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Hidden Blade (The Three Lands): Chronicles of the Great Peninsula
Hidden Blade (The Three Lands): Chronicles of the Great Peninsula
Hidden Blade (The Three Lands): Chronicles of the Great Peninsula
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Hidden Blade (The Three Lands): Chronicles of the Great Peninsula

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"If I wasn't careful, I'd end up like them."

His father is a dull farmer. His mother is a dull farmer's wife. He seems destined for a similarly dull life.

But then a stranger appears in their village, and suddenly the talk is of soldiers and spies and secrets and gods. Will he be able to break free of his father's legacy and make a bold dash to a life of his own?

This novella (short novel) can be read on its own or as part of The Three Lands, a mythic fantasy series on friendship, romance, and betrayal in times of war and peace. The series is inspired by conflicts between nations during the final years of the Roman Empire.

The Three Lands is part of Chronicles of the Great Peninsula, a cycle of mythic fantasy series about an epic battle between cultures, set at a time when a centuries-old civilization is in danger of being destroyed.

LanguageEnglish
Release dateOct 12, 2019
ISBN9781393080114
Hidden Blade (The Three Lands): Chronicles of the Great Peninsula
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Author

Dusk Peterson

Honored in the Rainbow Awards, Dusk Peterson writes historical speculative fiction: history-inspired mythic fantasy, alternate history, and retrofuture science fiction. Family affection, friendship, romantic friendship, and romance often occur in the stories. A resident of Maryland, Mx. Peterson lives with an apprentice and several thousand books. Visit duskpeterson.com for e-books and free fiction.

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    Hidden Blade (The Three Lands) - Dusk Peterson

    Chronicles of the Great Peninsula

    The Three Lands

    HIDDEN BLADE

    Dusk Peterson

    Love in Dark Settings Press

    Havre de Grace, Maryland

    Published in the United States of America. October 2021 edition. Publication history.

    E-book: Copyright (c) 2021. This e-book (except for the fiction contained in it) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License (creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0). You may freely share the e-book as a whole for noncommercial purposes. If you wish to share only the fiction within the e-book (by copying it to your own publication, such as a website or a book), see the license below.

    Fiction: Copyright (c) 2019, 2021 Dusk Peterson. This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The story is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License (creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0). You may freely share the story, provided that you include this paragraph. If you make changes to the story, please say what changes you have made. You are welcome to transform this story, including creating fanworks; please credit Dusk Peterson (duskpeterson.com and archiveofourown.org/users/duskpeterson) for the original story.

    Contents

    Map.

    Hidden Blade. His father is a dull farmer. His mother is a dull farmer’s wife. He seems destined for a similarly dull life. ¶ But then a stranger appears in their village, and suddenly the talk is of soldiers and spies and secrets and gods. Will he be able to break free of his father’s legacy and make a bold dash to a life of his own

    Chronicles of the Great Peninsula. An introduction to the mythic fantasy series cycle, along with online resources and excerpts from the series in the cycle: The Three Lands and The Thousand Nations (upcoming).

    Turn-of-the-Century Toughs. An introduction to the alternate history series cycle, along with online resources and excerpts from all the series in the cycle: The Eternal Dungeon, Dungeon Guards, Life Prison, Michael’s House, Waterman, and Dark Light.

    Author information, credits, and final comment.

    Dedication

    My father working in the 1980s

    To my father

    WILLIAM S. PETERSON

    who reared me with great patience

    and somehow survived the experience

    Map

    A larger version of this map is available at:

    duskpeterson.com/threelands/#resources

    Map of the Three Lands

    o—o—o

    o—o—o

    o—o—o

    HIDDEN BLADE

    CHAPTER ONE

    Even by my own standards, it had not been a good day.

    In the morning, my father had assigned me the hated chore of trimming the hawthorn hedges that served as a boundary marker for our village. I had never understood why I had to be assigned such a chore, simply because my father was unofficially head of the village. Besides, it was late winter, and I was cold.

    So at mid-morning, I sneaked back into our house – the village hall, it was called, as though it were the Chara’s palace, rather than a three-room hut where all three of us older children had to sleep in a single room. I found my father’s flintbox near the hearth, took it back to where I was working, and built a fire to keep myself warm.

    It was only a small fire. But Petrina – who was named after the Chara and sometimes acted like she was him – went tattling to our father about what I had done. The next thing I knew, I was standing in front of my father in our house as he explained to me, in that very patient voice I hated so much, that it really wasn’t a good idea to build fires next to winter fields that were dry-crisp.

