by thefourpartland

This is the fifth in a short #FridayFlash serial based in The Four Part Land. Events that take place here will have a large impact in upcoming TFPL novels.

Annwyd Arwedda bent his head to look at those behind him, then ostentatiously rammed his spear into the ground, tip downwards. Those behind him did the same, and there they left the spears, quivering and upright in the ground, a mark of their peaceful approach. Upon this meeting lay the hopes of Annwyd, for to venture forth from his frozen home, he knew he must learn the secrets of agriculture, of the turning of the seasons and the coming of the rains, of when the plants are to be harvest and when they are to be interred. Hands open and apart from his body, he approached alone the farmers and their nervous tools, and let a smile crack his face as he looked at the children beyond. It was for his children and the children of all the Fferedig Ddynion that he was here, and he would accept many things on their behalf, for his people mattered more than he did.

The smile did little to reassure those standing apart from it, for the rest of the man was too terrible to be leavened by a mere pleasing expression. All men knew that some smiles were meant to show nothing but the teeth behind them, and their hands gripped tightly about the old wood of their tools until one, braver than the rest, stepped forward in partial gesture of greeting. This farmer spoke in questions, his words searching the reasons behind the appearance of these travellers, and Annwyd answered, his accent thick but his words intelligible. And so the farmers learned that these men sought to tie themselves to the earth, to give up the ways of hunting and of gathering, and to acquire the secrets of agriculture. To these people of the earth, where even a small child could see when to harvest and when to plant, it seemed strange that there would be men in this world who did not have this knowledge, and so, when faced with the prospect of extra hands in the fields, they readily agreed to share what they knew. The population here was thin, and the land could easily support the numbers of the travellers. Why, every few years the villagers would move their homes, letting the fields recover and moving to new and brighter pastures. To speak of their lives gave them great pleasure, and to Annwyd, the speech they made was of great importance. He would bide here awhile, absorbing the knowledge of these lands.

Each sextile, a messenger would depart, and the original thirty slowly dwindled in number, but those there became more at home with the grasp of the seasons, and as the months passed, they fell into the rhythm of the plants. The hard work and long hours bothered them little, for to people where even staying warm was a hassle, and to walk across the village meant bundling in clothing of heavy fur, being asked to stand outside under a warm and gentle sun was reward enough for what little hardships they had to endure. The year went onwards, and the harvest came, and the travellers learned the secrets of bringing in and bundling the plants, and finding the wheat amidst the chaff, and how to separate one from the other by means of beating and grinding, and they were pleased, for soon there was fresh baked bread being made amongst all the houses, and the smell brought a warm glow to the faces of the tundra-born. Spread thick with butter made from the milk of the small animals kept about, it provided the nourishment for many days, and it was taken to be a great travesty amongst the travellers when the fresh-made bread was no more, and they could only eat the hardtack that was put away for the winter.

The cold weather and blowing storms that struck the plains here felt mild in comparison to that which they had endured on the high plateaus, but when spring came again and lightning crashed and thunder split the sky, they quaked and made warning signs against the god of the skies above, begging that the air would see fit not to strike them with its mighty fingers. Soon after the springs rains, a year had passed of their time in this land, and Bwrw Eira Ddyn and two other council members arrived, led by those six members of the original thirty who had been sent away as messengers. Annwyd Arwedda was less than pleased to see their forms arriving upon the horizon, for it reminded him that he abided here only by the pleasure of those men and their council, and that he might find himself recalled to the homes upon the high plateau, and to a life he no longer wished to lead.

When the council members strode into the village, Annwyd greeted them as the ritual demanded, performing all of the steps as asked and making his home available to his guests. Bwrw Eira Ddyn shrugged the offer aside, preferring instead to sleep within the yurts and blankets that had long been his home. Affronted at their rejection of his hospitality, Annwyd Arwedda let anger cloud his thoughts and stormed away, walking out amongst the fields and letting his mind wander as he checked upon the plants and the pastures, seeing where the animals roamed and how the grain faired, before he came back into the circle of houses that comprised the village. He was of a better a mind from the walk, having let his feet carry him where they would, while his mind sorted out the nature of things for itself.

