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TFT Snippet #4

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TFT Snippet #4
Post by runsforcelery   » Sun Jul 22, 2018 6:03 pm

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Captain of Swords Dauzhi Pauzho jerked fully erect in the saddle, his head snapping toward the sudden, explosive crack of sound. It took him a second to realize what it had been, but then he relaxed. Only slightly, of course. Since it had been a shot, it had to have come from someone in the column, and he damned well meant to find out how one of his troopers could have been careless — or stupid – enough to accidentally discharge his carbine. For that matter, why had the idiot even been playing around with it? Captain of Horse Nyangzhi was going to have someone's arse for it, and Pauzho fully intended for it to be someone else's!

But then his eyes narrowed. Gunpowder made Shan-wei's own smoke — enough to guarantee it would be easy to identify the culprit. But where was it? Pauzho was near the head of the column. From his position, he could see almost half its length, despite the high road's twisty path through the Show-wan Hills. And in all that field of view, there wasn't a single puffball of smoke.

Maybe it hadn't been a shot after all?

His brow furrowed. That was certainly what it had sounded like. But —

His eyes rose from the roadway, sweeping the scrub wood of the steep slopes above the roadbed, and he stiffened. There was a smoke cloud, after all, but it was far up the hillside, at least eighty yards beyond the chest-high stone walls built to retain the loose scree that often slithered down those slopes during the spring thaws. What in Chihiro's name was one of their men doing scrambling around up there and accidentally discharging his weapon? There'd be hell to pay when Nyangzhi found out about that! And when he did, Pauzho hoped to Shan-wei he'd —

Dauzhi Pauzho never finished that thought. A flash of movement at the corner of his eye brought his gaze back down from the hillside just in time to see the first serf rise out of concealment less than sixty yards from him. The staff sling snapped around once, then released, and the sharp point of the three-ounce, ovoid sling bullet struck him just above the left eye with forty-five percent more velocity than a crossbow bolt.

His head snapped back in a grisly spray of red and gray and his horse reared as its rider was hurled abruptly from the saddle.

He was dead by the time he hit the ground, so he never saw the rest of the slingers — over a hundred of them — who'd come to their feet in response to the signal of that single shot. He never heard the screams as the lethal, whizzing bullets peasants and serfs weren't supposed to have smashed into the men of Captain of Horse Ruwahn Nyangzhi's column. He never saw the wave of other crudely armed serfs and peasants explode out of the retaining walls' concealment, vault across them, and sweep down across the column. Most of them had nothing better than converted agricultural implements, but however clumsy it might be, a straightened scythe blade at the end of an eight-foot shaft was as lethal as any sword ever forged.

The slingers had concentrated on the column's officers, not that it really mattered in the end. Surprise was total. The first warning the men on the flanks had was the sudden eruption of roughly dressed madmen screaming at the tops of their lungs, swinging clubs and threshing flails, stabbing with those horrible straightened scythes, thrusting with manure-encrusted pitchforks. The serfs swarmed over them, bellowing their hate, dragging them from the saddle, beating them to death, cutting their throats.

The mounted men were professional soldiers, members of the Emperor's Spears, the elite branch of the Imperial Harchongese Army specifically dedicated to keeping the peace internally. That meant suppressing any serfs' pretension to be more than two-legged animals producing for their betters, and they'd done that job for years with brutal efficiency. In fact, they'd been kept home from the Mighty Host of God and the Archangels during the Jihad precisely because the Emperor — or, rather, his ministers — had realized how badly they'd need the Spears' bedrock reliability.

But they were accustomed to sporadic, spontaneous explosions, the desperate spasms of violence of men and women who'd been driven beyond the limit of what they could endure. Men and women who knew their resistance would be futile, that they and their families would be savagely punished for it, but who simply didn't care anymore. The Spears knew how to deal ruthlessly with uncoordinated, isolated outbreaks like that.

They had no clue how to deal with this one . . . and none of Captain of Horse Nyangzhi's men lived long enough to learn.

* * * * * * * * * *

"Didn't any of these stupid bastards ever even hear about watching your flanks?" Zhouhan Husan growled.

"Not so's anyone'd notice," Tangwyn Syngpu replied, slinging the Saint Kylmahn rifle which had fired the shot to signal the start of the attack as the two of them scrambled down from their perch above the roadway where nine hundred and two of the Emperors Spears had just been slaughtered. From the sound of the screams, the remaining forty-three troopers would be a long, agonizing time joining their comrades, and Syngpu grimaced as he listened to the shrieks.

