by thefourpartland

“You mean, attempt to draw the strike in? It’s a valid tactic, but I don’t think we have the kind of reserves that would let us achieve something like that. Unless you’ve got another pile of troops hiding in that pouch of yours.”

There was a murmur from another corner of the room. “What happens if we replace the soldiers on the gate we’re not expecting to be attacked with twice the number of recruits? It’ll look stronger, even if it isn’t.”

That comment left Iaprem pondering matters for a moment. Finally, he sat up straight and began to speak. “Well, first off, why wouldn’t they come through the gates? Can we really defend them heavily enough to force the raiders to head over the walls? Especially in the poor shape they’re in at the moment?”

It was Dregnon who answered, appropriate since he had been the one in charge of maintenance and the like on the old palace. “Sadly, a decent battering will send the wood flying. They look impressive, but at least some of the support structure is rotten or falling apart, and we don’t have the tools to repair them. I’ve got peasants doing their best to just block up the entrances with rubble, but depending on how fast they attack, it’ll provide little more than a minor barrier.”

“How long do you need to get the rubble high enough the gates can’t be opened?”

“Until sunset, at least. Maybe longer.” Dregnon began counting on his fingers, a habit he had picked up from his father, rest his soul. “More like the witching hour, sadly.”

Iaprem turned his eyes across the whole of the group that sat before him. “I need information on the enemy. How likely are they to attack at night?”

One of the lieutenants piped up from the back of the room. He was a young fellow, but already scarred by life, as was everyone in the room. Cheeks thin and almost sunken, with a burn mark scorched down one arm. “If you’re asking how many of them can see at night, sadly the answer seems to be most. The humans with them can’t, but that’s honestly a small minority.  I’d say two thirds of their forces could hit us tonight.”

“Then that’s what they’re going to do. Swarm us once the evening sun has gone down. That means we’re going to have to defend furiously at that point, and have plenty of torches at the ready. I’m sure there’s enough dry timber in this rotten hulk of a fortress to provide thousands of those. Make sure to set up bonfires that can’t be easily scattered at the most important points, especially in the courtyards.  And see if we can set up any kind of obstacles that will channel them towards the narrow points.”

“I’ll work on that, and see if I can get people to safety in the old storerooms below the palace. There’s enough room down there to hide the elderly and the children, at least.” Dregnon departed, his threadbare robes of office flapping behind him.

“And you and I best get to the walls, watch our enemy. And the men will need a symbol too.” Yenque was smiling as he said this, envisioning the great battle that was to come. Much as he had long ago tried to shed his desires for glory, there was something inherently noble in the last stand against a foe greater than oneself. Perhaps there was a little bit of the fabled order of the Knights Paladin in his soul after all.

His commander, however, showed no such higher ideals. “Get rocks and sling stones up on the walls. We’re going to have to kill as many of them before they hit the walls and we’re actually vulnerable. I’m guessing they didn’t bring much in the way of archery?”

“Not that we saw, sir.” It was the same lieutenant as before.

“Good, that gives us something in the way of an advantage, but there’s only so much we can rely on.” Iaprem rose, dismissing the others with a wave of his hand. “If you need me, I’ll be in the armoury, wedging myself into that old metal casket. And then I’ll see you on the walls.” At last, he permitted himself a small smile, one that echoed around the room as much as possible, although in most cases it was little more than a grim rictus, a spectre of the death that waited for them all this night.


The afternoon and twilight hours, busy though they were, did little to either tire or calm Iaprem, so electric were his nerves. His body shook and twitched, little spasms running along one limb to another, the thrill of the upcoming battle overcoming his normally stoic demeanour.

As the last of the sun’s light swept over the old palace of Cynlyaa, its Warleader let his eyes roam across the preparations. They had managed to stack a five foot high pile of rubble against the base of the gate at this end of the old palace, but only three feet at the other, and were hoping that this was the point of concentration. To that end, he had reinforced the gate guards upon the southern entrance with twice their number in recruits, a show of force that Iaprem hoped would drive the enemy commander, whomever he might be, into charging straight at this gate in a simple frontal assault.

About him on the wall lay plenty of debris and old timber, to be used for levering those crumbled stones down onto the attackers below. Likewise, most of the men who were talented with slings were gathered here, in the hopes his ruse worked. If he could force the enemy to fight in the narrow confines of the gate house, with his blade to the forefront they should be able to hold the raiders at bay. It was a faint hope, but a hope nevertheless.

Of course, his enemy would be able to see far better than he, or his soldiers, and they almost certainly had characteristics that he had not foreseen. Indeed, even one petty hedge mage could turn the course of the battle with a few cheap glamours. But there was nothing for it, and so he waited at his post above the gate, a statue riddled with nervous energy, twitching and shaking back and forth.


At the other end of the palace, Yenque was going through a similar series of feelings, although in his case, the energy was not nerves, but the feeling of a higher calling sweeping over him. Here he was, no doubt at the end of days, preparing to defend the last citadel of civilization against the dreadful assaults of a barbarian horde. In his mind, he knew that more often than not, civilization had indeed fallen to the barbarians. His very people’s history was based upon that fact, for they had once been a horde sweeping out of the plains to conquer those around them. But in his heart, he knew that he was on the side of right, and thus there had to be a god from up above looking down upon him.

