domingo, 6 de noviembre de 2016

The Äimite guard, a Game of Thrones ripoff?

Before I get bombarded by dozens of furious fans of GoT that read my series for some time I wanted to write a brief recap about some things about the Elf King's personal elite army. The first thing is that when I started to write my series I wasn't even thinking about the Night Watch (I haven't read any of JRR Martin's books and have only watched up to the 4th season of GoT).

I'm a huge fan of the samurai and their bushido code. Last year when I first visited Santiago de Chile there was an amazing exposition of samurai armor in Palacio La Moneda that to top things off I could enter the museum for free because I showed up before noon. While I had already written several books and was in the process of editing I was simply marveled at the gorgeous decoration of the dozens of armors that adorned the exhibit. Some armor had distinctive clan symbols that were engraved metal of varying colors.


I had visited Japan previously and while I visited dozens of all sorts of places both modern and ancient I didn't visit the famous National Museum because nearly everything is a copy and the only samurai armor I got to see up close when I visited the country was in a samurai's private residence that was transformed into a museum in the city of Kanazawa. Therefore getting to visit this exposition in Santiago was a very pleasant surprise (and even more because I had no idea the presidential palace in Chile rotated public expositions with artifacts from all over the world).

Getting back to the topic of this post while it is true the Äimite guard 
 are obliged to never desert the guard and when they are mingling with civilians must wear a completely black uniform most of the similarities stop there. For one even though common criminals can join the guard the majority of the army's members are law abiding elves that were either raised as nobles from reputable families or in the very least former rangers with an exceptionally good work ethic. It is later revealed that the nation's Secretary of Defense Harvinha performed the initial Äimite training but he failed due to an outburst of anger and punched a drill sergeant in the face.

Entering the guard is highly competitive in part because a citizen cannot send a form to join. Whereas in Game of Thrones Jon Snow asked a recruiter to join in An Ominous Book that would never happen. The Äimite guard presently only has 4 different military ranks and potential applicants can only be invited by captains or guards of even higher rank. It is revealed that even though Harvinha isn't a guard and cannot directly invite exceptionally talented rangers he has confessed to send recommendation letters to high ranking guards that invite the candidate in his name at least once.
  • What are the drawbacks to joining the guard?
For starters once you sign the letter and pass the initial training you can never desert the guard or risk being beheaded. In that sense it is just like the Night Watch. The ubiquitous black robes of Äimite guards are also similar. However unlike the Night Watch Äimite guards wear a nearly identical looking military uniform where silver markings in the neck collar determine rank. Even guards that are off duty that are spending time with their families have to wear the official uniform at all times. If they get caught wearing something else or altering the uniform to their taste without permission they end up getting flogged as punishment in a guard post, far away from view of the general public. Unlike the Night Watch when guards are resting in their private grounds they can wear a second uniform with a silver shirt and black pants.

This is another thing I heavily stress in my series which is the social importance of distinguishing clans by their heraldic colors. While in Spain it is very common for families to decorate their homes and some personal belongings with their elaborate family crest (I have Basque ancestry and my family crest is rather beautiful looking) in Japan they push things a little further and instead of using handwritten signatures everyone stamps official documents with little signet stamps that have the kanji of their surname. When you wander around cities in the country you will eventually bump into a store that sells these family kanji stamps that are on display in the street. In ancient Japan many families of noble rank wore robes with heraldic colors which is something I like to emphasize in my series.

While each of the 36 clans have specific colors (Trevilin's clan oddly enough alternates black with green) the Elf King and the guard share opposing heraldic colors that represents a complementation of their balancing powers. Whereas the Elf King is represented with gold and white that signifies purity and regalness the guard on the other hand is marked by silver and black. The black in the uniform represents the darkness of their missions where from the start of their training they learn to kill even innocents without question and silver because they are not only immediately beneath the king in social rank but when the occasion merits it they can temporarily have more political power than the Elf King himself. While the Elf King is the guide of the nation the guard immediately follows. In the elvish tongue of my series Äimite is represented by the elvish verb äimitar which means "to submit". They not only submit to every order of their king but they submit the entire populace to maintain societal order.
  • How do Äimite guards live?
Unlike Game of Thrones the guard doesn't necessarily live in horrible bunks in the frozen wastelands that are far away from society. In the Ominous Book series they live all over the nation overseeing the rule of law in every major city to keep everything in order. In the capital they walk around everywhere and given guards are always dressed in full uniform while they are in public it's impossible for civilians to know if the guard they see wandering in the streets is on duty or not. Some of them work in undesirable posts in the uninhabited eastern wastelands next to the Evenian River that oversees parts of neighboring Outambila and the Garardmarjin territories whereas there are a few posts in the northern polar regions. While the conglomeration of rural posts are ruled by high ranking guards of good repute many soldiers that are stuck in the bitterly miserable rural posts are usually guards that are being punished with being lodged in undesirable posts. The most coveted posts are obviously the ones that guard the king's palace but all guards are rotated across the country at varying intervals.