So armed, he greeted the council that next morning, and lead them around amongst the fields and the furrows, showing them which had been made by the travellers, and which were made by the farmers, and how alike they were, and how within a year those who had made the pilgrimage with Annwyd Arwedda had learned farming, and could support themselves on this great flat grassland. It was his statement that the tribes and clans should make their way down from the cold hills to the warm plains, and that the council should listen to him. The councillors asked many pointed questions, and Bwrw Eira Ddyn wore away at Annwyd, hunting through his mind for the answers to every question that strode forth from his lips, and they stayed until the plantings were over, and the doldrums of summer set in upon the land.



by thefourpartland

The fourth 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.

It was some few days before he was fit again to return to training, and when he arrived, Taflen had pulled Llofruddiwr aside. “He’s dead, isn’t he?” And the simple reply was “Yes.” Saddened at that, Taflen had hunted down the other three, finding them tucked into the shade of a small building. “Gwewyr’s back, but his soul has fled.” Rhyfelwyr cursed under his breath. “He’s staring out from dull eyes?”

Taflen nodded.

Locsyn spoke up. “Better we go short then, or take a fresh-face. Like that, Gwewyr will be looking for a spear point.”

“Don’t tell the officers, we’ll handle this. Taflen, who’s been the best recruit?”

“Probably Rhocas. Want him?”

“Get him assigned to our squad, I don’t care how. Forge the papers if you have to, you’ve got the eye for it.” A quick wave and Taflen was off.

“And now I need to talk to Gwewyr, and get him back on the retired lists. And if he won’t listen, well, there are other ways.” Locsyn patted Rhyfelwyr on the shoulder at that, and the two men rose and headed their separate ways. Each had a task to do.

Rhyfelwyr found Gwewyr in the quad, watching recruits at formation practice. There was little of the light in his eyes, and, indeed, as they looked out over the field at the younger soldiers, there was even sorrow, at what had been, and what might happen to all of those who stood before him.

“Gwewyr, I’ve got a few things with the squad to talk to you about.”

The veteran looked over, his eyes taking the measure of Rhyfelwyr, then shook his head and began walking away. Rhy was forced to hurry to catch up. “Look, you and I need to talk, is all.”

Gwewyr glared over at the sergeant. “You’re going to tell me I’ve lost it, that I should be walking away from all of this and just going home. I can’t, not after everything I went through just to get to this point again. No, I’m fine, and I’ll be coming with you, even if you disagree.”

“No, Gwewyr, you won’t. Not just for you, but for everyone. The skill is still there in your arms, but your heart isn’t, and once that’s gone, there’s almost no way for a soldier to get it back. In some ways, its why the rest of us can’t quit being soldiers. We know nothing else, and our hearts are too well trained for just one thing, and that’s fighting and killing. You’ve moved beyond that, Gwewyr. You’re a civilian with the skills of a soldier, not a soldier. Not any more. And I don’t want to always be on the lookout for you in the melee, and I don’t want you to cost someone else. But most of all, I don’t want to have to come home and explain to Menywod why she’s got no husband, why I let a man fight who I thought shouldn’t. I’m not letting you march to your death, not on my conscience. You’re staying.”

The life fell from Gwewyr’s face, and he sat down on the ground, a sad puppet with no strings. “You realise what you’re telling me, Rhy? That I’m too old to be useful. That I’ve reached the stage in life where everyone just nods and waves at me as they go past, and expects a few stories and an occasional visit, and otherwise I’m just supposed to moulder quietly in some corner. I think I’m more afraid of that than even of dying. At least there, I get carried home on my shield, a warrior of many battles. This way… I just fade.”

Rhyfelwyr knelt by his friend, smiling. “You haven’t been home often enough if you think you’re going to fade with that lot around. You’ve got five families, kids, and grandkids all running around in the largest damn house in town. Just trying to keep that mayhem in check should be enough to keep you on your toes for years. Plus, don’t worry about the campaign. We’ve seen raiders and skirmishers before, and they aren’t a problem for us. It’s not like we’ve let Niam Liad have anything resembling a real army in centuries, they won’t have the troops to stand against us. One season, then we’re back, and it’s all the way it was before this mess started. No, you’ve got no reason to worry about fading. Flame’s breath, you want to keep on your toes, just start training some of the younger ones with a blade. You’d have your own mercenary corps going in no time.”

Gwewyr brightened at that. “I could… provided Menywod lets me. She can get pretty hard at times.”

