by thefourpartland

The fifteenth 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 later, their turn came in the rotation of squads to go on forage duty. Rhyfelwyr put Llofruddiwr on point. The man was a ghost when he wanted to be, and could almost certainly find danger before it found them. The other five followed at a distance, with Locsyn having the unenviable job of being the rearguard. The squad’s patrol area was off to the western side of the army, between this branch and the next, and so with the rising of the sun, Llofruddiwr turned his back on the glowing orb and headed off.

The march took them across a ruined landscape. They had been told that the first few farms and areas had been already picked clean of anything that might resemble food, and so the soldiers had a ten mile march just to reach their assigned area, and that hike saw them pass the burnt out shells of farmhouses, the skeletal remains of barns, the dead bodies of work animals left to rot and die, and fields that had been turned into ruined husks of what they once were.

“This devastation is unprecedented. I have never, in all my years, heard of a war conducted in such a self-destructive manner. Why, even if they win, the Lianese will be set back a generation by this, if not longer.” Taflen gaped at the terrain they passed through.

“They won’t be the only ones set back a generation if they win. What of Bhreac Veryan? What of us? Our empire crumbles if we lose Niam Liad. It’s the city we use to hold all of the land on this side of Yn Brydio Ad. Without it, the linchpin is pulled from our army, and the other cities will fall away just as easily. We need to win this war more than they do.” Locsyn was feeling particularly sour this morning.

“We’ll win it. Did you see that lot break and run at Miath Mhor? They’ve got nothing for us in combat.” Gwyth grinned.

“The Lianese are well aware of that fact, it is why they are trying to defeat us by lack of food, rather than skill of arms. They are poor soldiers compared to us, but they may have hit upon a strategy which can overcome our superior forces if those forces are weakened and taken from the field of battle before the battle even commences.”

“Taflen, Locsyn, Gwyth, shut it. We’re here to look for food, not plan out the whole campaign in an hour. We can’t control the strategy, so lets worry about finding the food we’re out here to look for and then haul it back to camp.” Rhyfelwyr had had enough of the argument brewing. “You lot can just keep it quiet and tag along.”

Rhocas was the only member of the five who had not spoken, and he continued to march with his head down and his shoulders slumped, looking for all the world as if he would rather be in any other place than where he was now. The battle had taken something from him, and he struggled with that loss. Perhaps he would come out of it; certainly, the hope of this foraging was that Rhyfelwyr and the others could pull him out of that shell that he had built around himself, but there was such a gap in age and experience between the veterans and this novice soldier that perhaps that could not happen, and Rhocas would just wander through the war depressed and uncertain of his position.

A low whistle from up ahead caused Rhyfelwyr to put his hand up, calling for the squad to stop and to hunker down behind a low rise. Slipping back over that rise came Llofruddiwr, making a gesture of ten. When he settled in next to Rhy, the sergeant whispered over. “Ten soldier patrol?” Llof nodded, not saying anything. “Can we go around, or is this a case of going through?”


“Damn it. Do you have any suggestions?”

“Kill them?”

“Thanks.” Rhy gestured for the others to huddle up around him. “We’ve got a ten soldier patrol up ahead, and Llof says we have to clean up. Gwyth, you take right flank, Locsyn left. Taflen, Rhocas and I will charge.” Gwyth and Locsyn began crawling off to the sides, looking to get into position on the enemy forces. Rhocas leaned over and mumbled. “Llofruddiwr not fighting?”

“You see him here?” Rhy chuckled.

Rhocas glanced around, realizing that somehow Llof had disappeared without anyone noticing.

“He’s the one who’s going to cause the most trouble. Just wait.”


  1. Adam Byatt on 01.11.2011

    A skirmish is afoot. But I guess it may not go according to strategy. A skirmish is a trick thing to win.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  2. The Four Part Land on 01.11.2011

    *Grins* The skirmish will involve a lot of Llof, which is good, because in some ways he’s my favorite character. The silent, crazy assassin.

  3. #TuesdaySerial Report – Week 37 – Jan 11, 2011 | Tuesday Serial on 01.12.2011

    […] Breaking an Empire #15 by James T at The Four Part Land […]

Leave a Reply