Happy 4th!

The Declaration of Independence, the Original Brexit!

Celebrated with explosions and guns and food and family and all things the crew of Tajemnica would approve of.

Wasn’t always easy.

Wasn’t always fun. Been more than a few rough patches and growing pains. And now, apparently, having a moment of sanity among the encroaching senility and decadence of old age and too much easy living. But still the greatest nation on earth. That may change in a few years – all things change, all empires fall and fade – but we’re on the right path for a few more years.

Heinlein’s future history spoke of the Crazy Years. We’re in them. My future history so far published has been deliberately vague, but I think it’s safe to say that I’m predicting more tough years ahead, but all in not lost. Venice arose out of the fall of Rome. America rose from the faltering British Empire. But Haiti arose from a faltering French empire, so nothing is guaranteed.

For today, celebrate what has gone before and gone right, while praying for things to improve, and work toward making it so.

Career Choice, Part XII

[Happy 4th, too! Happy Birthday, America!

As always, feedback, corrections, and comments welcome!]

Jispin had been at it steadily for more than an hour when two of the guards wandered over from the gate-house to check out the horses and watch him. Jispin could smell the wine from where he worked; they must have had some of their own wine or beer in addition to that which Hávarðr supplied them. The two were discussing the condition and value of the animals, which were mostly standing in a tired cluster in the lee of the shed, together for mutual warmth and herd-like companionship. The guards slurred speech was difficult to understand over the wind and through a heavy accent, but he got the impression the horses and mules were fairly valuable. They also thought he was not. They’d been told he was a half-breed Kurgen, the sort of non-person they thought less than nothing of. What man would be so desperate he’d be willing spawn such a thing with a Kurgen woman, if the female of the things could be called as such, and what decent woman would let herself bear such a creature who had a Kurgen father? Surely the mother would rather be rid of the bastard than let it grow. Continue reading Career Choice, Part XII

Career Choice, Part XI

An hour past the fields of Bastonell, Jispin hurled the heads into the deep brush, their need to keep frontier locals at a distance no longer needed. They only passed two groups of farmers, wary and armed, over the next hour on the road, a road which was little more than a slightly wider trail with poor drainage and an occasional cleared spot for passing or camping with a small corral. The farmers gave them a wide berth, but took the news of a modest victory with good cheer. When they came to a fork in the road, they headed south for the small town at Grestell, rather than northeast for the even smaller garrison of Grennell. The garrison was more likely to have need for good armor and weapons being closer to the border, but it would likely have little cash and lots of soldiers with questions, while the growing city of Gresell would have more money, more ambition, and more pressing need for weapons. The surrounding farms would always want more animals at a fair price, too, even if there wasn’t a need for cavalry. Continue reading Career Choice, Part XI

Career Choice, Part X

It was Hávarðr who finally came up with the solution: pretend they had already sold everything to a relatively wealthy and powerful buyer and were just the delivery team. He dug through the small mountain of booty to find the leather pouch with papers that had been taken from the two units’ bodies. Among them were general orders, letters of introduction and credit, a few personal letters, messages obviously in code, paymaster lists, requisitions, and sundry other items. With them they were able to piece together who was in each group, where they were going, and what the overall picture looked like in the region, a much better picture than Sir Andronikos have been given to believe while traversing portions of the two countries recently trying to be hired. Crimea needed the mounted troops more, but had less ready money than Argentain. Both had some intrigue problems with unhappy nobles and disputed crown inheritance lines, and the notes illuminated these problems somewhat. Both sides had been trying to foment insurrection among one of the opposing border baronies. Continue reading Career Choice, Part X

Career Choice, Part VIII

“What will it bring?” asked Jispin a mile later, indicating the pack train of loot. “How much gold?”

Andronikos frowned thoughtfully and shook his head. “No way to know. Good armor and weapons are always wanted, but not everyone wants to pay, nor has the money. Perhaps a gold crown for the armor – each, of course – and another for the swords in good shape. Maybe twice that. The odds and ends maybe five silver doluers a set, likely less. If a count or baron is raising a company and in a hurry, more. Sold one at a time to militia, less. Farmers have little spare money.” Continue reading Career Choice, Part VIII

Career Choice, Part VII

[As always, comments, typos, corrections, thoughts, and feedback welcome!]

It was barely the earliest of first light when Jispin woke the other two. All three were sore and stiff from the hard labor of the day before, but none complained. It was a harsh world they lived in, where sore and stiff was the rule rather than the exception. The squire wanted to make a fire and cook some hot food, but Jispin and Andronikos dismissed the idea out of hand, though for different reasons. Cold but generous portions of food was the order of the day. Jispin’s comment about the marvelous quality of it drew sincere mirth from Sir Andronikos, and his squire as well when the knight translated for him. The idea of typical soldier trail rations being high quality fare gave them a glimpse at how hard life in the Kurgen mountains really was. Continue reading Career Choice, Part VII

Career Change, Part VI

After the fifth Crimean body in a row with nothing worth taking, Jispin pursed his lips and thought, then headed for the treeline. On a hunch, he went a few paces inside the line of bowed tree limbs and started searching parallel to the glade. In the dim, watery light he spied a T-shaped furca leaning against a tree with a soldier’s bag and travel gear hanging from it. He took it out and planted it upright into the soft ground two paces form the trees. Walking inside the treeline he’d collect three or four before taking them out to prop up in a bunch together. In ten minutes he’d collected 37, then went back to helping the Kilpan fighters finish the task, eating jerky and apples taken from the supplies he’d recovered as he worked. Continue reading Career Change, Part VI

Career Change, Part V

The squire lifted his chin and spoke in a language Jispin didn’t understand. He shook his head. The squire tried a different language, or at least it sounded very different to Jispin. Guessing his question, he replied “I am Jispin… Jispin,” as he pointed to himself and resumed cleaning the gore off his blade on the fallen man’s shirt before returning it to his scabbard. He looked up at the squire, then around. They both noted there was only one other man remaining on horseback, the unarmored knight. The two Argentain horses and the other squire’s mount were standing, stamping nervously, blowing noisily, and steaming like a boiling cauldron in the suddenly quiet drizzle of rain. Continue reading Career Change, Part V

Career Choice, Part IV

Several hurled javelins before closing the last few yards, about half formed into some sort of three or four-man formation with sword and shield in front and a spearman poking over or around them, the rest formed a general line and tried to rush and overwhelm with superior numbers and speed. Four tried to get a clear shot with a bow but quickly gave up trying to see anything targetable in the heaving mass of men, tossing their bows aside and either rushed in to back up their fellow soldiers. Some Crimeans wore small black and yellow streamers on their arms or helms, and some started trying to do an end-run on the line to get a side-shot. The Argentain archers were in nearly the same predicament, but the superior number of men they faced gave them a small advantage, and Argentain arrows found their mark among the more numerous foes standing three spear-lengths away. Continue reading Career Choice, Part IV