- "These Gringos, these Bible-thumpers are sticking their claims to lands they haven't even seen. This land is ours and their only claim here will be bones."
- ―Unnamed tribal stating why he join the SDL
A rag-tag army of criminals, Lipan, tribals, and outcasts, the Defense League is dedicated to keeping The British and The Papists out, and not much beyond that. Consisting of many individual bands, the League is split in per-dominantly two groups. The more 'political' members tend to stick near the borders, while the material minded stay near the trails.
|Saltlands Defense League|
|Group type:||alliance to keep major powers out|
|Founded:||formally in 2267|
|Enemies:||The Papal States, Provisional Defense Force|
There have been many alliances in the region known as the Saltlands, loyalty being an inconstant commodity there. The nebulous web of them that resulted in the Defense League involved Lipan tribes, Comancheros and an unscrupulous arms merchant from Hearuvo Nache.
They came together in a small cantina just south of the post-war border. Mostly veterans of the conflict, they all bore a grudge for one reason or another. They started drinking heavily and discussing how to stop any further expansion.
They knew they didn't have the numbers to fight them directly, but they were unfazed. The morning after, they came up with a plan. Meeting with other gangs in the area, it took little to convince them to join the ambitious league. Affiliation did not mean an end to robbing however.
The members actually stepped up the rate of their robberies, attracting more members with their boldness. The money also went to arms in bulk, so they soon become even deadlier on the trails. They used their time not robbing to kill, usually their rivals, becoming the largest gang in the Northern Saltlands.
They would gain valuable allies in several bands of Lipan, driven from their lands by the Papists. Now with guides through the rougher portions, the League would almost stop all Papal caravans south by 2270, and the remainder were forced to come together in winding convoys.
Leaders of the League had seen yet another opportunity to expand in 2272, after Clifford Dewitt's gang had been almost wiped out in a PDF ambush. Dewitt was an NCO in the Provisional Defense Force but had turned Comanchero in the Southern Saltlands after refusing to slaughter a village of the Aztecs. Now learning some British tactics, they were able to use them with their superior arms to push several gangs out of the area, becoming the largest gang in the north by 2272.
Their growing power was a constant concern in the Papal States during this time, so in 2274 Cardinal Oscar Montera lead an expedition to check them. Despite the many ambushes and traps laid by the League, they were unable to beat the attackers back, routing whenever they met in open contact. Finally deciding to make their stand at La Negro Arroyo, they prepared for the Papal force.
It was a terrible decision: they lost nearly 70% of their forces in the initial exchanges, and the small group of mounted Nobles cut down another two dozen when the remaining bandits fled. They broke off in many directions; some going with friendly Lipan tribes to hide; others headed west to try and reach Distrito Capital; but the largest group headed south, where they found welcome with Clifford Dewitt.
Dewitt, having rebuilt his gang during the recent boom period, was glad to receive his northern brothers. Over the next few months, however, that warmth was strained. He didn't mind their apolitical views, but they showed a greater desire to rob the people he had promised to protect. At the same time the northern bandits were upset with how their cousins spent more time fighting the British than they did doing anything profitable.
The two groups parted six months later on good terms, even though some members were a little frosty. Heading north, a young Lipan brave earned the respect of enough of the crew Jefes to be declared Liga Defensor, a position which also gave him de jure control of the league, in accordance with their constitution.
He would prove his rule by blood and loot, taking a British supply depot. The new defender, a man who only answered to 'barrel', knew he had to cement his right to lead before the other bosses caused trouble. Barrel put a small group of members in an open position the British couldn't help but attack.
When the soldiers spotted the bandit party they sent a detachment to capture or kill the rouges. What they couldn't do however is catch them; the mounted Comancheros were able to out-pace the infantry, who were dragged further and further from the depot. When they had reached an area where the hills on either side of the road were taller than the road itself, they stopped. It was here, a scant mile and a half away that the awaiting Comancheros sprung their trap, rising over the burnt grass like a drunken wave. Their initial fire brought down many of the British with the clubs and machetes of other bandits making short work of the rest.
Now in patched-together British regalia and with automatic rifles, Barrel led his band to the depot gates, where the sentry granted them entry without challenge. Once they were inside the gate they revealed their true identities, killing the sentries on the wall and the sergeant ready to receive them. The remaining soldiers tried to regroup and defend themselves, but were cut down under the lead hail.
Now the owner of dozens of uniforms, rifles and thousands of rounds of ammo, not to mention food and other supplies, Barrel thus sent one of his men to tell the rest of the League to come and supply. This earned the loyalty of the common men as well as their Jefes after they had their fill. The Comancheros were in high spirits as they trekked north from the smoldering outline of the walls, dreams of wealth and vengeance filling their minds.
The last unified attack made by the rouges was the complete destruction of a Papal outpost, maintained by the forces of Cardinal Montera who had feared this very thing. The small radio they were equipped with however had broke the week before when the shelf it had been sitting on broke, the wood finally unable to take the centuries of Dry-rot. Unable to warn anyone, the outpost fell quickly, it's defenders massacred, and the insides looted of anything of value.
