The Stronghold Academy of Martial Arts

3 Oct

Unlike Whitehall, there are relatively few mysteries in Stronghold’s past. The castle was originally built on top of a nexus point within the Ashkenazy Badlands (a region fully as dangerous as the Blighted Lands) by a nobleman in the early days of the Empire, who hoped that taming the nexus point would restore the Badlands to something usable. When it became apparent he was wrong, the castle was transferred to the Emperor and turned into a military academy. Since the fall of the Empire, it has remained neutral – taking promising students from all over the Allied Lands. Its graduates are in high demand all over the continent.

Stronghold itself is an immense castle, divided into the Keep, the Barracks and the Battlements. The Keep serves as the administrative and training hub; the Barracks serve as living space, the Battlements serve as training grounds.

Officially, the academy is run by a triumvirate; the General, the Admiral and the Mage, who report to the Officer’s Council (a sub-unit of the White Council). The General and Admiral titles have very little to do with their actual role. Only the Mage, charged with teaching combat magic, has a clearly-defined job. Below the triumvirate, there are the Officers (teachers), Sergeants (instructors) and Swords (seventh-year pupils, effectively prefects.)

Unlike the other schools, Stronghold picks and chooses its students carefully. The Allied Lands submit lists of candidates, former pupils put forward the names of their own children … rarely, strong talents from outside the nobility are permitted to apply. Nearly all of the students are male, with or without magic. It is rare for female students to attend the school, although not unknown.

Upon arrival at the castle, each student is sorted into one of six regiments. This process is not random. The staff attempt to ensure that each influx includes a number of students from all walks of life (aristocrats mingle with the children of former pupils, for example.) Each regiment is divided into companies (year groups); each company is further divided into platoons of five or six students. The students are rapidly introduced to the barracks hierarchy – senior students are charged with supervising the younger students – and told precisely to comport themselves. They are also warned that a student misbehaving will result in the entire platoon being punished, normally through extra push-ups or time in the stocks.

The regimental system pervades Stronghold. Platoon mates are expected to do everything together, from attending class to playing games. The older students show the youngsters how to behave, trading lessons in everything from shining shoes to sewing buttons on coats for chores and other minor services. Being in the same regiment is like being in a social network – former students are still expected to help one another out, even if they’re technically on opposing sides. Platoons compete intensely with other platoons, in and out of sports; prizes are awarded frequently for winning, losers get clean-up or other punishment duties. (There are no prizes for participation at Stronghold.)

It also has its downsides. Students who don’t fit in (for whatever reason) can be harassed unmercifully if they refuse to shape up. If a student literally cannot shape up, they are often pushed into quitting – or sometimes deliberately injured. This is officially forbidden, but sergeants are known to turn a blind eye if the student is genuinely unable or unwilling to pull their weight.

Students spend half their days learning how to march, use weapons, comport themselves in wartime, etc and the remainder studying military history and strategy. Stronghold prides itself in turning out the best soldiers on the Nameless World. Students with magical talents are taught how to use combat spells and suchlike, rather than the more generalist magical education students receive elsewhere. There’s very little actual free time – students are in class, training or doing outside work.

Stronghold offers a five-year basic course, then two additional years.

Stronghold looks unusually vulnerable for a castle. Indeed, it would be theoretically easy for a hostile army to threaten the castle. However, the combination of the nexus point and the poor terrain around the castle make it impossible for anyone to actually storm the defences and break into the castle itself. A small team might make it through the badlands, but an army would find it impossible.

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25 Responses to “The Stronghold Academy of Martial Arts”

  1. G October 3, 2016 at 6:43 pm #

    Given that Emily tends to be free-thinking and very stubborn in her belief of right and wrong, its difficult to see how she would fit in her–and if some prefect thought to “encourage” her to conform or quit, I suspect it would be the prefect that would be carried out the door.

    • Jensebaum October 3, 2016 at 7:38 pm #

      Indeed – this could lead to some highly entertaining conflicts. Entertaining for the reader, that is, not for Emily *evil grin*
      However, Emily knows enough about Stronghold to know that she doesn’t fit in there, so I am very curious to see what could make her go to this place in spite of that.

      • Vapori October 3, 2016 at 10:05 pm #

        I have a few ideas for that.
        1.new officers need to learn about new weapons.. so she could teach them what she knows about black powder weapons.

        2.Sergeant miles could go there for the training maybe as a kind of teaching Assistent.

