Revision, Revision, Snippets

Posted: December 6th, 2011 under Contents, Echoes of Betrayal, snippet, the writing life.
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First a thank-you to y’all for your patience.    It has been a…um…very busy time here at the old homestead.  Tonight is the night of the Messiah performance, and that will make four days in a row of driving to the city for 3+ hours of singing (and on Sunday I drove in early to sing the first service at church, then drove home to do the other stuff.)

Your reward for the patience is a snippet, after a short review of revision progress.   I have finally (FINALLY) got important two important events tied in neatly with all their threads connected.    As I near the end of a book, everything has more and more threads hanging off it (it’s connected to this, that, and the other in various ways–foreshadowings that may go back several books,  links to contemporaneous happenings, hooks set that will turn out later to be significant, etc.    The next to last book in a group is even more rife with threads for every major event, internal and external.   And every one of those little stinkers needs to be woven in, as invisibly as possible, so the pattern is unbroken.    But enough about the work in progress:  Herewith a snippet from the work to come.

Where: Chaya  When: winter   Why: someone was murdered

Carlion and Siger both knelt beside Kieri.  Siger grunted as he looked at the wounds.  “These are from arrows–and the shafts pulled free.”  Together he and Kieri rolled [redacted] body on its side.

“Longbow arrow?” Kieri asked. “There’s no penetration to the back–could they have been crossbows?”

“Not one of our blackwood bows,” Carlion said.  “So certainly not a ranger or a Royal Archer.  Nor crossbow bolts–the Pargunese bolts make a different wound.  But the elves–”  He swallowed and went on slowly.  ” The elves, lord king, use a smaller bow sometimes, and slenderer shafts.  The wood–they won’t say what the wood is.”

“And these wounds are from a blade,” Siger went on, pointing to the slashes in the tunic.  “Someone wanted him dead for certain.”


“If it was elves,” Carlion said.  “This looks…this looks like rage to me.  Some quarrel among the elvenkind.”


In Echoes, you find out who was killed.    In Book IV, Kieri finds out who killed the victim.

This is not the killer’s first or last murder.     I knew something was screwy with this character the first time I wrote the character, but not what.    In fact, at this point in Echoes I didn’t know who it was yet.   Now I do, and it’s clear that a number of people have had very narrow escapes.


Bonus snippet:   Where: Mahieran’s country house.  When: winter.   Dorrin, Duke Mahieran,  Dorrin’s squire Beclan, and some guards arrive.

When they reached the house, torchlight glittered on the snow outside and the house windows blazed with light.  Servants came with a padded chair to carry the Duke inside; Beclan started to follow and then looked back at Dorrin.  “My lord?” he said just as his mother, Celbrin, appeared, wrapped in a fur cape.

She grabbed Beclan and hugged him, then turned to Duke Mahieran:  “If that person is out there in the dark, I will not have that person in my house.  She nearly killed our son and now you come home injured–”

….    …..  ….  (stuff happens)

“Drop the knife, Celbrin,” Mahieran said.   He waved servants forward.  “Take it, if she will not drop it.”

“You will find out!” Celbrin said, her voice high and shrill.  “She is not what she pretends to be.  She brings doom with her.”


The Mahieran family has had some unwanted adventures, and is about to have more.   Celbrin isn’t exactly crazy, but she’s also not what she thinks she is.


  • Comment by David Watson — December 6, 2011 @ 11:02 am


    Oooh-oooh, I know… this is the advantage of being an Alpha Reader. This is just before the Giant Killer Turnips beam down from the orbital laser-platform!
    Great teasing, Ms. Moon. We’re looking forward to many marvelous revelations… about the Turnips!

  • Comment by Daniel Glover — December 6, 2011 @ 11:16 am


    There are from arrows–and the shafts pulled free

    Should the first word be “These”? Hope you have time to fix if it’s gone for proofing.

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 6, 2011 @ 11:17 am


    If I wrote about turnips, they would be Giant Killer Turnips.

    (Such unseemly gloating!)

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 6, 2011 @ 11:18 am


    Daniel: I was typing from the ARC. So it’s today’s typo, not in the book. Though it is too late to do anything to the book at this point.

