Espada

The City of Fools

I don't think I was ready. I remember feeling my heart race as the expedition approached those high walls. At last, we had finally made it to The Freeholds. We were all happy to leave the horrors of The Black March behind. We were looking forward to not having to look under every rock and log for something that lurked, waiting to kill us in our sleep.

The smell of spice in the market hit us before we even saw the city. The smell was so rich, so complex even those with a more refined pallet had trouble picking out individual spices on the air. We were welcomed with open arms, the council even met us at the gate. The cobblestone roads covered the ground in near perfect, circular stones. The domed buildings stuck out from the angular rooftops we were used to seeing in Estoya. The further into the city you went, the more you could taste the scent on the air.

It was warmer here than back home, due to the heat from the Disean dessert flowing across the sea. The chatter of the people speaking a plethora of languages I've never heard made me smile. Merchants shouted at passers-by, desperate to make a sale. Customers answered those calls with talk of bartering, doing their best to negotiate a deal best for them. The children played in the gathered water on the street, what's left of the rainstorm that we were caught in just nights before. The inner walls of the city are covered in the most beautiful murals of art, I even found one of yours and added my own beside it, Simon insisted.

"An empty space beside your father's work and surrounded by the work of others?" Simon said, "Can you not tell it is a sign?" I can tell why you liked it here. It's not just the familiar sight of bards practicing their trade and cooperating in competition. This is a simple place. I imagine it eased your constantly racing mind. I can see evidence of your presence all around me. It's like I can feel you here. I'm not angry. I'm happy you found this place. I'm sorry I didn't come with you when you asked me to, all those years ago…
— Letter to a father, written and left on a bench by Serenity, The Ivyhollow Legacy

 
 
Espada is one of the three biggest The Freeholds in the world. It's territory spans nearly 2500 square km (965sqmiles), and is the smallest of the three. Despite its small size compared to The Freehold of Cordais and Vanheim, Espada is widely considered equal in terms of strength. Its sophisticated weaponry, unique understanding of modern military science, the sprawling economic control it has over the freeholds, and its ability to maintain these advantages due to its proximity to Lartasia, all contribute to this strength.

While Espada is considered its own Nation, it is a city-state. Despite its strengths, it could never hold the type of territory that Estoya The Provinces of Mhirriah hold. Its population range is just over 100,000 people, making it the densest population center in the Freeholds, but a third the size of the aforementioned nations. This fact should not make them seem like an easy target. Espada is more than capable of defending itself and has shown time and time again that It can withstand an assault on its own territory against forces vastly superior compared to its own.

This is primarily due to its incredible wealth and sophisticated military. Espada produces highly respectable weaponry, armor, and was the first to adopt firearms into their army. The nation has an abundance of resources, namely spices, precious stones and minerals, lumber, art, and other cultural works. Espada was the first freehold to propose trade routes with other freeholds and established trade routes across the entire region. Were it not for the Universal Maladies, particularly Universal Vertigo, they may have established trade the a;; over the world.


The birthplace of Bardic Lore

One cannot call themselves a bard unless they take the Husky Caravans North to visit Espada at least once in their life. Despite the dangers, and likely being a one way trip, the trip is usually rewarding in ways that cannot fully be expressed. The concept of a bard began in Espada, and due to this it has nearly twice the amount of Bardic Colleges compared to Estoya, and no other place in the world could rival either in the art of bardic lore.

Bards are considered the most prestigious profession one could enter and no matter how many people will do so, there is always high demand and plenty of individuals willing to supply. Espada is known for its artistic patronage. Some nobles have gone so far as to offer bards a large portion of their estate to work on, so they may work in privacy. This benefit is accompanied by a rather sizable income, free meals, and never ending chain of supplies needed to do their work.

It is for this reason that Espada is often referred to as "The City of Fools" by the other Freeholds. Their careless spending on frivolous activity is laughable to them. Espada's wealth is vast, and the money is certainly not missed. Vanheim is particularly critical of useless spending, believing that money should be primarily spent on Military Pursuits due to the dangers of the world in the present day.
 
 
 

The city

The city lies in the center of the territory it controls. The city sprawls over approximately 200 square km (77 sq miles) of the region. It is protected by an outer wall reaching nearly 65 feet in height. Keeps line a wall with archers and guards posted throughout. Within this wall is a ring around the city that serves as a residential district, and serve as guard houses used by law enforcement when patrolling throughout the entirety of the district.

The inner wall is smooth like a canvas, and is considered a work of art to the nobility. Bards travel from far and wide and each is encouraged to add their work, painting murals on the wall or playing music in the arts district found on the other side. The arts district it's also serves as a market district where merchants come and sell their wares. The nobility have established their estates within this district as well as the princes district at the center of the city, where the governing body of the city operates.

