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Archive for the month “June, 2014”

Wit and Wisdom of Queen Viarra

A few pieces of wisdom from Queen Viarraluca, title character from my novel-in-progress, First Empress:

“You aren’t going to weasel your way out of this. If you haven’t figured that out yet, you’re denser than I thought—and trust me that I believe you quite dense. Tell your tetrarchs and council that the terms of this alliance are completely unacceptable. It is an arrogant attempt at bald-faced extortion and my people will not be harassed in this manner.”

“You’ve tried this line of reasoning already. When you start repeating your arguments it means you’ve run out of them.”

“When fighting with short swords, it’s important to remember that the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”

“Mother had an edge like obsidian. Chip it and it just gets sharper.”

“Adopting a pacifistic stance is only ever viewed as a sign of weakness—as an unwillingness to fight for your people. It disheartens allies and encourages enemies. You have to bring these ideas to the people, show them what can be gained by working beside and cooperating with someone they’ve been enemies with for three hundred years.”

“In Captain Vola’s culture both men and women learn to ride in combat. In fact, they’re required to kill an enemy in battle and present the severed head as proof as part of their passage to adulthood. Barbaric? Perhaps. But requiring women to ride more than doubles the size of their armies.”

“Every culture adapts to whatever suits its people, their environment, and their place within the world’s framework. History teaches us that cultures who cannot adapt die out to make way for those who can. Our culture is not as stable as we like to pretend; I want to make sure we learn to adapt before it’s too late.”

“No, you can’t explain. Every lying word you speak in useless explanation is another second you get to spend alive. You don’t get that right.”

“I apologize that I must deprive you of your husband. I want you to know that I harbor no ill will to you or your children. If you choose to stay in the city, I am willing to offer you your husband’s seat on the council, as well as my protection from any reprisals that may come because of his part in the plot against me. However, if you no longer feel safe, I have a ship standing by to take you and your children to be with your family at first light.”

“I gave consideration to reconciling with the traitors only long enough to weigh its disadvantages. I don’t know how things work in your part of the world, but in my part of the world, mercy is only ever seen as a sign of cowardice. Yes, I could have publicly forgiven the conspirators, but they would not have understood why—nor would my people. They would see it as weakness on my part, assuming that I lack the stomach to right the wrongs against me or defend myself from an obvious threat.”

“There are people who want me dead for no other reason than they’d rather be in charge themselves. Every decision I make, no matter how fair and just, will result in someone I’ve never met praying nightly to the gods for my death simply because I did not decide in their favor. If any of these people believed they could destroy me, they would not hesitate to do so. There is an aphorism in warfare that ‘true safety lies not in counting on your enemy not to attack, but in making your position unassailable.’ This applies in politics as well as combat. By destroying the men behind the attempt on my life, it discourages others who may want me dead from making similar attempts.”

“The saying that ‘history is written by the winners,’ is a load of shit popularized by rabble-rousers angry that someone they disagree with had their own version, but who are too lazy to do their own research, or by envious political opponents of a popular monarch. The truth is, dear Zahnia, that there exist many excellent accounts by historians who fought on the losing side of a war or whose people were subjugated by a hostile invader. But I find that the most reliable histories are the ones written by the bystanders—by people watching a battle from the sidelines or traveling through a country on business: observers with no personal stake it what is going on.”

“Decorum has its place, but anywhere else it goes, it’s more of a hindrance than anything.”

“I can’t claim all of the credit, though everyone insists on giving it to me.”

“I’m not getting in the ‘last word’—I’m getting in the next word. It’s not my fault you lack the wit to get in one after that.”

River Andal, Part 3

Hi folks! Hey, sorry I’ve been so neglectful of the blog here lately. Part of it is due to a recent freelance editing job I did for a friend of a friend the past several weeks, for which I even had to skip a weekend update for the Heroines Blog. Anyway, I’m back to writing for myself for the time being and can hopefully get more posted to this blog and continue my story of the River Andel.

Here’s part three of the story, continued from parts 1 and 2.

***

“Six feet high, but has dirt packed against the inside high enough for the fuckers to kneel behind the palisade and bloody pick us off at their leisure,” Brenal informed Major Kanel, drawing a map in the dirt. “I also saw a handful of two- and three-pounders mounted on swivels along the wall and a half-dozen howitzers facing the river. Past that there’re two more lines of defense. The first is a ring of seven sandbagged artillery emplacements, with two to three falconets per battery. Two of those emplacements overlook the entryway facing the forest, easily within grapeshot range—that’s four falconets they can fire one at a time at whomever comes through the gate.”

“Shit,” Kanel grimaced, glaring down at the diagram. “So anyone through the door ends up shredded meat. You said something about one more line of defense?”

“Their encampment is at the top of the hill where all of their tents and all twelve mortars are housed,” she continued. “It’s surrounded by a partial palisade, open on four sides with paths running down to the batteries and main wall.”

“So the only option we’re going to have is a night attack,” the major mused, scratching at his four-day beard and scowling. “Fuck, I hate night attacks—too many factors we can’t control.”

“You estimated three hundred defenders?” a fusilier corporal asked from nearby.

“More than enough to cover all of the cannon in shifts over the course of the night,” Brenal nodded. “They’re alert but not edgy,” she went on. “I suspect they’ve been told to expect an attack, but don’t know that we’re this close.”

