One of the joys and hassles of writing speculative fiction is the world-building involved. I found that out recently when I started writing a new Science Fiction book. I’m at the stage in my writing at the moment where I just need to get on write and improve my storytelling skills (I think anyway) rather than focus on world-building, so that part of things can hold me back. So I had a think about Fan Fiction – as long as its not for profit then its allowed. So I thought I’d give it a go.
You can see my first effort and follow along with it as it progresses here at Wattpad. The story is called Into the Heart of the Empire. I don’t know what’s going to happen yet, so I’ll have as much fun as you will discovering the story too!
Here’s the start of it:
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far far away …
Following the Battle of Yavin and the destruction of the Death Star, a new hope has been kindled in the universe. The Evil Empire is not all powerful. The Rebel Alliance has shown that it is possible to stand up for freedom and against oppression. Across the galaxy there are stirrings of resistance to the Empire.
Even in the heart of the Empire’s industrial infrastructure there is unease and a willingness to question the word of the Emperor and his forces of oppression. One such place is the Imperial dockyard on Malykan, a system of the Inner Rim.
The ship shuddered as it came out of hyperspace. The battle damage it had sustained made handling difficult and it felt like at any moment the drives might fail.
Jana Yaku could think of simpler ways to die than taking on the mission the Rebel Alliance had assigned her. To be fair to them, she had volunteered and she was the only pilot (she thought) that could pull this off. But still … she regretted her decision now.
The mechs on Yavin had patched up the ship has best they could. The whole point was that it was supposed to be battle-damaged—that was her cover story, but Jana wished that the Rebels who’d knocked this ship out hadn’t been quite as thorough in their work. That’s ironic, as it was her, in a Y-Wing bomber who’d disabled the Imperial Reaper class Escort frigate. Two proton torpedoes had ripped large holes in the frigate—one just forward of the engines and one taking out the Frigate’s bridge. Twisted metal and plastiglass had been bent and welded back into shape by the Engineers on Yavin, but where Jana sat on the bridge was still an uncomfortable and unnatural place to be.
“Reaper-class Frigate, The Ravager, please acknowledge.”
She sighed. She knew it wouldn’t be long until she got a challenge from the Imperial Navy. After all Malkyan had to be one of the most intensely militaries parts of the Inner Rim, given the Imperials built a large number of ships and weapons there.
First look at chapter 7 of the next volume of Stonehearted. The first volume is By the Sword’s Edge. The second volume doesn’t have a title yet, so I’m going to call it Stonehearted 2 for now. I started writing the second volume towards the end of last year and am making fairly good progress on it at the moment. I thought it would be fun to post here each completed chapter as I write them. They’re only drafts at the moment – no fancy editing, so probably riddled with typos and inconsistencies. Once I have finished this volume I’ll publish it in print and eBook format and announce it on this blog.
Other chapters from Stonehearted Volume 2 can be found by clicking here.
Wulf sniffed. He knelt from where they lay amongst the bracken on the edge of the wood and peered back into the trees. “I can smell piss,” he hissed. “Louis, go and tell them to stop pissing. If there’s someone standing next to a tree and tinkling then the English might see him. Or worse smell the bastard.”
Louis nodded and, leaving his heavy cross bow where he had been crouching next to Wulf, he made his way along the lines of French soldiers, keeping his body low trying not to raise it above the level of the abundant bracken on the edge of the woodland.
He could smell the piss as well, but he didn’t see any men standing. All of the men were crouched down as they had been ordered to, their weapons hidden. Piss wasn’t the only thing he could smell. There was fear there as well. These weren’t fighting men who were ready for what might happen in a battle.
The company of men that Wulf had been given to command were a motley collection. Mostly poorer men of the militia drawn from the town of Domont, and the rest were peasant’s levied from the Sire de Bognac’s manors that stood in the direct path of the English march on Paris. Perhaps eighty men at all, armed with sharp farm tools, scythes, pitchforks for the peasants, and poor spears and knives for the militia. The townsmen’s richer neighbours, those who could afford armour, swords and polearms had joined the Sire de Bognac and his retainers on the field before them.
As he caught his breath behind a tree, he noticed one of the militia glance at him. A young lad, probably an apprentice of only fourteen, not much more. Louis sniffed again. “You?” he whispered.
The lad blushed and looked away.
