18.) The Returning Veterans: These warriors are on their way back from a grim, hard fought war. Fatigue and weariness, despair and anguish are written on their features. Their honor drives them to complete one last mission, but they sense that they may never survive it.
Wulfhere, 30 Stalwart Bands
Botherhoods of War
Military units, from knightly cadres to peasant militias are rife with small societies and brotherhoods. Most of these are little more than circles of friends and comrades who watch each other’s back during the great war and afterwards are socialite circles for pub crawls. The Order of the Iron Shod Boot began as one such brotherhood.
The Duke of Rimos declared war on the Dominion of Shires, a small pastoral nation that bordered his duchy. The Dominion initially suffered major defeats as it was almost entirely unprepared for a war with the Duchy of Rimos. The Duke expected the war to be over in less than a year, with the breadbasket of the Dominion in his control. With such an annex, he could make a strong claim for the throne when it became vacant, a looming possibility. But it wasnt a quick war, instead the Dominion was able to marshall it’s levies and put them into the field against the Duke’s elite knights and poorly armed and virtually unarmored peasant armies. The peasant irregulars suffered horrific losses against the numerically inferior Shirelanders. The Knights of Rimos also suffered losses, but nowhere near as severe. The damage done was morale, however. After a few knights were pulled from their destriers and hacked to bits, most lost the nerve to fight the Shirelanders.
If the knightly order had continued it’s hard thrust into the Dominion, losses on the peasant soldiers would have lightened, and the knights would have retained the support of their archers, slingmen, and spearmen. The war might have actually been over in just about a year. What the Duke and Knight Marshall overlooked was that a short war is not automatically an easy one. This lack of foresight has lead to a long running war. The Duchy of Rimos is hurting from the cost, both in terms of gold, but also in terms of manpower lost on the battlefield. If a breakthrough on the front isnt made and the war brought to a conclusion in the next six months, it is likely that the King will step in an end the war.
The Dominion of Shires is hurting worse than the Duchy of Rimos, however. All of the the battles thus far have been in Dominion lands, and many farms and irrigation dams have been destroyed. The losses among the soldiers have also been painfully high. If the Dominion cannot strike some sort of counter-blow against the Duchy, it will likely collapse within a year. If the King intervenes, it will be even worse. The Duke of Rimos will likely be censured and reprimanded for his ill-planned war, but the Dominion will face the King’s armies. Even if they surrender, the Dominion becomes another piece of the Kingdom, and their unique kingless nation ceases to be.
The Order of the Iron-Shod Boot
Hailing from across the Dominion of Shires, the Iron-Shod boot became a symbol of endurance and strength. The Shirelander heavy footsoldiers wore iron armor, including leather boots with iron plates in the soles to counter the use of caltrops. While the use of caltrops faded, the boots remained.
The Brotherhood of the Iron-Shod Boot has carried the banner of the Dominion into battle many times. In the past it was against gnoll raiders, goblin rabble rousers, orckish barbarians and similar ilk. When the war came, they lifted their weapons and fought man against man. Losses were heavy, but the Iron-Shod Boots killed ten men for every one that they lost. They also were the soldiers who pulled several knights from their mounts and killed them.
A career soldier, Sgt Kuer is an excellent leader, and great warrior. He is also weary of war and tired of killing. He has a face like a weather beaten plank, and he hasnt shaved in weeks. He still carries himself erect with a brutal sense of duty and determination and he will see this war ended, be it through victory, or death. He knows that he will not live to see the Dominion fall.
Originally a city guard, Pering found it natural to join the army to defend the Dominions. It was one thing catching cutpurses and pimps, it was another to face an enemy on the field of battle. Pering has a great stake in winning the war. When the enemy knights were slain, Pering organized the presentation of their corpses, stripping them naked and hanging them on the city walls for the enemy to see. Pering is a wanted man in Rimos and several knights have boasted of being the man who will find and kill Jon Pering for his mistreatment of the dead.
Suffering from a chronic cough that leaves him light headed and weak, most are surprised to learn the Asango is a soldier. While not a frint line fighter, he has since traded the heavy armor for an arbalest. More than one knight was killed by Asango by taking a steel bolt through the face visor. His cough has worsened and occasionally is stained with blood.
A scarecrow of a man, Buzola is among the oldest of the Dominions soldiers. Now in his fifties, there are few soldiers as seasoned and experienced. His heart has largely gone out of the war, as he has seen most of his friends and students killed or crippled in a few short months. The only thing he knows to do now is to fight with all of his considerable skill to end it.
The Last Mission
The core of the Brotherhood of the Iron-Shod Boot has been tasked with a final mission. This mission is dangerous, not very likely to succede and is really a measure of how desperate the Dominions are to find any sort of advantage in their failing war against the Duchy of Rimos. If they fail in this last mission, they will not only likely perish, but the Dominion of Shires will also.
Potential Last Missions
AKA Plot Hooks
Finding the Dingus is a common enough trope, ranging from magical rings to artifacts of ancient design and power. While this holds true, the Order has been tasked with recovering a Virednith, a magical weapon of incredible power. Should they actually find it, they will then labor to move the device as close to the Duke’s castle, or the main body of his army as possible and attempt to detonate it. The PCs could be looking for the Dingus, be hired to help the order, or be on the other side after a mole informed them that the Dominion was seeking a long lost super weapon.
Strike at the Heart
Morale among Rimosian troops is low and the knights, having seen their own killed and desecrated and the pitiful performance of the peasant soldiers, is even lower. Just the right kind of symbolic attack can bring support for the Duke’s war to an end. The Order is to infiltrate Rimos and find a target of great importance and destroy it, or kill them. The Duke himself is protected from this, killing the duke would only bring the king and his in like a waterfall of suffering. Functioning like a terrorist cell, the Order is looking for trouble to cause, from burning grain silos, poisoning barracks water supplies to kidnapping members of the Duke’s family or that of his supporters. The PCs can function as a parallel cell, additions to the Order, or work as Rimosian counter agents.