Thursday, 15 November 2012

Battle

Chapter XXI, section 2, of The Dog And The Wolf (London, 1989) by Poul and Karen Anderson presents an excellent description of a battle to repel barbarian invaders. Although I have read the entire King of Ys tetralogy two or three times, I have no memory of this battle and might as well be reading it for the first time. I will remember it better after blogging.

The former centurion, Gratillonius, leads a makeshift army of local "brotherhoods" whose standards include tree, fish, horse, Cross, evergreens and auroch horns. His own banner, black on gold with a red border, shows the Roman She-Wolf that fed the Founder of the City. His brother-in-law, Salomon, training for leadership, has a gold cross on a blue shield, a precursor of medieval chivalry.

Gratillonius addresses his men, a mixed bunch:

" 'In Christ's name, by Lug and Epona and Cernunnos and Hercules, we go!' " (p. 418)

"Hercules" had been a favourite oath of Gratillonius when he was a Mithraist.

He instructs Salomon as the enemy advance. They observe that the Germani lope forward with spaced standards, forming their customary wedge but lacking finer coordination. Their petty king has combined shrewdness and boldness with leadership skills to bring them this far.

Some horses, not trained for combat, bolt but Gratillonius' pedigree animal Favonius fights with hoofs and teeth and must be kept away from friends. The minimal military organisation that the former centurion has been able to impose holds. The enemy are slaughtered or flee.

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