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Promotion by Duel in High Elf Officer Corps, -5 VC to 178 VC

By Jhairmu, Tyro, Fourth Class

Two centuries ago, few militaries on either continent matched the High Elves' ambition -- or their success. During this time, the High Elves completed an overseas migration to the continent of Shara, built a new capital city (Allemantheia, which still stands today), and resettled nearly their entire population.

Yet amid this societal upheaval -- the likes of which we can scarcely imagine -- the High Elves managed simultaneous, multi-front military campaigns. From approximately -5 VC to 75 VC, the High Elves engaged in a series of "Liberation Campaigns" against the Nagas in the jungles of southern Shara. Despite the Nagas' known proficiency in jungle warfare, the High Elves were able to expel them while sustaining only moderate losses.

[Jhairmu -- This is much improved, but don't overstate your case. The Amani have certainly seen "societal upheaval" as well. And Humans like you know a thing or two about long migrations, eh? – Master Tull.]

Then, turning their attention northward, the High Elven "Grand Spire Army" marched deep into Essenia in 176 VC. This was the high-water mark for High Elf military ambition, and it took a five-nation alliance to defeat them. And their fall was steep; after losing at Essenia, the High Elves would spend nearly six decades in civil war before emerging as a more tolerant nation.

[Later on, you should mention how the importance of dueling faded during their civil war, Jhairmu. Also, cite Hacremion's belief that the elves' duel-friendly culture made civil war more likely, because the elves were predisposed to settling matters in combat. – Master Tull.]

Why was the High Elf military of the time so successful? Why did it take a massive alliance -- essentially five other armies -- to defeat them at Essenia? The answers are manifold (and covered in Master Tull's lectures). I believe one key reason was that the High Elf officer corps had a sharper sense of the risks and rewards of battlefield decisions because they dueled.

In addition to the usual risks of losing a battle, High Elf officers faced the prospect of losing their rank afterward when challenged to a formal duel by a junior officer. Likewise, ascent through the ranks could be rapid for the officer who was a capable duelist and in the right place when his superior officers failed.

[Jhairmu, this would be an appropriate place to mention negative aspects of promotion-by-duel, including the loss of "institutional knowledge" when older officers lose duels. – Master Tull.]

Dueling was an important part of High Elf culture at the time, and the officer corps was no exception. An examination of the histories (including several books on loan from the Karassian War College in Allemantheia) reveals several examples:

  • Gahrene, a warrior by training, who used duels to succeed her incompetent field commanders on three separate occasions during the Liberation Campaigns against the Nagas, each time relinquishing her duel-won post within a matter of weeks.
  • Veakran, who moved from centurion to general in a series of nonlethal duels, then killed as many as a dozen junior officers in failed promotions-by-duel after High Elf setbacks at Caer Thayn and Cruelwater.

[Move this to a later section where you discuss counter-examples, Jhairmu. Veakran was an ineffective general who kept his job with his axe, not his ability to command. – Master Tull.]

  • Thaerahm and Quorin, who succeeded each other after duels four times. Contemporary High Elf historians point out that Quorin's ability to consolidate after Thaerahm's hard-won gains made this more of a partnership than a rivalry; the conclusions of their "duels" may have been agreed upon in advance.

[Jhairmu, you should mention that neither of them lost a duel to anyone else during this time. That's further evidence that they were collaborating. – Master Tull.]

  • Yirahk, promoted to general after a successful duel; supply problems had bogged down the Grand Spire Army and drawn the ire of the High Command in Allemantheia. Yirahk had the army marching again within a week's time. Some High Elves still believe that had Yirahk dueled Heaphine earlier, the Grand Spire Army would have reached Essenia before the Popori relief column, swinging the tide of battle toward the elves.

[Now you're understating; it would have been a rout. My grandfather was there, Jhairmu, and if the Poporis hadn't arrived when they did, Essenia would have collapsed. – Master Tull.]

  • And possibly the most notorious example: The sorcerer Jaeluk, who set aflame the entire officer compound after the High Elf defeat at Twisted Root, then claimed to have engaged in promotion-by-duel with all of the officers present...collectively. A High Elf military tribunal disagreed with Jaeluk's "expansive" definition of a duel and imprisoned him for 30 years. Yet after his imprisonment, Jaeluk would return to military service and win key victories during the Peninsular Campaign against the remnants of the Nagas.

[Jharmu: Look up Rhaylek (in the early Naga campaigns) and the Dark Sisters (pre-Essenia) for more examples of promotions-by-duel. This paper looks promising so far, though you should beware glamorizing the pre-Reconciliation High Elves too much... -- Master Tull.]