an excerpt



Two guardsmen on their knees, blowing into a fire pit outside Drogan’s tent. Brill had built the fire as best he could. Grass and small twigs at the bottom. Larger twigs on top. Bigger sticks atop those and more firewood at the ready for when the fire had burnt down. But the night was chill, the wood damp, and the sparks from his flint and steel flickered out in the kindling.

“Shit,” said Brill.

“Wha’ is it?” said his companion, holding the lamp that lit the mess of twigs and wood.


“Wha’ abou’ ‘im?

“Lift up your snout an’ have a look. It’s him, coming.”

Brill’s companion looked up and out into the dark at the dark figure approaching beyond the falling snow.

“Aye, mate?” said Brill, standing.

“Yes,” said the figure, simply. With both authority and lack thereof. With the assurance of being close to power yet not concerned for having any. “Commander Drogan,” he said. It was neither question nor request. It was a statement of fact.

“Ain’t here. Who wants ta know?”

“I’ve a message from the Governor.”


“I should like to deliver it directly.”

“Well ye ain’t gonna. The poor bastard’s got his jammies on already.”

“This message is from the Governor.”

“And my message’ll be from me boot to yer old boys between them legs. Fuck off, me sweets. Me sweetheart. I’ll take it.” And he smiled a broken-toothed, rancid smile.

A voice called from inside the tent, muffled and distant. It stated one word, sternly. Like a parent correcting a child. It said: “Soldier.”

Brill flicked his eyes back to the tent. Then to the ground. Then to Winstrop. “Sure, m’lady.” He reached for the front flap of the tent, pulled it out, motioned with his hand. “In yeh go.”


Inside the tent, one man hunched over a small wooden desk. He was wrapped in a heavy robe, studying the map laid out before him, flattening its folds with calloused hands. Another man stood beside him, arms crossed, rubbing his elbows for warmth. The oil-burning lamp on the table cast a warm glow over them, and long shadows.

The city-states lay hidden. Somewhere beyond the tent. Beyond the camp. In a place that ought to be locatable on this map.

They could not find them. Two entire cities. Not on the map, not on land.

Scouts went out and came back with reports of nothing found. Riders flew for miles and saw no signs from the air. They knew it was there, here, somewhere. It eluded them. Phantom cities, ruled by a Phantom Lord. This was the problem being discussed as Brill entered.

Brill jerked his thumb towards Winstrop, “Commander, message for you from the lady.”

Looking down at the map, Commander Drogan said, “Thank you, Brill.”

“Yeh, wha’ever. He’s a fancy lad, eh? Got a punch line for him, what?”

“Thank you, Brill,” said Drogan again, drawing a line with a straight edge across the map. “You may go.”

“All right, then,” said Brill, turning to go. He found himself nose to nose with Winstrop. They might have kissed.

“Evening, m’lady.”

Then he was gone, and the flap fell shut behind him.

27 thoughts on “an excerpt

  1. The end was powerful. Goodness. I like the humor in the beginning. I pictured the fat man perfectly—he’s a great character.

    I’m working on a new site, by the way. I’m mentally spent lately, and not much is coming out. I guess I need a break for a while. But I’m lurking in the shadows.

    I’ll let you know when I get up and running again. In the meantime, more spoilers, please.

    Very nicely done, Walt.


    • Thank you for your comment about the end, Ms Mildred. I think you might be one of the few who made it that far. But 4000+ words is asking a lot, probably too much, for most, and I knew that going in. Definitely let me know when you get a site back up. I will be there. I already miss the old one. I actually miss the occasional gloom and darkness of it. I found it refreshing. Does that sound weird? Probably. Anyhoo, thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Already in love with Winstrop – his name is great (strop means noose in Dutch). His struggle is somehow something I think everybody can identify with because of the way you describe it. And his goal well… I can only hope he’s slowly but carefully tying a noose for someone.


  3. Love it. Love Winstrop – that whole idea of the person of low stature being sooo much brighter than the one in charge. Love a piece of writing that opens – ‘he was seated on a stool, sharpening a sword’. Cracking. Love the fat, greasy governor too. Just from this exchange, we know exactly who these people are, what their relationship is like. When’s it set? Makes me think Napoleonic War period – not sure why. Imagining lots of braid and epaulettes, shiny boots and pointless cavalry charges.
    The right words are miraculous – with so few, I’m imagining the whole world …
    Looking forward to the next installment.


    • Thanks, Lynn, I respect your opinion. Glad it worked for you. You know, it feels later than I wanted it to. I intended more of a fantasy feel but it didn’t come out quite that way.

      There will be at least one cavalry charge. Hopefully not too pointless. Next installment is a ways off though. Thanks for reading and for the feedback!

      Liked by 1 person

      • A pleasure to read and feedback! Could just be my perception, the periods I have in my head. Worth checking with others – it may just be me who has that impression. Will look forward to reading more when you’re ready 🙂


  4. Well, there you are. As breath fogs a window pane and one rubbeth, so the images appear. I can’t help but compare this to other pieces you’ve written, and in so doing, I will say it is my favorite; it is clean, seems fully conceived, and I care. I’m hooked. It doesn’t feel like a joke or piece of satire I won’t get, it feels like there’s something deeper here. (One of my favorite phrasings is the old couple as a carving, among many others.)
    It seems to me your knack for dialogue is more controlled in this piece than others; in other words, the breaks between exposition and dialogue are more balanced, less self-conscious, just more natural and confident. I like to see the restraint in that. I like that you put yourself out there with your intention to write a book and I thought, albeit a bit snarky, I sure hope you want to read it because the truth is, we wind up reading our own goddamned books or writing more than anyone else likely ever will, so I sure hope we do like it — ha! And I am hoping you’ll share more, or put me on your Gold Club membership to receive special notifications or what have you. Well done, Walt. – Bill


    • I continue my practice of ripping off others, and I add now the practice of ripping off myself from previous pieces. Saves work, don’t you know. Glad you care and took the bait, too. Or the other way around. You get a lifetime gold club membership, I’ll send you the card once you sit still in one place for more than a few days.

      Thanks for taking the time with such thoughtful comments. I appreciate the feedback.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: small bite from a big piece | waltbox

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