Armies and Warriors
"A good king may rely on his Friends and his Friends' warriors. Foreign warriors are the tool of a tyrant."
— Lady Kalypso of Tychris
Belhar survived the Godswar — barely. Its society and unity were shattered, divided under the rule of disparate potentates and city-states. Its economy was wrecked, capable of little production let alone long-distance trade. Many of the people who had worked on the land were dead, leaving agricultural production at terrifyingly low levels. Those that remained had their hands full feeding themselves, let alone producing enough food to allow others to live in cities (or, indeed, military camps) without farming their own food. These were the things that ended the era of the great lockstep legions, not stupidity or obscurantism. The people who lived in the Empire did not forget how to make complex war on a large scale; they simply lacked the resources to do so. Individual cities or warlords could not muster the vast professional armies that the united imperials had been able to, and given their losses, even if the Empire had still been united, the imperials would not have been able to do so, either.
What was left was societies that only contained very small groups of people that had the resources to maintain the ability to fight, let alone spend all of their time on it in ways sufficient to become good at it. Only the wealthiest of elites could finance training, armor, and good weapons. This meant that those whom historians often call 'the powerful' were the ones who did most of the fighting. In this they would usually be accompanied by small groups of trained and experienced retainers, albeit usually of lesser military quality; only very rarely would larger groups of people leave their land, flocks, fish, or towns to take up arms as untrained levies. Sometimes the 'powerful' fought for a particular ruler or city; other times, they would turn mercenary, crossing boundaries to battle for whomever they pleased if price and land were right. Whether they inherited it from aristocratic Belharan parents or took it by force in battle, they were the ones who controlled most of what little wealth existed in the lean years following the apocalypse, and thus most of the modern noble houses count them as ancestors.
Ironically, the slowly growing prosperity of the last century has upset this state of affairs. Now, many realms and city-states have the resources and population to build larger armies… and, less happily, there’s enough food in most parts of the world to sustain larger groups of bandits preying on farmers, shepherds, and fishers. City-states field forces of citizen militia who arm themselves out of their personal wealth; princes and princesses can call on their "friends", warriors of note with their own groups of retainers. Mighty Khor'minos has even gone a long way toward recreating Old Belhar's lockstep legions, as has Taelia on a somewhat smaller scale. And with more food and wealth in abundance, mercenary companies have emerged, especially in the Heartlands and Tronarii.
Mercenaries in particular bear mention as a fungible quantity. A mercenary company (and they are almost always organized in companies; a single warrior without a support network of some kind is essentially useless and usually dead) can move from war to war in the Heartlands more or less seamlessly, provided its leaders, who are usually aristocracy or of the untitled wealthy, survive as a nucleus around which to recruit fresh warriors. But while they may seem common now compared to several years ago, there are still not all that many compared to the days of yore. Growing prosperity is one thing, but it will be many decades, if not centuries, before there is enough food to feed large groups of warriors who do not cultivate their own crops. As a result, even the largest mercenary companies tend to keep barely a hundred or so spears in their establishment. More than that they cannot pay. Well do the Heartlanders remember the tragedies that resulted when the Khushkan entrepreneurs hired on more warriors than they could pay or feed — a whirlwind march of conquest in a desperate effort to keep their forces together, and then, when they faced defeat, a turn to dark powers that nearly turned tragedy into apocalypse.
As ever, the best-trained and -equipped warriors remain the small groups of paladins and champions that comprise the military orders of the Seven. (In fact, the very word paladin exists because the greatest founding members of the divine military orders came from the Belharan palace bodyguards, or palatini. The Lumian Warriors of White trace their lineage directly to the imperial Candidati, an elite formation of palatine soldiers set apart because they wore white robes with their armor.) After the Godswar, many temporal leaders quibbled about these divine warriors, who for the most part remained outside their direct control. But despite some friction, no one seriously considered eliminating the organizations that had saved civilization, and both nobles and ordinary people continued to donate to the gods and sacrifice to them, supplying the resources that enabled the military orders to continue to do their work. The Astrida continued to keep dangerous portals closed, the valkyries continued to fight their long twilight war against the remnants of the Wraith-touched, the Tiran paladins continued to destroy undead, and so on. Thanks to this, all of them, both godsworn and more mortal paladins, have more experience and more training than almost any other warriors in the known world.
Discussing "War Stories" or "Philosophy" with Annika will award the Armies and Warriors Codex Entry.
- "Friends" in the codex entry is an allusion to philoi, a term ancient Greek monarchs like Alexander the Great used to describe their aristocratic retainers.
- The Candidati were a historical military formation in the Roman Empire.
- The reference to "the powerful" is an allusion to the debate in Byzantine historiography about the so-called dynatoi, and the silly mode version of the codex entry specifically refers to the work of the historian George Ostrogorsky on the subject.