“What, she’s worse than Sessenagh? That old warhorse could chew leather of your armour from twenty feet away, and you managed to stand up to him.”

“In some ways, she is. But I see what you’re saying, and it’s something I’ll think about. Probably too much, now. You’re right though, I should try some other things. Even with the retirement, I’ve been a soldier for so long I’ve forgotten how to be a father or a husband.”

Rhyfelwyr patted Gwewyr on the back. “You’ve got a lot of new experiences ahead of you, there’s no reason to worry about reclaiming old ones. Those are always with you. Anyway, lets get you back to the training ground, if you want.” Rhy turned to go, then turned back. “And one last thing: if I see you in the troops leaving for war, I will beat you over the head and drag you back to your house myself. Don’t ever doubt that.”

Gwewyr looked rueful. “I had gotten that from your words.” He stood up and looked around, brushing the dirt off as he did so. “I think I’ll head home, if you don’t mind. Better not to keep grasping at being a soldier.”

Clasping hands with his old friend, Gwewyr turned and left, his feet taking him out of his old life and into his new. Rhyfelwyr watched as the old veteran marched away, his feet still coming down in time with the beat of a drum long silent. He was glad that Gwewyr had made the decision he had. It was the right one, and it made everything easier. Now Rhy wouldn’t have to worry about Locsyn’s part in this. A sad smile across his face, Rhyfelwyr headed back to the barracks, looking for Taflen and the forged paperwork. That, they’d still need.



by thefourpartland

This is the third in a short #FridayFlash serial based in The Four Part Land. Events that take place here will have a large impact in upcoming TFPL novels.

Annwyd stared eastward, as a green tinge struck the horizon, and he called “Canfydda!” to those behind him. Waving others to the small rise upon which he stood, Annwyd pointed east, the tip of his spear angled at the thin strip of deep green that marked the horizon. As his companions crowded about, he glanced to the sky and then back at that distant line, and guessed that the distance was now no more than thirty miles, only a day or two of walking to arrive at their destination. That was good, for water tasted brackish and poor, and little more than dried meat now fed their stomachs. Grinning, they marched down the small rise and off towards the home of the morning sun.

That first moment that Annwyd Arwedda stepped onto green grass may well have been the happiest of his life. Those who had never lived outside of the cold lands slipped their boots from their feet and sunk their toes into luscious grass, kneeling to touch the strange fronds as they reached upwards. Even Annwyd, who had seen this before and wished to maintain his composure, knelt and placed his face to the dirt, breathing deep the scent of fresh greenery.

The travellers rested for a while in this first expanse of lush scrub, laying on their backs and looking at a sun full of warmth, no longer the cold white sphere of their high mountain home. Soon enough, though, they struggled to their feet and continued their journey, as Annwyd looked for land ready for the taking, and yet near to farmers. He knew little of farming, but enough that he would rather learn from those that did than make himself a starving fool. Annwyd would never forgive himself if he and his kind did not learn the basics of agriculture, and thus lose the right to live here.

Day followed day, as Annwyd stepped across the scrub lands and his people followed. Each stride brought him closer to the hallowed lands of green grass and swaying wheat, where he would make a home of pleasant aspect and long duration. A grin floated across his face for but a moment, then disappeared beneath his placid exterior. There was little enough to smile about until he arrived at his destination, but its nearness teased at the edge of his mouth.

A tinkling sounds came to the ears of Annwyd Arwedda, and his pace quickened, and then stopped, as he beheld a placid stream, wending its way across the plains. On the far side grass spilled forth, drinking from the flowing waters and emerald with the bloom of the season. He had found his first stopping point, and raised his hand, gesturing at the soft ground. Those with him spread their pack upon the ground, sinking their bodies to the earth and stretching their fingers through the damp soil. For men of the frozen tundra and hidden plateaus, this was a change almost beyond their reckoning. Years passed for them with little more than brief summers of scrubby plants, and yet here they lay amongst the soft terrain of a welcoming earth.

It was bliss, and two days they spent beside that stream, drinking the crystal water and dipping their bodies into the ghyll, letting limbs trail in the cool liquid. Only the desire to push onwards drove Annwyd Arwedda from that place, that, and the food supplies that dipped low into the empty bags of the travellers. They would need to barter or hunt soon, for despite the gentle climate and abundant water, they knew little of how to harvest grain.

