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divine right - the barbarian north and the youth of juulute wolfheart

divine right - the barbarian north and the youth of juulute wolfheart

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The Bar bar ian Nor th and
t h e Y o u t h o f Ju u l u t e
W olfhear t

Illiterate tribesmen, diverse in both language and tradition, the barbarians of the North remain a shadowy people in the eyes of civilized Minarians. Obviously they descend from survivors of the great Cataclysm, perhaps mixed with the primitives who had always dwelt on the fringes of the Lloroi Empire. Of the Cataclysm itself, various oral traditions are preserved. One of the clearest ref- erences derives from the legends of the Bakula tribe of the Barrens:

"In very ancient times, the four posts at the compass points were broken down, the twelve provinces of the habitable world were split apart, the skies did not completely cover the land, and the land did not completely support the sky. Fires flamed without being extinguished, waters inundated without being con- tained, fierce beasts ate the people, and birds of prey seized the old and weak in their claws."

But fabulous mythology makes for flawed historiography. Only occasionally do the written records of the civilized kingdoms provide useful information on the life and deeds of the early barbarians. Aside from laments for their rapine and the names of a few war-chiefs, scholars are left to draw their facts from modern geographers and traders who have sometimes dared the suspicion of the north- erners and made visits amongst them.

Unlike civilized men, nearly every barbarian under forty years of age is a fight- er -- a fact that allows a modest population to field as many warriors as can a much larger, settled country. The barbarian's favorite weapon is a spear with a short and narrow head, and this is so sharp and easy to handle that the same weapon serves for both close and distant fighting.

Each man goes into battle carrying several spears to shower upon the enemy, the lightly-clad spearman well-practiced in hurling it far. The barbarian's shield is carefully decorated in bright colors and symbolically represents the heart of its bearer. To throw away one's shield is the supreme disgrace, the losing of heart; the cowardly wretch is by custom disbarred from sacrifice and council until he redeems himself. Men have often lost their shields and survived battle only to end their shame by hanging themselves.

As for individual prowess no other race of man exceeds that of the battle-born Northern barbarian. Even so, he is not a strategically-successful warrior in any broad sense of the term. This state of affairs issues from the endemic disunity of the tribes, their insularity, and their lack of discipline. Sagaradu Black Hammer's war against the Goblins showed the berserker boldness of the tribes - men, as well as the large numbers of warriors that the North-dwellers can muster when they unite, but such unity is the exception, not the rule.

Though willing to hire on with Minarian monarchs as auxiliary soldiers, the northern tribesmen are often difficult to recruit in meaningful numbers, have no system of replacement, and as often as not find themselves fighting against other tribesmen serving other monarchs. Their weapons are out of date and their sorrowful state of discipline makes civilized battles of maneuver unsuitable for them. Worse, they fight for plunder and will unilaterally terminate their con-

tracts when enough plunder falls into their hands. When barbarians plunder a town, for instance, they customarily take all the loot they can carry and make directly for their homes, forgetting all about the war they are leaving behind.

Yet in those uncommon cases when a barbarian of talent and intelligence has the opportunity to learn the warrior art of the South, be becomes formidable indeed, as the life of Juulute Wolfheart demonstrates.

In peace, the barbarian's wealth derives from his herds of reindeer, snow oxen, and forest ponies. Men who lust after wealth often go on livestock raids -- a cus - tom shared by their Goblin enemies, and one that provokes frequent wars and feuds in the North no less than it does in Zorn.

The more remote tribes still erect wattle and daub structures with high-pitched thatched roofs. But nowadays those with access to bronze or iron tools and nails prefer solidly-built log houses. Some of the most important villages are surrounded by formidable stockades.

Socially, many of the northern tribes are matrilineal or matriarchal, with a height- ened social position for women. Women, in fact, dominate the ritual life in many regions.

They are proverbial for their mysticism. The barbarians tend to value emotion for its own sake and seek ecstatic states in which the individual feels himself to be possessed by, and in some cases united with, the deity. The tribes are pro- foundly impressed by those crises of human existence which arouse the emo- tions the most (conception, birth and death) and build their religion and myths around them. The Earth Mother's rites are conducted by priestesses who, when possessed, give oracles as a regular part of the ritual. Furthermore, the wor- ship of the powers of night and darkness is common, for these embody man's fear of death and the unknown.