        3.or she tries to put her knew knowledge over how to manage a nexus point too good use. After all she knows more about the wards in Whitehall then anyone. (at least about the core program)

        4..a mix of the above as the next book will be the sergeants apprentice it’s very likely reason 2 but the other two could still play a role as well.

  2. Jacqueline Harris October 3, 2016 at 9:51 pm #

    This was really interesting. I wonder how well Caleb actually did there. It doesn’t really seem like a fit for him Emily even less so. I wonder why Freida was invited to go if it was just to get her away from Emile wouldn’t the other school for women be better? Yea I agree with other Emily is to much a free thinker now yo really enjoy stronghold unless she went to visit as a 7 th year. I wonder how martial magic compares to stronghold combat training. Also is there a difference between martial magic and military magic? I would thing they would be basically the same though martial might be for individual skill maybe and military might be while in a group regimental setting. If Emily goes to stronghold I bet a lot of people would want to challenge her. That could be fun. I wonder why aloha never considered transferring to stronghold as well.

    • chrishanger October 4, 2016 at 5:59 pm #

      I’ve occasionally thought about doing a small prequel – Caleb’s first year at Stronghold. He didn’t fit in very well.
      No, Emily wouldn’t fit in very well either. As for why she’s going … we shall see .
      Chris

  3. William Ameling October 3, 2016 at 10:38 pm #

    Since Stronghold has a 7 year program Emily could do her 6th year at Whitehall and then a 7th year for Military Magic at Stronghold. I wanted to see what 6th year at Whitehall was like, as well as what Stronghold was like. Perhaps, we can still get to see both. She can get a start on Military Magic in 6th year at Whitehall before getting more that Whitehall does not have at Stronghold. She could be going to Stronghold as a step to getting ready for an apprenticeship in Military Magic. Remember that Miles put her into the test for Military Magic at the end of 4th year.

    It would (will?) be interesting to see how her ties with Caleb as a former student at Stronghold who transferred away affects her interactions there. More importantly, how well did Martial Magic prepare her for Military Magic at Stronghold? Plus of course her accomplishments (reputation) to date: 2 Necromancers, the Mimic (she is credited with this to the outside world), the Cockatrice, and her duel to the death with the head of the dueling league.

    Even though she would be a newcomer, as a 6th or 7th year she would be fairly high in the social/military structure of the students. She will probably be not as strong as many of the male students, but her endurance after all the Martial Magic training will be a lot closer to their level, and she needs the nonmagical side of the military training if she is going to be in combat or supporting/leading military units during combat. Plus it will be useful for her to develope ties to the future military leaders she might be working with: she and they must be able understand (to some extent) each other and trust each other’s competence. She will also pick up some more experience in teaching younger students.

    She has not had much impact (that we know of) on the naval side of the Nameless World’s military. We know of the importance of cannons and steam power to naval warfare, but gunpowder may not have gotten there yet since it is just starting to get to the Armies, and the same for steampower. Remember that smaller naval vessels with cannon and steampower can be quite effective on rivers as well as the coast for fighting the Necromancers. She has already thought about this some in regard to Caleb’s home city in book 8 and Stronghold may help her here as well.

    Thinking really far into the future, naval warfare/transport will be critically important if/when the Allied Lands (3rd Empire?) need to go to the 3rd continent to fight the Faerie. Sure Portals can be used, but first you have to get there to build them, assuming that there is no range or mass limit; and second the Faerie may be able disrupt those Portals or keep them from being formed.

    • Jensebaum October 4, 2016 at 5:06 pm #

      Hold on there for a minute: Where do we get the info about the Faerie having fled to the third continent?
      It is possible, I suppose, retreating there to rebuild their strenght after losing the war against the humans makes a certain kind of sense, but I can’t remember reading so in the books. Last I know, Emily found the old map on the wall under Whitehall, and it was said that no ships ever return from sailing in this direction – which a Faerie presence would explain. However, any number of different explanations could also fit.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard October 4, 2016 at 5:18 pm #

        The Faerie living on the Third Continent or having fled to the Third Continent is pure speculation as Chris hasn’t said anything about “what’s on the Third Continent”.

        On the other hand, IIRC Chris has said that Emily will be dealing with the Faerie. 😉

      • Jensebaum October 5, 2016 at 4:19 pm #

        @Paul: Thank you! However, I must say I like the theory. In most fantasy worlds, immortal races have low fertility rates to counterbalance their longevity. If the Faerie in SIM are anything like that, they would have needed a save haven and several centuries to rebuild their armys after the last Faerie War. Retreating to the third continent would have given them both.