“And a night attack should help keep it that way,” Kanel agreed. “Still, I don’t like the idea of sending your grenadiers headlong into four barrels of grape.”

“Scout chief Ina suggested that since the walls are only six feet, it should be easy for our men to boost each other up and over,” Brenal told the major.

“You know, the stupidly obvious solutions have always been my favorite,” Kanel admitted, eliciting a few chuckles among the gathered officers and noncoms. “Alright, here’s what we’ll do,” the major decided. “Captain Bartz and I will take the voltiguers and most of the line infantry and launch a feint against that east entrance to try and draw their attention that way. Lieutenant,” he addressed Brenal, “you take your grenadiers and Sergeant Ashe’s fifty fusiliers and go over that southern wall. Make those two batteries overlooking the gateway your primary targets. Once you’ve taken those out, the rest of us will storm the gates and join you. We’ll take the high ground and capture the camp and mortars as a group. Questions?”

No one had any.

“Good,” he continued. “We’ll let the men rest up for a couple hours, then move on the hill come sundown.”

* * *

“…and clearly he’s the most pompous, dumb-fuck king who ever lived,” Ina was telling a group of soldiers gathered about as Brenal sat down with them, around a half-hour to sundown. “Lady Aress stands there, mud and blood splattered in her copper hair and across her legionary armor—some of that blood from two of the king’s sons and several of his elite guards. Her husband, General Garran, stands before the throne in his officer’s cuirass. And this dimwit king has the gall to tell the general to send the Lady away, that ‘surrender talks are no place for a simple woman.’” The others started laughing, partly at Ina’s imitation of the arrogant king’s earnest-but-stupid voice and facial expressions, but mostly at the thought of someone finding the legendary Lady General Aress to be a simple woman.

Brenal had to admit that Ina was a very talented storyteller. Her facial expressions added as much to her tale as her tone. She adopted a regal and competent expression for Lady Aress, a stern and annoyed expression for General Garran, and an arrogant and obtuse expression for the king.

“So General Garran, being the smooth bastard he was, takes it in stride, aye,” the scout continued. “He looks down at the fat little fuck and says, ‘I agree. It’s a good thing there’s nothing simple about my wife.’ And the king looks completely shocked, like he can’t believe some lowly general would talk down to him.” Her imitation of the king’s shock and indignation sent the group into another uproar. “So the king sputters for a moment, then says, ‘have they no sense of protocol and decency in your nation? I demand that you send the woman away so we can conduct our business like civilized people.’ The general stares the king down for another moment, then says ‘all of your sons are dead and my men have slain or captured every soldier in your army. You have no room to make demands.’ The little king sputters again, then sneers at General Garran. ‘I’m going to lodge a complaint with your senate,’ the little wanker shouts. ‘I refuse to be bullied by some common, barbarian thug.’” Brenal smiled and the others laughed at the little woman’s arm-waggling imitation of the king’s angry tirade.
Ina continued, “‘I agree,’ Lady Aress told the king before General Garran could reply. ‘It’s a good thing there’s nothing common about my husband.’” The lieutenant chuckled and the others burst out laughing at her punchline. “The general somehow manages not to laugh,” Ina ended her story. “He just gives his wife this look as if to say ‘thanks a hell of a lot, dear.’” They continued to laugh through her imitation of the general’s amused/annoyed look.

“Excellent story,” a private applauded. “You almost sound like you were there for the conversation.”

“Don’t be silly, aye,” Ina chided sassily. “I was home, taking care o’ their kids, obviously.” That got a few more chuckles.

A young man in voltiguer uniform stretched as he stood. Brenal thought she remembered his name being Tannis. “I wish we had someone like General Aress fighting beside us tonight,” the infantryman commented.

“Din’ need her, lad,” Grenadier Sergeant Koss told him, grinning between his grizzled mutton-chops. “Ye obviously ain’t seen Lieutenant Brenal inna scrap. She’s better tha’ any half-mystical heroine what’s been dead three-hundred years.”

A chorus of “hear-hears” broke among the grenadiers and some of the veteran infantrymen. Brenal found herself glad she’d outgrown blushing at others’ praise.

“Really?” the skirmisher asked, looking over at the one-eyed, battle-worn, and probably rather unheroic-looking Lieutenant Brenal Derron. The expression on the young man’s face suggested he couldn’t tell if they were putting him on or not.

“Aye!” another Highlander put in. “Storming those bloody entrenchments at Annamore, the lieutenant took a focking grenade to the face, blowing her on her ass, like. To her whoreson pretty face,” he repeated. “And she gets right back up, bleeding out the right side her face—eye, ear, and nostril—just like nothin’s happened. Pulls that bastard sword of hers and leads the Thirty-Second rest of the way up the focking mountain. All the while, our buglers are blowing retreat.”

“Really?” Tannis asked Brenal, looking awed.

“More or less,” Brenal shrugged as she got to her feet. “They exaggerate, of course. I didn’t hear the withdrawal blown because my hearing was blasted all to hell, and these bastards are too dumb not to follow me,” she admitted. A few laughs and a couple cheers followed her comment. “But keep in mind one doesn’t make officer in a Highland infantry regiment by being meek and complacent,” she continued, patting the young man’s shoulder as she passed.

The hero worship in the young man’s eyes was hard to miss.

Thanks for reading, folks! Any comments and feedback are most welcome. Continued in part 4.

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