Many are the heroes remembered in the old songs -- the barbarians' sole means of recording history -- but the most renowned living hero is Juulute Wolfheart, grandson of Vimar Stoneslinger. The tales told of his birth and growth fit a traditional pattern of barbarian hero-myths, and so civilized men may dismiss this epic biography as a string of reworked tall tales. However that may be, the following is what the barbarians tell us they know about their proud- est son:

A full two generations ago, the reindeer priests observed a sign in the stars: the planet of Rule transiting the province of War. They appealed to the chiefs of all the tribes to cease from enmity and gather at the Sacred Stones -- those mega- lithic monuments raised long ago by barbarous hands. They took the omens and acclaimed Sagaradu Black Hammer as Great Chief of all the Northland.

Ceremonial courage mask, typical with many tribes but varied in design and use

Sagaradu led his hordes against Goblin Land -- a long, sanguinary conflict that ended in his death and the repulse of his people. The Goblin way of life was profoundly changed by the near-defeat and out of the ruins arose the Goblin state of Zorn.

Sagaradu's son, Gomaku, already a grown man with children, succeeded to his father's original, local chieftainship. As one of the Great Chief's blood, he remained highly-honored, as was his successor and son, Vimar.

Vimar's wise rule gave prosperity to the Markarakati tribe, but privately the chief was troubled that his beloved wife, Tamalika, had borne no offspring that lived longer than a few days. Friends urged him to set her aside, or at least take addi - tional women to wife, but Vimar refused to dishonor the woman he treasured.

One day, while hunting alone, Vimar was lured into a strange section of the for- est by an eerie warble. He followed it until the woods cleared at the edge of a crystal spring. Then the sound resolved into a sweet, lilting song and Vimar spied the singer bathing in the water. It was a nude girl of unsurpassed beau- ty; Vimar stood in place stunned at the sight of her.

Suddenly, strong hands seized him from behind and eunuch slaves disarmed him before he could react. The girl seized a robe and approached him angrily. Raging at the captive, she demanded that he undo the insult he had inflicted by marrying her -- or accept death in payment. Vimar explained that he had meant no harm, that he had come to the place by chance and would have averted his eyes except that the lady's beauty had shocked him witless. He would die if he must, he said, but already had a fine wife and could not take another in good conscience.

"I am gratified by your brave answer," said the maid, whose robes now became as radiant as her own person. The slaves vanished and Vimar stood alone with her. "I am Lohaja, queen of the guardian spirits of the Markarakati. You are an honorable man and have met the test I laid out for you. Name your heart's desire and it shall be yours."

Vimar replied that, more than all else, he desired that the child Tamalika now carried would live long years and become a warrior whose fame would outlive his own. Lohaja smiled kindly and said: "You shall have more than you ask."

Tamalika had a daughter, born strong and healthy. Vimar now realized that he had forgotten to specify the sex of his offspring, but he was happy enough to have a daughter, for women were well-esteemed among his people. He named her Karnada and, as she grew and thrived she achieved a strange fame: She scorned the domestic arts, followed the hunt, and practiced with the spear. She

excelled over all other maids in grace and beauty, but throughout her childhood and adolescence, she proved strong and swift enough to defeat all the males her own age. Her father Vimar marveled; his child was the most promising of warriors, even as he had requested of the guardian spirit.

But as Karnada reached her eighteenth year, Vimar asked her to accept an alliance with one of her many suitors. It was unheard of for a woman to spurn husband and family, but at first Karnada refused to wed. Finally, in the face of Vimar's cajoling and her dutiful love for her father, Karnada agreed to marry the first man who bested her in the warrior's test.

Her challenge brought many eager suitors, but whether in trial of the bow, the foot race or the wrestle, Karnada defeated them all and remained unmarried. Her victories, which had formerly given Vimar pride, now saddened him. Karnada, troubled by his mood, one day said: "I cannot call husband one whom I cannot respect. Yet, for your sake I will happily wed, if Lohaja should send a good and great man."

