Military Practices of the Daerdenfel March
The military of The Daerdenfel March operates on a mid-to-late Feudal system, with substantial personal military power being available to the Praepositus alongside the contributions of the Praepositus’ sworn liegemen. Composition of household forces varies; the militaries of urban houses tend to be composed of small numbers of well-trained and equipped knights in full plate (typically fighting as heavy cavalry armed with ash lances and longswords, though less commonly carried weapons such as morningstars and warhammers are sometimes seen) and large blocks of mixed volunteer and professional melee infantry (usually equipped with pikes or halberds, more rarely with greatswords). Rural houses tend to field forces composed of country knights (these knights often fight as cataphracts, equipped with ring or scale hauberks, spears, and sword and shield), semi-professional men at arms, and large units of peasant bowmen (the longbow is the weapon of choice for most northern bowmen, though the shorter-ranged crossbow is sometimes favored for its armor-piercing abilities or in close-quarters fighting). Broadly, urban knighthood draws its membership from a leisure class, while rural knights are working rulers and judicial figures in their domains; this has produced a paradigm in which urban units tend to have higher quality knights, while the infantry of rural units, drawn as it is from country-folk who use the skills of a bowman daily, tend to be of higher quality.
Tactics vary by commander, but the main maneuver and offensive force of most armies is provided by medium and heavy cavalry units, with infantry units often relegated to a supporting role. An observable trend exists in which the importance of infantry to a given army is directly proportional to the skill of the commander, the professionalism of the troops, and the proportion of those troops equipped as archers; professional soldiers are better equipped, mentally and physically, to resist a charge by cavalry, and skilled commanders are able to force cavalry into uneven matches on terrain that favors infantry. The use of battlefield artillery is almost unheard of outside of siege situations; portable artillery is unavailable to all but the best-equipped militaries, and even those commanders who do enjoy such largesse on the part of their lord must employ significant imagination to overcome the palpable limitations of these weapons.
Prior to the Saerdic Conquest, the use of battlefield magic was a rare and momentous event. The comparatively small numbers of Daerden and other Northern sorcerers was compensated for by their spectacular power; many had spent their entire lives from childhood fostered in the North’s strong tradition of magical education, studying and mastering arcane magic as an academic and practical pursuit, and a handful of Daerden could obliterate a battlefield or reduce a town to ash with little effort and no warning. Principalities with the means to employ Daerden confined their use to the reduction of fortifications and countervalue deterrence. The unprovoked use of magic against a battlefield or settlement was considered a grave breach of the honorable rules of warfare, and was widely considered to merit no-quarter warfare or even retaliation in kind.
The Saerdic Conquest altered the paradigm of battlefield magic in the North forever. No strangers to magical warfare, the Paervlassid Saerds flooded the battlefields with practictioners of ecclesiastical magic. Learning by rote in convents and monasteries, these clerics typically failed to match their Northern counterparts in skill and depth of understanding (though the Seniovlic Church has produced its share of magical prodigies). Even so, and in spite of appalling casualties inflicted by the Daerden, these ecclesiastical magicians were able to overwhelm their Northern opponents and their knightly allies with a hail of simple spells.
In the modern day, education in arcane magic has become much more widely available alongside other forms of academic pursuit during the Saerdization of the Marches. Though they still fail to even approach the numbers of Seniovlic clerics available to states that have the support of the Church, the Daerden and other Northern magicians are numerous enough that particularly rich militaries sometimes make use of journeyman Daerden in ones and twos as a sort of battlefield artillery, and more rarely several dozen lesser Daerden as something not unlike a vastly overpowered line of archers.