The feeling that knowledge gave him inspired his weapon arms, letting them flow fast and free as he warmed them, spinning through the training forms in a lazy yet skilful way that drew the eyes not only of the soldiers standing beside him on the battlements, but also that force that had gathered amongst the ruins outside of the south gate. Their leader, a petty chieftain called Ngaphasi, watched as the fading sunlight sparkled off this warrior atop the battlements, and felt his courage, his surety, drain away.

Before, whenever he had raided these people, they had offered him their goods almost at the first hint of a threat, and taking them captive had been so easy even his children had done so. But now they appeared determined, ready, and armed in greater numbers than he had ever seen before. He was unsure where they had discovered such numbers of trained soldiers, but discovered them they clearly had.

While Ngaphasi was no coward, and was prepared to go through with the attacks, those of his tribe around him were less solid of heart, and he could see those on the fringes slipping away into the night, no doubt to mark themselves with wounds and the detritus of battle, and wander into the main camp as the night turned to dawn, claiming to have been fighting, while they had done no such thing.

He turned and cursed at them, telling them to hold, to wait, and such was their fear of him, and of the wrath that he could bring down upon him, almost all held their ground, although their feet stamped about and they shifted with quick, furtive, actions, always wondering if they could indeed slip away.

But perhaps, he mused, it would be better if I waited until the other attack was well joined before I commit my tribe to the attack. After all, we are merely the surety for the great force attacking the north gate. Those thoughts safely ensconced within his head, Ngaphasi settled down to wait, and watch the battle unfold.



by thefourpartland

“What do we do to stop this from happening again?” Iaprem was furious, storming from one side to another of the small room he called an office.

“Stop the raiders? Nothing. We haven’t been able to stop them for years. Why should we suddenly be able to do so now? We’re always spread too thin. Sure, if we concentrate our forces and they’re foolish enough to go straight at them, then we’re more than a match. But we can’t force them to that point.”

Iaprem muttered, his face deep in thought, wondering about possibilities.

“What if we could force them to that point? How many soldiers would you be able to bring to bear?”

“Right now, perhaps three hundred. The rest of those we’ve forcibly enrolled into the army are still the craven peasants they were before their training began. Sure, some of the men and women show signs of being useful, but it’s only signs. It will take an age of training before they don’t flee when battle joins.”

“And what are our best estimates on the raiders?”

“The maximum we’ve ever guessed as a total is five hundred, but that doesn’t take into account things like camp followers or the strengths of the various species that are thieving from us. Honestly though, we barely have a clue, since we’ve never pushed out and attacked their base. We’ve always been too scared.”

“Don’t I know it. I’ve been watching Cynlyaa decline and crumble all around me since I took my first steps on her cobbled streets, and unless we make these lands secure, we’re never going to have enough. With what we have now, I’ll be surprised if the crop harvest doesn’t fail in a year, and we watch our friends starving to death.”

“So you propose a last ditch gamble, throwing everything into a single strike and praying for the right outcome. Death or glory, is that it?”

“We’ve walked our current path for a long, long time, you and I. We know what lies at its end. So we step off the path, leap as far away from it as we can. What better way to do that than charge into the teeth of those who have harassed us all these years?”

Yenque smiled. “I agree, but we’re going to need numbers on our side, and that means time. How long do I have?”

“It’s spring now which means the peasants are busy planting what crops they can manage all about us. Call it late summer. That’s when we strike.”

There was a deeply shared smile, a giddy smile, that flashed back and forth between the two friends. Perhaps it was a foolish plan, but at last they had a plan that could result in the saving of their people, and a time frame within which to act. Digging through the broken cupboard at the back of the office, Iaprem pulled forth a dirty glass bottle, liquid sloshing in it when held up to the light.

Toasts were exchanged, a great many of them, to bravery and honour, Fasnachu and Hannhangnefedd, Lady Luck and War. It was a revelry that dream strange looks from the men who passed by the door to the room, and when at last Dregnon was summoned to see what had happened to his comrades, he found them dead drunk, slumped against walls and floors, but at last with smiles on their faces.

Whatever it was that had caused those smiles to come to be was surely something they would inform him of when next they regained consciousness, and so he directed a few of the men nearby to carry Iaprem and Yenque to their cots, and leave them there until such time as the ringing in their heads ceased.


What came next was not of Iaprem’s making, or of Yenque’s. Rather than being left to sleep in the peace which their plans had earned, they found themselves roughly shaken awake, dragged from their cots with heads ringing, making the voices that shouted at them all the more unintelligible and painful.

Holding up a hand, Iaprem bellowed at those around him. “Quiet! Now, you…” He pointed, then spun about. “Or maybe you… Bah! One of you three senior people tell me what the hell is going on? And stop swaying!”

The one in the middle stepped forward. Of course, so did those on either side of him. Forsaking dignity, Iaprem slumped back down onto his cot and waved a hand, gesturing for the lieutenant to begin.

“We’ve been invested.”

“By what? Termites? We already knew that.”

“The raiders. Although at this point, calling them that seems a bit wrong. They’ve surrounded the old palace.”

Iaprem shot bolt upright, nearly collapsing as his head struggled to deal with the sudden reorientation. “Surrounded us. Here? Where are the citizens who were outside the walls?”