  • Comment by Daniel Glover — December 6, 2011 @ 11:21 am


    I’d comment more on each of the snippets but I’m afraid they’d be considered spoilers. If it goes like I think the machinations do run deep.

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 6, 2011 @ 11:28 am


    As Sherlock said (or something like it somewhere) don’t speculate ahead of the facts.

    There are deep machinations in play, though.

    Back to work.

  • Comment by Dave Ring — December 6, 2011 @ 11:39 am


    Foreshadowing links that are resolved within a single book are one thing; you can still change or move the forward reference if necessary. But what about unresolved links from previous books? Do you keep a list of these? And what do you do when the plot daemon tells you it didn’t happen the way you thought you foresaw?

  • Comment by B Ross Ashley — December 6, 2011 @ 11:39 am


    Woo-hoo! She’s not what she thinks she is, hmmmm?

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 6, 2011 @ 12:17 pm


    Dave: I have a fat file called “Ideas.” Some get used and some don’t. It’s not a list, exactly. For one thing, the “hook” threads (that will be foreshadowing when seen in reverse) are so many that I need only one or two of them to “work.” The backside of plotting–the way I do it–is like burs. Plenty of things are there to link to when needed. That’s why I talk about creating “bur-like” rather than “well-rounded, like a billiard ball” characters.

    What I do when the plot daemon tells me it didn’t happen that way? Scream. Whine. Kick rocks. As I told you folks early on in this series, there’s a temporal anomaly from something back in the Gird group that I wrote while still “clouded” by my mother’s death–and without the plot daemon’s active assistance. Didn’t help that I was in Luap’s head at the time, and Luap was a very self-confusing person, not clear-headed either. It was wrong. I’m fixing it, but the fix consists mostly of saying “Guys, I got sortakinda wrong in the first place. This is what REALLY happened.” Aside from that, the plot daemon has done a good job.

    B Ross: That’s right. Of course, a lot of very nice people who are sure they are very nice people all the way through–in fact, they are so sure that they are willing to tell others how to be very nice people by copying them–are not what they think they are, when push comes to shove and the knife is in hand. Celbrin is also what she thinks she is–a very proper lady, who knows all the rules and is an exemplar and leader of (most of) the ladies at court because–after all–when Mikeli’s mother died, she became (in her eyes at least) his foster mother; she’s married to his uncle. Who else is qualified to be the social leader at court? It’s true her father wasn’t a duke, but he was ambitious and groomed his children to rise in society. If you want to know if you eat that with fork, spoon, tongs, or spike…she knows. If you want to know the proper foods to serve when entertaining the Marshal Judicar….she knows. The proper clothing for any occasion, for any rank. The proper greetings, salutations, farewells, honorifics. All her children are in the royal family; she makes sure they understand the dignity that must be maintained. Celbrin is, of course, a snob, but she’s not just a snob. Her love for husband and children is deep; she’s been a good wife, a good manager, a good companion to Duke Mahieran.

    A female duke, like Dorrin…a female duke who wears men’s court dress…who has never borne a child (Celbrin dutifully bore six; one died)…who was a (gasp, choke) mercenary soldier…who repudiated her own family (OK, they were bad, but it’s Just Not Done to run away like a…a wild child…like that) has been very difficult for Celbrin to take. Dorrin has broken too many rules. There are people born to be at odds.

  • Comment by Kerry aka Trouble — December 6, 2011 @ 1:26 pm


    Thank you, again. Wishing you and M- and R- a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

    Funny, but was just talking about Echoes coming in a couple months to someone at the bookstore this morning. *double checks the number of days*

  • Comment by Jenn — December 6, 2011 @ 2:40 pm


    Giant killer turnips!! What of the carrots and radishes that have always grown peacefully together?

    How did Mikeli’s parents die? Or is that a spoiler?

    Thank you for the snippet. I can’t wait to February!

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 6, 2011 @ 4:18 pm


    The carrots are learning to grow in strict formation; the radishes have decided that their best approach is gengineering to become giant radishes.

    Mikeli’s parents…the plot daemon is still withholding permission to say anything (does the plot daemon not know? Hmmmm…..)

  • Comment by Richard — December 7, 2011 @ 3:57 am


    “No data yet,” [Sherlock] answered. “It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence.”

