by thefourpartland

This has been a rather busy year for me, both with regards to writing and with life in general. However, I’m here to focus just on the writing, and so here’s a rundown of the top 10 posts for the year.

Wheels of Desperation – A continuation of a short story set in the Splintered Lands, as two inventors flee from their oppressors, this post was the clear winner of the year, despite being a late arrival.

Breaking an Empire #8 – The first of multiple entries from my ongoing serial Breaking an Empire. The story details the Empire of the Sun as it fights to maintain control of a fracturing populace, as seen through the eyes of seven soldiers on the front lines.

Prelude to Desperation – An excerpt from the third novel in The Four Part Land, this details an outnumbered army’s preparations for a fight against a larger, stronger foe.

Breaking an Empire #9 – The next entry in Breaking an Empire was almost as popular as #8.

Generations – The story of a interstellar colonization ship. But it speaks most strongly about those who stayed behind.

The Married Orc – When Orcs and Elves marry, their society collapses.

Forever Free – A statue has stood in this park for many years, broken, hunted by children as an imaginary monster. Yet something lurks within.

Breaking an Empire #7 – Another installment from the most popular story I’ve ever written on this blog.

Breaking an Empire #11 – And yet another. 4 of the top 10 are installments from Breaking an Empire. A 5th holds the #11 spot.

The Taking of Baeran – The longest story here, it is another excerpt from Laeccan Waters. Here, the heroes and their allies launch a surprise naval invasion against their foe, kicking off the war that rips the continent apart.

So there you have it, the top 10 posts of the year. 1 from the Splintered Lands, 3 flash pieces, and the remaining 6 stories of The Four Part Land. Take a minute to look back, because tomorrow or the first, I’ll be looking forward with another post.



by thefourpartland

The thirteenth 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.

“What’s got into him?” Gwyth and Locsyn joined Rhyfelwyr on the small mound where he was stationed as a picket.

“Oh, he got outsmarted by Llofruddiwr again.”

“Still stings him, does it? It’s been going on for years, you’d think he’d learn by now.”

“He’s a teacher, not a learner.”

“True, true. So why are you up here again, Rhy? We could all go stick our heads in the sand and no one would attack us.”

“Buggered if I know. Officer’s orders. Keeping the camp in shape, I suppose. Just means I sit up here and watch all the smoke rising from the land around us. Not exactly what I want to see.”

“Burning more farms, are they?”

“East, west, south. There’s a damn ring of smoke curling up all around us. The Lianese are sending patrols out to the sides of our route to make sure that burns if we try and forage. I know we’re the Cleaning Flame, but even fires need to eat. Keep this up and it’ll be starving.”

“I think that’s what they want, Rhy.” Locsyn twisted one end of his moustache. “After that first battle, they know they’re going to have a hard time beating us in open combat, so why bother? Doing this, and then slamming us hard when we’re weak and sick down by Horaim, well… it might work. Soldiers don’t fight so well on empty stomachs. I hate to think it, but they might have come up with the only way to defeat us.”

Gwyth responded. “What about our mages? They can control fire, right? So why not have them put out the flames?”

“Wish I knew why, but I think it’d be too much work for them, and they’d be exhausted when it came to fighting. They’re the best thing we’ve got going for us. The Lianese mages are all sailors and other lazy, fat types, used to sitting around and wondering what sauce the chef is going to put on the fish. Ours are combat trained from youth. It’s why we haven’t seen any of theirs on the field, they’d be useless. Good thing, too. They’ve already got enough damn arrows and javelins and other crap to throw at us, they don’t need any more.”

“So we just keep pushing on, then, and hope for the best? You aren’t making me amazed at your leadership here, Rhy.” This was Locsyn, his face downcast.

“You got a better idea, tell those officers in their tents over there. I’m sure they’d love to hear it right now.”

“Just hit the Lianese and take their food away. It’s worked before.”

“We’re trying that, Gwyth. Already did it once, even. We just decided to burn all of the food instead of take it. Think we outsmarted ourselves on that one. Wonder if the Lianese were willing to let Miath Mhor burn in order to defeat us later. Gods that would be cruel to their own if they did.”

“Think the ones running that rebellion are really having it hard? I bet the little man out on the field is getting squeezed right hard, and the commanders and the money boys are hanging around in the back, living their comfortable life and trading away with Bohortha Eilan like nothings changed at all.”

“Soldiers lot in life, being screwed by the people higher up the hierarchy. Nothing new there for any of us. Probably have more in common with the poor sots we’re stabbing in the gut than with the people giving us the orders.”

