In most fantasy campaigns, centaurs have an aversion to being ridden. It generally revolves around feeling subjugated by the act. While this is understandable (to anyone who doesn’t assume this is thinking things through in a fantasy campaign too much) I’ve never liked it. I’m a Sagittarius so I’ve been fascinated by centaurs since I was old enough to know that fact. To that end, I like the idea of having a group of humans and centaurs who are allied with the latter allowing the former to ride on their backs. So, here’s my idea for said group.
The Ilkenti began as two separate tribes on the great Sea of Grass. One of the tribes, a group of humans made their living with some sparse farming but also often following the herds of animals that make their home on Sea of Grass during the winter months. The other group were centaurs who lived a purely nomadic lifestyle and followed the prey animals from place to place, hunting them and supplementing their diets with the grasses of the plains.
The two groups sometimes clashed when one would encroach on the hunting area of the other though this seldom broke out into open warfare and they generally tried to avoid each other.
This began to change when a nation bordering the Sea of Grass began an expansion into the area. Aggressive, they lay claim to both land and resources and viewed the citizens, both human and centaur, of the area as resources. Numerous members of the tribe were enslaved after being captured and the natives learned to avoid them or simply harass the invading soldiers.
A young human boy and a young centaur girl found themselves in the grasp of these soldiers and facing a life of slavery. Both of the youngsters were rather resourceful and they quickly came up with a plan to escape. Unfortunately, it required each of their talents and the two of them had to trust each other and work together.
Fortunately, their very youth allowed them to avoid the distrust that most of their peoples felt for each other and they managed their daring escape, fleeing into the night and losing their pursuers in the waving blades of grass of their home. Of course, they eventually had to part, each returning to their own tribe. This was only after days of surviving together and avoiding the invaders together, however and by that time the two had formed a fast friendship.
This friendship would languish for years until the pair were both adults and young leaders in their tribes. The invaders had continued to press their attack and took more and more land each year, leaving the native tribes with less and less territory until they were almost constantly at each other’s throats. It was during one of the raids that became all too common that the two old friends found each other again. Putting aside the animosity of their tribes, they worked together to broker a battlefield peace.
While it was never guaranteed and there were any number of obstacles in their way, the two tribes were on the road to becoming the Ilkenti. Discovering that they were well matched as allies and more than a match for any soldiers from the invaders, the two tribes united and took the name that they currently bear, which translates roughly to People-of-the-Great-Expanse-of-Grass.
Eventually, the combined tribe became truly adept at fighting together. The centaurs took pride in bearing their human allies into battle and the humans took pride in assisting their centaur allies in delicate situations and watching their flanks and backs. The Ilkenti were quickly able to outfight and outride any of the forces the invaders brought against them and made their cavalry look like fools.
Their success did not go unnoticed and other human and centaur tribes on the Sea of Grass allied with the Ilkenti, eventually taking up their tactics and incorporating into the ever growing tribe.
It took years, but the Ilkenti eventually ran the invaders off the Sea of Grass. They stopped there for a time but it was not long before they began to eye the territory of the invaders. Soon, they began to make raids into those hills and forests, stealing weapons, technology and taking slaves. It was not long before these raids turned into invasions of their own and the Ilkenti began to claim large swaths of their enemies’ lands.
It was not long before the allure of these lands overcame the Ilkenti. While they originally would simply raid their neighbors and return to the Sea of Grass with their spoils, they began to linger in those lands longer and longer. The humans especially began taking over the farmsteads of their fallen opponents and even began examining and experimenting with other technologies that they left behind. With the help of skilled slaves and conquered people who wanted to curry favor, the Ilkenti began to learn blacksmithing, reading, writing and numerous other advances that their primarily nomadic nature previously had not allowed.
Within a generation, there were members of the Ilkenti who were not nomads at all. This stabilization only made them more dangerous. They were able to develop better weapons and armor and understand tactics and strategy even better.
Within another generation, they had taken the capital of their former invaders, leaving them rulers of all the land formerly claimed by that Empire. Of course, they were not the Ilkenti that they once were. Their alphabet was based on their conquered nation’s as were much of their philosophy and science. They had become a hybrid of the two cultures rather than the pure plains dwellers that they began as.
Not all their traditions were gone, however and the Ilkenti cavalry is still the most fearsome known. Their armies include infantry and siege equipment as well, however.
They have grown quite decadent over the years, taking on many of the more decadent habits of the culture they conquered, though and generally lost their desire to conquer any more land. They are fiercely protective of the lands they have conquered, and protect them fiercely.
In recent years, many of the Ilkenti have come to miss their former lives and have eschewed the new culture that has been created. They now wander the plains as nomads in much the way that their ancestors did for hundreds or years before.