Serphelorian Army is known more commonly around
the Santharian kingdom as the
Santhran’s Order of Seyella, and is
one of the Orders through which the Santhran governs his or her kingdom. They
are sometimes called "the Seyelites" or "the Seyelite Army" (to distinguish them
from Seyellans, who are clerics of Seyella)
or simply "the Serphelorians" in reference to
their tribal affiliation. Because of the customs of the
Serphelorian tribe, Seyelites are almost all
The Serphelorian way of thinking requires and venerates protection of the weak (a concept called ‘katmoh’), and as such, the Order of Seyella is well known for personal protection services. Defending is a concept which is deeply anchored in the soul of Serphelorian warriors, and it is well known that their faith in the Goddess of Destiny makes them unafraid to give their life, should the Goddess demand such a sacrifice.
The Order of Seyella is a large Order compared to other groups of its kind. This is because the Army is such an integral part of the Serphelorian tribe’s culture; it is perhaps the final bastion of the traditional, matriarchal and martial ways, and is a proving ground for young Serphelorian people. The Order is also a great source of pride for this tribe, as through it they use their strength to be a part of protecting the whole kingdom.
Purpose and Activities. The main activity of the Order of Seyella,
like that of the other Santhran’s Orders, is preserving stability within a given
area. In the case of the Seyelites, this area is the province of Sanguia. As the
various Thanes, Dukes or Duchesses and Gravens are responsible for their own
areas or sub-areas, this mostly includes sending supplementary troops where and
when needed. This also often fulfills a secondary function of the Order: being
visible, as a reminder of the Santhran’s power, should any of his or her vassals
contemplate a lapse in their loyalty to the kingdom.
The Seyelites also patrol the roads in Sanguia. Groups of xau-va (soldiers) who are on this duty travel around the province for months at a time, keeping an eye on new or established areas of banditry and stopping in at towns to rest, and to ensure that all is well there. A group of Seyelites will usually pass through most towns on a monthly basis, although for places which are more isolated, this can be as seldom as once a year.
As with all Santhran’s Orders, each member of the Order of Seyella will spend some periods of their time serving as a guard to the Santhran’s Court. Dependent on the rank of the Seyelite, this service might be as uninspiring as guarding the exterior of the Santhran’s Palace or standing as a ceremonial guard in one of the its labyrinthine corridors, or as important as guarding the royal stores or treasury, or serving as a guard to a particular member of the court. For Champions of the army, a Seyelite could even be called to the distinguished role of becoming a personal guard to the Santhran. The elite who are invited to fill this role can, in time, and if they prove themselves as sharp of mind as of sword, become permanent advisors to the Santhran.
Other official business to which the Seyelites may attend can include guarding buildings or people in Sanguia. This type of duty normally only arises when a person requires a guard loyal to the Santhran, rather than to any local lord. Sometimes this is for reasons of intrigue – for example, if a lord whose guard would usually be used has taken a particular dislike to the person to be guarded – or it may merely be so that the rank of the guard is commensurate with the importance of the person or thing being protected. In addition, should the Santhran need to wage a war, the Order of Seyella would be completely mobilised and would serve as one of the key units of a united Santhran’s Army, along with the other Santhran’s Orders and any other groups who would fight for Santharia.
The unusually large size of the Order of Seyella, the typically plentiful numbers of troops of the Santhran’s Sanguian vassals, and the fact that other Orders share the duties of protecting the Santhran’s Court, means that at any given time many Seyelites are not required for formal duties. Those who have no official business to attend to may accept paid contracts from people who require protection of some sort – usually merchants, nobles or otherwise prominent people.
Poorer people who cannot pay the Order’s asking price also sometimes request the services of the Seyelites. The Serphelorians’ moral code of katmoh, which is particularly strongly felt by their Army, demands that all these requests be considered. Many such contracts are in fact accepted; however, a price is always demanded, whether in gold or in labour. In some cases that price has been to become a Seyelite oneself at some agreed future time, so that one may gain the skills to in turn protect others. Furthermore, it is said that the help of Seyellan clerics is often requested by the army to help discern the need of these supplicants, so that only people who are not merely trying to take advantage of the Order, and are truly in need of protection, are ever aided in this way.
To supplement the income granted to the Order by the Santhran, the Seyelites run a quarry in the Stonedale, a source of a dark, quartz-veined stone called "grey-gleam", "greywhacke" (a mispronunciation of the ThergerimTaal word), or by those working in the quarry, "grey whack". This quarry is heavily guarded by members of the Order, and criminals from the fief of which Clymnios is part are sent there (for a fee paid by the Graven to the Order) to serve their time. Perhaps strangely, members of the Order who are to be punished are also sent there. Such is the liberal way in which punishments are handed out that all members of the Order can expect to spend at least one day in the quarry. It is even relatively common for officers to be found labouring here, whether as part of a punishment, or, as has happened occasionally, as the result of a lost bet! This eventuality has given rise to the saying that “all women are equal in the Stonedale”.
