Germania: The Folk of the Dark Forests

Recollections of our people by the warlord Terikel Grayhair

Reflections upon our Wonderful Homeland

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Welcome, traveller, to the Dark Forests and the folk that inhabit them. We are a proud and warlike people, to whom the wearing of metal clothing and use of the bow in warfare smacks of cowardice. We are not particularly bloodthirsty as the mothers of the Wearers of Bedsheeting would have us, though we are proud and have a code of honor that forbids us to ignore insults and attacks upon what is ours. Thou shalt find us a friendly, open, if but gruff and hard people who shall accept thee as our lord and struggle valiantly to bring thee the world to rule.

Our king has his court in Damme, a boisterous but happy collection of hovels upon the banks of the river Elbe. To the north is a village of anarchy-loving fools which is called Bordesholm, while to our south lies another village belonging to us that the Sandal-wearers call Mogontiacum or some such nonsense. We usually rename is to something better suiting our guttural tongue, something like Mainz. To the west of this village lies Trier, a wonderful burg upon the banks of the great river Mosel. Far to the east lies a village called Vicus Marcomanni, a piss-poor excuse for a collection of hovels but one that may prove vital at other times. North of them, hidden in the mists rising from the cold sea, lies another burg that does not pay homage to our folk, though it is populated by fellow tribesmen.

That is our realm, where we live. Most of the lands between our burgs are forested with tall oaks and lovely pines, and many rivers cross our domains making transport and travel long in distance as well as time. A good warlord will command the making of good dirt roads a priority as this enables our warriors to traverse our lands without the constant foraging and popping in to every farmhold along the way for sustenance and comfort. As we consider it a heinous affront to our gods to carve the good stone of their mountain homes for the making of tiles with which upon to trod, we do not ever condone the making of stone roads as do other peoples. So become accustomed to longer travel upon paths and roads of good, hard-packed earth.

Our lands are surrounded by fools and idiots who think themselves our betters. Foremost amongst these heathens are a people we call the Painted Ones, whose kinglet resides on the Rainy Isles in the Western Sea. They have taken from the garlicky Eaters of Snails a collection of hovels they call Samarobriva, and use that as a stepping stone to reach our lands and plague us by committing violence upon us. They are hearty warriors, though they drive wagons with blades upon their hubs into battle and use these horrid contraptions to slaughter good honest warriors who engage in manly melee with hand-held steel.

To their south lies the Eaters of Snails and Drinkers of Wine, foolish people who think themselves worthy of the epithet Men. They are numerous and thus must be considered a threat, but in battle they fall like wheat before the scythe. Their horseborne, honorable foes who fight with steel in hand, are worthy of respect, but die like poisoned flies upon our spearpoints. Some of these peons who think themselves men use the Noble Sword, while others the trusty spear. Yet others use the cowardly hunting bow in battle, forcing us to do the same in time or face extinction.

To our south lie Gallic lands, whilst upon the far side of their two burgs there lay the lands of the Sandal-wearing, bedsheet-clad dwellers in marble barns. These Romani are at first pitiful warriors whose only claim to the title of Men is won for them by the actions of their very few but very competent chieftains. Later, as their noble class breeds and dilutes, the coming of the Great Marry Us will change forever the sandaled warrior from one beneath our contempt to one of our equal whilst the quality of their warlords shall diminish as it always does.

To our East lie the lands of the Dacians, good warriors and often allies. These are men worthy of respect, though in time they too will change and become bereft of honor, and for that they shall be put to the sword and the burden of ruling their lands shall be claimed by our own.

Thus is the world as we see it.

Discourse upon the Warhost

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In order to live peacefully in our Dark Forests and enjoy the life the gods have decreed for us, we must face these unruly mobs in mortal combat and expand our ways throughout the world until such a time as the gods of war decree our quest Victorious. To this end, our burgs are able to call various warriors to our banners, to fight for our warlords and man our warhosts. Of these we shall speak next.

