Originally published at: When The Guns Fall Silent | The Associated Worlds
The Imperial Military Service has long been considered somewhat unusual among military forces for the degree of respect it offers to those it has fought, and often defeated. This is not entirely accurate as a consideration, since a certain level of courtesy and mutual respect is hardly uncommon between gentlesoph soldiers; it is hardly uncommon to find other military forces which obey the injunction that strength and honor must also act with grace. There are few, admittedly, that afford – indeed encourage – the militaries of conquered nations the opportunity post hoc to award honors and distinctions to those who fought valiantly against them in defense of their homes.
(Since these honors are awarded under the unusual conditions created by the Annexation Act, and necessarily supervised by the appointed satrap, they are considered both foreign and Imperial in nature; for a full list of these unusual Imperial awards, please see Annex B to this book.)
Unique, perhaps, is the Empire’s creation at the Service’s request of three distinctions specifically to be awarded to the enemy after the fact. Displayed as medals carved from blackened osmium, these three are:
The Order of the Valiant Foe: Most frequently awarded of the three, the silver-chased Order of the Valiant Foe is awarded to those who have displayed outstanding acts of gallantry or personal valor on the battlefield while fighting against the Empire.
Since an overwhelming proportion of these distinctions are awarded posthumously, the Order of the Valiant Foe is a stipendiary order; a stipend is paid from the Privy Purse for the support of spouse, children, and other family of the recipient.
The Order of the Noble Enemy: Taking its name from the Jussovian proverb that a noble friend is the greatest of gifts and a noble enemy the next greatest – a sentiment engraved around its perimeter – the sapphire-on-osmium cluster Order of the Noble Enemy is awarded for dedication to the principles of civilized warfare above and beyond the call of duty.
Most famously, the Order of the Noble Enemy was awarded at the end of the Fourth Oceanic Dominance to the captains of the Ildathach destroyers Levinbolt and Thunderblast for their rescue of over a thousand survivors from the Imperial cruiser Dawning Dragon (sunk the previous day in the battle of White Sands Bay) at great hazard to themselves, such operations leaving them vulnerable to prowling submarines and the load of survivors greatly reducing their fighting ability.
The Order of the Worthy Opponent: An award of gold and topaz upon osmium, the Order of the Worthy Opponent recognizes skillful leadership and outstanding generalship, qualities shared by many of those who have most successfully opposed the Imperial will.
In its origins, the Order of the Worthy Opponent, like its counterparts, was a distinction awarded to officers of those nations absorbed by the Empire during its expansion in the Consolidation, but as with them, its use has since expanded. Most famous among these is the Order won by Matron-Admiral Kajiya ihr-Lomas of the rúrathtu, the award of which she declared the greatest honor of her career in her memoirs, and which she wore to her dying day. Her great-granddaughter presented it to the Museum of the Imperial War College during the celebrations of the signing of the Imperial-Rúrathtu Alliance, where it can be viewed today as a reminder that between honorable enemies, enmity need not be eternal.
– Titles, Orders, and Awards of the Imperial Military Service