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Warfare in Ikaharin

A unique way to wage war

''Oh you
Our reason to be
Nature's finest deed
The cradle of the mighty
The place where life and death meet
Oh you
Glorious war
Where we can thrive
Where our purpose is shown
Where our glory is gained
-excerpt from a poem
While formations of massed infantry and cavalry may dominate battlefields elsewhere in the world, in Ikaharin that couldn't be further from the truth, as this is the land of the niwonnar, one split among a myriad city states and one where no animals are ridden.

General characteristics

Limiting factors

''Have you gone insane? We cannot afford to wage a war for that long!''
Short, disorganized and localized, these adjectives are often used to describe warfare in Ikaharin, though what many people fail to understand is that this is not without a reason, with several causes being responsible for the situation.

Physical limitations

''It will take me 5 days to go there, and believe me when I tell you that running that much is likely going to hurt me quite badly''.  
As horses were hunted to extinction thousands of years ago and dogs are the only relatively large domesticated animal in Ikaharin, infantry is the only thing present on the battlefield, all communication missions must be done by runners and any supplies have to be carried by people or dog-pulled sleds. These things combine to make armies slow and unable to go too far from their headquarters.   Another factor greatly limiting mobility is the terrain itself, as hills dominate much of the region and, on top of that, the vast majority of the terrain is covered by forests of varying density, which combines with the lack of properly maintained roads or navigable rivers to make it hard for any cohort to move far.   Finally, there's feeding to be considered. As hunting and gathering are fairly dominant (being the source for anywhere between 25 and 90% of their diet) the population is fairly sparse all across the land, which means armies are equally small. It should also be noted that these methods make it hard for them to accumulate seizable stockpiles of food, which turns raising significant peasant levies for more than a couple weeks into a one way ticket to starvation.

Human limitations

''Have you seen those walls? They're massive! There's no way we are going to seize that''.
Furthermore, the entire region is divided into a sprawling patchwork of small city states, which greatly limits the size of any polity's individual army. The map is so divided thanks in large part to the fact all important settlements are extremely fortified and designed with defensiveness as the top priority, which combines with the small size of armies to make it essentially impossible to siege any of them down (at least not without sacrificing ridiculously high amounts of precious resources and manpower).   A cultural factor should also be considered, as martial culture in Ikaharin is dominated by a military aristocracy which is obsessed with gaining individual fame and prestige and is not used to following orders, which makes most armies rather difficult to manage and order around.

Forces involved


''Behold me, Yaxir Alavir! The greatest man alive and undefeated champion of the gods! From the great mountains of Allur to the oceans below everyone who has tried to fight me has died in vain, for I am the best warrior who has ever walked the Earth!   So tell me? Will you try to defeat me or will you submit to fate and accept that I am invincible?''  
-a niwonnau announcing himself
Making up the totality of most states' permanent armies, the niwonnar is a unit which consists of a (usually very small) group of highly skilled, yet extremely undisciplined, aristocratic warriors, the niwonnau. Their preferred fighting style consists of individual duels between the members of the opposing forces, which last until either one surrenders or is killed.   This string of clashes usually ends when all the members of a niwonnar refuse to accept any more duel proposals from their foes or flee from the place, although instances of a unit fighting to the last man are known.   However, under some circumstances, they don't fight in that fashion. A good example of this is when they are under the influence of a suwonnau, who can install a certain discipline and unit cohesion into the niwonnar under his control, replacing one-on-one duels with something closer to unit-on-unit fighting (although it should be noted that these cohorts are still less organized than massed infantry).   When no suwonnau is involved and the niwonnar has to fight a slightly more cohesive force, individual dueling is also abandoned in favour of what could only be described as a chaotic brawl where everyone tries his best to stay alive and doesn't obey orders.


