Hello! Welcome to the second installment of the Deadliest Warrior Redux, where I'm pitting the warrior-cultures already featured on the show with historically accurate arms and armour. I'm following the show's chronological order, this time throwing together one of the most controversial episodes from the show's history: Viking versus Samurai. For my purposes, I'll be using a Samurai Daimyo and a Norse nobleman, along with their personal retinues and retainers to represent both cultures.
This should be a closer match than the previous; why, you ask? Because this time, both warriors are well-armed and -armored. They fought in similar styles; that is, as "lightning bruisers", meaning fast and heavy-hitting. I'm expecting a high-scoring showing from both of these guys.
-The daimyo were essentially lords in feudal Japan; they weren't shoguns, but they were higher-ranked than other samurai. Each daimyo presided over his own region and peasantry, and would keep a number of retainers around him at all times to serve as bodyguards and servants. He would be responsible for maintaining his lands and splitting them among other samurai. In warfare, the daimyo would act as field marshals, commanding the ranks of lower-class soldiers, the ashigaru, with the education he had gotten as a noble. Additionally, any daimyo would have been an excellent warrior himself, and his retainers just as skilled - if not more.
-Close; Wakizashi. The wakizashi was the second-smallest of the three swords worn by every samurai, along with the katana (largest) and tanto (smallest). Many in today's culture believe that it only existed to be used on the samurai that owned it in an act of seppuku, but that is only partly true. Whenever a samurai would enter indoors he would leave his katana at the door as a sign of respect towards the homeowner, but would bring his wakizashi with him in case a situation would arise when he would need it. The wakizashi was used basically as a shortened katana, but was used to thrust as well as slash. Given its short length but multiple functions, I'll give the wakizashi a five (5) out of ten.
-Medium; Naginata, Yari. The naginata was a slashing polearm, typically seven to eight feet long. The yari was a longer, thrusting polearm from six to twelve feet in length. Both weapons were superb at what they did, and had fighting styles devoted to their understanding and use. Together, I'll give these two polearms a score of nine (9) out of ten.
-Long; Yumi. The yumi was actually the first weapon of the samurai class, dating back to their origin as horse-mounted archers. Despite the sword coming into an unprecedented vogue, it was maintained throughout their history as a martial and spiritual art. Many samurai would open a pitched battle with a volley of arrows from their yumi before closing into melee combat, so as to disable as many of the lower-class soldiers as possible and therefore not have to use their sword on them. Yumi longbows were expertly crafted and accurate, possessed great range, and decent penetration power. However, I doubt their effectiveness against the chain-maille of the Norse, which they never competed with, as well as the ability to get around the massive roundshield. All of these qualities in mind, I'm awarding the yumi a nine (9) out of ten. There's still a great chance that the samurai could target, and hit, the eyes, neck, or cripple a warrior's legs with precise shots from a distance.
-Special; Katana, Kanabo. The katana: the most famous weapon of the samurai. The katana was a sword between two and three feet in length, fashioned of the highest-quality steel and unique to each samurai and swordmaker. The katana was made to be a primarily slashing weapon, as it was customary to remove the head of defeated enemies, so this naturally made that easier. Only members born into the samurai class could own or use a katana, or even touch one - and only their own. This strict rule was but one of many used to oppress the lower classes of feudal Japan. The kanabo was typically an all-iron war-club that weighed around ten pounds and was almost four feet in length. It would be used with both hands, and only by the strongest and most skilled of all samurai. There would be many rows of raised iron studs embedded in all sides of the kanabo, so that however it hit it would deliver a likely-lethal blow. Decorative kanabo of wood and iron were created for display use, and the weapon itself is today associated with the mythological oni. Due to the highly-efficient nature of both of these two-handed weapons, but fatigue-inducing attributes of them both, I'm going to give these weapons an eight (8) out of ten.
-Head; Kabuto. A full panoply of samurai armour included the kabuto, a wide-sweeping helmet that provided good protection to the neck and sides of the face. The kabuto was designed to fulfill two purposes: to protect and to be seen. Samuraiwould have their helmets emblazoned with large metal crescents, bull's horns, deer antlers, and other decorations in attempts at being unique. The kabuto worn byashigaru were far less decorative, and were closer to the face than those worn by samurai. Unfortunately, the kabuto leaves the face open to attacks while obscuring the ears, limiting the senses. It could be argued that the face-covering worn by some samurai to intimidate their enemies would help on defense, but it wasn't composed of any material stern enough to withhold a strong blow. With all of this in mind, I award the kabuto helmet seven (7) points.