The outer territories

Outside of the city's walls you still have approximately 800 square kilometers of territory ruled by the city state. It is here that the various orders of The Freehold Knights in Espada can be found. These knights live on their own Estates as quasi members of the council. Farmers work the land throughout this territory and several small settlements have sprung up as well, usually developing around a trading post or established to make a strategic location more defensible.

Fun fact: The Noble Art

Espada is known for many things but something that doesn't get much spotlight is their unique focus on martial arts. They're focus on swordplay using The Espadan Saber is unlike any other form of Martial discipline in the world. What became known as the noble art began with the nobility and eventually became a staple for any Espadan soldier.

The Espadan saber is a form of rapier, but features a slightly wider, thicker blade that gets thinner towards the tip. This makes it more durable and gives one more defense against enemy blows. The saber features a basket hilt that contains a cover for the hands and allows one to bind an enemy blade, knocking it out of the way, and opening up the opponent for a killing thrust.

The Noble art has a focus on agility and precision, and this focus appears in different forms. Some choose to couple with a second saber, arming sword, parrying dagger, or buckler in the other hand to provide more defense against weapons of superior strength and utilize a second line of attack. The skill required to stand toe to toe with the likes of a standard long sword takes significant training in offensive forms, never allowing the superior strength of the enemy's blade to become a factor.
   

Government

Espada is an oligarchy, operated by a group of the wealthiest members of society called Council of Princes. When espada began, it was a monarchy ruled over by a queen with several noble houses ruling under her. The revolution began after a couple centuries, financed by merchants wishing to elevate themselves in society. The revolution succeeded and the Council of Princess was born.

The council contains as many members as it needs to, something that is up to the members of the council. By establishing oneself as an economic power in the city or surrounding areas, one can cement their position on the council and be invited to join. The council is far more focused on the economic aspect of government, ensuring trade runs smoothly. The only thing that comes close to this in importance is the military. Everything else comes second which means that various elements of social welfare are often overlooked if they are deemed too costly.
 

Military

You can't discuss any of the freeholds without discussing their military. While Cordais favors espionage and naval power and Vanheim favors siege weapons and other forms of military technology, Espada focuses more on theory and tactics as well as training. Espada is always outnumbered when they go to war, and as such, focus heavily on ensuring each individual soldier is the best they can be.

This focus is not enough to ensure a victory. The amount of time it takes to train each individual soldier can be both costly and inefficient in times of war. Consequently, the military is often buffered with the support of fiercely loyal mercenary companies. Espada not only hires these mercenaries but pays them commissions and bonuses depending on how well they do during a campaign. Sometimes these large sums come randomly and without explanation should the economy be doing fairly well.

This practice has cemented loyalty among these mercenary companies who don't even bother to play both sides anymore. Their presence in battle makes it easier for Espada to fight on more even ground. Despite many attempts to sabotage this asset, no other Freehold possesses the economic wealth to compete with Espada.
   

Espadan Soldiers

While a portion of their army is made up of mercenaries, Espada still maintains a standing army. Each soldier is given training in many fields from operating siege weaponry to how to be effective cavalry. Each receives individual attention in combat training and upon completion of the training, they are given the weapon of choice for most Espadans: The Espadan Saber.

Espadan soldiers are valuable, more valuable than the mercenaries hired to fill out their ranks. For this reason, they are usually placed in the most well protected positions on the battlefield. They still see a fair share of combat, but it is always on their terms. Espadan soldiers hold true to a single principle, "Dortrazo sabina" meaning Favored ground. In the real world we refer to these as Fabian tactics.

Their approach to military operations is to refuse large or unfavorable battles, preferring smaller skirmishes never fought if they are at a disadbantage. These skirmishes are to harass and break the enemy's will to fight. The Espadan army always fights a war of attrition, and it's usually successful. Espada has fairly successful cavalry and more than enough siege weapons to handle its rivals, but one of its greatest assets are the Conquistadors.

Conquistadors

The conquistadors are comprised of elite military officers, distinguished veterans, highly trained War bards, and the greatest marksmen in Espada. They are the protectors of The Council of Princes, a secret police that handles matters discretely including assassination, and covert military operatives that work behind enemy lines. Becoming a conquistador is not only a sign of status but a sign of loyalty and honor.

Conquistadors are patriotic and firmly believe whatever they're doing is right, so long as it is for their homeland. Each is a Bard, a marksman, a fine Swordsman, and an expert tactician. Their training is handcrafted by the greatest military minds available, which served as the inspiration for Estoya's military training. The name means conqueror, a direct reference to how they are often used to expand Espadas territory.