When an elf joins the guard they are soon taught that they are no longer allied with their clans or blood relatives. The guard is now their new true family and they answer to nobody except the higher ranking guards and the Elf King. Unlike Game of Thrones the Äimite guard has both male and female guards. It is revealed in the 2nd book that Seiran herself was once invited to the guard but she declined because she preferred to someday become a clan leader.
  • If there are female members of the guard, how many are there in the army?
The Äimite guard has approximately 4000 members and only 8% of the army is female. The army has at the most 350 female guards and they are all both very formidable warriors and proud to the degree of utter arrogance.

  • A small child in Game of Thrones joined the Night Watch can children join the Äimite guard?
Elves mature at a different rate from humans and reach full adulthood at age 50. In the kingdom elves reach politically accepted adulthood when they turn 20 although they still retain the bodies that are equivalent to a 14 year old human. No matter how talented a child elf is, it is against the law for them to be invited to the guard until they turn 20. That same age is also the bare minimum to be awarded clan leader status or apply for the Ranger Academy Entrance Exam. As for this question, the child in the tv series would have been too young to join the guard and even if he was old enough to join the Äimite would have only invited him if he was already proficient enough in combat to be considered.
  • How are elves invited to the guard?
Unlike Game of Thrones where the contract is initially verbal in An Ominous Book a captain or higher ranking guard writes a consideration letter to a senior guard to oversee the potential candidate. If the potential candidate is approved Lord Froylan as the commander of the guard writes an elegant invitation letter and the guard that made the suggestion personally meets the potential candidate to invite him or her. The decision doesn't have to be immediate. The most common scenario is for guards to grant the candidate a handful of months to consider the decision and they will either sign the letter to perform the initial training or decline to join. In usual circumstances a candidate that declines to join is never invited a second time. In order to join the candidate signs their name on the letter along with their associated clan.

When a candidate signs the letter they are not yet bound by any oath and perform an initial training that lasts approximately 4 months. The guards assess the general health of the candidate, competency in magic and fencing along with their temperament. In Harvinha's case while he was a talented warrior his immaturity that spurred a temper tantrum deemed him unfit. The guard assesses that candidates are capable of following orders even if they utterly dislike them. Lord Garain states in the 4th book that some candidates initially look very good on paper but they either have crippling injuries or have poor control of their sorcery under stressful conditions. In some cases candidates can fail the training on purpose to avoid being forced to commit to the oath. Once a candidate passes the training with a signed letter they are obliged to dress themselves in the silver colored apprentice uniform and perform the oath.
  • How long does the training last?
On average it takes an apprentice 10 years to complete the training. During the last 2 years of training apprentices are sent to random posts all over the nation for on the job training under the tutelage of their superiors. It's unknown if an apprentice must complete a specific kind of examination to be awarded their black uniform.
  • When can guards become captains and what are the selection criteria?
A guard must complete a minimum of 10 years as a normal low ranking Äimite before being awarded captain status. Senior guards usually assess the combat skills of the elf and award a more elaborate ring to the newly appointed captain.

A handful of guards become awarded Senior Guard status that carries even more political power than a clan leader. They need to be a fully trained guard for a minimum of 50 years and only the Elf King awards senior status as a symbol of utter loyalty. In some cases this status is awarded to exceptionally powerful captains or guards that prove a loyalty beyond exceptional circumstances. Some guards are awarded this status as compensation because their bodies have ended up maimed beyond repair from cruet battles. In the 4th book we are introduced to Senior Lord Einman that ended up losing a leg, several fingers on one arm and partially paralyzed after a particularly devastating battle.
  • What happens to mortal guards that become elderly or badly injured?
Being an Äimite guard is a double edge sword. While youthful mortal elves can join the guard once you become one you are never allowed to desert it. Mortal elves inevitably become elderly and even though they have to wear their uniforms till the very end of their natural lifespan they are granted pleasant office jobs that require very little effort and enjoy a comfortable retirement until they perish of natural causes. Guards that end up severely maimed from battles either end up with important senior positions such as Einman performing various tasks that are limited by their badly injured bodies, remain as low ranked guards that do administrative tasks or spend their time in long-term infirmaries that are run by guards. In some cases it isn't unheard of for guards that are badly maimed to commit suicide to avoid being a burden.
  • If being a dual element mage is so exceptionally rare was Spaulding ever invited to the guard before the beginning of the series?
King Salman knew about Spaulding's ability of using water sorcery at an unknown time before the beginning of the series. It's highly likely Spaulding performed water sorcery during the Ranger Academy Entrance Exam. Unlike the average ranger that is a civilian elf Spaulding is the clan leader of the nation's smallest clan in population and there are no other direct members of his bloodline that are nobleelves. The only explanation why he was allowed to become a ranger was because King Salman approved of his petition in the hopes that Spaulding would eventually become an Äimite guard.
  • How did I come up with the colors of the Äimite guard?
Simple, because they are the colors of the fur coat of my dearest cat Ardilla and she was the inspiration that made me choose the black and silver heraldic colors of the guard. ;)

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