-Torso; Do, Kusazuri and Haidate. The armour that covered the torso, back and shoulders of samurai and ashigaru was originally composed of solid plates but later shifted to small, lamellar scales sewn on silk to get a more flexible, stronger product. This gave them a great defense against both piercing and slashing attacks, and covered most of the vital chest relatively well. It was typically painted in vibrant colours, for the same reasons as for the kabuto. Overall, the torso defenses of the samurai net an eight (8) out of ten.
-Limbs; Sode, Kote, Tekko and Suneate. The armour that protected the extremities of the samurai and ashigaru was made of whatever materials that the torso armour was made of. It was typically light, easy-to-move-in armour over thick clothing made of silk or linen. Together, these elements earn a score of seven (7) out of line.
-Blocking; Parrying, Reach. The easiest way for a samurai to defeat his opponent was to outdistance them. They accomplished this by using weapons of great reach - long-distance bow-and-arrows, tall polearms, and long-bladed swords. Whenever an enemy got within their killing-radius, they would then rely on their ability to redirect attacks, either parrying them or outright dodging them. However, they had no true blocking defenses, and so get a score of six (6).
-The elite warriors of feudal Japan went through vigorous training on a constant basis to be the most efficient killers that they could be. The daimyo would be no exception to this tradition; they ruled as much as by birthright as by personal strength. Additionally, the retainers and bodyguards of a daimyo would be very well-trained, usually specializing in one martial art or another. However, the ashigaru would not be nearly as proficient, with most having been drilled in the use of yari or yumi, with only a handful even possessing swords at this time. This large gap in skill levels amongst the party may or may not be balanced out by the callous disregard for death found common in bushido; warriors were expected to create their own reputation if they were not born with it. To that end, I'm going to give the samurai an X-Factor score of seventeen (17) out of twenty possible points.
-The Norse first came to the notice of the rest of Europe relatively late in the Dark Age, in the year 793 CE with the complete rape and sack of the Christian monastery at Lindisfarne off of the coast of Britain. This set the tone for the soon-to-be Viking Age, a period of widespread raiding at the hands of Norse warriors going, "a-viking", that is, to serve as a piratical warrior across Northern Europe. Bands of professional warriors, huscarls, led by their greedy warlords penetrated the known world as far as Constantinople, modern Moscow, and Paris, wreaking havoc at all turns. Hated as pagans, the Norse were feared by their victims until the very end of their bloody reign when the Viking Age came to an abrupt end - in the year 1066 CE, one month before the Battle of Hastings decided the future of England.
-Close; Seax, Hand Ax and Roundshield. The Norse used a variety of weapons in melee combat - most commonly, the seax and hand ax. The seax was a long, cutting dagger used in everyday life for various utilitarian purposes: cutting meat, chopping wood, clearing underbrush, and gutting enemy soldiers. The hand ax was also a very common weapon, being easier to produce and maintain than a sword. Norse hand axes were single-edged and short, useful when packed shoulder-to-shoulder in a shieldwall. Together with the roundshield, the Norse get seven (7) points out of a possible ten. As always, slashing weapons are not as effective as thrusting ones, keeping both of these close-range killing tools from winning more points.
-Medium; Danish Ax, Spear and Roundshield. At middling ranges, the favourite weapon of the Norse was the spear. It was very easy to produce and learn how to use, required little metal and skill to be forged, and could be replaced with materials found often at hand in Northern Europe. The majority of Norse warriors would use a spear and roundshield as their primary weapons, well-knowing the boon of having six feet of ash and steel between themselves and their opponents. The characteristic weapon of the huscarl class, the bodyguards to the war-lords, was the Danish ax. A two-handed, five-foot-tall monster of a weapon, it too was single-edged and used to shear through all kinds of armour and defenses. However, it took a long time to prepare for use, leaving the warrior behind it open. To counter this, two Norse warriors would stand together, one covering the other with his spear and shield while the other readied his ax for another strike at a foe. Together, these weapons get a perfect ten (10) points.
