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Wild tribal onslaughts

I have just realised that although I have read innumerable descriptions of situations where an isolated fort or outpost is assaulted by a wild tribal onslaught, I don't think I have *ever* read a description of a wild tribal onslaught from the point of view of the onslaughters, rather than the onslaughtees.

During that bit where the people inside the fort are biting their nails, patching things up, putting out fires, eating emergency rations and trying to snatch some sleep etc - what are the assailants *doing*? Touching up their war-paint? Barbecues...? Are they napping too, or are they formulating some complex and carefully-planned strategy that comes over to the onslaughtees as 'suddenly there were attackers everywhere'?


( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
22nd Jul, 2013 08:32 (UTC)
Going RAAAAAAHHHH! must be hard on the throat, so I'd imagine there would a certain amount of hasty gargling with honey, to avoid the second wave of attack sounding like a limp assault by laryngitic dormice.

However, I think we can find analogies from slightly more "civilised" wild charges elsewhere in history. Medieval French knights had a habit of charging very fast into a static front-line of their own crossbowmen, or falling into mires and tripping over each other. Prince Rupert's cavalry tended to charge so impressively that they didn't stop until they'd reached the pub 3 villages away.

I'd imagine wild tribal onslaughters would have had similar concerns. From the French, we see the importance of pacing. Put your fast sprinters at the back, and they'll onslaught straight into the slow plodders at the front, and it will be a chaotic mess. But put your fast sprinters on the front, and they'll outpace the others too much, and reach the lone outpost they're attacking far too early, and it will all be horribly embarrassing. I expect auditions were involved - probably heats - and a lot of careful positioning. Ankle injuries and twisted knees would require constant reviewing of the order before subsequent waves.

From Prince Rupert, we see the problem of controlling a wild onslaught after it's begun. While the heroic defenders are regrouping with a cup of tea, I imagine the attackers are sending loads of urgent messengers to outlying homesteads, saying "can we have our onslaughters back, please?"
22nd Jul, 2013 09:07 (UTC)
Now you mention it, a wild charge that accidentally-on-purpose goes straight past the fort to the location of the nearest pub seems extremely probable... :-D
22nd Jul, 2013 09:09 (UTC)
Incidentally, the Ninth-Eagle fanmedia challenge is on at the mo, and frankly this year seems right up your street. Are you sure I can't convince you to partake?

http://ninth-eagle.livejournal.com/301353.html :-DD
22nd Jul, 2013 12:16 (UTC)
Ha! This comment made me giggle. Charging right to the pub three villages over indeed!
22nd Jul, 2013 13:27 (UTC)
I suspect it depends on the assailants.

Some might be boasting and gambling away the loot from the fort, like the French asses, fools and prating coxcombs in Henry V. Some might be standing over a map of the fort - which could be paper, or a scale model, or a diagram drawn in mud, or just a couple of stones to give a point of reference - pointing and nodding and going "Hmmmm". Some will be sleeping, or patching up kit. Some will be playing "taunt the beleaguered sentry" while others, er, go off on a recconnaisance to make sure there's not a relief column coming from, um, over there somewhere away from the fighting.

And a lot of them will be saying "did you see when I took that bloke's head off in the last attack?", "Do you rememebr that one who looked out from behind the tower, saw us coming, and fell off backwards in fright?", or "Hah! Call this an attack? You should have been in the battle we had last week/month/year/before you were born, now *that*was an attack. These Romans are nothing like the ones we fought then, now *they* were worth fighting", or "I *told* them we should have [waited until dawn/dusk/noon/teatime] / [gone left/right/up the middle/backwards] / [fir-/smok-/flood-/goos- ed them out], but *noooo*, no-one listens to me".

I don't know about savage barbarians, but a British army of the 19th century or later would be mostly sleeping and eating. Or drinking tea :-) Rule 1: never pass up the chance for a brew, a smoke, or a nap.
22nd Jul, 2013 13:37 (UTC)
This is the thing. I know nothing about the assailants. They are random tribes from all over 'the North' and they don't seem to have a 'Supreme Commander' (words that have to be said in a Servalan voice, obvs :-D)

Actually, maybe a lot of them are standing around giving the others the shifty eye, remembering what Their Darren Said About Our Mum. Or similar.
22nd Jul, 2013 14:25 (UTC)
Ah, if they're all sorts of different tribes then there's probably a lot of the Darren/Mum stuff. The question really would be why they're all working together.

If it's that they all want rid of the outpost and they all object to the outpost more than they do each other, then they may just be a bit standoffish and keep to themselves, in the the way that Morris dancers on a day of dance will normally clump together in teams except that one person from each team will go off to talk to someone else, each team will have one person from another team talking to it, and at the bar there will be a wary amalgam of people checking that no-one's trying to push in (but trying not to be obvious about it in case someone takes offence).

If someone else wants the outpost gone and we just want to loot it and maybe have a good scrap, then we may decide that if the outpost can stand one attack it can withstand another. So maybe it would be worth seeing if anyone has left any horses/spears/whatever lying around in such a way that we could blame the theft of them on someone else. Conversely, we may be worried about the reliability of the people who came to help us get rid of the outpost, so we might be wandering around keeping wary eyes out in case kit might go awol.

If you have any equivalent of a football, then you'll probably find either a group of friends having a kick-around for fun, two rival groups having a "friendly" match in which scoring is by bruises as much as goals, or someone wandering round with the football trying to get everyone together for a jolly old competition - come on, you'll enjoy it when you get started!

