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Tactics

The Estridians were demonized as soon as they first appeared on the horizon.  Northerners who first made contact with the Estridians reported that they were centaurs! This was because the Estridians were a horse people; skilled, natural riders that learned how to ride before they even learned how to walk.

The Estridians were a horse culture much like other nomad. Estridian children knew how to ride before they learned to walk. By the time an Estridian reached adulthood, riding was as natural as breathing. The Estridians were superior horsemen such to the extent that they were compared to centaurs. Warfare on horseback made the Estridians faster and more maneuverable than their enemies.

The Estridian horse was a different breed from the “civilized” northern horse. Maechenebon writes: “The only author to give a good description of the Estridian horse is Earl Petroun.” He then goes on to discuss the text saying “These people overlook that the horses of the barbarians are quite different from their horses. Hardy creatures, accustomed to cold and frost, the horses of the barbarians need neither stables nor medical care. The northern horse is a much more delicate constitution; unless it has good shelter and a warm stable, it will catch one illness after another” (The Warrior The Estridian). Earl Petroun concludes that when it comes to warfare the Estridian horse was far superior, but the northern horse was much finer looking, more docile, and had a more noble character.

Among the Estridians, no weapon was more important than the bow. The bow was paramount to the Estridian warrior and an Estridian could shoot at full gallop and even shoot in retreat. The bow used by the Estridians was a reflexed composite bow. Seven bone plaques were used to stiffen the ears and handle of the bow. Estridian bows were asymmetrical. One theory for the use of asymmetric shape was that it allowed the bow to be increased in size without restricting its use from the saddle of a horse. These bows could shoot arrows at much greater distances than any northern bow, except that of the Yifferhim, this was a personal affront to them as they often tried and failed to recreate there masterpieces. The advantages of distance and maneuverability gave the Estridians a great advantage in battle. (More on Estridian bows in weapons)

When the enemy had been sufficiently weakened by the onslaught of arrows, the Estridian would move in closer to engage them in hand to hand combat. One of the most popular weapon used was the “Icelandic ax” or “Estridiannic hammer”. These were used along with javelins and magic to kill the remaining enemies. The Estridians used lassos in combat. The lasso could be used to dismount or entangle an enemy, or to drag him until he strangled to death. Lassos could also be used to capture the enemy alive in order to be ransomed later or sold into slavery.

Although the Estridians were excellent fighters, the northerners especially the Silver Elves generally believed that their “lack of discipline made them more a terror to the provinces how where they were supposed to defend than to the enemy.” Duke Sidon wrote “Again and again they broke loose with raid and fire and sword and savagery and pillage destroyed all things nearby.”

They are known for their ferocity and controlled chaotic warriors. Maechenebon writes “They were a corps of horsemen, excellent in lightning attacks and dashing raids, at their best as scouts and vanguards...It was true that they sometimes got out of hand, ‘like young hounds,’ but their leader ‘would take them by the throat and call them in, even before they sated themselves with their charge and their wild-beast slaughter” (The Warrior The Estridian).

What is it like to face the Estridians in battle? It is difficult to imagine the epic onslaught of arrows hurled upon an enemy. To gain a clearer picture of what it is like, the following is an excerpt from the book Youi: the Barbarian Chieftain who Challenged Entheria.

A superior bow, however, was only one element in the Estridians’ dominance. It would be vital for the lone warrior or the small raiding party; but to an advancing horde, small-scale victories were no more use than no victories at all. The Estridians needed to become a machine for massive and overwhelming destruction. One factor in their favor was their nomadic lifestyle, which gave them the ability to fight year-round, unlike northern armies, which camped in the winter and fought during the summer. Frozen ground and frozen rivers made good going for strong men on strong horses. Their other major advantage was that they learned to fight as one, and on a large scale. In their sojourn in the wilderness or their drift northwards, they evolved tactics to suit their new weapon. If an ax could strike like the wind, the Estridians learned how to strike like the whirlwind.

It works like this.

Imagine an army of mounted Estridians facing an army of well-armored cavalrymen, humans, elves, orcs; it doesn’t matter who for the moment, because all now shared common elements: all had bows, all carried some sort of armor, mostly made of leather, bone, or metal scales. Their horses are similarly protected. The Estridians are clad, perhaps with no armor than their counterparts, just crafted slightly different, giving them the advantage.   They will rely on their speed and fire-power. They each carry a bow, a quiver full of arrows and an ax or Warhammer hanging at the waist. The front line Estridians are in two regiments, men and women, while behind them stand dozens of horse-drawn ammunition wagons, loaded with several hundred spare bows, arrows, axes, lassos, and hammers.

A trumpet brays. The tundra-horses know the form, and the two regiments- well out of range of the enemy, some 500 meters away- form into two huge masses, circling slowly in opposite directions like gathering storms, raising ominous clouds of dust, or snow, soundless but for the dull thump of hooves. Another call, and each of the men, using their free hand, picks six, seven, maybe nine arrows from their quiver, depending on skill and experience, and places them in their bow hand, holding them against the outer edge of the bow.