"Wouldn't've lasted five minutes on the Tarikah Line," Husan continued. The ex-corporal couldn't seem to decide whether he was more satisfied, contemptuous, or simply disgusted.

"Didn't seem to me they lasted a lot longer here," ex-Sergeant Syngpu observed. "Still, I'll give you that they didn't know their arse from their elbow. Just like the Captain of Foot said they wouldn't."

Husan grunted in acknowledgment as the two noncoms climbed over the retaining wall. Neither of them had been actual serfs — they'd been technically free peasants, not that there was much difference between the two, here in Harchong — and they were more focused on their command responsibilities than most of their followers. On the other hand, those followers were far more disciplined and well-trained than anything the Spears had ever before encountered, thanks in no small part to Husan and Syngpu's experience in the Mighty Host of God and the Archangels.

Some of that discipline showed as the six-limbed draft dragons harnessed to the four massive freight wagons stamped and tossed their heads. They were obviously anxious at the smell of blood and the screams of dying men, but the experienced drovers Syngpu had assigned to the wagons had already jogged over to them, begun murmuring to them in calming tones. They quieted quickly, although their eyes continued to roll, and Syngpu nodded in approval and relief. They needed those wagons, and that meant they needed the dragons, at least long enough to reach the crossroads five miles closer to Shang-mi, where the rest of the agricultural wagons and pack-dragons waited.

"Think we should stop them?" Husan asked as two officers who'd survived the initial massacre were dragged, twisting and fighting desperately, towards a knot of serfs gathered around eight nervous horses.

One of those officers wore a captain of horse's insignia, and Syngpu wondered if the column's commander had been stupid enough to let himself be taken alive.

"I remember something Allayn — Allayn Tahlbaht — said to me back when the Temple assigned its noncoms to the Host," Syngpu replied, never taking his pitiless eyes from the frantically struggling officers as they were hurled to the ground and ropes were tied to their wrists and ankles. "He said a really smart officer did two things. He always listened to his sergeants . . . and he never gave an order he knew wouldn't be obeyed." He hawked up a glob of phlegm and spat into the roadside drainage ditch. "'Pears to me this'd be a good time for you and me to pretend we're officers."

"I can live with that," Husan said grimly. Then he rested one hand on Syngpu's shoulder and squeezed briefly.

Husan's wife and two children had survived after he'd been conscripted for the Mighty Host. Syngpu's family had been less fortunate. His wife, their son, and his younger daughter had starved to death two winters ago, in the most recent famine to sweep Thomas Province. There was no way to prove they'd have survived the winter which had virtually wiped out their entire village if Syngpu had been there, but the sergeant would never know that. And he did know his seventeen-year-old daughter had lived only because she'd no longer been there. And that was because Earl Crimson Sky's eye had fallen upon her just after her fifteenth birthday. After he'd finished raping her for a month or two, he'd handed her over to one of his trusted barons, who'd been raping her ever since.

Syngpu hadn't learned about that — or about the rest of his family — for over five months after his wife's death. After all, who cared about letters to a peasant shepherd who'd been forbidden ever to return home, anyway? When he did learn, it had taken him another three and a half months to travel the fifteen hundred miles home on foot, evading the patrolling Spears charged with keeping desperate men like him from doing exactly that.

By the time he got there, his daughter had endured her second forced abortion. After all, what Harchongese noble needed a bastard half-peasant child to complicate the succession? Or a pregnancy to get in the way of his pleasure?

She was determined to keep her third child, though, whoever its father was, and neither Baron White Tree nor the Pasqualate monk who'd aborted Pauyin Syngpu's first two children would be around to prevent it.

Her father had seen to that.

Zhouhan Husan had known Syngpu for almost eight years now. The big sergeant was as tough as they came and only a fool tried to settle things with him physically, yet if there was a vicious bone in his body, Husan had never seen it. But he understood exactly why Tangwyn Syngpu felt no desire to intervene as the other ends of those ropes were tied to the saddle horns of the captured horses. For that matter, neither did Husan. It was one of the Spears' favorite "lessons" for serfs who got out of line, after all. If ripping parents bodies apart in front of their children to encourage those children's better behavior was good enough for them then, he could indeed live with it when their turn came around.

Whips cracked, horses snorted, reared, and lunged forward, and the spreadeagled men shrieked as they were literally pulled — slowly and terribly — limb-from-limb while their cheering executioners jeered at their agony.

"Going to be ugly," he said quietly to Syngpu as the two of them climbed up into one of the freight wagons, and both men knew he was talking about far more than just this bloody day.

