4

Nov

by thefourpartland

This is the final entry in a short #FridayFlash serial based in The Four Part Land. Events that take place here will have a large impact in upcoming TFPL novels.

Then the council bade Annwyd Arwedda and his travellers fair well, and told them to expect a messenger before the autumn time. Doubts and worries crept into the thoughts of all of those from the Fferedig Ddynion that resided in that place, for they saw the land they had worked on for the last year being taken from them, and forced to return to the land of cold, of want, of short days and long nights hunting herd animals in a snowstorm. These thoughts angered the young men and women who had come with Annwyd, and they spoke to him, and asked him what he might do to insure that they lived here. Annwyd replied to them that there was little that they could do, for to protest by remaining would mean that they would be a lonely thirty here, cut off and alone from the rest of the people, and none of those who remained on the frostbitten plateau would know of the betterment of their lives that could be had, and so Annwyd Arwedda bade that if he and his travellers were called to return, then return they would, and spread the word amongst the youngsters and friends, of what a boon it had been to live under an open sky and a gentle sun.

Soon enough, autumn came, and with it a messenger from the council, that very same man who had carried the first news to Annwyd Arwedda. Annwyd greeted him as an old friend, and waited for the message to be read forth, and when it was as he had expected, he told all those who had travelled with him that they must gather their things, for this was the ending of their time under the open sky. Grumbling and groaning, murmuring discontent and anger, they did as they were asked, and soon assembled themselves on the outskirts of the village, where they took partings from those of the village, and Annwyd spoke to them and said that one day we will return, and we will remember with kindness what you have done.

And so, when years later the Fferedig Ddynion swept down from their hills under Annwyd Arwedda and sought to make a kingdom of the western plains, one small village was spared any ravishment, and indeed, was bestowed with such gifts that the farmers there became wealthy men. But the kingdom of Annwyd is a story that shall be told at another time.

Annwyd will return in the 4th book of The Four Part Land, the 2nd book of the Chloddio trilogy. I’m also thinking of writing a novella from his point of view for Unfolding a New Continent, as the final anchor story for that collection.

28

Oct

by thefourpartland

This is the fifth in a short #FridayFlash serial based in The Four Part Land. Events that take place here will have a large impact in upcoming TFPL novels.

Annwyd Arwedda bent his head to look at those behind him, then ostentatiously rammed his spear into the ground, tip downwards. Those behind him did the same, and there they left the spears, quivering and upright in the ground, a mark of their peaceful approach. Upon this meeting lay the hopes of Annwyd, for to venture forth from his frozen home, he knew he must learn the secrets of agriculture, of the turning of the seasons and the coming of the rains, of when the plants are to be harvest and when they are to be interred. Hands open and apart from his body, he approached alone the farmers and their nervous tools, and let a smile crack his face as he looked at the children beyond. It was for his children and the children of all the Fferedig Ddynion that he was here, and he would accept many things on their behalf, for his people mattered more than he did.

The smile did little to reassure those standing apart from it, for the rest of the man was too terrible to be leavened by a mere pleasing expression. All men knew that some smiles were meant to show nothing but the teeth behind them, and their hands gripped tightly about the old wood of their tools until one, braver than the rest, stepped forward in partial gesture of greeting. This farmer spoke in questions, his words searching the reasons behind the appearance of these travellers, and Annwyd answered, his accent thick but his words intelligible. And so the farmers learned that these men sought to tie themselves to the earth, to give up the ways of hunting and of gathering, and to acquire the secrets of agriculture. To these people of the earth, where even a small child could see when to harvest and when to plant, it seemed strange that there would be men in this world who did not have this knowledge, and so, when faced with the prospect of extra hands in the fields, they readily agreed to share what they knew. The population here was thin, and the land could easily support the numbers of the travellers. Why, every few years the villagers would move their homes, letting the fields recover and moving to new and brighter pastures. To speak of their lives gave them great pleasure, and to Annwyd, the speech they made was of great importance. He would bide here awhile, absorbing the knowledge of these lands.

Each sextile, a messenger would depart, and the original thirty slowly dwindled in number, but those there became more at home with the grasp of the seasons, and as the months passed, they fell into the rhythm of the plants. The hard work and long hours bothered them little, for to people where even staying warm was a hassle, and to walk across the village meant bundling in clothing of heavy fur, being asked to stand outside under a warm and gentle sun was reward enough for what little hardships they had to endure. The year went onwards, and the harvest came, and the travellers learned the secrets of bringing in and bundling the plants, and finding the wheat amidst the chaff, and how to separate one from the other by means of beating and grinding, and they were pleased, for soon there was fresh baked bread being made amongst all the houses, and the smell brought a warm glow to the faces of the tundra-born. Spread thick with butter made from the milk of the small animals kept about, it provided the nourishment for many days, and it was taken to be a great travesty amongst the travellers when the fresh-made bread was no more, and they could only eat the hardtack that was put away for the winter.

