"With a few exceptions, the Ashed mercenaries consider other warriors to be enthusiastic amateurs. One only needs to see them in action to concede the point." -Traveler's guide to Soi
"Get the job done right and everyone comes home alive." -Common mercenary guild saying
The Ashed mercenary companies are some of the many business guilds that make up the socio/political/economic structure of the Ashed Confederacy. They often receive more attention from the outside world as they are the most common profession of Ashed that travel outside of their fortified cities.While the cities themselves are guarded by citizen soldiers, those forces are never meant to travel outside of the borders of Ashed territory. When the Ashed government or private companies need to exert force in the world, they hire soldiers from the various mercenary guilds in each city.
- The attrition rates of Ashed mercenaries are some of the lowest in any organized army on Soi.
- The population of the Ashed is relatively small in comparison to other great civilizations, and the mercenaries themselves make up an even smaller portion of the population among the city-states. Therefore, these companies cannot field vast armies in the same capacity as the Tallet, Goran, or Kushanese forces.
- Ashed Mercenaries are paid miniscule salaries, often just enough to survive on. However, they recieve substantial hazard pay when taking part in a military action.
Recruitment and training
"Everyone receives basic training in school. Everyone does their two years on patrol. The city guard observes each graduating class for the best fighters and tacticians. Though I would love to keep the best recruits to myself, I know the companies need them more." -Ashed city guard captian
"When hiring a company to defend my caravan, I was invited by their representative to take my lunch on a balcony overlooking their training yard. A group of soldiers was drilling and fighting in the yard. I was informed they had been fighting since the sun had risen. We discussed the terms and prices for several pleasant hours. They did not stop for rest. Not once did I see the soldier’s movements falter, or their strikes become less crisp." -Merchant caravan masterThe mercenary guilds typically hire recruits from the city guard after they come of age if they show aptitude in fighting, commanding, or managing supplies and logistics. Only the best of the graduating classes are hired into these organizations as the additional training and equipment they receive are meant to be long-term investments on the part of the company.
While every company is different, commonly they are trained to enhance their physicality, emphasizing on quick, explosive movements and recovery so that they may continue fighting for hours at a time. The common Ashed fighting style is simple and direct.
The mercenary companies recruit any that fit their mental and physical requirements, which are then further improved by training and dietary supplements. Unlike many other armies in Soi, the Ashed mercenary companies are mixed gender units. Due to this, mercenary companies on assignment are supplied with moonleaf in order to prevent attrition from morale boosting activities.
- While every Ashed trains to fill every combat position, they typically specialize into either shield, spear, or archery.
- Ashed mercenaries train twelve hours a day, four days a week when not on assignment in the cities, with reduced training hours on the road.
- They are very rarely trained to operate siege equipment.
- Specialists are unique to each company.
Shield Warriors and the Defensive Line
Shield warriors are recruited from the most physically strong of the Ashed, as they need to be able to quickly maneuver the massive shields of a heavy phalanx and hold them against any potential foe. The goal of a shield warrior is to be an impassable wall so that the spear warriors and archers can fight in relative safety.
Shield warriors in light phalanxes where they wield both spear and shield still make up the majority of front line fighters. They are paid double due to their proximity to danger.
Crossbow archers are recruited for their marksmanship and ability to pick targets tactically. Depending on their distribution of strength, they are trained and conditioned to be able to quickly work the heavy and light crossbow mechanism as quickly as they can. Should a soldier have weaker upper body strength, lower body movements are taught to compensate. Their primary job is to destroy the enemy as quickly as possible at a range from behind the wall of shields and spears.
While every Ashed trains to use the spear and shield, spear wielders take the two-handed heavy pikes in a heavy phalanx formation. These soldiers are considered common and easy to train. They are taught more on fending techniques and how to keep overlapping fields of reach to maximize effectiveness. Their job is dual; first to keep opponents away from or push them off the shield warriors, or to kill an enemy and quickly retract and recover.
Every company has specialist units depending on what contract they prefer to take. Some train siege engineers, mounted divisions, stealth, or in the rarest cases, sailors.
Despite the boasts of many of the warrior cultures within Soi, most humans do not wish to put themselves into lethal confrontation with the enemy. The psychomancers of the Ashed recognize that a warriors code, loyalty to country, duty to ones king, combat drugs, or religious fervor can motivate soldiers to perform a maximum physical capacity, it was necessary to implement a similar mentality in that of the Ashed which takes the form of a mental construct known as the War Mind.
