The Southolder military tradition is a long one, with its roots in the distant Southron past. Before Athelstan, the army was principally an infantry force consisting of the Fyrd (a sort of militia). Over the centuries the use of mercenaries has risen, as has the evolution of the mounted knight and the fiercly loyal housecarles (elite infantry of each noble house).
Housecarles: The Housecarles are to infantry what the knights are to cavalry; the elite. They are the personal troops of a noble, akin to retainers or bodyguards. A baron might have only a dozen such troops, while a duke might have several hundred. Southron housecarles are known for their fierce bravery and loyalty. Many make blood-pacts with each other, forming a sort of warriors' brotherhood. They are invariably the best armed and armored of the infantry and certainly the most experienced.
Fyrd: The Fyrd are Southold’s milia, a system dating back to Athelstan’s day, and some say outdated. It has always been used as a local defensive force, and all able-bodied men are referred to as "fyrdworthy." However, the calling up of the so-called Great Fyrd has not occurred in centuries--instead, nobles have relied on conscripting men into the regular army in times of war. One aspect of the old system remains, the “select Fyrd,” which dictates that for every five hides of land (a hide is something of an economic measurement, equivalent to 40-120 acres of land), one warrior must be provided for two months of service a year. Thus, unlike the undisciplined historical Great Fyrd, the Select Fyrd is made up of well-trained and equipped warriors. During the most recent war, the select fyrd was mobilized and incorporated into the regular army, with its members becoming sergeants to supervise the new recruits. Once the war is over, the Select Fyrd system will likely resume, with its members responsible for the trimodo necessitas; military service, fortress work, and bridge repair
Butesecarls: These are another arm of the Select Fyrd, drawn from seaside provinces. Since the reign of Ethelred, for every 300 hides in seaside provinces, one ship (usually the ubiquitous Southolder cog) must be provided to the Royal Navy (the duchies are not allowed navies). Unlike the "land" fyrd, the "sea" fyrd, or butesecarls assemble in Dunthrane once a year for training, and usually the Grand Fleet will sail together along the coasts of Southold to make its presence known. Since the war, the Fleet has been continuously mobilized.
Knighthoods: Knights have existed since the Order of the Stars was proclaimed before the Cataclysm. They disappeared for a time in Southold afterwards, but a thousand years ago mounted members of the Select Fyrd became known as “cnihts.” By the Southolder drive for independence, they were a separate arm of the military, known once again as knights. After Athelstan's death, his son Egbert formed the Knights of Athelstan, to act as the elite cavalry arm of the Southolder army. The Knights were also dedicated to Tyr and were considered both part of his church and belonging to the state. Since then, other knighthoods have emerged, foremost is the powerful Knights of the Silver Hand dedicated to Nuada, as well as Tyr’s Knights of Aethelstan, the Nuadan Templars of St. Uther, and even the Fantra of Shinare. Of course, the international Order of the Stars, which endured even in the dark days of the Cataclysm, still exists, but it no longer has supreme power or hegemony over the knights, and does not play a large role in Southold. The knights inevitably were absorbed into feudalism, and today are an integral part of that system. On the battlefield they are without equal; these along with Southold’s longbowmen, are what make its armies famous and feared. Southron knights have often proved decisive against the Cortal foe, whose strength is its heavy infantry and light cavalry.
Regulars: The use of professional, year round troops, a standing army, is rather new in Southold. Unlike non-feudal states such as Hule, and the various imperial nations, Southold's system has avoided the cost of maintaining such a force. But, as the early Southolder defeats in the Second Cortalish War illustrated, the combined forces of the Select Fyrd, the Knighthoods, and the Housecarles is not always enough when dealing with countries that put their entire nation "under arms" as the Cortals. Even the intervention of numerous mercenary companies in that conflict could not stave off Southolder defeat. Thousands of recalled warriors converged on Dunthrane after the muster. By the time the entire Select Fyrd was mobilized, the enemy had penetrated as far as the River Sirion.
The lesson learned from this conflict was to keep a large force standing by at Dunthrane capable of rapid deployment, to gain time while the Select Fyrd mobilized. After Southold had sufficiently recovered from the Cortalish Occupation, King Harold levied the Poll Tax, to be collected each winter, to finance the creation of a regular army. The force, aptly called the Southolder Army, is several thousand strong and based in barracks in the Crown City. The regular army has gained great prominence since the Third Cortalish War erupted, and many question whether the country should even return to the old fyrd system.
There are a large number of private fighting companies unaligned to the Crown in Southold, who fight solely for gold and plunder. These mercenary companies have been the common gathering point for exceptional warriors for the last several centuries. They have played in important role in not only Southold's wars, but also those of the other lands of Arik. However, with the rise of large, permanent national armies, their future is uncertain. Even humanoids maintain their own mercenary forces. A typical fee for the average mercenary company is a noble a week per person, though for most of the prominent organizations listed below, it is more like a sovereign a week. (Note that if the employer cannot supply food and drink, the price is generally raised 25%). Bonuses are expected for successes, as are shares in any loot or treasure gained. Naturally great risk will drive up the price, as will travel allowances, if needed. The following is a brief list of the major mercenary companies operating in Southold.
Blacktalons Mercenary Company: Based in Eastmarch, the Blacktalons do most of their business on the Great Pass trade route, either as an large and powerful armed guard for a valuable caravan, or as hired raiders for some other employer. Some say that this ruthless band even attacks caravans "for free" when business is slow. The Blacktalons are led by the Huler Ahmed Marsul. They have a small citadel built against the southeast corner of the Eastmarch’s city wall. Any indiscretions they commit are ignored, as the Blacktalons prove a handy defensive force for the city in time of invasion. The group's symbol is a blackened hawk's talon outstretched. The company has avoided the Cortalish War.
