The Orphans of Cathorna
Soldiering is part of every Cathornan’s life, but in very few cases is it anyone’s whole life. Palanto commands and Dorrigan is his sergeant-major, but even they have day jobs. Cathorna has no full-time army as such, although Klud is on duty most waking hours.
Everyone over 16 and under 55 (inclusive) stands with the militia. At 14, children are allowed to take the Test, involving a run, a dead lift and a bruising spar with Dorrigan; if they pass, they may join. Over 55s are allowed to stand down, but can stay if they wish (Bran O’Conchubhair is 64 and leads a large unit).
Current militia strength (excluding leaders, healers) is 137 of 217 residents:
Led by Tamas Palanto
2IC Corto Dorrigan
Rally call “Cathorna steel!”
Led by Bran O’Conchubhair
2IC Galen O’Conchubhair
Rally call “Stand fast!”
Cathorna’s best formation fighters. Front rank is all O’Conchubhair, including 4 women. 4th rank has dwarves, humans and elves, and is led by Altraam Nedley
Led by Groot Eider
2IC Drogan Borrett
Rally call “No retreat!”
42 people led by Groot Eider. A weaker formation, but still formidable. The rear rank is the ‘dump rank’, for seniors, cripples, the wounded, uncos and abject cowards.
Led by Seela Davon
2IC Pinder Harfoot
Rally call “Swift arrows!”
33 ranged fighters led by Seela Davon. Mixed bag with long, short and crossbows, plus slings, divided by rank for rate purposes where possible. Includes all the fighting hobbits, several women, an inscrutable hillman called Ladis Tagala who can bring down pigeons on the wing and the militia’s youngest member, Cuvain Dorrigan, Corto’s 9 year old son.
Led by Turk Bosto
Rally call “Blood and iron!”
Led by Durgan Kelhaller
Rally call “Barak Cathorna!”
The village’s ten best fighters, led by Durgan Kelhaller. Includes five of the dwarves, two women (Alwyn Gedult, aka “Ogre”, and Sulda Tagala, a scimitar-wielding berserker woman from Rhudaur) and one O’Conchubhair (Slaine, the most recent recruit). The latter’s brother also tried to join, but failed the gruelling twenty minute spar test.
Led by Janis Dorrigan
Rally call “Blades ho!”
Led by a complex system of pseudo-democracy
Rally call “Swords and shields!”
12 fighters reporting directly to Palanto and Dorrigan, or sent out alone/in small groups. All of you are in 2nd skirmish (yes, Altraam has two jobs), along with Yeldarb Ottac (a one-time Gondorin soldier, later a pit fighter in Larach Duhnann), Vflynn the elf girlie (super hot, fast runner, knife fighter, has a pet pig called Lulu) and Neeshka Palanto. Skirmishers tend to die a lot, as they are often sent out to scout and harass the enemy. But they also have the greatest freedom to fight as they see fit. While less effective toe to toe than the heavies, skirmishers are expected to operate independently, sometimes for days, without support or leadership. The fastest and smartest join skirmish
Elesse and Dellaran did not stand with these formations, instead using their magic as they saw fit to defend the village. They were instrumental to the victory in Third Cathorna.
Devon and Amik Chaudra do not fight either, instead keeping back and healing the wounded.
Non-combatants (over the age of twelve) still help out, bearing stretchers where they can, bringing water and ammunition and acting as runners. Young children and the infirm are rushed to the redoubt as soon as trouble looms.
Of course, much of this is only relevant on the rare full callouts. Things have to be pretty dire before Palanto will call even 40 people away from food production and child care for anything more than a readiness drill. Most of the time, things are at a much lower pitch.
At any time there are at least five people on militia duty; this is the usual level at night. During the day there are between ten and fifteen people on duty, more on occasion. Events and drills see up to thirty under arms once a month or so, while quarterly exercises will call out up to half the militia. An annual sortie will see the village held by as few as forty fighters while the bulk of the militia march forth to remind the neighbours who is in charge. In June 1639 Palanto took First Spear, First Bow, First Skirmish, Second Heavy and a nervous Amik Chaudra on a free-ranging patrol from the west side of the Tarel river (to the west), over the river at the ford west of Silver Hill, across the plains in full view of the Colgar Duns (their half-hearted probes were quickly repulsed by the archers), then back across at the Sonder Rapids and home via the western edge of the High Spruce (staying out of the gnolls’ patch). The expedition took four days, covered over fifty kilometres, consumed a quarter of a ton of food (mostly dried fish), saw no deaths but five minor injuries (Blathnat & Fergal O’Conchubhair-Colgar javelins, Kelethor Breghaus-Colgar arrow, Ougan Reihak-head injury: fell crossing the rapids, Dornas Volker-scalp wound from friendly arrow) and brought back enough eorna to make fifty loaves of bread.
