Chronicles of Azvar: Fighting the Fell Beasts
There is no war in Azvar amongst men; the fell beasts are so prominent a threat that only a fool would engage in such an action of self-destruction. As such, virtually all Azvari fighting techniques are based around combat with fell beasts.
There are two distinct varieties of fell beasts: kuzam and murkram. The kuzam are large, lumbering beasts of the land that usually travel in small packs of two or three. They are between two and three meters tall when standing straight up, though they are often hunched over. Their body is stoutly composed of thick hide and muscle with several bony plates and protrusions protecting the underbelly, back, arms, and legs. Their joints are uncovered by plate, however, as is the head and neck. They possess long claws on their hands which will slice cleanly through exposed flesh. The head is not terribly unlike that of a human, though heavily disfigured and with a long jaw and rows of razor-sharp fangs. Though incredibly strong, the kuzam are not the most agile of opponents. A skilled warrior can take advantage of their lack of speed to strike at vulnerable areas.
The murkram are quite different than their land-bound brethren. The murkram are much smaller, rarely growing beyond a meter in height. They share the long claws and fangs of the kuzam, but they have traded the hide and plates for leathery wings and incredible speed. An airborne murkram prefers to dive onto men from above with little warning. Unlike the kuzam, the claws and fangs of the murkram secrete a potent venom that will leave their prey in agonizing pain. Adding to the danger is that the murkram tend to travel in much larger packs of up to a dozen. Though much easier to kill, the agility and numbers of the murkram make them an equally dangerous opponent.
Both species of fell beast share a common weakness: daylight. Their sight is significantly reduced during the day and kuzam in particular will be more sluggish. Though still dangerous, it is much more manageable to handle the beasts during the day. At night, however, both become highly aggressive and will stop at nothing to kill their prey. The beasts are drawn to light and noise, which often leads to attacks on settlements not fully underground. Traveling at night in Azvar is therefore incredibly dangerous and generally avoided by those that enjoy living.
Any fell beast is likely to best a man in single combat, so it is necessary to fight them as a group. Azvari warriors typically fight in small units of ten to twelve. The units are split into two groups: halberdiers and archers. Halberdiers are typically heavily armored in chain or plate armor with gambeson beneath to soften any crushing blows. Their primary weapon is a three to four meter long halberd. The head of the halberd has a long spike for spearing fell beasts along with a heavy axe head to hack through the thick hide of kuzam. Halberdiers are also equipped with a standard arming sword to be used as a last resort in melee combat. The archers usually don lighter chain armor than the halberdiers, as they will likely not be fighting face to face with kuzam. Archers are equipped with a powerful crossbow and bolts designed to pierce kuzam hide. Though ideally they will avoid close quarters fighting, archers also possess an arming sword for use in melee combat.
When fighting kuzam, the aim is to spear the beast in vulnerable areas near the shoulders and neck. While it is unlikely that these will be killing blows themselves, the halberdiers will be able to keep the beast at bay while the other members of their unit deal successive killing blows to the head and neck with bolts and halberds. Being the first to engage with an unimpeded kuzam requires significant strength and refined technique, so the most experienced warriors are often at the front of the formation.
Combat with murkram requires a different tactic. It is impossible to directly engage the murkram, so the most common strategy is to form a tight ring formation of halberdiers with the archers in the center. The halberdiers will keep the tips of their weapons pointed skyward to thrust at any murkram that attempt to dive down onto them. The archers, meanwhile, will fire volleys at individual murkram in order to whittle down their numbers. More skilled archers may attempt to pick their own targets if the murkram are highly aggressive or in great numbers.