The cold weather and blowing storms that struck the plains here felt mild in comparison to that which they had endured on the high plateaus, but when spring came again and lightning crashed and thunder split the sky, they quaked and made warning signs against the god of the skies above, begging that the air would see fit not to strike them with its mighty fingers. Soon after the springs rains, a year had passed of their time in this land, and Bwrw Eira Ddyn and two other council members arrived, led by those six members of the original thirty who had been sent away as messengers. Annwyd Arwedda was less than pleased to see their forms arriving upon the horizon, for it reminded him that he abided here only by the pleasure of those men and their council, and that he might find himself recalled to the homes upon the high plateau, and to a life he no longer wished to lead.

When the council members strode into the village, Annwyd greeted them as the ritual demanded, performing all of the steps as asked and making his home available to his guests. Bwrw Eira Ddyn shrugged the offer aside, preferring instead to sleep within the yurts and blankets that had long been his home. Affronted at their rejection of his hospitality, Annwyd Arwedda let anger cloud his thoughts and stormed away, walking out amongst the fields and letting his mind wander as he checked upon the plants and the pastures, seeing where the animals roamed and how the grain faired, before he came back into the circle of houses that comprised the village. He was of a better a mind from the walk, having let his feet carry him where they would, while his mind sorted out the nature of things for itself.

So armed, he greeted the council that next morning, and lead them around amongst the fields and the furrows, showing them which had been made by the travellers, and which were made by the farmers, and how alike they were, and how within a year those who had made the pilgrimage with Annwyd Arwedda had learned farming, and could support themselves on this great flat grassland. It was his statement that the tribes and clans should make their way down from the cold hills to the warm plains, and that the council should listen to him. The councillors asked many pointed questions, and Bwrw Eira Ddyn wore away at Annwyd, hunting through his mind for the answers to every question that strode forth from his lips, and they stayed until the plantings were over, and the doldrums of summer set in upon the land.

21

Oct

by thefourpartland

This is the third in a short #FridayFlash serial based in The Four Part Land. Events that take place here will have a large impact in upcoming TFPL novels.

Annwyd stared eastward, as a green tinge struck the horizon, and he called “Canfydda!” to those behind him. Waving others to the small rise upon which he stood, Annwyd pointed east, the tip of his spear angled at the thin strip of deep green that marked the horizon. As his companions crowded about, he glanced to the sky and then back at that distant line, and guessed that the distance was now no more than thirty miles, only a day or two of walking to arrive at their destination. That was good, for water tasted brackish and poor, and little more than dried meat now fed their stomachs. Grinning, they marched down the small rise and off towards the home of the morning sun.

That first moment that Annwyd Arwedda stepped onto green grass may well have been the happiest of his life. Those who had never lived outside of the cold lands slipped their boots from their feet and sunk their toes into luscious grass, kneeling to touch the strange fronds as they reached upwards. Even Annwyd, who had seen this before and wished to maintain his composure, knelt and placed his face to the dirt, breathing deep the scent of fresh greenery.

The travellers rested for a while in this first expanse of lush scrub, laying on their backs and looking at a sun full of warmth, no longer the cold white sphere of their high mountain home. Soon enough, though, they struggled to their feet and continued their journey, as Annwyd looked for land ready for the taking, and yet near to farmers. He knew little of farming, but enough that he would rather learn from those that did than make himself a starving fool. Annwyd would never forgive himself if he and his kind did not learn the basics of agriculture, and thus lose the right to live here.

Day followed day, as Annwyd stepped across the scrub lands and his people followed. Each stride brought him closer to the hallowed lands of green grass and swaying wheat, where he would make a home of pleasant aspect and long duration. A grin floated across his face for but a moment, then disappeared beneath his placid exterior. There was little enough to smile about until he arrived at his destination, but its nearness teased at the edge of his mouth.

A tinkling sounds came to the ears of Annwyd Arwedda, and his pace quickened, and then stopped, as he beheld a placid stream, wending its way across the plains. On the far side grass spilled forth, drinking from the flowing waters and emerald with the bloom of the season. He had found his first stopping point, and raised his hand, gesturing at the soft ground. Those with him spread their pack upon the ground, sinking their bodies to the earth and stretching their fingers through the damp soil. For men of the frozen tundra and hidden plateaus, this was a change almost beyond their reckoning. Years passed for them with little more than brief summers of scrubby plants, and yet here they lay amongst the soft terrain of a welcoming earth.