The War mind is a simple motivating force. Utilizing the Ashed's pride in competency of their chosen profess, they are trained to see every lethal conflict as them competing against others in a similar fashion to a sport or game. This disconnect allows them to fight and kill without remorse or hesitation, combined with the reinforcement of hazard pay for battles and feeding their pride when they prove their worth to themselves.
"They were clad head to toe in darkened steel that turned our best swords and axes. Their swords cleave through our armor as if it wasn't even there. The legends are true. These soldiers are steel given life." -Bandit's journal
"The mercenaries prize their ability to fight; us smiths prize our ability to give them the best tools for the job." -Ashed smith
Ashed mercenaries, by virtue of being based in the manufacturing centers of Soi, have access to large quantities of high grade materials and mass produced gear. Ashed mercenaries with the exception of "Death Seekers" are armored in heavy steel plate over padding. The gaps between the armor are protected by small, linked plates to provide articulation. All weaponry is made of high grade steel. The steel is protected by a layer of oil that Ashed mercs habitually coat their gear with.
While most equipment is standard across the board, some companies provide training with armor-piercing weaponry if expected to go up against heavily armored foes. Their shields and armor are known to be able to stop even rare Krak powder weapons and shots from Tallet siege engines. Death seekers are given relatively light scale mail and provided with two swords, powerful stimulants, and fast-acting poison capsules to avoid capture.
Ashed mercenary armor is a single, double or triple layer coat of small overlapping rectangular plates typically around the dimensions of 2x4''. These coats are secured and fitted to the mercenary using belts and hook clips which give greater fit and mobility along with the benefits of being able to mass produce armor suits that can be quickly fitted to any shape.
For additional protection, larger shaped metal plates can be clipped directly on top of the uppermost layer or taken off as needed. This allows for modification of armor based on situation and the ability to easily replace or repair broken segments of the armor.
- This pattern of armor is often referred to as "shield mail" patter or "Ash pattern armour"
Hackswords are the primary sidearm of all Ashed mercenaries, and in the case of skirmishers, their primary. They are swords with large forward bending heads designed to give great weight and power to a chopping motion. While less versatile and wieldy than a Tallet short sword or Kingdoms long sword, hackswords are noted for their ability to chop through light to medium armor with relative ease and in the case of heavily armored foes double as weighted clubs.
The blade of a hacksword is single edged, and no more that 2 feet long. They tend to weigh 4 pounds in total.
Fluted bolts or bleeders are the answer to the problem that broadhead bolts do far more damage to flesh and organs, but cannot pierce armor, where armor piercing bolts tend to not do much damage to flesh due to their design being to concentrate all energy onto a small angular point and pierce steel.
Fluted bolts are crossbow bolts that are made of a steel tube punched with regularly spaced holes, and an armor piercing head with a hole punched in the side of it leading to the hollow shaft. The bolt punches through armor and into the body, then provides an easy route for blood to flow through the shaft out of the body. Fluted bolts make whistling noises as they fly through the air.
Crosscranks are crossbows built with a crank on the side of them that allows for quick and easy drawing of the bow. Crossbows are limited in power by the strength required to pull back the tension wire. The Ashed make use of heavy crossbows on a regular basis. In order to increase the rate of fire, crosscranks were invented. The lightest of Ashed crossbows can be drawn by hand by skilled mercenaries, and often are considered medium strength able to punch through light armor by most other nations. The heaviest can rival Tallet portable siege engines and require a minute or so of cranking before they can be fired.
Skirmish spears are short, heavy, reinforced spears usually between 5 and 6 feet in length with a thin iron tang running the entire length of the spear from head to base. This is made to prevent spears from being damaged or destroyed. This greatly reduces the ability to throw them as a ranged weapon, however increases the force at which they impact when thrusted or swung.
Formation pikes are the weapon most commonly used in phalanx formation, and are long spears between 10 and 30 feet in length depending on the company in question. Ashed formation pikes are often greased at the front end and employ small blades embedded in the front half of the shaft to prevent enemies from grasping them and pulling them from their wielder. These small blades are often designed so they can be removed from the wood and inserted into another shaft should the pike be broken and need replacement.
Ashed Crossbow archers require line of sight to fire upon their targets as crossbows do not arc fire very well. The Cross step is a portable footstool archers carry with them so that they may see and fire over the heads of their defensive line.