-Long; Hunting Bow. The bow was not a favoured weapon of Norse warriors. They would often have a few enslaved serfs along with war-bands, if for nothing else than to hunt game with their self bows. These weapons were not the powerful longbows used in later periods, but were still good at their job. Due to their lack of widespread use or training, I'm only going to give the hunting bow a four (4) out of ten points.
-Special; Longsword, Roundshield. Like in many other cultures, the longsword was the signature weapon of the noble class. For the Norse, this was the war-lords, men who had fought long enough and secured the funds and land to command others. A longsword required much material and skill to be created, so each one forged in the fires of the North was of incredible build and quality. Norse longswords were complex, much more so than their Frankish and Saxon neighbors, introducing the concepts of fullered blades and tapered blades that strengthened and extended the cutting edges, respectively. Additionally, longswords were intended to thrust as well as slash, increasing their threat manifold. Combined with the broad roundshield, this weapons combination warrants a great ten (10) out of ten.
-Head; Spangenhelm, Maille-Coif. The typical helmet worn by Norse warriors was the spangenhelm, which was formed by four pieces of metal reinforced by strips of leather or iron. The multiple pieces involved would spread the energy of blows to the head over them, harmlessly distributing glancing blows and weakening, however slightly, direct ones. Other defenses added onto this would be eye- and face-guards, a nasal piece to protect the nose, or a maille-coif sewn inside of the helmet. Naturally only the wealthiest of Norsemen, the war-lords, could afford such an extravagance, but for them it was a necessity. The head defenses get a decent seven (7) points.
-Torso; Maille-Coat, Gambeson, Hide Cloak. The most important piece of body-armour for Norse warriors was their maillle-coats. This was a single suit of riveted chain links, together making up a large shirt that stretched from the knees to the elbows and neck. Nigh-impenetrable to slashing attacks, maille distributed the force of blows to the body by the many-connected rings, spreading the kinetic force harmlessly over the body. Despite being very heavy when in one's hands, chain-maille of any decent quality is easily-distributed over the body when worn properly. However, chain-maille fared less well against thrusting or blunt-force attacks, the first of which only affects a small area of the chains, and the second bypasses the defense to crush the bones and flesh beneath it. War-lords would often wear a gambeson, a thick, padded coat over their maille, and some would wear the hides of black bears and wolves over all to block blows from the back or flanks. Altogether, this many-layered torso defensive system gets a very strong nine (9) point grade.
-Limbs; Leather, Maille-Coat. The limbs of Norse warriors would be defended up to the elbows and knees by maille-sleeves, but seldom further than that due to the massive expenses needed to pay for such work. To still provide some protection against attacks to their extremities, Norse warriors would wear leather bracers on their forearms and reinforce their tall boots with strips of iron around their legs to defeat glancing strikes. The limbs defenses of the Norse get a stern seven (7) out of ten.
-Blocking; Roundshield. Like all of their gear, the Norsemen's roundshield was a multipurpose tool. It was worn strapped or slung on the arm, depending on the warrior's taste and fighting style, and featured a large metal boss in the middle (as well as a metal rim) with which to bludgeon enemies. The roundshield was three feet in diameter and up to three inches thick, providing a massive defense against enemy strikes. Being well-suited to both offense and defense, I'm giving this stout shield an eight (8) out of ten.
-The Norse were the most feared warriors of the Dark Age - so much so that, among some circles today that epoch in history is referred to as the Viking Age. They introduced the style of hit-and-run warfare to Europe, sailing up formerly safe rivers and creeks in their dragon-headed longships to rape and pillage and burn before vanishing like ghosts in the night. In battle, the Norse were known to go into a state called, "berserk", which was originally "bare-sark", which is to remove one's armour and fight without it, displaying one's lack of fear of death and injury. These mad men were able to fight past normally-fatal wounds that would slay other men outright, such as being gored in the eyes by arrows, having swords and spears thrust through their bodies, and other battlefield horrors. For this ridiculous ferocity, I'm giving the Norse an X-Factor score of eighteen (18) points.