    A Study in Scarlet chapter 3. I’m not going to go trawling through all the stories again to see if the thought is repeated anywhere in the same or different words.

    Yet in the Silver Blaze story (to take one example), Holmes finds his evidence (the horse’s tracks) by imagining what might have happened and acting upon the supposition.

    Some of us like being tantalized and fooled, that is one of the reasons why we come here (I trust I’m speaking for more than just myself). That does mean entertaining conjectures for the sake of having them confounded when we read the finished books. (Wasn’t it you, Daniel, who once wrote that?)

  • Comment by Richard — December 7, 2011 @ 4:57 am


    Sorry, “expectations confounded” was the quote I remember.

    I also enjoy having speculations hanging, the truth of which we’ll maybe never know. What relation was the Crown Prince (killed in the war with Pargun when Kieri was a young man) to Mieli’s father (who I imagine to have been slightly younger than Kieri)? Was there then a dowager Crown Princess who would never be Queen, and how did she fit into the royal family?

    What lies beyond the hill? Answer (if you take us to the top) – a rich country perhaps, but then another hill. What then lies beyond it?

    As for having to fix what was sortakinda wrong in the Luap story years ago, all the best people do that: including Handel with Messiah, I’m told.

  • Comment by Sharidann — December 7, 2011 @ 7:24 am



    Now makes me wish february would come sooner! 🙂

    And yes, kinda having some guesses going in my head but I am really looking forward to just kick back and enjoy the books!

    One thing I enjoy in reading this blog is how you present your thoughts and let ideas run their natural course till the loose ends tie up. Interesting creative process which I kinda share on my own very, very modest level.

  • Comment by Daniel Glover — December 7, 2011 @ 7:26 am


    @Richard Yes, I mentioned something like that in one of the posts. Elizabeth already disproved one of my two suppositions-the more unlikely of the two I thought-already with her follow-up comment. But then my speculations tend to be wildly off or spot on–which I always try to remind my friends of when they want to tear off and make meaningful actions (not just theorizing about a plot in a novel 🙂 ) on my suppositions. I look for their input as well to see where I’m wildly off.

  • Comment by Jim Elgar — December 7, 2011 @ 9:36 am


    First time I saw “Echoes” cover, I thought that southpaw swordsman was Camwym meeting Father of Dragons.

  • Comment by patrick — December 7, 2011 @ 12:52 pm


    One of the many characteristics that keeps me coming back to reread these books is the subtlety of the writing. I was just rereading Kings of the North yesterday and came across the following:
    The count smoothed his mustaches and bowed over the lady’s hand. “The honor is mine,” he said. She had powdered her hand with something like flour; he wondered why.

    The count is Jeddrin of Andressat and the lady is Estil Halveric. When I first read this passage, I was not attendly closely, and missed the implications:
    The powder was flour, and the fact that the lady actually did things like cooking instead of only directing others was completely outside Jeddrin’s understanding, showing him to be more provincial in his own way than he has any understanding. A full exposition on the secondary references in that simple sentence about the flour might make up a 500 word essay. All tightly crafted with a passing thought. The irony and humor of the moment brought a smile to my face. The whole scene also shows something of the importance of courtesy among prideful people to reduce dangerous misunderstandings that our online culture seems to have forgotten. I enjoy reading about culture shock in part to reduce my own culture shock when I encounter it in real life.

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 7, 2011 @ 5:12 pm


    patrick: You made the writer very happy. I don’t expect every reader to pause and grasp all the implications of every detail, but when one does…it’s a little burst of joy for me.

    Jim Elgar: Ah…I see why you might think that. To be honest, I don’t have a clue exactly what scene that’s supposed to represent,but as Editor pointed out, it makes clear there’s a dragon in the book somewhere.

    Richard and Daniel: I understand the joy of speculating ahead of the story and hope you continue to have that fun. (After all, I do it myself, in the writing process. Hey, I wonder if this bit means that so-and-so is behind the disappearance of whatsit!) Just–for the sake of the spoiler-averse–it’s probably better to have that off-list somewhere in case someone’s going to be disappointed. If I had world enough and time (ha!) I’d set up a separate Secret Place where speculation could run rampant in the community. But you’re smart–if you want such a thing, you can manage to do it.

