Cavalryman Atten spurred his horse out from the tree line at Captain Vola’s trumpeted signal. He followed his captain as they and the forty-six other heavy and medium horsemen charged toward the formation of enemy skirmishers. The skirmishers turned and ran as they saw the oncoming horsemen. You’ll just die tired, Atten told his foes silently as his unit thundered toward the battlefield.
—Excerpted from First Empress
Wanting her cavalry to perform multiple roles on the battlefield, Captain Vola chose bronze-scale armor as a compromise in protection versus flexibility. All of her riders are trained for flanking with spears or sidearms and for skirmishing with bows or javelins. Typically recruited from the yeomanry or aristocracy, cavalry soldiers are generally able to afford slightly better quality gear than skirmishers or light infantry. A longer kopis is the most popular sidearm among Tollesian cavalry, but broadswords and hand-axes are also common.
Traditionally, Tollesian armies have made minimal use of cavalry, mainly deploying them to scatter bands of archers, flank loosely spaced infantry formations, or skirmish with other cavalry. Upon usurping the Hegemony of Andivel, Queen Viarra tasked Captain Vola with training and deploying the hegemonic cavalry for faster-response times against invading barbarians from the Vedrian highlands. Rather than divide her cavalry up into heavy, light, and skirmisher types, Vola trains her riders to fulfill any of these roles, depending on the situation. Horse-archers, meanwhile, have been virtually unheard of in Tollesian armies. Given the poor armor-penetration of Tollesian short-bows, horse-archers are fairly useless against armored hoplites. Queen Viarra instead has them trained to hunt barbarian raiders plaguing the local farmland and trade routes.
As writer, I feel it’s crucial to note that the stirrup hasn’t been invented in First Empress’s assumed Iron-Age time period—with nothing to brace against, a rider is more likely to be unhorsed than kill her opponent in a high-impact collision with an infantry formation. Thus mass-charge cavalry tactics made famous by Byzantine cataphracts and medieval knights are not yet feasible in my novel’s world.