by thefourpartland

This is the next installment of a new novella in an old setting, called Arhosa. I’ll be posting a thousand words a day of Work-in-Progress, with the end goal being five chapters of 10,000 words each, roughly.

Yenque cursed as he watched yet another of the craven simply drop their weapon and run away from the advance of his sparring partner. Faced with even the hint of mock combat, these cowardly humans would fling their weapons to the side and flee.

Of course, there were those few who had taken to combat as a way to work out their frustrations on the world, and if anything were even more problematic. Now with a weapon in their hands for the first time, they were always getting into fights outside of training, and one foolish idiot had declared she was going to sneak off and assassinate the raider lord, now that she knew how to fight. With but four days training, she had surely died.

“Have you considered forcing them to fight in line, or by pairs?”

Yenque glanced over to see Iaprem standing nearby, observing.

“They aren’t skilled enough to fight solo, never mind with a partner. Just look at them flailing around out there.”

“Make of it a game, or a challenge.” The Warleader pointed to an empty spot on the grounds. “Come, I’ll explain.”

Grabbing a training stick, Yenque followed his superior, then rested on the hilt of the weapon while Iaprem spoke.

“What you want to do is something like this, a contest where the trainee is required to be the aggressive one, but he lets down his partner if things go poorly. So, give the trainee the sword, and the soldier the shield. One is offense, the other defense. If they work well together, they both survive. If they cannot work together, they are both punished in some manner. Most like laps about the training field and being last in line to eat food tonight.”

Yenque smiled. “How about I tie them together, about the waist, so movement is restricted and they can’t flee?”

“I’m not sure I would go quite so far as that, but perhaps, if it becomes necessary.”

“How is it that you always manage to come up with ideas I should have thought of long ago?”

Iaprem smiled, albeit briefly. “Years of experience trying to command this ragtag city. And the soldiers it once had.”

“It still has some.”

A gesture of apology. “You understood my meaning.”

“Of course, of course. I know from whence that came.” Yenque paused. Perhaps there was something to be found there… “What if we organize the men into units based on the most famous of the old? Say… four of them?”

“You’ll need to find banners for them… but it should improve morale, and add a little more fire to the training. What would it be, fifty apiece?”

“Much more, if any of this lot work out. But fifty would be the old soldiers in the ranks.”

“My best guess is you’ll only get a hundred, maybe a hundred and fifty per unit.”

“That high? I never took you for a rampant optimist, Iaprem.”

They looked at one another with rueful smiles, before Yenque spoke again.

“There’s a few men and women for whom Dregnon’s idea is working, but it’s far too few. Look at them. Every time I think I’ve seen the saddest citizen in all of Cynlyaa, another one walks around the corner and onto my training grounds. What did I ever do to deserve this? What did they do?”

“They? Nothing. But their forefathers before them believed in the power of gold over the power of the sword, and so they amassed one, and paid for the other. And now there is no more gold, and those creatures who were once mercenaries in our land have plundered and pillaged it, taking it for their own. Even cave-dwelling goblins feel at home stealing from our people, so weakened have they become. Fasnachu left us long ago, and took all our luck with her.”

“Perhaps. But if the gods can take luck from us, perhaps we can win it back with valour.”

“Then you have your task, Yenque. Make us an army to reclaim Cynlyaa, and then Cynddeir. You have three thousand pitiful wretches from which to build it, no supplies, a crumbled palace as a base, and no ability to create a logistics train. All simple problems to overcome, no doubt.”

“I live but to serve.” Yenque swept into a low bow that sent Iaprem storming off, more bitter at himself than at anything his officer had said.

But there was no avoiding the fact that the way Iaprem had laid out the challenge was all but accurate. Oh, there were other Cynddeir in other cities and villages and towns scattered about the battered hulk of a nation, but they were likely in as beaten down a shape as those of Cynlyaa. And that presupposed Yenque would even be able to get a message to them, all but impossible when they had had no word from the outside world for years, aside from a few scattered and scared travellers fleeing into their arms.

Still, the best thing he could do was break down the whole process into steps, and the first was clearly to train as many people as he could in the ways of war. The only benefit to him was that, somewhere along the depths of their history, the Cynddeir had been so good at combat that it still resided in their veins, their muscles, their very bones. Although he could hardly say it, those cravens who picked up a training stick and decided to fight back were already better than the dregs of the raiders, and with training would soon match their very best. If they survived long enough to do so.

Or if enough of them ever overcame their cowardice and reluctance. Cursing and shouting, Yenque organized them into pairs, as per Iaprem’s suggestion, and set those few sergeants and lieutenants left into scoring the bouts and ensuring the punishments were recorded and carried out fairly.

That done, Yenque set off in search of Dregnon. He needed knowledge, and the kind which could only be found in the dusty tomes of the cobbled-together library found in the quartermaster’s office. And then he needed the quartermaster himself.


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