Uthred drummed his fingers on the tall prow of his ship, the Sea-Eagle. Ralla, his new shipmaster following the last one's sudden death, was a capable man with a steady hand. He was a natural-born leader, but knew where his post was and where his gold came from. There were forty of his household soldiers, his huscarls, either sleeping, watching, waiting, or rowing from the flanks on either side of the ship.
They had set sail nearly a week before in their wolf-headed war-ship, Unferth at the helm and every man dressed to kill. Rumours of strange ships and stranger men abroad on the cold seas had filtered in, and they had been enough for Unferth to take down his father's war-horn and his own sword from their places in his hall and declare that he was to go a-viking in search of these newcomers.
They had caught one fishing vessel, that had been too curious for its own good, and sighted half of a dozen more. It was a light ship with only a few men aboard, who had realized their plight too late to save them. The fishermen had evidently tried to bargain for their lives, but the Norse had been unable to understand and so had simply killed them out of hand, set fire to their vessel, and continued on their way. Their rations were getting low, and the men restless. Uthred knew that they would need to make landfall soon.
Sakuma Kichiro had ascended his father as daimyo of their ancestral estate following his death at the hands of an assassin. Kichiro had managed to single out seven suspects, but none of them had confessed. Frustrated, Kichiro had had them all killed, publicly, as payback for his father's death. His new katana was a three-body sword, which he had happily tested on four of his prisoners. One of his retainers had finished off the fourth man, who had been cut only halfway through his body rather than all the way.
But peace hadn't been easy to come by for the young daimyo. Several fisher-folk and some merchants in his service had reported harassments to him from strange folk from over the sea, and as their liege he was honour-bound to discover the source of this aggression. Personally, he suspected some wokou pirates, as they had provided him with trouble in the past. It would be a joy to hunt them down and eradicate the menace - and if there was nothing after all, just peasant's mumblings, then he would take retribution on the fools upon his return.
These were the thoughts going through his head as he and two-score of his loyal samurai sailed into a fog bank, a few hundred meters away from a small, uninhabited island that he had explored once when he was younger.
Then they found the fishing boat. It was a small, low-drafted vessel washed in blood and lit aflame. Kichiro's jaw unwillingly dropped as he saw the bodies. No wokou he had ever seen would do something like this. The small boat's crew of fishermen had been slaughtered, with body parts hanging over the sides of the flaming boat and one man hanging upside-down from the mast with his head missing.
Then they heard the war-horns sounding, and the battle was begun.
Uthred blasted once more on his war-horn, the old gold-gilded instrument ringing in the fog of the evening over the grey water. One of his far-sighted men, Rypiere, had spotted the foreign war-ship earlier in the day and the sea-wolves had shadowed it ever since, careful to stick near to the fog-bank. So they'd gotten into to good position and the six or seven serfs aboard the Sea-Eagle with their self bows had loosed arrows at his command. Their weapons were built of single pieces of wood, and were rudely crafted, so they had little power to them. And so the Sea-Eagle was closer to its prey than Uthred would normally have cared for, but they had no choice if he wanted the first blow to be struck to be his own.
The Sea-Eagle soared over the waves, powered dually by the wind in her sails and the rushing oars on either flank, lagging only a little behind the darts that had been shot forth before her. He watched with satisfaction as several men were hit in the back and legs, knowing full-well that his men had been aiming for their necks and faces.
Then he had to duck down behind one of the shields lining the sides of the Sea-Eagle as the enemy returned fire. Their archers were obviously more skilled than his own, and their weapons were of better construction as two of his serfs and three of his huscarls were hit by incoming arrows.
"Get behind your damn shields," Uthred roared. "Clapa, ready that chain. We're almost upon them."
And then they were. Clapa, one of his strongest huscarls, stood and threw the grappling-hook across the gap to latch onto the near side of the opposing vessel.
Uthred followed it over, a group of picked-men following him across. One of them, a man named Haesten, leapt too soon over the breach and came up short to be dragged underwater by the weight of his armour without a sound.
Uthred had his longsword, which he had named Serpent-Breath, out and his first stroke with it was an overhanded slash into the unprotected back of one of the unarmoured men servicing the ship. Back split open and bleeding out like a melon, he collapsed as Uthred drew his sword out of the new corpse. His huscarls fanned out, creating a small shieldwall to fight from behind.
