The Foreign Legion of Talabecland
Author's Note: Needless to say, this was inspired by the history and stories of the real world French Foreign Legion who have legends of their own, so I can't claim any credit transporting it to the Old World. It does make for a very interesting military unit where the PCs can meet practically anyone from anywhere in the Warhammer world.
"You'll not hear any talk from me about glory,
justice, freedom or any sort of that orc-turd. I'm going to talk
to you about survival. There's only one way to survive a battle,
you worthless, dung-eating snotlings. Stick a sword up their arse
before they do the same to you."
- Alain Proteau's speech to the legion on the eve of the Battle of Weltenberg.
"They were not defeated. They were only killed."
- from 'The Epic Battle of Weltenberg', a poem by Erich Reiner
In the year 1635 during the warring period which later came to be known as as Age of the Three Emperors, Emperor Phillipe 'the Bold' of Talabecland formed a new regiment to the Imperial colours. It was by no means unusual in those years of constant civil warfare save one aspect: the regiment was to be composed of men 'not Empire-born'. Philipe was of the opinion - subtly influenced by the advice of his chief counsellor - that there were far too many 'dreadful persons of foreign nature' in his little corner of the Empire. This move seemed a subtle way to be rid of the wanderers, beggars, petty thieves and other dregs of humanity from the gutters and overflowing prisons. Even criminals were granted a pardon and duly accomodated if they swore the Legion's Oath.
The first batch of 420 recruits were mostly petty offenders and convicts press-ganged into service - a motley collection of Wastelanders, Tileans, Brettonians, Kislevites and not a few Empire-born. After a none-too-gentle washing, they were issued uniforms and presented to the Emperor, after which they were to be marched off to war. Emperor Phillipe's orders to his commanders were to use them as sword-fodder, to be given the most hopeless and suicidal missions. After a few weeks of deliberation, Phillipe's military advisors picked the first battle for their new regiment. The ragtag bunch were not expected to survive and a speech commending the sacrifice of the Legion was already drawn up even before the regiment was marched out to the borders of Talabecland and Stirland.
The Legion's first commander was Alain Prouteau, a soldier's soldier if there ever was one. A Brettonian from Quenelles, he had served with distinction in Emperor Phillipe's armies for more than a decade. Unsurprisingly, with his well-known outspokenness and his low tolerance of fools, he was unpopular at court. No bootlicker, even his superiors felt the lash of his tongue when he felt something had to be said, usually embellished with much crude language accumulated over a lifetime of soldiering. With this assignment, many of his superiors were relieved to finally have him out of their hair.
Understandably furious at being assigned to babysit the Legion, he nevertheless managed in the several weeks to at least teach the miserable wretches to march in unison without falling over drunk and which end of the sword to hold. A canny commander, he immediately asked for the murderers and violent criminals among the motley crowd. Some he made officers and put them in charge of weapons training. During the training, Proteau realized that the only way to get his ill-mannered, rowdy troops behaving as a unit would be to give them a common goal. Prouteau cunningly made them hate him through forced runs (until the men puked themselves unconscious), merciless training (only a dozen men were lost through training 'accidents'), and liberal helpings of crudely-expressed derision on their manhood and probable parents. By the time the unit was sent into battle, it was seething with rage and spoiling for a chance to vent their anger.
The Legion's baptism in battle was to be at the small frontier town of Weltenberg. The town was of little strategic value and the inhabitants had already fled days before the approach of the the battle-hardened forces of Count Josef Gruell of Stirland. When they arrived, the regiment was thrown behind hastily-prepared fortifications and told to hold the town 'to the last man'. Being outnumbered at least 6-to-1 by a qualitatively superior force (at least on paper), the regiment was expected to be slaughtered within the first few hours. What transpired in the coming days was very different from the outcome predicted by Emperor Phillipe's military advisors.
Nine days after the first assault, the town was still in the Legion's hands having held out against the Count's massed infantry and cavalry, repulsing several attacks and inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy forces. With extraordinary courage, the legion defended the town until only a dozen men were left alive out of the 400. Furious at the failure of his army, Count Gruell threw one last assault with all of his remaining men. As his massed infantry charged, the Count was astounded when a horn sounded in the enemy camp and a bloodied band of men rose from the shattered walls and met his forces with a charge of their own. The men fought like demons, killing several times their number before they were overwhelmed and slain.
In the aftermath, the Count's men discovered one badly-wounded
survivor from among the field of dead and dying, an ex-thief and
poet named Erich Reiner. Impressed by the courage of his foes,
the Count ordered his own surgeon to attend to the man, that he
may live to tell his tale. The poet lived, and through his tales
and poems - fancifully embellished and bordering on fiction, of
course - the beginnings of a legend was born. As the stories of
the Legion's defense of Weltenberg spread through the Empire,
fighting men flocked to join and in due course soon, the 'Foreign
Legion' was reformed. In honour of the Legion's first commander,
Alain Prouteau, the fleur-de-lis of Brettonia was
adopted into the Legion's standard. Over the centuries, the
Legion amassed much fame and battle honours until its present
status as one of the most famous units in the Empire.
The Legionaire Career
In present times the Foreign Legion is based in Talabheim, and technically at least is still comprised of 'foreign' troops. In truth, many officers and rankers are Empire-born, but swear the Legion's Oath - unchanged since the founding - on a false name and birth place. No questions are asked and no one is turned away, but the harsh, unrelenting training and rigid discipline soon weed out the malcontents and loafers. The fame of the Legion has drawn fighting men from all over the Old World and beyond: Brettonians, Kislevites and Norsemen from the cold North, the matchless horsemen of the Steppe tribes beyond the World's Edge Mountains, and tough veterans of the Border Princes. The Legion's standard is a golden Imperial Griffin on blue, with a vertical row of three white fleur-de-lis on the right border.
For career templates use the Mercenary, Mercenary Sergeant, and Mercenary Captain but add a 50% chance of Speak Additional Language (a new language allowed with each promotion to Sergeant or Captain) due to the presence of many foreign troops within the Legion. In addition, officers of the Legion (Captain rank and above) are accorded much respect (+10 to Fel or Ld) within the military hierarchy of the Empire.
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