Beyond the Black River

by flammeusgladius

Beyond the Black River



“I passed the place where Balthus and the dog made their last stand. They were lying amid a heap of dead Picts — I counted seven, brained by his ax, or disemboweled by the dog’s fangs, and there were others in the road with arrows sticking in them. Gods, what a fight that must have been!”

–Robert E. Howard, “Beyond the Black River.”



Civilization never really wins.
It must grow savage in its own defense.
The savages commit their savage sins.
What is effete in you and me repents.
Thus Balthus, swiftly tutored by events
as much as by the wild Cimmerian,
set aside his considered discontents
and fought the forest man by howling man.
Such warriors do only what they can.
They don’t, of course, forever stem the tide.
Against his roadblock, Picts, blood-lusty, ran.
He had but one defender at his side.
Still, Conan claimed some Pictish heads at least:
ten heads for Balthus, seven for the beast.



–Tom Riley