Louis crawled over to him and grabbed him by the arm. “Heh, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. All men feel scared before a fight.”
“But we don’t stand a chance,” said the lad. “Won’t we all die?”
“Where did you get that foolishness from?”
“Some of the lads that what they said. They said stay at the back, so you can stand a chance of running off as soon as you can. That’s the only way to live, they said.”
“Don’t listen to them. We have a plan.”
“But the English … There’s so many of them.”
“Don’t the English bleed as well? And don’t forget its them who will be attacking. Many will be killed by arrows, and then when they’re busy with the Sire de Bognac’s men, we’ll take them by surprise. It will be easy. Like killing dumb animals. It’s cruel almost.”
The lad looked up towards the field. “See how many there are, though. There’s hundreds of them.
Louis looked as well. It was time for him to get back to Wulf’s side, to load a bolt on his crossbow. A party of English were mounting up and forming into some sort of line to attack. Not all them, thank Christ, but perhaps a hundred or so at least. If only they had more archers. They could play havoc with the horses by shooting them from under the English. The same kind of trick that the English bowmen were fond of playing on French knights in the past.
It took him perhaps a minute to crawl to where Wulf was positioned at the centre of the hidden company. Wulf glared at him as he moved his crossbow aside to crouch down next to the big mercenary.
“You were gone a long time.”
“Raising the spirits of the lads,” Louis replied.
“As long as they at least raise their weapons to the enemy that will be good enough,” Wulf replied.
He’s getting talkative as this goes on, Louis thought. They hadn’t spoken much on their ride out of Montdidier, but Louis felt like he was getting to know, and even like, the gruff soldier.
The English were starting to move. The mounted men were urging their horses forward across the field, and Louis could also see some others on foot coming up behind them. Archers perhaps. Louis remembered his own crossbow and grabbed a bolt from his quiver and placed it in the groove for it. He’d have to stand or perhaps lie on his back with his leg and the crossbow in the air to pull the rope back.
Wulf glanced at him and shook his head. “Sword or axe better. If you shoot into the melee you could kill one of ours.
With reluctance, Louis put the crossbow to one side. He covered it with some bracken. He didn’t want anyone stealing it. Instead he took the axe from his belt and drew his sword. Two weapons were better that one, surely.
Wulf looked at him again and shook his head again, but he was smiling this time. “Quite the hero now,” he murmured, but didn’t offer any more advice. Wulf gripped his own weapon, a short spear with a wicked long curved blade and spike at its point, and a tough iron butt at the base. Louis had watched Wulf practicing with it the day before and had been impressed with the skill with which the mercenary handled it, using both ends to attack the stuffed dummy on which he trained.
The English horsemen were trotting now, and were couching their lances and pointing them at the French before them. They weren’t waiting for the men on foot behind them. There would be no deadly volley of arrows from the English war bows to soften up the French lines. Louis could see the French soldiers bracing themselves for the charge, their own spears and pole-arms being held to form a pin cushion of points to deflect the English attack. A few men with crossbows fired off their bolts as the English horsemen came in. They might get another round off, perhaps, if they loaded far enough. The English were still coming slowly at a trot, but when they came within perhaps fifty yards they spurred their horses into a gallop. The sight was impressive and terrifying.
“Old-style,” muttered Wulf. “Let’s see if it still works.”
“There’s more of the English,” said Louis. “They’ll come round the sides of the Sire de Bognac’s company.”
Wulf nodded. “And that’s when we’ll have at them. We’ll need to be quick though. It could be over quickly.”
But it didn’t work out like that. As the English charged, over the space of what seemed like ages, but was perhaps only a minute, one, then two and then three of the Sire de Bognac’s company dropped their spears and ran from the back of the formation. They were militia, not experienced in fighting. The Sire’s retainers in the front ranks held their ground, but realised what was happening behind them. Their rear ranks were melting away.
“God-damn!” grunted Wulf. “The charge is working. These were our best men, but still green as spring grass.”
“We’ve got to help them,” hissed Louis.
“Do you think this lot have any chance at all against that?”
The English cavalry was now upon the French line and most of the militia and some of the Sire’s retinue had already broken. The rest were simply swallowed up by a sea of armoured English men-at-arms. The horses didn’t ride over the Frenchmen left—no horse however well trained would plunge itself straight onto a spear or spiked pole-arm—but instead went to the side of the small pockets and individuals left. The English jabbed lances at them and then drew swords, maces and axes to chop down at the French on the ground. It was not long before the Sire and his men yielded in surrender.
