by thefourpartland

The ninth 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 next morning’s dawn saw the vanguard pulled up in the centre of the line of battle, with the main bulk of the army spread to the left and right in flanking wings, serried blocks many men deep. Across from them was the thinner, yet still large, line of the Lianese army, their banners and gear of a much more motley array than the cold, insectoid, armour of Bhreac Veryan. It looked to be an easy day, from a strategic view, for both sides had arrayed their forces in such a way as to state they wished to roll up one end of the opposition, crumpling them from the outside in, and at that Taflen nodded. It was the most basic, and the most common, strategy, especially when one force outnumbered another. He wondered what the Lianese might have in store to change the balance in their favour, but dismissed those thoughts when the horn sounded ‘Slow March’.

With the tramp of measured feet, the army of Bhreac Veryan surged into life, a rippling motion all along the shield wall as soldiers took their first step in time with the comrades to the left and the right. The whole great mass trundled forward, closing down the gap between them and their foe. A trumpet blew from amongst the Lianese, and they in turn stepped out, their banners cracking in the high breeze, the snap of a flag audible even over the rumble of marching troops. Soon there was but a quarter-mile between the two forces, and the horn for ‘Quick March’ rang out. Rhyfelwyr picked up his feet, and felt those around him do the same. As he did so, he let his hand draw out and cradle one of the glass globes that hung in leather pouches at his waist. Filled with glass dust and broken shards, they would fracture and spray their contents across those near the point of impact. These weapons were to be the opening salvo in the battle, much as they had been in wars past. All around, he sensed the unlimbering of weapons, as that quarter mile shrank away, and only a few hundred yards separated one foe from another. Across from him, he could see javelins and bows being pulled from their cases, held high in throwing hands in anticipation of the moment of release.

The cry came for ‘Assault’, and the battle was upon them all.

Arrows and javelins flew through the air, and Rhy and those around him lifted their shields to catch the incoming darts. Most skipped off of shields and armour, but some found their way around, and the screams and groans of the injured and the dying began to fill the air. Locsyn and Rhy both felt the old sensations again, the weight of all their previous battles come forward to claim this moment as their own, to add it to the tally that they each carried within. A sigh escaped Locsyn’s lips at the sadness of it all, but he lowered his shield and threw his momentum into the toss, sending the glass sphere flying to burst in a cloud of painful dust across the enemy line. Others from Glanhaol Fflamboethi had done the same, and up and down the Lianese line, soldiers coughed and cursed and scratched at their throat and face, and some began coughing blood as the razor-edged clouds ripped apart their breathing.

The Veryan army paused its headlong rush, bracing itself to take the impact of the disorganized Lianese charge, the order of the front ranks ripped apart by the salvo of spheres. A quiet descended on the field for a moment, a quiet as if all the sound had been pulled away, only to return with a mighty crash as the thundering attack crunched into the shield wall of Glanhaol Fflamboethi. The shield wall bent, pushed back by the momentum of the attackers, but soon righted itself, and slowly began driving into the more lightly armoured Lianese soldiers.

Slightly to the right of centre, Rhyfelwyr’s squad was set three in the front of the line, and three backing them up. Rhy, Locsyn, and Gwyth stood solid in the front, warding blows with their shields and striking back with short sword thrusts, no room for the extravagant motion of a cutting attack. Reaching over their shoulders or around where they could, the other three soldiers sought to strike and strike hard, making the Veryan wall a forest of stabbing swords.

Rhocas stood very pale, his face twisted as his arm rose and fell in the mechanical motions of the training ground. He was the youngest of them, had only seen the few brief moments of fighting in the skirmish the day before, and this cacophony of noises and sounds, overwhelming his senses, had in some ways turned off his conscious mind, and he stood wondering at the why of it all, for this battle was against those who had been friends mere seasons ago, and who would be considered so again, should Glanhaol Fflamboethi win. Rhocas could feel his youthful optimism about life being stripped away with each stroke of the sword blade, for how could this be some grand adventure, standing his ground and stabbing people when they weren’t looking? It was a sordid type of battle, and the groans and the shrieks of each sword blow made his stomach roil and churn, until he bent over and threw up on the battlefield. Another soldier stepped around Rhocas and into his place in line, and the war continued, not missing a beat.

Shaking his head, Taflen continued his slow, methodical strikes over the arms of Gwyth, waiting until he had a wide opening. The historian had seen many battles and read countless more, and not the sanitized reports that appeared in publications and histories, but rather the personal accounts of the soldiers who had been there, the heartfelt and gruesome stories of trying to survive. He used those now to build a wall about his mind, composing his tale of the battle as he swung, his eyes open, observing all that he could from where he stood. Later this night, he would venture around to the various campfires, asking the soldiers for their impressions of the day, before sleep robbed the ideas of reality and changed them into something else, the mind coping with the horrors of what it had seen.

Their blades hacking and slashing, stripped of any grace but brute efficiency, Rhy, Gwyth and Locsyn fought their enemies backwards, driving the Lianese soldiers, grinding them with the mass of the army behind. The shield wall had begun to break, the organization lost as the battle became more muddied, a long spate of conflict where encirclements in miniature took place. The Lianese were getting the worst of that, and Llofruddiwr wondered at that, for their army had ever been better used for skirmishing, for the fast moving and withdrawing style that their open plains favoured. This stand and brawl combat was much more suited to Veryan temperaments, and it was showing on the field that day, as many of the Lianese soldiers began to lose heart, dropping their weapons to the ground and fleeing over the rise towards Miath Mhor. Llofruddiwr shrugged, for those who fled would likely be caught before they reached the city, and those who weren’t would just put an undue burden on the resources there. Either way, it was good for the soldiers of Glanhaol Fflamboethi.


  1. #TuesdaySerial Report – Week 31 – Nov 30, 2010 | Tuesday Serial on 12.02.2010

    […] Breaking an Empire #9 by James T at The Four Part Land […]

Leave a Reply