It was bliss, and two days they spent beside that stream, drinking the crystal water and dipping their bodies into the ghyll, letting limbs trail in the cool liquid. Only the desire to push onwards drove Annwyd Arwedda from that place, that, and the food supplies that dipped low into the empty bags of the travellers. They would need to barter or hunt soon, for despite the gentle climate and abundant water, they knew little of how to harvest grain.

When the expedition saw smoke curling into the air from the far distance, they looked about in glee. They had found the first inhabitants of this land, and they would speak and trade with them, their skills and some tools for food and the knowledge of farming. Annwyd led his troop towards the thin tendrils, and presently they stood upon a small rise, looking across the plains at houses of earth and woven grass, and fences of the same material holding livestock. It looked idyllic to men used to moving daily, their homes strapped upon their back, never able to enjoy a sedentary life.

To Annwyd Arwedda, opportunity stood before him. The first small step in freeing his people from the confines of ice and winter lived within that enclosure, and he strode forward, planting his spear tip down into the earth in a gesture of friendship as he walked.

Men turned their eyes from the fields and looked at the approaching travellers, and wondered if the spirits of the land had birthed these creatures, for they wore garb outlandish and foreign, and they moved in a way that no plains dweller had ever done, hunched forward, as if always fighting through a strong wind. Holding close their pitchforks and shovels, the men of the village gestured at their women to hide in the houses, and to gather the children away, while the men went to form a line before the march of the travellers, implements held at the ready. The farmers of this village had travelled little, and all but a few had been no further than the nearest town to buy supplies. They had never heard of Fferedig Ddynion, nor know of places where the lands grew high and cold, and snow was the eternal presence. And so it was with great trepidation that they watched these approaching warriors, these people from a land beyond the boundaries of the world.

14

Oct

by thefourpartland

This is the third in a short #FridayFlash serial based in The Four Part Land. Events that take place here will have a large impact in upcoming TFPL novels.

Sighing, he settled himself down for the night, for although it was early, his planned arising and departure would entail a short rest, and he needs be fresh on the morrow to lead out those others who travelled with him. And so, when Annwyd awoke in the pre-dawn darkness, he did not need to clear his eyes as he struggled into the hide armour and heavy pack that he would carry. Striding out to the eastern edge of the camp, he looked ahead, watching for the rising of the sun as the others gathered at his back, and Bwrw Eira Ddyn stood to the side. The first arc of the sun crested the far horizon, a golden glow that lit the sky, and Annwyd Arwedda cried out “Hymdaithwn!” as he marched down the frozen plain of the tundra, his spear lifted high, both pointing the way and in a gesture of farewell to those who remained behind.

Two days passed, and then another, as Annwyd Arwedda and those with him left the high winter grounds of the Fferedig Ddynion, and began the march down to the Afrada Dirio, that giant belt of burned land, scoured into a desert by a frigid winter and a blistering summer. Riven of all but the hardiest creatures, it was across this plain of battered ground that the travellers would head, cutting through the northern end to reach the warmer and softer land beyond.

Much as Annwyd despised travel across that stretch of ruined earth, he recognized that it served as a better shield to him and his people than any that he could carry. The inhospitable terrain warded away those who would attempt the journey, and made moving large bodies of men impossible. Thus it was that no army had ever attempted the Fferedig Ddynion, even at the height of the Empire of Bhreac Veryan and their warrior legions. Yet Annwyd wished to lead his people out, across this scarred terrain, and to do it in mass, the migration of a culture from a harsh and cold climate to a warmer, more lenient land, regardless of those who stood in his way.

Annwyd felt marginalized, both as a people and as a person. He was placed on the fringe of his own culture, partly through his own actions, yet his whole nation was an afterthought, a bare hint of a thought amongst the greater countries. He had spent some of his youth travelling amongst them, and those he had spoken to had not even known the name of his people, nor cared. The Fferedig Ddynion were a footnote, an afterthought. They existed simply to give a name to a place on a map, and Annwyd wished to teach those callous people what that name could do, and that it was not a name to be ignored and forgotten. Annwyd Arwedda’s pride had been trammelled, and he would stand it no more.

His mood was shared amongst the people with whom he travelled, strongly enough that they would leave their homes and their normal lives to journey with him, and just maybe form the core of his support as he returned to lead his people. Thus they strode across the land, a thin, straggling line of men and women under heavy packs, and wrapped deep in fur, Annwyd’s hope to finding a new home.