When the expedition saw smoke curling into the air from the far distance, they looked about in glee. They had found the first inhabitants of this land, and they would speak and trade with them, their skills and some tools for food and the knowledge of farming. Annwyd led his troop towards the thin tendrils, and presently they stood upon a small rise, looking across the plains at houses of earth and woven grass, and fences of the same material holding livestock. It looked idyllic to men used to moving daily, their homes strapped upon their back, never able to enjoy a sedentary life.

To Annwyd Arwedda, opportunity stood before him. The first small step in freeing his people from the confines of ice and winter lived within that enclosure, and he strode forward, planting his spear tip down into the earth in a gesture of friendship as he walked.

Men turned their eyes from the fields and looked at the approaching travellers, and wondered if the spirits of the land had birthed these creatures, for they wore garb outlandish and foreign, and they moved in a way that no plains dweller had ever done, hunched forward, as if always fighting through a strong wind. Holding close their pitchforks and shovels, the men of the village gestured at their women to hide in the houses, and to gather the children away, while the men went to form a line before the march of the travellers, implements held at the ready. The farmers of this village had travelled little, and all but a few had been no further than the nearest town to buy supplies. They had never heard of Fferedig Ddynion, nor know of places where the lands grew high and cold, and snow was the eternal presence. And so it was with great trepidation that they watched these approaching warriors, these people from a land beyond the boundaries of the world.



by thefourpartland

The third 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.

Two months had passed since that first call to vengeance, and it was now late autumn, and the training was on well apace. The flow of new recruits had almost stopped, for which Locsyn and the others were grateful, but every day they looked around at the mass of infantry training in the squares, and wondered how many of these newcomers would survive the first battle. While none of the veterans had had experience fighting against the soldiers of Niam Liad, all of them had faced the similar hit and run tactics of the raider kings of the northern mountains. For a large army, it was frustrating in the extreme, as the warriors would jog up, toss a few spears, and then sprint away, always retreating and giving ground until they were backed up against the mountains, and then the raiders just disappeared into the tors, going to ground in the many caves and crevasses. At least this time, the soldiers could be forced to defend their capital. If that hadn’t been the case… Taflen shook his head and let the though dissipate. Getting worked up months before the campaign started served no one.

The winter months passed in much the same way, day after day of training, but now the officers were confident enough in the new recruits skills to let them engage in squad level skirmishes. Due to their skill, the squad of Gwewyr, Locsyn, Gwyth, and the others was often used as a measuring stick, not that it made the poor recruits feel any better. Llofruddiwr alone could often ‘kill’ the opposing squad of six men, and the veterans would send him out there, then take bets on which of the young soldiers would be the first to fall to the dancing assassin. It was a lively business, and made the bar conversations all the sweeter as Rhyfelwyr or Taflen recounted how he had fleeced an officer or two to pay for the night’s drinks.

A new light had come to Gwewyr’s eyes, and each evening, he found it a little harder to return home to the five families, of which he was now the head. The camaraderie of the army, of veterans who had seen it all and lived to tell about it, that was where he felt at home, not among a household full of noise and fury. But he owed a duty to his family, to his lost brothers, and how could he let the remaining children grow up without a father, without someone to hold the house together? As the day marked for departure grew nearer, the burden began to weigh heavily on him, and his performance on the sparring ground and training the recruits suffered visibly. Locsyn and Rhyfelwyr had looked at one another and shrugged. They knew what was going through Gwewyr’s head, but they weren’t sure how to help him. This struggle was one for him and him alone, for a friend’s shield turns aside emotions not at all.

In the end, it was the wives at home who decided the matter for Gwewyr. They had noticed his predicament, well before Gwewyr had, and spent many hours discussing it. And so it was that when he returned home one evening, a month out from the campaign, that he was confronted by all five wives, and told in no uncertain terms that he was going, and that he better stop moping around the house. They were fed up with him acting like a little child whose favourite toy was in danger of being taken away, and that they could survive without him just fine. After all, how’d he think they got on when the brothers went out on prior skirmishes and battles? Gwewyr thanked them all profusely, wrapping each in his arms, and there was a small celebration that evening, although it ended poorly when Gwewyr’s wife slipped out of the room crying. She had seen four husbands die fighting, and had thought that with Gwewyr’s retirement, she was finally past the danger of losing her husband. Now, that danger had once again surfaced, and she had agreed to countenance it, and that was too much for her. Gwewyr knew of whence the tears came, and emotions struck at him too, memories of five boys playing in the street, toy soldiers off to imaginary wars. Gasping, he grabbed the strongest liquor in the house, and began downing it straight from the bottle, hoping that a drunken stupor would cleanse his mind of all that ran through it. It didn’t, and Gwewyr ended the evening on the steps of his home, bawling out his eyes, looking very much an old and broken man.



