Nice start Can't wait tell the next chapter. Poor fool......racing to the wall........only to meet death.
This is the first chapter of a story I've just started, dealing with some events that took place during one of my games with an invented civilisation called Kraedor, based on the Egyptians. It's partly serious, and you should be able to get an idea for what the theme of the story is going to be from this chapter. If it recieves any vaguely positive response, I might continue it. If not, then I won't. Anyway.
The Darkness Behind The Throne
The rain lashed down, drenching the already blood-soaked earth. Beneath the hooves of the cavalry, the field before Washington had been churned up into a muddy morass, and progress was becoming difficult. Such is the fate of the soldier, thought Jehan. To summon the courage to ride to the place of his death, only to be stopped by the weather. He laughed, a harsh and bitter sound. Beneath him, his horse whickered nervously as the guns of the Americans once again rang out from the city walls, too far away to have any effect.
He raised his sabre once more, bright steel against the dark sky. “Rally to me, my countrymen! Once more to the walls!” he yelled, causing his horse to rear as he did so. As it landed back into the mud, he dug in his spurs, and the horse again galloped forward, carrying a Jehan still yelling the cries of battle. Mud sprayed out with each stride it took.
He was not being followed. Glancing back, he pulled his horse to a halt, and looked at the dozen or so remaining cavalrymen from his division. “Come on, you fools! For the glory of Kraedor!” he shouted at them through the rain.
Nothing happened. Cursing them beneath his breath, he wheeled his horse around and rode back to them. They sat on horses drooping with fatigue, their eyes full of the resignation that this war had made common. One of them, a young recruit from Caira, turned to look at Jehan, or rather through him. “No,” he said.
“What are you saying?” Jehan gasped, “No? You dare disobey a direct order from your superior officer on the field of battle?”
“This is not a field of battle. This is…” the young soldier started shivering, from the cold or from terror, Jehan was unable to tell, “… the dying ground.”
Blast. A religious one then, and a cowardly one at that. Still, an order was an order, no matter how insane it may have seemed to Jehan, and it must be followed if any respect at all was to be retained for the chain of command. As a high-ranking part of the chain of command, he felt this very strongly. He drew his musket, and aimed it at a point between the recruit’s eyes.
Around him, he saw the resigned looks of the surviving cavalrymen change to ones of anger, and a dozen barrels were levelled at his chest. “No,” the young recruit said, more emphatically this time. “We will not die today. You may go, if you wish. We will not follow. Do not attempt to persuade us. If you remain any longer, you will die. This is our decision.”
Looking at the hardening faces around him, Jehan turned his horse back to the city. “Enjoy your hangings, cowards, for that is surely what the courts will do to you once they learn of this cowardice.” With that, he rode off once again towards the walls of Washington.
As he crossed the muddy remnants of what once was bountiful grassland, his thoughts turned to what the preacher had taught him in the great cathedral of Xahu, on a bright summer day so many years ago.
Tiny motes of dust were hanging in the air, visible in the rays of the sun streaming through the great window. A much younger Jehan watched them settle on the preacher’s robes, bored by all this talk of religion.
Then the preacher mentioned battle, and Jehan’s ears pricked up. “The Americans came down from the mountains of Babylon like a raging torrent, in armies thousands strong. It was said that the gleam of their knights’ armour was enough to rival the sun, such were their numbers. They stormed Baek, and quickly overthrew the city’s pitiful defence. Plundering and looting, they burned the city to the ground, destroying the beautiful gardens that had once flowered there. Our armies were at the opposite end of the empire, still tired from skirmishes with the Russians. There was no way they could reach in time, and the American advance towards the capital seemed relentless.
Then the gods intervened, and caused it to seem as though time had flowed backward. We watched as the American hordes retreated back to the mountains, and the ruins of Baek rose up to become once more the great city it had been. We had been forewarned, but they had not, and when they came down once again they were met by our massed musketmen, which were then the most powerful military force in the world, and on the plains beneath the mountains we triumphed. Kraedor forced a peace on America, which has lasted until this day. We dwell safe in the knowledge that, if danger ever threatens Kraedor again, the gods will intervene. We truly are the chosen people.”