The pryknife is an 6x2 inch solid bar of rigid steel meant to be used as a combination of many field tools. one edge of the knife is made of high carbon steel meant to hold a razors edge for shaving, the other sharp edge is serrated and meant to be used as a saw. In a pinch the blunt handle can be used as a small hammer. Small markings are made down one side so that it may be used as a measuring tool. The corners are filed to standard screw head shapes. It is highly inadvisable to use as a weapon.
"Our known tactic is simple, be better at our job than the enemy. Our actual tactics are none of your business." -Ashed sub commanderWhile every guild has its own strategies and tactics for situations they specialize in or could come across, there are a few common tactics among the fighting companies. The Ashed favor the shield and spear heavy phalanx, creating slow moving human fortresses and battle lines that push hostile forces around the battlefield.
Most Ashed tactics are geared around defensive formations, holding ground, or breaking enemy offensive lines, though certain companies specialize in offensive warfare contracts. Death Seekers are known for seeking out offensive contracts and being used as either saboteurs or shock troops.
- Ashed phalanx formations usually run 2-5 ranks deep.
- Behind the shield wall are pockets of crossbow archers who shoot over the shield wall.
- All mercenaries are capable of perfoming any combat duty, but they do specialize.
- Cavalry charges are rare, but incorporate mounts such as specially bred giant war boars.
- The guilds do not share warfare strategies and jealously guard their "strategy guides".
- The archers carry footstools so they may fire over the walls of the shield line.
- Every company has their own tactics and strategy for warfare.
War boars or pigs are specially bred swine strong enough to carry riders on their backs into battle, pull war wagons and supply trains. When put in battlefield situations, they are often given light armored coverings to increase their survivability. Ashed cavalry charges are rare, but when performed are done almost exclusively using boar cavalry. In the case of sick war boars, Ashed have been known to give them the drug Raege before strapping oil pots to them and sending them into enemy formations.
- War boars are often eaten after they have expired in the field.
- They can graze and forage in nearly every environment
- They have been noted to have some intelligence and loyalty comparable to a dog.
War wagons are large, sturdy covered wagons that often double as the supply trains of an army. These walls form a box fort with closable firing slits for crossbow archers to shoot out of. These war wagons are sometimes incorporated into battle formations as their firing slits are high enough off the ground to fire over the shield walls.
- They are typically pulled by specially bred war pigs. In times of danger, light armor coverings are often given to these pigs.
- They are designed using light wooden coverings such as cedar or yellow pine with a thin layer of steel bolted over it.
Siegebreakers are specialist squads trained by certain companies for getting around or demolishing fortifications. They come in many varieties, from swift climbers using grapnels and pulley systems to get over walls, to siege engine operators that are capable of building on the spot siege equipment from scavenged materials that can break sturdy stone walls. These soldiers are rare and often sub contracted by other companies.
- The grapnel climbers in Ashed armies often overlap with Death Seekers.
Death Seekers are Ashed who have a death wish and have decided to use the mercenary guilds as a way to achieve this. They are sent on high risk, high reward missions that companies would normally not risk losing soldiers on. Due to the high powered stimulants they use, they do not feel fear or pain. The substance is referred to as "Raege" and is similar to the chemical compound known as "Divinity" that Goran give to their foot soldiers.
- Some Death Seekers are in fact not suicidal, but simply willing to risk death in order to get the bonus hazard pay, which if they survive is given to them or a benefactor should they die in the field.
- Death Seekers are often paid as much as five times what an average foot soldier receives per mission.
Ashed mercenaries charge a high price for their services. One of the reasons behind this price is the food, equipment, and pay that goes into maintaining these privately operated military actions.
Each Ashed company starts its journey from the city-states with several loaded supply wagons that often double as war wagons and troop transport. These wagon trains include a smith, doctor, and food storage.
While every soldier is able to take care of their own gear to an extent, a whetstone and oil vial cannot fix a cracked breastplate. Ashed smiths carry all necessary gear in their wagon, including the materials necessary to refill their forge gas cannisters from the army latrines. They keep the gear and wagons in good working order.
- Smiths often pay soldiers to forage the bodies of the dead for usable materials for the store.
Ashed doctors accompany a mercenary army in order to keep the soldiers in the field, combat disease, and ensure as many of them come home as possible. The Ashed, despite their access to finely crafted tools, are not known for their vast bounty of medical supplies, and often have to buy, forage, or make due with limited medicines.