by thefourpartland

So, for the first time, I’ve decided to join up and try NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50k words in a month, from November 1st to the 30th. It should be rather fun, and a fair amount of work at the same time.

Now, on top of everything else I’m doing, you might be wondering why I decided to do this as well. It’s simple: I have set myself a goal of finishing the first draft of Læccan Waters by the end of the year. I’m assuming the novel is 150k words long, and that I write at about 5k words every three hours. At least, that’s what I did yesterday, and trying to do again today. So, that means I need to spend about 90 hours working on the book to be done. Call it 100 to allow some wiggle room.

The goal is to have 20k to 30k done by the end of October (Thanks to yesterday and today, Læccan Waters is already over 10.5k, and should end the day around 13.5k), add another 50k in November, and spend December, of which I have half off, doing the rest. At this point, I’m expecting to miss and have to do the remaining work in January, but that’s hardly a big drawback for me. Even if it does bleed over into January, I’ll have written the first draft of a 150k word novel in under 4 months, and that will mean a great deal to me.

And now, I need to get back to writing it.



by thefourpartland

This is the third in a short #FridayFlash serial based in The Four Part Land. Events that take place here will have a large impact in upcoming TFPL novels.

Sighing, he settled himself down for the night, for although it was early, his planned arising and departure would entail a short rest, and he needs be fresh on the morrow to lead out those others who travelled with him. And so, when Annwyd awoke in the pre-dawn darkness, he did not need to clear his eyes as he struggled into the hide armour and heavy pack that he would carry. Striding out to the eastern edge of the camp, he looked ahead, watching for the rising of the sun as the others gathered at his back, and Bwrw Eira Ddyn stood to the side. The first arc of the sun crested the far horizon, a golden glow that lit the sky, and Annwyd Arwedda cried out “Hymdaithwn!” as he marched down the frozen plain of the tundra, his spear lifted high, both pointing the way and in a gesture of farewell to those who remained behind.

Two days passed, and then another, as Annwyd Arwedda and those with him left the high winter grounds of the Fferedig Ddynion, and began the march down to the Afrada Dirio, that giant belt of burned land, scoured into a desert by a frigid winter and a blistering summer. Riven of all but the hardiest creatures, it was across this plain of battered ground that the travellers would head, cutting through the northern end to reach the warmer and softer land beyond.

Much as Annwyd despised travel across that stretch of ruined earth, he recognized that it served as a better shield to him and his people than any that he could carry. The inhospitable terrain warded away those who would attempt the journey, and made moving large bodies of men impossible. Thus it was that no army had ever attempted the Fferedig Ddynion, even at the height of the Empire of Bhreac Veryan and their warrior legions. Yet Annwyd wished to lead his people out, across this scarred terrain, and to do it in mass, the migration of a culture from a harsh and cold climate to a warmer, more lenient land, regardless of those who stood in his way.

Annwyd felt marginalized, both as a people and as a person. He was placed on the fringe of his own culture, partly through his own actions, yet his whole nation was an afterthought, a bare hint of a thought amongst the greater countries. He had spent some of his youth travelling amongst them, and those he had spoken to had not even known the name of his people, nor cared. The Fferedig Ddynion were a footnote, an afterthought. They existed simply to give a name to a place on a map, and Annwyd wished to teach those callous people what that name could do, and that it was not a name to be ignored and forgotten. Annwyd Arwedda’s pride had been trammelled, and he would stand it no more.

His mood was shared amongst the people with whom he travelled, strongly enough that they would leave their homes and their normal lives to journey with him, and just maybe form the core of his support as he returned to lead his people. Thus they strode across the land, a thin, straggling line of men and women under heavy packs, and wrapped deep in fur, Annwyd’s hope to finding a new home.