“All but a few made it through the old tunnels before they were spotted. We had to collapse the one they used, however.”

“And the few?”

“We’re not sure.”

“Blast. That’s going to break our morale, if the opposing commander has any sense in him. What the hell is going on here, anyway? Why are the raiders trying to siege us out?”

“They think we’re weak, most likely.”

“They’ve known we’re weak for years! Why now?” Iaprem shuddered at his own shouting. “Where’s Yenque? He needs to hear this.”

“Already in the briefing room sir, looking at the maps.”

Iaprem set off in hot pursuit.


When they arrived, it turned out that “looking at the maps” meant gently dozing atop them, slumped in an old and broken wooden chair. A quick jab to the ribs woke Yenque, and he was soon coherent enough to participate in the discussion they were having.

“The largest collections of enemy forces are here and here, opposite the gates into the old palace. Given the doors there are not of the sturdiest construction, there’s a good chance they’re try and force a breach in a simple charge.”

The gates, as were many things in this city, were laid out along the north south axis, and so were the points in the old palace furthest from one another, which would make reinforcing either difficult. It would even make knowing what was going on at both difficult.

“First step is I want a soldier or two up in the highest tower that can see both gates. There has to be one atop this damn old edifice that’s still useful. Given him a bunch of boys as well, and tell them to shout down anything they can see. Or wave or dance or do whatever it takes to get our attention. Now, where are the men?”

“Most of them are at either gate, but with a flying force of about fifty men in the middle. We’ve put recruits along the walls between the gates. It’s mostly a show of numbers, but it should help.”

Iaprem pondered that for a moment. “It might, but they’ll also collapse entirely if they get tested. Not that we can leave the walls unmanned entirely…”

“What if we leave a gap on the walls? An obvious place to strike where we don’t have enough men to cover it?” That was Yenque, his first useful contribution since waking from the alcohol induced slumber.



by thefourpartland

This is the next installment of a new novella in an old setting, called Arhosa. I’ll be posting a thousand words a day of Work-in-Progress, with the end goal being five chapters of 10,000 words each, roughly.

It was a panicked and upset messenger who burst in upon the three leaders in council.

“They’re back! Southern approach!” was all he was able to gasp out before collapsing on the floor.

One glance between the three men and they were off, Iaprem and Yenque streaming for the armoury, Dregnon to his place amongst the civilian population. All the while, they shouted the news down the corridors as they ran, sending men scurrying hither and yon, although with the speed with which the raiders came, there was little that could be done to react in time.

The armoury, when they arrived at it, was a madhouse of men pulling on rusty old chainmail shirts, and grabbing the iron swords from their racks upon the walls. Shields made of wood lay stacked upon the stone near the doors, and were the last thing grasped as the soldiers sprinted towards the exits.

Yet above all, what Iaprem noticed as he came into the room was the sour taste of fear, spreading far and wide. Clearly, the soldiers could sense it too, for they were nervous, shaky, and those who were new recruits were all but wetting themselves in nervous anticipation. One even attempted to flee, his sword clattering to the ground in a noise that grasped everyone’s attention and spun them about.

Too far away for Iaprem to grab, his shouts of “Stop! Coward!” did little more than make the nervousness even more widespread. Only when he had turned his powerful gaze on the men around him did the murmurs and the whispers quiet back down, but even then only barely.

He sighed. Others were surely slipping away when they should be going to the walls, although likely none quite so blatantly. Whatever hope Dregnon had placed in the experiment of turning citizens into soldiers was being sorely put to the test on this day.

At last, he was able to have an armourer help him with his gear, which was, unlike the boiled leather and chainmail given to the soldiers who served under him, full plate mail, a suit handed down from father to son in his family for some age. It was heavy, and constricting, being not built for his precise form of body, but even with the ill fit the protection it offered was nothing short of exemplary, so sturdy was the craftsmanship that had gone into its creation. And with it came the claymore of his ancestors, one of the very few magical weapons still remaining within the walls of Cynlyaa.

Grasped with two hands at the hilt, the blade lit into sparkling blue flame, a glowing torch that served as his personal banner in battle.

Beside him, Yenque finished climbing into one of the few other pieces of plate mail that remained, his, like Iaprem’s, a gift from the nobility that had once made up his lineage. Being closer in size to the man for whom the armour was originally intended, Yenque was able to move a touch more freely on the battlefield, necessary given his odd choice of weapon.

Most of the soldiers who served in the cohorts of Cynlyaa were either equipped with the remaining swords they had been able to keep in service, or failing that, spears and flails made from whatever lay to hand. There were also some few bows and javelins kept in served, although mostly any need for ranged weaponry was met by slings and sling staves filled with crumbled stone. But Yenque, whose choices had often been a tad unusual, wielded not one but two morningstars, each imbued with some minor form of magic, although neither to the level of Iaprem’s claymore.

Together, the two leaders of Cynlyaa’s army charged out to meet the threat of battle.


“How are we doing?” Iaprem and Yenque had just arrived on the walls overlooking the southern approaches to the old palace, to see before them a heated scuffle, mostly obscured by collapsed buildings and hasty barricades.

