The Harrowers' Brigade - usually just called the Harrowers - was an independent formation of the Imperial Army, separate from the Legions or the standardized auxillary forces. It was one of many such units, operating on a stipend on a commission from the Empress without being directly beholden to the complex bureaucratic pyramid of the Imperial Army. Such formations varied in quality considerably, often being a haven for criminals, drunkards and washouts seeking refuge for their crimes. But the Harrowers were among the best in the business, a highly-prized formation. Such was their reputation that they were rarely much above half-strength at best, being constantly thrown into the thickest fighting. The term "independent unit" indicates that the Harrowers did not conform to the same standards of equipment and tactics as regular formations, and that their internal rules of discipline were largely the responsibility of its officers. The members were still considered fully-fledged soldiers, although looked down upon somewhat by their cohorts as rough and undisciplined.
Following the end of the Wars of Cohesion and the conquest of the Empire's modern borders, the Harrowers and other such independent units were disbanded during the downsizing of the Army. During its lifetime, the Harrowers' Brigade was regarded as one of the finest units in the entire Imperial war-machine - by some as even being on par with the 12 Primogenitor Legions.
As of 1902 Imperial Calendar Year
- Sultry [female] - real name: Atæ van Hiram. Corporal, Section B, 1st Company, II. Battalion [viewpoint character]
- Razorback [female] - real name: Cïcilia Seclora. Sergeant, Section C, 1st Company, II. Battalion [main character]
- Bolter [male] - real name: unknown. Sergeant, Section A, 1st Company, II. Battalion [main character]
- Tïler [male] - real name: I'ülius Equæran. Corporal, Section B, 1st Company, II. Battalion [main Character]
- Astral [male] - real name: unknown. Arcanist Detatchment, 2nd Section (asigned to II. Battalion) [main character]
- Aurora [female] - real name: Tämes [last name unknown]. Arcanist Detatchment, 2nd Section (asigned to II. Battalion)
- Longshanks [male] - real name: unknown. Private, Section A, 1st Company, II. Battalion
- Thaler [male] - real name: unknown. Captain, 1st Company, II. Battalion
- Flagon [male] - real name: unknown. Sergeant-Major, 1st Company, II. Battalion
- I had often toyed with the idea of going back and exploring the Empire's earlier history more - to delve into a more classically-fantasy setting. Hence, my decision to develop a short story about the "Harrower's Brigade".
- The Harrower's Brigade was inspired by The Black Company, from the series of novels by Glen Cook of the same name. However, the Harrowers are not mercenaries - although they are often referred to as such, much derogatorily. Rather, the Harrowers are a lot like Colonel Schæffer's Last Chancers from the Warhammer 40,000 universe, though not strictly a "Penal" unit, or the British Military of the Napoleonic Wars. Its manpower is drawn, primarily, from the dregs of Imperial society - with the exception of a few members like Sultry, who joined up purely out of having few other options.
- The practice of giving 'Soldier's Names' to all the members of the Imperial Military's units was something I came up with quite some time ago. Essentially, whenever someone enlists in the unit they are assigned a number that represents their position within the theoretical, maximum-strength on-paper organization of the unit - a member of a formation of 1200 men would have a number between 1 and 1200. Some of these numbers carry with them traditional "soldiers names". In other cases, when there is no name associated, the soldier picks a name for his or herself. In either case, this becomes what that person is referred to by his / her cohorts and on the rolls of the unit. The ultimate honor is to have your soldier name associated with your number and passed down to future holders of said number. This emulates Glen Cook's Black Company books as well as Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen novels, wherein the characters - especially the soldiers - have strange names like "Croaker" and "Whiskeyjack".
- It is interesting that the membership of the Harrowers Brigade is composed of both sexes, whereas in the modern Imperial Military of the 5200s the soldiers are almost exclusively male (at least in a battlefield role). This change was the result of post-Unity reforms, when the Empire's need for manpower was much less desparate. Technically, women are also subject to the draft in Imperial society, but this is only very sparsely enforced. Women are still given equal responsibility in some local and provincial forces, and with the Provosts (the Imperial police).