Coat of Arms. The Coat of Arms of the Order of Seyella, unlike that of the tribe, has evolved over the years. Represented on official messages, rings, banners and formal clothing, the sign is a silver oval bisected diagonally by two crossed pikes. The top quarter is coloured teki red, the bottom is saffire blue, the left is cyhalloi snow and the right is nor’sidian. The oval is bracketed by two barsa dusk owls, wings spread and heads facing the viewer, and surmounted by a golden crown. The grey owls represent Seyella, the Goddess from whom the Order take their name, and the crown represents their fealty to the Santhran. The complete sign is set on a sognastheen green field.
The colours of the Order are ithild-grey and sognastheen green – the grey of Seyella and the green which traditionally signifies leaders in Serphelorian culture.
Territory. The Order of Seyella is based just outside the town of Clymnios in Sanguia, on the opposite side of the Rimmerins Ring to the Eyelian Order of the Wings. Almost the entire town is devoted to some aspect of feeding, clothing, and of course entertaining these women and men. Multiple tanners and weapons smithies compete for the Seyelite san, showing arms and armour of the highest quality, often at relatively low prices. Taverns and bawdy-houses line the streets, and farms blanket the areas around Seyelite lands, striving to supply both the Order and the places of entertainment the Seyelites love to patronise.
The Order itself is housed in a large complex of Serphelorian-style round buildings an hour’s ride away from the town. Barracks, training rooms and courtyards, a large officers’ complex and a vast parade ground are laid out in a perfectly planned arrangement across a large paved stretch of unwalled ground. While it may look ill-defended, most are aware of the troops who guard the camp with strict vigilance, day and night.
The Seyelites also administer the Rangwer Warden, along with several other watch towers in the area under their ward. Bullspoll Lake to the south, Scythe Grove forest to the west, those parts of the North Horn plain which aren’t farmed, the rubbly Stonedale and its quarry, and the foothills of the Rimmerins Ring are all used in various sorts of training exercises – sometimes startling travelers through these parts. The Ring mountains themselves have also been used for training, especially in preparation for missions to colder climes. This has left a number of the peaks with some rather less than polite nicknames, of which “Old Tit-Freezer”, referring to Mount Rangwer, is perhaps the most polite!
The Order of Seyella is associated with the area of Sanguia, in the same way as the Order of the Wings functions in Manthria. This system of moving Santhran’s Orders belonging to certain tribes to nearby regions, rather than allowing them to function in the areas they come from, has helped tribes understand their neighbours better. It also makes it more likely that the Order members will honour their vow to their liege, the Santhran, by avoiding divided loyalties.
People and Appearances. Not all Seyelites are people of the Serphelorian tribe, but almost all come from areas in which Serphelorian customs are predominant. People from other areas often feel uncomfortable with the bawdy but focused culture of the Order, and the occasionally sexist behaviour which can be found in many of the women here. The Order of Seyella was originally the Serphelorian Army: an army of fierce-eyed, blue-tattooed, scantly armoured female warriors. They look fairly similar in current times, even down to the large blue tattoos on their arms, necks or faces - although not all women choose to be tattooed now.
Clothing. The uniform for this Order consists of a short skirt made of heavy leather pieces, high leather boots, and bindings to secure the breasts during vigorous movement, in a strong toccon fabric dyed in the colour of the woman’s bivil (the bivili are the four sections or ‘arms’ into which the Order is divided). This outfit seems silly and provocative to some who have never seen it before, but those who have fought with or against these women know that each item serves a purpose, and is perfectly tailored for jakatya, the Serphelorian fighting style. Hair is typically worn in the normal style for this tribe, although some Xathinins who have formed a fanatical Seyella-worshipping group shave their hair completely off, often exposing tattoos atop their bald pates.
The short skirt is made of pieces of hardened leather sewn on to a circle of dense cloth to allow easy movement. At rest, each piece of leather meets the next perfectly; when in motion, the cloth allows the skirt to flare out as much as is needed. The pieces are studded with iron to aid the leather in deflecting blows to this area. The waistband of the skirt is wide, allowing warriors to display any badges they have won for bravery or katmoh (protecting the weak). The high boots protect the calves and the kneecaps – areas that Serphelorian are apt to target on their opponents. The breast bindings allow the freedom of movement that enables a woman fighting with the Serphelorian technique to protect herself better than she could be protected even if she wore an iron breastplate. The cloth of the binding is wrapped from the back, crossed at the front, and tied at the back of the neck. The fabric hides ingenious hardened leather cups, lined with a soft fabric, which provide support and further protection to the fighter.
Cloaks in the colour of the warrior’s bivil and leather lace-up leggings are also regularly worn, especially in winter. Hardened leather arm protectors, thigh protectors and helms are sometimes used to supplement the protection offered by the traditional clothing, but to wear these brings taunts from many – it is seen as a sign that a warrior is not fast enough to avoid blows that one more skilled in jakatya could evade. Off duty or for formal occasions, fabrics dyed in the colour of the warrior’s bivil can be fashioned in to short skirts and bindings, although many wear their uniform on all but the most important occasions.