Two weeks into the journey, and the pilgrims stood astride a spine, a low ridge of hill that ran down through the Afrada Dirio. To the west stood the mountains from which they had come, distance and cloud hiding all but the barest details of the white plateau, while to the east, the land sloped gently down, foreboding at first, but the farthest sight of the eye showed land tending towards the genteel. A smile of pleasure broke out across Annwyd Arwedda’s face, and those of his compatriots around him. Once more he cried forth “Hymdaithwn!”, and he led onwards towards their new home.

The land beyond the wastes called to them, and each step after they had seen their goal was faster than the one that preceded it. Their food ran low, but such was their faith in the eden that they approached that the travellers merely pressed on faster, and Annwyd spent his moments always searching, peering for that first moment when they began the passage across the boundary and into the healthy, green lands. He wished to be the first to see their new home, and always strode tall and proud, first in the line, even when others should rightfully have taken that scouting position.

7

Oct

by thefourpartland

This is the second in a short #FridayFlash serial based in The Four Part Land. Events that take place here will have a large impact in upcoming TFPL novels.

He waited as the messenger cleared his throat, drawing out the time before he first needed to speak. Finally, the message was ready to be spoken, and it was begun. “The council has reached their decision in the matter of your wish to journey beyond our traditional lands and into a warmer climate, along with those who might follow you. You are ordered to heed their decision in all of its particulars, and that to break them will result in the punishment of your corporeal body and your mind, and that they wish to remind you of these things before you hear the decision that they reached.”

Annwyd Arwedda exploded. “Enough! Tell me of their decision, now!”

The messenger shook his head, then resumed speaking. “As you will. You are granted the right to take a party of thirty, of able-bodied men and women, and traverse the lands to the warmer country, and, once there, establish a settlement within empty or freely given land, and live to the best of your abilities for one year. Each sextile, you will send a courier back to our home here, carrying reports of your progress, and at the end of that one year period, three council members will arrive, to examine your situation and determine whether it shall be allowed to continue. Further rulings may change these initial offerings, of course, but for now, this is how you are bound.”

“And if I do not?”

“You well know how you are treated then.”

“Then I should take myself to the council?”

“They expect you after the mid-morning meal.”

Annwyd Arwedda waved his goodbye to the emissary, and returned to his tent, pondering how well he had been manipulated. His was an expeditionary party, nothing more, the same as the Fferedig Ddynion would send to their various hunting grounds, to see how many of their populace each could support. His was simply one more hunting ground, even if it was outside of the norm. It would also lessen any support he might have amongst those who stayed behind. After all, who could remember a man who last spoke to you a year past? It was a neat solution to their problems, for if Annwyd refused to go, he knew it would appear as if he had refused to follow through on his own ideas, and that, too, would undermine his support.

And so Annwyd found himself waiting outside the council tent as the remnants of the meal were cleaned away, waiting like a man who had been brought to heel. He would grumble and burn inside, but to show his passion to the outside world would lessen him as a man, and so he placed a pleasant smile on his face, and entered the tent at a spoken word. Nodding to the council, he placed himself at the centre of the circle, rather than at his normal seat as one of the young members. Once more, he found himself face to face with Bwrw Eira Ddyn, but this time, it was all to be couched in ritual and ceremony.

The ritual began, Bwrw Eira Ddyn gesturing as lesser men lit the smoky fires that would carry their blessings upwards, to those who must hear them. He intoned in the old language, the language of naming and of the proper place of things, and asked for the blessing upon Annwyd Arwedda and those who would travel with him, and sent the prayers of all Fferedig Ddynion to the aid of those who travelled far, in hope that they would find a great bounty at the end of their journey.

Even Annwyd found himself swept into the grasp of the ceremony, for even though he felt poorly towards Bwrw Eira Ddyn and those around him, he still believed in the gods above, and that this ceremony was crucial to his designs and desires. And so he gave of himself to the final crescendo, adding his voice in full tongue to the prayers and entreaties of the council, begging the cold eastern wind for a safe passage, wherever it might lead him.