The spear band is the backbone of our war host. It is large, armed with the trusty spear, and when the warriors stand shoulder to shoulder in the vaunted phalanx, is impenetrable to horseborne and foot-borne alike. Calling forth a spearband shall lower the numbers of folk in the burg to which it is called, yet shall not cost our war chest much of the shiny yellow metal craved by "see-vile-ized" fools. When commanded to assume a standard formation and not the vaunted phalanx, the warriors of the spearband demonstrate an uncanny ability to hide amongst the shrubbery and thus conceal themselves from casual view of the foe. This makes ambushing foes upon the field of battle a wonderful possibility, though the spearmen should be commanded to resume the phalanx before the foe comes to spearpoints. Thus being less costly and of good fighting ability, the spearband is our staple warband.

The skirmisher warband is composed of cowards, weaklings, cripples, and others not suitable for carrying a real spear. Being weak, they are armed with much smaller spears, which they throw at the foe instead of piercing their guts in honorable melee. This may seem shameful, dear traveller to our lands, yet these men are invaluable in battle to reduce the pressure upon the spearmen. In the rules of honor, our foes have many such killers from afar among their ranks, thus honor bends to survival in this instance and allows our ranks to have these men amongst them. Besides, where better for a coward to learn valor than in the cauldron of battle? Thus they are allowed, and almost welcomed into our ranks. As time goes by, these men may be replaced by those chosen to use the hunting bow upon the field of battle, for the same reasons. Though cowardly archers, they are invaluable in battle and can perform much hard work for the common goal of Victory.

The Priestesses of the goddess Freyja also contribute to our war effort by calling forth groups of maidens who are specially trained to sing valorous hymns and chants in battle. These melodious harmonies encourage our warriors to battle better, for maybe the most valorous may be rewarded by a night with such a battle-hardened maiden. Better still, the wondrous songs they sing terrify our foes for some unknown reason, which is why they call our magnificently singing choir "screeching women." As time goes by and other warbands emerge from our burgs, these women may resume their place in our folk producing more warriors for our warhosts, putting tasty morsels of decent German meat on the table, and serving the men who admire them most.

These warbands are the ones thou will have upon assuming the reigns of the People of the Dark Forest. Later in thy supreme reign will come other warbands flocking to thy banners. Of these we shall now speak.

There is a warband of hardy fellows who fight mounted upon fleet horses, using the Noble Sword and bearing a shield for the warding off of flying toothpicks from hostile cowards. These men, though willing and fleet of foot and hoof, are horrible excuses for true warriors. They are well suited for racing around the flanks of hostile warhosts, and for the chasing of fleeing cowards, but for toe-to-toe battle they are horrendously unsuited, lest the melee be against other similar forces of appalling quality, like Equites.

These fellows are unworthy of the yellow metal they so require, though from the same halls that train them will come Noble Horseborne, who are indeed worthy of battle. And from the Sacred Circles of Woden, the priests there may call horseborne members of the Goths, who fight like demons and are easily worth twice the metal they ask. These men make excellent warriors for the smashing of formations of hoppylites and other rigidly-ranked warriors

Wardogs are handy to have if one has a thought to defending the burg, but otherwise we do not call them to our banners. They take a full year to train, and in the time it takes to produce one warband of these mutts, we could have called two spearbands, two horseborne, or one of each. However, the hounds do have a purpose. For when the foe places their encampments around a burg and settle in for a siege, we can slip loose the hounds of war and let them chew upon the foe, whilst the trainers of the hounds return to the safety of our burg. We then repeat as often as necessary. Often the foe will tire of this, or lose so many warriors to the hound's teeth that they break up their encampment and return from whence they came.

The Unclothed Lunatics that flock to the Sacred Groves of Almighty Woden are also matchless warriors, though in their lunacy they disdain even the use of decent leather and fur in preference to fighting thy foe with their manhood exposed for all to see how manly they are and create envy in the foreign women. These men are ferocious warriors who use the Noble Sword, and are indeed mighty in battle. Unclothed and unarmored as they are, the Lunatics are extremely vulnerable to cowardly archers who slaughter them as lambs in the autumn. These men thou must weigh very carefully against which foe thou does deploy them- for if thou does deploy them against the Dacians, expect them to massacre the Dacians. Deploy them against the Men of Eg, and expect them to be instantly cut to ribbons and feed the ravens with their own flesh.