Rank Signs. Champions, Firsts, Xau-va Feara and the High Seyelite may wear a green cloak bearing the coat of arms of the Order on formal occasions, or a plain green cloak when on duty. These groups also wear grey breast bindings as part of their uniform; the lighter the grey colour, the higher the rank.
Firsts’ formal wear incorporates a long skirt in their bivil’s colour to differentiate them from ordinary xau-va; the High Seyelite wears a similarly long skirt, but one which incorporates the colours of all four bivili, whether in stripes, sections, or some other kind of pattern. Skirts of High Seyelites at formal occasions over the years have often given interesting indications of where the favour of the High Va lies: if she is sitting on the only white part, the Xathinins have done something wrong!
The Santhran, as the liege lord of the Order, may also wear Order clothing. On these occasions, he or she is given a cloak of the best fabric, dyed in the lightest grey available, which is embroidered with the Order’s coat of arms in the finest thread.
Organization. Leaders. The leader of the Serphelorian Army is called the High Seyelite, which is usually abbreviated to ‘High Va’ within the Army. The High Seyelite directs the four separate fighting units, called ‘bivili’ (arms), with the advice of each bivil’s leaders. The bivili are each run by their respective First, with the help of the Champion of their arm and their bivil’s Xaukyra (officers), and Vakyra (head support staff).
Commander (High Va)
The High Va, officially called the High Seyelite, is the commander in chief of the Order, and answers only to the Santhran. She is elected from the four Firsts when the previous High Va steps down. The members of the First Council (see below) participate in this process.
Each bivil has a First, who leads her bivil with the help of her Champion and Council. They come to their post by being the Champion of the bivil at the time of the previous First’s death, or when the previous First becomes incapable of holding the post, or when they step down. This may seem unfair, but most Firsts have the wisdom to step down at an auspicious moment. If they do not, the High Va will often have the wisdom for them. Some Firsts have in the past come to power through less even handed means, but usually order prevails and the bivili are run by she whom good sense would recommend.
The Champion of each arm is arguably the best fighter in that bivil, and is the successor-in-waiting of the First. This woman goes everywhere the First does, becoming her aide and pupil. Champions gain their rank by fighting in the annual Festival of the Jewelled Bridle. Thus, a Champion runs the risk of being demoted each year should she let her fighting skills slip, but she must also spend every possible moment with the First, learning how to run the bivil lest the First become unable to continue in her post. Most Champions were previously Xaukyra, but there are relatively regular occasions when ordinary, if experienced, xau-va have won the Festival and become an army’s Champion.
Xaukyra (singular Xaukyar) are the officers of each bivil. Each Xaukyar has an area of expertise, whether it be in a weapon, in tactics, in strategy or some other need of the Army. Each bivil can have as many or as few Xaukyra as are required at any given time, and the specialties of the Xaukyra generally reflect the strengths of the bivil in question. The title of a Xaukyra is "Kaiar". For example one might see Kaiar Cavalier if one was a Merin in need of training in horse-mounted fighting, or the Kaiar Supply if one was a Tamarian in need of an expert in supply lines in battle. All bivili have a Kaiar Xau-je Va-Kai, abbreviated to ‘Kaiar-je’, the Xaukyar who is the Mistress of New Recruits, and a Kaiar Jakatya – the Xaukyar who gives instruction in the core principles of jakatya, the Serphelorian fighting style.
Xau-va Feara is an honourary title bestowed upon elite warriors who have been called to serve the Santhran in a capacity which means they must, in effect, leave the army. Xau-va Feara have in the past taken on roles as the Santhran’s Master of the Guard, Master of Arms, close advisors to the Santhran, or in one notable case, the leader of the Santhran’s War Council. The title of Xau-va Feara is often seen as a consolation prize to those who would have otherwise been a Champion or First. However, serving the Santhran directly brings its own rewards, and some of those who have been called away have returned to become High Seyelites after being released from direct service.
Support Staff (Vakyra)
Vakyra are those support staff who have shown the intelligence and ability to excel in the other areas necessary to the running of an army. Vakyra are given the normal respectful title for women, ‘Va-kai’ (even if they are men) rather than any specific military appellation, but these are formidable people nonetheless. They may not be able to fight, but the woman who crosses a member of the cook or supply staff may find herself eating gristly meat, or using sand for soap, for quite some time. It is usually these sort of wily, quick-witted members of the staff who go on become Vakyra, so they more than earn their place on the Council Kaiara. Like Xaukyra, Vakyra are each heads of one area of support activity. Some of the most traditionally important are the supply-va who organises all the goods which the Army owns, the stable-va who oversees the training and care of the army’s horses, and the cook-va, who is characterised as always being the type of person to feed the Seyelites awful things if her opinion is ignored.
