An Avalonian Special Forces unit with a very particular set of skills
Caution: Major SPOILERS for Book 2! This article will be made private when Summer Camp is over. You have been warned.
“The Permafrost Project is a secret project to infiltrate the Balorians, gather intel, and ultimately, assassinate their leaders,” Madrimlian explained. “We believe that if we eventually cut off their military’s head, the body will follow. But the Balorians are far from stupid, so we are teaching elves how to do everything exactly as Balorians do them. Our volunteers spend more time looking and acting like orcs than they do like elves, until it becomes second nature.” Shaundar nodded his understanding, awestruck by the scope of it. Elves and orcs had been at war since almost the earliest histories of his people, whose typical lifespans, excepting attrition, were about a millennium. The loathing the two peoples felt for each other was so culturally ingrained, it might as well have been instinctual. The swine would not expect “dainty, effete, vain” elves to deign to lower themselves to do such a thing. For the most part, they would be right. It was brilliant.The Black Arrows are a Special Forces Space Marines unit of the Avalonian Imperial Navy whose purpose is infiltration and insertion. Trained to live, think, and act like Orcs, they operate in small units, infiltrate Fomorian encampments and military bases, and strategically assassinate Balorian leaders.
Black Arrows are trained to operate in as little as two-elf units, but they typically operate in five to six-elf squads. There are only a couple of hundred elves who have made the requirements to join the Black Arrows, and attrition is high.
The Black Arrows are expected to function independently for extended periods. As a result, they often carry a variety of insertion and survival gear. Some of this gear may include standard-issue weaponry, equipment, and armour associated with the Fomorian group they are imitating. As an elite unit, the Black Arrows can requisition the best possible equipment. It is not uncommon for Research and Development to offer their new toys to the Black Arrows before they offer them to anyone else.
There is little standardization of Black Arrow weaponry, because they operate almost exclusively as small units, and because they have to be adaptable. However, Black Arrows are expected to be proficient with weapons that tend to be preferred by orcs. For men, this includes axes, short and long swords, daggers, short spears, crossbows, and occasionally maces or harpoons. For women, this includes daggers, crossbows, and their own claws.
The Black Arrows Company trains in the use of Fomorian starfaring ships, in case their mission requires their use. They have several restored Fomorian ships in their possession for this purpose. They also have a variety of small fighter and courier-craft, which they use to get access to their targets.
Command structure is by necessity somewhat fluid in the Black Arrows, since they are required to adapt to a variety of conditions and situations. A squad is typically led by a Squad Commander; usually the highest-ranked elf among them in order of seniority -- typically a Lieutenant or a Warrant Officer. From there, Black Arrows answer directly to Captain Lylas Madrimlian, who is the mastermind of the "Permafrost Project." Captain Madrimilian answers directly to The Admiralty for security reasons.
Black Arrows specialize in small unit guerrilla tactics, intelligence gathering, infiltration, espionage, sabotage, and elimination of strategic targets. They are given a great deal of independence and leeway in the field to facilitate these goals.
Once the prospective Black Arrow has agreed to join the program, and the arrangements have been made, they are taken to the tiny Draconian ice world of Permafrost to train in a hidden, underground base. The interior climate is designed to match the hot tropical world of Elatha, the Fomorian homeworld, as closely as possible. Black Arrow recruits are required to decide on an orcish form and identity to assume, and then they must live as that "orc". Recruits are expected to learn the Orcish language and speak it exclusively if they can. They eat orcish food and study classes on orcish culture and religion. Admittedly, this is an elvish perspective on these subjects, and as many Black Arrows could attest to, there are certain extremely wrong assumptions and gaping holes in this training. As time goes on, they are also expected to adopt more and more of an orcish lifestyle. Magical studies are also offered to improve mage skills. Combat, strength and endurance training continue at an extremely high level throughout the time the Black Arrows spend off the field, which is necessary to allow them to keep up with their extremely physical and combative enemies.
“You guys should go eat,” Targa suggested. “You’re not joining us?” Shaundar was disappointed. Lana laughed. “Balorian females do all the cooking and cleaning and so forth. We’ll eat when we’re done serving lunch.” It seemed bizarre to Shaundar that there should be such a separation between genders. Elves just naturally assumed or assigned tasks according to inclination and talent as they saw fit. But then again, he did not presume to comprehend orcs. Much of what they did made no sense to him. He supposed this was what he was here to learn.Training differs for men and women, because the life-skills and behaviour expected of male and female orcs are different. Often, female Black Arrows find themselves struggling to learn traditional homemakers' arts, just as male Black Arrows struggle to keep up with a much more physical regimen. In addition to being trained to be convincing "orcs," Black Arrows are also trained to be consummate soldier-assassins. Classes include strength training, Fomorian starfaring ship operation, manual dexterity, insertion tactics, anatomy lessons, physical conditioning, and hand-to-hand combat in a brutal orcish style. The regimen is exhausting, and it is not uncommon for trainees to wash out of the program. Perhaps one in four of the carefully-selected prospects actually see it through to the end. If a trainee quits or fails, all memory of their experience in the program is wiped from their minds. False memories to replace them may be implanted, or the memory may simply left blank; whichever is most convenient for the cover story that the Navy manufactures to explain why the marine was thought to be dead, and what had happened to them in the meantime. Many such trainees are led to believe that they were in some kind of spacefaring accent, and comatose for a time.
