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Xui'al
Developer Emeritus
29 Mar 2005

Location: Wastelands of Canada.

The True Art of War Magick
Astonius Hierax, Imperial College of Battlemages, Cyrodiil


Every aspiring battlemage is required to read the first volume of Zurin Arctus’ famous ‘The Art of War Magic’ during their first year at the Imperial College, but the text’s fame extends far and many instructors have found that nearly all incoming students are closely familiar with the text. This is problematic since the text is little more than a series of constitutions of general advice and have little bearing on what an imperial battlemage actually does. Worse yet, in recent years students have been reading the apocryphal subsequent volumes, none of which seem to have been actually authored by Arctus.

Arctus’ text should be promptly dropped from the curriculum and replaced with a more practical manual. That the text is also taught at the Imperial War College, where few, if any, of the students have experience or skill in magic should reveal the problem with this book occupying such an important position in the curriculum. Statements like “victory without battle is the acme of skill” is of little use to the imperial battlemage. She is not in charge of the legion, and must follow the orders of her superior. Perhaps the text had more utility in an age when battlemages led armies, but such is not the case today.

Augmented with magic, the contemporary imperial battlemage occupies a variety of crucial roles in the legion, none of which are the leadership roles required for Arctus’ text to be useful. First and foremost, the novitiate battlemage must realize that she is a soldier whose job is to support the legionary infantry. Cyrodiil’s legions conquered Tamriel because of their versatility and adaptability to any circumstance, and maintaining this capability is the battlemage’s job.

I: Scouting

Amongst some of the first skills taught at the college are those associated with scouting. The legion needs to know what enemy it faces, how strong they are, and where they are. All battlemages must be taught to magically deaden the sound of their passage and to move more swiftly than any mundane scout. The ability to prepare potions of invisibility or cast such spells are necessary, although only battlemages advanced in the school of illusion are able to perform the latter. The most skilled illusionist battlemages are able to walk into the enemy camp, either invisibly or with a magickally-enhanced disguise. This is essential for gleaning information on the empire’s enemies.

Uriel III was captured at the Battle of Ichidag in Hammerfell by just such a stratagem. Imperial battlemages who had infiltrated his encampment quickly learned that while Uriel's army appeared formidable it was desperately low on basic foodstuffs. Cephorus I continued to avoid battle over the next several days while lassitude sapped the strength of Uriel’s army. As more and more of Uriel’s troops deserted or outright defected to Cephorus, Uriel’s position became untenable and Cephorus was able to overrun his numerically superior enemy with little bloodshed. Cephorus had assumed that Uriel’s army was being magically supplied, but only when battlemages entered his encampment was it clear that Uriel’s mages were exhausted and that only a trickle of supplies were coming in. Essentially, Uriel’s choice to neglect his mages led to his defeat, as they were unable to prevent Cephorus’ battlemages from entering his encampment.

II: Logistics

The example cited above reveals the importance of battlemages in the supplying of the army. Arcanely-supported logistics is a key element in maintaining the versatility of the legions. The pack animals and carts that supply the legions move slower than an army on the march can move, and they face greater obstacles in rough terrain than men on foot do. The magickal movement of supplies greatly aids in keeping the legions moving faster than their enemies. Over short distances, battlemages have the capacity to move heavy items telekinetically. Most experienced battlemages would argue that the legionary commanders regularly exploit this ability to an excessive degree, which results in fatigued battlemages and reduced performance. This is dangerous, since it limits the other abilities of the battlemages and could jeopardize the whole legion. Other means of moving supplies is by teleportation. The legion has developed a series of spells that can be used to move only items, a great improvement from the methods of the Second Era when a battlemage had to accompany the goods. Inexperienced and inattentive battlemages were occasionally fused with their goods upon arrival, permanently ruining both.

Finally, for the regular passage of heavy goods, the corps has a two-way means of establishing a link between the legion and a supply dump using sigil stones and special, minor realm of Oblivion. While this method is highly efficacious and allows the corps to move everything from armies to siege machines across the continent in a matter of hours, the risks are very high, and for this reason its use is tightly regulated. Should the enemy seize one of the sigil stones, they could use it to bring their soldiers right into a legion supply camp in the heart of Cyrodiil or Skyrim. Likewise, the barriers in the Oblivion plane have been known to let through certain creatures at unpredictable intervals. Tight regulation of the use of the passage spaces has ensured that none of these creatures have ever reached Nirn, but the possibility remains. This method of transport is also easily stopped by the enemy through well-known covenant-mimicking spells. For these reasons the Oblivion passages should only be used when the need is great, for such a method poses an existential risk to the empire.

III: Defence

Aside from logistics, the imperial battlemage will spend a great deal of her energy in preparing defences. The most important of these are runes cast upon the ground outside the camp, and an important line of defence supplementing ditches, spears, and caltrops. The variety of runes employed will vary depending the situation. If expecting an attack, simple explosive fire or frost ruins are useful for killing and maiming enemies. While slightly more taxing to cast, levitation runes are useful for capturing enemies, as they will leave the victim hanging in the air until he or she can be arrested. Experience has taught that levitation runes have other value: whereas simple explosive runes tend to have a deleterious effect on local fauna, levitation runes and the fauna provide target practice for the archers and food, reducing the need for risky foraging expeditions and reducing the supplies that must be transported.