The Priests of Donar, not wanting to be outdone by the priests of Woden, have called an entirely different class of raving madman to the standards of battle. These men, who we call variously "Freaks" or "Crazed Ones" were given a more honorable nomenclature by some foreign devil who learned a bit of our tongue and decided the honorable act of self-sacrifice-in-battle called 'berserkr' applies to these eaters of mushrooms and thus they know them as Berserkers. These men go into battle nude except for a bearskin cape, carry a pickaxe as if it were a club, and mutter unintelligible gibberish constantly. Verily, our warriors laugh at their comical appearance and mutterings. Yet they fight and fight well, until the Red Rage of Battle comes upon them and then they no longer heed thy commands. And they are suicidally vulnerable to flying toothpicks of any variety, be it hand-held spearlets, javelins, or arrows.

Yet these warriors, laughable as they are, strike great fear into the very hearts of our foes, turning the blood in their veins to ice water. And when the Red Rage descends upon them and causes them to ignore thy Noble Commands, they fight as if possessed by every fiend in Nifelheim and hew mightily to the left and to the right, sending foemen into the air with every swing of those silly picks. In this state of Red Rage, they somehow retain the wits to separate sword-mate from hated foe, and thus are safe to fight beside. Thus, despite their humorous appearance, they are mighty warriors and magnificent fellows to have.

More, they do not have to strike a single blow or even swing their silly picks to strike fear, Their very presence upon the field of battle will cause hesitation amongst thy foe, and any close enough to hear the gibberish that constantly issues from their mouths will loosen his bowels right there and mire the upcoming chase in a pile of excrement. Thus the Crazed Ones need only appear, not fight, in order to have this effect, and thus can be reined in and placed behind the spearwall where their presence renders the desired effect yet they remain under thy worthy command.

The stories circulating our lands of these mighty men have inspired the bards and minstrels to tell even more tales of these warriors and their exploits. To which end gathered men who would be like them but lack the stature and strength, and above all the mushrooms, needed to perform the same heroic actions in battle. These men paint themselves with stripes as the Tiger, and walk in the dark. The Bards, wishing to aid thee in thy quest, convince these fools with their wicked little one-edged swords to call themselves Night Raiders and flock to thy banners. Like the Mighty Crazed Ones, they strike fear by their very appearance, yet are actually quite tame and lame by comparison. Let that not fool thee, mighty traveller, for they fight like lions and are indeed worthy warriors despite their silliness.

Those are the warbands that will fill thy warhost. Once thou has become acquainted with them and their strengths and weaknesses, there should be no unnecessary grieving of widowed women in our lodges or longhouses.

A Word about Our Fierce Gods and their Servants

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A word about the gods, Noble Traveller, so that thou does not insult them unwittingly and end up hanged and mummified in an ancient peat-bog with no knowledge of why this sudden turn of fate occurred. We have many gods, most warlike, yet some not. Yet we construct places of worship for only three, though thou may command more if thou canst fiddle with the world and tinker together another. But it is of these three the gods allow upon thy sojourn we will now speak.

The Goddess Freyja, sister of Frey of the Elves, is a Vanr goddess who is both beautiful and lusty. Even giants crave her warm body pressed against and under their own in the Beast of Two Backs. Lusty and beautiful, she is the Queen of Fertility and have a shrine to her in a village is sure to increase the lusts of folk in that place and in doing so, increase the number of mouths to feed in that place over time. Her shrines also attract maidens of whom we have already spoken, who have the warrior spirit, and are there taught the battle hymns and melodies that so inspire our warriors to fight better whilst draining the will of the foe to survive.

The Thunderer, Thor or Donar or Tor or whatever name thou does wish to apply, has also shrines. A war god of the Aesir, his priests may teach thy warriors how to better hold their weapons that they may penetrate a foeman's guard, or better to parry an incoming strike so that it glances harmlessly away instead of spilling good German blood. The priests that reside inside the Sacred Groves are even better at this teaching, whilst the High Priests of the Sacred Circles are the best at it and give the best advice. These High Priests, having been in warrior's circles for many years, have also many contacts with warriors, and are able to call forth the best of them. And with their knowledge of mushrooms, plants, and other medicines, can create the potions needed to turn these hardy warriors into the Crazed Ones whose very appearance soils the trousers of any foe.