Their vengeance slaked with blood, Barrel stepped down as Defender, and told the bands that they could go their own way. The rest of 2275 saw the bandits release their wrath on caravans, farms and anyone unlucky enough to cross them. Membership again begun to swell as did their pockets, most of which was spent at various open towns and cantinas. A good portion of the money, however, went towards war supplies.
When Cardinal Montera once again led his men against the bandits, he discovered they were far more dangerous. The ambushes that they had previous brushed aside now were conducted with landmines and assault rifles. The traps were now grenade bouquets, car-husks filled with bullets and a proxy mine, and many fire bombs. The core of the Papist force managed to advance to an area known to be used by the outlaws.
They found a fortified compound and over two hundred Comancheros waiting for them. Montera sent two of his men back to radio word of it, but they would be killed before they had gotten a mile away from the group. Sniper fire soon began to assault the group, causing Montera to lead a short prayer, and then rush down the hill, pistol in each hand. His men were right behind him, but none of would reach the wall of the compound; landmines reduced their number to just over 20, and the awaiting Comancheros buried these survivors as they came close enough.
The body of cardinal Montera had its tongue and hands removed, and was tossed onto a bonfire with the others of his group. The removed parts were sent to Soto La Marina where they were dumped at the feet of the Pope by courier, while the banditos raided along the border settlements.
Since early 2276 The League has again broken down into small bands and lone bandits. This makes it not only easier to move and ambush wasters, it also makes the job of crippling them again a tall order indeed. Despite many ambushes and raids, and dozens of deaths, the SDL still maintains a strong membership. Despite the advances of the British and Papal forces into the saltlands, the SDL has experienced a membership boom, with dislodged tribes and criminals seeking to even scores.
They have again been defeated in major battle, suffering at the hands of Count Boneater a recently converted mutant chief. They have been force to target smaller caravans and have recently lost some gangs to desertion. Nonetheless, they remain a potent threat in the region, and have sacked more than one barony in response.
Despite what the majority of Tamaulipas thinks about them, the League is not just a pack of boisterous thugs who live by the gun (not entirely anyway). When they were first formed, a small constitution with a code-of-conduct was also made, but it has largely been forgotten in more recent times.
The code includes the following rules, among others; 3) treat your fellows better than your brothers, because they are more than your brothers. 7) The chosen mate of a member is to be passed among their brothers, unless they are married, then their bond is to be respected. 12) do not rob from those who welcome and feed you.
These have been brushed aside because of the absolute lack of any central authority. While it makes their enemies frustrated at the lack of damage they can do, it also means that rules are those of the various Jefes. A small handful of old-timers, traditionalists, and visionaries try to spread it to the various groups, but have had little luck.
Notable Members and Groups
•"The Burn Boys": a squad of Badlanders from the Rio Grande pack contracted by a lord of the Papal States, they were betrayed on the fulfillment of the job. This caused them to retreat into the Saltlands and raid any Papal caravan, farm or traveler they can. They also train some of the other members of the league for a modest fee. They aim to storm the Lord's estate when they can either influence or buy an army.
•Crumb Breath: A especially simple tribal of the Big Mouse people, he has served faithfully since he joined the league. Named due to his tendency to eat dirt, a trait that wears on the members of his gang, Crumb Breath is a master of smashing things with a club.
•"The Iron Brigade": Made of the remnants of Dewitt's original command mixed with politically-bent Comancheros and outlaws, they spend most of their time attacking the British, and helping to protect several of the Los Ganaderos. Some 'squads' do operate in the north, but this is usually when they are trying to avoid British wrath.
•Clifford Dewitt: Formerly a proud sergeant in the Royal Tampico Yeomanry, Dewitt was told his squad was to support an attack on a tribal war-camp. Moving his squad into position, Dewitt saw it was actually a village full of women and children, with only a small force of actual warriors. When he radioed this to his superiors however, he was told that they were aware and that he was to start firing on them. While he was a patriot he had also grown close to the native troops under him, and when they told him not to follow it, he agreed. The Grenadiers they were supporting had no such qualms however and began to attack the village. Doing their best to help the villagers escape, the Yeomen were forced to fire on the Grenadiers, damning them for traitors forever. Escaping with who he could, Dewitt has led the fight against the British since.
•The Rad-Scorp Boys: A gang of Texas outlaws lead by "Slim" Clive Markeq. Originally from the Permian Basin, they were sent packing by the Salt Family's Roughneck mercenaries. Going east and then south, robbing as they went, they quickly found themselves without any friends in Tamaulipas. Having tried to rob a bank belonging to a count of The Papal States in 2278, they were quickly surrounded by the count's men, but saved by a nearby group of Comancheros. Appreciating the help, the Rad-scorps accepted the offer to join, and have been with the league ever since.