Echoes of a Battle, the Getae, 100 Words Story

Echoes of a Battle, Getae, Romania

Echoes of a Battle, the Getae, is the next 100 words story following the historical timeline of Romania’s past. Although most of these stories focus on Transylvania, ‘Echoes of a Battle’ looks at the Getae, a Thracian tribe that occupied the left and right bancs of Danube River between 6th – 1st centuries BC.

Next to the Dacians who lived in the mountainous area of Transylvania, towards the valley of Mures river, the Getae are some of the first ancestors of the Romanians.

Their bravery and fairness was legendary.

Echoes of a Battle, the Getae

It was the chickens’ cry that covered the lost echoes of metal ringing against metal, not the widows’ and mothers’ heartache. In the aftermath of battle, the lambs’ bleating sang for the souls rushed to Zalmoxis’ kingdom, not the wake preceding the burial.

‘Prepare the feast!’ Getae King Dromihete ordered. ‘Balance after battle, Zalmoxis’ word.’

The gold plates their Thracian prisoners ate from shone under the bonfires and the gleaming stars above, more tonight. Around, the Getae’s wooden spoons kept a peaceful rhythm against wooden dishes.

Freed by daybreak, the prisoners broadcasted about a tribe worthier, wiser than any others.

© Patricia Furstenberg

The seed of this story

Ancient Greek historian Herodotus wrote about the Getae that they were “the noblest as well as the most just of all the Thracian tribes”.

We also know that around 300BC Getae king Dromichaetes won a great battle against Thracian king Lysimachus (successor of Alexander the Great and ruling Thrace, Asia Minor and Macedon). The Getae held Lysimachus captive, yet in the aftermath of his victory Dromichaetes ordered a great feast. During this feast the Getae ate with the same wooden spoons and plates they always used, while the Thracian prisoners and Lysimachus received gold spoons and plates and were afterwards released.

Thus, Dromichaetes wished to prove that a rich kingdom like the one ruled by Lysimachus is in no need of a poor land like the one his people occupied.

Dromichaetes also release Lysimachus knowing that freeing an enemy king would bring them greater political advantage than his punishment.

Transylvania from the Iron Age to Roman Dacia (1 100 BC – 150 AD)

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When Cheetah First Cried

When Cheetah First Cried is a retelling of an African folk story that explains why cheetahs have two vertical lines on their faces.

When Cheetah First Cried is a retelling of an African folk story that explains why cheetahs have two vertical lines on their faces.

When Cheetah First Cried

Each day at dusk or dawn, when even the sun looked away and the wind only whispered, a cheetah left her nest hidden in the tall, dry grass to go hunt food for her cubs. She would give each one a gentle nudge, press her soft nose against their fluffy heads, take in their sweet scent, like any mother would, purr a quiet warning, then tiptoe across the grassland.

And each day at dusk and dawn, when the sun looked away for the cheetah went hunting, a man stooped by a tree and watched. He was a hunter too, from his own tribe.

The man watched with narrow eyes how cheetah lazily pranced across the field, how she seemed to stretch, careless, then lick her mouth at the sight of the Impala herd. How she lowered her head, watching the beautiful gazelles, choosing well and picking only the juicier one. ‘Hmph!’ the man-hunter often exclaimed, spitting in the sand at his feet, near a hunting bag filled with air. ‘Ever since our tribe was forced in this dry corner of grassland we’ve been beggars. And beggars can’t be choosers, like this wa chini.’ Then he pressed his fists in the small of his back and stretch, mimicking the cheetah. And just as the cheetah was now craning her neck, the man extended his and held his breath for he knew what came next.

The chase.

Impala and cheetah sprang at once. The gazelle, racing for its life, dashing, jumping, floating above the earth as if its life depended on it. The cheetah accelerating at an angle, its feet four times as strong, as fast; its tail swishing and swiping from behind, closing in and sprinting for victory.

‘Argh!’ exclaimed the man-hunter. The hunt never lasted much. The cheetah always won. There was always food to take home to her cubs. Unlike him. ‘Pshaw,’ he spat again, then picked up his empty bag and dragged it after him, almost crawling towards his village. But after two steps he stopped. He lifted his head and straightened his spine. No one saw his face, for none was around, but a bird. There was a snigger on it that pulled the corners of his thin, cracked lips upwards, in a non-human mask.

He knew what he had to do.