“You’re a soldier, ain’t you? Good, now stop bitching and go back to camp. Get yourself all polished up and ready, cause when I get down from this picket, you’re on inspection.”

“I was just saying…”

“Shut it, Loc. Inspection, got me?”

“Yeah, yeah, got you.”

Locsyn and Gwyth headed back down into the camp, leaving Rhyfelwyr alone with his thoughts at the picket. The sun was low over the horizon, lending a red back-light to the fires and smoke that consumed the land all around him. If even the veterans like Locsyn were wondering why the army was here already, the rot was spreading faster than Rhy had hoped for. There was the chance that things might get better, but it looked like a lot of the soldiers were already losing their desire to fight, and they’d just had a rousing success in battle. Amazing how quick the passion disappears when the stomach knows it’s going empty. There’s a lot to be said for having food, but enough to drive an army to its knees? Rhy wondered, and found himself uneasy.



by thefourpartland

The twelfth 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 days of march passed, and on the morning of the third day, the army paused on a ridge, overlooking the city which they had come to reclaim. The officers gathered there, on the highest point, and discussed the strategy to be used in taking this bastion of Lianese strength. Some spoke in favour of the soldiers, others for the torches. In truth, the discussion mirrored that of Rhyfelwyr and his squad some nights previously, but these men had to come to a conclusion, and so it was that the skirmishers of Bhreac Veryan bound rags to their javelins, and brought forth burning brands. Ringing round the city, a thin line of flickering flames, they charged, shields held high to ward away the arrows that streamed down from the outlying buildings. Dashing through the streets at a full run, torch after torch sailed into warehouses, apartment towers, mansions, hovels, any building that looked as if it might burn.

Miath Mhor was a city made of wood, and as the skirmishers fled the burning in ragged numbers, the rest of Glanhaol Fflamboethi could see the flames of their namesake licking through the city, building into an inferno that would swallow Miath Mhor, devouring the heart of the people within. Citizens fled their burning city, and Glanhaol Fflamboethi let them go, their hungry mouths a burden on those who lived further down the peninsula, starvation made into a weapon by the commanders of the Veryan army. Those men who looked liked soldiers, or even of a fighting age, those were cut down by battalions positioned about the city. Many more fled into the fishing boats, and white sails filled the harbour as they sought to flee the sparks and the smoke of the city. In their haste, many ran aground or crashed into one another, and soon wrecks began to fill the harbour. It was a day of carnage for the Lianese, their city destroyed, their livelihoods stolen away, bereft of their belongings.

The Veryan soldiers had taken losses on this day, more than the commander had hoped, but a paltry few compared to the brutality of street combat, and that pushed the campaign further onwards. And so after witnessing the destruction of a city, the army settled down for the night, only to move the next day, the path of the war turning them south, their next major goal the city of Horaim, a good three weeks down the peninsula. There were lesser towns and villages in the way, but those were expected to present no danger, aside from the odd small ambush, as the Lianese reformed their broken forces and built another army about the city of Horaim, the last major point of defence before the city of Niam Liad itself.

It was smiling soldiers who led the way south that morning, striding out down the road towards glory and spoils. Two days later, those smiles had begun to disappear, as Glanhaol Fflamboethi began to pass burned out farmsteads and fields of scorched grain, the legacy of the Lianese retreating to the south. Rhyfelwyr looked at Taflen, his eyes asking why would they do such a thing. “It promises annihilation to their own people, doesn’t it?”

Taflen shrugged. “There will be very little food this winter, aside from what the few fishing boats left will bring in. No grains, no vegetables, no meat. Their commander must despise us to a degree we have not yet seen. I wonder if our burning of Miath Mhor was a cause of this scorching?”

Llof joined the two soldiers. “No, it wasn’t. This was planned before we arrived, as a fall-back measure. Wait till we get south.” With that, he wandered off again.

“Does he always have to speak like that? It’s annoying, being the educated one and having him run rings around me.” Taflen muttered.

“Hah. You’re still not used to that? Llofruddiwr has usually figured out what the enemy is going to do before they’ve even done it. Why do you think I keep him around? Keeps our necks safe.”

