We may have little need to specify which languages this military group can speak. Instead, we can take a predictable but believable route and decide they know enough about the language of any nearby species that they must communicate with regularly in the performance of their job. This will change from sovereign power to sovereign power, even city to city. It’s a fast decision that makes sense and gets the job done. It provides flexibility to decide on a more case-by-case basis that they don’t live up to this somewhere, or are particularly fluent in a language somewhere else. We can leave a note about this in our files and be done with this.
We may also want to specify that they’re expected to know, and be trained in, the languages of species with whom they have frequent interaction. We’ll need to decide if this is only speaking it or also reading and writing. In SF, a universal translator may negate the necessity of this learning, while a language considered universal, like “common” in fantasy, can also make this requirement unnecessary.
Place in Society
How does society view this group and its members? With reverence? Fear? Suspicion? Or are they taken for granted, their protection and sacrifices hardly noticed? This will impact their place in society. Respect can result in being present at ceremonies, gifts bestowed on some occasions, and people gathering to see them leave or return. Contempt will not. Fear will cause avoidance; perhaps they can only dine in back rooms so people don’t feel uncomfortable, or maybe they refuse this restriction and end up chasing away other occupants of a tavern with their presence alone. Are there shops that cater to their needs and inclinations, even if it just means having their favorite items ready? Or are such things absent altogether to avoid tempting them to enter? In many cases, unless we have a need for one extreme or another, moderation will be best, meaning there’s nothing special about how they’re treated or welcomed. Remember that their place in society might be slightly or even dramatically different in one settlement or sovereign power from another.
Customs Among Them
As with all customs, we want to focus on the ones we’re most likely to use: greetings, farewells, and in the case of military groups, toasts, burial rituals, and pre-battle customs. Think of an expression and gesture they use upon meeting, and what physical and verbal response is expected. Farewells are typically less formal or ostentatious and an expected one is arguably more likely to be absent altogether. Such actions of familiarity, shared among only their group, strengthen the bond between them; this is useful in battle, where people die or are scarred for life, physically, mentally, and emotionally. These bonds help with morale, which we touched upon in Creating Life: the willingness to stand firm, together, in the face of mortal peril.
Toasts are likely to focus on body counts, skilled performance in battle, and things like weaponry or armor withstanding the forces at work, the idea a kind of well-wishing visited upon those being toasted. Below are some examples:
- May your arrows fly true
- Break heads but not blades
- A blow for Kier! (a hero)
- May Sinistria (a goddess) favor your hand
- To hell with our enemies (use an afterlife of your invention, not hell)
- May heaven bring you peace – many years from now!