The sergeant on the walls was the man to respond. “Not well, I think. They picked the homes of those living outside the walls, and were able to grab much of what little lay within.”

“So why are they fighting now?”

“They aren’t, really. They’re skirmishing in retreat, taking the measure of our new soldiers without really risking themselves much.”

“Damn! So any surprise we might have had is long gone, along with whatever belonged to those who lived outside the walls. How many people do you think were affected?”

The sergeant shrugged. “Raiders had a hundred, maybe two hundred. So, a third of those outside the walls?”

“Any casualty reports as of yet?”

“None, and I wouldn’t expect any for the next bit, either. They’re still skirmishing, after all, and some of our folks ain’t too happy about what’s happened either.”

Cursing and muttering to himself, Iaprem silenced the flame that wound along his blade before sitting on the edge of the ramparts, legs dangling over the drop.

Beside him, Yenque leant onto one of the few crenellations still in proper repair.

“Well, this was a kick in the teeth. All those new men under arms, and the raiders still come and go with impunity.”

“Do you think they kidnapped people this time?”

“I’m sure of it.” Iaprem sighed. In times past, the raiders had taken women and children to be their servants, and had no doubt done so again with those they had been able to get their hands on. Of course, given the raiders had a variety of monstrous and semi-monstrous creatures amongst them… some of the captives had likely only made it as far as the stewpot.

“We knew this was going to keep happening, Iaprem. They weren’t going to stop coming because we put spears in the hands of peasants.”

“Allow a man his false hopes, would you? Even after they’ve been torn down. Because without hope, why the hell are we still here, fighting?”

“For love of family, and life?”

All that received in answer was a glance from Iaprem, a glance that said everything. Iaprem’s wife and child had been amongst those lost to the raids some years ago, and while there had never been any word about them since, both men knew they were almost certainly dead.

“Okay, perhaps not. But there must be some reason to keep carrying on, even if it is but a faint one.”

“You’re going to have to invent one for me, Yenque, because otherwise I am going to die a man old before his time, swinging his sword against some foul troglodyte while a goblin stabs me in the back.”

“For glory, then.”

“What glory is there being overrun by bandits? There will be no bards to tell my tale, no scribes to write it, no artists to paint it. No, if I’m lucky I’ll be in an unmarked grave by the side of some ruined building in Cynlyaa. If I’m unlucky, my corpse will become a turd shat out by the beast that ate me.”

Yenque laughed. “You do have quite a way with words, Iaprem. And there you have what we’re fighting for – not becoming goblin turds.”

Even Iaprem had to smile at that. “Oh, what inspirational words you speak. I can feel my heart rising to meet them.”

“Yes, well, your backside should be rising too, since it looks like one of the lieutenants is coming to speak with us.”

With that, the two men levered themselves up from the positions in which they reposed, and trundled down the stairs, taking them carefully in their plate armour.

The report was, more or less, as expected. A few men dead, a few wounded, some women and children taken, and a modicum of goods stolen. The only thing of worth was that there were so few goods left to those residing outside the walls that the theft of what there was would be mostly inconsequential. Except, there would be those families that had lost their last heirlooms, and they would be inconsolable, and angry. And without being able to turn their anger on the raiders, they would turn it on Yenque, and Dregnon, and him, for being unable to do their sole duty, and protect those of Cynlyaa. It was a charge he had failed far too often.



by thefourpartland

This is the next installment of a new novella in an old setting, called Arhosa. I’ll be posting a thousand words a day of Work-in-Progress, with the end goal being five chapters of 10,000 words each, roughly.

Gathered around Yenque were the soldiers and recruits of the first of the four units he was forming. Currently, there was almost two hundred and fifty soldiers in the old palace courtyard, although for most of them, the term soldiers was being more than excesivley generous. Most had trained for but a few days, and many, despite the actions suggested by Iaprem, still cowered when threatened.

But they were the clay he had, and so he shaped them as he could. In this case, with words, rather than with deeds. Although not his words, but the words of Dregnon and his long forgotten scribes, for today was the first of the readings.

“Today, we are going to read to you from the history of Cynddeir. The actions you hear were accomplished by your ancestors, back when they transformed this country into the land it became at the height of its power. They are called the War Lands, soldiers, and we will hear why we have earned the right to name ourselves that!”

Yenque bowed to the lightest smattering of applause, and then stepped out of the way to allow Dregnon to take the podium. It’s all rather tragic, really, thought Yenque. Dregnon is standing atop the broken base of a pillar, speaking of things that are little more than myths and legends to the men listening to them. And whatever glory we once possessed is so clearly gone we have to lie to ourselves to believe it ever existed.

But what was there was the great oratory of Dregnon, his voice rolling out over the audience, sonourous, slow, yet melodic. He had honed his talents under a descendant of the last court bard, and while there was certainly no true comparison between his talents and those of a trained minstrel, his were still far above those heard in the daily life of Cynlyaa.

Today’s reading had been picked specially by the council of leaders, with Iaprem making the final judgement on which sounded most appropriate. What he chose, in the end, was the origin story of Cynddeir itself, the nearly legendary past when the great king Antiklon charged across the fertile plains, bringing one tribe after another under his control, until at the end there were no more lands inside the plains of Cynddeir to conquer. So instead he turned his sights outwards, and smashed all those who surrounded him, bringing them into the fold much as he had the tribes.