Then came to the village of Vimar one named Isvaru, a tall, ruddy man mighty of limb. He made challenge to Karnada and claimed to be a Markarakati, though none knew either his features or name. Karnada was impressed by the physical beauty of the stranger as well as his bold and brash manner. Therefore she agreed to wrestle him -- if only that he might not so soon depart.

After hospitality, man and maid fought -- but so handsome was Isvaru, so excit- ing the touch of his hands on her body, and so musical his voice, that Karnada did combat distractedly. Five times Isvaru threw her down and five times she rose, but upon the sixth she remained exhausted on the ground, saying: "I yield me; I can fight no more!"

The Markarakati, at first stunned at their heroine's defeat, suddenly burst into the joyous song of the nuptials. The union was soon sanctioned by the shamans and Isvaru carried his bride to the wedding house.

But Karnada woke up alone. None had seen Isvaru go, though some said a great wolf had been spotted fleeing the precincts of the village only an hour before sunrise. Karnada was inconsolable at the loss of her lover and remained in seclusion for a time.

Then treachery struck. Mahalay, one of Karnada's defeated suitors, attacked in the night, murdered Vimar and his wife and also the faithful friends who rallied in their support. Mahalay intended to force Karnada to marry him to give cre- dence to the chieftainship he had seized by violence.

A young slave girl carried the grave news to Karnada in her retreat in the woods. The girl admitted an amazing secret: "I am no mortal," she said, "but Lohaja, your peoples' guardian, who loves you much. I tell you now, it was never fated that you dwell with Isvaru. He is not as other men, but is a prince of spirits, the Lord of the Wolves. You even now carry his son in your body -- a son that Mahalay will slay in jealous fear while he is tiny and helpless if you do not heed my advice."

"I will slay this Mahalay myself!" Karnada cried.

Lohaja sadly shook her head. "It is not meant to be. The strength and skill given you was not intended to be yours forever. They were only placed in your safe-keeping until you conceived and passed them on to the one who was ever intended to have them. For now and for the rest of your life you shall be but an ordinary woman."

Karnada, grief-stricken, put aside her protests and agreed to do as she was told. Lohaja touched her and their forms were exchanged, Karnada was magically disguised as a bondmaid and Lohaja took on the appearance of the chieftain's daughter. When warriors came for Karnada, they took Lohaja instead. So, unknowingly, Mahalay wedded a spirit bride, who became pregnant almost at once. Mahalay was pleased at this, for a descendant of Vimar's line would strengthen his own family's honor. But his bride miraculously came to full term in only three months the son she bore was deformed and ugly beyond belief. Mahalay considered killing it in shame, but thought the twisted thing would soon die of its own accord. Afterwards, Lohaja did not long remain in Mahalay's house, but vanished at night when others slept.

A portion of a hide painting depicting warriors in battle array

But the spirit had left behind her strange child. Suddenly, in a moment, even as its nurses watched, it grew darker and larger, sprouting wings and huge teeth. Before the men could be summoned to slay it, the creature burst its crib apart and slew all that approached it. To the astonishment of the villagers, the unnat- ural beast wreaked great destruction all around and then flapped into the wilder- ness.

Meanwhile, the disguised Karnada dwelled as one of the village bondmaids. Her lot was not easy, but it at least taught her humility, a quality that her warrior fame had for so long denied her. She lamented that she could not avenge Vimar's death, but wisely concealed her identity, lest it endanger the son of Isvaru that she was soon to bear. None wondered that she was with child, for servant girls were commonly lent overnight to worthy guests and visitors of the tribe. When she delivered, the princess named the boy Juulute, which meant "Avenger. As he grew older, greatly admired for his strength, Karnada realized that Lohaja had spoken true.

Believed to be slave-born, Juulute was not formally instructed in arms, but still he bested all others in childish play and rowdy quarrels. Most lads his age respected him, but a few hated the slave girl's son for the ease in which he best- ed them and the way that the elders praised him for vanquishing the predators that attacked the herds despite his unworthy linage.

Juulute's special enemies were the insolent sons of Mahalay. One night they rushed upon him in a group and carried him south to where an Immerite trader was buying slaves. The merchant was pleased to acquire so fine a specimen and paid well.

