15

Nov

by thefourpartland

Had a sudden burst of flash fiction inspiration. Yes, I should have been writing NaNo (I didn’t today), but I’ll cope. Hope you like it.

The earth split apart, and the seas rushed in, and where once there had stood fertile land, now no sounds could be heard but the crashing of waves against rock, and the cry of the gulls as they flew overhead. Water danced above the grave of civilization, for down in those murky depths dwelt cities and villages full of corpses, the remnants of a bygone age.

They had sought to rule, to corral the powers of this world before their thrones, and in return the world had cracked asunder, wrenched apart by their overbearing might. And as they had torn the world, so their kingdoms were rent apart by the peasants, for those of lowly stature had never enjoyed the great benefits of magic, and had been forced to bow and scrape to the will of those who possessed such power.

No more would they do so, for in a rage they had stormed the walled cities and razed the houses of the gentry, and burnt the books of magic. Over their thighs they had broken the magicians’ staves, and in so doing doomed the earth to its fate, for no longer was there a force powerful enough to turn back nature.

And so now the waters lap above the graves of mortal men, and magic is outlawed, while those few who possess it are hunted down and lynched. It is a hard land, a harsh land, for chivalry is unknown and starvation is rampant. Even now, many decades after the collapse, the population still must fight tooth and nail for their very survival.

Amidst the ruins of the old there comes the first buds of a new country, a new society, as irrigation spreads water across dry fields, and men of great ingenuity ply their trade in secret workshops. But all about does danger stalk, for those with little love for the new order seek to take what they can, and these bands of marauders have grown great and terrible in the time following the cataclysm.

And in the west, there is a new stirring of magic, a bitter magic, a cold magic, feeding its hunger for revenge, for retribution against the peasants who wounded it so. Not yet recovered, the world stands atop the precipice of a great chasm, and a single push will send it teetering over the edge. They intend to give it that push.

15

Nov

by thefourpartland

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.

13

Nov

by thefourpartland

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.

9

Nov

by thefourpartland

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.

8

Nov

by thefourpartland

The sixth 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.

The final month of training passed quickly, and the first bloom of spring began to show over the desert and oasis of Bhreac Veryan. What little snow was on the ground disappeared, sucked away by the voracious sand, and as the wind whipped and tore at the standards, the soldiers of Hymerodraeth Heula stood at attention to hear a speech by Ymerawdwyr, blessing them in the name of the fire, naming the army Glanhaol Fflamboethi, the Cleansing Flame that would burn away the infectious rot of Niam Liad. Orders had come that the city was to be punished for its presumptions, and punished harshly, and today that retribution would strike forth.

Rhyfelwyr and his squad were in the vanguard of the army, given pride of place for their veteran status, for it was months before the army would first encounter opposition. The army would march south, across the great desert, until it reached the oasis at Falna, where it would turn southeast, and strike towards Miath Mhor, the city that dominated the mouth of the peninsula upon which Niam Liad sat. There, Glanhaol Fflamboethi would begin the process of cauterizing the wound that had been slashed into the side of Hymerodraeth Heula.

The speech over, a roar went up from the crowd gathered to see the army off, and an answering cheer echoed back from the assembled soldiers. At a grand gesture from Ymerawdwyr, the vanguard faced forward and began to march, each step churning up the dust and the sand. Soon, the army was enveloped in a cloud of its own making, as they wended their way down the string of oases towards Falna. This part of the journey would take them almost a month to complete, and during that time, the final training and preparation of the army would take place. It was expected that the arrival at Falna would be contested, although by how many was unknown, and that every step from there on would be fraught with danger, traps, and ambushes, as the rebellious soldiers used every inch of their land to advantage.

For his part, Rhyfelwyr felt only a little tingle of anticipation at the thought of once more going into battle, into a war. He was too old, too experienced, for the excitement that coursed through the younger soldiers. Even Rhocas’s normally bubbly personality had ramped up, and his energetic personality had nearly brought him to blows with Gwyth and Locsyn. Rhyfelwyr knew that passion would ebb across the many miles of near-featureless desert, only to resurface once more in nervous form as actual battle approached.

Days passed in a cloud of dust, and the squad was thankful for their position at the front of the army, ahead of the billowing clouds that caused coughing and covered gear and men in a brown cloak. Rather than march during the heat of the day, the army moved at night, using firemages and their heat vision to guide the soldiers along the right path. Every morning, before the sun came up, the army would dig itself down into the desert, disappearing and leaving an almost featureless wasteland, scattered with what looked like the discarded remnants of a battle. And every night, as the sun set, the army would appear once more, crawling out of the sand and the dust to arise as new men. Training was conducted whenever the army stopped for a meal, with half an hour or an hour beforehand given to marching in formation, swordplay, and all other manner of exercise.