To allow for a steady supply of food for his village, of course.

Cheetah, in Afrikaans is Jagluiperd,   Direct translation: Hunting lazy horse
Cheetah, in Afrikaans is Jagluiperd – direct translation: hunting lazy horse

The next day, when the cheetah went hunting, the man was waiting. Yet not by the tree, but hidden in the dry grass, not far from the cheetah’s nest. Yet far enough to be out of the wind’s way.

And after cheetah nudged her pups, sniffed their soft heads, and left in search of food, the man closed in, keeping as low as the grass. Without thinking twice he picked the three cheetah cubs and pushed them in his hunter’s bag, stuffing them inside, then closing the flap over, squeezing the bag to his chest to muffle their cries and running back to his village. Always bent over, always looking over his shoulder. Will the cheetah know? Will she hear her brood crying? Will she come after him? Is she at his heel already?

Goody, he’s made it!

That evening when cheetah returned with dinner for her cubs she found the nest empty. She sniffed around, the scent of her cubs still strong, yet no downy heads popped up to welcome her; no tiny, raspy tongues; no hungry yelps of joy, no tugs of war. And, like any mother, the cheetah cried. And she cried. And when the sun went up it found her crying, and when the moon came up it found her crying still.

Meanwhile, in the man’s village, the three cubs were tied to a pole for all to see the great plan of the man-hunter.

‘They will hunt for us,’ he would strut around, explaining his grand idea. ‘Three gazelles a day. There will be food aplenty,’ he would say, looking taller than anyone had ever seen him before.

The cheetah was still crying when a thin man approached her. He was so skinny and so old that he had no fear of being hunted, for he had no fear of death. Besides, he knew all too well that he looked like a wandering pile of sticks rather than a human being.

The skinny, old man approached the crying cheetah and asked what has happened. For nobody has ever seen a crying cheetah before, nor has anyone ever heard of one. On hearing what happened to her cubs the man made it for the village right away and the wind even stirred, they say, to give the old man a gentle push, to aid him reach the settlement sooner.

Three things happened next.

The man-hunter lost his right to hunt for having dishonored his people’s honest hunting tradition, that honored skill and respect for other hunters.

The man-hunter was sent to return the cubs to mother cheetah, while all the time crying and praying he won’t end up a prey himself. He didn’t, for the cheetah was too happy to be reunited with her cubs to even think of revenge.

The cheetah stopped crying, but having cried for so long two vertical dark lines remained along her face, from the inner corners of her eyes to the sides of her mouth.

This is the story of when the cheetah first cried and why the cheetah has two dark lines down her face.

© Patricia Furstenberg, inspired by an old African legend

cheetah and dog can become friends - when cheetah first cried, a story
A cheetah and a dog can become friends

Why cheetahs need to live in the wild?

If a cheetah was born and raised in captivity, when released in the wild will hunt smaller giraffes, her hunting instinct having been altered. A cheetah growing in the wild will learn from her mother to hunt a bigger prey.

Yet not too big either.

At times, a cheetah born and raised in captivity, when released in the wild was observed trying to attack a buffalo. This is wrong and it will never be a success, as cheetah’s jaws and teeth are not designed to deal with such a large prey.

Discover the story of how the cheetah and the dog became friends:

the cheetah and the dog, best children's books

Read inside also how were cheetahs built to live in the wild and why carnivore animals are seldom seen together?

the cheetah and the dog. Read inside also how were cheetahs built to live in the wild and why carnivore animals are seldom seen together?
Image preview from The Cheetah and the Dog

A Room to Swing a Cat In, a Short Story for Thursday Doors

A Room to Swing a Cat in - Short Story, Thursday Doors

A Room to Swing a Cat In is a short story inspired by the history behind the house of Nicolas Flamel, 51 rue de Montmorency, the 3rd arrondissement of Paris, while its majestic doors represent my weekly contribution to Thursday Doors.

A Room to Swing a Cat In, Short Story for Thursday Doors

A Room to Swing a Cat In

What the plague hadn’t claimed was gathered on the streets of Paris for the fête of Sainte-Geneviève. Parades, farces, mocking jokes, they were all washed down with copious amounts of weak wine.

You either have the guts to do it or not.

So he did it. When the crowds broke in laughter his hand was elbow-deep in his surcoat, the parcel secured. Then he ran, the laden weight of a low Parisian sky hanging over his shoulders and him, a moving dot in a monochrome city.