Another trumpet calls. Now the clouds of warriors pick up the pace, trotting in circles 200-300 meters across, and waiting for the moment. The tundra-horses know what is coming. They sweat as the tension mounts. The attack call sounds. From the outside edge of each swirling mass a line of warriors peels off at the gallop, heading straight at the static line of defenders. The rest follow. The gap narrows: 400 meters, 300 meters. It has been less than half a minute since the last call. Now the two regiments are at a full gallop, something like 30-40 kilometers per hour. At 200 meters, a cloud of arrows arises from the enemy, but the range is great, the arrows fired at random. Almost all are wasted. At 150 meters, the first few hundred Estridians fire straight ahead, concentrating on a narrow 100 meter section of the enemy lines. At that range, the arrows are aimed low over the heads of those in front. With the added momentum of the gallop, the arrows travel at over 200 kilometers per hour- and these are arrows with small, three-flanged iron tips filed to needle sharpness, with the penetrating power of bullets. At 100 meters, the leaders have already reloaded. Their horses wheel to gallop parallel with the enemy line, the archers turn in their saddles and fire sideways- the arrows flying almost flat- reload, fire again, and again, all within a few seconds. Behind them the body of the regiment are also raining fire on the same unhappy clump of enemy soldiers. In five seconds, 1,000 arrows could hit 200 of the enemy, another 1,000 in the next five. That’s a rate of 12,000 shots per minute. Now, after 100 meters, the leaders wheel again, and gallop directly away from the enemy- but they are still firing, a shot or two each, aiming low over the heads of those behind them.

Around they come again, snatching another handful of arrows from their quivers, slotting them into their bow-hands, feeling the nocks, twisting each into the correct alignment, swinging around behind the last of the regiment. The whirlwind is in full swing, 100 riders in a rough outer circle, with another ten lines inside, all eager for the best position on the leading edge, all whirling round a 400 meter core of stillness. A whirlwind is exactly what it would seem like on the ground to country folk who would have seen dust-devils sucking dust from the sun-scorched steppes. A modern image comes to mind. That first go-around has sliced down men as grass falls to a garden trimmer. In the space of 45 seconds, which is slow time for a galloping horse to cover 400 meters, the same 200 enemy have taken hits from 5,000 aimed arrows, 25 per man. Most, of course, will be deflected, but some must find a gap between shields, or above a breastplate, or through an eye hole, or even straight through a shield, straight through iron armor. From behind, others crowd forward to take the place of the fallen, only to fall themselves.

Let’s put this in a wider context. No soldiers had ever delivered such a rate of fire. On horseback not even the Yifferhim can hold the mark an Esteridian can.  Remember their allies the Yifferhim are stationary, lacking the supreme flexibility of the Estridian mounted archers. No soldiers would be able to come close to this speed or density of fire. Even the first bolt-action riflemen are nothing compared to Estridian bowmen: a bowman must learn his craft and his skill from childhood and is a priceless asset; a rifleman is trained in days, and is easily replaced.

This, moreover, is the first lap of ten, with the circling warriors grabbing reloads from the ammunition holders at the rear. In ten minutes, 50,000 arrows have hit a 100-meter front. Now, recall that this is one of two contra-rotating whirls, with one regiment firing right-handed on the left side, and the other the opposite. Between them, they are covering 200 meters of battle front. It only needs one man to fall and a gap opens, into which arrows pour, and the dam breaks apart.

It is little wonder that most northerners considered them bloodthirsty savages!

Weapons

The Estridians used powerful weapons that were made with wonderful craftsmanship.

Other important weapons were lances, lassos and nets. The lances were used to thrust against, and not to throw at, the opponent. With the point lowered on the Estridian's rear braced on the saddle, it had a lot of power behind it used to impale enemies. The lasso was used to drag a fighter off his horse and to the ground. The lassos entangled the enemy so they lost the power to walk or ride. It was used most effectively when slung onto the neck of a horse rider, so that they lost their steed and were choked by the pressure on their throat. The nets were used in a similar way to the lassos, slung over an enemy to entangle his limbs, this was usually done while the foe was busy parrying a sword.

The Estridian's primary weapon was the reflex composite bow, which measured 140-160 centimeters (55-63 in.) in length, and which when unstrung curved outwards. In fact, the entire Estridian system of warfare and tactics evolved around this bow. The bow was not symmetrical, the bottom extending a shorter distance from the grip than the top. It was made of seven different materials—including wood, bone, and sinew—by expert bow makers. The quiver consisted of a wooden frame covered with leather and highly ornamented. It hung from either the saddle or the rider's belt.

The Estridians also used the javelin and spear as weapons. The javelin was wood with a large bone tip. When riding on a horse, the spear was strengthened by the stirrup, an invention of the Estridians, that allowed the full force of a galloping horse as well as the weight of a rider to stab the spear through the enemy.

The Icelandic Battle Axe was developed by the Estridians.  It is characterized by its four eye-lugs: two above and two below the eye. The axe has a wide, thin blade with a long, curved edge. The battle axe is common enough and is considered the height of fashion by anyone who adorns it. Although the axe was primarily used in battle, it also signified the power and status.

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