ETA March 2016: I’m now writing Tally, and it is not a short story. It’s a novel, and probably a doorstopper novel! Stayed tuned. I’ll blog about my progress from time to time. 😀
I bear the mark of Gaelan on my face, as do my brethren. But I alone, amongst all in the battalions under my lord Karbreys, bear that name. It is fitting, for I betrayed them all to their deaths. I am Gael. I am kin-slayer.
There in the bowels of the mad tower I crouched, listening to the scratching of my own quill pen. I tallied ingots of copper, ingots of tin – tin so rare. Who would believe the record keeper could be more lethal than the warrior.
The stone foundations around me echoed the metallic beating of swords, of shields, of helmets. My lord Karbreys was winning this war. His trolls mined copper ore from veins beneath the tower and smelted it with foreign tin arriving from afar, borne on galleys rowed by slaves. Every ingot in received its mark in my ledger. Every ingot out – tin and copper married to make bronze – I tallied likewise.
Who was to know that the bronze was weak? Not the four parts tin to ninety of copper demanded by the smith’s recipe, but three tin for seven and ninety copper. The blades hammered from these ingots would bend, and how would the warrior who bore one fare then?
Channeled by the tower’s tunnels, the roar of the blast furnace deafened my thoughts. Who would I betray? My kin who brought Lord Karbreys victory? The peculator stealing the tin?
Oh? Did you think it was I? Secreting nuggets away in some fastness?
No, ’twas another. Should I betray him?
Or must I betray our enemies, crushed beneath Karbreys’ might? Our enemies, those with pure faces, the ones from whom we come, trailing glory, before Gaelan marks us as his own.
For a science fiction sample, see: