Appears in Tales of the Last War, ISBN-13: 978-0-7869-3986-2
Released: April 2006

This story takes a noble warrior and puts him, bound as he is by his oaths to serve his king, into a guerrilla war where he skulks in the shadows and kills peasants. On the opposite side of the field is a young martial artist who must find a way to get the armed and armored insurgents out of their heavily fortified cave.

Author’s Notes and Spoilers Below!

Recurring Characters

• Teron appears in The Orb of Xoriat.
• Cimozjen appears in Bound by Iron. Please read this story before you read the novel.

Life Application Lesson

I live in Charlotte, North Carolina. In case you didn’t know, it gets pretty darned hot down here in the summer. The light and heat, combined with afternoon thundershowers, makes the grass grow like crazy during those months when thick-blooded Scandihoovians like me least want to spend a weekend mowing.

Charlotte has a lawn waste recycling system, and residents are required to place their lawn waste in clear 39-gallon plastic bags. After experimenting with several different and unsuccessful approaches to transferring the grass from the lawnmower bag into the plastic bag, I came upon the easiest solution: buy a 40-gallon trash can, place the plastic bag into the trash can as a liner, and then dump the grass clippings in. See figure 1.
It works great. I can dump about three loads of grass into each bag, which beats the amount I could put in by any other method by a factor of, oh, about three. There turns out to be one problem with this approach, however: the bag, once filled, is hard to extricate from the garbage can. As the bag fills with clippings, the air between the bag and the garbage can gets squeezed out. Grass being heavier than air and all. See figure 2.
As there are no vents at the bottom of the garbage can, this means that sizeable suction can be created when the filled bag is pulled from the can. It’s even worse when the can is damp, as it typically is after one of our common afternoon thundershowers. The best way to pull the bag out (and I use that term rather sarcastically) was to pull the bag up while gripping the garbage can with my knees and overpowering the suction with patience (some air would slip in around the sides of the bag) and raw strength. Not the happiest of tasks when I already had a heat headache. See figure 3.
Then one day I was thinking about “The Weight of Water” while hassling with the grass clippings. It hit me that Teron would deal with the situation by using the heavy bulk of the grass-filled garbage bag to defeat itself. How could I do that? Suddenly it was obvious. I turned the garbage can on its side. The weight of the grass caused the plastic bag to settle, breaking the seal. Then it became very easy to pull the bag out of the can. See figure 4.

The Inspiration

The basic concept for “The Weight of Water” came from a World War II story I read as a tweener. The story, titled “Give It to ’Em Gently,” involved a soldier in the South Pacific, and as far as I know, it is a true story. I’ve certainly heard stranger ones from eyewitnesses.

The story centered on a soldier involved in clearing out a fortified cave sited on a rocky hillside and filled with tenacious Japanese soldiers (in fact, I believe the phrase “tenacious Japanese soldiers” is rather redundant). As I recall, the protagonist was an infantryman and not an artillerist, though both were involved in the fight. The basic problem was that the Japanese position proved too fortified to assault, and too awkwardly positioned to bombard. The artillery did manage to destroy the first barricade inside the cave (enduring sniper fire as they positioned the cumbersome pieces for direct fire), but the Japanese had already built a fallback position within the cave that was even more impregnable than the first. The Japanese hooted and jeered at the ineffectiveness of the American attacks.

The protagonist participated in all of this. At one point, he sat down for a rest. He had to take his tennis ball out of his cargo pocket to sit comfortably. He had been carrying the tennis ball since he entered the service; this idiosyncrasy of his reminded him of home and of his dream to be a tennis player when he got out of the army.

As a tennis player, this particular soldier was a fan of the overhand smash, and he tried to win his games by pounding his opponent into submission, sending hard smash after hard smash at the back line. In response, his tennis pro instructor would counter with a little dink lob that landed just over the net, and win game after game. Rolling the ball in his fingers, the soldier remembered the words of the tennis pro who’d given him lessons: “Give it to ’em gently.” The lesson was that alternating between hard and soft blows was a much more effective strategy.

The soldier looked up at the cave, and realized that everything the army had been doing had been hard: bombardment, frontal assaults, flamethrowers, etc. So he suggested that they open a 55-gallon drum of fuel oil directly over the mouth of the cave and let the oil slowly dribble in.

Some five or ten minutes later, the Japanese surrendered. I would have too, had I been in their boots. No sense in getting cooked alive, no matter who your emperor is.

This story struck a chord with me, and it has seen retelling both in this story and in “The Wind Blows Also Softly,” which I will try to get posted at some point. If I can find the original file.