Sunday, 7 February 2021

Akkad at 65k - Bring on the Battle


Oooh, this took a while to get to.

So much free time with COVID, and I seem to waste most of it or spend it fussing over pernickety things that don't matter much. 

Part of it has been a lack of confidence.

I reached this part where the lead character had been building up to take revenge on someone who destroyed his life. Only, that someone was king of a city state. Military strategy has never been my strongest point, and how to bring down the city kind of stumped me. There are no historical records to help.

Sometimes, when I'm stuck for a way forward, I'll just walk around the room, recording anything that comes out of my head, and usually I end up talking my way out of a corner. But this was just a bit too technical. My brain froze whenever I thought about it, so I  stopped writing completely.

I mean, the period was complex. There were a whole load of city states, all run by different lugal and ensi, and all at war over trade routes and resources. Makes for fascinating history, but trying to pick that apart takes time. 

And, because it's a revenge scene, it needs to be good. It has to be thought through. You can't just leap in there all d'Artagnan and swish your sword about. Revenge is a dish best served calculated, and I've always been mathematically challenged. 

You're not just in charge of an army, you're in charge of everybody's armies. 


So, I got nowhere fast. I'd been spewing out words whilst writing a love story, and I'm usually well up for a bit of confrontation, but an entire war... I don't think I've ever written that before. Nope, fairly certain I haven't. The closest I've probably come was the Anglo-Ashanti war in Secure the Shadow, but that was easy to write because it was entirely taken from records of the time. I just added a bit of detail. I've alluded to wars in The Children of Lir and Rosy Hours, but always as a side story, never the main meal. So, overcooking that food analogy, I felt like I'd bitten off more than I could chew.

Because of my inability to figure it out, the manuscript hovered around 58k for an eternity. I was so disheartened, because it had been going so well until that point. But the problem was, I was trying to plot it. I'd sit there with a pen and paper and try to draw up a battle plan.

Completely forgot - I'm a total pantser. I never really plan things out. What I needed to do was start writing and trust that it would resolve itself. I just had to get over that horrible habit of avoidance.

So, yesterday I managed an acceptable 3,730 words. I've just now finished up that chapter that was causing me so much angst. I think it's worked out okay. Now I can get on with the rest of it. Hoping to hit around 65k this afternoon.

Feeling much better about things. The rest of the story is fairly clear from hereon in. Now that it's unavoidably going to be two novels, I'm no longer worried about the word count. Although, I'm slightly worried about this first book as it was never meant to be the main event. I think it's going well, but you never know until the end.

Anyway, to give you a taste of what I've been dealing with, here's a couple of rough-not-ready excerpts.

The rise of Akkad, the political edition:

“Oh, Apsu,” she said, placing her hand against his cheek. “A storm is rising in the south. A storm as we have never seen before. There is a man there called Lugalzagesi. His father, Ukush, was the military commander of Umma. When he died, his son took control of the city. He ruled as ensi for seven years, but now he has turned his attention to Lagash–”

“That is nothing to be afraid of,” Apsu interrupted, placing his hand over hers. “Umma and Lagash have been fighting over borders since before we were born. One has the land, the other the wealth. They will settle again soon enough.”

“No, they will not. Lugalzagesi has taken Lagash.”

Apsu stared into her eyes as the enormity of her words sank in. Umma was a large city on the plains to the south, and Lagash was an agricultural settlement by the banks of the Tigris. Lagash was an important trading post, a gateway to Susa, and, from there, safe passage through the Zagros Mountains to a hundred destinations beyond. All his life, Umma had been attempting to encroach on Lagash, to take over the fertile plain of Gu’edina and provide more food for their people. But Lagash had a strong army, and so they leased this land to Umma. Farmers would move onto the plain and grow crops, but then refuse to pay rent once those crops were harvested. Each time, Lagash reclaimed the land by force, pushing back the border until it returned to where it had once been. In retribution, and to pay for the men needed to retake the land, Lagash increased the price of goods to Umma and taxed them double to access the Susa pass. Umma would eventually refuse to pay these inflated rates and try to negotiate another deal to lease land. It was a continuous cycle. Most people living outside those two cities simply rolled their eyes and paid little attention. The thought that Umma had overpowered the superior might of Lagash, and lain claim to it, was disturbing.

“The rulers of Lagash should take their complaint to the Temple at Nippur,” Apsu said. “If the gods of these cities are warring, their father, Enlil, will resolve it. It is one thing for Ningirsu and Shara to squabble as siblings, but one cannot murder the other.”

“It is worse than that,” Masarru replied. “Now they are calling him lugal. They have given him the title of king. On his way to take Lagash, he took Uruk and Ur also. He commands the entirety of the south, from the Euphrates to the Tigris, and now they say he is looking north.”

“You cannot mean Kish?”

“He has installed ensi in each of the cities he has taken, to administer in his name. He has already written to Puzur-Suen, offering a deal. If Puzur-Suen agrees to rule in Lugalzagesi’s name, he says he may keep his throne. Puzur-Suen refused, but everyone knows he is in poor health. Ur-Zababa has replied without his father’s knowledge. He said that if Lugalzagesi will sheath his blade until his father’s peaceful passing, he will kiss Lugalzagesi’s feet and swear fealty to him.”

“Ur-Zababa will give up his right to rule as King of Kish, and become subordinate to this southern sarraqum? I doubt it.”

“He has no choice. This Lugalzagesi is like the great flood rolling in. He drowns everything in his path. There is no way to turn him back or to calm his tempest. If my husband does not agree to rule on Lugalzagesi’s terms, he will not rule at all. My husband is arrogant, he’s cruel, but he is not stupid.”



Sippar was the last true Sumerian city. Beyond it lay a wide plain of sun-bleached grass. Somewhere in that desolation stood the austere bastion of Akkad, a solemn sentinel, guarding the boundary of order and chaos. The remnants of a past glory, her people scattered throughout the world. Once you passed the northern gates of Akkad, lawlessness reigned. Two mighty kingdoms, Ebla and Mari, raged like brawling bulls. It was said to be a fight to the death.

Ebla had once been a great seat of learning, where scribes and scholars gathered as ants to an open pot of honey. Even Nur-ili, the oneiromancer of Kish, had once trained there. The kingdom crested the shores of the upper sea. Boats sailed from her harbour as large as whales. They left port for months on end and returned with fragrant oils, spices, fabrics and wine. Villages along the coast harvested pearls as fat as figs, placing them before the alters of strange gods, unheard of in any other land.

In order to get these goods to the affluent markets of Sumer, they had to sail them down the Euphrates. The problem was that Mari controlled the northern Euphrates. Having been chased out of Sumer by Queen Kubaba generations ago, the Mariotes struck north and secured the river all the way from the tar pits of Hit to the throne of bountiful Dagan at Tuttul. They controlled the trade route with a cut-throat army, hardened by centuries of war with Sumer and its city states. Without the cooperation of Mari, Ebla could not get her lucrative wears to market, and Mari would rather steal than barter. Many other kingdoms had been drawn into the argument over the years, including Nagar and Elam, providing soldiers and weapons in much the same way a fat man feeds kindling to the fire so that he can continue to eat. 


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