"Lot of that going around," Syngpu replied as he used a bayonet to pry the top off of one of the hundreds of long, heavy crates stacked in the thirty-ton wagon. The smell of lubricating grease rose to meet him and he smiled grimly.

"A lot of that going around," he repeated, gazing down into the crate, "and these beauties are about to make sure there's a lot more of it."

Imperial Palace,
City of Shang-mi,
Tiegelkamp Province,
North Harchong

"It's all that bastard Rainbow Waters' fault!"

Lord of Foot Runzheng Zhou, Baron of Star Rising, suppressed a stillborn sigh before it ever touched his expression. He paused long enough to be sure it was staying suppressed, then glanced up from his conversation with Baron Blue River. Controlling reactions like that was second nature to anyone who wanted to survive long at the imperial court. It was a bit harder than usual this time, though.

"We should have called the fucking traitor home and made an example out of him and his entire family!" Earl White Fountain continued with a snarl. "And he should've told Maigwair to take a flying fuck!

"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as Piglet came back from the dead.
Re: TFT Snippet #4
Post by Joat42   » Sun Jul 22, 2018 6:16 pm

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Oohh, I wonder if we will see the events in Harchong somewhat mirror the events in China during the 20's.

And I'm wondering if Harchong's serfs really are orthodox or if they just seem that way with the aristocracy's boots on their backs with the CoGA's support.

Jack of all trades and destructive tinkerer.

Anyone who have simple solutions for complex problems is a fool.
Re: TFT Snippet #4
Post by Direwolf18   » Sun Jul 22, 2018 6:32 pm

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Oh hohohohoho... I hope Rainbow Waters makes these bastards lives MISERABLE.

He has the oportunity to very much be a Washington-esque figure, father of his nation. I fully expected him to end up in south harchong but if he shows up in north harchong to lead a peasant rebellion... wow...
Re: TFT Snippet #4
Post by ywing14   » Sun Jul 22, 2018 6:39 pm

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Well, I think most of us saw this coming.
Re: TFT Snippet #4
Post by Isilith   » Sun Jul 22, 2018 6:40 pm

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Joat42 wrote:Oohh, I wonder if we will see the events in Harchong somewhat mirror the events in China during the 20's.

And I'm wondering if Harchong's serfs really are orthodox or if they just seem that way with the aristocracy's boots on their backs with the CoGA's support.

Tell them the truth, and tell them that the LIE of the coga is what has enabled them to be slaves for a millennia.

Care to bet which way most of their beliefs will line up?
Re: TFT Snippet #4
Post by Louis R   » Sun Jul 22, 2018 7:03 pm

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To be honest, I rather doubt that he's anywhere in the area. I'm not sure whether he's in Zion or wherever he got his family to, but _he'_s not in North Harchong.

Which is not to say that that White Fountain's vituperation isn't fully justified: after all, he did oversee the arming and training of serfs who'd been marched east as cannon-fodder. And _still_ didn't get them slaughtered in the Jihad's service. And it seems pretty clear that he hasn't done a proper job of ensuing that any of them who came back were properly dead, either. So of course it's his fault.

Direwolf18 wrote:Oh hohohohoho... I hope Rainbow Waters makes these bastards lives MISERABLE.

He has the oportunity to very much be a Washington-esque figure, father of his nation. I fully expected him to end up in south harchong but if he shows up in north harchong to lead a peasant rebellion... wow...
Re: TFT Snippet #4
Post by ksandgren   » Sun Jul 22, 2018 9:27 pm

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Another Snippet!! Joy! Thank you RFC.
Re: TFT Snippet #4
Post by Robert_A_Woodward   » Mon Jul 23, 2018 12:17 am

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ywing14 wrote:Well, I think most of us saw this coming.

Merlin was talking about a Harchongian serf rebellion in Chapter X of the May, YoG 896 section of _Midst Toil and Tribulation_ (that is the first reference I could find). He believe that it would be ugly.
Beowulf was bad.
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Re: TFT Snippet #4
Post by Dauntless   » Mon Jul 23, 2018 10:19 am

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most interesting. to be honest it sounds more like simply some survivors have made their way home against North Harchong's refusal and decided that enough was enough.

now will rainbow waters or maybe his nephew decide to actually lead the rebellion and reform harcong or will they stay out of it, at a guess it sounds like rainbow waters at least has a safe place in zion as a trusted advisor to Maigwair.
Re: TFT Snippet #4
Post by bigrunt   » Mon Jul 23, 2018 12:21 pm

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The big difference between officer and NCO is what now vs. what is next. Sounds like a former corporeal and Sergeant have been paying attention. It looks like North Harchong is going to get some reforms.
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