The largest body of Falthringor soldiers are the spearmen. Most fit adult male vassals must offer their services to the spearmen for at least a few years. These soldiers are generally ill-equipped, wearing chainmail if they can procure it and tough leather armor if they cannot. They wield modified farm equipment as weaponry, and they share a small barracks that can only hold roughly one fifth of their numbers at a time. Everyone else is expected to sleep in their homes, typically in the hamlets along the slopes below.
House Wenjansk’s archers have become the most decorated force bearing the High Kestrel’s flag, a position once held by the house’s cavalry. Yet again, the spearmen are given little praise or honor, despite their significantly higher rate of casualty. In raid after raid, the spearmen have been instrumental in slowing the advancing Duscarn Giants. It is only the combination of their efforts that has allowed the stronghold to weather so many unpredictable strike forces. And yet, the archers alone reap the glory.
There are many reasons for this, not least of all is the preponderance of low-born troops among the melee soldiers. A second cause may be the unusual tactic that has proven most effective against the giants, a tactic that many lowlanders view as comical and undignified, a tactic that has saved the lives of countless Wenjansk vassals.
The "Trip and Spike" Maneuver
Spearmen operate in platoons of six soldiers, five of whom carry billhooks and one a pike. During a giant assault, every platoon will target one giant each. The five subordinate soldiers (called “trippers”) will attempt to surround the giant, reach for their legs, and ultimately bring them to their knees. Giants have incredibly thick skin that makes it difficult to fell one with a sharp blow anywhere but their soft heads. By tripping a giant, the lone pikeman (the “spiker”) gains the opportunity to stab through the giant’s skull and into their brain. Barring that, a successful topple still slows the giant considerably and provides a window during which one of the archers above may land the killing blow while the giant stumbles to right itself.
In practice, this is a surprisingly effective tactic that impedes giant assaults and maximizes the potential of every attempted finishing strike. It works specifically because the giants tend to invade in frantic, scattered formations. Unfortunately, it means the majority of spearmen spend their battles using makeshift farming equipment in an effort to awkwardly trip the lumbering brutes. It is still exceptionally dangerous for the spearmen, even when a platoon is working in perfect concert.
Most spearmen are already quite familiar with the billhook when they start training in the bailey. After all, the majority of spearmen are farmers who dedicate roughly half of their working hours to the defense of Flathringor. There is considerable animosity regarding this arrangement. The agricultural hamlets below are relatively unprotected, while the adult men spend time protecting a castle whose outermost wall has never been breached. Nevertheless, civilian casualties along the slopes have remained modest, even after ten years of lowlander occupation of the fortress.
While upland halflings are forbidden from joining the archers, Zarek welcomes his short-statured neighbors into his ranks. Halflings can’t wield lengthier polearms, but they’re just as proficient with the billhook as the lowlanders. Wodunc (they/them), a cousin of Lord Ratchet Foldet, is perhaps the greatest tripper in all of Falthringor. They can weave and bob between a giant’s legs and then yank with surprising force, often toppling an invader all by themself. Watching Wodunc assail a giant is like watching a masterful dancer. They move with grace and strength that belies their small frame. Adventurers could learn a thing or two by training with Wodunc; they’ll happily spar with a worthy opponent in the bailey if challenged. On rare occasions, Wodunc may even join a team of adventurers who need additional help during a tourney.
There is no expectation that the spearmen will be a cohesive, uniform military force. They are a group of oddballs, united only in their assigned weaponry and duty to protect Falthringor. Still, some spearmen are odder than others. Chevvek (he/him) fancies himself an amateur moss expert. This obsession dominates his life, and he has troubling maintaing a conversation without bringing it up. When Chevvek isn’t on duty or training in the bailey, he’s delving into forbidden tunnels below Falthringor, grabbing samples of the strange mosses and lichens that grow in the warm stone hallways. He believes consuming these strange plants and fungi will give him the same strength as the Duscarn Giants. After all, the ancient Duscarn only became giants after consuming arcane elixirs developed in this very castle. Perhaps some of that alchemical magic lingers in the moss of today…