Afterwards, Annwyd began the process of gathering his things and his followers, those thirty men and women who would be allowed to travel with him. Much had already been done, and so it was mostly informing all that they would leave on the morrow at sun up, and giving them their last day amongst the greater clan. The mid-day meal passed, and he had completed all of the tasks set to his name, and so spent his time checking and rechecking his pack and weapons and armour, testing each a thousand times over. While his hands worked, his brain wandered, running back across those cold hunts he had spent across the tundra and glaciers of his home, running through the icy mountains in search of the beasts that lived upon their slope. The time that he had fallen and tumbled, his foot slipping on a patch of ice, only to fetch up against a boulder that had broken his shoulder. That moment when his first spear cast landed true, bringing down a large buck with a single throw. It had been considered a mark of luck for him ever since, and he still wore the animal’s teeth on a string about his neck.

30

Sep

by thefourpartland

This is the first in a short #FridayFlash serial based in The Four Part Land. Events that take place here will have a large impact in upcoming TFPL novels.

Ice flowed out from the western mountains, a glacier that had existed for so long that no one could date its origin. Nor could they date those of the people who lived upon it, the Fferedig Ddynion, a culture so apart that it did not interact with those around them. Instead, they preferred to stay behind their barrier of dead and wasted lands that cut them off from Tri-Hauwcerton and the other greater kingdoms, confident and complete in who they are.

Only a few explorers had returned from that icy land, and spoken of what they knew of the Fferedig Ddynion, and so those of Bedwar Barthu Dirio regarded them as little more than a curiosity, a place that was of mild interest and no import, and that could safely be ignored. Perhaps they had been right, once upon a time, but now things were different, and a new man lead the tribes of the Fferedig Ddynion. He named himself Annwyd Arwedda, chosen at his fifteenth birthday, and it suited him well, for he was a creature of both the cold of hate and the fire of anger. He was a man of stature no greater than any other, but a will as cold and pure as crystalline ice, and a resentment built of a heat strange in such a westerly man. He saw the plenty and the wealth and the comfortable living of those to the east, and wished that for himself. A home that he did not need to build every night, a fire, an abundance of food, these he craved far more than any great treasure, and he vowed he would gather these adornments to him.

Annwyd Arwedda stormed across the packed snow, breath freezing against his face as he threw aside the flap of the tent and stepped inside. The Elders of the Fferedig Ddynion thought to stop him, to make him stay here and live as he always did. That was why they had called him to the meeting tent at this late hour, and why he stormed with rage. And so he threw the tent aside, and saw them formed in a sitting circle, and he glared, refusing to sit and standing with arms crossed, waiting for one of them to speak forth. Bwrw Eira Ddyn, the unspoken leader of this gathering of equals, waited for Annwyd to sit, and gestured for him to do so when he did not. Seeing as nothing would transpire with him still afoot, Annwyd took his place in the circle, arms still folded in defiance.

“It is good of you to join us, and we are sorry to have called you from your wife, but others amongst us felt we should speak to you this night.” Bwrw Eira Ddyn spoke with a firm voice, age only tingeing the edges. “You wish to move our people to a warmer land, a land of greater plenty, is that not so?

“I would only take of them those that would go.” Annwyd knew well that if enough of the young went, the old would have to follow, for without the young, the old could not hunt enough food.

“You speak one, and act two. You would have us all go, down to a valley where the land is warmer and men grow plants in the ground, and you would coerce those who do not by taking their food and their shelter. Is this not so?”

Annwyd growled. “I do what I think is best.”

“We had noted that amongst your actions. You proclaim it rather loudly, even without being asked. You have thought through the disruption this would cause, the possibilities of our people being ill-suited to a journey of this kind?”

“We journey from here to the north sky, and we do it well! What could a simple walk have for us that a mountain cannot contain? It is well within our grasp!”

“And when ice and tundra give way to battered earth and bloody rock, you know enough to hunt, do you? To feast, to forage, to find shelter, amidst a new land? And you will teach those of us who need to know these skills before we depart?”

“Yes, I do. I have spent years living along the edge of those lands, then pushing deeper. I am not a fool that discards his home for nought but a whim. I already teach some of those who would go. Others will learn from them, and from me.”

“And you have the agreement of those of our new land? They will accept our arrival with equanimity and grace, and leave us room and time to adapt?”

“I work the same miracles as you, Bwrw. None! Do you wish more than to toss questions at me like spears at a mark, or do you have no substance hiding beneath that thicket of hair?”

Bwrw Eira Ddyn waved at Annwyd, as if he was of no matter. “Go, go then. You are clearly determined. We will debate what shall actually happen after you leave. You will be informed in the morning.”

Annwyd Arwedda rose a furious man, and stalked to his tent, spine rigid with stung pride. He would not sleep this night, his mind caught in a web of all the things that might be, could be, may be. He would wait at the entrance to his home, and when the soft tread of a messenger arrived, spring to his feet and fling it open, speaking only one word: “Well?”