Runes must be specific to each legion to avoid accidents since most will be invisible to the untrained eye. Tiber Septim ordered that every member of each legion be branded with a unique rune, a practice that has been carried out ever since. This rune will allow the bearer to step over any of the defensive runes without triggering them. Any battlemage who has graduated from the college has the ability to apply the runes, but only a master is taught the techniques necessary to remove them. Commanders are inscribed with special runes to allow them access to the camps of other legions, ever since the Prime Legate Antiochus Julius was incinerated by a defensive rune on his way to a planning meeting with the general of the Fourth Legion during a rebellion under Pelagius I in High Rock. The books that record the detailed spells of applying and removing the sigils must be kept secure, as an enemy with the proper sigils applied to themselves could walk right through the runic defences. Defensive runes that only the command staff can pass through safely should be applied around the general’s tent when in the field.

Battlemages are also required to keep Oblivion-harming spells active around the camp and the march at all times. In a previous age, the low fecundity and high magickal skill of many of the empire’s merish enemies meant that a favourite tactic was to open portals to Oblivion in the midst of imperial camps and let the denizens within pour out to fight their battles for them. At a basic level, such spells can secure a large area from the opening of such portals. More complex spells can pain or banish any otherworldly creatures that entire their radius.

Battlemages are also trained in the use of both personal and larger wards. Skilled battlemages can raise magickal shields around themselves and their troops to provide protection from a variety of attacks. Groups of battlemages working together can shield entire armies. While this is a useful ability when attacking hardened positions, its taxing nature and brevity of the protection greatly limit its use. The wizards of the navy have had some success in using soul gems to power shields for greater periods of time, but experience has shown that the temporary value of a grand ward usually outweighs its benefits.

Finally, battlemages must be constantly vigilant in detecting and countering the arcane machinations of the enemy. As demonstrated here, war magick is rarely about hitting the enemy with bolts of lightning, and other peoples have a tradition of war magick nearly as sophisticated as ours. They will attempt to manipulate the weather and the earth, and only those with a firm grounding in the reality and praxis of war magic will be able to stave off such threats.

_________________
'What if man is not really a scoundrel - man in general, I mean, the whole race of mankind - then all the rest is prejudice, simply artificial terrors and there are no barriers and it's all as it should be.'
Post Mon Aug 11, 2014 7:56 pm Send private message             Reply with quote                   up  
Gnomey
Lead Developer
19 May 2006

Location: In your garden.

I like it. I'm not sure about the section discussing runes, though. Rune spells only appear in Skyrim, as far as I am aware, and I personally like the idea that they are an innovation that occurred in the 4th Era.

The Oblivion-harming spells also seem a little convenient, but it does make sense that the Legion would have some sort of countermeasure against Oblivion gates appearing in their midst.

I do think one use of magic that was missing is the use of levitation to get over walls, cross rivers etc. I would also think that battlemages might have some more active role in battle, more by providing suppressing fire than actually engaging enemy forces; shooting weak fireballs and the like over the field to keep the enemies on their toes.

Actually, frenzy and fear spells would also be quite effective, but I suppose most armies would erect magickal defenses. Dispel does seem worth mentioning, though, in case spells do get through those defences.

Edit: light spells also seem as though they would be potentially useful, both for letting the Legion fight at night and blinding the enemy, but I suppose once I start listing potential uses of magic in battle I'll never stop.
Post Mon Aug 11, 2014 9:30 pm Send private message             Reply with quote                   up  
Xui'al
Developer Emeritus
29 Mar 2005

Location: Wastelands of Canada.

Gnomey wrote:
I like it. I'm not sure about the section discussing runes, though. Rune spells only appear in Skyrim, as far as I am aware, and I personally like the idea that they are an innovation that occurred in the 4th Era.

The Oblivion-harming spells also seem a little convenient, but it does make sense that the Legion would have some sort of countermeasure against Oblivion gates appearing in their midst.

I do think one use of magic that was missing is the use of levitation to get over walls, cross rivers etc. I would also think that battlemages might have some more active role in battle, more by providing suppressing fire than actually engaging enemy forces; shooting weak fireballs and the like over the field to keep the enemies on their toes.

Actually, frenzy and fear spells would also be quite effective, but I suppose most armies would erect magickal defenses. Dispel does seem worth mentioning, though, in case spells do get through those defences.

Edit: light spells also seem as though they would be potentially useful, both for letting the Legion fight at night and blinding the enemy, but I suppose once I start listing potential uses of magic in battle I'll never stop.


I agree with these criticisms, and would add another of my own: I never liked the first paragraph, and always found it a little disjointed from the rest of the work. That said, it is a report and not a treatise.

You're right about the runes - I can't think of an instance where they appear in lore pre-Skyrim, although I have trouble believing that they are a recent innovation. I actually came to this by wondering what the TES equivalent would be of the Roman legionary tattoo, and then came up with crossing it with a sort of automatic ID card.

Levitation is a problem. That even Fourth Era imperial legions can do it on a wide scale (note the levitation of an entire legion up to Umbriel in 'Lord of Souls') would pretty much make walls redundant against anything other than the most primitive of forces, and yet we see walls all over Tamriel. This is something that has bothered me for a long time.

The whole Oblivion-negating thing is lame, but I have yet to think of a nifty way to explain why large-scale summoning in the enemy camp is not a common tactic. Unless, of course, it is. That could be cool, but tough to do right.

As you mentioned, the offensive potential of magic is just about limitless, which is why there is no section IV. It would deserve its own volume, and so I'd rather just focus on the more general aspects of defending against such magic. I'm going to do a bit more on offensive magic in the naval warfare volume, since basic offensive spells could be so dangerous to wooden boats that they'll need some discussion.

_________________
'What if man is not really a scoundrel - man in general, I mean, the whole race of mankind - then all the rest is prejudice, simply artificial terrors and there are no barriers and it's all as it should be.'
Post Tue Aug 12, 2014 12:51 am Send private message             Reply with quote                   up  
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