Those that had fled were ridden down by some of the more enthusiastic English, skewered in the back or knocked over by a warhorse. But for many the English didn’t bother to pursue. Those who fled were not nobility and they would fetch only a pitiful ransom. Instead the militia plunged through the woods where Wulf’s company hid. Wading through the bracken. “Save yourselves! Flee!” shouted one man as he came past.
Wulf stood. “I hate to agree, but he’s right. There’s nothing to do be done here. Let’s go.”
If you want to read the first volume of Stonehearted, By the Sword’s Edge, then click here.
First look at chapter 5 of the next volume of Stonehearted. The first volume is By the Sword’s Edge. The second volume doesn’t have a title yet, so I’m going to call it Stonehearted 2 for now. I started writing the second volume towards the end of last year and am making fairly good progress on it at the moment. I thought it would be fun to post here each completed chapter as I write them. They’re only drafts at the moment – no fancy editing, so probably riddled with typos and inconsistencies. Once I have finished this volume I’ll publish it in print and eBook format and announce it on this blog.
Other chapters from Stonehearted Volume 2 can be found by clicking here.
It looked so easy. No more than fifty French men-at-arms lined up on foot on a flat field in front of a wood, their horses tethered by a lone tree to their right flank with servants holding the skittish mounts. To the French left flank ran the road that the English vanguard had hoped would take them to the gates of Paris.
“I don’t like it,” said Knolles. “We’ll ignore them and go south away from the wood.”
“Across open farmland?” said Minsterworth. “That’s going to take us a lot longer. All day for the carts if there’s hedges and ditches. We could sweep them aside in a few winks of an eye. We have two hundred men-at-arms, and the same number of archers. On the blood of the holy virgin, a flight of two hundred arrows would scatter them!”
Richard was a few paces back from where the two English captains stood looking at the French force. The rest of the vanguard was in a column of march, dismounted however, along the road they had travelled from Amiens. Knolles and Minsterworth were staring across the wheat field, shielding their eyes against the powerful August sun. Richard hadn’t noticed the heat, but when Minsterworth blasphemed he felt he skin prickle with what felt like fire. God was telling him that he was angry. He crossed himself to ward off the evil of his master’s words.
Knolles turned to Minsterworth and smiled. “Well, sir, if you want to take men of your own retinue from the vanguard and try your luck against them then that is your concern, but I am taking the army away to the south.”
“And split the army?” Minsterworth replied. “Would you leave us behind?”
“Yes, if you disobey my commands for the purpose of seeking your own glory.”
Minsterworth turned to Richard. “How many men of my retinue are here? If you don’t know then ask that damned cur, Hugh, to count the bastards.”
“I know the number, sir,” Richard replied. “Twenty men-at-arms, and thirty mounted archers.” He crossed himself again to ward off the evil of Minsterworth’s continual swearing.
Minsterworth didn’t notice and swung on his heel and looked again at the French forces where they were positioned.
“Richard,” said Knolles smiling not unkindly at the young man, “you have served your master well, and if he neglects to then I thank you for informing him that the odds are in perfect balance.”
“You know that’s not true,” said Minsterworth, a piece of spit flying from his mouth. “You wouldn’t take them! The odds are never equal if one force is in a prepared defensive position. You wouldn’t take odds of eight to one. I know you, you’re no gambling man. Ever!”
“But you are,” chided Knolles. “You want this campaign to give you glory and wealth. You think because the king named you co-captain with I and the others, that means that you command. Then if that is the case take on that duty, but you will not waste my men and those of the other captains on it.”
“They would take the bet as well,” said Minsterworth. “If they were here, they would charge without hesitation at the enemy and run them down in seconds. The truth is it’s you who are getting in the way. We all command this army and will not suffer from your tyranny any longer.”
Knolles looked unconcerned by Minsterworth’s outburst, but Richard noticed that he was now gripping the pommel of his sword in case. “When the army arrives at Paris then we can discuss this with all the captains, but until then I rule. You can’t run an army like a republic.”
Richard nodded his head in agreement to that, and Minsterworth stared at him. “Do you want to say something? Or would you rather go and go and polish my armour?”