    Must get back to work now.

  • Comment by Jim Elgar — December 7, 2011 @ 8:15 pm


    Is swordfighting a lefty as awkward for a righthander as it in boxing. All the timing,angles and reactions are wrong and late. Most times, not a good thing.

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 7, 2011 @ 8:59 pm


    Jim: Not if you have good training. If you train for only right-handers, then yes. I don’t know about modern sport fencing–on piste, where you can’t move around, there may be a greater disadvantage in fighting someone with the opposite dominant hand (but lefties get more practice at it, usually.) But in “real” period fighting, training with both right and left-handed opponents evens things out. Once past footwork drills (not that you’re ever past footwork drills, exactly) and the earliest of blade drills, you start learning to analyze an opponent’s skills in order to have the best outcome–and that includes someone of the opposite dominance.

    The use of both hands (common in period) also reduces the left-hander’s novelty effect. Your “off” hand (whichever it is) will have something in it if your sword doesn’t require both: a dagger, a buckler, anything you can grab (yes, a cloak, at times.) So does your opponent’s. So your dominant sword hand becomes familiar with having something in the opponent’s non-dominant–just as if you were facing someone of the opposite dominance, though it’s a different, usually smaller, weapon. (Except when fencing “Florentine” or “case” [meaning “case” or set of rapiers.] And as that point, you both resemble scorpions, to my eyes. It’s an exhausting style, but very flashy. The shift of each hand from defense to attack is…um…amazing. I’m lousy at it.)

    I would have thought right-handed boxers would deliberately train against at least a few left-handed ones, to learn the best reverse tactics.

  • Comment by Sharidann — December 8, 2011 @ 3:36 am


    Well in martial arts training you can sometimes land in a trap due to tradition.

    I practice aikido and we traditionnally also practice with bokken (wooden sword) and jo (wooden stick). In Jo, we are trained to fight from both sides, in bokken too, but with one small caveat, namely… that the teachers always teach you one hand position. The Bokken is usually wielded two-handed and we learn early on to have the left hand at the end of the sword (pommel) and the right hand higher up. It comes quite as a shock when you have a teacher telling you to switch hands and do simple suburi (strikes), as all of a sudden, you realize that your body doesn’t know how to do it that way and what was routine is all at once an exercise requiring total concentration and focus for quite a subpar result, at least at first.
    I am not sure how kendokas go at it, but it would be interesting to know as they also usually wield their shinai two-handed.

  • Comment by Daniel Glover — December 8, 2011 @ 7:15 am


    @Richard The fact that the Count didn’t know the taste of flour after kissing the hand says a lot more too. I did happen to catch all that you mentioned from that phrase at first reading but I know I’ve missed others on first read that only hit me on second (or third, or …) 😉

  • Comment by Iphinome — December 8, 2011 @ 8:17 am


    From someone who has trouble pointing an offhand rapier in the correct direction, I find lousy to be quite impressive.

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 8, 2011 @ 8:26 am


    Oh, absolutely–training one-sided for any reason (tradition, taking advantage of your own lateral dominance) can get you in trouble. But it sounds like your teachers start you with one position so you can learn it thoroughly and then start training the nondominant side…which is a perfectly valid approach to training. Either way, you’ve got to build muscle memory for both sides. (Although, since I’ve done nearly all my work with the hand-and-a-half sword alone, and in older age, I have not done that, and instead used it mostly as a shoulder-loosening exercise tool. Bad me.) In our training, though, reversing sides exactly is not the most important part of learning to fight an opponent with opposite dominance–there are others, like which attacks to use, how to move, in order to neutralize their attack and create openings, that leave the sword in one’s own dominant hand. Still–lefthanders usually get a lot more practice in fighting rignthanders than the reverse, and right now our group doesn’t have a handy leftie.

  • Comment by Jenn — December 8, 2011 @ 8:39 am



    You could make a Secret supposition space right here just like you have your Spoiler spaces (“Don’t Look Ethel!”). Then people would be dually warned.