He darted through a passage, away from their cheers, jumping sideways at the call of the chamber pot, slowing down past les gendarms whose hand always fell heavy on his kind of folk. His mother’s kind. Dark, with luscious hair, the keepers of the laughter and of the magic. He was proud of her gift for reading people and foretelling their future. ‘One God,’ she’d taught him, ‘for everybody.’

Yet not all were equal. And God was up. They were in the sewer.

The drizzle hitting his face forced him to bury his head between his skinny shoulders and look down when he reached the church of St Merri, that fed him now. It was the rain wetting his face, not his shame. The rain that also stung his eyes. So he picked up the pace, feeling only his heart hammering in his jacket.

He broke his run near the open market to check inside his coat, sliding on the slippery stones and bumping into a merchant yelling away his ware. His nose crushed into the fishmonger’s raw hand, yet the smell of burning wood glued to his nostrils blocked the stench. The torrent of curses fell on his ribs, but for once he didn’t care, his eyes jabbing inside his coat for a sign of life.

He licked the pink, hairless nose the way he saw its mother doing it. Two perfectly round eyes opened up on him. Hope.

So the remainder of the road he ran, he ran till he reached the tall house that bent over the road, in protection. He ran up the two flights of stairs with their many doors that sheltered the homeless, like them. He ran all the way to their tiny room at the mansard.  Cozy, his mother would correct him with a laugh.

There, he stood in the only open spot and removed the kitten out of his bosom. It made a noise like a whisper and opened its round eyes on him again. The boy’s dark face lit up in a smile as big as a heart, revealing a few missing teeth. His mother will be so proud. He spun around three times like she’d taught him, making sure the cat was secure in his arms. He spun around to swing the cat for they had a room to swing a cat in. To keep it, as the gypsy believe said to do if one wanted to keep a cat.

In his father’s home, there were plenty rooms where he could swing a cat in. But an executioner’s son was not allowed to own a cat, what was allowed was to inherit his father’s job.

© Patricia Furstenberg

A Room to Swing a Cat In, a Short Story for Thursday Doors

A note from the author:

The House of Nicolas Flamel:

The House of Nicolas Flamel appeared on our Paris itinerary due to our daughter’s extraordinary interest in the world of Harry Potter.

About the house itself: Nicolas Flamel had the house built after his wife Pernelle passed away in 1397. The house (as well as several others owned by Flamel) did accommodate the homeless of Paris, or at least a part of them. Yet this is the only one still standing. The frieze above the ground floor dates from 1407, when the house was completed:

“Nous homes et femes laboureurs demourans ou porche de ceste maison qui fu fte en lan de grace mil quatre cens et sept, somes tenus chacun en droit soy dire tous les jours une patrenostre et 1 ave maria en priant dieu que sa grace face pardon aux povres pescheurs trespassez. amen.”

“We men and women labourers residing in the entryway of this house, which was built in the year 1407, vow to recite each day Our Father who Art in Heaven and Ave Maria, praying to God by whose grace accords pardon to those poor sinners (who) trespass. Amen.”

Yet Nicolas Flamel never lived here, in what is today the oldest house in Paris.

Update 🙂 I used a 14th century map of Paris to locate the House of Nicolas Flamel and trace the boy’s route:

A 14h century map of Paris showing the Seine River (bottom) and the road to the House of Nicolas Flamel (top).
1 - "gathered on the streets of Paris for the fête of Sainte-Geneviève"
La Greve = today Hotel de Ville
2 - "he darted through a passage"
3 - "jumping sideways at the call of the chamber pot"
4 - "the church of Saint Merri that fed him now..."
5 - a two minutes walk to the House of Nicolas Flamel, heading NE.
A 14h century map of Paris showing the Seine River (bottom) and the road to the House of Nicolas Flamel (top). Map source.
1 – “gathered on the streets of Paris for the fête of Sainte-Geneviève”
La Greve = today Hotel de Ville
2 – “he darted through a passage”
3 – “jumping sideways at the call of the chamber pot”
4 – “the church of Saint Merri that fed him now…”
5 – a two minutes walk to the House of Nicolas Flamel, heading NE.

The day of Saints-Geneviève:

During the Middle Ages, the Parisians had quite a full calendar, abundant in holidays and events that were enthusiastically celebrated, perhaps because of the precarious lives of the ordinary populace. Thus, The day of Saints-Geneviève, the patron saint of the city who allegedly saved that city from the Huns was and still is celebrated on the 3rd of January.

