The Imperial Legion

Hey, remember when I dropped a few posts of setting building onto this blog, with the Miracose Order and the Order of the Magi and stuff? Of course you don’t, it was self-indulgent worldbuilding of dubious value even to my own GMing, let alone someone else’s. So anyone we’re going to do more of that now.

The Imperial Legion is collectively the single most powerful military power in all of the Empire. The trouble is that with vast travel distances and communication between diviners unreliable at best, each individual legion operates as a more or less independent unit. The legates are appointed by the Imperial Senate and the position is not hereditary, which means that the legions actually tend to have some amount of loyalty to the Imperial Senate beyond the fact that the imperator of the combined legions holds a seat on the Senate. The legions defend the Imperial order, if not always Imperial law. They preserve the Empire’s territorial claims and they hold the line against the Empire’s enemies, whether they be breakaway states or rival powers taking advantage of a state of weakness.

Due to the vast distances involved, however, each individual legate leading each individual legion is pretty much on their own. Traditionally there is one legion per province (although some provinces have been abandoned, some legions have moved into a new province on a temporary or “temporary” basis, some provinces have had legions doubled or even tripled up to hold against a particularly dire threat, and so on), commanded by a legate, who works with the provincial governor (or duke) to maintain the borders of that province, while largely ignoring law and order within the province unless it escalates to the point of full scale rebellion. This tradition is, for the most part, upheld. For a legate to turn on a governor is always a tricky proposition, because the governor has significantly more local allies. While a governor’s levies pale in comparison to a legion’s discipline, they often have a numerical advantage and may also enjoy powerful and exotic allies such as knightly orders, magi phalanxes, or Miracose assassins.

Each legion is housed in a fortress. This fortress houses thousands of soldiers, and outside its walls a sizable city is constructed of merchants, laborers, artisans, and others who do business with the legion. Deep within the Empire these cities are haphazard, organic structures, but closer to the frontiers they were usually planned along with the fortress as House Vilectine accepted that the legions were going to cause these cities wherever they went, so they may as well plan for them, building the cities as an outer layer of the fortress itself, with streets designed to create chokepoints and buildings designed to give the archers of the walls an unobstructed view of enemies advancing upon and through the city.

When first deployed, the imperial legion relies heavily on heavy infantry and powerful long range units, with a small accompaniment of light cavalry. The imperial legionary wears half-plate and is equipped with a tall shield and a longsword with which to engage in close quarters melee, as well as a pike for open field battles, making the legionaries deadly in both tight quarters like cities or uneven terrain like mountains or forests as well as in large, flat spaces where pike formations are so invincible that they can be used as a moving wall, impenetrable to almost anything but fliers or the excruciatingly powerful aeon phalanx. Six of the legion’s ten cohorts are heavy infantry, and each cohort consists of 480 fighting.

Traditionally, three of the remaining nine cohorts would be imperial bowmen, two cohorts of which would make use of the famous imperial longbow which could volley at distances in excess of 300 yards. This is similar range to the trebuchets that would typically be deployed alongside the longbow cohorts (with their own attendant engineering companies), and the two would often operate together to pound distant or especially stationary foes with incredible force. The remaining cohort of bowmen would wield crossbows, powerful enough to penetrate armor and with a range of 400 yards, but with a far lower rate of fire.

In recent years, however, the legions have officially adopted the arquebus in its place, and the more recent legions deploy with two arquebusier cohorts and one musket cohort in place of the three bowman cohorts. The arquebus has a range of 400 yards, fires faster than a crossbow, but still much slower than a longbow and while it can penetrate plate armor, it can only do so at very close range. Its primary advantage over the bow is the ease with which an arquebusier can be replaced. A bowman requires a lifetime of training for accuracy and power. An arquebusier requires only months. The heavier musket, in addition to an effective range of no less than 600 yards, is also powerful enough to punch through most armor. Other than the expense of powder, muskets are superior to the crossbows they replaced in every way.

The remaining cohort is the cavalry unit. Armored in fairly light chainmail and armed with lances and composite bows, the cavalry can successfully charge and scatter light infantry units, but against tight heavy infantry formations, pikes, or in the face of volleys of arquebus or musket shot, they collapse. The purpose of the cavalry cohort is to run down routing foes, to charge light infantry as well as any ranged units who are already engaged and (hopefully) will not be able to volley upon the swift light cavalry before the charge connects, and to harry and harass heavy infantry units with their ranged weapons before riding away.

Each cohort is comprised of six companies, each consisting of eighty men a piece. The company is led by a centurion, and the most experienced of these centurions is the princeps, who is in charge of leading the entire cohort. Each tent group of eight men is led by a decanus, who represents the tent group to the company’s centurion. The centurion represents them to the cohort’s princeps, and the princeps to the legate, so complaints can travel as far up the chain of command as they need to (if someone along the chain doesn’t just tell them to shut up and tough it out along the way).

Over time, the legion takes casualties, and new men must be brought in to replace the losses. Legions are steadily reinforced by new troops from the Empire’s heartlands, but not at a rate anywhere near fast enough to offset the massive delay between the raising of a reinforcement cohort and its arrival at the province where the legion is stationed. As such, somewhere around half of a legion is typically comprised of auxiliary units, locals brought into the fortress who fight with their own weapons and in their own way. By the time a legion has taken enough losses to require the aid of auxiliaries, the legate has usually accrued the local experience necessary to determine how to effectively blend the legion’s remaining units with whatever forces are locally available.

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