''Leave the woods and fields! Abandon the workshops and streets and let all able-bodied men go to the central square, for the great lord calls you to arms!   Gather all food you can! Put all clothes and blankets on a bag and let all able-bodied men go to the central square, for the great lord calls you to arms!''  
-call to arms
Generally used to protect fortifications and other static positions, the irhonar are levies raised from among the ranks of the commoners. They usually lack any sort of military training or experience and have only the most basic of weapons and armour, although they are much more willing to accept orders than the niwonnar (largely due to their social status).   Luckily, the things they lack aren't really needed to fulfill their role, as they are there largely to dissuade any invading army from trying to take whatever the irhonar are defending (even if simply because cutting through that much cannon fodder would be too costly to be a sensible idea).   Even if they can only be raised for a few weeks at a time, keeping them away from their jobs for longer being fairly dangerous, this is generally not a problem, as wars are very short affairs in this land.   Particularly desperate kings have also tried to use irhonar offensively, either to assault fortifications or to fight the niwonnar on the battlefield, although this is fairly rare, as losing too many of them could be crippling to the local economy and the food supply.


''Iter Suwonnau Kimac, under the orders of Iter Laku Hilatsau, commanded the niwonnar against the barbarians who roamed the woods surrounding the citadel, for their activities depleted the land of its resources''.  
-excerpt from the Annals of Sunkar
A blanket term for all the (generally nomadic) tribal societies that live between the cities of Ikaharin, the Nirnar are often the target of attacks by the various states of the region, which seek to either expel them from their territory or 'force them to contribute'.   Although they prefer to avoid conflict with their urbanized neighbors whenever possible, retreating from the contested area until it's safe to return, sometimes they have nowhere else to go and have to fight. Even if these bands lack any sort of professional military and often don't have specialized weapons (using hunting equipment for that), they are formidable warriors, mastering the art of ambushing and being so ferocious many fear them.   Even if it is not particularly prevalent, inter-tribal warfare and raiding is more common, generally carried out to capture slaves or take whatever valuable goods they carry with them. Most of the time the winning tribe doesn't keep the loot, as they prefer to trade them with the settled societies.

Example: the First Holy War

Prelude and casus belli

''May the names of our vanquished enemies be forgotten by all! May their images be erased from all surfaces and may beasts feast on their corpses! For they thought they could abuse our sacred land and face no consequences, turning the ire at the gods at us and causing our ruin!   But they were wrong, oh so wrong! For Iter Laku Nyatsau and his men crushed them all like the heathens they are, driving them back into their huts and forcing them to acknowledge their inferiority!''  
-excerpt from a victory monument
This conflict was fought 280 years ago, in the vacuum that was left behind after the death of Iter Laku Soksau, and it involved the states of Itsar and Yerhu, which at the time were rivals to become the regional hegemon.   It started not long after foragers from the city of Yerhu entered into Itsar's holy land, fished on its streams, harvested its plants and carved the settlement's emblem on several trees. This desecration was done to anger the local gods, who would then punish the owners of the terrain as they had failed to prevent this from happening.   Even if this didn't draw the anger of the gods, it definitely succeeded in infuriating the people of Itsar, who now feared that, if they failed to avenge the act quickly, their deities would destroy them. Not wanting to appear weak and anger the commoners, the king (Iter Laku Nyatsau) ordered his agents to set Yerhu's holy land on fire and kill their sacred deer. This was interpreted as a declaration of war.


''What a time it was!
Where men fought with honour
Where many died defending
What they thought was right
What a time it was!
When Iter's greatest son fought
When he slew his enemies
And gained divine fame
-excerpt from a poem
Thus the two kingdoms sent their niwonnar to fight each other, meeting near the cave of Sukci. Itsar's 60 niwonnau managed to crush Yerhu's 80, sending the survivors running back to the safety of their walls. This defeat was not seen positively by the beaten lord, who immediately made preparations for another battle, which he also lost.   This string of failures against a numerically inferior enemy shook his legitimacy and caused many of his subordinate cities to start considering switching sides and joining Itsar's league. Fearing an end to his reign, the lord of Yerhu ordered a final attack.   To improve his odds, he used his agents to murder Iter Laku Nyatsau's son and the city's most skilled warrior, the same way he used his agents to spread rumours of bad omens across the enemy ranks. However, the third battle ended like the previous ones, only that this time it wasn't due to human factors, but rather because lightning killed his most renowned warrior.   That act of nature combined with the fact they had been beaten twice already to completely shatter their morale and cause a general retreat, Itsar's niwonnar chasing them all the way to the walls of their fortress. Sadly for the pursuers, they found the gates shut and a large irhonar defending the site, so the 45 attackers went back home and celebrated the victory.

