Host of Battle
These Trolls travel land and sea in an eternal search for their next war. The Host of Battle—for they have no other name for themselves—is part mercenary army, part ethnicity.
This extended sept currently resides in the Heldannic Confederation and Northern Protectorate, but originally hails from the southern islands of the Greatsea. Theirs is a mercenary society, and hire themselves out in groups of varying size. They consider warfare to be the only truly honourable profession. They ply the seas on a fleet of gargantuan black ships of ancient make. The secrets of manufacturing these great ships have been lost, and the Host is known best for their land-based combat. Thus, they avoid naval battles whenever possible, and will never accept commissions that risk these ships. There are no fewer than 23 of these ships, each identical and feature six huge masts; the hulls are the colour of tar and feel like smooth shell. Each is larger than a village, and houses hundreds. Multi-terraced superstructures have flowing and hanging gardens, children playing on the ancient rigging, and troops practicing on the vast upper decks. Domed bay windows bubble out from the sides, some threatening with ballistae, some with drying laundry hanging. Smaller boats occasionally dart between the giant vessels.
Physically, the Host of Battle resemble a cross between Rock Trolls and Black Trolls, but they do not consider themselves related to either. They speak a creole of Anglan and Gobbley, intermixed with some Tarrysh words, and are perhaps indirectly descended from them or otherwise kin. Theirs is a non-exclusive ethnicity, and someone of any species or background can theoretically join them, but it is a long and slow process requiring many trials of worth (in and out of battle) before an aspirant is considered one of them and allowed aboard the great fleet.
The society of the Host is militarily organised, and every adult fits within one of the traditional job fields. These are: stormtrooper, lancer, navigator, smith, and sniper. All other tasks are considered secondary areas of expertise. For example, the troop's cook may be a stormtrooper, and a sniper also cobbles shoes for his companions. Though considered secondary roles, every soldier is expected to practice some useful craft—just being a strong warrior isn't enough. Each job field is considered equal to the others, and everyone is expected to find whichever best fits their strengths. This is done during adolescence, and it is not uncommon for a child to have a different career than his or her parents. After choosing a unit type, a young member of the Host receives extensive training in that field. Whenever possible, this is done aboard ship or in garrison, rather than in the field on active duty. Such training can take years depending on the aptitude and innate talents of the trainee. No one is pressed into service until both the student and teachers feel he or she is ready for battle. If it is discovered that one would be better suited to a different role, this is identified early, and he or she is transferred to a different group to train—there is no shame in this or perception of 'washing out'.
When ready for active service, the trainee joins a fighting troop. He or she must petition the prospective unit, as there might not be an opening or the unit may not feel the new fighter will be a good fit. These unit assignments are usually permanent. It is rare for units to be consolidated after heavy losses or otherwise reassigned. As they will live, work, and fight together for the remainder of their lives, choosing a unit—or accepting a new fighter—are not lightly considered.
Lancers are mounted heavy cavalry. These are usually mid-sized Trolls, known for their fearlessness and animal friendship. Both mount and rider wear thick armour covered in spikes. They are armed with a trio of their namesake lances, an axe, and a shield. Their horses are bred for strength & trained to be as fearless as their riders. Snipers are mainly small-sized Trolls. They wield a powerful arballest and a folding pavise fashioned from silk. Patience, stealth, and speed are stereotypical traits of the Host's snipers. They are as likely to defeat a foe by assassination as by firing in the open field behind their silken shields. Navigators are unique in that they do not often leave their gargantuan ships to fight land battles. They are lightly armoured or unarmoured, and are armed with arballests and battleaxes. Despite the term 'navigator', these fill all nautical roles, from working the rigging to fishing to actual chart & instrument reading. Navigators are of all sizes equally, and are the talkers and loremasters of the Host. Smiths are the engineers and artillerists of the Host of Battle. They are stereotypically focused and task-oriented—these are the handy-types and skilled in practical tasks. In war, smiths are lightly armoured and carry battleaxes, but they are most known for their fearsome artillery: siege arballests and ballistae of frightening speed firing explosive bolts. Host of all sizes may be smiths. Stormtroopers are the big and powerful foot soldiers. The largest sizes are common here, often standing twice the size of their foes. Agility, speed, skill, and single-minded dedication mark the stormtroopers. They are heavily armoured (albeit not quite as heavily as the lancers), and are armed with broadswords and their dreaded dragon spears. These polearms are as long as pikes, and tipped with jagged black blades. Each dragon spear is unique to its wielder, and the stormtroopers take pride in crafting a personalised blade.
All adults are considered soldiers regardless of gender, age, or handicap. Decisions are made collectively, and in theory everyone has a say. In practice, the wiser elder members discuss the best options for the Host. In times of war—which is often for these mercenaries—a troop will collectively formulate a plan, and whomever's plan is considered best (or their designate) is the undisputed leader, at least for that action. This leader is followed as loyally as the commander of any military could hope, but all authority ends with the engagement. Despite their mercenary practices and military organisation, there are no ranks, and the leader of one campaign may be a common soldier of the next. At least one loremaster considers the Host of Battle to be the best example of a meritocracy: a professor at the University of Darkmount in Formour has published a widely circulated paper detailing her opinion on this.