The Priests of Woden, the One-Eyed god of battle and wisdom, have also contacts with the warrior caste. From these, the priests of the Sacred Groves can call forth the sword-wielding Unclothed Lunatics who are terrible with their swords and dangling manhood. The High Priests of the One-Eyed god have friends among the vicious Goths, and if given the command, can summon forth enough of them in a year's time to fill a warband of Gothic Horseborne, which all know are much superior to the horseborne of even our proud Nobles.

Strategems and Counsel to Help Thee Hear the Horns of Victory

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Now, on to the problems of ruling our vast and forested realm. The first and foremost of these is a cultural conflict regarding the shiny yellow metal so craved by the fools surrounding us. The problem lies in that we do not possess much of it, nor have we had any need of it. It is useless to us, for one cannot make sword blades of it, nor can one make decent cookware from it, nor can one rim our wagons with it. It cannot shoe a horse, nor plow a furrow upon the earth for more than a few paces. It is utterly worthless as materials for making nails, and as a hammer it performs abysmally. Yet, because the womenfolk find it pretty and it does shine, our warriors wanting to impress potential wives demand the stuff as payment for service in our warhost, thus we are forced to acquire it if we so wish to have warriors among our warhosts.

As we lack the useless yellow metal, and our taxes are based more upon the barter system than the trading of a silly metal, we are forced to seek trade treaties with those with whom we are not currently engaged in mortal combat. Also, our focus in domination should be upon those fools who are blessed by the gods with quantities of this metal yet lack the willpower or the ability to retain it.

The Noble and Most Wise Lord Night Raider has written a wonderful treatise on thy first few years as Supreme Ruler. It is advised that thou does peruse its contents and follow them, in order to attain a strong base upon which to build a healthy, hardy, and above all expanding realm. If thou does not wish to peruse his counsel and scribblings, we shall try to summarize his thoughts in very basic terms which our addled brains can comprehend.

First, we would recommend that thou does gather thy warhosts into two mighty warhosts, one in the west, and one in the east. Command thy tax-gatherers to squeeze the peons dry and thy engineers to improve the dirt paths into proper hard-packed dirt roads. If thou does have anything left in thy war chest, recruit some hardy warriors and build a shrine or two.

Take thy western host and subdue the anarchists in Bordesholm. Send thy eastern host north against the heathens residing in Vicus Gothi and command them raise thy banner over both of these burgs. From Bordesholm, fling thy western warhost against the silly village with the incredibly long name, to which thou should prudently dispatch thy slovenly spy, and remove the burden of ruling it from those ridiculously tattooed fools of the Rainy Isles.

Whilst thy warhosts march, command thy Speaker of Words to go to the South, with the intent of selling an alliance and topographical information and the right to barter amongst us to the Wearers of Bedsheets. This rather immoral approach, allying with the pitiful weaklings who drink of the fermented juice of the grape, has the decidedly advantageous advantage of securing thy southern flank against incursions for the time being as well as granting thee a small source of shiny yellow metal. Further, as all Speakers of Words congregate around Romeburg, thy Speaker is there and may exchange hollow words and empty promises with men of all other nations as well.

By this time the Painted Ones of the Rainy Isles shall come to the Dark Forests to avenge their eviction at the town with the long name. Destroy them in open battle upon constricted terrain, and they shall soon sue for peace. If the fools do not, simply ignore them. Place a warlord in that town with the long name and then enslave the Eaters of Garlic until the town grows to the point where from amongst the populace arises a man who can construct vessels capable of plying the sea without fear of sinking into it. Then use his products to ferry thy warbands across the tiny water and make those Rainy Isles into England.

If thou was wise and have been levying warbands when thou couldst afford it, and had divided thy eastern warhost into two equal parts and sent the one part west, then thou now has the ability to reduce the remaining snail-eating, foul-smelling Gauls who would be men to the serfs they actually are, and at the same time bring a warhost down through the Tall Hills of thy south to remove Patavium from the unwashed hands of the Gauls and make it into a proper German village.

At this point, thou canst do what thou will- move south against the Sons of Mars, East against the dour Dacians, west against the remaining Gauls and Spanish, or Northish East versus the emergent Scythians. No matter to which point of the compass thou does travel, thou shalt have the wherewithal to do as thou does please.

All this and more, courtesy of the hearty and healthy Folk of the Dark Forests.

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