And they needed to, for then the armoured men inside of the ship counter-attacked them. Many of them had polearms; the rest had shields. Those men with bows stowed them away, but not before Uthred saw what they were; tall war-bows, taller than the men that bore them, made of polished bamboo. Interesting, he thought.
Then a man began to shout at him and slash a short spear at his legs beneath his shield, further out than he could reach with Serpent-Breath. Fortunately he was able to go without harm from it thanks to the bands of steel he wore around his legs.
Uthred shouted aloud for Clapa to come up to the front with his Danish ax, a two-handed weapon with a stave as long as a man's leg, and for him to bring a spear. Sheathing Serpent-Breath, he took the spear and allowed Clapa to stand before him with his ax. More men were crossing over or stabbing out with their spears from the Sea-Eagle.
Clapa felled one man with his great ax, crushing through his shoulder-plates and destroying his chest, but then he struck at a warrior with a strange helmet on his head and as he tried to smash him his blow was struck away by the angled sides of it and the man stuck his spear into Clapa's stomach. It pierced the gambeson, a thick, quilted shirt made to defeat arrows, and continued into his gut. Clapa readjusted his ax, roared a challenged mixed with pain, and destroyed the spear. Several of the near-by enemy soldiers saw this happen and stood back, fearing the warrior who not die.
Then Sakuma Kichiro loosed an arrow from his yumi, which soared true and straight into Clapa's eye. He fell to the bloody deck with the spear still in his stomach.
"Back," Uthred shouted, with his spear with blood running down its shaft still in hand. "We're taking too many losses here, we can't make a proper shield-wall. Back across to the Sea-Eagle!" His huscarls that had crossed over then leapt back to their own ship, the stiff resistance on the enemy war-ship having repulsed them. They couldn't defeat it, not with their few numbers. The few wounded warriors who could not go back themselves tried to fight from were they laid, but were slaughtered with arrows and spears.
"Cut that chain, before they follow us across," Uthred instructed to Rypiere, one of his servants. But he was saved the trouble by one of the opposing warriors, a huge man wielded a studded club of solid iron, destroyed the grappling-hook and the chain fell slack into the grey waters of the sea.
Uthred simply sniffed at this, then turned to Ralla at the rear of the ship. "We've got to get to land if we are going to defeat them," he said. "We don't have room to form a proper shieldwall on that boat, and we can't fight them at any kind of distance. Land is our only hope." He wasn't even considering running away, simply making a tactical retreat to finish the fight on ground more amiable to their interests.
"Make it so."
Kichiro beckoned to the bodies of his enemies draped across his ship. "Throw them overboard."
"You do not want to save the heads, daimyo?" The warrior that asked was named Fujita, and his chosen weapon of war was the great kanabo club. He had just used it to destroy the chain connecting the two war-ships, to free their vessel and begin a pursuit.
Kichiro scowled and passed his yumi away to one of his retainers. "No. These men are pirates, not true warriors. From the sea they have come, and to the sea they will return." He took a naginata from the same young samurai, whose name escaped him.
He then shouted orders to his men to pursue the swiftly-fleeing warship. They were headed for the island.
They found the Norse vessel a few hours later, not long before sundown. It was laid up on a creekside, sails flapping idly in the wind and abandoned.
Kichiro peered at it through the mist, trying to discern what had happened here. Why would they leave their own warship unattended? What were they planning?
His own ship was unsuited to sailing up rivers, unlike the low-hung vessel of the strangers. It was a clever invention, that. As such he and his men had had to disembark their own ship back at the coast, and trek across the small island through marshes and lightly-forested hills. Their armour was splattered with mud and slime, but on matter; it would be cleaned later, not just of mud but also of blood.
"No matter," Kichiro said to one of his servants that had come with them. "Take some brands and burn that ship." The few servants that had accompanied them to land went off to do so while the warriors spread out to clean the muck from their weapons and armour.
Then the Norse made their move.
A volley of thrown spears and smaller javelins crashed into the group of samurai, killing some and scattering the others. The warriors themselves followed their missiles into melee combat, swords and axes drawn.
