Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of
Cuana Chapter 1 Entry 1
Session date 4-29-2017
Cuana's Journal - chapter 1, entry 1
I had been in the service of the Aquilonian military for a few days, a mercenary in a force deployed to push into the Pictish wilderness and drive the savages back, clearing the way for settlers seeking to pioneer the lands this side of the Thunder River, Some, the more adventurous and foolhardy of them, had already begun building farms and ranches despite the threat of Pictish raiding parties slashing throats and torching homes. The settlers are hardy and determined folk, and there seems to be a constant supply of them eager to stake a claim in such a hostile land as the Pictish wilderness.
My companions were Cicero, a roguish city-dweller, and Uhthred, a dour and violent Nordheimer from Vanaheim. We were stationed at Velitrium, a fort located in Pictish territory a short way from the Thunder River, under command of Baron Trebellius. Morale in the fort had been low, the troops visibly more restless than when we arrived a couple days before.
Trebellius had just finished delivering an uninspired speech to me and two other new recruits about duty and pay, when a cry rang out from guards on the north wall. The sudden commotion drew everyone's attention, and I bounded up a ladder to get a look with the others. Two troops had emerged from the forest, one badly wounded was being carried by the other, both with multiple arrow shafts protruding from their bodies. They tried to reach the fort, but were cut off by a band of Picts that had emerged ahead of them, so they turned and ran back into the forest, the pursuing Picts howling guttural ululations as they gave chase. The troops in the fort began to scramble, eager to save their comrades, they had unbarred the gate to let them in. The commander cried out for the gates to be closed, but I immediately yelled "No!" as I bounded down from the wall. These troops needed action, and here were two of their comrades that were effectively being given a death sentence by their aloof commander. My outburst only won me blank stares, as I remembered that nearly nobody in the camp understood a word of Cimmerian.
Uhthred came to my aid, and translating my attempted words of inspiration into Aquilonian, won both the attention and approval of the soldiers. Trebellius was another matter, showing no sign of interest in risking any losses in an effort to save the two men fleeing back into the Pict-infested forest. It was Cicero that was finally able to convince the commander into allowing us to bring four troops with us on a rescue attempt for the two soldiers we had learned were named Hauk and Titus.
It was impossible to tell which tracks belonged to who, so Uhthred and I did the best we could to just follow the tracks left by the cluster of pursuing Picts. I could soon hear the hooting grunt of Pictish voices accompanied by the clash of steel from somewhere ahead, and began to head in that direction, the Vanir close behind. We continued on quickly but cautiously, trying not to make our presence known until we were close enough to strike.
Only a few minutes had passed before I heard the sound of stealthy movement coming a short way ahead and to my left, so I drew my blade and ran toward the sound. There were seven more of the savages moving to converge with the other group, and I charged straight for them.
The Picts were armed with hand axes and bows, but the first got to use neither as I brought my blade down across his shoulder and drove it straight down into his breast bone, killing him instantly, his scream cut off as a gurgling gout of blood filled his throat. Two of the savages drew back their bow strings to shoot, but the string snapped on the first, and the second striking me for only minimal damage. A third struck me with his axe, but again, the weapon had little effect. I brought my blade down in an arc across the midsection of a fourth, and he fell to the ground screaming, clutching desperately at his spilling intestines.
The fight didn't last very long, and I did receive numerous wounds, but by the time I had cut down two more, the Vanir's arrows had done for another two. Shearing the face off of the last, I followed Uhthred, who was already moving to aid the others, visible through the trees but a few yards away. Most of the soldiers were down, Hauk was badly battered, but Cicero was holding strong, and he and the Vanir did for the last of the Picts before I could raise my blade to help.
We needed to get back to the safety of the fort, so we wasted little time in discussion. We wanted to give the fallen soldiers the respect they deserved, but decided it would be best if we hid the bodies under the snow, or at least try to place them in trees where scavengers might not be able to get to them. I decided that it would help morale in the fort if we returned with a trophy of our victory, so I began hacking the heads off of the Picts that hadn't already been split too badly. I was caught unaware by one crafty savage who had been playing dead, and he lunged at me with everything he had, scoring a deep gash in my hide. Bellowing in fury, I sent him headless to whatever hell Picts go to when they die.
The gates swung open at our return to the fort, and as I stepped inside I flung down the bundle of Pict heads that I had bound together by the hair, and held up my bloody blade for the troops to see while bellowing a deep cry of satisfied blood lust.
Once settled back in the fort, Uhthred was good enough to perform a little battlefield mending on the worst of my wounds, his fingers deftly stitching the gash with the experience of a battle veteran. We seemed to have had some success in lifting morale in the fort, because conversation among the troops had turned in favor of proactively rooting out Picts and taking the fight to them. Much to our annoyance though, Trebellius immediately put down any such discussion, asserting his intention to stay put and hold the fort. Upon hearing that, Uhthred shocked everyone by bellowing "No!" in a sudden fit of frustrated rage and firing an arrow into the aloof commander, and closing in as if to finish him off.
Many loyal troops drew their blades, ready to defend their commander but hesitant to launch an all-out battle. Others stood tense, ready to strike, undecided as to which side to take. The Vanir strode up to the commander, and clutching an arrow in his hand, buried it deep into Trebellius' shoulder. In a desperate plea for peace, Cicero interjected himself between my violent friend and the loyal soldiers angry at the attack upon their commander. The city-bred rogue is good with words, but not this time. Luckily, he and I both were able to convince Hauk to speak on our behalf. His words worked, and I was relieved to see the troops reluctantly lower their weapons, though it was obvious that they were in no mood for any more violence directed against their leader, regardless of how worthless and uninspiring he may be. If they are forced to sit on their heels while the Picts continue slaughtering the settlers, they will probably see things our way eventually. Until that time, the settlers have no one.
I can see that language is a huge barrier for me among these soldiers, so I've asked Hauk to teach me the Aquilonian tongue.