Juulute's later purchasers found him too rebellious for domestic work, and so after several complaints, he was sold into service at the rock quarries near Lone Wirzor. Performing hard labor, his muscles hardened like iron and his strength noted by his masters. But Juulute did not long languish in so base a bondage. He exhorted the other laborers to bid for freedom, managed a successful riot, and led his followers into the depths of Wild Wood.

For the next few years, Juulute moved from one mercenary band to another, achieving a mastery of arms and experiencing a thousand daring adventures. By the time he was twenty, he had risen to command a mercenary band, the Purple Halberds, and these he to such signal success that his company was eagerly hired by civilized kings near and far.

Warring on the borders of Pon, Juulute entered into a disastrous liaison with the Muetaran lady Yrini, ostensibly a virgin but actually of a wanton heart. When spies discovered them together in the lady's bower, the wench -- to save her false honor -- made lying accusations against the mercenary captain. Yrini's vengeful father seized him, had him flogged, and finally nailed him to an oak tree, intending him to be food for the wild beasts and the birds of prey. Of this ordeal, the skalds sing:

I know that I hung on the windswept tree
For five full nights, wounded with the spike
And given to the beasts--given to the beasts
On that tree of which none know from what roots it rises
They did not comfort me with bread and not with the drinking horn

Thirsting, I peered downward and glimpsed the wolves
Thirsting, I glimpsed them and read their soul.....

As Juulute beheld the wolves, he observed that one of them approached stand- ing erect. When close, it cast off his hide like a cloak and revealed itself to be a young man, ruddy of face and strong of build. "I am your father, Isvaru," he said, "and I am right pleased with you!"

Isvaru took his son's chains into his mighty hands and broke them asunder. Then the Lord of the Wolves healed Juulute's wounds and told him the true story of his birth and his mother's identity. Finally, he gave the young mercenary a vial. "Contained herein is the blood of a wolf s heart," he said. "Pour it into your wounds when you fight your most desperate battle." With that, the Lord of the Wolves loped off into the woods, again wearing his beastly form.

The revelation of his proud ancestry inspired Juulute to make with all speed for the Wild Reaches and the territory of the Markarakati. He found the land of his boyhood in devastation, its people reduced to poverty. The wretched people whom Juulute met all told the same story. Lohaja's monstrous child had returned from the northern glaciers and fallen upon the herds and villages of the barbarians.

Upon nearing his home village, Juulute learned that all of Mahalay's wicked sons had perished in quest of the monster. The aged Mahalay, despairing for the ruin of his domain and his family, was offering his inheritance and daughter to any man who could slay the supernatural marauder.

Though his heart welled with hate for the usurper, Juulute concealed his identi - ty and spoke assuring words to the villain, promising to vanquish the creature. But a childhood rival of Juulute whispered into Mahalay's ear, informing him that here stood the bondsman Juulute, a contemptible man not to be taken serious - ly. Mahalay thundered: "Shall a slave boast he may do what my hero sons could not?!"

A council member stood up, one whom Juulute recognized as Durvas -- a good and wise man who had been lamed since childhood. He said: "I remember this youth Juulute. Since he fled this village long ago, I have freed his good and dutiful mother, though she came to us only an enemy captive, and have since

taken her to wife, as you all know. As a child's status derives from his mother's, Juulute is a freeman now -- well fitted to stand beside the worthiest of the Markarakati." With the speaking of these generous words not even rash Mahalay could gainsay Juulute.

The young warrior then followed the beast's trail of ruin for many miles and encountered it beside a lake. Man and monster struggled mightily and Juulute took many grievous wounds. When his strength was nearly gone, he broke away from the abomination's clutches and smeared the magical blood of the wolf s heart into his veins. He was instantly possessed of the power of a hun- dred men, and so launched himself at the creature without fear, seized its neck in his arms, and snapped it with one titanic wrench. Then, wearily, he dragged himself home to the village of Mahalay.

Too jealous of Juulute's success to appreciate it, Mahalay ridiculed the young man's claim and said he would send men to look for the monster's carcass to prove him a liar. Secretly he hoped to assassinate the hero before they returned. Juulute saw through the man's base trick and deemed it the right time

Carved bone hair ornament showing one of many barbarian deities

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