The Maul Rats (or the Maul Irregulars, as they are sometimes known) are one of the youngest Regiments of the Locastrian Army, and something of an oddity among them. The Rats have their roots in the seedier parts of Locastus, and this is evident in their appearance and relation to other Regiments. Their reputation for ferocity in combat combines with their seedy appearance and rough living to make them seem dangerously different, anathema to traditional Locastrian military traditions.
As well as being one of the youngest Regiments, the Rats are also one of the smallest - it never fields more than 160 men, arranged in twelve eight-man squads plus officers and a staff platoon. The Maul Rats are strictly heavy and medium infantry, but also have some scouting and "silent work" capabilities.
The diverse backgrounds of individual Rats also contribute to giving the Regiment a wide spectrum of skills to employ in unusual situation. It is not unusual to see Rats out of uniform doing infiltration work or exercising cat-burglar or lock-picking skills in the course of undermining their enemies. There is also a strong tradition of using alchemical explosives, poisons, booby traps, ambushes and other dirty tricks to gain an edge. The Regiment´s resident warlocks also provide a significant advantage in warfare, information gathering and medical field care.
Unlike the higher-end Regiments, where great significance is put on your breeding and family connections, the Maul Rats have been known to recruit from the street-gangs and the denizens of the slums, and the soldiers eschew the gaudy parade uniforms for drab, green-grey woolen field gear, hemispherical steel helmets and heavy boots. Their weaponry is also strictly utilitarian - the Rats use a shortened version of the common Locastrian Breech-Loader, as well as Smatchetts (sometimes more than one per person) and the ever-present Maul Shank. Officers usually wear pistols instead of rifles, and two or three squads are equipped with sniper rifles.
Bandoliers for ammunition are common, as are various pockets for alchemical grenades and other gear. The Rats, like their namesakes, are notorious scavengers, collecting odds and ends - strings, rocks, sticks, anything that can be used as a weapon - with an almost religious fervor. The Rats themselves are a surly, silent lot, prone to cynicism, violence and heavy drinking.
To an outsider, discipline in the Rats seems to be slack; the men are often unshaven, helmets rusty and uniforms tattered. The jargon is rough and respectless, and they seem to be taking great pleasure in irritating the more sophisticated stratas of Locastrian society. If one would look a second time, one would notice that this state of affairs doesn´t compute with the condition of their weapons, that are always oiled and maintained in optimum working order, indicating that all might not be as it seems.
In combat, the Rats have a reputation for savagery and dogged stubbornness. They are regularly ordered into situations the other Regiments wouldn´t touch with a ten-foot pole, and though they often get their noses bloodied, never ever backs down. Despite their scruffy appearance they are soldiers of a level of professionalism hard-matched in Locastus, if anywhere. They have a tremendous capacity for adapting their tactics to suit any given situation, and to employ unothodox angles of approach.
Though they certainly doesn´t see themselves as an elite unit, anyone among them could go toe to toe with the very best of the other Regiments, and have a fair chance of prevailing. If they got that chance, they would probably take it with a grin and a maniacal laugh, too.
The Maul Rats, traditionally takers of the dirtiest, most dangerous assignments, frequently need to replenish their ranks - the average Maul Rat has a quite low life expectancy. They allow women and non-humans to join, something hitherto unheard of, and ask few questions about a recruit´s personal history, beyond what skills he has that might prove useful. A new recruit is given a nickname - usually tinged with a dark sense of humor and referring to some aspect of the recruit´s personality - and is never again referred to by any other name.
The bulk of new Maul Rat recruits die quickly, whittled away by the constant engagements the Regiment manically throws itself at, but a fraction survives and may go on to be promoted. Rank in the Maul Rats is granted based on competence, rather than birth and connections, which further sets them apart from the rest of the Regiments.
The corpse of a fallen Rat will usually be left where he fell, or, if he´s lucky, buried in a shallow grave. Although no thought is spared to fallen comrades, the Rats all vow to deliver a coup de grace to any mortally wounded soldier, should he wish it. The brutal, nihilistic mindset of the Maul Rats have little thought to spare for niceties, they put their energy where it matters - staying alive to fight another day.
