The nature of Estalia
“A coin for Myrmidia, a coin for Ranald. One for the rules of combat, one for the ways to break them.”
I heard that expression a hundred times in Estalia, from men and women. Some even throw said coins over their shoulder, thinking Myrmidia will reward a worthy soul with hers and Ranald will leave his for any passerby.
Only estalians could be so inconstant. Only minds tormented by so much sun could worship the goddess of discipline and the god of rebellion in one breath. But I think it tells us something about the nature of that land.
How has Estalia endured all this time? It has always been plagued by internal conflict and factionalism; thin-skinned nobility entrenched in its rural estates and above all, unruly people. They lack the Empire’s might, Bretonnia’s order, Tilea’s obscene wealth, Kislev’s ruthless commitment. Isolated in a corner of the Old World, they should have been conquered and colonized a hundred times.
Then why have bretonnians, tileans, arabyans, and worse, invaded at some point or another, without ever breaking their resistance?
Estalians are what Estalia made of them: fractious, harsh and ungovernable. After centuries plowing a dry land from remote towns and mountain villages, ruled by ambitious kings and town councils warrying without enough power to impose a unifying law, proud in their independence and poverty, estalians possess a rebellious streak that would make a bretonnian serf collapse in shock.
Of course they turned dueling into an obsession! Of course the land is full of impoverished hidalgos owning little beside their title but acting with the arrogance of kings! Honor is the only thing estalians have in abundance, and a man’s honor knows no wealth or status. Rulers must be very careful when imposing their authority on their recalcitrant subjects. The lowest peasant will pay his taxes but will never take an insult. In some places, entire towns run to the hills and turn to crime to avenge a slight on their collective honor. In such cases, kings and priests must quickly mediate before the town is torched by the local noble, or the local noble gets torched by a mob.
One can see this factious attitude even in their armies. Kingdom’s regiments, or tercios, share the field with auxiliaries of all kinds, each with its own contracts, oaths and rivalries. Diestros from the duelist’s schools, fury priestesses from the cult of Myrmidia, maybe bringing along some hideous Tarasca, and rural hidalgos dressed in heirloom armors from the crusades leading their herdsmen, hounds and bulls. Conquistadors returning from Lustria or the Far East might be in town when war calls, which is good news for the town, but bad for the army’s commander, since those blood-soaked veterans pride themselves on taking orders from no one except their captains, barely, and Myrmidia, from time to time.
It takes a diplomat as much as a strategist to lead such an army. They know soldiers will fight without pay or complaints, eat scraps, kill and die under the banner of their king and city, but will not suffer disrespect. Always arrogant, always quarrelsome, always on the brink of mutiny, estalians are only disciplined under fire. Only then do they become solemn and sober, out of a sense of personal pride only centuries of myrmidan cult could inculcate. The goddess teaches strategy, honor, revenge, and unity against overwhelming odds. Estalians took her lessons to heart, which is nothing short of miraculous in my opinion.
This might help us understand why Myrmidia and Ranald wage battle over Estalia’s soul. As for our southern cousins, with the exception of the most farseeing ones, they are quite proud to say they will never unite and never be conquered. They have long understood only discipline can preserve their freedom to be undisciplined.
-Burkhard Katzbalger, imperial ambassador to the court of Zaragoz-