Council Kaiara and First Council
The First, Champion, Xaukyra and Vakyra of each bivil form a Council Kaiar which runs that bivil. The Firsts and Champions of each bivil also serve on the First Council, advising the High Seyelite, the woman who leads the entire army. Any Xau-va Feara currently in existence are also invited to sit on the First Council whenever they are able to visit Clymnios.
There are four main units within the
Serphelorian army, and as has
been mentioned, they are called ‘bivili’, or sometimes, ‘arms’. These are the
Tamarians, the Merins, the Narists and the Xathinins. The Tamarians are the
officer bivil, and their colour is red. The Merins, who wear blue, are the
largest body and are the regular troops. The Narists, in black, are skilled in
stealth and scouting, and the Xathinins in white have a reputation as the most
The bivil to which a warrior belongs usually makes little effective difference in the ways she serves the Santhran, especially when on assignment to the Santhran’s Court. All those serving for the first time at Court will find themselves on ceremonial guard duty, whether they are a Tamar or a Narist! The bivili system functions more to give new warriors a smaller ‘family’ to bond with, in which the girls are of a similar mindset to oneself, and in which that mindset is catered to. The emphasis of training is, of course, placed somewhat differently in the different bivili.
Officer Unit (Tamarians)
The Tamarians (a Tamar, some Tamars, the Tamarians) are the officer bivil, and thus are usually the more intelligent Seyelites, or those who show more potential for leadership. Tamarians learn strategy and tactics more deeply than members of the other bivili, as well as various other more scholarly necessities such as reading, writing, and how to maintain command. While it is considered an honour to be chosen as a Tamar, the other bivili suspect that it is a boring life, with very little glory; most say they are glad not to have been selected for that bivil. These are no coddled Graven’s children however (although some are that before they join): the Tamarians are also intensively trained in combat, and are quite able to field strong candidates in the Festival of the Jewelled Bridle.
Regular Unit (Merins)
The Merins (a Merin, some Merins, the Merins) are the largest bivil of the Order. They wear blue bindings, and are the regular troops, forming the main body of the army. The personality of a common member of this bivil is like that of most Serphelorian women: outgoing, noisy, ebullient, confident and trustworthy. Merins are schooled in all kinds of fighting, be it horsed, unhorsed, with polearm, bow or blade. A fully armed Merin carries so many weapons that myths about their armaments are common. Perhaps the most well known of these is the ridiculous story that Serpheloria warriors carry two knives strapped to their inner thighs, which they call ‘the Chastities’!
Stealth Unit (Narists)
The Narists (a Nara, some Naras, the Narists) are the bivil which harbours those with skill in stealth; their bindings are black. Naras make good use of their skills as scouts and messengers, or, more often than could be guessed, as spies or assassins. They learn many of the same skills as the Merins, but additionally learn things like the subtle art of the poisoner, the arts of disguise and fitting in in many places, and how to use charisma to gain access where others could not.
Commando Unit (Xathinins)
Where the Narists are a dagger in the night, the Xathinins are a club to the face. Wearing white, and almost always tattooed, the Xathinins (a Xathin, some Xathins, the Xathinins) are those warriors with boundless energy for war. They are trained constantly throughout their careers in jakatya, unarmed and armed wombat, fighting mounted and on foot, in rough terrain and in towns. They are trained to be able to fight using found items, and in how to survive in extreme conditions with very few resources. Xathins have a reputation as brutal opponents, and it is half-seriously joked throughout the order that the Xathinins are only trained as hard as they are to stop them getting in to trouble. A small core of fanatic Seyella-worshippers are found in this bivil; these warriors are feared indeed.
Sub-units. Each solider in the Army also belongs to a sub-unit within
their arm, called a kha (pl. khazi; lit. ‘fingers’). Khazi are groups of around
eight soldiers of different ages or levels of skill and expertise who show an
aptitude for a particular area. These khazi are watched over by the Xaukyra of
that particular skill. Members of each kha sleep in the same hut, take meals
together, and are usually given extra lessons by the Xaukyar to whom they
belong. The Xaukyar is able to ask members of her kha to run errands for her,
and in return she is expected to take a special interest in these warriors’
development, particularly in her own area, and also to keep an eye on the other
aspects of their wellbeing. In this way the Council Kaiar of the bivil is always
informed of the welfare of all their warriors.
Through the khazi system, even members of large bivili, like the Merins, are able to bond with a small group of soldiers of various different ages. This gives them a feeling of having a place within the Order, and gives new xau-va people to help and advise them. Warriors may move between khazi as the Council Kaiar of their arm see that their skills or needs for training, development or friendship change. The Councils try to keep the number of xau-va in each kha to twelve or fewer, so as to facilitate bonding. If one Xaukyar has too many in her kha, her best student can sometimes be promoted to Xaukyar status so that the group can be split into two smaller khazi with slightly different emphases. Normally, however, members are shifted to other khazi to focus on other skills. A khazi can be as few as just one xau-va and her Xaukyar, but this is discouraged. The smallest khazi usually contain three or four xau-va.
