The Sergal HegmonyEdit
The Unification War, and the Insurgency
The Northern Sergals originally lived as small tribes of nomadic hunters, following herds of game animals. This was the case until roughly 2 centuries ago, when a prominent Sergal named Rain rose to prominence - she united the disparate and often warring tribes, and, once they were brought to heel, began a bloody war of conquest of the continent. The overpowering majority of those living in the north became soldiers; those that did not were pressed into service to support the war effort in some other fashion, such as smiths and ranchers (which became necessary as the war pressed on to keep the troops fed). Initially, there were Northern tribes that outright opposed the advance of Rain's army; invariably these were conquered and assimilated, until all that was left standing was the enormous army of the North under Rain. With the northern tribes under her banner, Rain set her sights on the resource-rich forests and veldts to the south, across the arid wastelands and deserts in the continent's central region.
The Southern Sergals, conversely, were originally established as smaller villages and larger cities of hunter/gatherers, quickly learning farming and finding ways to raise varying crops in the various terrain groups in the south; Southerners towards the desert region grew water-retaining plants, whilst those in wetter climes learned to cultivate wild fruit and vegetables. While widely considered more intelligent and culturally-advanced than the Northern Sergals, they were considerably weaker physically and were not as numerous. When reports from Southern scouts began to tell of Northern armies making ready for war, the Southern Sergals found themselves ill-prepared for the task at hand; years of infighting had honed the Northerners' skills, whilst the South's relative peace had left it with comparatively little in the way of formal training. With no other options, the South began to present a unified defense against the North from its various villages.
Initial battles between the two left the war shatteringly one-sided; while the South had the advantage of terrain, slightly-more-advanced technology, and had better-established defenses, the North's superior numbers and the superior physical conditioning of the Northern Sergals meant that the South was overpowered in short order by the sheer ferocity of the North's offensive. Worse, the North had a developed several ways of sapping the Southerners' morale, honed over decades of inter-tribal war; wherever Rain's army struck, it made an example of those that opposed it, slaughtering any who stood in their way. As the war dragged on, the South adopted a desperate stategy of hit-and-run combat and guerilla assaults as they were slowly pushed back by the larger forces of the North. As the war closed to the jungles, this proved a brutally effective strategy at keeping the North at bay - but even this was a stop-gap due to the sheer force the Northerners advanced with.
The "Brutal General," Rain, leader of the Northern Sergals, was particularly infamous for the atrocities she committed as the war dragged on; the cruelty she showed those who opposed her was staggering and succeeded both at demoralizing her army's enemies and uniting them against her. Even her own advisors had nigh-constant reservations about this; records surviving from this time state that her field commanders and advisors tried to guide the warlord towards less extremist tactics - with largely unconclusive results. In spite of Rain's tactics proving quite successful at uniting northern dissident groups and even a smattering of off-continent groups with the Southerners, the Northerners' reliance on brute force and sheer numbers ground down the Southerners and their allies systemically, until the South too, was brought to heel. The Northerners' conquest of the continent was complete within a decade. After Rain stepped down in her later years, most of the surviving Southern tribes were assimilated, and the Sergal Hegemony was born.
....Or so the official story goes.
Unofficially, Rain's horrific tactics - which included things like devouring the bodies of the fallen and committing unspeakable acts of violence on the civilian populace - succeeded at hardening an ever-burgeoning insurgency against the North. Long after the war formally concluded, groups in opposition to Rain's - Northern Sergals whose tribes had been forcibly brought to heel, and numerous Southerner groups just for starters - began an insurgency that has become a constant threat to regional stability for nearly a century and a half. Despite constant efforts by the Hegemony to wipe them out, there are numerous anti-Hegemony terrorist groups operating out of areas in the south, actively committing sabotage, assassinations, and subversion against the Hegemony government. There are no less than a dozen such groups, ranging from smaller organizations that are basically a few dozen strong to others which are quite massive and with big-name backers in terms of weapons and equipment. In the more stabilized areas, the insurgent groups have effectively established, within Hegemony territory, an inward-looking rogue state.