They often dress in black and red, with steel plates worn under their garments. They are each equipped with the weapons designed and made specifically for them. Each is given a musket, pistol, saber, and their choice of a buckler or a parrying dagger. On the battlefield, they lead the charge of a unit they are given command of, each Conquistador given a specific task to perform during the battle to ensure victory.


Espadan Knights



         
    There's a common stereotype that the Espadan knights are soft and lack the stomach for war due to their love of the arts and courtship. This couldn't be further from the truth. The Knights of Espada are relentless. Due to their proximity to Lartasia, the Knights of Espada have access to the latest iterations of their unique armor. The attachments they use are top of the line as well. The Knights of Espada are known for utilizing The Arcane more than knights of any other Freehold.

They're use in battle depends on the battle's location. The freeholds have established formal rules and laws within their territories and enforce these laws in the entire region as well as they can. It is illegal to purchase and sell arms in the Freeholds unless you are doing it with a governing body of a Freehold or a noble house, as an example. Freehold Knights are never expected or obligated to fight alongside the army of the Freehold they are part of. Most of the time they only join the fray when their lands are threatened by the battle.

While it is not nearly as important to other Freeholds as it is to Espada, the choosing of the battlefield should include awareness of where noble estates are located. The closer the battle is to a particular noble's estate, the more likely it is they are to don their armor and fight. Espada also hire hedge Knights, knights who have no title or lands or found the armor and learned how to use it, acting as freelancers and sell swords. These hedge knights can fight for either side depending on what each side offers.
 
 
   

The Colored Banners

The Colored Banners is a term that refers to the group of freeholds that swear allegiance to Espada. There are nearly 23 banner-men that make up The Colored Banners, most in settlements outside of Espada. In exchange for loyalty, they gain prosperity, protection, and the benefit of Espadan bards traveling to their lands. In times of war, the banners combine their forces and march on the enemy. The sight appears like a wave of color due to the house color schemes on the field, which range all over the spectrum and come in many shades.

Phobia

The Phobic Fields are a small region located in the freeholds that creep into the border of both Espada and Cordais. According to Legend, this is the place where Universal phobia was born after an epic battle took place between the three rival freeholds.The freeholds have actively adapted to Universal phobia which is a malady only found in the region. They know where all instances of phobia occur, and have built their roads to avoid those areas. The malady grows steadily budget at an alarmingly slow rate compared to others, as if the malady is being cautious.



History

The city began with a large group of refugees from Ozlith. The city grew over the course of three centuries, developing a monarchy. 200 years before the departure of Expedition Demeter, a revolution broke out due to a famine that didn't seem to affect the aristocracy as much as the peasants they ruled. The revolution was a bloody struggle, but won the day. The merchant guild that financed the revolution chose this moment to seize power, and never let go. They became the Council of Princes. The city expanded rapidly, seeing a huge influx of population and eventually grew to two other freeholds that grew to such heights during this time.

The Rise of The Alfen
These three city-states engaged in a fierce rivalry with one another, constantly waging war, move into a few years of uneasy peace, and back again. 30 years ago, a group of bards began an archaeological dig into a strange city from a lost civilization. The city was a Tombshrines of the Alfen Ancestors, and the entire complex was activated when it was disturbed. The ancestors woke to reclaim the world. A struggle broke out across the entire region of the freeholds leading to the first alliance between the big three. Espada had a particular role to play in this war. It was the Espadan bards that discovered all that is currently known about the ancestors.
The Espadans also took this opportunity to show their strength, their unique methods of swordplay proving effective against their superior foes. The Alfen were pushed back, they're already small numbers dwindling due to attrition. Espada is the only one of the big three freeholds that didn't suffer any true impact of the war. Their strategies led directly to the ancestors demise.

 


Cover image: by Olga OK

Comments

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14 Dec, 2019 05:51

"Most of the time they only join the fray when they're lands are threatened by the battle."   it's supposed to be 'Their'   "Espada also hire hedge Knights, knights who have no title or lands or found the armor and learned how to use it, acting as freelancers and sell swords."   Now THAT'S a character idea. like a ronin, but more european. Especially if he has a penchant for the espadan saber.

Sage Dylonishere123
R. Dylon Elder
14 Dec, 2019 06:46

ooo thank you. my proofread didn't see it. Ill fix it asap The bards are my favorite, but the freehold knights are a close second. essentially yeah, ronin make a great analogy. I never considered the ronin to be honest and it would fit perfectly with the hedge knights.

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