Ardaric : King Of The Gepids
The Death Of Attila The Hun
"The chief of the Huns, King Attila, born of his sire Mundiuch, lord of bravest tribes, sole possessor of the Scythian and German realms—powers unknown before—captured cities and terrified both empires of the Roman world and, appeased by their prayers, took annual tribute to save the rest from plunder. And when he had accomplished all this by the favor of fortune, he fell, not by wound of the foe, nor by treachery of friends, but in the midst of his nation at peace, happy in his joy and without sense of pain. Who can rate this as death, when none believes it calls for vengeance?"
- Jordanes, Getica ( circa 551 A.D. )
As morning transitioned into midday, however, several of the royal attendants became suspicious that something might not be quite right. At first they did little more than place their ears against the doors to listen for any sounds emanating from within. When nothing but silence persisted the servants ran off to find warriors, two of whom were warming themselves around a fire nearby, to investigate further.
Fearing what their king might do to them if he was disturbed Basich, and Edecon, also were reluctant to do much of anything. Finally, when the noon sun began to slide down the western sky, the warriors knocked on the doors to rouse their king. When no one responded to their ever increasing pounding they broke into the king's hall, where in the dim light they witnessed a most horrific sight.
There, on the bed, behind a silently weeping Ildico, who was apparently in a state of shock, lay the still body of the great Attila the Hun. Basich, fearing the worst, ran over to the bed and threw Ildico on the floor to better examine the king's body. Being that their lord was half naked it was easy for him to see that Attila's body had not been punctured, or slashed, by any weapon. Strangely, there also appeared to be no blood on the body that he could see.
Edecon, who was as puzzled as his friend by what he observed, slowly moved forward and examined the body in more detail. Seeing nothing more than Basich had seen, he gently lifted Attila up by the shoulders and opened the king's mouth to see if he could detect the odor of any poisons. As he did, a torrent of blood, some of which had congealed, poured down the king's chin, and out over his chest. Try as he might Edecon was not fast enough to avoid being splashed with the foul smelling blood.
While his friend dealt with the shock of being splattered with blood, Basich reached down, lifted Ildico off of the floor, and shook her like a rug.
" What has happened here !? " he shouted at the newest wife of Attila.
Basich waited only a moment for to answer. When she remained silent the warrior backhanded her across the face. The blow achieved what the shaking had not, and Ildico woke from her self imposed daze.
" I demand to know what happened here ! " he yelled, spitting his words into her face.
Ildico looked up at the warrior, and began to weep uncontrollably again.
" He,..., drank,..., so,...., much ! And then,...., he began to,..., choke ! And before I could do anything,..., he suffocated in his own blood ! " she haltingly shot back at the inquisitive warrior.
Basich slapped her again !
" Why didn't you seek help !! " he screamed angrily at her.
Ildico broke down and became limp in his hands.
" He was gone so quickly ! " she whimpered pathetically.
Basich was about to strike her again when Edicon grabbed hold of his hand.
" We must send word of their father's death to Ellac, Dengizich, and Ernak. " Edicon insisted.
Basich nodded that his friend was right. It was then, as he glanced away from Ildico, that he noticed the royal attendants standing quietly in the doorway.
" Make King Attila's body ready for his funeral, and take care of Ildico. We have to notify the commanders of the Germanic peoples, Ardaric, and Valamir, and find the king's sons, to inform them of their father's death. When we return I expect to see our king cleaned, and in his best warrior's clothes ! " he told the stunned servants.
Once the news was learned of Attila's death, none of the joyous elation remained from the wedding festivities of the night before. The laughter and singing, that was so prevalent at the couple's wedding feast, had now been replaced by the tortured sounds of wailing, and the torment of self disfigurement, by the king's folk, in honor of their fallen leader. For these proud nomadic Steppe people, mourned not with the lamentations of women folk, but with the blood of men.
The next day, when Attila's sons arrived, the king's body was placed on a beautiful bed, within a silken tent, in the middle of a flat plain, so that all could honor their great king with one last farewell. Outside the tent the greatest of the Hun horsemen rode around and around the tent in a race to show Attila who was the fastest. And before darkness fell over the area targets were set up, and as they flashed by they shot their arrows into bales of hay which were made to look like Roman soldiers.
That night, around giant bonfires, the Huns, along with their Germanic allies, drank until early morning and sang songs that honored the memory of their fallen leader. The night ended only when the last warrior fell in a drunken stupor, and there was no one left to raise a cup in Attila's honor.
The next night Attila's sons, and a carefully selected few warriors, went away from the camp and buried the king's body in a secret place. It was written by later Roman historians that his body was bound in three coffins. The first was gold, the second silver, and the third was made of strong iron. It is believed that these three metals represented the strength of iron, which showed him to be the mightiest of kings, and the precious metals showed his great ability to subdue both the kingdoms of the east and the west.
The death of Attila marked the beginning of the decline of the Hunnic empire. It also offered to the Germanic people a chance to escape the yoke of the Huns, and establish their own independent kingdoms. And so begins the story of Ardaric : King of the Gepids.
- End of Prologue
- Next : Chapter 1 : Uncertainty And Opportunity
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2018.