      • G October 6, 2016 at 7:41 am #

        I’d be cautious about opening up too many storylines–3rd continent, years at Stronghold, whatever–Robert Jordan opened up too many storylines in his Wheel of Time series and he had trouble wrapping up all the threads…the series seems to be going from 2 books per Emily year to 3-4 books/year–I’d almost rather see 7-8 books aging Emily 1 book a year to age 28 or 30 with more character development…

  4. Don Yu October 3, 2016 at 10:58 pm #

    I think that Emily will go in Stronghold and will try to fit in as she did in Whitehall and Mountaintop Academy. Emily never want to stand out. Always tries to fit in but when she sees injustice then she try to fix it in passive-aggressive way. She seem to never actually directly confront authority as you can see in SIM 9-Infinite Regress even when new grandmaster put conditions on her return to Whitehall and professor Locke’s behaviour become very demanding. There would be same reaction from Stronghold students as in Whitehall and Mountaintop, fear and respect. At the end Emily has great motivation on learning but more towards combat magic as more challenges she faces and she will put up with a lot to gain that knowledge as she shown in Infinite Regress with her private lessons during her private and resting time. Emily has grown in self-confidence and knowledge that will keep her well in Stronghold while hardship and discipline and leadership during her martial classes. I think she will do well there and she will need the education in officer training for later in her life.

    As previous posters said if someone is out for her not in school authority then will be very bad for that person.

    As in Mountaintop she will cause issues through ignorance then any great planning. That is if she is sent to Stronghold.

    Freida been invited to Stronghold is understandable in how much leadership and able to motivate and plan she shown in School of hard knocks as she leads the other shadows and would of shown to the professors those characters while in Whitehall.That is good officer material but she is still young and if she are willing to be under military discipline then she would make superior officer.

  5. G October 4, 2016 at 1:16 am #

    Frieda rebelled against rigid authority at Mountaintop and was expelled–not good fit for military academy…as for Emily, I have a hard time seeing her in formal military unit–her areas of strength and interest are given as Charms and research (although she learns martial magic to protect herself) during talks with the late Grandmaster Hasdrubal at the beginning of Trial by Fire. I could see her going there in the summer as part of her training under Sergeant Miles, though….it’s interesting that the most powerful and scary sorcerers in the Allied lands tend to be charms masters and generalists with strong charms background, not combat sorcerers (think the late Grandmaster Hasdrubal who was a former charms master who in his final letter to Emily casually mentions that he could have killed Master Gray but that would have undermined Emily’s reputation or Void–neither were combat sorcerers…). Emily needs a strong background in martial magic, but at the highest levels of power a mastery in charms might actually be better…

    • so-yang yu October 4, 2016 at 2:11 am #

      Freida did not rebel but more revenge on the injustice of treatment that is different because of background. As I said if she was willing to be under military discipline and my point of her leadership shown in leading the insurgency warfare that was so successful that it became big problem shows that she will be great officer.

      Also I said that training for military officer not as a powerful person who can kill people. She already can kill people and even cities. Much more destructive even then necromancer can be in whole scale killing she can do. One example is she can make a mimic like spell that she can send to a city that can absorb magic by killing people then go nuclear. She has the basic knowledge.

      With military knowledge of present nameless world then she can make better solutions to strengthen the army then without. That is something she can get at stronghold if she goes there as student. Connections of political powerful family members and people who can carry out the modernization programme she and they work out.

  6. Don October 4, 2016 at 2:12 am #

    Freida did not rebel but more revenge on the injustice of treatment that is different because of background. As I said if she was willing to be under military discipline and my point of her leadership shown in leading the insurgency warfare that was so successful that it became big problem shows that she will be great officer.

    Also I said that training for military officer not as a powerful person who can kill people. She already can kill people and even cities. Much more destructive even then necromancer can be in whole scale killing she can do. One example is she can make a mimic like spell that she can send to a city that can absorb magic by killing people then go nuclear. She has the basic knowledge.

    With military knowledge of present nameless world then she can make better solutions to strengthen the army then without. That is something she can get at stronghold if she goes there as student. Connections of political powerful family members and people who can carry out the modernization programme she and they work out.

  7. PhilippeO October 4, 2016 at 3:57 am #

    Agree that Stronghold seems not best fit for Emily.

    its a bit strange that Stronghold military culture seem ‘modern’. While Stronghold graduatee could be good officer in country that had professional army like Zangaria, it would hardly fit someone who come from Zangaria nobility. Platoon mate who had member of different noble rank, wealth and land could generate conflict. the disciplined and cooperative platoon is more suited for someone who want to serve in national tercio or gendarmee, but for most landowning noble, Stronghold training would not bring benefit to their children.

