Steel sprouts strong from fertile soil.

Marcher Traditional

The rich Marcher soil gives rise to great military strength.

Each territory currently held by the Marches fields an army, led by its Warden. Marcher Wardens have a reputation for being cautious, and for valuing victory more than personal glory. “War is a thrice-ploughed field” is a common saying in the Marches, where war is seen as hard dirty work. A Marcher Warden will share the same risks and privations as the common soldier, one yeoman amongst many.

Arms hardened by days at the forge, keeping a forest, or threshing wheat are called to serve in a different harvest. In nothing more than a quilted jack, or leathers, Marchers from different households, different territories wield weapons made from the tools of their labour. Bills used for cutting hedges, great hammers used for driving piles, are pressed into service of war. This is the favoured place of those Marches who wield magic to war, ironshod staves striking to take down the strongest enemy.This is the heart of an attack by a Marcher army. A great hedge of steel, moving inexorably forward, like a scythe through wheat.

Archery practise is encouraged with competition in the Marches, and, in some parts, law. Many Marchers will have used a bow, and some are expert. In defense, a shrewd marcher Warden will concentrate their archers into blocks, their concentrated fire denying the enemy use of swathes of the battlefield.

The most powerful Households also field ranks of more heavily-armoured yeoman wearing their colours, fighting together and dominating the battlefield. Neighbours well-used to working together fight shoulder to shoulder to defend their land and the pride of their Household. The expectation of loyalty and sacrifice breeds a ferocious solidity in their lines. This close camaraderie can make a Marcher Household a fearsomely cohesive force. Traditional rivalries are put to one side when a Marcher army faces a force of outsiders, and folk who would go out of their way to avoid acknowledging each other will fight back to back against a band of invading orcs.

Young Marchers gladly volunteer their service to the Empire. Five years of service in the Imperial army is considered an excellent coming of age for the sons and daughters of a Yeoman, offering them a chance to learn a little of the outside world and to earn the stake to purchase their own farm and become Yeomen themselves. For a Nation that prides itself on its military prowess, it also ensures a steady stream of soldiers with practical experience of battle.

Not all boundaries are on the outside

Beaters

Most Households include a few Beaters in their number. Beaters roam through the lands claimed by a Household, learning every part of the land, watching for poachers and other itinerants and ne’er-do-wells. In Marcher history, Beaters were often instrumental in settling land disputes between neighbours and they still play a vital role in the tradition of beating the bounds. Beaters have the right to take sufficient game to feed themselves from any part of a Household’s lands and so most are skilled woodsmen or hunters. Beaters also serve as an informal police force on Household land, investigating crimes and tracking criminals. While an individual Beater owes allegiance to a Household, they make no secret of the fact that they maintain an informal network among themselves.

The Beaters watch the boundaries and defend them against trespass until its forces can muster. They also remain vigilant for internal threats. In addition to the orcs that still occupy the more inaccessible hills and wild forests of the Marches, there are bands of Féni, the ancient people driven from the fertile lowlands centuries ago. These primitive humans cover their skin in green and yellow tattoos and launch raids against civilised Marchers to steal cattle or crops. If something or someone is raiding out of the forests or hills then the Beaters are the ones who are called on to hunt it.

In time of war, Beaters serve their Households as scouts, ranging ahead of the main force. Their experience watching the boundaries of the nation makes them useful light troops, particularly in forested areas, an excellent complement to the heavily armoured yeomen.

The rituals of pre-battle are always of great interest to me. Each culture seems to have its own way of mentally and physically preparing their warriors; speeches, exercises, martial music and so on. At the Battle of Mercurino I was able to see a Marcher officer rallying his troops as the prepared to support the flanks of a League Free Company attempting to repel an orcish host.


He walked out into the middle of his men, slow and casual, thumbs tucked into his belt. He took a long look around.

“Who here’s got a neighbour they can’t stand?”

The circle of Marchers looked tentatively one to another, a few raised hands and chuckles.

“Quite a few of you, I see. So let me ask you this – raiders come to burn his farm, would you go help him?”

Nods, fist shaking, raised bills and bows.

“Course you would, only common sense; they burn his farm this week, could be yours the week after, couldn’t it?”

He pointed at the gaudily dressed Free Company officers swaggering about in the League lines.

“See them? I don’t like ‘em. I don’t like their plumes, I don’t like them silly pantaloons, I don’t like perfumed piss they call wine, or the way they put on airs when they talk, or their grub what’s so full of spices it gives me the gallopin’ trots. Nope, I don’t like ‘em, not one bit. But, them? They’re our neighbours.”

He pointed to the other end of the valley, where thousands of grey-skinned orcs covered the ground like blades of grass on a pasture

“And those motherless bastards? They’re going to try and burn down our neighbour’s barn.”

Rumbling growl, stamping feet, billhooks banged on the ground.

“We proposin’ to let em?”

Full throated roar, weapons brandished, rising chant.

“Right then, let’s go pull the idiot neighbour’s arse out of the fire, eh?”


I later saw that same officer hauling an injured Catazarri soldier out of the fray on his back, even though he was himself bleeding quite heavily. After leaving him with the surgeons, he went straight back into the battle with the same look of determination upon his face. “Job’s not done yet.” was all he would say.