The North is tacitly considered to have not been ready for this conflict in the slightest. While the Northern Sergals of the Hegemony are quite skilled at direct combat, and have a firm handling of where to position elites and inflitration units, they are not well-equipped to deal with the rigors of constant harassment by guerillas. Money and weapons funneled from governments with a keen eye towards destabilizing the hegemony to criminal organizations in the south led to many brutal raids on Hegemony metropolitan areas, culminating in an all-out attack some 6 years ago on a major city by insurgents getting equipment from Tal's forces - weapons obtained in exchange for some of the best and brightest talent the insurgent groups had. The attack, unprecedented in scope, forced a swift-and-brutal retaliation from the Hegemony, which brought to bear a crushing assault on Garsarra Plateau, long used as a staging base by these criminal groups. In the aftermath, the biggest groups of insurgents withdrew to secret locations deep in hostile territory, and though the attacks have slowed in recent times, the harassment of regional defense units in the area continues to this very day.
Government and Culture:
The government of the continent, known as the Sergal Hegemony, is a hierarchical meritocracy. While it has great potential for misuse, this is generally tempered by the civic duty and personal responsibility Sergals learn in childhood.
Sergals have multiple tiers of citizenship, beginning with civilians (and client races). Every citizen serves a mandatory 2-year term of service to the state in some capacity, as anything from a soldier to an administrator to an engineer, though the most common form of service is in the military. For Sergals, formal citizenship is granted after boot camp; for client races, it's granted after the individual musters out. Higher-ranked individuals in political or military affairs are expected to lead and protect subordinates. Lower-ranking individuals, likewise, are expected to obey and support superiors. Promotion in both the military and private sector is usually based on the personal assessment of one's superiors and fellows of the same rank. At the very top tier are Generals and High-ranking Administrators that rule individual regions of the Hegemony. Many Sergals never actually leave the Military, even after their mandatory time of service is over. Suffice to say, virtually all of the top-level positions in the Hegemony are occupied by veterans - individuals who have proven themselves over and over again in combat or in the rule of their demesne. In particularly critical moments, Sergal heads of state vote on matters of national import or discuss it with the other Sergal regional governers. They otherwise generally maintain a 'hands-off' policy, trusting the citizens on each level below them to do their jobs competently and consistently.
Sergals enjoy broad freedoms - so long as one completes his duties effectively and well - and does not prevent others from completing theirs - precious little is forbidden. For example, there are no laws against recreational drug use, but if someone is unable to complete his duties due to drug use, his superiors step in. Judicial proceedings are usually 'interventions.' Peers express their concern, and try to convince the offender to change. If rehabilitation fails, Sergals have no qualms about sentencing dangerous individuals to life at hard labor for the state or worse; Sergal justice is usually swift - and quite severe.
Body language is an important part of Sergal society. For example, tilting one's head to the left is a sign of admiration and respect. When a Sergal tilts his head to the right it is a sign that he is (or considers himself to be) superior to the one that the gesture was directed at. Therefore, this gesture can generally be interpreted as an insult.
Sergals that leave the military often become mercenaries or bodyguards. A few become merchants; others become scouts and explorers, sent out to witness other cultures and militaries first-hand, so as to help the Hegemony get a better grasp of what its neighbors are up to. It takes a deep interest in anything that could potentially affect its trade agreements and ongoing large-scale conflicts. The Hegemony is only in more recent years starting to see itself as a global player, and they openly see themselves as a single big fish in an even-bigger pond. Many scouts do not quite know what to make upon encountering the sheer volume of different races and cultures globally; many Sergals find the sheer difference overwhelming or exhilirating. Many who become scouts find a place in one of the societies they were sent to; a large number seem to "fall off the grid" and simply drop out of contact at some point. This doesn't seem to bother the Hegemony much, however.
The Sergal military is the center of their society. It is not just an armed force; it is an all-encompassing public works organization. The military police are also the civic police. The fire brigades serve the civilian population as well as military facilities. The corps of engineers builds and maintains transportation hubs, schools, water purification plants, and power stations. Merchant marine units ensure that all locations in the Hegemony get access to goods and services. This constant emphasis on the Military as a core of their society has a profound effect on Sergal outlook. Every citizen from age 10 to 12 automatically serves the state in some capacity, as anything from a soldier to an administrator, from a construction engineer to a sanitation worker.
Sergals have a strong inclination towards excelling militarily, so they tend to be poor entrepreneurs. To compensate, they accepted the mercantile Nevreans as a client race, offering protection in exchange for their fiscal expertise. For many years, development was hampered by the Sergals' cultural disinterest in economics. When the Sergals accepted the Nevreans as a client race, business development improved. The military is supported by a well-developed infrastructure; while the Hegemony uses a lot of designs from other countries, built under license, they are produced in Hegemony territory by Sergal and Nevrean engineers.