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 8, 2011 @ 8:43 am


    iphinome: It gets slightly easier with time. I can handle a rapier or epee off-hand better when I have a rapier in the other hand, for some peculiar reason, though “better” is very relative term. At least I can parry with it, though it’s slow compared to a dagger parry. I don’t think I’ve ever made a “kill” with the offhand rapier, but I’ve certainly kept my opponent focused on the need to remember that I’ve got the extra several feet of steel wavering around over there. The trick (well one of them) is that the blades must never be parallel or in the same easily defined plane. Hence the scorpion aspect. Stick ’em out front parallel and they’re easy to sweep aside by your opponent with one while you’re killed with the other.

    Fun to watch, fun and exhausting to do, not terribly practical because it’s so much more tiring. At least not for modern middle-aged-to-senior persons not in perfect condition.

  • Comment by Dave Ring — December 8, 2011 @ 11:33 am


    The brief passage about Count Andressat and Estil’s powdered hands is also a favorite for me — so much said with so few words!

    I also used to study aikido and remember how our teacher would correct mistakes in unarmed techniques by temporarily placing a wooden sword in the student’s hands. When position and wrists were adjusted so the boken’s edge would cut thru the partner’s center, the technique worked, no words needed.

  • Comment by Richard — December 8, 2011 @ 12:14 pm


    For any newcomers, my mention (#14) of the Crown Prince being killed was an old historical allusion from Oath of Gold, part of Kieri’s backstory, that Jenn’s question (#11) about Mikeli’s parents brought to mind. On re-reading I see I typo’ed “Mieli” for Mikeli, oops.

  • Comment by Richard — December 8, 2011 @ 12:31 pm


    Re #17 and #19 (picture of dragon): looking at the covers of computer games (more so than books, at first impression) I wonder sometimes how many fantasy artists know left hands from right. Or does some Art School of Political Correctness teach them to draw 50% southpaws?

  • Comment by Jim Elgar — December 8, 2011 @ 1:23 pm


    Thank you all for sharing your expertise in the martial arts. This is fun to follow. My boxing experiment of 45 years ago was brief, due to a good southpaw. He whupped me good. I discovered getting hit repeatedly in the face is not that much fun.

  • Comment by Jenn — December 8, 2011 @ 6:37 pm


    Thank you Richard! It is time that the Art School of Political Correctness recognized us in fantasy art 🙂 and even though we are only 10% of the population I would be quite happy to see a 50% representation.

  • Comment by Jonathan Schor — December 8, 2011 @ 8:31 pm


    There is a classic bit about switching hands in sword fighting in the Princess Bride movie.

  • Comment by Iphinome — December 8, 2011 @ 9:36 pm


    I’m sure the weight and grip are something I could get used to in my right hand, It seems to come naturally in my left (dominant) hand but I have a feeling the length will always be awkward. There’s something unnatural about a sword longer than my arm. Smallsword might be the way for me to go.

    Eyesight might be a factor, I’m blind in my left eye. Double the length of my arm is an easy distance to judge.

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 8, 2011 @ 9:50 pm


    Jonathan: Yes, but that’s theatrical fencing. Very different, even when moves are based on the real thing. Theatrical fencing has as a priority keeping the actors alive.

    Iphinome: Certainly your eyesight would be a factor, though a lot of point practice might help. Learning to gauge distance is difficult for everyone starting out. I lose my sense of distance when I don’t practice enough…I think I’m in touch distance and I’m an inch and a half short. Sword length relates to speed, too: shorter swords, and lighter swords, are faster sword (given the same balance point.)

  • Comment by Kevin Steverson — December 8, 2011 @ 10:13 pm



    Swords are great….but a spiked flail would rip into a sword arm, would it not? The chain length would be important, of course, but one deliberatly aimed at a sword arm would be devistating…one with a long handle, where the steel covered handle clashed against the sword, allowing the ball to continue it’s momentum against the forearm..nasty…just nasty

  • Comment by Iphinome — December 8, 2011 @ 11:28 pm


    I have the opposite problem, I underestimate distance and my point goes wide.

    @Kevin Steverson how open are you willing to be if you miss and how are you going to swing the ball around with your handle pressed against a sword?