With a miserable look, Taflen stomped away, his back straight, still muttering about soldiers who don’t know their place in life.



by thefourpartland

He looked and spied with a reptilian eye
A frightening glance that passed me by
I shivered and hid lest he spot me again
For at that age I was tender, and all but ten

I curled and I waited and looked all about
Hiding within my stony redoubt
A small curly head, popping to see
What the world held in store, for one just like me
One small little creature, shaking and cold
Lost in a world, where life favours the bold

I was again, all on my own
I had wandered far afield
And strayed from my home
My feet, this path did it yield
And yet led me astray
For what was my foe today

But a great shiny dragon, eyes glittering and tall
Soulless deep dishes, into which I could fall
It was in his eye, a great glowing glass plate
That I beheld death, and cried at my fate

Down from on high, he swooped at my den
I was nothing to him, just a fat hen
I prayed and wished to be taken away
A land of hope and joy, a land far beyond

For then I awoke, asleep at the lake
My toes dipping in, a morsel to taste
For a large fish of grey, hungry and vast
Laid waste to the claim that I was all lost

Lifting a bucket, I returned to my task
A barrel of water, a single great cask
It was to be filled, water pure and clear
But I had lain, asleep on my ear
Duties all gone, in a dream of good cheer



by thefourpartland

The tenth 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.

Carnage ran rampant as they crossed the fields, the dead and the dying scattered about in clumps and bunches, where a force from one side or the other had surrounded and cut away an incursion. Most of the piles here were Lianese soldiers, their bodies gouged by sword blows and left to rot on the field. Taflen sighed, knowing that this field would gain a name, a curse, among all of those from the coast, and that curse would build and multiply against the invaders. Oh, the fear might help in the short run, but over a longer period, it would turn to vicious resentment. The corpses would foul the fields with plague and with anger, and leave of this place a ruin, and that Bhreac Veryan would revel in that bitter taste. Fear had ever been their weapon to keep in line the subjugated people, and Taflen looked around, seeing just where that led.

Back within their own lines, Rhy found a cutter, and dragged him across to see to the wounded in the squad, patching up the gashes that covered Gwyth, and removing the arrow from Rhocas’s leg. Rhocas screamed as the arrow came out, and with it a bright well of blood, flowing once more as the bolt no longer blocked its path. Cleansing herbs were stuffed into the wound, and white cloth bound about. “He’ll be able to walk again in a few days, it won’t hinder him that much.” With a nod, the cutter set off for the next screaming soldier

Llof lifted the recruit to his shoulder again, and they continued on their way back to the campsite, where they rested that evening. Rumours flew past, and Locsyn and Gwyth disappeared to go retrieve them, returning an hour or more later with news of what had happened that day on the field. Locsyn spoke. “Fairly simple day of combat today, all told. They charged the centre, and didn’t have enough skirmishers to the wings to prevent us curling around and cracking them like a nut. They’ve fled in poor array back to Miath Mhor, and we’ve got chasers after them. Won’t catch too many of them, but enough to harass the bastards until they get back to the city.”

“Not looking forward to that.” Rhy answered. “Miath Mhor isn’t fortified, which is good news for us… kind of. We’re going to have to go in and fight street by street, building by building, if we want to capture it. Perfect for ambushes, bleeding out our superior numbers in tiny fights all around.”

The other soldiers looked aghast at the notion, and Rhocas went pale once more. Llof rose up, turning to go and tossing a comment over his shoulder. “Burn the city. No more ambushes.” Llofruddiwr then disappeared into the dark night. With that grim thought dancing in their heads, the other five soldiers looked at one another, and fell to arguing the merits. “We’d survive the battle a lot better, and hurt them besides.”

“And all the supplies, the food, the wealth. You want to throw that all away?”

“Dead men eat no food, spend no coin. I want to stay alive as long as I can, and dying in a horrible city engagement the first siege isn’t it. No, we burn them out and let them starve as well. We’ve got enough supplies, been foraging as we made our way down to add to them. Break them at this city and we’ve got them for the rest of the campaign, too scared to fight.”

“And if it makes the Lianese too angry to flee, too scared of our mercy to surrender? Then we fight a battle against the desperate, and that goes poorly, for they will trade life for life until annihilation, and down here, they’ve got more lives. Bloody streets are better than burned ones.”

The argument raged on into the night, until Rhyfelwyr gestured for them all to go to bed. Rhocas had passed out long ago, the pain in his wounded deadened by the herbs. Gwyth just rolled over and fell asleep, unmindful of the wounds he had taken this day. The others soon followed suit, although Llofruddiwr had still not returned. He was a dark one, but maybe the best fighter Rhy had ever seen, and so was permitted his quirks.