Knolles smiled. “The boy is bright, let him speak. It seems that he is even wiser for his years than I thought.”
Richard bowed his head swiftly to the old captain’s praise, and replied. “My lord, thank you for letting me speak. I just could not help but agree with your words explaining the nature of things to my master, Sir John.”
“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” spat Minsterworth, “this whelp should be back in his grammar school!”
“Go on,” said Knolles to Richard.
“God, our Father, does not share his dominion with any others, but rules heaven like a king. So on earth it is natural for men to be ruled by a king in imitation of the pattern set by our Creator.”
Knolles nodded. “You see, John, I was right and this boy’s lesson proved it.”
Minsterworth shook his head. Both captains smiled, and Richard knew that they shared a moment of mockery at his words.
“I am glad that you are able to see the way of God’s will, my lord,” said Richard to Knolles. “It pains me that my master here is an ungodly man, and takes the name of Christ and the Holy Virgin in vain. I will pray for him, and trust in God’s judgment for his soul.”
Both captains were struggling to hold back their laughter.
“Yet I believe it is God’s will that we fight the French wherever we find them. King Edward is by right of God the King of France, and these men stand in the way of God’s will. They must be set right, and if needs must the sword will show them the truth.”
“It looks like you have found a paladin to lead your charge, John,” said Knolles.
“He’ll be out there on his own.”
Richard took a step forward and gripped Minsterworth by the shoulder. “You’re wrong. There are many others in the army who feel the same as I. They will do God’s will.”
Minsterworth shrugged off Richard’s hand as if it were poisonous. “I told you to stop that damn preaching.”
Knolles though came closer to Richard and took his hand in both of his. “How many of the vanguard behind us would follow you, young man.”
“None!” laughed Minsterworth.
“Hundreds gathered in the camp to hear me speak before you banned it, perhaps a hundred of the men here would follow me if God is willing.”
Knolles nodded. “Let this be a trial for you then Richard. If you lead well and win, then you can command men in my army.”
“He’s my man,” said Minsterworth.
“We will see about that,” replied Knolles. “Now go, Richard. Select your men for the attack.”
Richard left the two captains.
“If you raise this boy up then I want compensation,” said Minsterworth.
“You will have it,” said Knolles. “I know how your mind works. I have an instinct about this one. He’s different.”
“He’s burdened with guilt for killing his brother. All he desires is to do penance through death. Probably his own soon enough.”
“There’s something more to it than that, John. This boy has turned. The Stones are no more God-fearing than you or I, but something has happened to this boy. It’s like a fire burns in his soul.”
“Fires burn themselves out.”
“But you can’t help watch them,” Knolles replied. “Tell me are you not going to join the attack? It was your idea.”
“You have chosen your commander for the assault, and besides I would prefer to watch the flames burn.”
If you want to read the first volume of Stonehearted, By the Sword’s Edge, then click here.
So this week since the last post I have been concentrating on research rather than writing. I decided that I need to commit to getting the sequel to By the Sword’s Edge out at some point soon – and the only way to do that is to firm up some research on the Pontvallain campaign of 1370, which is the stories setting.
And the other major part of the research programme has been to look up some of the primary sources for the campaign so I can get to grips with some more of the detail. I have used Jonathan Sumption’s Divided Houses as a starting point to get primary source references. Again I’ll probably post a list of these and their availability at some point as well.
That’ it. Will probably post more infrequent – perhaps a couple of times a week.
As the world economy appears to collapse around our ears perhaps it would be well to think about some of the historic events that have lead us here.
I am blaming war. In the Middle Ages the high cost of warfare created the need for the first time to tax a realms subjects on a regular basis, and the need for immediate cash lead governments such as Edward III’s to borrow on the basis of future tax receipts, the first government bonds in effect. And from there one can see how the need to finance such large projects (governments and armies) lead to the development of more sophisticated banking systems, such as those managed by the medicis for instance.
In the Middle Ages for the first time governments borrowed more than they could pay back, based on the security of a steady source of future income, the new regular taxes based on trade and possessions.
The UK has been in fairly serious national debt since the 17th century, and all of this down to war, Napoleonic, First and Second World Wars.
More recently it has been estimated that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars of recent years have cost the UK approximately £18 billion.