[WHFB] The nature of Estalia

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-

3 Likes

… That was not the last time I saw that strange creature. She was a disheveled thing, strong and barefooted, dressed in skins like the poorest shepherdess. Her somber glance, prominent jaw and sharp teeth gave her an air of savagery, reinforced by the way I saw her prowl around empty streets that night, only stopping for water with an old women who was left shaking in fear by the encounter. Doors and windows closed on her path. The soldiers who saw her get too close to the fires made the sign of Myrmidia and whispered the word “lobizom” in fearful tones. I questioned the officers and they told me a strange story.

Estalia is home of many ancient practices long ago forbidden by the imperial colleges of magic, magical practices that still survive in the empty moors and mountains of the Old World. It is said that in the remote parts of this land, some men and women can suddenly feel a strange stirring in their souls, something the priestess cryptically described as the wind of the beast. Those shepherds, hunters or mountaineers find themselves drifting away, looking for the solace of untamed places, away from the intolerable presence of civilization. Sometimes entire families are afflicted, sometimes entire villages. Seventh sons are said to be particularly susceptible for reasons no one can explain. Estalia is full of stories about seventh sons who fled into the wild only to return years later more beast than man, spelling gory doom for their lineages.

They are the lobizom. Alone or in small groups, they stalk in forests and moors, where they perform rituals honoring no gods, but the very bestial spirit dwelling inside them. When the winds of magic blow strong, they run in packs in the Irrana Mountains and the empty hills of south Estalia, and not always on two legs. It is in those moments the depth of their affliction is revealed, for the lobizom is a shapeshifter and a witch, and magic is for them a matter of instinct, not knowledge.

Estalians fear these outcasts but seek their help, sometimes as a matter of survival, sometimes for far more devious reasons. It is a dangerous bet to seek out a being so fickle. Lobizom will defend a village or prey on it just as easily for reasons that only make sense to them, if anything guides them beyond the magical winds they breathed the day they were lost for civilization.

How Idáquez reached an agreement with such a creature I do not know, but I hope it will spell doom for the enemy and not for us.

-Burkhard Katzbalger, imperial ambassador to the court of Zaragoz –

2 Likes

Very nice read! Great to see the stubborn primal periphery alive and well in Estalia.

Estalians are beggars with minds of kings.

I acquired that conviction long before coming to this land. In my days in the army of Wissenland, I met estalian mercenaries and learned of the idiosyncrasies that made them the laughing stock of our soldiers. First and foremost, estalians consider war to be the most honorable profession, the one that makes nobles out of all men. For this reason, they buy, or steal, the fanciest clothes they can find at the start of a campaign so they can leave to war with an accoutrement befitting their status. In the weeks and months that follow, their clothes get inevitably ruined and repaired a hundred times with different fabrics, until it becomes a patchwork.

Only two things differentiate them from eccentric beggars: their bushy moustaches, impeccably waxed and spreading like daggers on both sides of their faces; and their weapons, impeccably oiled and at the ready.

Later, in the days of my ambassadorship, I followed the army of Zaragoz to the outskirts of Sombra Wood, to beat back the undead that periodically rise there. The king and queen of Zaragoz send their troops to the sleepy town of Navalcarnero, where the commander was waiting.

The lord of this land is Don Julián Idáquez, count of Navalcarnero, but what passes for a count in Estalia would be a prosperous landowner in Reikland, a landowner ruling his town from a rugged castle with an austere interior, probably due to lack of funds, not sober taste. Idáquez was already old by the time I met him, and had abandoned long ago the privilege of riding a sierpe into battle. He had tamed the aquatic serpent in his youth but now it was more like a pet, a pet that had taken the town’s lake as his hunting ground and kept villagers at bay.

If you ever wished to see nobles negotiate with the mob, come to Estalia. One after the other the officers of almost every regiment asked for an audience with Don Julián and insisted that he erased some perceived slight or give their regiment their due. Most of them demanded to be placed at the center of the line, in the most dangerous position. Some regiments refused to fight side by side with some eternal rival and had to be placated.

More interesting was the selection of the First Diestro. The best duelist of an army is traditionally given this title for the duration of the campaign. Once chosen, the commander can use him as a bodyguard or send him to kill some skilled opponent. The tercio of Zaragoz was not short of candidates, for it is considered a great honor to be chosen and great dishonor to be denied. Two dozen men, half of them veterans, the other half pupils from the duelist schools, demanded the right to duel to the dead for the title. It took all the efforts of Don Julián to convince them it would be strategically absurd to kill each other before battle and that first blood challenges would be enough, at least until victory was achieved.

The diestros conceded the point and spend the night sorting each other out. The spectacle was well worth it. Every duel was brutally short and to the point, an exhibition of ruthless talent with none of the flamboyance that impresses the ladies and the ignorant. By midnight, the tercio had a first diestro, who from that point on never left the count’s side. He also never answered to anything but his title. To call him anything else is, of course, cause for duel.

I noticed there is some kind of ritual to these matters. The soldiers employ a mix of arrogance and respect, always leaving clear their bone to pick is with their commander, not with their king or city; the commander is diplomatic but never subservient, and both sides seem to agree on a system to regulate the conflicts. If Don Julián did not agree with his soldiers’ arguments, he would resort to long speeches full of “my dear sons” and “my lord soldiers”, ever the army’s father. If he failed to sway them, he let the priests talk. A commander must be assisted by a priestess of Myrmidia and an augury of Morr, and they were usually enough to shove some sense in the soldiers’ thick skulls.

Only once did Don Julián’s patience ran short. When Don Garsea de Cassall, third comendador of the Order of Calavera, demanded to be given command of the army, pointing impolitely to Idáquez’s age as an argument and threatening to leave with his knights if denied, the count lost his good natured diplomacy. That night, Garsea received the visit of Don Julián’s brother, a venerable priest of Verena who holds the title of Inquisitor of Navalcarnero. There was no more talk of deserting the field. Even estalian arrogance has limits if, as their saying goes, you bump against a temple .

-Burkhard Katzbalger, imperial ambassador to the court of Zaragoz-

3 Likes

Wonderful. You truly get Estalia. Games Workshop should hire you for their Old World-building.

1 Like

wonderful, great reference :clap: :clap: :clap:

1 Like

He noticed! :+1:

Thanks!

Why thanks!