The Last Regiment of Mara’Kossos
The Hetariai is an ancient mercenary company with a long history of service, going back for several hundreds of years and covering much of the known world. Throughout its history, the Hetariai has served countless rulers and fought for many causes, growing and shrinking as fortune dictates. Much of its history has been preserved through a rich oral tradition, but the details have been lost over time. The regiment has a tradition of moving west after each commission, so its origins are far to the east – perhaps thousands of miles. Mara’Kossos is not found on any maps in this part of the world.
The history and lore of the Hetariai is strong and is embodied by the regiments’ magical battle standard, known as The Strata. The battlecrest on The Strata depicts a large, white hawk on a dark blue field and informally the regiment is known as the WhiteHawks. The soldiers of the regiment refer to themselves as ‘The WhiteHawks’ when speaking with outsiders, but use ‘The Hetariai’ amongst themselves and a single soldier is called a Hetarios.
The Strata itself is a powerful magical item, with at least 3 known forms that it can take. When furled by a command word, the standard retracts inside the shaft, which is wooden with ornate gold-plating and a white iron hawk on top, 4 feet in length. The staff can be wielded as a weapon by the standard-bearer in this form. A second command word unfurls the standard so that it may be carried into battle, at which point the shaft lengthens to 12 feet and the banner unfurls into a 6ft x 6ft square. In either form, the Strata can also be planted into the ground with another command word. When planted, the shaft of the Strata becomes 8ft long and the banner is 4ft x 4ft. In each of these forms The Strata manifests different magical abilities, the exact details of which are unknown to all but perhaps the regimental commander, or Stratekos. There are believed to be other forms as well, either lost or rarely used.
The strong identity of the WhiteHawks has been kept alive through oral tradition - a lengthy battle song that serves as the regiment’s laws, history and religion. This chant-song, called the Kardanai, is many hours in length and documented through magical inscription made directly onto the shaft of The Strata. It is the responsibility of the Stratekos to update the historical verses of the Kardanai as they happen. New soldiers spend many months learning the Kardanai, augmented by the magic of The Strata. Various portions of the Kardanai are sung in battle, during prayer and in the regiment’s military ceremonies.
The Strata is also used to induct new members into the company, who are then morally and magically bound to it. New members must take an elaborate oath to the Hetariai and The Strata. This oath is known as the Karda, which in the language of Mara’Kossos roughly translates to “warlike spirit”. This oath requires many commitments, including following the laws and teachings of the Kardanai. The Karda commands a soldier to put his shield-brothers and the regiment before all else, and to protect The Strata at all costs. The oath-taker vows to leave all personal, political and religious connections outside of the regiment behind, taking a new name upon completion of the ceremony. This commitment makes brotherhood in the Hetariai incredibly strong, even for a military outfit. The regiment serves as family, faith and way of life to the Hetarios soldiers.