Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Song of a Vandal Warrior

Written by Gunner K

The People.
We are the Vandals. Our people came from the far North, in search of better land, and a friendlier climate. Our legends tell of a time when the weather was warmer in our homeland, and our people prospered and lived in peace. Then the climate changed, and there were years when we could not grow crops, and our people starved. We prayed to the Gods, but they did not hear us, and we became nomads to find grazing for our livestock. I was born on the trail, and have never known our homeland, but we are a people, and together we are strong and will prevail. We found places where we could live, but the Roman armies would not leave us alone. They could not stop us as long as we keep moving, and we defeat their armies in battle after battle; but they keep coming, and would eventually wear us down if we stayed.

I am big and strong, and have known battle since I was 12 seasons old. Now I have forgotten how many fights I have been in, and fighting has become a way of life. We have always fought the Celts. They were the first to get iron, and used their superior weapons to conquer the lands south of our homeland. The Celts are a treacherous people, and blocked our ancient trade routes to the Southern Sea. My forefathers tried to make peace with them, but they were betrayed, and our merchants killed and robbed. Now we hunt the Celts like rats through their own fields.

We became nomads, and learned to depend on our livestock and the crops we took from those in our way. Sometimes we stayed in one place for a time, but eventually the Celts and their Roman allies would move against us, and we would load our carts and travel further south. Our young men rode ahead of the people on their swift horses to scout the way. Behind them followed the Jarls and the older people with their carts, and the herds driven along by the youths. When we encountered resistance too strong for the young warriors we would avoid battle if we could. But when we had no choice the people painted their bodies for battle, and smashed through.

Our people were once farmers and merchants, and became warriors of necessity. Our traders traveled to the Southern Sea to trade furs and amber for knowledge and bronze. We had little need to fight, because our traders were respected and left alone, as long as they stayed on the established trade routes. When the Celts blocked our routes to the south we were deprived of the means to make weapons and tools, and our barter economy was destroyed. Some trade continued with the south, but it was dangerous, and not nearly sufficient for our needs. The traders were forced to become farmers, and we no longer had a wealthy upper class.

Eventually we discovered how to extract iron ore from the bogs, and made our own iron implements and weapons. But our lives were forever changed. Without regular trade with the south we became more isolated, and the weather changes made life more difficult so there was little leisure for play and for art. We also had to learn war, to protect our people from the bellicose Celts, and against hungry neighbors. Everyone became equal of necessity, because we had to cooperate to survive; and we learned to elect the most capable and aggressive people as our leaders, to assure the continuation of the Vandals as a people.

Central Europe.
There were more of us when my people left our homeland, but our leaders disagreed about the route to travel. Most of the people elected to take an easterly route around the Roman armies, but my group chose to continued south along our ancient trade routes to the Southern Ocean. This was the route the Cimbri had come before us, and some of our people knew the way. The Celts fought us, and raided our herds when they could, but mostly they fled before our young warriors. Theirs was a good land, and we would have settled there if their Roman allies had left us alone. The Roman armies are slow and cumbersome, and no threat to us as long as we are mobile, but there is always another army to replace the ones we destroy.

We are not afraid of the Romans, but it is costly to fight their armies. The Romans fight in formation, like mobile fortifications, and the only way to destroy them is to break through their lines and scatter their soldiers. We hit them like thunderbolts, and leap among them over the bodies of those who lead our wedge formations. And then we kill them. Our young men fight for glory and status, and would hunt the Roman armies if the choice was theirs, but the Jarls avoid the Romans when they can. The young are brave, but they want to live and therefore do not have the weight to break through the Roman lines. To succeed the fighting wedge is lead by the Jarls, who have dedicated their lives to the people and to the Gods, and know how to die when it is their time. Our people can not survive if we loose to many of them.

The Roman armies became more persistent as we neared their homeland, and their armies were stronger, so we generally moved towards the Southwest to avoid them. Eventually we had to chose between moving into Iberia between the Southern Ocean and the mountains that separate that land from that of the Celts, or turning West along the mountains. We choose Iberia, and utterly destroyed the Roman army that tried to stop us.

There were many Roman fortifications along the Iberian coast, and we destroyed them as we moved south. The Iberians had no love for the Romans, and eventually some of their leaders approached us about forming a confederation against them. Some of our Jarls were against such an alliance, but we had lost to many of our young warriors on the Roman fortifications to turn them away. It proved a good decision. The Iberians are a small people, but they are fierce fighters when they can anchor their forces on our fighting wedge, and eventually we cleared the Romans and their allies from the land.

The battles are over, and my men and I came to take possession of the lands we had chosen as our part of the spoils. I walked at the head of my fighting unit through the olive groves, towards the fortress on the hill. The fortress was built of stone, and from a distance looked like a pile of rocks. We were laughing and joking until we discovered the gate was closed, and armed men manned the walls. I yelled for the gate to be opened to its new owner, and demanded to know why they were closed. A tiny dark woman appeared above the gate and glared at me. She ordered me off her property. I bellowed in rage for the interpreter and ordered him to tell her that I now owned the land and all on it, and that I would rip the gate from its hinges if it were not opened immediately. And she laughed. Meanwhile some of my men had moved around the walls, where they were undefended because everyone was watching the exchange by the gate, and climbed into the yard. The woman screeched with rage when my men cuffed her retainers out of the way and opened the gates so I could enter the keep in a manner befitting a Jarl of the Vandals.

I ordered a feast to be prepared while I examined the fortress. It was like many we had destroyed, and would need much work to be secure from the likes of us.

It was a miserable feast, and there was hardly enough food to blunt our hunger, and the wine they served was tasteless compared to mjød. During the meal I had the small dark one brought to me, and had the interpreter ask her who she was. She said we had killed her husband in one of the battles, and that she was the mistress of the fortress; and she told me no smelly, disgusting barbarian would take it from her. I scoped he up, and laughingly told her we were about to make her title official, and carried her to the rooms I had chosen for myself at the top of the keep. That night she knifed me after I had fallen asleep.

Now it is many years later, and I carry other scars from the dark woman's knives. After her first attack my men tried to drive her from my rooms, but she claimed them as her own, and fought them off. Later, when I chose a woman from my own people she drove her from the fortress. I still don't know her well, but we are both proud of our children, and she is always at my side.

Our people have changed as we become accustomed to our new home, now called Vandalucia. Some have become traders again, and our ships ply the Southern Sea. We even trade with the Romans, who seem content to leave us alone as long as we stay in our new country. They have others to trouble them, as more tribes follow our trail south from the northern lands.

Gunner K

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