Ending and aftermath

''How could it be? How can I have been defeated like this? Don't the gods love me?''
Even if he prevented the siege of his city, the ruler of Yerhu had lost all of his legitimacy and he was openly questioned even by his servants. Seeing this weakness, all subordinate settlements he once had switched over to his rival's side, the same way all tribes he had fought so hard to subjugate stopped paying him tribute and his niwonnar stopped obeying his commands. He would be dethroned the next week.   The new king would sue for peace, accepting to join Itsar's league and pay tribute. This effectively turned the victors into the only power left in the lands of Haldenharin, a position that wouldn't be challenged for a century.
Dictionary (Shiwihikane to English):
  • Niwonnar: Brave group.
  • Allur: Derived from Tallihikane 'Atlahli Kaur' (lit. 'Copper Hill').
  • Niwonnau: Brave One.
  • Suwonnau: Respected One.
  • Irhonar: Group of commoners.
  • Nirnar: Group of Nir (a common word for 'barbarian').
  • Iter Suwonnau Kimac: Our Suwonnau Kimac.
  • Iter Laku Hilatsau: Our Lord the Guardian.
  • Iter Laku Nyatsau: Our Lord the Contemplator.
  • Iter Laku Soksau: Our Lord the Elevated One.
  • Haldenharin: Land of Tall Trees.
  • Even if horses went extinct in the region a long time ago, vague references to them can be found in myths and folklore.
  • The high dependency the people of Ikaharin have on forests and their resources has been a key factor in preserving the region's original tree cover.
  • The elites of this region tend to place a great amount of emphasis on the individual and their achievements.
  • More than once a king has been forced to abandon his plans of military expansion because his niwonnau would refuse to participate on them.
  • Excluding some notable exceptions, such as expert craftsmen and priests, labour in Ikaharin is not very specialized, most commoners likely carrying out several very different tasks during their lifetime (or even during a single year).
  • Even if the land usually can provide for both the Nirnar and their settled neighbors, whenever times are tougher the city states have a tendency to kick them out of what they perceive as their territory.
  • Ambitious kings who want an extra source of income will often try to force the nomads to pay tribute (which they normally don't do).
  • Although not all wanderers are traders, all traders are wanderers.
  • Iter Laku Soksau was the only person to ever manage to unify and rule the whole of Ikaharin, and has been deified since his death.
  • All states have an area designated as 'holy land', which is to be left uninhabited and unexploited.
  • Deer are associated with royal authority, and a town's sacred deer are treated better than most people.
  • Even if city-states are independent, they often form leagues and hierarchies between them, which offer the more powerful cities a small degree of control over the subordinate ones.

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Please Login in order to comment!
16 Dec, 2020 11:20

Very extensive, and very detailed. Very similar to how warfare work in my own setting, for similar reasons! I really enjoy the addention to detail and how you have thought through the context of the world when it comes to how wars are fought. Very well done :)

Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
16 Dec, 2020 13:46

Thanks for the kind words! Also mandatory 'great minds think alike'

Ynar wishes you a nice day!   Feel free to visit my world, Ikaharin
16 Dec, 2020 13:50

Haha, certainly so. Following the world to see what else shows up - it sounds fascinatingly different.

Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
16 Dec, 2020 16:35

Thanks for the compliment!

Ynar wishes you a nice day!   Feel free to visit my world, Ikaharin
6 Jan, 2021 22:20

No me deja de sorprender tu facilidad para cambiar de registro entre la narración y las citas y como estas aportan contexto. No entiendo mucho de guerras pero me gustó la conexión con el artículo de los niwonnar

Am I writing or procrastinating? Take a guess and visit Hanzelot
6 Jan, 2021 22:45

Muchísimas gracias!

Ynar wishes you a nice day!   Feel free to visit my world, Ikaharin