The origin of the saying “there was not room to swing a cat in it”:

There is a superstition in Transylvania, perhaps brought about by the gypsies whose specialty was to bear the seeds of magic and spread them about here and there, as the winds do to those of plants… In this province of Romania it is said that if a cat runs away, when recovered it must be swung around three times to attach it to the dwelling.

The same is done to a stolen cat by the thief himself, if he plans to keep it. This is a rather strange way to induce an attachment to any animal, but perhaps from the point of view of the professional cat-stealer the size of his room is a matter of greater importance.

On the Executioners Who Inherited Their Jobs

Truth be told, for centuries in France execution was a family matter and the job of an executioner was passed on from father to son.

~~~

Thursday Doors

Thursday Doors is a blog feature everyone can take part in, hosted by Dan Antion over at No Facilities – discover more doors from around the world.

Dacian Horses of Bronze Age

Dacian Horses of Bronze Age

Dacian Horses of Bronze Age is part of the 100 words story series and is a tale inspired by the taming of the first free horses that roamed Transylvania’s lands, in Romania.

Discover more about the Dacian horses at the end of this narrative, as well as some horse-related folklore from Romania.

Dacian Horses of Bronze Age

Stories of white shadows chasing soundlessly over the land at first light were as old as hills.

Tales, never witnesses.

The morning they cut the lad’s way, the boy herding the villager’s sheep didn’t scare. He stood and stared, apple balanced mid-air. Fragrant steam and the scent of baked bread enveloped him. Then, whoosh, gone! And so was his fruit.

“‘tis true…”

“Revealed to a pure heart…”

“Bah! Believe it when I see it,” folk rumbled.

“I’ll bring one. For one night,” the child defended.

Sniggers all around.

Thus, first horse was caught. It turned to ghost by dawn.

Unspoiled.

Dacian Horses of Bronze Age
Dacian Horses of Bronze Age

What sparked this story

The domestication of horses during Bronze Age Transylvania is of great importance as it could have taken place even before the first known evidence of equine domestication in Europe, the Sintashta-Petrovka graves (approx. 2 800- 1 600 BC).

It is true that the horse husbandry of Transylvania is not as old as the Yamnaya culture from Asia dating back to the Late Copper Age, and that it might have arrived here via immigration and transhumance. Yet this first domestication of horses in Transylvania by the Bronze Age pastorals speaks of a settled and developed population.

Equine superstitions from Romanian folklore

In Romanian folklore it is said that if one sees a white horse on Epiphany Day, the 6th of January, one will have good luck all year.

If a white horse walks in front of a maiden, it is a sure sign that she will be married that year.

If you dream of horses that trot or canter, the next day will be a windy. But if s horse snorts, rain is coming.

If a horse paws in a spot, know that it tells you of something unholy located underneath.

~~~

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How the Snake Lost Its Legs

how the snake lost its legs

A recent discovery of snake fossils proved that snakes used to have limbs, so let’s imagine how the snake lost its legs in a short story from the series Babadiertjies van Afrika, baby animals from Africa.

The colors of the desert were red, its tall dunes were red, punctuated by green grass clumps. These were the colors the boy knew best. Oh, and the sky’s bright blue that the dune’s sharp crests profiled against.

These were the shades the boy knew best, darker under the first blinking of the sun, as if they still carried the night spirits on their backs. Paling when the sun yawned over the skyline, as if the boiling star sucked their vigor too, together with that of all moving life forms. And finally, turning into long stretching shadows that chased after the slaying sun, like snakes dancing along the dunes, snakes that never learn.

His favorite shade was that of the dunes before nightfall, the same as his mother’s skin. The grains of sand felt just as fine between his fingers, and the evening’s snake-like shadows reminded him of her braids framing her smile, tickling his face while she spun bedtime stories for him.

He missed hearing them, hearing the soft clicks of her speech, the dance of her hands as they became, in turn, elephant ears, horses, and beetles, and bucks… As soon as he measured taller than a hyena, his father, who was so tall that could look over a lion’s mane, took him hunting.

Days were long in the desert, among the shift changing dunes, the hot-hot sand, and him, alone with his thoughts. ‘A hunter with a loud voice will sleep hungry at night,’ was the first lesson his father taught him.