    So then I went and hunted down Petrina. (Being cowardly like all girls are, she had tried to hide herself from me.) I yelled at her, and she burst into tears. And then Triffy – who was named after our mother and who sometimes made me wonder whether my mother was also a terror when she was young – went running off to our father as fast as her chubby little legs would take her. Which meant that I spent the end of the morning in our house, being lectured by my father about how it is the duty of men to protect girls and women and others who are in need of assistance. Since I wasn’t a man yet, I ignored what he was saying and spent the wasted time reciting Common Koretian verb forms in my head.

    After that, I was so angry that I skipped my noonday meal, left the horrid hedges behind, and went to my favorite place, which was the mountains.

    Our village was built at the foot of Pass Peak, the closest village to the north end of the mountain pass that leads to Koretia. There had been a village even closer to the pass before I was born, but that was sacked at the beginning of the Border Wars, which was why I had no cousins to play with. I’d sneaked off to visit there once – only once, because I’d found a human bone there amidst the tumbled timbers, and I couldn’t help wondering which of my kinfolk it had belonged to. After that, I only went to the mountains.

    The black border mountains. The very name made me shiver. So black were they that they could scarcely be seen against the star-speckled sky on a moonless night. They thrust their peaks up to the sky like the Jackal’s jagged teeth, serving as a border that divided Emor, where I lived, from Koretia and Daxis to the south. And in the pass, the only portion of the mountains where people could travel, was the Chara’s border mountain patrol.

    I listened to them all afternoon. I had enough sense not to come near them and risk being captured, but I liked to listen to their whistles as the patrol guards raced from mountain to mountain in pursuit of border-breachers. By now, after eight years of life, I had begun to decipher some of their whistle-codes. I was compiling a list in my mind so that someday, when I went to the lieutenant of the patrol and told him I wished to be a patrol guard, I could impress him by already knowing the codes.

    Eventually, the sun began to set. I became too cold to sit in the windy mountains any more, even though I wanted to wait until dusk, when the current lieutenant would lead the night patrol out on duty. Or I would have liked to have played Hunter and Hunted, which every Emorian boy knows how to play, though I had only undergone its excitement once, with some boys who were passing through the village. Since then I’d had no one to play with – except my father if I’d asked him perhaps, but he wouldn’t have understood why the game imitating the hunts of the patrol guards meant so much to me.

    With a reluctant sigh, I climbed down from the ridge where I was sitting. My father had taught me to climb, almost as soon as I could walk. It was the one thing he seemed to be good at, other than catching balls, growing crops, and being able to tell when a snowstorm was about to descend upon the Emorian borderland. Since I had begun refusing to play ball with him two years ago, that left him with a very limited number of skills.

    Nonetheless, I was grateful to him for teaching me to climb mountains; it meant I could visit the mountains anytime I wanted. Or so I thought, but old Nanny thought otherwise when she caught me scrambling down the steep cliff. She gave me an impromptu lecture on how I mustn’t ever go into the mountains without my father as an escort, or my bones would end up being picked by the crows. I tried to endure her lecture by reciting Common Koretian noun forms to myself, but at the end of the lecture, she said, You need to learn to be a fine man like your father.

    I kicked her ankle. That was easy to do; she always wore gowns that were too short.

    So then I ended up in the house again, this time with both my parents telling me what they thought of me.

    "I did not undergo two full days of labor in order to bring a hedonistic law-breaker into this world." That was my mother, of course.

    It really isn’t kind to hurt a servant, as I believe your mother has explained to you on several occasions. That was my father in his very patient, very gentle voice that always made me want to throw something at him.

    I muttered that she’d only talked about slaves.

    Slave-servants and free-servants share some of the same burdens, my father said. He was standing very straight, the closest he ever came to looking like a soldier. The farmers’ hat on his head spoiled the effect. The advantage that free-servants have over slaves is that they can change positions if they wish, but Nanny is far too loyal to our family to do that. And if she did leave us, how could we find a replacement? Nanny is willing to work for room and board and a little pin money; most free-servants would expect full pay, which we can’t afford.

    This roused me to say, That’s your fault! You could have picked any other job in the world, but you decided to be a poor farmer. You could have been a baron; you could even have been a patrol guard like the Snowbound Lieutenant. But instead you decided to grow barley!

    My father smiled, as he always did when I mentioned the Snowbound Lieutenant. Rye, he said in his very patient voice. Barley was last year.

    I hated his very patient voice. I hated how he smiled whenever I talked about the Snowbound Lieutenant, as though the greatest soldier who had ever lived was a joke, rather than the man whose memory I worshipped. I would have given all that I possessed to travel back in time and spend a single minute in the presence of the Snowbound Lieutenant, listening to his wisdom. But to my father – my farmer father, who cared about nothing except crops and weather – the border mountain patrol was nothing but a few whistles in the background as he labored over his fields.

    So I hit him. Right in the chest, where he deserved it.

    Griffith!

    It was my mother’s danger voice. She didn’t use it often. She’d used it when I nearly let Triffy crawl into the stream, and when I dangled

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