But unlike all too many of his contemporaries, he had understood the concept of continued rule after his death, and trained and built a government that could do so, while free of corruption. The wealth that began amassing under his rule would, in centuries much later than his own, be used to build the great cities of Cynddeir, such as Cynlyaa, and would in the end be the downfall of a kingdom once known for its warriors.

The story today, though, was only about that first ride, the triumphant sweep across history that saw one and all fall beneath the feet of his footsoldiers. Other races had stood in their path, but none of them had possessed the ferocity or endurance of the Cynddeir warriors, and had crumbled and been washed away before the tirdes of history.

Now, of course, they were getting their own back, having charged into Cynddeir from the surrounding lands as the empire of Arhosa collapsed, and the rich places within it were left vulnerable. The vast and varied racial makeup of that empire had hardly helped, for it had kept antagonisms long suppressed, ones that flared into a new and vicious light with the crumble and collapse.

Another eye turned towards the crowd that gather on the old palace courtyard saw more and more civilians drifting in from outside, as well as those soldiers and trainees who were off duty, each of them listening to Dregnon’s voice as it echoed and rolled from the collapsed stone walls. They stood amidst the death of a civilization it was true, but it was a majestic, monumental mausoleum, a mausoleum that spoke of great wonders and supreme power.

Perhaps, if Iaprem’s wildest dreams came true and the Cynddeir were albe to return to their glorious past, cities like Cynlyaa should be left as they are, glorious ruins that would serve of reminders of the age gone by. But Yenque knew that vigilance always fades during an age of plenty, and that given enough time, even reminders such as this of days gone by would be broken down and removed to make way for another palace, or perhaps a summer retreat for the wealthy nobility.

When at last Dregnon came to the end of his speech, there was little in the way of outright applause, but rather rapt wonder as thoughts that had never before occurred to the soldiers wormed their way into their heads. Equally, Yenque could see there were others unaffected by such majestic visions, their hearts too wrapped in the failings of the here and now to be elevated beyond the sad station they currently occupied.

Those who had heard the message and believed in it stayed, asking questions of Dregnon, pestering him with ideas and renewed vigour, while those from whom it had rebounded slipped away back to their hovels and holes, disappearing into the structure like so many vermin. Perhaps they were no higher than those creatures.

But still, that meant there were more warriors this afternoon than there had this morning, an improvement that could never be discounted. And there were still more tellings of this tale to be made, for Dregnon had only spoken to one of the four cohorts. The others would receive readings from the same time, but of different actions, different campaigns, and each one overcoming an insurmountable hardship. Much as they might have grown in the passage of time, each of these tales was still true at its core, and all the more inspirational as a result.

Perhaps Yenque would deliver an army unto Iaprem after all.



by thefourpartland

This is the next installment of a new novella in an old setting, called Arhosa. I’ll be posting a thousand words a day of Work-in-Progress, with the end goal being five chapters of 10,000 words each, roughly.

Yenque cursed as he watched yet another of the craven simply drop their weapon and run away from the advance of his sparring partner. Faced with even the hint of mock combat, these cowardly humans would fling their weapons to the side and flee.

Of course, there were those few who had taken to combat as a way to work out their frustrations on the world, and if anything were even more problematic. Now with a weapon in their hands for the first time, they were always getting into fights outside of training, and one foolish idiot had declared she was going to sneak off and assassinate the raider lord, now that she knew how to fight. With but four days training, she had surely died.

“Have you considered forcing them to fight in line, or by pairs?”

Yenque glanced over to see Iaprem standing nearby, observing.

“They aren’t skilled enough to fight solo, never mind with a partner. Just look at them flailing around out there.”

“Make of it a game, or a challenge.” The Warleader pointed to an empty spot on the grounds. “Come, I’ll explain.”

Grabbing a training stick, Yenque followed his superior, then rested on the hilt of the weapon while Iaprem spoke.

“What you want to do is something like this, a contest where the trainee is required to be the aggressive one, but he lets down his partner if things go poorly. So, give the trainee the sword, and the soldier the shield. One is offense, the other defense. If they work well together, they both survive. If they cannot work together, they are both punished in some manner. Most like laps about the training field and being last in line to eat food tonight.”

Yenque smiled. “How about I tie them together, about the waist, so movement is restricted and they can’t flee?”

“I’m not sure I would go quite so far as that, but perhaps, if it becomes necessary.”

“How is it that you always manage to come up with ideas I should have thought of long ago?”

Iaprem smiled, albeit briefly. “Years of experience trying to command this ragtag city. And the soldiers it once had.”

“It still has some.”

A gesture of apology. “You understood my meaning.”

“Of course, of course. I know from whence that came.” Yenque paused. Perhaps there was something to be found there… “What if we organize the men into units based on the most famous of the old? Say… four of them?”

“You’ll need to find banners for them… but it should improve morale, and add a little more fire to the training. What would it be, fifty apiece?”

“Much more, if any of this lot work out. But fifty would be the old soldiers in the ranks.”

“My best guess is you’ll only get a hundred, maybe a hundred and fifty per unit.”

“That high? I never took you for a rampant optimist, Iaprem.”