The morning saw the trumpets calling out to meet the dawn, and groggy and mealy-mouthed, the soldiers of Glanhaol Fflamboethi stretched themselves, veterans all this day. To the sound of burning logs and popping joints, a warm breakfast was served, and the army gathered itself once more into the march formation, outriders spreading far and wide, all in double strength this close to Miath Mhor. There was no fear of an ambush on this day, just precautions against the unlikely possibility of one. In the eyes of those who had fought but one time, this was to be an easy campaign, where the enemy would fight once, flee, and then the city would crumble in surrender. Older heads worried, for it was an ill sign to them that the campaign had begun so easily. They preferred difficulty, even disaster, the first battle, for from them on, things could only get better. Not this. This meant a stiffening of the spine, a reorganization, a building antipathy, and so the veterans feared Miath Mhor, and all that it meant.



by thefourpartland

There was a silent house on a windswept isle
Hidden and tucked in a stone defile
Twisted and shaken with the coming of the winds
It rattled and shook, lost among the fens

It was a lonely spot, all hidden in the moss
and a stone’s throw away, a simple toss
there lay a little marker, painted and proud
and on top lay a simple little shroud

It fluttered and gusted and swayed in the breeze
a tiny little emblem, facing out into the seas
of a delicate and fragile life held here
one that is gone now, passed on within the year



by thefourpartland

And upon a hill stood a moonlit guardian, bathed in eternal night. It was marble, of a certain hue, weathered and old. Where an arm had once reached into the sky there was nought but a broken stump, and the arm was nowhere to be found.

The statue had lived here for oh these many years, and upon its brow was stamped words in a language long forgotten. Their edges had been eaten away by moss, but recent times had seen a cleaning of the statue, and in the twilight it glowed with a pale radiance.

Its face was passing strange, for writ large was an expression most unusual, and those who came to see it could not say if it was fear, or ecstasy, or some other that formed a juncture between the two. Indeed, those who lived nearby spoke of it in hushed tones, for they thought that the appearance did change with the passing of the years.

Now children played at the foot of the guardian, for the hill upon which is stood had become a park. Little boys imagined it a terrible monster, and came to hunt it with the full flowering of their imagination while their parents clustered about and talked of this and that.

Scholars came too, for they found the inscription on the statue most challenging. None had yet had the wit to discern what it meant, or even what language it came from, but still they tried, for curiosity ever ruled their minds.

One morning children came to hunt the guardian, and found that it was gone. They rushed to their parents who called the police, and then pondered how such a statue could disappear over night. With the police came the scholars, for a bronze plaque had been found.

Engraven in the surface was a single sentence, in clearest English. “In Purgatory were you punished, but now I take you into my arms, to be forever free.”



by thefourpartland

The phone rang, once. Then it stopped.

The phone rang, once. Then it stopped. Again.

A knock sounded at the door, twice. Then that stopped.

A knock sounded at the door, thrice. Then a pause.

A solitary thump. A body striking a door, perhaps?

Somewhere, a window shattered. Then another.

Plasterboard crumbled, leaving only bare beams. Dust choked the room.

Furniture spun about the room, breaking apart. Then in another room.

A beam broke with a snap. The ceiling fell in.

A knock sounded at the door, twice. The door collapsed.

The phone rang, once.



by thefourpartland

The tenth 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.

Gwyth was breathing heavily now, his blade stained with the blood of many foes, and exhaustion was slowing his sword and shield, making each parry feel as if it took an age, each counter unbearable in its ages. It was a bad situation to be in, and the only reason he was still standing with no more than minor nicks and cuts was that those Lianese he faced were just as tired as he was, and for that Gwyth was thankful. He pressed forward all the same, letting his sword and his shield continue to do the work. For that was combat was to Gwyth, nothing more than work. Oh, perhaps if he had apprenticed himself to another, it might have gone differently, but at a young age, he had joined the army, and been there ever since, and so, this was a task to be completed. It involved killing, yes, but that was a minor part of all the marching and the practising and the rest, and so he moved forward behind each stroke, as unfeeling and unstoppable as an avalanche gathering speed down the hill. Rhy and Locsyn were dragged along in his wake, each standing to one flank, their weapons and shields protecting the mountain that stood between them. Rhy had seen Gwyth like this before, when he began bowling over and through enemies, and knew that if the squad was not careful, they would be pulled ahead and isolated, and then only luck and skill could rescue them. It had worked in the past, when the three men had been younger and more full of life, but now that they had grown older, the edge of their temperament, their invincibility, had slipped away. Well, slipped away from Locsyn and Rhyfelwyr. Locsyn didn’t think Gwyth would ever lose that, he wasn’t bright enough to realise he shouldn’t be able to do this.