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 8, 2011 @ 11:33 pm


    There are many weapons that can take down a swordsman/woman. Flails in general, from my reading (not experience; never used one) have certain mechanical disadvantages as well as advantages. The weight is at the distal end, making control more difficult because there are more moving parts. If someone left their arm hanging out to be hit by the flail, yes, that would be a very bad injury. But the flail is not a defensive weapon, so in the act of delivering a blow with a flail, that fighter is vulnerable in a way that a rapier fencer (for instance) is not. A flail user can certainly carry a shield with the off hand, but by its nature a flail must be swung, and swinging a weapon–the sideways stroke–opens a target for someone else to hit.

    Also, in formation fighting, the flail is just as likely to damage your own side.

    I’m sure flails did injure and result in the deaths of some sword fighters.

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 8, 2011 @ 11:45 pm


    iphonome: Point control drills. Lots and lots of point control drills. First on a firm upstanding surface like a tree or a wall. Pick a spot, or stick a post-it note to it, and approach from directly ahead, from each side. Stand where you can just touch it with sword outstretched, and then back up one step. Take that step and touch. And touch again. And touch again. Start slow–you’re building muscle memory–and gradually speed up. Always stop on a successful hit. Back up two steps, advance two and touch. Rinse and repeat. Back up three steps. Try all the strikes you know–every hand position, high and low. Then move the marker two inches higher. Then two inches lower than the original. Repeat. (There are dimples on the back side of our carport. I made a bald spot on one tree.)

    Then get a cloth or leather sack and some pennies or lead sinkers and a length of cord and hang it from a tree at about heart-height on an opponent. Stand just in range and poke it. It will swing. Try to poke it while it’s swinging. Then back up a step and try to poke it hanging still and then when it moves. Do it until you’re sick of it, and then do it some more.

    If your one eye can possibly give you range, this will do it. At one time I had one eye patched (injury, and not fencing at the time) but in a few days had sufficient depth perception not to bump into things.

  • Comment by Sharidann — December 9, 2011 @ 5:47 am


    @ Dave Ring

    My teacher does the same from time to time to correct us. And it does indeed work wonders. 🙂

  • Comment by Iphinome — December 9, 2011 @ 6:14 am


    Will do. Thank you.

    And I do bump into things far more often than I’d like, I was born like this and still my left shoulder has a habit of hitting door frames.

  • Comment by Daniel Glover — December 9, 2011 @ 7:37 am


    Practice, practice. It works for everything. Just got to sit in on a scales routine for a regionally know composer especially well known for her work with children. She was waiting for the kids to show up–only one did–so she was doing scales while I was puttering around the church doing other things.

    I can only get a couple of my dancing friends to see the necessity of coming regularly to swing dance lessons. I’m a whole lot better for going regularly for fifteen years than if I hadn’t.

    I put a big whole in our retaining wall while growing up spot throwing softballs–made me into the only leftie second baseman in the league–unorthodox defense with the rightie shortstop but we won a few titles by crowding the corners since we had glove sides to the middle.

    Practice, practice, practice–sound like an armsmaster from some good books I know. 🙂

  • Comment by patrick — December 9, 2011 @ 10:09 am


    I agree, practice makes the difference, which is why occasional soldiers (i.e. militia who have full time jobs) are more likely to know their specific best technique well but in trouble when faced with something unusual.

    That also applies to people who do fantasy combat on weekends, like SCA, IFGS, Amtguard, etc. I accidentally got practice to strengthen my left hand long ago when playing swords with my 11 year old son. To make the combat more even and more interesting for me, I fought him left-handed. Eventually, he got better and we fought double vs double, so now I’m reasonably comfortable with either hand and/or double handed. But my shield work is weak when I fight sword and shield. There’s only so much time for a hobby and practicing one aspect means less time to practice another.

    Not to mention getting slower with age. 🙂

    For fantasy settings, in a life and death profession, there’s a strong incentive to practice regularly. For the militia, who might not expect to really need their skills, the attitude towards practice can sometimes be lax.

  • Comment by Jonathan Schor — December 9, 2011 @ 2:07 pm


    Do we know how effective sword fighting actually was? Did the Roman Legions do most of their work with swords or spears? Later on, say in pre revolutionary France, did opposing armies fight with swords. Duels perhaps, but do we know that the sword was an effective weapon in practice?