Regular duties are as follows.
• Two people on sheriff duty, patrolling the village from dusk to dawn, keeping order and watching for intruders. Cathorna has no curfew, but people out at night are often challenged, though as much for gossip as for safety.
• Two people on river watch, one sitting in the small cave up the western cliffs, one watching the beacon mirror.
• Two people on the gate.
• One squad on standing patrol whenever anyone is outside on militia duty. On their return, the standing patrol waits up to half an hour then follows them in.
• One squad on the road, patrolling from the top of Cathorna Hill to the Tarel Bridge and east to the peach orchard. This patrol is occasionally switched to the anthracite mine, or to the Low Spruce on the right bank of the Firen.
• One squad on standing patrol, hiding somewhere between the gatehouse and Cathorna Hill, watching for stalkers following people heading home and providing reinforcements to the road patrol as necessary.
• One person on the gate (usually Klud)
• One squad on paddock watch, guarding the sheep whenever they are outside the village (almost all the time).
Hence there are between six and twenty people on duty at all times. With 140 members, this means a full rotation every week, everyone (including the healers, Palanto and Dorrigan) standing a watch of some sort twelve hours a week. Squads are usually a skirmish or heavy squad or half a spear rank, various ring-ins making up the numbers as required. Palanto and Dorrigan regularly join patrols or stand river watch, often with people who are either not pulling their weight or are being considered for promotion or special duties. Spending twelve hours at night in a cave or walking the village with Palanto or Dorrigan is invariably both daunting and informative. Doing the same with women like Finduilas Breghaus, Janis Dorrigan, Vflynn, Fina Nedley or Teagan O’Conchubhair (among others) is possibly a greater challenge for the young men of Cathorna.
During quiet periods (particularly when the Colgar and Eogbann duns are busy harvesting), civil works are undertaken. People swap swords for shovels and axes, and spend a day maintaining or improving roads and defences, clearing tracks, fixing buildings (the shearing sheds at the High Paddock were recently repaired) or whatever else needs doing. This work counts as militia duty, and is often undertaken by less martially-inclined souls (Mahti Edhellen often leads road gangs, and can seemingly dig all day). Tomas Volento oversees road and engineering work in most cases.
Considerable effort has been made to provide training facilities for all Cathornans. There are training dummies and an archery range along the western cliffs, and practice weapons of all weights, types and sizes in lockers freely accessible to all at any time. There is a terrifying apparatus built by Tomas called the Wheel Of Pain: a wheel on a vertical axis with four long wooden spokes at different heights to which training weapons can be attached. It can be set spinning, and the brave trainee can attempt to dodge the spokes and attached weapons by jumping and ducking, or fail to do so by falling and hurting. There is a simply flying fox to provide moving targets for archers and a wheeled cart with blunted spears for practice facing charges. Children regularly play with the equipment (especially the Wheel). Yeld is often on the field, either practising or sparring and instructing others. Ladis Tagala spends hours every day, simply firing arrow after arrow, often with his two one-year-olds playing at his feet.
Everyone is expected to maintain skill at arms. Most people train daily for at least half an hour a day, the better fighters for up to two as work permits. There is constant social pressure to train, those who aren’t seen on the field being questioned on their absence, gently teased or openly humiliated if it goes on too long. The worst offenders are “sent to Cillien”, a slang term meaning they are shunned in all social situations. Few can resist this treatment for long. As a last resort, some are dragged to the field by their militia squad and pummelled by wooden swords every day until they relent. Boak Hender, Grigg Bisker and Roric Edhellen have suffered this fate. Grigg took the beatings for three days, then on the fourth chose to retaliate, incapacitating three of his fellows before walking away, declaring “I’ll fight when I wish, and better than you!” Or so the story goes.
Every formation (including the militia as a whole) has a rally call. Its purpose is manifold: to summon members to a gathering point, to call for help and, as the name suggests, to rally the troops. When the gatehouse was breached in Third Cathorna, Second Spear were all that stood between the attackers and the open village. When the rear rank broke and ran, Dorrigan’s call of “No retreat!” was enough to steady the resolve of the front ranks. They held the gate long enough for First Spear to reform at the redoubt.
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