The Maul Rats was originally a counter-revolutionary militia formed by the legendary General Titus Hinge in the year 179, in an attempt to quench the near-successful military coup of that year. During this brief, violent event, with small skirmishes occurring all over Locastus, racist insurgents marched into the Maul, put its inhabitants to the sword and torched their dwellings, an event that has gone down in history as the Great Fire.
Hinge, in a desperate attempt to save what he could of the Old Blood enclave, counterattacked and, after dispatching the Rebels, organized an evacuation of the few surviving citizens. Once safely out of the conflagration, Hinge drafted men and women into his company of Loyalists, marched upon the beleaguered Upper town, and eventually saved the sitting government. The militia would later be assigned official Regiment status, to the intense irritation of the "traditional" Regiments, comprised of soldiers and officers from the aristocracy. The drafted Maul locals, gang members, petty criminals and prostitutes all, foreswore their allegiances and joined the Maul Rats, forfeiting their old names for their Maul street handles.
In commemoration of the birth and the origins of the Maul Rats Regiment, its soldiers wear the chequered prayer-scarves of the Old Blood spirit faith, and the traditional Maul Shank, originally a street-gang weapon. They also retain, within their ranks, the last few of the powerful Old Blood warlocks and witches, providing the Brigade with much better healers and magical support than even the well-funded Cold Souls or the Locastrian Eagles. Those sorcerer-schamans (masquerading as common soldiers) are the source of the abundance of Power Sigils and puissant tattoos among the Maul Rats.
Over the next decade, the Maul Rats were thrown into every major campaign the Locastrian army undertook. They spent four years fighting skirmishes and running battles along the northern frontier while securing the mining operations in and around the Knuckle Hills, and a further five pacifying the Locastrian colonies on the Nascogiban sub-continent. In 189, the Maul Rats successfully defended Locastus itself against the invaders from the East, an event that Titus Hinge exploited to further his political agenda, that of diverting political power from the aristocracy and into the hands of the populace.
With Hinge´s death in 192, command of the Maul Rats passed on to his chosen successor and adopted son, Cyrus Brennan. Brennan, who had stood with Hinge during the battle of the Maul, continued to use the reputation of the Rats, together with his own extensive contacts to influence Locastrian politics. This manuever antagonized many in Locastus´s political strata, although Brennan and the Maul Rats were still considered too valuable to disband.
Brennans political balance act lasted until 198, when the Maul Rats - through extensive machinations among Brennan´s political enemies, fearing his growing popularity and military prowess - were stationed in the rebellious Locastrian colony on the continent of Nascogiba. It was the hope of these antagonists that, eventually, the Rats would be eradicated by the insurgent natives there, and Brennan´s political ambition removed. So far, however, Brennan´s strategic genius and the ferocity of his soldiers has won through, pacifying the region through incessant raids upon rebel camps, and avoided several Locastus-sponsored attempts on Brennan´s life in the meanwhile.
Appendix: A Brief Who´s Who of the Maul Rats
Name: Cyrus Brennan
Status: Commander of the Maul Rats
Descripition: A short, stocky man in his 40´s with sandy blonde hair, slightly flattened nose and round glasses. His hands are large, with blunt, short fingers and his dark eyes betray his Old Blood heritage. Like his men, he is never without his chequered, tattered prayer scarf tied around one upper arm, and a Maul Shank at his belt.
Brennan is the illegitimate child of a Locastrian Lord and an Old Blood courtesan. He has had a classical education and is a brilliant strategist, tutored under Ol´ Man Hinge himself and groomed to take over command of the Rats. As Hinge´s crown prince, he has access to a vast network of agents, informants and friends in high places. This makes him a powerful man, but also a danger to his political enemies.
He is normally a quietly intelligent, soft-spoken man, but will, when campaigning, become prone to moodiness and irritation. Then, he spends most of his time poring over maps and evaluating strategies, forgoing sleep and food. After an engagement, his habit is to get roaring drunk, staggering around and generally making an arse out of himself.
His subordinates know his moods, and can handle him, but are not always able to stop him picking fights with his favourite targets: noble-born officers.
Status: Colonel, Maul Rat
Descripition: A tall, lean man with elegantly curled moustaches, close-cropped grey hair and curiously intense, gas-flame-blue eyes. Unusually for an officer, he carries a regular, snub-nosed breech-loader rifle.