Since their culture is based on the structure of a military hierarchy, changes and advances accepted by the leadership are quickly adopted by the rest of society with minimal resistance.
The Sergal Hegemony is not terribly well-connected to other countries and continents. While it has limited trade agreements and non-agression pacts with neighboring continents, the general stigma against Sergals (owing, in no small part, to the actions of Rain and a systemic pattern of cruelty that seems to punctuate Sergal culture) has severely hindered attempts to be diplomatic.
Sergal society is built around its military - it dominates every part of the culture of the most powerful faction of the continent - the Northern Sergals - and as such, it is an incredibly powerful force. The two subspecies of Sergal, historically, have had dramatically different tactics, ideaologies, and tactics - but both the Northern and Southern Sergals share some commonalities. Chief among these is that Sergals of both subspecies are willing to do whatever needs to be done to achieve victory - and they invariably follow through, no matter what the situation calls for.
Whilst Sergals - especially the Northerners - have a reputation as being easily spurred to violence, this is not accurate; when conflict is inevitable, the Northerners of the Hegemony understand a simple concept of "total war." They do not believe in skirmishes or small-scale battles; they use overwhelming force, weight of arms, and sheer numbers to defeat an adversary so completely that they remove any threat of having to fight the same opponent more than once (or at least, this is the concept). They do not exterminate their enemy, but so completely devastate their military that the enemy has no choice but to surrender. It is only in more recent decades - with the advent of more modern technology, and learning from losses at the hands of insurgent groups - that Hegemony military doctrine began to see value in smaller strike groups and covert ops units.
Although they generally lack spellcasting or psionic potential, have poor adaptability in general, and are a short-lived species, the Sergal military has formidable discipline. Officers and Non-Combat Personnels are 'lifers' with years of field experience. Enlisted personnel are thoroughly trained to stay calm under fire; Sergal units do not, ordinarily, break, barring the most extreme of circumstances. Even if their entire line collapses, they fall back in order, setting ambushes as they set up at more defensible locations.
Boot camp begins at age 10 for Sergals. Soldiers receive a year of training before being assigned to a field unit; officers train for even longer. While Sergals are free to leave the State at age 12, most never leave; many serve until the age of 30, at which they become part of the reserves. Even if they suffer injuries preventing front-line service, most do support work behind the lines. Sergals with psionic or magical capabilities allegedly do exist - though extremely and extraordinarily rare - but their abilities are rarely trusted by the rank-and-file, and Hegemony high command is generally considered unwilling to let something valuable like magical or psionic potential be wasted on a front-line unit. As such, any occurence of such individuals are likely to be assigned to specialist units. While only a rumor, it has been stated by several experts (or individuals claiming to be experts) that Southerners possess a slightly higher potential for magic use and psionic potential than Northerners, though such abilities remain extremely rare - the stuff of legends, really - in both subspecies.
Command and control is decentralized - and quite flexible. Individual squads can call for artillery or air support. They make extensive use of scout units to recon areas and probe for weak-points in enemy defenses, and practice combined arms: infantry operates with armor, supported by overhead gunships. Strategically, the Hegemony is methodical and patient, and dislikes risky operations unless it is absolutely necessary in order to secure an objective with minimal casualties. The Sergal Hegemony frequently recruits auxiliary units from conquered, immigrant, or absorbed minor races. Auxiliaries are generally light infantry or armored cavalry units that screen and support the main battle formations. At the conclusion of their service in the Auxiliaries, recruits are granted Hegemony citizenship.
Tradition is extremely important to Sergal military units. Each battalion has a full-time staff of historians who chronicle its battle honors, trials, and trifles in detail. The oldest have records dating back to the Unification War. If a battalion is completely destroyed in battle, it is reconstituted, rather than being replaced. Sergal Military units frequently make use of dye to color certain patterns on their faces and appear more intimidating or to identify themselves to their fellows. Most often, these markings are tribal in nature, dating back to the various Northerner Clans that partook in the Unification War, though the South adopted similar practices as time went on. A red stripe over or under the eyes is a very common facepaint coloration for northerners, modeled on the set made famous by General Rain, while a set of green lines in a check-mark-like pattern along the upper eye ridge is a common pattern for Southerners, modeled after a famous - but largely unsung - southerner hero of the Unification War.