8

Feb

by thefourpartland

The eighteenth 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 patrol gathered itself, and what little it had taken from the enemy squad, and moved out across the land in search of food. The first few places that they came across were stripped bare ruins, but they found a nice cache hidden under one of the outbuildings in the fourth farmhouse. The building had burned down and collapsed on top of a trapdoor, but Taflen had noticed the edge of the door in the rubble, and with Gwyth doing the heavy lifting to clear the burnt timbers, the latch was soon broken off. Rhyfelwyr and Llofruddiwr descended into the dark below to find themselves in a square earthen chamber, with several barrels of grain and dried meats stored away. Sending Gwyth down to hoist each of the containers out of the ground, Rhy then detailed Llof and Taflen and Rhocas to hunt up whatever forms of transportation might be available.

The squad couldn’t carry back all of the supplies themselves, and with a prisoner, Rhyfelwyr knew they couldn’t send a runner either, as they were already a small unit to be out on their own. Cursing at the officers for sending them out here without more men or a wagon, the sergeant waited for the return of his three men. Soon a grunt sounded nearby, and Rhyfelwyr spun round, to hear Taflen call out. “Send us Gwyth, damn you!”

Rhy gestured at the large man to go help, and shortly a wagon came around the corner, with the traces draped over Gwyth’s neck, and his legs churning to pull the contraption along. Taflen and Rhocas were pushing at the back of the wagon, which slowly settled to a stop in front of the outbuilding.

“Where’d you find this thing? I’d thought they’d all been ruined or taken.”

“Some farmer left it out in a little dell in a field about a mile away. Must have panicked and fled.”

“Good work Rhocas, Taflen. Now to get the barrels on top. And Locsyn, keep an eye on your present, he’s looking shifty. Spoke him with a sword if you have to to keep him from being too active.”

With that, Rhy grabbed one of the barrels, hoisting it onto his shoulder, and then over the side of the wagon into the bed. Gwyth followed after, shrugging a barrel onto either shoulder and just flipping them into the wagon. With the others helping, soon all of the supplies were loaded, and they were ready to turn for home.

“Right, Locsyn, get him into the traces. It’ll stop him from trying to escape, and we need the muscle anyway.” This next was to the prisoner. “And if you think about taking a break from pulling, well, the big guy will be pushing at the back of the wagon, and you’ll just get run over, so step lively until I call for a halt.”

The prisoner spat at the ground in front of Rhy’s feet, but the sergeant just waved at Locsyn in response, and his friend proceeded to shove the prisoner in under the traces, and settle them over his head. With a slap to the back of the prisoner’s head, Locsyn set the man pulling at wagon, slowly getting it to move. Gwyth, Rhocas, and Rhy chipped in at the back, breaking the inertia of the heavy vehicle, before letting Gwyth take the first stint pushing from behind. The others would rotate in pairs to free Gwyth up. The sun was near to setting, and Rhy hoped the wagon didn’t slow them down so much that they would be forced to camp for the night before resuming the journey back to the army.

The squad was exhausted when they stumbled into the army camp that night, an hour after the sun had set. Rhyfelwyr had thought of stopping as the sun’s light disappeared, but the next little rise had shown a field of camp fires, and so they had pushed on in that direction. The prisoner was sagging in the traces, only standing upright because they held him so. He had had no breaks to speak of, whereas all of the squad had rotated in short shifts.

An officer soon came to see the prisoner, and took the report of the day’s actions from Rhy. With a few words of praise, the officer dismissed the squad, and led the exhausted, groaning Lianese soldier away as quartermaster troops swarmed over the wagon, inventorying the find and then wheeling it away.

Rhy hunted up a cook and had him make the squad a hearty meal, their right after a day on patrol and in combat. There was little conversation over the meal, and it was only when their stomachs were satiated that they were able to relax in front of the fire and talk about the day’s events. Knowing that Taflen had already spoken with Rhocas for a little, Rhyfelwyr let the conversation roam, although it mostly settled on the ambush of the Lianese patrol.

“You know, I’ve been fighting beside you for years, and I’ve still never figured out how you get that close to lookouts. Do you crawl under the ground or something?” Locsyn was talking to Llofruddiwr.

“I move quietly.”

“No, I move quietly, and they can hear me from twenty paces or so. You move like a damn spirit, not even here in this world until you pop up and surprise everyone. If anyone actually survived meeting you, there might be a growing rumour about your skill, but you’re so good no one ever knows. And yeah, I know you like it that way, all quiet.”

“Yes.”

“Gwyth, you talk to me, you’ll say more words in one sentence than Llofruddiwr will in an entire day.”

Gwyth doubled over with laughter at that, then put on a silly expression. “Yes.”

“Oh bugger, not you too.”

Comments

  1. #TuesdaySerial Report – Week 41 – Feb 8, 2011 | Tuesday Serial on 02.10.2011

    […] Breaking an Empire #18 by James T at The Four Part Land […]

Leave a Reply