  8. William Ameling October 8, 2016 at 8:25 pm #

    I think that Sergeant Miles, rather than Emily herself, is trying to get Emily ready to fight the wars to come against the Necromancers. She has the Martial Magic training, now she needs to learn how to work with and lead non Magical soldiers in heavy combat, so going to Stronghold for one or two years to get ready for an apprenticeship in Military Magic makes a lot of sense. Remember, Miles put her into the Military Magic test at the end of 4th year, and apparently may be doing a (partial?) apprenticeship with Emily in the next book (11).

    I have no hidden information from Chris, I just think that the 3rd Continent is the most likely place for the Faerie to be, IF they are still in strength on the Nameless World, particularly since the Nameless World seems to have lost their knowledge of the existence of the 3rd Continent. Up until now the Faerie probably have been hoping for the Necromancers to destroy/cripple the Allied Lands and the Human Race and it’s Magicians; but when Emily causes the Allied Lands to reunite and defeat the Necromancers (which is where I think the SIM Series is going), then the Faerie will feel forced to act before the Humans get any stronger. Remember, a Child of Fate does not have to do it all themselves, they just have to cause the changes needed to do it. It will be interesting to see what changes she causes at Stronghold

    By the way, will we ever get told what scores Emily got on her end of 4th year tests?

  9. William Ameling October 8, 2016 at 8:30 pm #

    3rd Continent and the Faerie is looking VERY Far ahead in the SIM series. A lot of other things have to happen first. However, remember Emily’s Magical Oath to the Unseelie Court way back in Book 1.

    • chrishanger October 10, 2016 at 3:35 pm #

      I haven’t forgotten it

      Chris

      • William Ameling October 10, 2016 at 6:54 pm #

        I am sure Chris has not forgotten the Oath to the Unseelie Court, I am just reminding the others about it. I also think that her ride on the Dragon to Whitehaven is important for some yet to be revealed reason besides giving Emily(us) a look at the new world. (Maybe close exposure to the Dragon for several hours increased her magical abilities).

        Unless the Faerie have the ability to do a lot of self transport between between Worlds (in some manner), they are still around in their remaining force in the Nameless World. Some like the Unseelie Court may be in the wild or badlands near the humans, but if they are strong they need something like the 3rd Continent that is well seperated from the humans.

  10. William Ameling October 8, 2016 at 8:40 pm #

    Lady Barb may also be working with and through Sergeant Miles to help prepare Emily for her future. We know that she is very close to Sergeant Miles (they are probably lovers).

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard October 8, 2016 at 8:43 pm #

      No doubt in my mind that they are lovers.

      • chrishanger October 10, 2016 at 3:35 pm #

        They are. It started shortly after Book 3.

        Chris

  11. William Ameling October 10, 2016 at 7:18 pm #

    I find myself wondering about Emily and the Nexus Point at Stronghold, perhaps her ties to and knowledge of the Whitehaven Nexus Point and it’s Wards/Control Strucure will be important to the story of her time at Stronghold that we are anticipating.

    We have had two conflicting stories about Nexus Points (at different places in the SIM story line): one that people may have stepped from one to another, and two that anyone (before Emily) that has entered one has never returned. Maybe she might have to do so for some reason while at Stronghold. If she can do so and/or control (influence) any (all) Nexus Point it will probably be significant to the future story line in SIM.

    • William Ameling October 10, 2016 at 10:33 pm #

      Could Emily end up doing a dual apprenticeship: Martial Magic to become a Combat Sorceress, plus Military Magic ? I think Caleb is/was thinking about a dual apprenticeship leading to a dual Mastery to further his Magical research.

      I don’t think that she will become a Mediator with it’s required neutrality (and oaths) between all of the various Monarchies, Great Magical Houses, and Independent Cities. Just like she will not become a Healer, with all of it’s required oaths. She needs to able to fight where ever necessary and who ever necessary. Plus she has and will acquire more ties inside the Allied Lands to become a Lone Power like Void. She may end up a teacher at Whitehaven but that will be after a LOT of other things happen first.

      • William Ameling October 11, 2016 at 1:34 am #

        I did not word that right: I do not think that Emily will become a Lone Power like Void, except in some far distant future when all of the people that she has ties to have died of old age (or other things); and even then she is more likely to be associated with the Whitehall school (Grand Master enentually?).

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