  • Comment by Daniel Glover — December 9, 2011 @ 3:13 pm


    It’s not just knowing your weapon, but knowing your terrain well. The Swiss militia was at a heavy disadvantage when they took on the latter day Roman Empire but won because they knew their terrain and the tactics to go with them. Once they picked up the spoils of war from their early victories they were impossible to defeat at home and nearly so as mercenaries for a long time till, they too, got lax. Elizabeth does a good job with this with both Gird and Kieri. 🙂

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 9, 2011 @ 3:59 pm


    Jonathan: I could write a book in answer to your question, but others already have, and I don’t have time. To start with there is no one such thing as “sword fighting”–there are myriads of sword designs, each requiring slightly different skills, most of which proved themselves in some form of combat against what other weapons were available. And when you say “in practice” you have to define the situation.

    In terms of Roman armies (the classic Roman armies that made an empire) the short-sword, gladius, used in formation, was an extremely effective weapon…but the Romans used more than swords. The gladius was primarily used in forward thrusts, and very fast due to its length and balance. Pre-firearms, both polearms and swords were effective in formation fighting (and disciplined troops that could fight in close formation won more battles than those that didn’t.)

    You might want to read both Xenophon’s _Anabasis_ (available in translation) and Caesar’s _Gallic Wars_ for details. Greek hoplites were polearm formation fighters who also carried shortish swords. _Anabasis_ is an eye-witness account (by the man who led the Greeks to safety) of a retreat across northern Iraq and west-central Turkey to the Black Sea, when Greek mercenaries were captured by the Persian emperor (they’d been hired by Cyrus, who was rebelling against the emperor.) It is, in my estimation, one of the most exciting military stories in history, every bit as amazing as Thermopylae. Xenophon was at the time in exile from Athens, a young man who had come to the war as a friend of one of the merc officers; he was trained as a cavalry commander and his other writings (on the training and management of cavalry horses, and the command of a cavalry troop) have been studied down the centuries by other cavalries.

    Caesar you know about. If you’ve never read the Gallic Wars, you need to…especially the campaign against the Belgae (I think it was) in which it’s clear the Romans knew–and their enemies quickly learned–the art of fortifications, mine and counter-mine, etc.

    Swords remained in use for close-in combat (sword to hand is a lot more efficient than hand to hand) as long as the time it took to reload a weapon allowed the enemy to come to grips. Swords were carried by gun crews, for instance, in the Peninsular War. Swords (sabers, specifically) were found useful for cavalries into the 19th c. and for ship defense (cutlasses)as well (among other things, you can cut the line that the other side slung grappling hooks aboard with, with a cutlass; it’s tougher with a firearm while the ship’s lurching about. Cavalry on both sides of our Civil War used sabers.

    FWIW, in modern times people still kill people with swords–a man I knew was crippled by an angry employee who grabbed an “ornamental” sword off the wall and stabbed him–sword penetrated not just the body but between the lumbar vertebrae and severed the spinal cord.

    So yeah, swords are effective. Some are better for close-in work; some are better used from horseback; but they were used because they worked, not because someone thought they were romantic.

  • Comment by Jenn — December 10, 2011 @ 10:25 am


    Which styles did you base your various mercenary companies on?

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 10, 2011 @ 10:55 am


    Jenn: Both fictional and nonfictional accounts of mercenary and city-state military units in Italy in 13th & 14th century, with some changes due to use of magery instead of technologies then being developed. Not strictly historical, because the underlying cultures and technologies are different (magic retards non-magical technological advance in areas were magic appears easier) but close to. Italy (which wasn’t Italy yet) was more advanced in many ways than the north (though the north was catching up.) For some background, read Barbara Tuchman’s _A Distant Mirror_ and Doyle’s _The White Company_. Lots of other books went into the background, but those are actually readable.

    So Phelan and Halveric–from the north–have infantry units trained in formation fighting with sword & shield; others have infantry using polearms (Count Vladi) or cavalry, and some are specialists (like those who dig mines or build siege towers or ballistas.) Most companies had some mixed units: archery plus infantry, or cavalry plus mounted infantry, etc.

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