This childhood memory had sustained Jehan throughout his whole military career, safe in the knowledge that the gods would not let one of their chosen people die on the field of battle. The rest of his unit had been from the occupied province of Germania, and thus were not under the gods’ protection. But he was. And so, he galloped towards Washington, and while the musket balls of the Americans began to hit the mud around him he laughed, feeling the invincibility handed to him by the gods themselves.
The musket fire grew more intense, and got slowly closer to Jehan. Still he rode on, until a ball caught his horse in the head. It screamed briefly, and collapsed, trapping one of Jehan’s legs beneath it. He stared up at the walls, imagining he could see the musketmen taking aim at the now immobile target, and laughed, awaiting time to roll back.
The final thing his ears recorded was the sound of a musket shot. This time the gods would not intervene.
Nice start Can't wait tell the next chapter. Poor fool......racing to the wall........only to meet death.
-Civ3King, author of the stories- "Of Freindship and War", "The Struggle for Power", and Crossing the Rubicon".
Civ3King is currently working on: The story "Hidden Agenda" and "The Rising Moon"
"Too many ties with too many people will get you in a knot."- Me
This is good. Very good start. Poor fella...I liked him...Keep it going, bro.
Since you've been so nice, here's the second (considerably longer) chapter.
The parade ground was once again covered in sand. Muttering curses against the seemingly never-ending Atlantan desert winds, Honja turned to the young sub lieutenant who had woken him at such an ungodly hour of the morning. “Report!” he demanded. The sub lieutenant looked suitably scared, Honja noted. Clearly, his reputation was preceding him.
“Sir, we have captured another member of the resistance,” the lower-ranking soldier said in a quavering tone. “She demands to see you.”
“Why didn’t you lock her in the gaol until later? Don’t you know what happened to the last man to wake me up before I choose to rise?”
The sub lieutenant, now visibly trembling, said, “N-no, sir.”
Of course he did. The story was all around the barracks of how the unfortunate young corporal had suddenly disappeared, never to be heard from again. Honja had kept the fact that he had been transferred to another regiment to himself. It didn’t do to appear weak in front of the men.
“Again, why was she not thrown into the gaol?”
“We would have, s-sir, but we only caught her after she’d blown a hole in the wall to rescue the resisters we’ve already c-caught.”
Damn Americans. The war had been over for thirty years, since the Kraedites had pounded them into submission in the battle to capture this very town. And yet still, they resisted. The sooner they all left these lands for the wastes behind Chicago, which Kraedor in her mercy had left them, the better. And the sooner his regiment could get out of the sandy hellhole of Atlanta, the better too.
“Bring her to me, then.”
The sub lieutenant scampered off, obviously glad to have escaped with his life. He returned to the commander’s post quickly, accompanied by two night guards pulling a young woman in chains between them. She seemingly had refused to admit that she had been captured, and was struggling to get free. Some of the kicks she was landing made Honja wince. He stood up.
“Resister, you have been caught opposing the Kraedite rule of this town, in direct contravention of the surrender your countrymen signed in 1749. I therefore have no choice but to send you to the courts at Hamburg, where your fate will be decided. I suggest you go quietly. It will be easier for you, in the end.”
She looked up, a fierce anger making her eyes almost glow. “We were betrayed, Kraedite, by those fools in Chicago who only wanted to cling onto what was left of their power!”
Honja regarded her for a moment, still kicking and punching the apparently oblivious guards. Quite pretty, he thought. Obviously a recruiter, then.
“It seems you forget your history, resister. It was your countrymen who betrayed us when they abused our right-of-passage agreement at Baek, and again at Pasargadae.”
“Baek was thousands of years ago! Since then, our nations had been at peace, until your unprovoked attack on our forces. Do not attempt to claim that Kraedor is the injured party here! We are victims of your empire’s ruthless expansion, like the Romans and the Germans before us.”
Honja paused, annoyed at hearing the familiar lie. “It appears you do not wish the easy path, American. All of Kraedor knows how your army of swordsmen ambushed our brave riflemen in the hills above the city, and were defeated by their valour.”
“Your nation lies to you, fool! Do you really think America would have been foolish enough to send men armed with ancient weapons against the newest army of bloated Kraedor? Your cavalry appeared outside our city without warning, and massacred the defenders.”
“No!” Honja shouted. “Do not attempt to slander us, betrayer! Take her away.”
