Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Fallout: Home Counties - The White Horse Brotherhood

In origin, this was a simple reference to the symbol of Kent - a white horse on a red background. These were the ingredients: the fact it was a brotherhood, with all the semi-religious connotations that indicates, and  that it was Kentish in origin. Naturally, this had to be fleshed out a little.

The Fallout games have always had a nod towards the romanticised past: in the subverted 1950s nostalgia, in the cowboy antics of life in the post-apocalyptic Wild West - but I am now thinking of the Brotherhood of Steel, images of which are prominent on the box art of the games, who borrow conspicuously from images of knighthood, chivalry - and from militant religious orders. Naturally, this is not that simple all the time. They aren't quite paladins; they are portrayed as being well-intentioned, strictly disciplined, knowledgeable, technologically able - and, even if the morality of their actions is left for the viewer to decide, in many cases ineffectual.

The cover of the first Fallout, (courtesy of Wikipedia) with the Brotherhood of Steel front and centre.

The White Horse Brotherhood take a similar look at chivalry and take a different approach. Rather than human ironclads stamping around the smoking remains of Guildford, a different angle of feudalism would be apparent. These would be, like the Brotherhood of Steel, former soldiers and other  persons who escaped the missiles. But rather than holing up in a bunker with whatever technology they could carry or take, they would be landowners.

In claiming patches of less irradiated land, they could thrive and survive in the long term better than raiding parties or hoarders. The first few years would be hard; fortifying and defending manors, existing on half-rations until the new harvest appeared. But in the generations that came after the blast, they would be the most prosperous, a network of roughly self-sustaining manor houses across Kent and Sussex.

With this has come a devotion to the land - not quite religious, but with a clear agrarian cultural ethos, associating the city with the apocalypse, human fallibility and sin. Who can blame them? Their farms have sustained them where the ruins of London would not. They have become, in time, the grain basket of the Home Counties and responsible for the current wealth and rising population of these ravaged lands.

However, this comes at a cost. There is a very clear stratification in the territories protected by the Brotherhood. The White Horses rule and defend; the peasantry farm the land. Peasants might originally have been captured raiders or refugees looking for a sanctuary. They would receive protection, if they would work until they showed a distinct profit to the wealth of the manor, offering much more than they took. Some would have the opportunity to join the Brotherhood, or to leave and make homes of their own. Most did not; and families would go further into the debt of the Brotherhood by the birth of children. In time, a formal indenture system would be orchestrated.

The life of an indentured serf is a hard one, with farm labour conducted under the eyes of the White Horses. Much of this is done by hand, combine harvesters being somewhat short in supply after the Atomic Wars. Food and safety are guaranteed by the Brotherhood; some luxuries are offered by them as well as other minor freedoms. But life in the serf barracks is cramped and exhausting and to build a home of your own adds a great deal to the cost of your indenture.

The Brotherhood, meanwhile, occupy three type of position: those reporting to the Seneschel of the Manor, responsible for administration and certain specialised trades; those reporting to the Warden, who patrol the lands around the Manor, and those reporting to the Castellan - who is primus inter pares of these three, and has overall responsibility for the safety and well-being of the manor - this being the first priority of the Brotherhood.

The White Horse Brotherhood might remind one of Medieval Europe, with armed landowners having the most power, or of the Antebellum South (though no racial divide exists as such), or of Eighteenth Century rural squires, affable, brisk and paternal.

At Best, they are noble lords protecting their people, providing food and shelter for all by their efforts. At Worst, they are blinkered aristocratic bullies, living the high life by trading the products of forced labour.

I shall add in another post a little piece I wrote on life in the White Horse Brotherhood.

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