Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Sir John of Ravens Wood Hold

Sir John Ravenswood of Raven's Wood Hold,
commander of the Black Band,
Captain of the Passes.
The medieval age is not exactly  known for uniforms, especially in the modern sense, the Military Orders, a badge or perhaps occasionally a livery, but references to uniforms are not uncommon in Sword and Sorcery settings. In this case they just felt right. With the uniform though, there had to be a backstory. I'm starting to enjoy  this matter of  exploring imaginary lands and history again.

The full field strength of the Black Band. Additional soldiers form a permanent garrison for Raven's Wood Hold itself.

There are two passes through the mountains that form much of the northern border of the Midlands. In the far distant past the Kingdom of Valdur controlled land on both sides of the mountains and the Great or West Pass was a busy avenue for commerce as well as an occasional route for invasion. The East Pass has always been a source of danger with the southern entrance in particular sitting either just within or well without the border as the fortunes of war ebbed and flowed.

The fort known as Raven's Wood Hold sits at the crest of the Great Pass a gateway or a barrier to those who would pass through the mountains. Sir John's family have held the post of Captain of the Passes for three generations now and they have adopted the surname Ravenswood and regard the Hold as their family home. 

The post of Captain of the Pass does not come with wide lands but it does come with the right to collect tolls. Rather than being able to rely purely on the levies from his lands the Captains have had to maintain a paid band of freelance soldiers,  mercenaries from all lands though few come from far away.  Since the mountain tribes are a minor  nuisance compared to the threat posed by raids by cavalry and archers from the Riders north of the pass or the Great King's Satrap to the East, the Hold maintains a quick response force of crossbowmen and armoured knights supported by local levies of light horse. Spearmen and war machines guard the Hold in their absence.

To mark the border guards, they have been given jacks or surcoats of Raven black and the knights bear not their own crest, for many who join the company do not wish their true name to be known, instead they bear the Great Tree of the Raven's Wood.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Black Company

Thank you to all for the helpful input. The reminders that this decision will have ramifications for the storyline were timely. I have not yet done  the  legwork to name existing cities let alone figure out the details of economic and social structures. There is however, a long history of mercenaries in this region,  particularly heavy cavalry and missile troops to supplement the native ones. 

So, still on their painting stick,  the crossbow men of the Black Company. I'm sure we will discover more about them once the unit of knights has been added and some "historical" research has been done.

I had initially intended to   paint them in toy style block and varnish with black (dark grey) surcoats but as I  progressed I realized that they were wearing studded jacks so went for black leather with brownish overtones. The figures are small enough, with enough detail and undercuts to make a smooth block finish difficult.  Luckily I remembered that the majority of the figures they are joining were done with overwashes so I proceeded to use the old techniques. Still a simple approach and I think they will blend in well.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Mercenaries or Militia?

I should really be painting up some more Midland...Midlander? Midlanish? Midlish? archers or knights  or billmen but I have a hankering to do these crossbowmen. I was picturing them as the light infantry-ish type but Rob threw in some pavises  and I was very tempted to do a crossbow and pikearmed pavise bearer unit but I've decided to hold firm and do them as just crossbowmen.  Whether or not to permenantly attach the pavises to the bases or leave them separate and how having them should affect their movement are questions that remain.

More importantly, who are they?  The yeoman farmers of the midlands are archers or spear and bill men. The cities would have more foreign influence and money and of course the use of mercenaries has long been widespread. The figures are very uniformly dressed but that need not apply to colours.
Since I'm discovering this fictional history as I go, what do people think?
A. City Militia in uniform surcoats over their clothes?
B. Individually recruited mercenaries wearing whatever?
C. A Free Company of mercenaries wearing the Corporate Colours over their clothes. Perhaps with a cavalry contingent to match? White with a red lion perhaps....... or Black or......
D. Royal Guards in livery.