As the army forged south, scouts would be detached ahead, ranging for days in front of the main body, searching, searching for that first contact with the enemy. True, Glanhaol Fflamboethi was in land considered safe and inhospitable to invaders, but there was little cause to be sure of anything. Word from Niam Liad had ceased entirely over the winter months, and so the army marched blind of information, the last it had heard some six months previously. Thus it pushed forward its own feelers, seeking out every scrap of knowledge it could find from traders, desert nomads, or the few villagers who lived around each oasis.

The army strode into Falna, caught within the dust storms of its own march, and there spent the next two days provision and resupplying. Falna was a walled city, wrapped around an oasis, a hidden jewel lost in the middle of the desert, and the only green that showed within hundreds of miles. When they arrived Rhyfelwyr heard word of probing attacks that had tested the defences of Falna, but none had come in such strength as to force a breakthrough. Still, it was word that they would need to fight soon, and he passed it around amongst the troops. Rhocas bounced about like a young puppy at the news, while the rest of the squad simply grunted, and went back to what they had been doing. Rhy understood that attitude: fire burns, soldiers fight, it is the natural order of things.

Provisioning and a final round of training over, Glanhaol Fflamboethi forged south once more, the scouts doubled and pulled in closer, weaving a net of eyes in front of the vanguard of the army. Rhyfelwyr and his squad still marched within the vanguard, and their eyes too spread across the countryside, looking for any imperfections that might mark a hidden ambush. Soon, the army began coming across traps built into the route, mainly covered pit traps with some spikes at the bottom. These seemed designed not so much to harm, but to delay, to make the army ever slower, but their design left the soldiers wondering if something more ingenious was waiting.

6

Nov

by thefourpartland

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.

4

Nov

by thefourpartland

This is the final entry 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.

Then the council bade Annwyd Arwedda and his travellers fair well, and told them to expect a messenger before the autumn time. Doubts and worries crept into the thoughts of all of those from the Fferedig Ddynion that resided in that place, for they saw the land they had worked on for the last year being taken from them, and forced to return to the land of cold, of want, of short days and long nights hunting herd animals in a snowstorm. These thoughts angered the young men and women who had come with Annwyd, and they spoke to him, and asked him what he might do to insure that they lived here. Annwyd replied to them that there was little that they could do, for to protest by remaining would mean that they would be a lonely thirty here, cut off and alone from the rest of the people, and none of those who remained on the frostbitten plateau would know of the betterment of their lives that could be had, and so Annwyd Arwedda bade that if he and his travellers were called to return, then return they would, and spread the word amongst the youngsters and friends, of what a boon it had been to live under an open sky and a gentle sun.

Soon enough, autumn came, and with it a messenger from the council, that very same man who had carried the first news to Annwyd Arwedda. Annwyd greeted him as an old friend, and waited for the message to be read forth, and when it was as he had expected, he told all those who had travelled with him that they must gather their things, for this was the ending of their time under the open sky. Grumbling and groaning, murmuring discontent and anger, they did as they were asked, and soon assembled themselves on the outskirts of the village, where they took partings from those of the village, and Annwyd spoke to them and said that one day we will return, and we will remember with kindness what you have done.

And so, when years later the Fferedig Ddynion swept down from their hills under Annwyd Arwedda and sought to make a kingdom of the western plains, one small village was spared any ravishment, and indeed, was bestowed with such gifts that the farmers there became wealthy men. But the kingdom of Annwyd is a story that shall be told at another time.

Annwyd will return in the 4th book of The Four Part Land, the 2nd book of the Chloddio trilogy. I’m also thinking of writing a novella from his point of view for Unfolding a New Continent, as the final anchor story for that collection.

2

Nov

by thefourpartland

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.”

2

Nov

by thefourpartland

The fifth 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.

“Okay, sarge, who’s the snotnose standing over there? He’s looking all bubbling and expectant, and it’s getting on my nerves.” Gwyth growled at Rhyfelwyr when he arrived.

“That’s Rhocas. He’s replaced Gwewyr.”

Gwyth looked at his feet for a second, then nodded. “Like that, was it? Yeah, we all saw it. Still, this fresh-face? Really? You couldn’t get us anyone worthwhile?”

Rhy shrugged. “Taflen recommended Rhocas. We’ll see if he’s worth anything. If he’s getting on your nerves enough, duel him, find out how good he is with a blade.”

