The barbarian conceives of law in an entirely different fashion than the civilized man, dear diary. For the barbarian the model is nature. Nature’s law is that the strong rule; what is acceptable is what can be enforced; the right to possession is delimited solely by what can be both taken and defended.
Just try to tell the lion who has just chased lesser predators from their kill that the carcass is not lawfully his.
The civilized man – or so goes the general theory – imposes codes and institutes enforcement mechanisms for the good of society (the collective weak.) I have no objection to this in the abstract. Were I one of the weak, I’d want the comforting sword of the law protecting me and mine from the predations of the strong.
Of course, I am not one of the weak.
Upon nearing the walls of Bandahar some hours after sunset I espied the first guardians of civilized law: the gate sentries, their crossed spears and body armor glowing orange in the torchlight. There was no doubt as to their response if I’d approached them – a naked savage, with only a breech clout about his loins, demanding entry after dark. So, not feeling bound by Bandahar’s strictures on immigration, I skirted the city to a quarter far removed from a gate and scaled the wall, no challenge for a barbarian who’d been raiding birds’ nests high up sheer cliff faces since boyhood.
And, again, not constrained by civilized mores, I was no long a pauper. I soon supplemented my breech clout with a thin tunic of cheap weave, a sturdy dagger, and a small purse jingling with loose copper and a few tarnished silver coins.
You see, even in civilization there are some who adhere to the law of the jungle. But these men often forget that that law applies to them as well. A bravo returning to his lodgings after successfully relieving a drunk of his purse (jingling with loose copper and a few tarnished silver coins) and thinking himself a lion, abandoned skulking for strutting. Stepping fee from the concealing shadows I soon disabused him of his illusion that he was a lion. It is obvious who can claim that title in Bandahar now.
As I sit in a low tavern, a squalid den of thieves and whores, spending my new won pelf, I look forward with pleasure, dear diary, to the morrow.
A word, dear diary, concerning wine. In these lush southern climes – indeed in any country with an established viticulture – I drink it by the flagon, by the bottle, by the barrel or amphora.
Some might ask why a burly savage would partake of the grape, the beverage whose very name evokes simpering, bloated, fetid civilization. Why not beer, a man’s drink? Fret, not. I have answers to this question, dear diary.
The beer available in most cities is poor stuff indeed: weak, flavorless, useful only if the water is questionable. I have foundation to judge. The women of my tribe brewed fine ales: hearty, robust, potent enough to inspire both warrior and skald. (I’ll defer discussion of mead until a later entry, dear diary. Suffice it to note that I have not encountered it within any city gates.) So, I can eschew urban ale on grounds of taste alone. Rural inns can be another matter entirely, but that would undermine my thesis, so let the subject lie.
Given my disdain for civilization, is it not hypocritical of me to enjoy its advantages and pleasures? No, and I will give a couple of reasons. Firstly, while my disgust is both intellectual and visceral, I am no crusader or reformer. I recognize civilization’s inherent flaws and am content to let each fall under its own rotting weight without assistance from me. Secondly, I am a barbarian, that is to say a born hedonist. I live life to the fullest, sample experience voraciously. Moderation is a civilized concept, not barbaric. I am far from being a hypocrite. I instead epitomize the savage nature and am thus consistent.
And so, dear diary, I quaff pale amber liquid from an earthenware cup and dark ruby nectar from a dented tin chalice. And I do so in the knowledge that I remain true to myself, and I remain, until tomorrow, yours truly, dear diary.
The other entries in the series to date can be found here: