by thefourpartland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  1. Jason on 10.29.2010

    I like the gravitas of your writing. You portray warriors with a refreshing complexity. There appear to be some very interesting dynamics setting up. What a great lead-in for the novels.

  2. Steve Green on 10.31.2010

    A nice continuation of the story James, The conflict I expected has not yet materialised, they have instead been accepted into the community. The story gives me the feeling that not all may stay quite so rosy now that the council members have turned up.

  3. Lara Dunning on 11.03.2010

    Wonderfully written with good imagery. As I am writing a fantasy novel that envolves warriors as well it is great to see another writer pay attention to the details of rituals and the complex world they live in. I can see this building up to something.

  4. The Four Part Land on 11.03.2010

    What I find interesting about these comments about warriors is that although this *has* warriors in it, I was attempting to portray the early time, before a young man destined for power was able to reach out and grasp it. If I was going to pick a story of mine about warriors, Breaking an Empire would be my choice, so the comments surprised me a little.

    That said, I’m very pleased by your comments that this came off as a real society with depth and passion. That was the hope, and they are deliberately very different from the other societies that inhabit TFPL.

    @Steve Glad to see you back. And yes, Annwyd having trouble with those pesky Elders who think they know best for their society is a recurring theme. There’s certainly a conflict building there. I didn’t want his rise to be easy – I wanted the norms of his society to be a burden on Annwyd, and something he needed to overcome.

Leave a Reply