Logistical support is extensive. The Permafrost Base requires a number of operational spindizzies and complex permanent enchantments to maintain. It requires druids to grow and maintain the Elathan vegetation. Acquiring appropriate equipment often requires purchasing prizes or war loot. None of this comes cheaply. Again, however, in the field, Black Arrows are usually on their own. Aside from their standard field kit, they are usually required to resupply themselves from whatever happens to be on hand.
By necessity, Black Arrows receive minimal auxiliary support. Security limits the number of elves cleared to know the details of their work, and their small-scale, in-the-field tactics usually make support difficult at best anyway. A number of spellcasters and psions support the company by information gathering and passing intel up the chain, and a number of logistical support staff see that they get the equipment they need. They work most closely with the Avalonian Intelligence Division, for obvious reasons.
The training and gear required to maintain the Black Arrows is costly, and this is part of the reason that their screening process is so rigourous. As a result, Black Arrows are not wasted on missions that can be carried out by any other service within the Avalonian Forces.
“Our criteria are simple,” Madrimlian continued. “First, you have to be a mage of considerable capability. Good enough to cast shapeshifting enchantments, preferably several in a day.” Shaundar nodded once again. Mages were known for their ability to magically transform things. How long such enchantments lasted depended on how accomplished a mage you were. Shaundar’s would last nearly all day, Yathar’s a little less. Two such spells would see them easily through any twenty-four-hour period. “Second, you have to have a compelling reason to hate the Balorians enough to participate in this program.” Yathar cackled a raw raven’s laugh. “No problems there! Right Shaundar?” A vision of five or six orcs holding Yathar down while he kicked and fought flashed through Shaundar’s mind like a flash of lightning. He quelled it quickly. “None at all,” he agreed. Madrimlian knew this. It was why he had brought it up to the two of them in the first place. That was just after their escape from the Raven Talon concentration camp on Wyndsmere, when they were still in hospital, recovering. Well, recovering the physical damage, anyway. Mostly. He rubbed absently at the whip scar on his pointed ear. “Third,” continued the Captain, “you can’t be the type of person who does things by the book. We demand creativity, initiative, and resourcefulness. Frankly, we’re looking for scoundrels.” Shaundar laughed. It seemed like he and Yathar had been constantly in trouble their whole lives. “You’ve definitely come knocking at the right door, Captain.” Madrimlian smiled. “I thought so. I take it that you are still interested?” “Just tell me where I sign up,” growled Yathar.Those who are selected for the Black Arrows training program are already, by definition, an elite group. First, they must be capable of casting fairly advanced shapeshifting magic that lasts for several hours, if not days. This is necessary to establish and maintain an orcish identity in a variety of possible situations. Second, the prospective Black Arrow must be reasonably physically capable, as the training regimen is brutal. The stereotype of the "sickly, yet clever mage" need not apply. Third, the training, and the mission, requires a great deal of dedication, so only those who have experienced great personal harm directly at the hands of the orcs (say, a spouse was killed, they were tortured, etc.) is ever approached for prospective membership. Fourth, the mission requires thinking outside the box. The Captain specifically seeks out people with a reputation for unorthodox tactics, creative solutions, and a certain roguish bend.
“If you choose to volunteer for the program,” Madrimlian interrupted, “you go through that door behind the desk. You go naked. You give your things over to me and I send them to your family in a box, thus confirming your death. And you don’t come out until your training is completed and we unleash you on the Orcish Horde. Your families continue to believe you are dead until your mission in finished or the War is over—assuming you survive, of course. And I don’t guarantee that, gentlemen. It’s exceptionally dangerous.”And last, because the security of the mission is paramount, a prospective Black Arrow must agree to the Navy feigning their death prior to joining the program. This is protect the identities of their families, and cover potential weak points in their security. As a result, it is rare that elves with large families are recruited into the "Permafrost Project."
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Vengeance is Mine
Black Arrows of Note
- Yathar Goldenbough
- Kylann Starwind
- Shaundar Sunfall
- Special Forces
- 3 Flower Moon, 5042 AC
- Overall training Level
- Assumed Veterancy
- Used by