As the guards dragged her off to the newly built railway platform, to put her on the prison train back east, she yelled one final time, “Seek the truth, Kraedite! Your nation lies to you!”
Honja turned, and went back into the command post. Sand had come in while the door was open, and the floor now crunched beneath his feet. Sitting at his desk, he sighed. The American had a point. It had always puzzled him, why the Americans would risk a surprise attack against such a superior force, with no hope of winning. He pulled the bell cord to summon one of the garrison’s clerks, noting with satisfaction the speed at which he arrived.
“Geon, I wish to learn a little more about our conquest of the Americans. Bring me the file dealing with the sneak attack near Pasargadae.”
“At once, sir.”
The clerk hurriedly left the room. When he returned he was carrying a file of surprising thinness for such an important military encounter. Honja said, “Thank you Geon. Is this all we have?”
“Yes sir. These are the only documents that make reference to their treachery, in attacking us without cause.”
“Yes, of course. That will be all, Geon.”
Honja settled down, and began to examine the papers. It was much as he remembered. Swordsmen attack Kraedor’s force, are defeated and then the large cavalry force that was fortunately present in the area at the time rolls down to avenge the American’s deceit.
There was something missing, Honja realised. Why was there such a large contingent in the area? America was at the opposite end of the continent to Kraedor, with the minor nations of Persia and Babylon in between. There was no reference to the reason for a deployment of that size so far from the borders of Kraedor.
Honja left his office, deep in thought. What if the American were right? What if Kraedor had lied to its population, and sustained that lie over the last thirty years? If Kraedor had not been defending itself, as he had always believed, then there was no justification for the Kraedites being here, aside from the increased power of the ministers at Kraedek. This could not be ignored. There was only one man in Atlanta that might know the truth. Honja headed for the main gate of the barracks, and instructed his guards not to accompany him. He had to be certain, before he told anyone else. He could not let his men see their commanding officer doubt Kraedor.
Honja made his way to the governor’s manse, through the winding sand-filled streets of the American city. His bright yellow uniform caused most of the crowds to shy away from him, aware of what the guards on the street corners would do if he were accosted.
Arriving at the front gate, his presence was announced to the household by one of the governor’s servants. He had been here several times, to the governor’s various affairs, typically involving the highest members of society in Atlanta, such as they were. Honja was shown into the oak-panelled lobby. Paintings of the governor’s ancestors hung on the walls, glaring down at the one who would dare doubt the virtue of Kraedor.
“Captain! So good of you to come. Your visit is a surprise, but I’m sure we can suitably entertain you.” The governor appeared through one of the side doors, grasped Honja’s hand and shook it firmly, smiling as though to show off as many of his teeth as possible. “Please, come through into the lounge, and tell me the reason for your unexpected arrival.”
Honja was lead into a room decorated with trophies from around the world, including tiger skins from England, and the head of a polar bear from far off China. He was place onto a red leather sofa, while the governor took a seat opposite.
“Captain Honja! So, tell me. What brings you here? You look more troubled than when I saw you last.”
“I’m here concerning the lies the resistance has been spreading.” Honja replied.
“Terrible, are they not? Still, what need have you to consult me? Surely the resistance is more your department!” The governor laughed, a strangely unnatural sound.
“I’m here to find out if they really are lies.”
The governor’s smile did not alter. He turned his head in the direction of the waiting butler. “Servant! Fetch us some wine!” As he left, the governor turned back to Honja, his smile now gone.
“Do not be foolish. The Americans attacked us. We returned the favour, only with more force.”
“But why were we there in the first place? Why were so many regiments that far from Kraedor?”
The governor settled back in his chair. The butler came back in, and poured two glasses of red wine. The governor turned to him and said, “Leave us.”
When the butler had left the room, the governor turn back to Honja. “The cavalry were there to avenge the surprise attack.”
“But how did we know that there was to be one?”
“Because within that unit of swordsmen we had certain informers, and knew what was about to happen.
“Why would the Americans attack rifles with swords? I have fought them. They are not so foolish.”
The governor stood up, and went to the window, turning his back on Honja. He took a sip of his wine, and Honja did likewise. It was an excellent vintage, with a slightly bitter aftertaste.