As Rhy had feared, soon their attachment to the rest of the army became tenuous, as fighting began to spill around behind the squad, and the six of them, for Rhocas had recovered and rejoined, had to turn into a circle, moving as a slow unit through the Lianese forces. Thankfully, this close to the front line, most were already engaged, and so the fighting was no more hectic than it had been in the shield wall, and so Rhy’s squad continued to drive their way through, although Locsyn had succeeded in altering the course of Gwyth’s path so that it now cut across the battlefield, instead of straight through it.

An arrow clipped off Taflen’s shield, and he turned to his left to peer, and saw a small band of archers and javelin throwers gathering themselves to strike the squad’s huddled mass. “Shields!” came the cry, and the initial volley skittered away across the armour, leaving scrapes and nothing more. Seeing them ready another volley, Rhyfelwyr called “Charge!”, and the six men thundered down on the skirmishers, their shields held out in front to ward any incoming projectiles. There was only time for one more volley before the charge was upon them, but the archers stood their ground, and Rhocas screamed and began to fall, an arrow piercing him through the calf. Llofruddiwr slowed his charge, grabbing the recruit by the arm, and dragged him into a hopping run, only capable of using one leg. Using his free arm, Llofruddiwr began to fling daggers at the archers, daggers that had been sequestered somewhere on his person. Two archers fell beneath the flying knives, while one of the javelin throwers countered by whipping his weapon towards the Veryan soldiers. Gwyth caught it on his shield, but the throw had been so hard that it slammed straight through, the bolt coming to rest with its tip touching the soldier’s arm. Growling, Gwyth tossed away his shield, and taking his sword in a two-handed grip, fell amongst the skirmishers, his blade rising and falling as one after another died to that onslaught.

Bereft of his shield, Gwyth took several countering blows, but shrugged them off and continued to kill as Rhy and Locsyn arrived, their matching styles working through the lightly armoured and armed foes with ease. Soon all who stood near the squad had fled or been killed, and Llofruddiwr began the process of retrieving his knives from where they stuck in various foes. Surveying the field of battle, and the state of his soldiers, Rhy nodded once, then gestured back towards the advancing lines of soldiers. “We’ll rest, and get Rhocas here to a medic. If they need a pursuit, well, we’ll be in for it. Otherwise, we’ve done our work for the day.” Llofruddiwr and Taflen between them took Rhocas’s weight, and the squad began limping through the shield wall, although any such name was long since useless, for it was now mopping up the retreating and broken army of Lianese soldiers. Rhyfelwyr wondered how the battle had fared on a larger scale, but for now, he would take his soldiers back to where they could be treated, and then listen about, see what was being passed around the campfires tonight.



by thefourpartland

This story is a continuation of Into The Swamp

“Bugger! Bugger! Bugger!” Ellgis cursed long and loud as the bucket of stones was hoisted into the air. Even with his inventive pulley system, the strain still showed in his back and face. Fryca watched anxiously, slowly paying out a guide rope that kept the basket hidden from the path.

The hourglass sitting on a rock nearby had almost run dry by the time they finally got the basket into position. Pinning it there with with the release catch, they turned and fled. If the ropes broke or it didn’t catch all of the Knights of the Broken Wheel, so be it.

At their home outside the village, Ellgis stuffed books and notes into a bag. Experiments he could rebuild if he had the notes, but without his notes? He was worthless. Fryca threw food together, and some warm clothes. As they exited their house, a massive thump sounded through the swamp, followed by shouts and curses.

Maybe the trap caught the Knights, maybe not, but the two experimenters ran either way, pushing a small skiff deep into the swamp, following a twisting path they had marked out when they first came to the village. It was different now, the swamp changing as a living thing, but they had left signs amongst the old trees, and enough remained that they were able to find their way to a small mound, rising out of murky water.

On top was a simple hut, one room, nothing more, but it had enough supplies within that they could stay here for a time. The waters about the camp had proven fruitful fishing, and they had stayed here in the past. This was not the first village they had been forced to flee from, nor would it be the last. The Knights of the Broken Wheel were persistent in hunting down those accused of heresy, of bringing back the old ways that had shattered the world and brought down a plague upon the living.

No matter that it had been magic that had done that, and not knowledge, but the Knights discriminated not at all between magic and what they saw as analogous to magic, and so Ellgis and Fryca fled from village to village, staying only long enough to be spotted by some Wheelie sympathizer and forced to flee.

That had happened once again, and if any of the Knights had survived, well, the village would be put to the torch. Or more likely hacked apart with axes, for nothing burned well in the swamp.

The two experimenters waited for a week in their hidey-hole in the swamp, and only after the hourglass had turned over for the eighth day did they venture back towards the village and their trap.