Ranks and Awards. Once one becomes a full xau-va after leaving
the care of the Kaiar-je, one has no official rank until one is appointed a
Xaukyar or becomes a Champion. This may account for the popularity of the
Festival of the Jewelled Bridle – it gives warriors an opportunity to
distinguish themselves in a time of relative peace. However, while there are no
rank increases for regular xau-va, awards for katmoh, or for bravery in general,
are given when they are earned. These are small, intricately made silver metal
images and are attached by a smith to the waistband of the leather skirt of the
woman, in place of some of the rivets.
The badges vary in size, but tend to be about four nailsbreadths high and wide, so that they fit comfortably on the skirt. The badge for katmoh is designed in the shape of a stooping owl, and the badge for other more general acts of bravery is an image of the head of a blindfolded woman, representing Seyella. In cases of exceptional katmoh or bravery, the image may contain a reference to what the act was. An example of this might be a broken sword in the claws of the owl, indicating a woman who fought with her bare hands after her sword was broken to protect a wounded peasant boy. Badges in other shapes, for other reasons, have been forged before now, but these are usually only for great, celebrated heroes who could not be given greater rank for their efforts.
Unofficially, some women are acclaimed to the Serphelorian title of Kaiarxura. While this is not a formal title within the Order, women who are called this are respected by all those who understand its meaning. Those who earn it are usually those who have seen war and survived it, or those who have consistently over many years upheld the concept of katmoh within their kha, by helping and protecting the newest warriors.
Support Staff. Order staff carry out the tasks of feeding, provisioning and arming the women of the Order. Other specialist staff care for the army’s horses, tend the wounded or see to the religious needs of the army. Most goods are grown, farmed or created in the village of Clymnios rather than by army staff, so smiths, farmers and so on are not directly employed by the Order, and much of the other work is done by the xau-va, including cleaning and some of aspects of the horse training.
Payment. The xau-va, officers and support staff are all retained by the Santhran, who gives a lump sum to the Order each year to pay its costs. This amount is supplemented by the Order’s quarrying operation at the Stonedale, so the Seyelites are usually relatively well paid, and the Order quite secure as an institution.
Induction and Training. Application. Girls can apply to join the Order of Seyella at the age of fourteen; the intake is once a year in the last week of Passing Clouds, after the Festival of the Warriors. This is traditionally around the age at which girls are called to see their area’s vaxytha and kaiarxura during that festival, and through this meeting many young women find themselves joining the army. It is very seldom that girls are rejected at this initial stage, unless they have both physical and mental defects, or refuse to swear fealty to the Santhran. When there are enough xau-va already, only those who show potential for the areas in which more strength could be used are selected.
Allocation in to Bivili. Arriving at Clymnios in the autumn, girls are put through a somewhat strange initiation. No fighting or marching is arranged, but the girls are closely watched by the four Kaiar-je (Mistresses of the New Recruits) during both phases, and it is on their personality, rather than on their skills, that they are selected for one bivil over another. They are left together in a room with nothing to do but interact with one another for the day on which they arrive, and the next day they are asked to play a number of games of kokdar, until each girl has had a chance to play in each position.
As a result of the insights into the girls’ temperaments gained over these two days, the Tamarians take any who show marked intelligence or the rare quality of leadership, the Xathinins look for any who demonstrate aggression or anger, the Narists take the quiet or fearful, and the Merins take the rest. Once chosen, the girls are dressed in the uniform of the xau-je, which consists of skirts and bindings which are in the style of the uniform of Order members but are made of undyed cloth rather than leather and coloured toccon. They are then taken by the Kaiar-je of the bivil to the First of that arm, and swear their first oath in the Army. The pledge fealty to the Santhran, that they will uphold the principle of katmoh, and to stay in the Order for at least two years after the end of their training, should they be accepted.
The Tamarians, Xathinins and Narists do not always recruit at this stage, although usually at least two of these bivili will find suitable candidates. It is possible to swap bivili at any stage during a person’s time in the army if qualities needed by one bivil are discovered in a person belonging to another. Many are trained as Merins before their other merits become obvious.
Training. In the first year in the Order girls are called xau-je, and are trained under the auspices of the Kaiar-je of their bivil. All xau-je are taught similar skills and knowledge, but each Kaiar-je works with her type of girl differently, so that all girls have the chance to develop into warriors. In between standard training, Tamarian xau-je can be seen trailing Xaukyra of each bivil, serving as their aides and learning by their example. When not learning on site, Xathinin xau-je are seldom seen as they are often occupied and trained outside the base, learning to survive in the woods, mountains or lake. Merin xau-je spend a lot of their time on the parade ground learning to work as a unit, and the Narist xau-je are kept close to their Kaiar-je, exercising or training in weapons, but always talking in quiet voices about things which are not disclosed to others.
