World Building: Warfare

The Wizardless Wars

From Alexander Tinth’s Warfare: In Theory and Practice, Addendum

There is an old saying that must once have been pithy, which goes “Wizard war is redundant”. This is of course a shortening of the full formulation, which is “Wizard war is redundant, for all wars involve wizards” which removes the syntactic ambiguity which might suggest to the incautious reader that wizards imply war – but perhaps this is the intent of the expression after all. While it is true that the vast majority of wars are fought with wizards on one side (or in the case of the Five Dissents, both sides), in the six hundred years of the inaptly named Pax Arcana there have been exactly three wars fought without wizardly intervention. This material is new to the third printing, primarily because of the numerous letters that I received asking me to expound on the footnote in Chapter 4. 

The first of what we shall call the wizardless wars occurred in 137, just twelve years after the Great Purge and the consolidation of wizardly power. The two countries in question were Bruglia and Karstan – their dispute involved mining rights to some long forgotten gold mine. By this time all nations had contracted their defense to the wizards, and both Bruglia and Karstan paid their monthly tithes. The dispute over the mine escalated, and eventually Bruglia called in their contract. Karstan called their contract as well, and the two nations met before the arbitration council. It is here that Karstan and Bruglia diverged from normal protocol (for reasons that are unclear) and, rather than make a treaty to forestall action from the wizards, or even allowing the arbitration council to pick a side with all that implies, the two countries instead opted to rewrite their defense contracts with the wizards to provide an exemption to the other. Arbitration was thus cancelled, and the two countries proceeded to have a very cordial war with each other. Bruglia ultimately proved to be the victor, but was bankrupted in the process (in part because of the cost of keeping the wizards on retainer). Neither nation still exists today.

The second wizardless war occurred in 341, long enough into the Pax Arcana that both nations really should have known better. This time it was Kelbar and Langowa. Due to a change in record-keeping, the documents are much more plentiful for the events leading up to this war. Kelbar, for economic reasons, had enacted a very steep tariff on the boscleaf shipments coming from Langowa. As Langowa was located at the headwaters of the river Cam, and Kelbar to the south of it, this tariff in effect applied to trade with other nations. Kelbar called in their defense contract, declaring that this was effectively robbery. The wizards disagreed, and refused to make war. Given unstable leadership in both countries, this led to numerous escalations and a rapidly worsening diplomatic relationship between the two countries. Between the two countries there were seventeen contract calls within a two year span, all of which were denied by the wizards. Finally, the two countries agreed to have a war between themselves, again with rewritten exemptions into their contracts.

The primary thing to remember about the Bosc River War is that neither side had fielded so much as a militia in two hundred years. The art of war was long dead by this point, and so everything about wizardless warring had to be reinvented by reading through books. Needless to say, this was a great mess for all involved, and the war is somewhat famous in military theory circles for being the most incompetently fought war on record. The war was brought to a close three years after it started, when two brigades chased each other across the countryside and had a loud and ferocious battle in the town of Enthar, which they only belatedly realized belonged to neither Kelbar nor Langowa, but instead the kingdom of Prusk. Prusk called in their defense contract with the wizards, and forty-eight hours later more than a thousand people in leadership from both sides had been decapitated, ending the war and effectively ending both kingdoms.

It is the third war, the Mejin-Kuo War, which is the most remembered of the three, not simply because it is the most recent, but because of its lasting impact on the way that arbitration councils are called. The kingdom of Mejin and the Republic of Kuotar had a dispute over the marriage of a pair of star-crossed lovers who happened to be the princess of Mejin and Prophet Incarnate of Kuotar. That alone was not enough to trigger the defense contract with the wizards, of course, but the ensuing posturing, border disputes, and legislative actions were. On the final day of arbitration, like many wise countries that don’t wish to chance death at the hands of the wizards, Mejin and Kuotar made a deal in the back rooms and called off the wizards. If not for what happened next, this would be no different from a thousand other arguments between countries.

The king of Mejin, after careful reading of their contracts, and being exceedingly stupid, decided that he would still like to strike against his neighbor. Overnight, he single-handedly invented the entire concept of what we now call “stateless actors”. It is suspected, but was never proven, that he gathered his most fanatically loyal men to him and whispered things in their ears. The next day, thirty knights formally renounced their citizenship and disappeared from their kingdom.

In the following weeks, high-ranking men within Kuotar began to die, some in their homes, others in their traveling carriages. The wizards were called in, and while the former knights were not hard to find (as their knighthood was of the modern, entertainment oriented style rather than with a focus on warfare), there was a deep and resounding question of whether or not Mejin was to be punished for something done by someone who was not a citizen, and of their own volition.

Mejin and Kuotar went into a second arbitration, and the wizards took more than three months to make their decision; since it could not be proven that the knights had acted at the king’s behest, Mejin was not guilty. However, the knights themselves certainly were, and so the wizards acted against the knights, killing their families and friends, as well as the princess of Mejin herself. This was simply to ensure that everyone would know that the wizards do not tolerate action against someone who holds one of their contracts, regardless of state affiliation – in the future, any knight acting out in defense of a princess’s honor would know that to do so would ensure her death. The practical effect of this was to vastly expand the scope of wizardly power beyond merely making war.

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