Two weeks into the journey, and the pilgrims stood astride a spine, a low ridge of hill that ran down through the Afrada Dirio. To the west stood the mountains from which they had come, distance and cloud hiding all but the barest details of the white plateau, while to the east, the land sloped gently down, foreboding at first, but the farthest sight of the eye showed land tending towards the genteel. A smile of pleasure broke out across Annwyd Arwedda’s face, and those of his compatriots around him. Once more he cried forth “Hymdaithwn!”, and he led onwards towards their new home.

The land beyond the wastes called to them, and each step after they had seen their goal was faster than the one that preceded it. Their food ran low, but such was their faith in the eden that they approached that the travellers merely pressed on faster, and Annwyd spent his moments always searching, peering for that first moment when they began the passage across the boundary and into the healthy, green lands. He wished to be the first to see their new home, and always strode tall and proud, first in the line, even when others should rightfully have taken that scouting position.



by thefourpartland

So, this is a bit of a departure from the pieces I normally put up here. It’s a bit of curious exploration behind the life of dragons, and the cultural impact they have. Because of my background, most of these tales will be drawn from Europe.

Dragons are a universal constant. They exist in stories from Wales to China, and all the countries in between. In the Western world, whenever you open a fantasy story, bets are it will have dragons. The most famous roleplaying game of all time is called Dungeons & Dragons. The Hobbit has a dragon. Whole series are based around the premise of dragons (Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern). And yet the myths and legends that tell of the first dragons are ancient, far enough back that some of them are lost to the mists of time.

Grendel, from the old Germanic tale of Beowulf, is one of the early examples of a creature that has fallen under the title of dragon. Then there is King Arthur, and the tales of slaying a dragon. Or St. George and the Dragon. The Welsh flag is Y Ddraig Goch, “The Red Dragon”. Stories abound in Wales about dragons.

What I am curious about is where does this universal constant come from? Why are dragons so old that they disappear back before recorded time in European and Asian history? What about these giant lizards makes them so mythical and special? Is it their alien size and immense power, their wisdom, their magic? All of those are constants across cultural boundaries, but something must give dragons the special place they hold in the hearts of humanity. I’m hoping you can answer the question in the comments.



by thefourpartland

The second 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.

A month had passed in training when Locsyn came over to tap Rhyfelwyr on the shoulder, an expectant look showing through the massive handlebars of his moustache.

“You’d better come for this.”

Bemused, Rhyfelwyr followed Loc through the barracks to the front gate, where an elder was trying to force his way out of the grip of a squad’s worth of six soldiers. Four of them had lost their helmets, three had blood or broken noses on their faces, and all were showing some kind of bruise or battering, and when Rhyfelwyr saw who it was they were holding, he understood how it had all come about.

“Gwewyr, leave off man. They didn’t know, okay?”

The elder turned and shot Rhyfelwyr a glare full of menace, but it softened quickly, and Gwewyr straightened, brushed away the hands holding him, and dusted himself off. With a last glance back at the squad who had been sent to retrieve him, he strode over to Locsyn and Rhyfelwyr, and pulled them towards a quiet corner near the gate.

“Look, I’m not going to leave the wives and kids behind. I’m trying to feed five families, now, and it’s hard enough to make it all work without being dragged off to fight some damned fool war that doesn’t matter to me.”

Locsyn patted him on the shoulder. “We know, Gwewyr, we know. We’ve helped you often enough. What’re you doing here, anyway? You retired out two years ago.”

“I’m not retired any more, lad. Not according to those jumped up pricks. No more pension, not until I do my duty one last time and go off and get killed under some snotnose who can’t tell his left foot from his right. Course, even if I do survive, it don’t matter. I just die when I get back here and the families have shattered. No thanks.”

“There’s no one else, Gwewyr?” Rhyfelwyr looked at his feet for a moment.

“They’re all dead, remember? Four out of five brothers, lying pretty in the family grave. Oh, sure, the pensions help the wives a bit, but not enough, and I don’t trust anyone else to keep order in that place, aside from me.”

Locsyn looked at Rhyfelwyr, who nodded at the thought. “Look, why don’t you come back and train. It’s six months on full pay, maybe a little extra if we can talk to the paymaster about it, and then you just disappear the week we’re heading out. It’s a little more money in your pocket, and you aren’t going anywhere. Has to help a bit, doesn’t it?”