Testing and Next Steps. At the end of the year the girls have been taught the basics of jakatya, horse riding and care, how to handle bow and blade, and some of the basics of the skills needed by their bivil. They have also been given the tools to improve their strength, fitness and confidence enough to be of use to the army. At the Festival of the Warriors, a test is set for the xau-je. A full day is set aside for the girls to undergo this ritual, at the end of which the decision is made as to whether they will either become xau-va, or be sent home. In preparation the girls are fed a large meal the night before, and told to pack all of their belongings in to a trunk because they will need to leave the hut of the xau-je the day after the test.
At sunrise, the Xaukyra of each discipline of the bivil wait in a series of walled courtyards to put each girl through her paces, each Xaukyar testing the xau-je in the area most closely related to her own specialty. In this way, each Xaukyar gets to see each xau-je’s skill and to assess how appropriate the girl would be to join her kha (finger), while sharing the onus of testing the recruits. Seldom do the Kaiar-je participate in the testing, although they usually try to observe as much as they can without being observed by the girls. Many of these tests are ritualised mock fights, especially for the Merins and Xathinins who are trained almost entirely in combat. The fights, however, are not so mock that xau-je cannot be hurt.
At the end of the day, when the last girls have been tested, they are given gruel laced with a sleep-inducing mixture and are sent weary and beaten back to their round huts. With the girls safely asleep, the four Council Kaiars convene separately to discuss the merit of each xau-je. This meeting can run for many hours, late into the night. Eventually, with the Kaiar-je overseeing, the xau-je are accepted into khazi, or are rejected. In the morning each girl wakes up in a new place, having been moved from their xau-je hut by warriors, to the hut of the bivil they will now be part of. There they wake up surrounded by women who congratulate them on becoming a xau-va, then clothe them in the garb of their bivil. The kha then take them to the First of their bivil who, together with the Xaukyar of the kha, accepts the new xau-va’s renewed oath to serve the Santhran.
Those who fail the test are transported to an empty hut. They are met there in the morning by the First and Champion of the bivil who tell them in a ceremonial speech that that they have been rejected because, despite the best efforts of the army, they do not show the necessary abilities to protect the people of Santharia, and that they will now be given transport home. All who fail the test have been consistently unsatisfactory throughout the year, so there are no surprises in this respect. Even if a girl falls sick during the day she will be chivvied through the rest of the examinations, as the Xaukyar of the right bivil for her will usually be able to get the correct actions from her, or recognise the girl as someone who will fit in with the warriors of her kha.
Support Staff. For those who come to be support staff, the intake is each year in Changing Winds. Staff are usually taken from the population of Clymnios, although lately quite a number of men from other places are sent to become a part of the army in this way. There are no bivili in the staff sector of the army: new arrivals here are put straight to work doing menial duties for the year. When the next lot of new workers arrive the next spring, those who have demonstrated some initiative and willingness to work are promoted to new positions in somewhat less disagreeable jobs. Skills and interests are matched as closely as possible to keep the morale of all high. Those who did not show such promise are kept on if they are suited to menial work, or in the case of trouble makers, are sent home.
Order Life. Once girls have become xau-va and have been accepted into a kha, life becomes composed of various types of guard duty, service once every few years in the Santhran’s court, camaraderie, and of course the constant training. Xau-va are required to serve after training for at least two years, in which time they are able to experience most facets of life in the Order of Seyella.
Each kha trains together, having one half-day session with a different Xaukyar of their bivil each day. The exception to this rule is jakatya, on which a full day is spent approximately once a week in every bivil, although the frequency of this is dependent on the number of khazi which must be trained. Training sessions are held in round walled courtyards which can be covered against the weather, on the parade ground, or inside training rooms, depending on the skill to be taught.
The process of learning jakatya is unique to the Order of Seyella and as such is perhaps worth mentioning here. Jakatya itself is described as ‘seeing without looking’. It is being aware of one’s surroundings without concentrating (which would lead to missing other things), while also being aware of one’s own body, having good balance, and gaining the ability to move separate parts of the body quickly to avoid a threat without losing that balance. Jakatya is not a type of fighting itself, but is rather the basis of the ways in which Seyelites move and think while fighting. Different bivili learn this art in slightly different ways, but it is regularly told – and quite truthfully – that it can involve running on rubbly slopes or spinning logs, walking on ropes tied up in the air like a traveling acrobat, or even stones being thrown at xau-va by the Xaukyar, which the xau-va is expected to dodge.
Breakfast, lunch, and the evening meal are taken at staggered times in the Order refectory. The evening meal is not held until dark, so in summer xau-va go straight to their bunks after this meal. During the winter when the Injèrá is in the sky for a shorter time, they may use their bivil’s common room to play games, or just to relax in the company of their wider group.