Wick is Brennan´s right hand man and second in command. His dogged, methodical approach to military tactics well complement the more mercurial Brennan. Wick has been with the Rats since the Battle of the Maul, and has earned his position by competence and experience.
Status: Lieutenant, Maul Rat
Descripition: A large, bearish man, close to 2 metres tall and broad enough to appear squat. He has grey-peppered close-cropped black hair, a short beard and wears circular glasses. His massive, hairy forearms are covered in greenish-black power tattoos, strings of runes spiralling their way between wrist and elbow.
He moves surprisingly fast and quietly for such a big man, a tell-tale sign that his shambling locomotion is at least partially an affectation. Bass is not a good shot, and prefers to fight with his matched pair of Smatchetts, his Maul Shank or, if push comes to shove, his bare hands.
Status: Warlock, Maul Rat
Descripition: Finch is a short, scrawny man of indeterminable age, with a harrowed face and pouchy, blood-shot dark eyes. He has a great, back-swept mane of grey-white hair, patchy stubble and impressive, owl-like eyebrows. He is covered from head to toe in an intricate, densely needled skein of power tattos. Finch´s uniform is excessively patched and tattered, and he exudes a powerful miasma of alcohol.
While an exceedingly powerful warlock, one of the last of his kind in the world, Finch is also an alcoholic of the nastiest sort, prone to drunken rages and violence. He would drink anything from fermented horse piss to regurgitated moonshine if he thought it would get him drunk.
When sober and focused, Finch is a great asset for the regiment, although his brand of magic involves a lot of screaming, cursing, stamping and physically abusing his equipment. Anyone who has seen him unveil his full arcane power, his puissant tattoos blazing with unearthly light, will never doubt the power residing in this scruffy-looking little man.
Status: Sergeant, Maul Rat
Descripition: A tall woman, all lean, corded muscle. The half-blood result of the union between a man of the savage hill tribes and an Old Blood prostitute, Coin is bronze-skinned, with a shaved head, hooked nose and dark, smouldering eyes. An Old Maul gang tattoo (a knife wrapped in chain) is placed on her left temple and her teeth are filed to points in the tradition of the hill tribes. Many pale scars, evidence of rough battlefield stitching, mars her features, and she moves with the deadly grace of a mountain cat.
Coin is one of the original Maul Rats that joined after the Battle of the Maul, and is now one of its best officers, despite her fiery temper. In deference to her heritage she carries, besides Maul Shank, Smatchett and Breech-Loader, the traditional weapons of the hill tribes; a blowpipe and whip-chain.
Status: Squad Leader, Maul Rat
Descripition: A blocky, bald-headed, one-eyed man with angular features and a wide, frog-like, eternally down-turned mouth. The same, unknown injury that took his right eye also damaged his larynx, making his voice harsh and grating. He never tries to cover up his missing eye, instead taking great pleasure in menacing people with the stare of his empty socket.
His handicaps don´t hinder him overmuch, since he remains the most skilled sniper and trick-shot in the Rats. He carries an overlong sniper-adapted Breech-Loader with a large, complicated brass sighting device mounted on top, specially made to allow him (as a right-handed shot) to sight with his left eye.
Status: Saboteur, Maul Rat
Descripition: A short, dark-skinned woman with a tight mop of grey-brown curls and large, coffee-coloured eyes. Her rich brown skin is peppered with minute white spots - the scars of shrapnel injuries, and she regularly wears a mien of manic glee.
Sparks always lugs around a massive backpack filled with alchemical explosives, detonators, smoke powders, inflammable substances, bomb canisters, spools of fuse and tripwires. Like most of the Rats, she is a manic scavenger, collecting everything and anything that may come in handy - rocks, scrap metal, nails, string and glass.
She is a fair alchemist and produces her own explosive concoctions, but excels at blowing things up. Her mines, grenades and booby traps are of excellent quality, often with an evil, sadistic twist to them, and her various inventions have on numerous occasions saved a retreating squad.
Sparks, then a fledgling alchemist struggling with her pyromaniac impulses, was recruited during the Northern campaigns and fit right in with the Maul Rats. She is well respected, although no-one willingly sleeps close to her or her pack - she might blow up, after all.