Postfest V: The Rainbow Company - The Home Guard of Barony Hethiye
Date: Tue, July 12, 2005
Topic: Greyhawk Gazetteer
By tradition the March fields cavalry, human cavalry. Nearly a century ago, they broke tradition and mixed the races, creating one of the most effective units of the Hateful Wars. Today this force continues suprising its enemies, with it's descipline, determination and knack for the unexpected.
The Rainbow Company - The Home Guard of Barony Hethiye
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.
In Memoriam of John F. Shanks, Sergeant, 42nd Rainbow Division of the US 7th Army 1942 –1945; Who nobly fought for freedom in Strasbourg, Siegfried Line, Wurzburg, Schweinfurt, Furth, The Bulge and Dachau; recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
In the early years of the Hateful Wars, the Gran March was hesitant to commit troops. By tradition, the March and the Knights of the Watch fielded cavalry units, which were of little use in the Lortmils. By tradition, the armies of the March were human, and the various Demi-Humans kept in their own units.
However, for a country bordered on all sides by beast infested wild lands the Dwarven and Elven crusade held enormous promise. They committed some troops from the Army and from the Knights of the Watch. The casualties were horrendous, causing the March to withdraw from the effort. All they could do was prevent the hordes of humanoids from escaping, and help the demi-humans protect their own holds.
However, in 502 CY Dohn Wealsun, a Colonel in the March Army and a half elf native of Hochoch, proposed the creation of a mixed race mobile infantry unit. He believed that the use of horses and ponies in the mountains was of little tactical use, but that they could still allow an infantry force great mobility. He thought this would be particularly if double mounted with a primary and a secondary, as he termed them. The Primary would be either a Human or Elf on a Heavy war-horse and wearing a long, heavy cavalry cloak. Behind him would be mounted a gnome or halfling. This allowed twice the military power to be delivered to a battle in a very short time. Effective use of the cloaks might allow the commander to field a significant force with surprise.
The March had a rocky history in its relations to some of its residents, particularly demihumans and those of Bakluni and pure Flan descent. Therefore, as the losses mounted, the Company was formed, mainly of men of Flan descent, Sylvan Elves from the Dim forest, Gnomes for the demi-humans from within the Army. By Fireseek of 505 CY one thousand trained troops were sent to aid the crusade to purge the Lortmils.
In its first engagement the Rainbow Company would establish a reputation that would be reaffirmed over and over during the Hateful Wars. In 506 CY, the Rainbow Company was dispatched to aid the beleaguered forces of Ulek in the Southern reaches of the Lortmils. Three hundred horsemen of the Rainbow Company entered a small valley, with only a narrow trail fit for horses running down the center. As they reached the midpoint of the trail, goblins sprouted from holes in the ground and began shooting arrows from the high ground on each side. Over five hundred confronted the trapped horsemen.
The horsemen in the front dropped bundles and charged while those in the rear dropped bundles and unlimbered bows. The goblins fell in mass before the cavalry charge, but the goblins cheered as they rushed in behind, certain in their victory. They were tearing at the flanks of Lancers, ready to tear them from their mounts when they began to fall to the slinger's stones.
The Elvish archers had dismounted and began to use their bows to terrible effect. A group of hobgoblins, seeing their troops being rolled back, rallied and charged. They hoped to engage the elves with their spears and axes, where the elvish bows would be useless. Instead they found themselves falling to the wicked blows of gnomish hammers. As Dohn had planned, the enemy had underestimated, never expecting the smaller riders. 500 goblins and hobgoblins attacked, expecting to overrun the three hundred horsemen. Instead, they found they were outnumbered and unprepared for the attack of six hundred lancers, bowmen, slingers and infantry. Not a single goblinoid escaped. Among the troops were sufficient rangers, and they tracked down and slew every cowardly goblin as they fled the field. Then, they buried the bodies with the aid of their priests, and the Humanoid tribes in the Lortmils wondered what happened to their kin.
The Company was organized so that a human primary armed with a lance would be paired with a halfling secondary using a sling. A sylvan elf primary armed with a longbow would be accompanied by a gnome wielding a hookhammer. They would ride as quickly as possible to a field of battle and then dismount, with the horses trained to wander some distance behind the lines.
In large formations these groups would then quickly organize into a defensive formation. The longbowmen would use the range of their weapons to devastating effect. If the enemy charged, it would be into the deadly accuracy of the halfling slings, only to impale themselves on the human pikes. Then, with the enemy engaged, the gnomes charged forward, unhindered by the close quarters, and wreaked havoc on the enemy.
This ruse could not work overtime, and Dohn knew it. He asked his troops for other suggestions. They created wagon trains, supposedly filled with supplies. The elves and humans would act as a light guard. When the humanoids attacked they would find the wagons filled with gnomes using mounted repeating crossbows, dwarven pickmen, and halfling slingers. Eventually they even recruited halfling outriders.
At the end of the Hateful Wars, the unit was disbanded, despite the protests of Dohn. It seemed that the unit and its fame was to end with the War, unable to overcome the Watch's and the March's preference for cavalry. However, into the breach stepped the Baron of Hethiye. Hethiye is the most remote of the all the Baronies of the March, and it was often pressed by the denizens of the Rushmoors and the Dim Forest. The Baron offered each member of the company land in Hethiye and the opportunity to continue their brotherhood under his guidance. They would form the core of his noble army, and be the Home Guard. As many of the halflings and elves were from Hethiye or the Dim forest they were eager to return.
The Company has proven itself constantly against the twin horrors of the swamp and the forest. In the campaign against the giants they have proven spectacularly effective due to the expertise of many of the gnomes, and because the giants rarely realize the threat until they have gotten too close.
Dohn has retired and passed on, but Jon Shanks, a capable ranger of the Dim Forest has assumed command and is responsible for keeping the Barony quite, despite the threats facing them on all sides.
The Rainbow Company was a famous and decorated unit of the United States Army in World War I, at the end of which it was deactivated. In World War II, the unit was reactivated and constituted by men from throughout the United States, mainly from the National Guards of various states. This unusual unit allowed my wife's grandfather, an Ojibwa Indian of the Turtle Mountain Band, to serve in an army that would otherwise not have allowed it. It was his story that inspired this article.