Sadly I can’t even claim a hangover for this enforced downtime. I didn’t earn the brain-fogging misery through any sort of fun. So, a brief word from our sponsor (me), then enjoy two Savage Journal entries.
Pick up a copy of Thick As Thieves, my sword-and-sorcery/crime mashup. Also available from Amazon, or, I imagine, anywhere you can buy books online.
Treachery is a constant peril for a barbarian wanderer, dear diary. Location does not affect this basic truism: so long as other people are present, the savage swordsmen faces the risk of treachery.
Of course, some situations present a greater likelihood of a knife in the back than others. Take an outlaw band of desert reavers, for example. It is an unavoidable fact, dear diary, that the men attracted to the life of a wasteland marauder tend to be generally unpleasant people. Vicious cutthroats, most of them. And vicious cutthroats are not, as a rule, the most trustworthy associates.
(To be fair, I am not particularly genteel myself. But I am a barbarian adventurer and cannot be categorized and judged as other men.)
So I was not greatly surprised when one of my bandits attempted a sudden and violent usurpation of my leadership. I was feasting with my lieutenants, celebrating another successful raid with the lusty abandon of a barbarian. Wine slopped from plundered silver goblets. Teeth tore into tender lamp and split sweet, succulent dates. Dancing girls swayed seductively to the beat of drum and tambour.
Abdel Hazan, my chief lieutenant, leaned towards me, requesting my attention with a beckoning finger and a jovial grin that promised some jest in the offing. I turned his way and bent my head to better hear his jape. I caught the glint of candlelight on steel as a concealed dagger dropped from his wide sleeve into his treacherous hand. He drove the blade towards my throat.
Perhaps he thought I’d be slowed by wine. Perhaps too much time had passed since he’d witnessed my panther-like reflexes. Perhaps he’d consumed too much wine himself. Perhaps all of these.
He lived. I do not think that condition will last a great deal longer, since I had him stripped of his belongings and driven into the deep desert. Well, not stripped of all of his belongings – I left him with his breach clout. I’m not completely heartless dear diary.
The wandering barbarian swordsman encounters all manner of people and cultures, and hence, dear diary, all manner of languages. Communication is always a concern. Luckily, I have a good ear and pick up new tongues rapidly. It also helps to be unusually large and heavily armed; people speak slowly and clearly to me, very anxious to not be misunderstood. This is quite beneficial to the neophyte speaker any given language. Also of some assistance is the usual cultural blending of adjoining geographic groups, the corresponding frequency of bilingual citizens, and the common (though by no means universal) similarity of neighboring tongues.
So, I get by.
This comes as a surprise to many people. They see me, blatantly foreign and barbaric, and assume that I do not comprehend their language. They either speak slowly and loudly (as I have already noted) or they speak freely concerning me, under the delusion that I won’t understand a word.
The latter can at times work to my advantage. Take today, for instance. I was doing a bit of scouting, spying out in person a town I considered ripe for a raid. While the name Magnus is known in these parts – getting downright notorious, in fact – my face is still mostly anonymous. I posed as just another itinerant northern mercenary and sat in the common room of the village’s sole inn, soaking up wine and information.
The village headman entered, along with a couple of his cronies. He gave his name Usman Something Something Something, long at any rate – and added a sting of self-aggrandizing titles like Sun and Rain of the People, Father of the Village, and a slew more absurdities. I did not feign lack of interest. No dissimulation was required, I simply wasn’t interested in this puffed up politico. He took my lack of response for lack of comprehension and proceeded to disparage me as a “muscle-headed militant mercenary moron” and other such abuse. He seemed as fond of alliteration as he did the sound of his own voice.
My initial instinct was, of course, to demonstrate my knowledge of his language in a physical and graphic fashion. But while I am, as a barbarian, impulsive, I am not stupid. I turned and stared at a wall until he lost interest in me and began discussing with his associates their share of the tariff from the caravan expected later in the week.
I sincerely hope we don’t kill him when we raid this village later in the week. I truly want him to realize his mistake. Look, dear diary, a barbarian may be above gloating, but he does savor.