Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Hylek's Hundreds, Part 1.

"The Hundreds stand high, unbowed and unbreakable!"
- A common rallying chant of the Hundreds.

"Tens of thousands, alike but better, have fallen before us. What chance have you?"
- Acting Commander Fextaenius, to the free-bodied masterminds of the Rioter's Syndrome Rebellion at Ul-Qib. They had precisely no chance at all.

"Hah! You think a knife in the heart will kill me? They tried that already, you churl; it doesn't work!"
- Dornarseh, Breacher-Captain of the Forlorn Heap Hundred.

It would be naive of me to assume that the entirety of my (admittedly limited) readership has not heard at least a handful of the tales passed down from generation to generation about the exploits and deeds of the legendary mercenary company known as Hylek's Hundreds. But I would be remiss not to offer at least a cursory overview of their history for the sake of outsiders, the uninformed, and those who might stumble upon this record in a day when they have passed from memory, inconceivable as that sounds and has sounded for the past four hundred years.

Hylek's Hundreds are said by the archives at both Deneroth and Nambar to have been founded in 124 P.R. by the eponymous Gertisch-Haraalian warrior Hylek. Physical evaluation records recently recovered in Serminwurth support this, giving the names of several high-profile and particularly exquisite specimens among the Hundreds dated to 109 P.R. Hylek drew upon the masses of soldiers left unemployed by the conclusion of the Third and final Trade War, which had escalated to the point of wide-scale mobilization of armed ground forces alongside the more typical naval powers which had more-or-less carried the last two conflicts along. As a result of this, the original composition of each Hundred was culturally and ethnically varied, though most tended to hail from the lower classes of Ersuunian society- independent officers from moneyed families tended to have far easier times landing peacetime careers in many parts of the empire following the War.

Beyond these few concrete facts--Hylek's first decades of activity and the original Hundreds--little else is known that doesn't read like fantasy and propaganda, even coming from the most reputable of sources. The Hundreds, always numbering ten such miniature legions and totaling one thousand soldiers beside captains, adhere to this magic number rigidly. To the point that they give the impression of their members' immortality. Each morning after even a savage battle, the ranks remain perfectly filled with the same number of men as had been preparing to fight the day before. Even in the most inhospitable of environments, bereft of a baggage train or follower camp, these spontaneous reinforcements seem to find a way- if they are reinforcements at all. None of the Hundreds are ever known to suffer disease or malnutrition, both known as sometimes supreme killers of soldiers everywhere. The remarkable physical condition each member of the Hundred showed, even from the earliest days, was what led to those valuable examination files being recorded by the morbidly fascinated bodily experts at Serminwurth.

Only, it is difficult to disprove these heroic myths. Even under the supremely close surveillance of onlookers drawn from miles around to watch the few battles which the Hundreds are contracted for, not a one in his distinctive blue uniform and armor has ever been found among the dead or gravely wounded. They come up clean, year after year, as the victories unfurl before them, and in the history of their entire company, not a single retired member has ever been encountered, or even recognized as a possibility. There are even academics among the much-reduced intellectual class of Meroth who believe that Hylek still leads the company in private, despite necessarily being several centuries old by this point.

Even now, we are to believe that he contributes to the undying legacy of the Hundreds as moral soldiers of fortune, only ever supporting the cause of those whom they deem righteous. According to tradition, the current face of the company, one Fextaenius of Porylus Mons, bluntly refuses each proposal made to them. Then, the perpetually-wandering host departs with all haste, leaving the prospective employer in their dust. In most cases, that is that. But in the rarer instances where one ultimately succeeds, it is only after repeated and spectacular efforts are made to catch up with the Hundreds once more, pleading more dearly each time than the last, until at last the person in question is moved to give a rousing speech which can adequately extol the virtue of their mission and all which it stands for. Only then does the hidden Hylek reveal himself, and give his word. In an unusually large percentage of contract records dug up from the Coin-Keepers of Abbas, the spontaneous omen of three eagles appearing before the would-be hero bearing olives and arrows is recorded no less than fourteen times within the span of forty years.

Everything surrounding Hylek and his men is unnervingly perfect and made for the grandest of narratives and praise-poems, and I cannot find a single piece of evidence to bring these miraculous accomplishments into question.

Which is precisely why I believe them to be miracles.

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