- Part of any doctor's role is to scavenge enemy encampments and bodies for possible medicines.
Ashed start the journey with large stores of food, typically enough for the journey and back. For longer trips, Tak is often purchased in bulk from city supplies and is the primary staple of a mercenary diet. In times of food shortage war boars may be slaughtered for food.
Carvers are the Ashed's answer to how to properly handle the bodies of the fallen after a battle has taken place. These professionals, often only seen within the city states or Outlander camps deal in taking apart human bodies for their useful components. Meat to be fed to war boars, fat to be rendered to tallow or corrosion preventing oil, bone to be sent back to the city states for the creation of Ashed concrete, skin for leather. In the case where mercenaries are garrisoned long term, insect pits to replenish their tak supplies may be created and the rest of the components will be thrown in.
Prisoners of War
Ashed mercenary companies rarely take prisoners during military actions. Wounded combatants that are unable to continue fighting but still on the field are considered threats and are often executed where they lay. Enemy combatants who break and run are likely to catch a crossbow bolt to the back if there are no more of their fellows still fighting in the field.
Most enemy combatants that take the opportunity to surrender at the beginning of a fight are often stripped of weapons and armor before being sent on their way.
- This is a point of contention when working alongside some other nations that consider this practice a war crime.
- Weapons and armor are given to Ashed smiths to be recycled into repair material.
"The Greyskin fighters are everywhere you see rich men with enemies who want to spill their blood, and everywhere they go their enemies die while they remain standing. I'd love to test one of them against my axe and see what the fuss is all about." -Knight of the Hawk
"Ashed fight everywhere in the world while somehow avoid fighting for anything at all." -Circle delegate* -Ashed mercenaries are deployed all over the surface of Soi and hired by anyone with the large funds necessary.
- Ashed mercenary companies are the arm of the private companies of the city-states, often going out into the world to protect the foreign interests of the various guilds that make up the power structure of the Ashed people.
- They are commonly seen as caravan guards for the Family Hearth.
- -Ashed mercenaries are not allowed to attack other Ashed mercenaries of any citizen of the city-states; doing so risks retaliation from the Ethics Council.
- In periods of imminent danger, the Council of 14 has the authority to command every mercenary guild based in the city for city defense.
- The 14th Councilmember has the authority to command any official mercenary guild; the only known occurrence of this was the Great War.
"Every company is its own army. Each one is different, fights different, thinks different. You out maneuver one and the others will blindside you in ways you could have never seen coming." -Tallet centurion journal
One of the oldest mercenary companies, the company branched out from mining where the miners eschewed mercenaries and defended the mines themselves. The best mine defenders branched off to form their own company and sell their services at a premium back to their original bosses. They are known for taking primarily defense/fortification contracts and slow cautious approaches. They work frequently with the Family Hearth in caravan guarding positions.
One of the newest mercenary companies branching off of the newfound success of the second age of expansion. They are known for incorporating combat tactics from outside sources and taking primarily offensive contracts. They have been investigated multiple times by the ethics council. They work frequently with the Family Heath in offensive bandit clearing actions.
Mercenaries from the rogue city of NorthGuard, often only hired by foreigners due to the unwillingness of most other city-states to work with them. They are not technically considered Ashed due to their history and only nominal loyalty to the confederacy. They are known for excessive brutality, effectiveness, and flagrant violations of ethics council regulations, and usually come at double the cost of other Ashed
The IronArm company is based in the western city-states and is known primarily for their numerous contracts in the Westerlands. They have some of the most experience fighting Goran forces and as such have earned a reputation for being specialists in dealing with the red tide. They have gained some notoriety within Goran lands, their Godspeakers offering special blessings and rewards for bloody Ashed sashes bearing the IronArm crest.
The ShatterShield company is based in the central cities of the Ashed Confederacy, and are famous for taking contracts in the Broken Kingdom and other eastern block regions that are traditionally on good terms with Ashed. They specialize in fighting mounted and heavily armored opponents. They are known for having a high mortality rate among the companies.
- Shattershield company is notable for always taking prisoners within Kingdom borders due to the practice of killing prisoners of war often turns their employers hostile to them. Taking prisoners within the Broken Kingdom can be lucrative if they are nobles worth a ransom.
Known for being the army in command during the Ashed Rae conflict. Despite failing in their main objective in re-taking the city managed to recover several important data slates from guild vaults. They specialize in field skirmishes and urban combat.