The rest of the warriors’ time is filled quite solidly. During the half of the day in which the xau-va are not training, khazi are scheduled to care for the Army’s horses, clean the grounds, care for their clothing or weapons, or to do any number of other duties required to maintain the army’s precinct. Guard duty is one of these functions, and each kha takes it most seriously, even when once every month they are scheduled for a half-night duty.
One half-day each week is given to each kha to have free time. This can be passed in any way they please as long as it does not disrupt the usual activities of the Order. Many will ride in to Clymnios, although it takes a full hour to ride there each way. Other khazi have taken to challenging any kha which is also scheduled to have that time off, to a game of the Serphelorian sport, kokdar. Once every three months it is arranged that a kha’s leave periods fall in such a way as to give those xau-va a full day-span off – either a morning and an afternoon together, or an afternoon followed by a morning. During these ‘long leaves’ of either a full day or overnight, xau-va will often spend the time away in Clymnios, where they can meet with friends or family, or just relieve themselves of their coin in any way they please.
Rules and Punishments. Apart from during the festivals celebrated by the army, these long leaves are the only times Seyelites are allowed to drink alcohol. Xau-je are not allowed to imbibe at all except for the ritual mouthful of amzyz on festival days. This is not usually a problem, both because it is traditional for Serphelorian warriors to avoid drinking and other intoxicants, and because cha-drinking is such a beloved pastime for Serphelorians. There is, of course, a penalty for those who break this rule, as there is for any rule within the army: a visit to the Stonedale.
Being sent to the quarry in the Stonedale as punishment is a very common occurrence. Any offence which does not result in expulsion from the Order accrues a certain number of hours or days in the Stonedale. All lapses, errors or offences from not being strong enough, not picking up your drills fast enough or complaining, to more serious offences such as fighting, disrespectful behaviour, or falling asleep on watch have a certain number of days at the Stonedale attached to them. This applies not only to the xau-va, but also to staff, Xaukyra, Champions and even Firsts. When a week’s worth of hours has been accrued by a warrior she is sent to the quarry on that week’s coach to serve her punishment.
Of course Seyelites are not the only people who labour here – some types of criminals from the surrounding areas are also sent to here as the penalty for their crimes, although they are usually bound there for much longer than members of the Order. As such, members must also be used to guard the quarry so that prisoners there cannot escape.
Duties. Guarding the Stonedale, unlike guarding the compound and most other things, is not done in kha groups. Instead, one person from each kha is deployed to the Stonedale every second month. This means that each kha will have one of its members away guarding the Stonedale for a month every other month, while in the opposite month none of its members will be required. As guarding the Stonedale is done individually rather than by khazi, one will usually find representatives of all four bivili on duty there. This allows interaction between members of different bivili, but also ensures that any potential favouring of friends by xau-va is unlikely to occur.
In the Stonedale the guards change every week, so there is always someone to accompany those from the Order or from Clymnios who are being sent there on the one-and-a-half day journey by coach. On arrival, new guards are greeted by the lead guards, who are women who have chosen to leave their bivil and become permanent quarry guards. There are not many who choose this, and those who do are generally thought of as unpleasant, callous individuals who enjoy the power of running the quarry rather than seeking the glory of katmoh. All those who go to guard the quarry spend a month there, and being away from one’s kha for so long, in the company of people from other bivili, can be quite an experience. Strong friendships can be made by those guarding the Stonedale, but also equally strong enmities.
This sort of guard duty usually comes around once every two years. Duty at the Santhran’s Court occurs at a similar or somewhat shorter interval, but is usually anticipated with much more pleasure. Although members of the same kha are seldom given duties together at Court - because duties here are based on skill and experience which varies within the kha - one is still quartered with one’s kha, and can share experiences, observations, hints and questions with those more or less experienced than oneself. The three day journey which would otherwise be boring for older members of a kha is also enlivened by the presence of the younger ones who have never seen the Santhran’s Court before.
The Festival of the Jewelled Bridle. This festival, in which the Champions of the bivili (arms) are selected and the best of the army are recognised, was once celebrated as a rest week by the entire tribe. Now, as the army is less important than it once was (due to the peace that being a part of Santharia brings), this competition is of much less significance to members of the tribe not connected to the Order. However, Serphelorians do enjoy a celebration, so those who can do journey to Clymnios to watch this exciting tournament.
The events are held each year in the Rising Sun, when the weather is usually clear, but before the summer is at its hottest. It lasts for a week, from the first Elfday of the month until the following Restday. During this time all training is suspended, although of course guard duties and all other essential tasks continue. Those who have served more than the compulsory two years in the army and plan to compete in the festival are given leave from their duties over this week. Those who have not yet served more than their required term in the Order are allowed to compete, but are discouraged from doing so by being required to still perform all duties as normal during the festival.