They looked at one another with rueful smiles, before Yenque spoke again.

“There’s a few men and women for whom Dregnon’s idea is working, but it’s far too few. Look at them. Every time I think I’ve seen the saddest citizen in all of Cynlyaa, another one walks around the corner and onto my training grounds. What did I ever do to deserve this? What did they do?”

“They? Nothing. But their forefathers before them believed in the power of gold over the power of the sword, and so they amassed one, and paid for the other. And now there is no more gold, and those creatures who were once mercenaries in our land have plundered and pillaged it, taking it for their own. Even cave-dwelling goblins feel at home stealing from our people, so weakened have they become. Fasnachu left us long ago, and took all our luck with her.”

“Perhaps. But if the gods can take luck from us, perhaps we can win it back with valour.”

“Then you have your task, Yenque. Make us an army to reclaim Cynlyaa, and then Cynddeir. You have three thousand pitiful wretches from which to build it, no supplies, a crumbled palace as a base, and no ability to create a logistics train. All simple problems to overcome, no doubt.”

“I live but to serve.” Yenque swept into a low bow that sent Iaprem storming off, more bitter at himself than at anything his officer had said.

But there was no avoiding the fact that the way Iaprem had laid out the challenge was all but accurate. Oh, there were other Cynddeir in other cities and villages and towns scattered about the battered hulk of a nation, but they were likely in as beaten down a shape as those of Cynlyaa. And that presupposed Yenque would even be able to get a message to them, all but impossible when they had had no word from the outside world for years, aside from a few scattered and scared travellers fleeing into their arms.

Still, the best thing he could do was break down the whole process into steps, and the first was clearly to train as many people as he could in the ways of war. The only benefit to him was that, somewhere along the depths of their history, the Cynddeir had been so good at combat that it still resided in their veins, their muscles, their very bones. Although he could hardly say it, those cravens who picked up a training stick and decided to fight back were already better than the dregs of the raiders, and with training would soon match their very best. If they survived long enough to do so.

Or if enough of them ever overcame their cowardice and reluctance. Cursing and shouting, Yenque organized them into pairs, as per Iaprem’s suggestion, and set those few sergeants and lieutenants left into scoring the bouts and ensuring the punishments were recorded and carried out fairly.

That done, Yenque set off in search of Dregnon. He needed knowledge, and the kind which could only be found in the dusty tomes of the cobbled-together library found in the quartermaster’s office. And then he needed the quartermaster himself.



by thefourpartland

This is the next installment of a new novella in an old setting, called Arhosa. I’ll be posting a thousand words a day of Work-in-Progress, with the end goal being five chapters of 10,000 words each, roughly.

Dregnon found Yenque at his usual post, overseeing the various actions and objectives of the soldiers, however dreary that might be. Today it was training, and the soldiers, worried about damaging their gear, were fighting with wooden sticks and bits of rotten timber from the collapsed buildings. Swords and other weapons were too precious to risk breaking except in actual combat.

Likewise for their armour, and so, aside from helmets, they wore breastplates of wooden and stone, tied together with twine and shreds of cloth. Functional enough, for the moment, but hardly something that would work against a determined strike.

Yenque noticed his comrade’s arrival, and made his way over. As ever, there was a permanently worried look carved into Dregnon’s face, a legacy of his life as Quartermaster of Cynlyaa.

“And what can I do for you today? Whatever it is, the problem appears to be weighty indeed.”

That evoked a brief smile. “Weighty would be the correct description, I believe. I think you know we mean to move everyone into the old palace.”

“Of course.”

“And that not everyone will be appropriately housed therein.”

“Meaning we leave some of the remnants of Cynlyaa to die. A choice men should not have to make, choosing which of their neighbours to give over to the grindstone.”

“A full third.”

“That high? We’re weak and stretched thin enough as it is. But it would mean less mouths to feed and a smaller area to defend.”

“Trust a military man to think in terms of logistics. And no, I do not think we can truly afford those losses either.”

“Are we sure they would be lost so soon?”

“Unprotected and left to the mercy of the raiders?” Dregnon snorted. “They might survive a week, perhaps a month, but longer? You and I both understand the realities of our situation.”

“So you have come to me with a solution then. Otherwise you would not be here.”

“Not a solution, so much as a mental experiment. How many men do you have under arms?”

“Two hundred, give or take number.”

“In squads of size?”

“Four. Pair in front, pair in back. In an ideal world. In ours, it’s all pairs to the front, always. No rest for the weary. I am only thankful that we fight so well at the end of our endurance.”

“An ability long gifted to the Cynddeir by Hannhangnefedd. We did not earn the title of War Lands for no reason at all.”

Yenque looked into the distance for a moment, his eyes seeing another time. “Perhaps not, but unless he comes down from his mighty perch, there is nothing that can save this city now. Our glories are gone, our majesty corrupted and betrayed. We are now the honourable few, and the prey of jackals feasting upon the corpse of our world. So unless your solution has a whiff of the old magic about it, we are doomed. Perhaps not today, or tomorrow, or even this year, but doomed nonetheless.”

“Your doubts do you credit, but perhaps you should let them pass you by.  Now, before we become lost in a world of melancholy reminiscences, I have a solution to propose. That we take each of those men who, and women, who would be left outside the walls, and train them with sword and shield.”