So the boy listened, kept quiet, and at night told himself his mother’s stories.

Tonight, after seeing the long snakes dancing in the sunset along the spines of the dunes, after spotting Mother Moon shedding a tear – one he had followed with his skinny finger all the way from there to there, knowing that ‘a hard day will come soon for one of the San’, and hoping it was not him – tonight, he will spin himself his favorite yarn.

Namib desert at night - How the Snake Lost Its Legs. Photo by Sergi Ferrete for Unsplash
Namib desert at night – How the Snake Lost Its Legs. Photo by Sergi Ferrete for Unsplash

How the Snake Lost Its Legs

‘Mother Moon, who was always watching over her brood, had shed a tear that night. But only those who looked, saw it. And from them, only those who believed, knew what it meant,’ his Mother once started this story.

‘During those times, Mother Moon, from her height in the sky, often looked into the future to see, learn and better protect her children. She does so today too, but – alas – her children know not how to listen to her anymore. Except for a few,’ his mother whispered further, with a nod towards his dad.

‘The Godly Mantis was one of them, arriving as soon as Mother Moon summoned. Putting her front legs together, bowing her head in respect, the Mantis listened then jumped, before the leaves even settled after Mother Moon’s speech, jumped to warn all. All the birds, all the animals, all the insects; warn them about the drought, urge them to pack food for the road, grab their young under their wing, and fly, crawl, run to safety. To water. To life. Before the desert will stretch its raspy hands and take over their land. Before it will be too late.

‘Had the creatures listened to Mantis? Yes. Had they listened because they thought of her as a leader? No. But because Mantis had warned them before, and with good cause.

‘All but one left. The one that led a solitary life. A long and rather bulky creature, whose snout was almost as long as a crocodile’s, but narrower; whose tail was as long as a kangaroo’s, but thinner, and whose four short legs had claws, although he never climbed a tree. Too much effort.

‘It was Snake, who in those times, still had legs.

‘So Snake, basking in his sunny spot, on lush, soft grass, kept his cool and chose to remain. ‘Why worry about tomorrow,’ he thought, gulping one of the juicy frogs hopping by. As a snack, but also to prove a point, that life was sweet here, where he lived.

‘And life was, indeed, sweet for Snake, until all the fat frogs hopped away right past him. Life remained sweet until the rain stopped falling and the grass stopped growing. Until even the land under his belly dried out and his skin, once smooth and shiny, was now raw and flaky from scraping against dry rocks.

‘I better move away,’ thought Snake one day when his tongue, so dry now, could smell nothing but dust and nearly stuck to the outside of his snout. ‘This land does not suit me anymore,’ he added, for he would never admit to be wrong.

‘So he hopped away on his feet, left then right, he hopped along the hot sand that had taken over the plains, left then right, under the boiling sun, left – right. Yet the more he advanced along those dreary dunes, the more he sank into their scorching sand. And the more his feet sank into the fine, fiery gravel, the more difficult it was to pull them out again, and place them on top of the slippery, searing soil. Until it became impossible for Snake to move.

‘And this was how night found Snake. Not at the end of his journey, but rather, stuck at its beginning, alone in the ever changing, slippery sand. Far from being warm and cozy, for the dunes were now as cold as ice. And Snake was chilled to the bone, after having being cooked during the day.

‘This is it,’ thought Snake, closing his eyes. Yet he could shed no tears, for all was dry; outside as well as inside.

‘Only, Mother Moon had other plans for him as she watched from her palace in the sky, her face round with affection, her eyes underlined with worry. And as she sang over the dunes that night, the sand rolled away opening a path for snake to slid away in the morning. Although, with the grains of sand that slipped away something else rolled too, never to be found again. Snake’s legs, all dried out and shriveled by now.

‘Had he missed them in the morning when he opened his eyes and discover a smooth path for him to wriggle on? Had he missed them further on, when he slithered away at top speed? Or when he finally caught up with the other animals, joining them through one final skilled slide?

‘He never said. At least not out loud. But I do hope that he thanked Mother Moon, at least in his heart,’ the boy’s mother had smiled.

That night the little boy fell asleep, feeling his mother’s hand over his forehead, thankful in his heart for her stories.

© Patricia Furstenberg, after a San legend.

Read further on The Conversation: Extraordinary skull fossil reveals secrets of snake evolution.

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