All four bivili must have at least three competitors in the festival so that the Champion for each can be fairly chosen; however the glory of competing is such that many more than this usually enter. The stands around the parade ground are filled with all xau-va who can attend, and also – particularly on the last two days – the people of Clymnios, and those from further afield. Each day different events are held, with a chance at the end of each half of the day for the competitors to show off any particular skill they have which could not be sufficiently flaunted during the set events. Every night there is feasting and celebrations, honouring the successes of the day (the Stonedale is often full the following week of xau-va who overindulged too near to their time on duty!).
On the first day of the festival, the first Elfday in Rising Sun, the stands around the parade ground fill for the first time. The Firsts of each bivil stand on a wooden plinth at one end of the ground, which is decorated in the silver and green of the Order, with the High Seyelite on a chair set on a higher platform behind them. The current Champions enter from the opposite end, followed by all those who wish to compete in the festival. After doing one circuit of the edge of the ground, the challengers move up the centre and the Champions approach the dais. Each Champion hands over her green cloak, the sign of her status as a Champion, to the First of her bivil. With this action, the High Seyelite proclaims the contenders to all be equal in her sight, and the Festival to have begun. The rest of this day is spent in the laying of bets among the Seyelites and other spectators, while in the afternoon games of kokdar are played by the contestants. These games are thought by many to be a good early indication of the calibre of the competitors.
On the following day, Halfday, archery is contested in the morning, and other ranged weapons such as javelins and the sling are contested in the afternoon. Athletics competitions are run on Browninday morning to test the speed and agility of competitors; in the afternoon comes the first of the actual bouts, with unarmed hand-to-hand combat skills being assessed. The Gnomesday events are one of the most popular, but the most taxing for the competitors, as this is when competitors’ skill with handling and fighting from horses is gauged. The dramatic stagchase, and the warhorsing event (in which a warrior’s skill in training her mount to bite, kick, and move in other less natural ways is assessed) are run in the morning, followed by competitions in a number of different types of mounted combat in the afternoon. On Dwervenday the competitors compete against others from their bivil in events designed to test the particular skills of their group. Folkday is the only day on which the anticipation of the day’s events surpasses that of Gnomesday: on this day the competitors are tested on their skill with the blade.
Finally, after all the events of the week, the Champions of each arm are decided. On the morning of Restday the stands are again swelled with people from Clymnios, come to watch the final festivities. The competitors parade on to the ground and up to the dais once more. A semi-circle of competitors from each bivil is made in front of each First. To start with the new or returning Narist champion is presented with a new green cloak of rank and proclaimed by her First to be the new Champion of the Narists. Next follows the awarding of the Xathinin Champion, then the Merin, and lastly the Tamarian Champion.
As this happens the other contestants step back, allowing the Champions to stand alone before their First. The High Seyelite then stands, and holds up the beautifully made prize Jewelled Bridle which is set with precious stones and metals in the colours of the Order and its bivili. This bridle is made slightly differently each year, and once won it need never be given back. The High Seyelite intones a few formal words, and then calls the name of the Champion who has done the best of the four. The High Va then passes the bridle to the First of the Champion’s bivil, who hands the prize down to the Champion. Once this is done, the High Va invites all who can to stay and celebrate the strength of the Army, and to witness the rest of the day’s formal events.
For the rest of the day after the prizes are given, all who competed in the week’s events participate in the often farcical reconstructions of the most impressive or interesting of the competitions. Those contestants with special skill in an area are invited to show it off, and visiting Xau-va Feara and members of other martial forces are invited to participate in show bouts against Champions or Xaukyra. As night falls tables are set up on the parade ground, and food and drink is brought from the kitchens of the Order to cater for the xau-va and the many guests. The dais is extended and turned into a high table, and distinguished visitors are invited to dine with the High Va, the Firsts, and any Champions who see fit to pretend to have had enough of the adulation of the crowds. The following day is usually given as a rest day except in the most untoward external circumstances – although guard duties must continue, training is suspended for one more day.
Place in Society. The army is very well thought of as a career choice for young Serphelorian women who want to see more of the kingdom than they might otherwise, or who have a strong interest in traditional ways. Girls are also often sent to the army by their elders if they are thought to have potential, despite the fact that they might want to do something entirely different. It is seen as a good way to make girls into women, and as a proving ground which can be a good education in Serphelorian ways, even if the girl chooses to follow another path after she has served her two years with the Seyelites. The Order is now also beginning to be thought of as a good place to send young men who wish to be more active, although many of these take roles as support staff rather than warriors.
In a wider context, the Order of Seyella is seen as one of the Orders which is usually the most loyal to, and most closely aligned with the Santhran. This is probably due to the fact that the Order operates in Sanguia and is thus the most literally close to the Santhran, allowing a closer link between the High Seyelite and her liege than is common with the commanders of most Orders. When troops of Seyelites are sent to supplement those of a noble, the xau-va are thought of as the Santhran’s troops and thus are given high esteem and respect. Additionally, as a Santhran’s Order Seyelites are in fact of higher rank than troops belonging to a noble.