Saturday, September 15, 2012

Conan the Barbarian #8: Border Fury Part 2

Border Fury: Travels in Cimmeria
by Bêlit Queen of the Black Coast

Hardship reveals the accuracy of one’s own self assessment. Nothing brought the truth of my strengths and limitations to my awareness more than my travels in Cimmeria. Never have I learned so much in such a short span of time. Even the lowliest scribe of Aquilonia could tell you that learning, truly acquiring knowledge, possesses a difficulty more brutal and painful than any lash.
Cimmeria is a great teacher.
I never want to return.


Cimmeria is bordered to the north by a mountain range that separates the land from Asgard and Vanaheim. To the east lies a broad set of harsh hills that also border Hyperborea and the Border Kingdom sandwiched between Nemdia and Brythunia and the hills of Cimmeria. The Bosnian Marshes and Pictish wilderness complete the surroundings of my lover’s homeland.
The voyage began when my then boyfriend Conan set off to defend his family name. Initially, being totally smitten with this barbarian from the north, I accompanied him on his obligated return home. Our travels changed the way he looked to me.

Before Cimmeria, Conan appeared to me as a svelte and smooth muscular champion, existing in a relaxed state yet always poised for action.  On the day we set out from his home village to pursue the marauders defaming Conan’s name, he seemed stiffer, more frigid, and his every motion seemed a series of poses rather than smooth continuous motions.  When I looked at him sometimes his eyes seemed too close together, other times they appeared too far apart. I worried yet kept my concern hidden within my hooded cloak. At the time I attributed Conan’s shifting features to the cold of the north which decelerated his nimble and supple flow through the panels of landscape. Now, I wonder if perhaps it was the spell of travel affecting my view of him and the immenseness of his pupils and the effeminate features that the wilderness intensified in the features of my lover. Yet we persevered and dared the Cimmerian wilderness.

For readers contemplating a sojourn into this dark land, know that the even though the land is harsh, it remains constant in its cycles of abuse and punishment. In the morning it rains for about an hour. Every morning. Large rocks and larger rocks obstruct every path and snag the flimsy of foot. It is as if the land itself is growing teeth to devour those foolish enough to dare its maw.

The skies of Cimmeria provide scant comfort or opportunities for alleviating gloom. While never blue, the most cheerful sky one can hope to see above in Cimmeria is a dull grumpy gray. Often sinister shades of yellow and tan wash the sky. The colors hint that the heavens are waiting to distribute harsh rains, snow, high winds, a tornado, or a thick fog to cover a tracking pack of wolves. The soul of Cimmeria resides with its acrid landscape and sky, yet I realized that the somber gloom-enhancing colors contain the best aspects about my sojourn in this northern land. 

Lands and locations change people, and homelands even more so. Upon returning to his home, my lover changed. The savage nobility I first sensed about him changed to savage fatalism. This land and its people and their attitude towards misfortune and hardship showed me that what I thought was nobility was a giving up, a sad placid acceptance of pain, despair, cruelty, and death. This acceptance of the Cimmerians didn’t fortify or ennoble their souls, it eroded and destroyed them. And this attitude was working upon my lover too. He says Cimmerians recognize their place in the world, but one’s place in this land is under the twisting boot of their cruel god Crom. We must leave these lands if I ever hope to hope again.

“…Just remember this is not a world you know” were the last words my lover said to me before he set off to move faster to slay those who slandered his name and brought more misery on an already miserable populace. His departure was a relief, a welcomed freedom of solitude that gave me time to think, to brood. Cimmeria has that affect on a traveler. Like riding through a desert and finally topping a dune and spying an ocean with two birds soaring uninhibited in a warm and welcoming soft yellow sky is the relief I felt at not having to look at the changed face and demeanor of my lover. I know he cares and wants to help, but the help he offered isn’t the kind I need. His absence finally let the battle begin between me and Cimmeria. If this land wins, it will devour me, whether physically or spiritually and it will forever cage the strong spirit of Conan within its borders. If I can survive and escape this land with Conan, then we can go to better more hospitable and profitable realms. Then I win. If we escape, I triumph over this grating, miserable, and unwelcoming land. And I take with me not only my lover, but the added realization of the lessons the lands have to teach. When once again upon the decks of the Tigress, this knowledge will guide our destinations and selections of those lands upon which we choose to land. For now though, fellow travelers, know that while Cimmeria offers no joys, it does give those who dare its borders a hard and dark Truth.

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