by thefourpartland

Armies clashed that day on the field, as magic tore into mundane. Bow and arrow met flintlock, and fire from the mages was countered by the roar of cannons. Elves there were, and trolls too, and for once they fought on the same side of battle, the sylvan creatures using their lithotrophic allies as shields.

The sky darkened as the elves let loose their arrows, but the roar of massed muskets provided an equally sharp counterpoint, and even the thick hides of the trolls were no match for the volume of shot. Many fell, as did many of the gunpowder wielders, pierced through by shafts.

Dwarves burst from the ground, axes swinging left and right as they worked themselves into a battle frenzy, shattering apart the massed ranks of their foe. Orcs and goblins charged as they saw the disarray in their foe, piercing war cries placing fear in enemy breasts.

Yet their foe rallied, and legions of pikes bore down upon the advancing force of orcs and goblins, and their berserk charge failed upon the thousand spikes. The dwarves fell too, as they succumbed to foes with armour heavier than their own.

Both sides stood beaten, bloody, all but broken. Mages had cast their final spells, the cannons had fallen silent, and the exchange of archery and gunfire was only a ragged counterpoint to the screams of the wounded.

Heavy footsteps sounded in the east, and the forces of magic cheered, for the giants had come at last. Late to the battle perhaps, but no foe had yet thrown them down. From their hands spun great boulders, crashing through the lines of the mundane. With a roar, they jogged forth, clubs in hand, ready to sweep this pesky foe from the field.

Thin sounds came upon the air, muffled by cloud and fog, and it was only when the first explosion struck that the giants cast their eyes upwards. Hanging beyond even the mighty reach of the giants were dirigibles, and from their bellies came forth great waves of iron canisters. A few failed to explode when they struck the ground, but all too many sent great gouts of earth skyward.

Whirlwinds of shrapnel tore through the forces of magic, raining down upon them like so much hail. Ruin walked across the land, leaving little more than muddied trenches, but the giants used their great forms to hide the lesser races beneath, sacrificing themselves against the deadly iron.

When at last the rain stopped, the army of magic stepped forth once more, only to find themselves facing a reformed battle line. Three rows of flintlock muskets barked in turn, and once more the metal shod feet of the pikemen ground forward.

Man had come to claim this land as his own.


  1. Sam Adamson on 05.13.2011

    This is great! There’s a wonderful sense of the great, sweeping epic about this story and I really like the contrast between the mundane and magical armies. The appearance of the dirigibles was pefectly timed. I really enjoyed the blend of fantasy and steampunk elements here.

  2. Icy Sedgwick on 05.13.2011

    I was half expected man to throw some A-bombs at the giants, but I think what you’ve done works perfectly. It’s an interesting metaphor for the battle between, say, the spy-thriller genre and the fantasy genre.

  3. Chuck Allen on 05.13.2011

    I like the description here. Sam is right that it has an epic feel to it. Great job!

  4. Sonia on 05.13.2011

    Great way to describe this battle. Sounds a little bit like the conclusion to an epic story.

  5. Michael Tate on 05.20.2011

    This was pretty fun to read. It wasn’t just some epic battle but the battle of the genres.

    We had steampunk vs fantasy and steampunk wins with air superiority.

    Very clever. I liked it.

  6. The Four Part Land on 05.22.2011

    So, been a little while since this was posted, but the comments so far have interested me a fair amount.

    @Sam I never really had steampunk in mind here, more just a Renaissance army of humans against the more traditional fantasy army of various creatures. I think that might have something to do with my concept of steampunk as very victorian and slightly magical (Aether) in nature.

    @Icy I was actually trying to go for human greed, and how it very often destroys what should be kept. Hence the reveal of man as aggressor in the last line.

    @Chuck Well, after an informal poll around Twitter, it looks like this is going to get expanded into a novella or something similar. So, good to see that people like it. Already got a few ideas kicking around.

    @Sonia I think that’s what it might end up being, although I don’t know about epic. Perhaps a long-running series of battles over a frontier.

    @Michael Again, never really thought of it as Steampunk, just Renaissance level technology. And I never did actually give the fantasy army dragons. I think if I had they would have won.

  7. Ileandra Young on 07.20.2013

    Nice, epic feel to this piece. I can see how it expanded into a longer one. ^_^

  8. The Four Part Land on 07.20.2013

    It was originally supposed to be a novella (about 30k) that I wrote between finishing the 3rd book of The Four Part Land and starting the 4th. It’s currently 75k, and will probably end at about 85k. Turned into my first ever non-TFPL novel. Story changed from the short piece as well, as it is wont to do.

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