Gwewyr looked thoughtful for a long moment. “Maybe, lad, maybe. I’m not sure I can go back, though.” He looked down at his hands. “I haven’t touched a blade or a spear since the day I furloughed out.”

The other two nodded, then each put one arm around Gwewyr’s shoulder and gently led him towards the gate into the barracks. “Don’t worry about that. The recruits will be so scared of you they’ll just drop their blade and run the first time you spar with ’em. We’ll make sure of that.” A slow grin spread across Gwewyr’s face as they walked inside. “I like that.”

Gwewyr quickly fell back into the habits that had helped him stay alive across many a battlefield, and even the others were impressed by how many little tricks he brought to the sparring grounds. Stepping on a retreating fighter’s toe, tapping at their elbow with the spear, or closing the distance and using knee strikes, Gwewyr seemed to have an unending fountain of varying attacks, and soon Rhyfelwyr and the rest of the veterans were sparring with him, hoping to pick up the tricks.



by thefourpartland

This is the second in a short #FridayFlash serial based in The Four Part Land. Events that take place here will have a large impact in upcoming TFPL novels.

He waited as the messenger cleared his throat, drawing out the time before he first needed to speak. Finally, the message was ready to be spoken, and it was begun. “The council has reached their decision in the matter of your wish to journey beyond our traditional lands and into a warmer climate, along with those who might follow you. You are ordered to heed their decision in all of its particulars, and that to break them will result in the punishment of your corporeal body and your mind, and that they wish to remind you of these things before you hear the decision that they reached.”

Annwyd Arwedda exploded. “Enough! Tell me of their decision, now!”

The messenger shook his head, then resumed speaking. “As you will. You are granted the right to take a party of thirty, of able-bodied men and women, and traverse the lands to the warmer country, and, once there, establish a settlement within empty or freely given land, and live to the best of your abilities for one year. Each sextile, you will send a courier back to our home here, carrying reports of your progress, and at the end of that one year period, three council members will arrive, to examine your situation and determine whether it shall be allowed to continue. Further rulings may change these initial offerings, of course, but for now, this is how you are bound.”

“And if I do not?”

“You well know how you are treated then.”

“Then I should take myself to the council?”

“They expect you after the mid-morning meal.”

Annwyd Arwedda waved his goodbye to the emissary, and returned to his tent, pondering how well he had been manipulated. His was an expeditionary party, nothing more, the same as the Fferedig Ddynion would send to their various hunting grounds, to see how many of their populace each could support. His was simply one more hunting ground, even if it was outside of the norm. It would also lessen any support he might have amongst those who stayed behind. After all, who could remember a man who last spoke to you a year past? It was a neat solution to their problems, for if Annwyd refused to go, he knew it would appear as if he had refused to follow through on his own ideas, and that, too, would undermine his support.

And so Annwyd found himself waiting outside the council tent as the remnants of the meal were cleaned away, waiting like a man who had been brought to heel. He would grumble and burn inside, but to show his passion to the outside world would lessen him as a man, and so he placed a pleasant smile on his face, and entered the tent at a spoken word. Nodding to the council, he placed himself at the centre of the circle, rather than at his normal seat as one of the young members. Once more, he found himself face to face with Bwrw Eira Ddyn, but this time, it was all to be couched in ritual and ceremony.

The ritual began, Bwrw Eira Ddyn gesturing as lesser men lit the smoky fires that would carry their blessings upwards, to those who must hear them. He intoned in the old language, the language of naming and of the proper place of things, and asked for the blessing upon Annwyd Arwedda and those who would travel with him, and sent the prayers of all Fferedig Ddynion to the aid of those who travelled far, in hope that they would find a great bounty at the end of their journey.

Even Annwyd found himself swept into the grasp of the ceremony, for even though he felt poorly towards Bwrw Eira Ddyn and those around him, he still believed in the gods above, and that this ceremony was crucial to his designs and desires. And so he gave of himself to the final crescendo, adding his voice in full tongue to the prayers and entreaties of the council, begging the cold eastern wind for a safe passage, wherever it might lead him.

