dirt. “are not simply for decoration. Use them to thrust or backhand, a change of direction, anything aside from your continual hammering. Subtlety in combat will save your life.”
Cavrel paused, looking at the warhammer on the ground, then back at Chloddio. “Another thing: This is a battle, not a show. You flourish. You wave your weapon above your head as if that will inflict damage. It’s costing you here in the training ring, and it will cost you more when someone doesn’t fight fair and kicks you in the groin. At least you wear armour reasonably well. Means you’ll last a few moments more in a fight, but only a few moments.”
“Gather your gear, put it back in the armoury and go home.” Cavrel sighed. “I’ll get nothing further from you today. Remember to be here by sun-up tomorrow, we’re working on squad tactics and marching.”
“Yes sir. By sun-up.” Picking up his hammer from the ground and shouldering his shield, Chloddio jogged to the armoury, handing the tools of his new trade to the weaponsmith who prepared them each morning. Two assistants helped Chloddio out of the heavy practice armour, thick padding overlaid with metal and stone layers, added weight to make real armour feel light and free.
One of them tapped the cuirass. “You should be more careful with this, you know. It’s getting more costly to repair it or replace it.”
“More costly? Why so?”
“Well, you hear there’s been a mine collapse or two? Seems that with those mines shut down, the price of ore and the ironstone we use to make the armour is going up. Quite a bit.”
Chloddio knew the mine collapses all too well. He had been the lead safety engineer at the first, tasked with examining the tunnels and caverns for collapse, and shoring them up when there was any danger. And he’d failed. A large fall had sealed the entire mine, and killed everyone in it, despite all that he could do. And only two weeks after that failing, another mine had shut down. Owned by a friend of Joestin Hogof, the man who had once employed Chloddio.
“But that’s only two mines. There’s dozens all around Tri-Hauwcerton.”
“You say that, but it turns out most of those other mines don’t produce consistent enough quality for our blacksmiths to buy from them. There’s only six that the quartermaster approves, and two of those six are closed for months. I’m even hearing rumours one of them would be closed permanently, that the collapse fractured an underground river.”
“Which one is that?”
“Can’t tell you. Rumour doesn’t say.”
The recruit shook his head. “Well, its not me you should be worrying about. It’s all those veterans who take delight in knocking me on my ass.”
“You’re the one with the shield sweetie. Use it.”
“It’s not that easy.”
“Kid, I’ve been caring for this armour for twenty years. I know exactly how easy it is. And you just better start learning, otherwise you’ll be going out in armour that’s going to crumble. We’re using up all our repair budget keeping the real suits together. Practice armour’s at the bottom of our list.”
“Okay, okay, I’ll do my best.”
“From the looks of this, you need to do a lot better than that.”
“Enough already. I get ground down by Cavrel as it is.”
“Cavrel, eh? He’ll get you into shape. Either that, or he’ll kill you trying.”
“He can kill me as long as he doesn’t dent the armour, right?”
“You got it, kid.”