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.

Gathered around Yenque were the soldiers and recruits of the first of the four units he was forming. Currently, there was almost two hundred and fifty soldiers in the old palace courtyard, although for most of them, the term soldiers was being more than excesivley generous. Most had trained for but a few days, and many, despite the actions suggested by Iaprem, still cowered when threatened.

But they were the clay he had, and so he shaped them as he could. In this case, with words, rather than with deeds. Although not his words, but the words of Dregnon and his long forgotten scribes, for today was the first of the readings.

“Today, we are going to read to you from the history of Cynddeir. The actions you hear were accomplished by your ancestors, back when they transformed this country into the land it became at the height of its power. They are called the War Lands, soldiers, and we will hear why we have earned the right to name ourselves that!”

Yenque bowed to the lightest smattering of applause, and then stepped out of the way to allow Dregnon to take the podium. It’s all rather tragic, really, thought Yenque. Dregnon is standing atop the broken base of a pillar, speaking of things that are little more than myths and legends to the men listening to them. And whatever glory we once possessed is so clearly gone we have to lie to ourselves to believe it ever existed.

But what was there was the great oratory of Dregnon, his voice rolling out over the audience, sonourous, slow, yet melodic. He had honed his talents under a descendant of the last court bard, and while there was certainly no true comparison between his talents and those of a trained minstrel, his were still far above those heard in the daily life of Cynlyaa.

Today’s reading had been picked specially by the council of leaders, with Iaprem making the final judgement on which sounded most appropriate. What he chose, in the end, was the origin story of Cynddeir itself, the nearly legendary past when the great king Antiklon charged across the fertile plains, bringing one tribe after another under his control, until at the end there were no more lands inside the plains of Cynddeir to conquer. So instead he turned his sights outwards, and smashed all those who surrounded him, bringing them into the fold much as he had the tribes.

But unlike all too many of his contemporaries, he had understood the concept of continued rule after his death, and trained and built a government that could do so, while free of corruption. The wealth that began amassing under his rule would, in centuries much later than his own, be used to build the great cities of Cynddeir, such as Cynlyaa, and would in the end be the downfall of a kingdom once known for its warriors.

The story today, though, was only about that first ride, the triumphant sweep across history that saw one and all fall beneath the feet of his footsoldiers. Other races had stood in their path, but none of them had possessed the ferocity or endurance of the Cynddeir warriors, and had crumbled and been washed away before the tirdes of history.

Now, of course, they were getting their own back, having charged into Cynddeir from the surrounding lands as the empire of Arhosa collapsed, and the rich places within it were left vulnerable. The vast and varied racial makeup of that empire had hardly helped, for it had kept antagonisms long suppressed, ones that flared into a new and vicious light with the crumble and collapse.

Another eye turned towards the crowd that gather on the old palace courtyard saw more and more civilians drifting in from outside, as well as those soldiers and trainees who were off duty, each of them listening to Dregnon’s voice as it echoed and rolled from the collapsed stone walls. They stood amidst the death of a civilization it was true, but it was a majestic, monumental mausoleum, a mausoleum that spoke of great wonders and supreme power.

Perhaps, if Iaprem’s wildest dreams came true and the Cynddeir were albe to return to their glorious past, cities like Cynlyaa should be left as they are, glorious ruins that would serve of reminders of the age gone by. But Yenque knew that vigilance always fades during an age of plenty, and that given enough time, even reminders such as this of days gone by would be broken down and removed to make way for another palace, or perhaps a summer retreat for the wealthy nobility.

When at last Dregnon came to the end of his speech, there was little in the way of outright applause, but rather rapt wonder as thoughts that had never before occurred to the soldiers wormed their way into their heads. Equally, Yenque could see there were others unaffected by such majestic visions, their hearts too wrapped in the failings of the here and now to be elevated beyond the sad station they currently occupied.

Those who had heard the message and believed in it stayed, asking questions of Dregnon, pestering him with ideas and renewed vigour, while those from whom it had rebounded slipped away back to their hovels and holes, disappearing into the structure like so many vermin. Perhaps they were no higher than those creatures.

But still, that meant there were more warriors this afternoon than there had this morning, an improvement that could never be discounted. And there were still more tellings of this tale to be made, for Dregnon had only spoken to one of the four cohorts. The others would receive readings from the same time, but of different actions, different campaigns, and each one overcoming an insurmountable hardship. Much as they might have grown in the passage of time, each of these tales was still true at its core, and all the more inspirational as a result.

Perhaps Yenque would deliver an army unto Iaprem after all.


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