Military in Tortall is divided into different branches. In addition to the regular army, there are also extra forces, each with their separate areas of expertise. Knight training is the only option reserved for nobles of the realm. The Queen's Ladies serve Queen Thayet personally. The Queen's Riders have also been founded by Queen Thayet along with her former guard Buriram Tourakom and they are mostly used for work designed for smaller groups. The King's Own is open for everyone and although it was known for its laziness in the past, Raoul of Goldenlake has made it to one of Tortall's strongest fighting force.
The army is separate from the King's Own, but they often work together in times of war or other hostile times. Command is split by province. Vanget haMinch commanded the Northern Armies during the 450s and 460s, and there is possibly a General of the Southern Armies as well, and so on. During the Tusaine War, however, the king was put in charge of the all aspects of the Tortallan armed forces. As the king had been injured before the war, another member of the royal family was put in charge of the armed forces.
The standing army ranks mirror those of the King's Own, with a few differences.
- Common soldier
Note: There may be more ranks, but these are what appear in the books. It is unknown if there is a "High General" of all armies, or if that is the king regnant.
In order to be allowed to enter training for knighthood the applicant has to be of noble birth. By 442 HE, both boys and girls are allowed to enter the training, although boys tend to be the majority and girls were banned from becoming a knight between c. 340 - 442 HE. As a rule the oldest son of a noble family becomes a knight. Younger sons may follow their brother or pursue other studies. In poorer families younger children may not be able to enter the training for lack of funds because the family has to pay for some of the equipment during training which is quite costly.
Normally noble sons arrive for the training in the royal palace in the capital Corus when they are ten years old. But it is no obstacle if a boy begins his training late; there have been several known cases like that of Nealan of Queenscove or Alan of Pirate's Swoop. The next four years consist of training supervised by teachers in combat and lessons in educational subjects like law, ettiquette, reading and writing, and mathematics. For this period of time the boys are pages and live in a separate wing of the royal palace. After four years, they are normally made squires and chosen by an experienced knight, who supervises the further training. This phase again extends over four years at the end of which, at midwinter, the squires take the Ordeal of Knighthood in the Chamber of the Ordeal.
After they pass their Ordeal, the former squires are knighted by their King and carry the title "Sir" and a shield with their family's coat of arms. They abide by the Code of Chivalry and serve the realm. Knights normally take leading positions like that of the King's Champion, the Lord Provost, Commander of the King's Own or simply of a battalion of the regular army.
During wartime, a knight was usually placed under the command of the local high commander. During the Scanran War, the supreme commander was Vanget haMinch, due to his status as General of the Northern Armies.
The King's Own is a military force using the regular command structure and consisting of three companies of soldiers. The solders originate from all classes of society, even including many Bazhir thanks to the Knight Commander Sir Raoul of Goldenlake and Malorie's Peak.
The Own consists of three companies, each of which is commanded by a Captain. The companies are further divided into ten squads the company, which are commanded by two Corporals the squad. The lowest rank is that of an ordinary soldier while the highest is the Knight Commander.
The three captains of the Own are:
- First Company - Glaisdan of Haryse
- Second Company - Ulliver of Linden
- Third Company - Flyndan Whiteford
Requirements and tasks
Not much is needed to join the Own. The only requirements are that the applicant is an unmarried man and an able horseman, who can provide two horses—one for fighting and a faster remount.
Formerly known to be a group of layabouts, Raoul has made the Own to the elite fighting force of Tortall's army. It does everything that needs to be done from tracking down bandits, enforcing the law and doing relief work in areas where floods robbed the people of their possessions and livelihood to just dancing attendance on the King on Progress.
The Queen's Riders were established by Queen Thayet in 442 HE. They are open for anyone to join, as long as they are old enough, unmarried and have a basic education in reading, writing and maths. The standing doesn't matter but the Riders mostly consist of commoners. The Riders are mostly used for assignments in impassable terrain or other assignments where a smaller group is better fittet than a full army company.
Upon joining the new members have to undergo a hard training, learning how to ride and care for their mounts properly as well as lessons in making maps, basic healing, recognising herbs and many more. The first few weeks the trainees are taught at the royal palace. In the first summer after they join the riders they go to a Trainee Camp with their instructors. In 449 HE the instructors are Buriram Tourakom, Musenda "Sarge" Ogunsanwo and occasionally Queen Thayet herself. Onua Chamtong is the Horsemistress with Veralidaine Sarrasri as her assistant. The training camp of this year is at Pirate's Swoop.
After their first instruction in the larger group is over those still positive about wanting to be a Rider are assigned to different rider groups for a year of probation.
There are up to 20 rider groups. There are no more than 8-9 members of any one rider group. Of these, at least 4 are seniors (2 or more years in the field); 2-3 are juniors (a year or more in the field) and 1-2 are trainees.
Some of the Rider Groups have names, or people attached. A list of the groups can be found here. Each group has its own commander and all groups were under the command of Queen Thayet at the beginning, until she passed this post on to Buriram Tourakom in the Immortals War.
The Queen's Ladies, or sometimes royal ladies, is a group of about 15 young and active noblewomen who perform the tasks of Queen Thayet's ladies-in-waiting. They must be able to ride and use a bow. They are handpicked by the Queen and have to be able to keep up with her on horseback. The Queen brings them to small isolated fiefs or to places where danger is likely. They handle all manner of emergencies with the Queen.
The Shang Warriors are an independent order which unites skilled fighters of all nationalities. There aren't any gifted people among them and also practically no nobles. The warriors are chosen at a very young age and brought to Shang where they learn the fighting skills. This includes lots of training. When they have finished their education they take on the name of an animal or even mythical creature, but only the very best claim the name of such beings like the Dragon or the Unicorn.
Shang Warriors spend most of their live travelling, although some have also been known to be extraordinarily sedentary, like the Wildcat or the Horse, who have both been known to live at the royal palace in Corus for several years helping training the pages.