Oh, and people will throw stuff at stuff. Stones into lakes, spears at trees, bits of grass at other bits of grass. Last weekend Palug passed the time for ten minutes while waiting for his betters to finish talking to the we're-not-technically-enemies-(yet) commanders by throwing pebbles at a leaf. Which leaf happened to be directly between him and a grim-faced not-techically-enemy-(yet) sentry, whose feet, legs, shield and (in some oh-dear-I-am-clumsy moments) occasionally head kept getting hit. I was *rubbish* at that game :-D I didn't think he'd lose his cool, but it would have been so much fun if he had broken the truce for no good reason ;-)

Oh, and pacing out how far he could reach from his sentry post and putting a bottle of wine down for him six inches further away than that was fun, too :-D

Basically, if people aren't your friends you keep reminding them of the fact.
22nd Jul, 2013 15:18 (UTC)
Although it is not unknown for sentries from opposing sides to end up some bully beef for some continental sausage, or whatever the case may be.
22nd Jul, 2013 15:30 (UTC)
*Yer what??*
22nd Jul, 2013 15:31 (UTC)
*damnit, typo on 'WOT'*
22nd Jul, 2013 15:36 (UTC)
22nd Jul, 2013 15:34 (UTC)
Seriously. You're standing on one side of a river / road / no-mans-land, he's standing on the other, you've nothing really to do. You start by exchanging wary nods; maybe a hello, if you share a language; one of you takes out a sausage and cuts off a slice, and if you've got plenty, you hold it up and raise an enquiring eyebrow; the other takes out his pipe and fills it with tobacco; and you're away.

There was something in the War of 1812, I think, where a nice little supply line was set up across the US / Canadian border by two small groups of soldiers, which ended up being very profitable to both parties.
22nd Jul, 2013 15:39 (UTC)
Aha, I see what you mean. I think you left out the vital word 'exchanging' from your first comment? I wondered if it was a Rude Military Euphemism. :-D

Though in the situation I have in mind, there won't be that much hanging about. The Romans have struggled across hostile territory to the fort, which they are going to abandon tomorrow as there aren't enough of them left to hold it.
22nd Jul, 2013 15:43 (UTC)
Ah, I see! All is now explained :-)

I agree that in your situation, there wouldn't be much of the *exchanging* going on. I do look forward to reading the story, though :-)
22nd Jul, 2013 15:29 (UTC)
You have clearly spent a truly terrifying amount of time thinking this through. :-D
22nd Jul, 2013 18:16 (UTC)
You did ask :-)

Too much time spent waiting for the next platoon attack to start, or monstering LARP, or hanging round a fest compound waiting to be attacked, and so on :-)
22nd Jul, 2013 14:51 (UTC)
Actually, there is something similar to this in the first book in the Codex Alera by Jim Butcher. (Spoilers) A lot of the latter half of the book does indeed feature a small Roman-inspired outpost assailed by vast waves of barbarians. However, we do also meet said barbarians, and learn that A, they're not really barbaric, and B, they're not monolithic. One clan chief has manipulated the other clan chiefs into gathering together for war, but the other clan chiefs are quite desperate to find some honorable excuse to bugger off home.
22nd Jul, 2013 15:08 (UTC)
My One True Rule of medieval and pre-medieval history is that Everything Was More Advanced Than We Think, due to the fragmentary nature of the sources that we base our conclusions upon. Therefore I am now imagining the wild tribal leaders coolly considering the writings of Julius Caesar, while the hordes nibble on their cucumber sandwiches. "Would you like some more pomegranate juice?" "Don't mind if I do, old boy. Oh, dearie me. The Romans are watching. One, two, three: RAAAAAH!"

I'm not really helping here, am I?
22nd Jul, 2013 15:16 (UTC)
Although the English tribal leaders would, of course, have been drinking hot water with a spot of milk.
22nd Jul, 2013 15:28 (UTC)
I think I've put Furies of Calderon on and off (my reading list) more times than a barbarian's trousers. I keep seeing it recommended, and add it, and then later I read the precis and think, gawd, that sounds a bit FantasyLand and take it off again.

I have difficulty with the names. 'Tavi' sounds like a place with a jolly nice teashop, and then 'Alera' - a LEERER?

Is it worth trying to overcome my aversion..?
22nd Jul, 2013 15:49 (UTC)
I love the series very much indeed, but whether you would or not, I have no idea. I love it too much to be objective, really. Yes, it is a rather Fantasyland. This is deliberate; the book came out of a dare to write a good book using some "lame" ideas of the challengers' choice, and the author also threw in a few other prevalent fantasy cliches for good measure. The first book is the weakest, in my opinion, and probably the most Fantasyland. Book 3 is my favourite: outnumbered, untested Roman legionaries vs. 100,000 dog-faced men of Kund. :-)
22nd Jul, 2013 15:15 (UTC)
There's a Sharpe novel where during a lull in the fighting, a junior officer wants to take some men out for a night recce. Sharpe tells him that the password is "Pork chop".

"Pork chop, sir?"

"Yes, pork chop. I like the middle ones, with the kidneys."
22nd Jul, 2013 23:03 (UTC)
Forging for food is important. And steadily more important as they exhaust the local area. Alexander the Great had a rule that they could not go more than four days, because four days was the tipping point at which they were useless. Past that, they fed more to the mules and horses carrying the food and fodder than they could carry back.

Also, there's dying of disease. It was often a question of whether the inhabitants starved faster than the attackers died off. (I forget which one, but one of the World Wars was the first in history to lose more soldiers to battle than to disease.)
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )

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