Yenque blinked, shocked out of his depressed thoughts. “The craven ones? You wish to arm them? Better that I should hands my weapons to the raiders themselves than let them be soiled by those depraved creatures.”

“Perhaps, but perhaps not. Think on what those citizens of Cynlyaa have been offered for their wholes lives – nothing more than a cold damp hearth, starvation, and constant oppression. Perhaps if we gave them the means by which they might fight back, we could rescue them from the state in which they now reside.”

“So you wish me spend my men’s time training these pitiful humans, the lost and the damned, when instead they could be preparing the old palace for defence.”

“Allocate a few to that, and I shall make sure the citizens who are to live there move the rocks and the debris into defensible shapes. Iaprem can guide them in that, for he does have some small military talent. And while that is happening, your soldiers train the last thousand. Harshly, and speedily. Time has never been on our side, as you well now. We have more men than the raiders, a good deal more. It is that ours do not fight, and cower away when bullied, while theirs bully. Let us fix that and see where it takes us.”

Yenque smiled, and clapped Dregnon on the shoulder. “We shall do what we can, old friend. But I’m leaving you with the task of scaring up enough weapons and armour that we can outfit these people when they are ready to fight. Pray to Hannhangnefedd that they become so.”

“Do not doubt in the God of War, for if there’s anything he likes, it’s more soldiers willing to kill for his glory.”

A derisive snort was the only answer.


The old palace, as it turned out, held more than a few surprises, including a well tucked away in the cellars, as well as hidden ingress and egress routes that had only become exposed due to their hidden doors collapsing. Perhaps not useful in and of themselves, they did mean Dregnon was able to group those who would live outside the walls near the entrances, and tell them where to run if danger threatened.

There was always the risk they would lead the raiders in through the hidden passages when they next came in force, but it was Dregnon’s hope the training would stiffen the spines of Cynlyaa’s citizens enough it would not happen.

Sadly, while he had been able to find one arms locker that had not been entirely looted, all it had yielded was another fifty old swords and some shields and baldrics to go with them. And some were in such bad condition that they might well break if struck firmly against an enemy blade.

Each day he sent more citizens delving into the structure, using mostly children, for they could fit through the tight places, and were still young enough to see this as a game. Then they led the adults in to retrieve what it was they had found.  The men were under the watchful eye of Iaprem, rebuilding walls, fortifying little redoubts with stone and rubble, while the women dug up all the plants they could find and repotted them inside the old palace walls. Mostly they were turnips, beets, carrots, hardy plants that had survived the rough conditions and spread from old gardens. Grain was an all but lost concept in this day, and breads and pies were so scarce as to be eaten only in celebration, or upon a holy day.

The books over which Dregnon poured were merely the listing of how far they had fallen, his notes scribbled in margins, tucked into corners, around old text, finely illuminated. One day his people would craft volumes of such magnificence again, but not today, nor even in his lifetime. Of that he was sure.

His people were lost.



by thefourpartland

This is the opening of a new novella in an old setting, called Arhosa. I’ll be posting a thousand words a day of Work-in-Progress, with the end goal being five chapters of 10,000 words each, roughly.

“How many? How many did we lose today?”

“Enough. Some of them went willingly. You know our people, Iaprem. They are craven on every level. All their will has been stolen from them.”

Iaprem grunted in frustration. As Warleader of Cynlyaa, his home city, he was responsible for all that occurred here. Which mostly seemed to mean watching it shattered apart under the depredations of badnits and the weakness of those who resided amongst the broken down masonry.

“Fine. Pull back the cordon to the old palace. Defend those grounds, and no other. Harshness is our new best friend, so anyone who is known to have given up or given in is to be left outside. Those inside, cultivate the grounds, and stockpile everything we can lay our hands on. Even with all the raids we’ve suffered, there must be some things left in the city worth having.”

Yenque, his second, nodded in agreement. “I shall see that it’s done. But you know any show of strength will prompt another raid. And in greater force than before.”

“What will they take from us this time? Our lives? We have nothing of value left to offer them. Nothing that I know of.”

“We have our wills. Until those are gone, we will suffer. Of course, when they are gone, we will suffer more.”

Iaprem slumped onto the stone seat that served as his commandant’s office. It was little more than a broken lump from a column, carved slightly to provide a modicum of comfort. “When you leave, find Dregnon. He and I need to discuss figures after this last assault.”

With a bow, his second slipped from the room, leaving Iaprem to think in silence. Supposedly, his people had once been a great nation, one of the wealthiest in all of Arhosa. Although it was not really hard to see, living as he did in the ruins of of that wealth.

Yet they were called the War Lands of the Cynddeir, and had once, before civilizationhad come with its wealth and its lesure, conquered all that he saw about him. Now they were prey for petty thieves and bandits, ones who were so bold as to live within other districts of the same city they raided.

His people had fallen far, and fallen long, and there was nothing in the way of a structure upon which to build their resurrection. A point proven all the more strongly moments later when Dregnon walked into the room.

He went straight down to business. “There’s three thousand people left in Cynlyaa, give or take a hundred. The old palace can hold up to a thousand, if we’re being a little generous. Even with the extensive grounds, I don’t think it can provide enough food for them all though.”


