First Empress soldier designs: Cavalry

cavalryCavalry Soldier Designs

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

Cavalry kit for First Empress. Horsemen and -women trained and equipped by Captain Vola, Queen Viarra’s cavalry commander. Female and male designs. Any feedback is always welcome.

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.

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2 Responses to First Empress soldier designs: Cavalry

  1. Dee says:

    Nice attention to detail about the stirrups. Tell me, though–out of curiosity, wouldn’t the newly unhorsed get trampled (probably by the enemy, but “friendly hooves” seem as possible)? Or do the cavalry sort of mill about after the collision?

    • You’re correct, and there are in fact at least two descriptions in the novel of soldiers being trampled by enemies and allies once unhorsed. This is why saddles with stirrups were such a revolutionary invention. (The Romans had kind of a horned saddle that snugged up around the rider’s thighs to hold them in place better, but stirrups gave cavalry something to brace against and lean into during a charge.)

      After the initial impact, Iron Age cavalry probably did what they could to fight their way back out. For a horse to come to a stop in the middle of a cavalry/infantry or cavalry/cavalry furball would be disastrous for both horse and rider, as a horse is kind of a big target and lack of stirrups made a rider fairly easy for infantry to pull from the saddle. It’s why charging a densely-packed infantry formation—even from the flanks or rear—was a bad idea, as the press of bodies would cause horses to quickly lose momentum, making them sitting ducks.

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