Afterwards, Annwyd began the process of gathering his things and his followers, those thirty men and women who would be allowed to travel with him. Much had already been done, and so it was mostly informing all that they would leave on the morrow at sun up, and giving them their last day amongst the greater clan. The mid-day meal passed, and he had completed all of the tasks set to his name, and so spent his time checking and rechecking his pack and weapons and armour, testing each a thousand times over. While his hands worked, his brain wandered, running back across those cold hunts he had spent across the tundra and glaciers of his home, running through the icy mountains in search of the beasts that lived upon their slope. The time that he had fallen and tumbled, his foot slipping on a patch of ice, only to fetch up against a boulder that had broken his shoulder. That moment when his first spear cast landed true, bringing down a large buck with a single throw. It had been considered a mark of luck for him ever since, and he still wore the animal’s teeth on a string about his neck.



by thefourpartland

This marks the beginning 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.

The crowd roared, a rolling thunder that spread out from the centre and echoed back off of the buildings surrounding the square. Today, they had come to hear an announcement from their lord and ruler, and they were incensed by what was said, for Niam Liad had risen in rebellion against the rightful rulership of Ymerawdwyr of Hymerodraeth Heula. Now the crowed cried out for blood, for vengeance, for a sacrifice of those insolent peons to the empire of the sun. The Dialedd Lluydd, the army of vengeance, was being prepared to crush this rebellion, and Ymerawdwyr had called for new recruits to come join. Swept in a tidal wave of passion, young man after young man ran to the army barracks and begged to joined. Today, enlistment in the army would run to the highest totals seen in decades.

Rhyfelwyr looked at the mess before him and sighed. All these new pups, wanting to be soldiers. That just meant more work for him training them, and more people who didn’t have a damn clue what they were doing getting killed on the battleground. He glanced over at Locsyn, where the same expression was written on that soldier’s face.

“We’re in for a right mess, aren’t we, Loc?”

Locsyn spat onto the ground before answering. “Better believe it. Now lets go get drunk before the officers find us and make us train those louts.”

“Good call, good call. Get the others?”

“They’re already there.”

Rhyfelwyr nodded, and the two soldiers set off into the backstreets of Bhreac Veryan, wending their way to a grungy old bar tucked away in an alley. Shouldering aside the mat that hung in the doorway, the two sat down at a table with three more men. The youngest of them was in his late thirties, and all had the weather-beaten look of men who had spent too much time outdoors. For a while, none spoke, but a conversation seemed to be carried on nonetheless, in gestures, glances, expressions, and shifting in their chairs. Finally, the largest of the squad, a giant named Gwyth, looked at Rhyfelwyr and spoke.

“Alright, what is it?”

Rhyfelwyr drained his mug, wiped his face, and then answered. “We’ve got six months, maybe seven, to train thousand and thousands of new recruits, them march them halfway across the damn continent, and then fight against Niam Liad skirmishers in their home countryside. I’m just not looking forward to it, is all.”

Taflen spoke at that. “Much as you might like to have us believe that, Rhy, we know there’s something more going in there.” Taflen glanced around the table, at each of the four faces, finishing with Rhyfelwyr’s. “You think they’re going to break up the squad, don’t you? Promote us all to sergeant or lieutenant, give us each our own. I hope the officers aren’t that stupid.”

Rhy shrugged. “They’re officers, and they’re twenty-three and never seen real battle before. What do you expect?”

“A little better sense than that, at least from the veterans further up. Anyway, don’t worry about orders like that coming down. We’ll deal with them.”

Llofruddiwr perked up at that. “My dealing?” he asked.

Taflen blanched a little at that. “I’d rather not. We’d run out of officers in a hurry.”

Llofruddiwr shrugged, then downed another mouthful of beer.

The conversation drifted away into other matters, and the night stretched long as the soldiers drank.

Days and weeks passed as the squad was used to train the youngsters. The very basics of marching, of holding a weapon, of moving in formations. Rhyfelwyr despaired that any of the recruits would become soldiers, or even live past their first five minutes with the enemy. Each time he’d spar with one of the kids, a flick of the wrist, a simple block with a shield, and the openings he found were large enough to drive a herd through. And he’d go back to the bar and hear the same reports from Locsyn, from Taflen, from Gwyth, and from Llofruddiwr. Although he expected that from the soldiers being trained by Llof. The man was a wizard with the blade, and with the other assortment of weaponry that he kept tucked away within the folds of his armour and his cloak. Even the cloak was a weapon: it had weights sewn into the hem so it could be used to catch and trip opponents.