Carthaginian Empire Book I - The Barbarian Cycle
It took them all morning to row against the tide, currents and wind, but finally they pulled into the lee of the headland into calmer water. Hanno looked around; first at his own battered ship and then at the six others who straggled after him into the wide bay. Satisfied that none would sink, he turned and surveyed the hostile shore.Click here to return to the book page
Hostile was putting it mildly. The mud banks along both sides of the river, which were exposed by the low tide, were lined at the upper edge by a colourfully clad array of gesticulating native warriors. At first glance there were hundreds if not thousands of them. Their plaid clothes gave them a nightmarish appearance and some of the colours he didn’t even have a name for. Their weapons looked fairly standard however, long spears, large shields, bows and swords. Their pale northern skin decorated in blue and black added to his sense of foreboding. If his men were in prime condition, they would be able to make mincemeat of these savages but, following the seven day storm, they were in no shape to fight.
About a half a mile further along the shore, a half-built rough-wood jetty stuck out towards deeper water and a small ketch, about half the size of his galley, was beached alongside its shoreward end. A small, olive skinned man stood alone on the end of the jetty and held aloft the crossed tree branches that with a start Hanno realised represented the crossed olive branches symbol for parley.
Hanno shouted his crew into activity, and they rowed slowly to within hailing distance of the seaward end of the jetty. His other ships spread across the width of the bay in a show of strength that was entirely feigned.
“Ho, Carthaginian! You are a long way from home.”
The fact that this man spoke his own language came as both a relief and a surprise to Hanno.
“Ho, Iberian! You too are a long way from home.” “Aye, but I’m a trader in a merchant vessel not at the head of a fleet of war galleys.”
“As you say, Iberia. What brings Carthage’s finest here?” “I am Hanno and we sailed south from the True Sea through the pillars and were caught in a storm.”
“South you say?” The Iberian roared with laughter. “You are a very long way off course, my friend. This is the land of the Durotriges. These people want to know what you want here. They have never seen a galley such as yours. To them it is obviously a war craft and they have a good knowledge of war.” The word war was obviously similar between the languages as its use caused the assembled native warriors to snarl, growl and wave their weapons fiercely.
“We seek only storm shelter, the chance to beach, careen and repair our ships, re-supply, for which we can trade and then leave.”
“Hah! You seek to take my trade away?”
“No, we seek to return to our own mission. We have no interest in your trade arrangements.”
“Stay there then; I will see their chief.”