Fire Fantasy Tactics Ogre IV: The Fenwyn Chronicles
The Middle Kingdoms
The Middle Kingdoms
Many have stated that the Middle Kingdoms stand as proof that humanity is, at its core, a greedy and warmongering race. Considering the state of the region, the statement seems to bear more truth with every passing year. The “Middle Kingdoms” is the catchall term for the mass of land separating Ostia from the Confederation of Magical States, and for the most part, its history is writ in blood.
This region has never known true peace. Since time out of mind, the states here have been a fragmented mass of city-states and independent kingdoms. Though some areas have felt the touch of conflict less than others, almost every piece of land has changed hands by force, at some point during its history.
In the midst of the turmoil, certain powers have managed a kind of stability for considerable time, usually through economic and military might. These havens are few and far between, and most here believe that making a permanent bid for power is a fool’s errand.
In spite of this impossible goal, the very nature of the Middle Kingdoms draws the ambitious to it, eager to carve out their very own piece of land. Distraught peasants are easily incited into militias with the right motivation, shifting the blame for their state onto their would-be enemies. Tyrants ebb and flow like the tides. Rulers seem to change with the seasons, mercurial as the winds.
So it has always been in the Middle Kingdoms, and so it shall always be.
Organized governments with enough power to represent themselves independently in the Middle Kingdom are almost always absolute monarchies. Some try to style themselves differently, modeled on more liberal forms of government. Like sharks drawn to blood in the water, individuals with overeager ambitions inevitably topple these variants and seize short-lived power for themselves.
Despite the alarming commonality of this trend, there are exceptions.
Nomads inhabit the plains, avoiding most civilizations. They have endured for untold generations following a simple tribal system. Their “nation” is wherever their flocks or herds happen to be, and they have no reason to dispute nonexistent borders. Other city-states have carved out a niche for themselves as well, ruled by a rich merchant class. There are even some kingdoms that have secured their rule with a theocracy, touting themselves the dominion of some new radical cult.
Whatever the means, seekers of power in the Middle Kingdoms inevitably gravitate towards whatever system affords them the most power – but seizing power is one thing, and holding onto that power is another matter entirely.
Due to the variety of realms in the region, most of the Middle Kingdoms have a fair supply of most natural resources available. The trick is maintaining a stockpile of these resources, which can become a monumental task. Furthermore, most of the population live as farmers or herdsmen, and they themselves are a resource to their local lords.
One of the most popular trades in the Middle Kingdoms is that of a mercenary. Sellswords need not fear falling with the army they fight alongside, for they fly no banner, their loyalty bought and sold with coin. Famed outfits can be found throughout the land, and many mercenaries have made quite a name for themselves – but the usual fate for these glory-seekers is to die in obscurity.
Despite their infighting, the Middle Kingdoms are a relatively stable region, and their diversity guarantees a certain measure of self-sufficiency. The range of goods is staggering: Raw materials, cloth, luxury items, and even modern weaponry can be bought and sold at market. Though wracked by constant conflict, the land is not barren. Some even claim there are terranite deposits waiting to be discovered.
Trade exists between the borders of the Middle Kingdoms and its neighbors in the Confederation and the Ostian Empire. The trickle of processed terranite from Ostia is valuable for those who can maintain weapons capable of using it, while certain spices and precious metals ensure the Kingdoms always have something to offer in return.
The most exclusive resource of the Middle Kingdoms, however, are exotic mounts. Attempts to breed gryphons, pegasi, and drakes outside the area inevitably fail. The supply of tamed mounts can never meet the demand for outfitting entire armies, but private buyers are always willing to take advantage of the opportunity. Nobles relish the chance to surprise their daughter with a flying pony for her birthday, show up to a duel on the back of a flying fire-breathing reptile, or command attention on the back of a brightly-coloured steed equal parts eagle and lion.
A loose population of nomads content to wander the Middle Kingdoms, the Rahaal are some of the most successful people of the land. Peasants work the earth and lords fight over it, but the Rahaal simply wander it. A horse-borne people, they never stay too long in one place, driving their herds where the grazing is best. It is said that every Rahaal knows how to break a stallion by their twelfth year.
Occasionally, Rahaal tribes visit established cities to sell their goods for supplies, which include trinkets, furs, milk, meat, and the hardy steppe horses they rely on. Occasionally they also sell their services as tribal horsemen for single battles. They field superior skirmishers and light cavalry, and they are more than capable of holding their own amidst the chaos. More than one bandit has found themselves overrun by a patrol of horsemen, having assumed the tribesmen were easy targets.
Nothing is unified in the Middle Kingdoms, and fighting doctrine is no exception to this rule. Tactics and troop makeup vary from region to region. One kingdom may field conscripted peasants, while its neighbor might field elite sharpshooters wielding terrante-loaded rifles.
One type of troop exists, though, that serves as both a symbol of prestige and possesses one of the most devastating charges known to modern warfare: The aerial cavalry. Maintaining a cavalry regiment mounted on flying beasts is the mark of a successful lord. It takes a tremendous amount of resources and skill to successfully make use of such an army.
Pegasi are the most commonly found, and the cheapest to maintain. Their instincts are very much equine, and so many also consider them the easiest to train. Gryphons must be fed fresh meat, but still possess a certain tractability. Males are downright docile if fed properly, and the savage instincts of the females can be focused through the lens of war. Drakes, with their fiery breath and armored scales, are by far the most valuable. Their voracious appetites and territorial personalities make them the most difficult to manage.
One cannot deny that a charge from the very skies themselves are capable of routing entire armies, and the ability to maintain and field such troops is an extremely powerful advantage.
The city-state of Alleria styles itself an “oasis in the midst of an unfriendly world.” Though some may not be taken in by the claim, it does come close to this. Its walls rival the finest Ostian fortifications, and it is one of the most secure places in the Middle Kingdoms, if any place there can truly be secure. Maintaining the state is outrageously expensive, but there is profit to be found in it – its safety attracts merchants by the score, and it levies heavy taxes on those who peddle their wares.
Within the walls, Alleria is a breathtaking sight. Instead of roads, the city uses canals as its main form of transport. Also unique is the city’s method of government, run by a doge instead of a lord or king, elected by a council of its most powerful merchants. The system runs well, for the time being, and Alleria serves by example in its prosperity.
There have been arguments among the council over expansionism and the potential gold to be gained by it, while others insist that they should not overstep their boundaries – with great risk comes great reward, but all it takes to fall in the Middle Kingdoms is a single misstep.
The Kingdom of Fenwyn is located high in the mountains, its capital city of Dragon’s Roost sprawling over the peaks of a snaking cordella. Ruled by a monarchy currently split between sibling claimants to the throne, the kingdom has managed to persevere in the face of external and internal troubles.
Though the kingdom has fallen on hard times, it possesses a key advantage that many of its neighbors lack – Fenwyn is one of the few kingdoms to field an aerial cavalry. Once famed for its Winged Knights riding fabulous fire-breathing drakes, the signature creatures have since dwindled to a few sickly and inbred individuals. Gryphons and pegasi have risen up to fill the ranks, with gryphons emerging as the crowd-pleasing favorite.
Fenwyn boasts a great deal of natural resources, and cut into the mountains themselves are ruins of an earlier age, claimed to be rich in lost knowledge. The treacherous and unspoiled mountain forest that protects the kingdom presents an obstacle to the would-be seekers of this knowledge, though, and since time out of mind, many of Fenwyn’s ancient secrets have remained just that.