Granted, sometimes it is a case of following someone out of morbid curiosity to see what disaster is about to ensue, so that either plausible deniability may be ensured, or to see just how bad it could possibly be . . .
[Speaking of which, NO POLITICS! Please.]
I was thinking more about “What motivates the Hunters to follow a certain leader?” When you have a generally merit-based society, what causes some people to start turning to a particular individual and treating that person as a leader? I do not think of myself as a leader, but other people do. I freely admit, I’m not entirely certain why, save for the “morbid curiosity and entertainment value” aspect of things. But why do the Hunters follow Skender and Arthur? Why do they follow Danut Adrescu? What motivates people to follow, when other options are available?
In Danut Adrescu’s case, blood ties play a role. He’s the clan leader, descended from clan leaders (or their sisters, depending on who was born first and who outlived whom) going back a long way. He and his half-brother have been trained to be leaders, and the others in the larger group have a set of expectations about what the clan chief is supposed to do, how he’s supposed to behave, and how he will reward virtue and punish vice. Adrescu’s going to have to do a bit of the latter, assuming he survives whatever the Ottomans seem to be hatching, assuming that Codrin’s vision is truly precognitive. Radut has also earned the respect of the other men and women, in his case partly because he refuses to allow a crippling injury keep him from doing what needs to be done. His skill as both a horse trainer and horse rider also play a role. Kinship as a tie of military service was found in feudal Japan as well as other places. When in doubt, follow your kindred, circle around the center of the larger family’s property, and protect those related to you – that’s one of the oldest loyalties in the books, literally.
There’s not as much opportunity for loot with the Hunters as in traditional armies. You could argue that the Fruits of the Hunt are loot, and it’s true that the Hunters in Adrescu’s time were not averse to confiscating the goods of people who were proven to be getting into mischief, be it mundane or esoteric. Should Adrescu have to face the Ottoman Turks, his soldiers and Hunters will grab what they can if they win. It’s tradition, and a good reward. In our world, even into the early modern era, there were people who fought with, oh, Prince Eugene of Savoy, because he had a record of winning and rewarding his men very well. Or of letting them reward themselves from the enemy. When the monarchs and princes couldn’t pay their hired soldiers, the men found loot on their own – see Rome, 1527, and Charles V’s problem with losing control of his troops. In Eugene’s case, it also tied into charisma. He took care of his troopers, even when he considered them swine. He tended to win more often than he lost, he ended up with loot at some point during most campaigns, and he tended to be impartial when it came to discipline.
Skender and Arthur proved themselves to the Riverton clan as Hunters first and foremost. Then Skender began quietly taking on more and more duties, especially the lesser duties of the senior Hunter. The then-leader was old, in poor health, and couldn’t do those things. Skender showed that he had the needed skills, sense of duty, and training to lead, should the opportunity arise. Arthur supported his brother, and may have on occasion dealt with other Hunters who might have posed threats to Skender. Perhaps. Maybe. No one ever admitted to doing such, and Skender could more than take care of himself. So when the old clan leader died, the Elders and Hunters agreed that Skender was a reasonable choice. It wasn’t without challenges and fights, as series readers have probably surmised. And every so often a Hunter would push things, leading to injuries.
Now? Skender and Arthur have both proven themselves, and no one is suicidal enough to take them on as a pair. Arthur served as head of the Hunters, overseeing training and ensuring order more-or-less. The other Elders and retired Hunters knew about Arthur’s injuries and how hard he pushed himself, and admired him. The younger Hunters respected him profoundly, feared him, and occasionally challenged him. Once or twice, a younger Hunter went to Arthur for counsel, and he provided it without demeaning the younger man or telling others. When it appeared that he’d been mortally wounded on the Hunt, it hit the “puppies” hard. Skender was the senior Hunter, true, but Arthur was their leader. At the same time, when Skender took full responsibility for his brother’s injuries, Skender gained more respect as well (although it didn’t stop some of the youngsters and Elders from growling about it, well away from the rest of the clan.)
Why follow? There are a lot of reasons. Experience, family ties and tradition, the hope of reward, the desire to be present when the dreadfully creative disaster unfolds (because great stories sometimes start with, “Ya’ll won’t believe what Bubba did this time.”) Me? I like a leader who gives me a long leash and who states clearly what needs to be done, what is being done, and why (when possible), and who supports subordinates when the chips are down.