Other than their formidable weapons and armour—the smiths know the secret of forging aluminum—they have few possessions. They consider it unseemly for someone to own more than what they can fit into their trollbags. They do not travel with a baggage caravan, and do not even take more in spoils than what they can personally carry.
Hiring the Host of Battle first involves making contact with them. As they are a highly mobile people who are nomadic by inclination, this may be more difficult than it first appears. Once a unit has been contacted, they are to be informed of the proposed mission. The Host of Battle requires full disclosure of all mission elements, and "you don't need to know that" is a sure way to ensure that they refuse the request. Failing to mention the field of battle is trapped, lying about the number of the enemy, and the like will earn their vengeance. They'll complete the mission, but may turn on their employer afterward. As long as one deals honestly with them, they are known to be honourable and keep their word. Not only do they have to maintain their professional reputation, but their national pride is at stake. Once the proposed mission has been outlined, they discuss the matter among themselves. If possible, they travel back to one of their black ships to discuss it with the community. Once a decision has been reached—which can take some time—a plan is formulated and units assigned to the task. A suitable payment is also decided, but someone good at negotiations is sent back to the employer. In other words, you don't need to offer a specific payment first; they tell you what they want in exchange. They have been known to accept a variety of missions: small unit raids, besieging a fortified city, garrisoning a remote base, or acting as the spearhead in a major conflict. They do not accept jobs that involve risk to their great ships, will not train other units, and will not sell their arms or armour. These three things they consider almost sacred and non-negotiable—they have earned the right to these, and no one else yet has.
The Host of Battle is organised into troops (their term) each consisting of one or more platoon of every job field save navigators. One peculiar aspect of the Host of Battle is that they do not travel on horseback—horses are reserved exclusively for riding into battle carrying lancers. All journeys between fights are done on foot; even the artillery pieces of the engineers are often pulled by hand. The Host of Battle does not travel rapidly overland to the battle, but they strike hard once they do arrive.
Their names consist of a one or two syllable name, followed by their job field. Stormtroopers and lancers sometimes instead take the surnames "Shock" or "Charger", respectively. Navigators commonly use "Sea" as their last name, and smiths are almost never named as such—"Engineer", "Miner", or "Artillerist" is used instead.
There is a common uniform styling, which every adult, and most adolescents, wear. Their tunics, shields, and breastplates all are grey on the top half and black on the bottom. Helmets are grey, and their trousers & boots are black. These same colours are also common to all of their other accoutrements.
The creation legends of the Host of Battle have them rescued from hunger and poverty in a "land of fire" by The Way Bringer. This mythical Human rescued and educated them, gave them their giant ships and initial armoury, and organised them according to talent into soldiers. The Way Bringer laid out a very inclusive code of conduct similar to the moral & ethical teachings of most religions, but without godhead, priesthood, ritual, or indeed any mention of the supernatural. If The Way can be considered a form of faith, it is an entirely secular and moral one.
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? Responses (7)-7
*imagines them sailing the seas of Acqua*
An evokative image indeed, though the very clear demarkation between unit types gave me a somewhat Real Time Strategy game feel. A unique culture for trolls, and I love the language name 'Gobbely'.
Nicely done. It has the details of living - their culture and a flow of history. It explains their process and how they do things. (I would like a little more about the midian-centric elements (i.e. variety of trolls), but I can excuse some of that.)
Cheka Man: They are nomadic enough. Why couldn't they sail away to the seas of Acqua? Use them with my blessings.
Valadar: The RTS feeling is intentional, and I'm glad that didn't get lost completely. They were originally created for use with the Combat Efficiency guidelines (mass combat rules), and intended to blur the boundaries between a nation, army, and ethnicity. You wouldn't believe how many hours I've agonised over linguistic issues with them--even whether to spell 'Gobbley' with one 'B' or two...
MoonHunter: Midianite Trolls are very varied (lots of random rolls) & generally come in large, medium, & small sizes. They are also separated into different ethnicities: Black, Cave, Ice, Rock, & Mountain Trolls, with the Host of Battle as an arguable sixth group.
Excellent! I get a palpable feel for them, and the details are terrific. I'm using these guys.
hi-lite: Though obviously from your world, this troll troupe is easily usable anywhere, anytime.
What Moon and Muro said. Nicely done.
I read this, I thought it was interesting and I enjoyed the details.
I would have enjoyed to see some more specific notes on their culture and how they relate to each other personally. You learn a lot from society by who they consider to be a crimminal and celebratity and it is hard to get a feeling for a culture when everything is so even keel. If you spend you write a story about life at sea no reader will except that it was all smooth sailing.