Culture of War
"Among warriors with no access to the proper ceremonies, the rituals for Sorra's blessing of storms in battle are these: first and most efficacious, chanting the lay of Heaven's Air; second, offering a willow wreath or a leananstone to a well, or to the sea; third, chasing dogs while asking the sky for rain; last, shouting angrily and throwing a javelin at the sky."
— Enno, Taelian priest of Sorra
Old Belhar's lockstep legions marched around the world winning victory after victory under monarchs and generals like Sanna Rutiliana, Edivus II, and Michael Melissenos, but Belharan aristocratic society also valorized leisure; a noble who had profited enough to allow himself or herself to avoid having to work had time for politics or the opportunity to dabble in civic, magical, or scientific pursuits, after all. In this era, though, warriors are at the top of the social hierarchy in nearly every culture that exists amid the wreckage of the empire, and it's not merely because of their wealth and power. Heartlander aristocrats have their position because of their military bona fides earned by protecting the city or the realm from foreign threats. So do the untitled wealthy whom the city-states of the south elect as generals over their citizen militia. For their part, tribal warriors like those of the Sailgraves orcs are the ones who bring plunder and slaves from the mainland back to their windswept isles, making a difference between subsistence and a semblance of prosperity… at least for those selfsame warriors. Being a warrior is key to the identity of the 'powerful' in much of the post-imperial world. Perhaps only in Khor’minos and some of the great independent cities like Barania and Marouka is there a semblance of the old Belharan sense of noble leisure used for the benefit of everyone else.
Those warrior-aristocrats and champions who possess literary or musical ability usually write about their way of life, and those with money pay for the same from the troubadours and bards of Savarra’s byways. Elite culture, however, is not the only place for tales of war and songs of battle. The poor hear them (and sing them) as well. To be sure, a peasant’s viewpoint often (fairly) depicts warriors as the rapacious thugs who enslave children, ravish families, steal crops and livestock, or just casually murder people. But some figures of song like Goar, a tragic hero of the Khushkan war, have more positive depictions among ordinary Savarrans. And, of course, Lumia’s valkyries, Nareva’s Astrida, and paladins of every deity are almost universally admired in both aristocratic and peasant culture for both military prowess and saving the innocent regardless of wealth or station.
These stories and songs circulate as more or less common currency throughout the lands that once lived under imperial rule. From Tronarii to Tychris, it is reasonable to say that the post-imperial peoples all have shared expectations of what warfare is like. Warriors bound together not just by a common tongue and common religion (even if one god or another of the Seven happens to predominate in a given land) but by common experiences (especially for mercenary companies, which can operate in lands very far afield) tend to have similar views about what is acceptable in war. This does not mean that battle is the same for the mountaineers of Zhenna as it is for the urban militia of Taelia or the woodsmen and wyld elves of Sartanni, but it can mean that all of those groups would have similar understandings of what constitutes an acceptable target in the eyes of their peoples and their gods.
All of the Seven are, in some form or another, deities of war. Generals might pray to Nareva or Keros when employing clever stratagems, to Mallach for soldierly unity and comradeship, to Sorra for favorable weather, or to Velun when seeking a wild battle frenzy. Lumia, of course, is the patron goddess of just war: defending against attackers, or bringing fire and sword down upon the truly wicked. But Tira perhaps embodies the spirit of warriors best, for she is not merely the goddess of battle and death but the goddess of chance and fate. Everyone who bears arms in Savarra knows that war is the province of uncertainty, that the results of most battles amount to a roll of the dice (or, by common metaphor, Tira’s bones). In such circumstances, who better to have on one’s side than the goddess who decrees mortals’ allotted time?
Discussing "Big Battles" with Annika will award the Culture of War Codex Entry.
- The ritual described in the codex quotation is adapted from the practices of Mongolian shamans. The major adaptation is that the Mongolians throw poo into the air rather than a javelin.
- Rutiliana and Melissenos are names adapted from Roman history: the Western Empire generated the former family and the Eastern Empire generated the latter.