Sisters of the Oak and Crow, by Camila Vielmond

esce1raevna1Esce and Raevna, by Camila Vielmond

“[L]oyalty to an ideal can vary in its intensity, but loyalty to money never changes. That’s why mercenaries are better fighters.” —Prince Kheldar of Drasnia

I’ve been following Camila’s Tumblr and DeviantArt accounts since my writeup for her villainess Mauve almost a year ago. Her portraits have a rugged, yet elegant style that beautifully captures the poise and personalities of her characters. Sisters Esce and Raevna are characters for Cam’s novel-in-progress called The Names of Pan.

Esce and Raevna are ex-mercenaries and co-owners of the Oak and Crow Inn for Cam’s story. Admittedly, it is kind of a common trope in fiction for retired mercenaries, adventurers, or soldiers to use their acquired spoils from a successful adventure or campaign to settle down and start a business—inns and taverns being among the more common establishments. However, I would also like to note that this was a common trend for soldiers throughout all of history. From Greek hoplites to Roman legionaries to Japanese ashigaru to Swiss pikemen and Spanish conquistadors—countless soldiers throughout history have fought and killed and risked their lives with the intent of investing their acquired spoils in the future of their families and careers. These business-savvy soldiers used their hard-fought wealth to purchase farmland or open up their own inn, tavern, cooper, grocery, or smithy, to the benefit of their communities as a whole.

Thus I think it says a lot about Cam’s characters and their business sense that they used their mercenary pay to start their own business, rather than blow it on drinking and gambling, as is the adventurer stereotype.

esce2First on our list alphabetically is the enchanting Esce, mercenary herbalist. According to Cam’s lore, our handsome healer is a former medical student at the University of Riful, having apparently opted to follow her sister into battle, rather than set up her own clinic or apothecary somewhere. She seems to have a cheery, pleasant demeanor, in contrast to her sister’s more somber countenance.

While Esce’s attire is less than ideal for even light combat (unless she has some kind of monk-style hand-to-hand or light-weapon training, which I’m not ruling out), I think it’s reasonable for someone who keeps to the rear echelons. Her sleeveless shirt is light and simple for field triage, and has no loose hems or cuffs to dangle in the way during surgery. Her leather vest looks rugged and durable, though too small to be of much use as armor. The folds of Esce’s waist cloak look almost like sleeves, and thus I kind of wonder if it doubles as a jacket or short traveling cloak when need be. Our heroine’s pants are wool or linen, durable for travel but light for movement around the battlefield. Lastly, her boots are a nice set of leathers for walking, running, riding, or stepping over bodies on the battlefield.

Though we can only see the curved handle, I suspect Esce’s weapon of choice is a dagger, short sword, khukuri, or other short blade. Our merc medic’s satchel and hip pouch likely carry the tools of her trade. Bandages, healing herbs, antidotes, balms, scalpels, sutures, potions, sponges, and ointments all might be carried within. All in all, I think it’s a reasonable ensemble for a healer on the go.

raevna2Her sister Raevna, on the other hand, is more in the business of inflicting wounds than healing them. There’s a soldierly air to her expression and swagger that to me suggest a direct, even blunt, manner. She was clearly an active participant on the lines of her mercenary company, and I’d not be surprised to learn she was an officer of some kind. Though retired from merc work, she is currently a part of Riful’s city guard.

I like the layered nature of Raevna’s armor. It’s a partial-plate set with multiple layers of protection. Her vital organs are protected by a fluted breastplate for deflecting arrows and spearheads or absorbing hits from maces and swords. Additional plates protect her upper and lower arms from severing blows, while she keeps her hands bare for unhindered swordsmanship. Chain-mail spaulders absorb cuts and impacts to her shoulders. Beneath her plate, our pretty merc wears a padded gambeson and beneath that a chain-mail hauberk, both long enough to protect her hips and upper legs from disabling cuts. Interestingly, she forgoes leg armor for wool or linen pants and leather boots, both light and durable for a quick charge against an enemy formation.

As a medium-armor fighter with no shield and minimal leg protection, I suspect our heroine’s role within the infantry was flanker or line-breaker rather than line-holder. Where a line-holder requires leg armor to help maintain a firm, solid stance, Raevna’s role requires a lot of charging and withdrawing, necessitating reduced weight to her legs. Additionally, her bastard sword is something of a high-impact weapon that generally requires swinging room not always available in formation combat. Lastly, our heroine carries a knife or dagger for when the fighting gets really up-close and personal.

I’m rather a fan of the slightly hodge-podgey nature of Cam’s armor designs. Similar to how Mauve’s armor was made from pieces of scavenged leather, I feel like Raevna’s armor wasn’t originally from the same set. As a mercenary, she probably had to furnish her own equipment, thus her initial armor set may have consisted just of her gambeson and cuirass. After getting paid for a couple successful missions, she may have looked into adding her vambraces or her chain mail to the ensemble. Her spaulders, meanwhile were looted from a fallen enemy who no longer needed them. I feel like being able to infer so many story possibilities from these two portraits is a sign of smart character design on the part of our beloved artist.

sistersTo me, the inseparability of these two sisters says a lot about Cam’s storytelling and the nature of her characters. Not only did the sisters go to war for each other, afterward they pooled their spoils and went in together on a joint business venture. I’m a fan of strong, sisterly relationships in fiction (one key reason I roll mostly lady characters in BioWare games is to build those kinds of bonds with smartly-written heroines like Leliana or Bastila or Ta’li or Neeshka or Mako). And even from what little I know of her story, I feel like Cam creates this smartly and believably in mercenaries Esce and Raevna.

Massive thanks to Cam for letting me borrow Esce and Raevna for the blog. Feel free to check out her work on Facebook and CG Society. As always, thanks so much for reading, folks! Take care and stay awesome!

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One Response to Sisters of the Oak and Crow, by Camila Vielmond

  1. Cam had some lovely commentary and clarifications on the writeup:

    “Just a small addendum which I didn’t make clear, Esce isn’t a former student of the University, she’s a current student.
    That’s seemingly one of the reasons they chose the city Riful to settle; Riful’s renowned medical school. She worked informally before as assistant/apprentice to a field doctor akin to medieval surgeon barbers. Now she got the tattoo proving she has professional training, completing her first year already. You got it right, she doesn’t excel at fighting, words are the weapons of her choice.

    “Esce ended being the one most involved in their inn business, and her husband takes over it when she’s out studying. Raevna didn’t seem to have adapted to the city life so well. After joining the guard she ended requesting transfer to a patrol unity outside the walls, and she’s seldom seen at the inn; though their inn becoming an established place for the guard to drink and play was Raevna’s doing. If it were a game she’d be a hybrid dps. (:”

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