The African and nuclear fighting that destroyed Quebec also broke the backs of the other industrial powers, and we decided to give up on that world and start another campaign, with fresh-white sheets and crayons too, and no radioactive dust that had once been cities. Since the Ynglings had come out, more or less, on top, I decided to try something else; I moved south.
Olaf – so it is said – was King in Norway after the death of his brother Magnus… but no. It is a thrice–told tale. Are we not primates? Like any monkeys, we hunger for novelty, for a new source of fruit to sate the tribe’s appetite and bring us fertile females. Let us follow our ancestors, then: We will pass out of the safe territory of the tribe; we will go over the hills and into unknown lands, either to perish or to bring back the wealth that founds a great dynasty. And those who die will be forgotten; but the founders of dynasties will beget more children than those who stayed safe behind, and so monkey-kind will become all the more curious, until we have covered all the Earth with our progeny. Thus our destiny was written from the first time a big-eyed mammal passed out of the trees, evaded the great lizards, and returned with the meat that fed his mate; and if we have learned one thing during our long sojourn in the North, surely it is this: No man can long escape his Wyrd.
We go south, then: Out of the barren northlands which bear no crops but pride and young men, south across the iron sea, into Germany. But we will not stop there; the deep forest holds no attraction for men tired of cold. We pass through their darkness, ever southward. The Danube is no bar to our faring; the sun warms our faces as we cross the much-disputed Balkans, and we lift our heads to scent the wind. Yes… there is a tang of salt in the air; the ocean is near. But not the cold grey widow-maker we have left behind, on which the long dragons glide in deadly silence. It is the wine-dark water, the very Midworld Sea, around which men have dwelt for long millennia. Here is the place; we will settle in the lands where olive and wine-grape grow, on the shores of the inland sea… our sea. For we have no taste now for the western lands, settled by warriors close kin to those we have left behind; no desire to squat with unwashed barbarians in the ruins of great cities. No, we will take our new homes with the rightful lords, in the still-civilised East; we shall become citizens, not subjects, and our ambitions will run to Senate and Imperator, not folk-moot and King. The question rises, “Are we not… Romans?” The answer: “We shall see”. But the question has a ring to it, reminiscent perhaps of a different motto, now left behind.
And speaking of mottoes: “Our sea”. Ah, now there’s a phrase. The bearded warrior tribes we have left behind make no such boast; the wild sea they sail belongs to no man. And in any case, why brag of ownership when the substance is in your hands? Alfred is long dead; no new ship-builder has risen to challenge the sway of the dragons. In the south matters stand differently. Once the Eagle flew from Gibraltar to the Two Rivers; once men of patrician rank held it a good life’s work to have crucified pirates. Now ship-owners borrow money at 50 per cent, and the lender counts himself barely compensated for the risk. The Two Rivers are ruled by infidels; Egypt and the African provinces are gone; the very cradle of Rome is under the muscular thumb of a barbarian garrison. “Our sea”, indeed. A monkey, indeed an entire dynasty of monkeys, can settle happily here; for there is much work to be done.