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.


  1. Adam Byatt on 12.14.2010

    I asked for it early, but couldn’t get a spare few minutes to read it. Now I am glad that I have read it.
    It’s a great style of writing for fantasy and action. It depths the characters and allows the action to take centre stage at the right moments. It reminds me of reading The Belgariad and Lord of The Rings as a child. Haven’t read fantasy for too long; I’m coming back.
    During my holidays I’ll be coming back to catch up on the installments and read them all.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  2. #TuesdaySerial Report – Week 33 – Dec 14, 2010 | Tuesday Serial on 12.15.2010

    […] Breaking an Empire #11 by James T at The Four Part Land […]

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