Warfare and Fortifications

Eleathean Life

Warfare in the trees of Eleath is similar to warfare everywhere in that it involves people fighting other people to take or protect territory, goods, lives and livelihoods. It’s different too, though, with the ground so far below.

Attack and Defence

Imagine you command a force attacking a small village in the trees - perhaps one with a single boardway and a couple of ropeways used for accessing it (see Travel). Those ways are the only everyday way of getting large numbers of people into the village quickly - so they are your obvious route to attack.

Now suppose that the defence of the village is your responsibility. Knowing that your village is close enough to borders or brigands to be raided, and knowing the ways are the only means of quick access for invading forces your first move will be to build palisades around the ways (typically of firmly mounted spiked logs) with gates through them that you can bar at night - or even full gatehouses.

As the attackers you now need a stronger force, perhaps with battering rams, or else soldiers capable of finding other ways into the village - maybe involving equika rigging ziplines under fire, or the use of grapples and swings, or crossing where branches are close and climbing up or down to the level of the dwellings to be claimed and plundered.

Now you are defending a larger town - a richer prize for the invaders, but with more resources for defence, too. A number of options are available, including:

  • Drawbridges on the inbound ways make access to your gates with battering rams that much more tricky.
  • Palisades around the whole town can be built by linking trees with huge planks or logs off which wooden walls with spiked tops (sometimes tipped with steel) are built. These typically cover a significant height, with walkways behind and arrow slits through. Lower branches on the trees supporting the palisades are typically cut away to make attack from below difficult, with machicolations making it even more so.
  • A band of trees surrounding the town walls can be clear felled, forming a treeless moat. The time spent on the ground to remove these trees makes this a difficult project to complete, and it makes any expansion of the town a very long term prospect as the trees would have to regrow, but it makes the enemies’ approach much more difficult!

More committed and better trained soldiers are now needed to stand any chance of a successful assault, and most forces of this size would also bring or build ballistas. The sheer force of heavy ballista bolts can damage walls, but even more importantly the ballistas can fire bolts towing strong cables with force enough to lodge them firmly in trees or walls. These secured lines can then be used by your soldiers to cross the treeless moat, bringing them to the walls, or even allowing them to pass above or below them. Skilled soldiers with grapples and ropes of their own will often cross close to the walls via the heavy ballista-lodged ropes en-masse, then deploy their personal gear to climb up, over or under the palisade defences. In the largest assaults multiple ballista lines will be managed by dedicated enginewrights to carry hanging defences into the treeless moat behind which soldiers can advance in relative safety and from which they can harry the defenders with bows and crossbows.

Defenders and especially attackers are generally harnessed, but the risk of falling is still great and the roars of the gargantuan squabbling below over the fallen often accompany the roar of battle.

Fire in Eleathean Warfare

Whether you imagine yourself in the place of the attacker or the defender you might be considering that fire (perhaps delivered via arrows or ballista bolts) would be a key weapon, but in fact it is almost never used in Eleathean warfare. This stems from the fact than when all life depends on trees which are easily destroyed by fire, and which can take decades to re-grow, setting a fire does more than destroy your enemy’s dwellings and fortifications and destroys the very basis for those dwellings, rendering the whole area uninhabitable for a generation. It is reinforced by the fact that in a wooden world fire generally acts to confuse and destroy all sides equally, rarely giving a decisive advantage, and by a kind of “mutually assured destruction”: when half a dozen fire-arrows can destroy your enemy’s city half a dozen fanatical survivors with bows can destroy yours!

Taken together these factors have made use of fire in warfare a major cultural taboo over all of Eleath, it being considered a “war crime” by all major cultures who have organised military forces.

Attacking The Teupi

Everything discussed here considers fighting in the trees - by far the most common battlefronts on Eleath where most conflicts are between smaller fiefdoms or in the tribal lands. Elsewhere, the strongest defences are found in fortified tepui where stone walls and cave networks change the calculus of war, especially for the “barbarians” who have only ever fought in the trees…

Page last modified on April 02, 2023, at 12:48 PM
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