The governor started speaking, with a little forcefulness. “I suggest you leave this alone, captain. Go back to rounding up the last of the resistance.”
“I cannot sir. Not when there is a chance they may be right.”
The governor sighed. “Very well. There was no surprise attack. The Americans were totally unprepared when our massed cavalry rode into Pasargadae.”
“But why? Why would we do the thing we so despise in others, more than anything?”
“The answer lies around you.” The governor spread his arms out wide. “In the desert.”
“Around Atlanta lie the richest sources of incense in the world. Securing these has made us rich, and will make us richer still. Why do you think we stopped here? We could have crushed the Americans outright, but going any further would have been a waste. They have nothing more of value.”
“But we are Kraedites! Is not Kraedor the home of justice? Are we not above all other nations, chosen by the gods themselves?”
“The gods, yes.” The governor laughed. “The people believe they are chosen, that they are better than the rest of the world. And that is precisely why they can never find out that they are not. The government would fall rapidly if that happened, and our democracy has proven too lucrative to give up.”
“Who knows this? What about the regiments that attacked Pasargadae? Surely, they must know. How can you have kept this a secret for thirty years?”
“The regiments that attacked Pasargadae were dashed to pieces against the walls of Washington, before that city was taken by reinforcements that knew nothing of the truth. There were no survivors.”
A memory came unbidden to Honja, of riding through the pouring rain to the walls of some vast city, of laughing while shots hit the ground around him. He shook it off. Impossible. He had not even been born when Washington fell.
“This cannot stand. The people must know!” Honja said emphatically.
“A pity,” the governor replied. “I had hoped to share this with you.” He took a vial containing a blue liquid from a pocket in his jacket, and drained it in a single draught.
“What is that?” Honja asked, suddenly feeling apprehensive.
“An antidote, to the poison you just drank. An old trick, certainly, but frequently effective. You really should read your classics more, Honja. Or better make that, ‘should have’.”
Honja slipped down the sofa, feeling his insides begin to churn, and his senses start to dull. The governor started laughing. He had failed. He had failed Kraedor. Blackness overcame him.
Excellent! I think this story is the best thing to come along in a while.
You have an excellent writing style, Elysium. This story also has a very interesting plot. You know your poisons, as well; bitter almonds, heh.
I'll keep coming back to this one.
Why the dirty rotten scoundrel, this is pretty damn good ! dont stop.
A proud member of the "Apolyton Story Writers Guild".There are many great stories at the Civ 3 stories forum, do yourself a favour and visit the forum. Lose yourself in one of many epic tales and be inspired to write yourself, as I was.
I'm very thankful for the niceness of everyone on this forum, which stands in stark contrast to others I've been on. Here's Chapter 3 in any case. Kim Stanley Robinson fans may notice some parallels, but I've used this device for a different reason to him, and besides the idea is rather older in any case.
Honja awoke, face down on grey slabs of stone. With a groan, he pushed himself up. Was he dead? Was this the Dying Ground, the hell that awaited all those who let Kraedor down, where he would be forced to fight and die, and be reborn only to fight and die again for the rest of eternity?
If it was, it was certainly a little sparse. He looked around. He appeared to be standing on a wide courtyard of grey stone, around which was nothing but darkness. Still feeling a little disorientated, he stumbled to the edge. There was nothing out there but empty space. Honja felt himself begin to feel faint, and quickly moved back from the edge, his movement causing him to trip backwards. Clutching his head, he groaned again. None of the preachers had ever said death would be so much like a particularly bad hangover. He could remember them saying… He could remember a lot more. Suddenly, a whole lot more. He could remember not being Honja, but some other soldier called Jehan, and another before that, and another… What was going on? He was Honja. Or was he?
It was all so confusing. He pulled himself over to the edge, and looked down. There, spread out before him, was the world. Or rather not. He had always understood the world to be a sphere, yet here it was laid out as flat, like a map. It was certainly an accurate depiction, anyway. There was the great continent of Tuoh, on which the great nations had arisen. In the East was the smaller barbarian island of Asoh, where the primitive Greeks and Zulus vied for control. Looking closer, he could see the Sea of Eridu in the middle of Tuoh, and on the east coast of that his home city of Opat. And to the north, the great town of Xahu, another, older voice reminded him.
