A Thanksgiving Repeat. Plus Savage Journal Entry 19.

The web log has been traveling. MBW, the HA, and I just returned to my fastness in the outskirts of Houston from spending Thanksgiving with my sister in Nebraska. Accordingly the web log will be broadcasting a repeat instead of new programing. Also, the next entry in Magnus Stoneslayer’s diary.

But first, the obligatory self-promotion. A spin of the marketing wheel, and…buy Under Strange Suns. It’s an out of this world blast of adventure. People seem to like it.

An Aquilonian Thanksgiving

“By Mitra, this bird is as plump as a Zingaran concubine,” quoth Conan.

Conan slid his broadsword free of its shagreen wrapped hilt and skewered the turkey. He raised his sword one-handed, hoisting the bird from its silver platter without a tremor of strain displayed on the corded forearm projecting from the sleeve of his royal robe, despite the additional twenty pounds weighing down the three foot length of steel.

“Now, who shall carve this beast?” the king asked. “Certainly not thou, Valeria,” he said, addressing the she-pirate seated to his left. “Carving is man’s work.”

Valeria bristled. She rose, plucking a dirk from the top of her cuffed boot. “No man tells Valeria what work is fit for a woman, Conan. Be he king or no.”

Pallantides cleared his throat from Conan’s right. “That may well be, Lady Valeria. Yet perhaps a boot knife is not the ideal tool for the task. And perhaps not the most cleanly.”

“Do you question my hygiene, man?” asked Valeria.

“Thou’rt as clean as a Cimmerian autumn morn,” Conan interjected.

The she-pirate scowled, plainly turning the comment over in her mind to ascertain its meaning, whether compliment or insult.

“What we need,” Conan continued, “is carving music. Rinaldo, have you a suitable lay?”

“Yes,” asked Valeria, her expression shifting from a scowl to a raised eyebrow and quirked smile as she fixed her gaze upon Rinaldo, “have you a…fitting lay?”

The minstrel rose, immaculate in tight-fitting hose and plumed cap. He bowed to Conan and doffed his cap to Valeria. “Perhaps something saucy would befit such…an exquisite bird?”

Rinaldo produced a plectrum and began to strum upon his lute, drawing the full attention of Valeria.

Conan set the turkey back down upon its silver platter, enjoying the music and the company of a few close companions within the drafty expanse of his grand feasting hall. He considered for a moment, then sent the servants around to refill his guests goblets to the brimming point. He unsheathed the wicked length of his Zhaibar knife, its edge ground to a razor’s sharpness, and pressed its point against the body of the bird, watching the juices gather and drip.

“So, then, my king,” asked Pallantides, when Rinaldo had strummed his last chord, and all had drunk deeply to honor the music, “who shall carve? You?”

“It occurs to me,” quoth Conan, “that a man known for carving a Pict can certainly be said to have picked up carving.”

The clatter of silver goblets about the high seat of the king accompanied Conan’s roar of mirth.





        “Which do I prefer, dear diary, to cleave a skull in twain or to hew a head from the neck.” Ridiculous question, isn’t it? After all, why can’t I enjoy both equally? Why do people insist on designating favorites? On establishing rankings where no objective criteria for preference exists? Some legitimate judgments can be made. I, for example am stronger, tougher, faster, and deadlier than other men. This can be (and frequently has been) empirically proven. An avowed preference of me over another man is thus quite justifiable. But declaring, say, undying loyalty to one color over all the other hues of the rainbow is absurd.

Cities seem to grant people more time to ponder such ephemera and to settle upon favorites: favorite chariot racing team, favorite poet declaiming frivolous verses in the palace square, favorite sedan chair porters, and so forth.

Today, dear diary, I strolled along the Street of Temples, gawking, without appearing to do so of course; slaying the disrespectful becomes tiresome, and in a large population center such as Bandahar leads to complications I’d rather avoid. I stopped to listen to a priest declaiming to the pious (or curious) gathered at the foot of the temple stairs. I gathered that this particular edifice was dedicated to the goddess Inana. I gathered much more as well about Inana and her preferences and peccadilloes, none of which made a great deal of sense to me, but I suppose the ways of the gods are of necessity beyond the ken of mere men.

Across the way a similar crowd grew about an acolyte of Marduk as he described the glories promised the god’s faithful. Now, exactly how it occurred, I don’t precisely recall. But standing as I was between the two proselytizers, I found myself the unwilling focus of both men’s attention as each attempted to persuade the ignorant barbarian (me, natch) that his deity provided the one true path to enlightenment and happiness.

I tolerated this for some time, more amused than anything. But even the patience of a savage can be tried. When at length the advocate of Marduk asked “In the moment of crisis, upon which would you rely: the false hope of Inana or the certainty of Marduk?” I’d had enough. I answered, “Neither. I’d rely on this.” And I drew my sword.

That seemed to nicely break up the false dichotomy, not to mention the congregations, the constituents of which appeared to suddenly recall other obligations. I decided to depart as well, dear diary, before the temple bully boys or the city watch made their presence felt.

One choice I will make: I remain faithfully yours, dear diary.

Magnus Stoneslayer

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