Kichiro shouted orders to his warriors, drawing his katana as he did it. The last of the enemy raiders had left their hiding-place, a thick group of low-hanging trees at the foot of the opposite riverbank.
The leading warrior turned towards him, a tall man with grim features and a wolf's head set upon his shield. Gathering a knot of his men to him, Kichiro assaulted the wedge and the viking leader.
The first blow upon his shield rocked Uthred's arm, sending a shocks of sensation up and down his spine to the soles of his feet and the roots of his teeth. Gritting the latter and lifting one of the former, he dodged the second strike of his massive enemy, a man near to his own size wielding a huge wooden club studded with iron.
Uthred stepped around the man's next swing, and smiled cruelly. The fool had overlunged with the attempt, and left his flank open. He would pay dearly with the mistake - with his life, if Uthred had his way with it. He stabbed in, once, with Serpent-Breath - sliding the blade into the unarmoured gap between the man's neck and collarbone. It reappeared out of the other side, the tip bloodied, and the man fell to his knees. Withdrawing his sword, Uthred swung his shield around at an angle to the man's temple; the iron rim caught it at the apex of its flight, and broke his skull like an egg. The body tumbled over, broken.
Then another man, possibly their leader judging by his ornate armour, leapt at him to slash and cut at Uthred's face. He had to defend himself with his shield as often as with his sword and gauntlets. He was young, but obviously a skilled swordsman; unfortunately for him, Uthred of Babbonbourgh was also a skilled swordsman.
He struck out with his shield, angling it to present as much of its surface as possible between himself and the daimyo, then lunged forward with the tapered point of Serpent-Breath, hoping to gut the man like a fish. He made contact, but his enemy's armour withstood the assault. He withdrew without thinking, hunching his shoulders up over his neck to protect it from a would-be cut to his neck.
Now the daimyo took the offensive, striking often with slashes at Uthred's neck, face and legs. Uthred was hard-pressed to defend himself adequately, trusting to his shield more often than he would normally wish.
The battle swirled around them. Men fought and died. But neither fled - these were trained, professional killers, deadly efficient in the use of their weapons. At the center of it were their lords.
They had moved to the thick marsh-land, now, boots squelching in the mud. Then Sakuma Kichiro made his mistake.
He stepped too far back from the viking, hoping to make him overstretch in an attempt at hitting him, but his feint failed. Instead, he had stepped into a depression in the ground filled with water, and he sunk up to the knee.
Distracted by this, he had no chance to do anything other than attempting a futile defense as the viking defeated the samurai.
Uthred turned away from his slain foe. He had been a talented, deadly fighter - good that he had killed him. His own huscarls had broken the enemy, and the former retainers - now all ronin - were fleeing back to their ship as Norsemen blew their war-horns in pursuit of them. He would call them off soon, to loot the bodies, bury their own dead, and soon set sail.
Uthred of Bebbanburg was anxious to find the land that this man had ruled. It had no ruler, now - and therefore no protector. This may prove to be the most profitable venture of his life.
~TOTAL OFFENSIVE SCORE: thirty-one (31) points.
~TOTAL DEFENSIVE SCORE: twenty-nine (29) points.
~TOTAL X-FACTOR SCORE: seventeen (17) points.
=Total Score for the Samurai Daimyo: seventy-seven (77) points.
~TOTAL OFFENSIVE SCORE: thirty-one (31) points.
~TOTAL DEFENSIVE SCORE: thirty-one (31) points.
~TOTAL X-FACTOR SCORE: eighteen (18) points.
=Total Score for the Norse Warlord: eighty (80) points.
-Well, that didn't go like I was expecting. It appears that the samurai's lack of a shield is what defeated them, as they weren't as balanced on defense as they were with their offense. Despite having a virtual carapace of armour, their weapons left them open and vulnerable to returning assaults, even with their speed. Regardless of that shortcoming, the samurai were still deadly warriors, and I don't doubt that they would defeat other cultures in one of these confrontations. I think that it's very poetic that the two were so evenly-tied for most of the competition, matching one another for offensive points and only coming within hairs'-breadth of each other in the other two categories. On the whole this was a great, balanced matchup, and hopefully it will bring a conclusive end to the debate between these two warrior-cultures.