He could see the armies of Kraedor moving towards the west coast, in preparation for the rumoured expedition to the primitive lands. Around Atlanta, vast numbers of construction workers were busy creating the railroads and irrigation networks that would make the new American territories as productive as the heartlands to the east. It seemed so real, as though he could reach down and touch…
“I wouldn’t do that, if I were you, Honja-Jehan.” The voice came from behind him. He got up and turned. In the middle of the courtyard, where previously there had been nothing, sat a small bald man with a long white beard behind a wooden desk. Or was he sitting on it? Honja could not escape the feeling that the bearded man was somehow part of the desk, which was in turn part of the whole expanse of grey stone. He spoke again. “Things are already bad enough as it is, without a shade stirring up the world. Now, what can I do for you?”
“Who are you?” Honja asked, feeling somewhat put off by the man’s offhand manner.
“Let’s say I’m an operation of chance. Fate, if you like.”
“Where am I? Is this the dying ground?”
“Oh no, we discontinued that particular idea a while ago. Used far too many resources. It’s much more efficient to send the already created back to the world. That way we don’t have to spend any time coming up with new personalities.” The small man started leafing through a file that had seemingly appeared from nowhere. “I must say, Honja-Jehan, you’ve had an interesting go this time round. Discovered the Pasargadae Deceit, I see. A little late, however.”
“What do you mean? I’ve been here before?”
“Yes, you, and everyone else on the planet. Except for the new ones, of course. There are many others here right now, but we’ve arranged it so that you can’t see them. We prefer to give a personal service.”
“What is this service?”
“To send you back, of course, as a new person.” The bearded man smiled, and made a small mark on the file with a pen. “You’ll forget everything you know, of course, but still have the same personality.”
“I am a soldier. My memories contain many things I would rather forget. But one thing stands out. I have a duty to the people of Kraedor, the duty of truth. You cannot make me forget that.”
“Actually,” the small man sighed, “We can. And we will. You don’t know how many people we get through here, proclaiming how sacred certain memories are. The things some people want to keep are astonishing. You know, the other day, I had a fellow come through here who wanted to preserve the memory of the first time he was given a bl–.”
“No! I do not care about fate, only what I know I must do. Do not take it from me. Only let me challenge those who have deceived the world for their own gain.”
“Really? You would try to fight those who used the world for their own pleasure?”
Honja paused. A curious way of putting it. “Yes. I would.”
The old man got up from the desk, and started pacing around, or rather altering his position with respect to the floor. It was somewhat eye watering to watch. “Even Fate is constrained by some things, certain rules we could do without. We wish chance to take a hold again. It may be that we have goals in common, although you do not know it yet.”
“So you will let me remember?”
“No, unfortunately. We cannot present such a challenge yet. But we can twist what happens in some way, enough to make you our instrument. Do you consent to this?”
“How can I consent to something I do not understand?” Honja began to grow afraid. He may have let himself in for something far beyond him. The bearded man turned to face him.
“Understanding is not necessary. Your file proves that you are capable. We will give you the opportunities to do what you think your duty requires of you. In return, you will fulfil our goals when we request it.”
He was to be used again. But in this case, he was choosing such, and so it was not like the times before. He thought of Jehan, or rather himself, riding towards Washington because he was convinced time would flow backward. Honja realised that this stretched beyond the treachery of the rulers of Kraedor. There was something behind it, something elusive, something on which his mind refused to focus.
“Yes,” the bald man said. “You begin to understand. Go now, and become our instrument. In time, all will become clear.”
Honja raised himself to his full height, inasmuch as height had meaning in this place. “I will become your tool, for the good of Kraedor, and for those offended by her. But I choose to become so, and I can reverse my decision if I choose. You may control my destiny, but you cannot control my heart.”
The bald man laughed. “We do not control your destiny. If only it were so. But you shall see.” He raised his right hand, in which he held a ball of white light. “Go now.” He threw it at Honja. The light overcame him.
I think the Honja character needs more development. Please supply some criticism.
Whoa. Reminds me of The Matrix. "Welcome to the real world."
There is no spoon.
Is this one ever going to get continued? I really liked it. Mr. Elysium, where are you?!?!?
Sorry man, been really busy during the start of term. I'll put the next part up soon.