“Worthless, just look at him. His posture’s wrong.”

“Well beat it out of him then.” Rhyfelwyr paused. “Just not too hard, he’s only got a month to heal.”

Gwyth grinned, and pulled his axe from over his shoulder, then unlimbered the shield onto his left arm. “Oi, Rhocas, we’re supposed to duel.”

The recruit looked up at that, then grabbed the sword from his belt and hefted his shield. “Are you sure, sir?”

“Oh yeah, positive. Just spoke to Sarge about it.”

“Oh, very well then.” Rhocas attacked, without waiting for Gwyth to get into position. The veteran was barely able to get his shield up, and grunted at the presumption of the recruit. Catching three more successive blows onto his shield, Gwyth decided that it was time for him to go on the offensive, and leapt forward, bullrushing Rhocas with his shield out in front, then spinning into a slice at the ankles with the haft of the axe. A solid thunk sounded from the impact, and Rhocas fell to the ground, surprised. He struggled to his feet on a sore leg, and peered at the standing Gwyth.

“How do you use that when you’re in a shield wall?”

“You don’t. Or you pray the man next to you keeps his shield up.”

“Right. Again?”

Gwyth growled again. “Presumptuous lad.”

The two exchanged blows for a few seconds, and then Rhocas spun into the same ankle-breaking strike that Gwyth had just used. Gwyth had to jump high and back to stay out of the way of the sword, and nearly fell on the landing. Forced onto the defensive, it took him a little while to recover and push back against the recruit. Eventually, though, Gwyth was able to use his strength to knock the recruit down again.

Rhocas popped back up and assumed the stance once more, and Gwyth sighed. He’d just been looking to teach the recruit a lesson for looking so flaming cheerful, not get caught into a long running duel. The fighting continued for some time, during which the others slowly gathered. Rhyfelwyr leaned over and whispered to Taflen. “Is Rhocas really a recruit? He’s got some moves in there that only the veterans know.”

“The boy is a sponge. Sucks up knowledge from everyone. Just needs to be shown a strike once or twice to learn how to do it. Given him enough training on the march, and he’ll fit right in with the rest of us.”

Nodding appreciatively, Rhy watched the fighting continue, until both combatants called it off due to exhaustion. “Rhocas, I’m sergeant Rhyfelwyr. This is Llofruddiwr, Locsyn, Taflen, and you’ve met Gwyth. Rather a few times, I think. If you’ve moved into our room in the barracks, that’s all there is to it, just follow one of us around and train as best you can. We’re all teaching various squads at the moment, trying to make them worth something.”

“I look forward to it, sir.”

“I’m not a ‘sir’, that’s for your officers. Just call me Rhy.”

“Yes, Rhy, sir.”

Rhyfelwyr shook his head. “You’re dismissed.”

Rhocas trotted off, while Rhyfelwyr turned to the others in the squad. “So, he worthwhile?”

Llofruddiwr answered first, uncharacteristic of such a silent man. “He’ll do.”

The next answer was from Locsyn. “Still a bit rough, and his striking isn’t smooth enough. We’ll polish him up.”

Still panting, Gwyth followed. “I beat him every time, but he made me work for it by the end. We’ll keep him.”

Rhy grinned. “And I know how you feel, Taflen. So that’s sorted. Good. Back to being trainers, now.”

The soldiers grumbled as they departed. Any more training and they’d be ready to turn on their own officers. Especially the young, know-it-all ones who seemed to get every lieutenant spot in the army.

1

Nov

by thefourpartland

So here’s a little update. When I said I wanted to be at 20-30k for the end of October, I was undershooting the mark. I ended the month slightly over 35k, after 5,700 words were added to the manuscript Halloween afternoon.

Now begins the month of NaNo. The goal is to write 1667 words a day, for the entire month. After the first day, which was a few hours this morning, I’ve got 4,000 words done. Because I won’t be able to write some days during the week (damn you school for taking my time), I’m going to be trying for 5,000 word blocks every weekend day.

Counting today, I’ve worked on Læccan Waters for 11 days. 10 were in October, 1 November. The story is 39,000 words long. It means I’m averaging about two hours worth of work on it each day I sit down to write. If I can manage 15 days in November instead of the 10 of October, I’ll be fine for NaNo. Either that or I push the average up to 3 hours a day for 10 days.

I’m also going to have to teach myself how to write in the evenings, which is something I’m usually bad at. Ah well.

Good luck to all of those engaged in NaNoWriMo, I’ll see you in a month.