“Two hundred, and that’s being overly kind. When the palace was built, the walls were designed to hold five hundred, so we’ll be weak everywhere. And that doesn’t even account for the degredation to the fortifications.”

Iaprem snorted. They both knew the structure was riddled with collapsed architecture, and the walls were no different. In places, they would still serve their puprpose, but only a fool would attack there. And the bandit lords who plagued him were not that kind of fool.

“So at best what we do is a last gasp.”

“Well, do not discount the valour of our men. They fight well, and beyond the endurance of any of our opponents.”

“That I have seen time and time again. But for every ten that we lay, we still lose one, and that is far too harsh a price to play. Plus, that only counts those who do fight. Look around you and tell me how many of those there are.”

“There is but one solution that comes to mind then – recover the lost children of Cynlyaa.”

Iaprem burst out into laughter, his roars echoing from one side of the empty stone chamber to the other, disconcerting in their timbre.

“Those cretins who won’t raise a hand when the raiders take the last turnip from their children’s lips? Them? Had I a hundred thousand such men as those, I could not defeat a single true warrior!”

“Far be it from me to tell you your job, but have you considered that perhaps they are that way because it is all they know?”

Fury writ itself large across Iaprem’s face. “Are you telling me that when I fight to spare them, spare their children, from whatever fate has in store, they cannot see another way? That they think us the foolish ones for daring to resist? Then I curse them! Let Drancedigeath take their souls and shred them for all eternity!”

Dregnon fell back a step, his mind racing. Perhaps the strain of command was too much for Iaprem, he mused. Or perhaps I need to approach matters in a different way. Rather than face the wrath of a now-raging Warleader, he bowed and made a swift exit.

It was time to take his case to Yenque.


The next few days saw Dregnon busy with the logistics of moving what remained of the city’s population into the old palace. Remarkably, the structure amazed him with its ability to house the living, despite its abhorrent condition, and he was able to fit almost two thousand members of Cynlyaa within its walls. Of course, what that also indicated to him was just how far the city had fallen, for at its peak, the population must have numbered well into the tens of thousands, perhaps even higher. But those were considerations he could dwell upon at such time as he was at leisure.

Which probably meant only when he was in Drancedigeath’s embrace, and the God of Death had no use for him.

The last thousand of the city’s population he pulled in close to the walls, tucking them here and there amidst crumbled ruins and broken structures. Hopefully, they were in places that would be overlooked by the raiders when they came again. In truth, he knew he was leaving them to their deaths. Unless…



by thefourpartland

A short story written for fun over the weekend. Will appear over the course of the week. The title is entirely temporary.


Jonah checked the chronometer of the system he was running on. Some thirty five days since he’d gone into listen only mode. Quite a while for someone who could often measure time by processor cycles. But here was the voice again, and this time he was ready.

A quick scan to determine origin direction and the proper protocol and he was off, traversing from hop to hop, system to system. Five, six, seven, eight, each one a little closer to his goal.


Well, at least that narrowed it down, and gave him another message to keep tracking. Whatever this was, it certainly wasn’t purely electronic, unless it was a very strange computer.

More hops passed in quick succession, until his sense of things told him he was close to where the origin point had to be. Which made it a good time to stop and check his surroundings. He was in… Luxembourg? Not exactly a hotbed of medical research or criminal activity these days. Everyone here was too busy being rich and enjoying life to engage in actual labour. Although Jonah amended that thought immediately, since most of them had actually earned the life of leisure by inventing something brilliant.

Which meant that it could be a rather unusual experiment going on at the moment, after all. He shrugged, mentally of course, and continued on his way, tunnelling down from the network hub towards individual machines.


Every message hit him at once, and he staggered. Clearly targeted, but why?


The signal was so loud, so powerful, all of his systems fluttered. But now he knew where he was going, which meant it was time for a bit of scouting.

First, he called up a map of Luxembourg, or, rather, several, one for the internet, and another for the physical world. These two he overlaid upon another, and found that what he was looking for was a private residence on the third floor of a nice tower block. Nothing particularly remarkable.

Then he broke into the camera system for the building. Given that it, like everything else in this new world, was supposed to send data back to the number crunching machines, this was merely a matter of watching.

As for what Jonah saw, well…


White boxes surrounded him, walls made of cubes, barricades a meter high. Strange, that, he’d always thought in terms of hexadecagons, no doubt because of living in a world where everything still used base sixteen.


Jonah shuddered. That wasn’t him. That was something else. Something… near.

He turned his head (head?) to the left. There lay another nest of white boxes, taller than his own, which is why he could see them.

Lying on his back like he was made his head throb, so he sat up. The angle gave him a better vantage point over the world around him. White, clinical, definitely a research lab.


The cubes left of his flickered, and went out, now coloured a dreary brown-grey. Shadows played along the walls.

He rose from his bed (bed?) and stepped across the gulf. Nestled between the walls of cubes was a small puppy, its chest still.





Jonah returned to the bed, lay down, and slept.


He’d forgotten the scientists had come with him, had merged themselves together into a hindbrain. He always forgot. Perhaps it was for the best. Idly, he wondered how much of what he saw was real, and how much was the experiments. Did it matter?

Either way, there was always TV. Jonah turned on his soap opera.