Bloodaxe Mercenary Company: The Bloodaxes were founded some forty years ago, originally a dwarfish operation. They were a group exiled from Rockhome for disobeying the teaching of Reorx. This band wandered the north for a time, hiring to any that could pay. They fought several bandit bands and orc war parties. In these many engagements, most of the original dwarves were slain, and replacements were recruited in Wyrm's Gap by the dwarven adventurer Deldagg Huldgrym. This dwarf led the Bloodaxes until his death in 1488 from blacklung fever. The human Velkor "of the Valiant Arm" has taken over operations. The company is made up of mounted spearmen, slingers and axemen, but they usually dismount to do battle. They are a small company, less than a hundred, and but half of them are dwarves. Yet they are veterans all, and have defeated orc bands ten times their size on numerous occasions. The groups symbol is two crossed battle-axes. The Bloodaxes have had several contracts to fight for the Crown in Southold, and are recovering from being badly mauled in the Cortal surprise southern offensive of late 1511.
The Flaming Fist: The largest and most powerful mercenary company in all Arik is the Flaming Fist based in Bywater. The great Southron warrior Eltan leads this band, and in addition to well over a thousand veteran troops, he has access to much magic. The Fist is known today for its operations against goblinoids, Umbar pirates, and Taran petty nobles. It was founded along with Southold in 1066, when Menteith and his retainers fought alongside King Athelstan to repel the Videssian Occupiers. It was after this campaign that Menteith created the Fist, which was to be a warriors' brotherhood. Indeed, the Fist is not that "mercenary" a group. While they charge huge costs, they have been known to accept jobs for less, or even fight goblinoids for free! For example, in the Civil War, Eltan marched to battle against Lord Edrin's forces for merely half his usual price, for he knew Duke Duncan was financially hard-pressed by the conflict. Likewise, Eltan has only charged reduced prices for the long Cortal fight, regarding himself as a Southron patriot. Another reason is that Nuada, god of just war, is the Fist's patron (hence the name the Flaming Fist, named for Nuada's metal fist (forged by Reorx) that detaches and fights for him). Thus many clerics of that deity follow the Fist into battle, further reducing casualties. The 9th Flaming Fist regiment under Captain Cameron Gaunt recently deployed to Aztaltica. Unlike other companies, the Fist handles scouts, support, transportation, and other areas that most companies leave to their employers. Their symbol is a flaming gauntlet, and all members wear twin red gauntlets of this type.
Mindulgulph Mercenary Company: Based in Montinelle, the Mindulgulphs are perhaps the most unique hireswords in Arik. They are a band of seasoned warriors of all races including some not normally thought of as intelligent such as cave fishers and mimics. The leader of this band of misfits is the charismatic Gayrlana "Lady Bloodsword," who in addition to her beauty is a brilliant tactician, exploiting the various advantages of her troops to the full. Gayrlana is famous for slaying Thongh Mirr, a Fire Wizard in the streets of Montinelle in single combat. She explained this feat with the words "the blade is faster than the Art"; words which have become a popular saying across Arik. The company is based in Castle Mindulgulph just north of Montinelle.
Order of the Blue Boar: Based in Boar Castle, in Bristol, this Order is restricted in membership to experienced, veteran fighters of some wealth, each of whom must be approved by the "Boar's Heads" or governing council of seven warriors. The council maintains a membership roll of "Swords" (approved members), each of whom they can expel at will for unprofessional conduct. Members can elect to participate or not to participate in any Order activities (if there are too many applicants for a small job, seniority determines who takes part. Each member takes a share of the fee, and can take part alone or involve any assistants/agents (other beings who are not Swords, including mages, fighting-men, and even trained beasts) they wish, though they are responsible for the pay and control of hirelings or retainers. Some members crippled by age, disease, or wounds, can no longer ride to battle and are always
represented by their hirelings. The Order has a reputation for being wary, cunning, and alert in its endeavors-for-hire, even though its method of pay means few weapon-bearers will take the field. The total roll of Swords is thought to be around 400, but as many adventurers belong to the Order, they may not always be available immediately. The Order's badge is a blue boar's head with open mouth and tusks facing the dexter (right), usually depicted on a russet field. Given Bristol’s proximity to the Empire, the Order has been involved in the Cortal War since the start.
The Shard: The ogre band called the Shard operates out of the Cruth Mountains, hiring itself to the highest bidder, and often helping to defend the lands from Southron incursions against goblinoid bandits. The band is commanded by a powerful ogre mage named Argthal, and boasts goblin archers and some troll shock troops.
The Silver Legion: The Silver Legion is a powerful mercenary company founded in 1492 by Morgan Cordell. The legion holds Nuada, god of just war, as its patron, although the organization has no direct ties to the Nuadan Church or the Kingdom of Southold, and many legionnaires only pay lip service to the Silver-Handed One. Likewise, its egotistical commander, Cordell, has little use for chivalry. While he usually chooses employers with just causes, profit is his driving motivation. The Silver Legion is one of the more respected and profitable Southron mercenary companies. The Legion distinguished itself in the Southron Civil War of 1504-7, and has fought from the start in the Third Cortalish War, on the northern portion of the front near the Drentmoors. As the Legion gradually bled white in the heavy summer 1511 fighting, General Cordell turned his sights the new land of Aztaltica, and now the Legion is the premier fighting force in New Southold.
Go to next part of Southold: Appendicies