This is set in medieval society, where everyone has mana but not everyone has the capacity to use it effectively. To make up for this, there are Avatars. Avatars are beings created when someone takes a piece (a "spark") of their spirit and transfers it into an enchanted orb of Ether (solid mana), which transforms into a manifestation of either their whole self or an aspect of their being.
The Avatar is automatically linked to them upon creation. Despite being made of magic, an Avatar is real; an animal or human Avatar has an actual body, with actual organs, and a mechanical Avatar would be made of real machine parts. Because an Avatar is a real creature, their power does not diminish with distance (as would be the case with a magical construct.)
Anyone can create an Avatar, as long as they are taught how, but they can only have four Avatars MAX. The age of the Avatar is based off the maturity and/or development of the creator's person; so an unusually mature child can create an adult Avatar. These Avatars can be in the form of a mythical creature, animal, or even a humanoid, so the following are valid possibilities:
- A firebreathing dragon
- A griffin
- A paladin
- A giant scorpion
- A warrior mermaid
One has influence over the Avatar created (they can picture what they want the Avatar to be) but in the end, the nature of the individual (personality and background) who creates the Avatar determines its form. Oh, and no matter what, there's always something unusual about the Avatar that reveals it as a being of magic, which makes it impossible for seemingly ordinary animals to escape notice and suddenly assassinate someone (Think of Pokemon; would you mistake a Piplup for a regular penguin? Of course not!). The more powerful the Avatar, the rarer it is.
Helpfully, however, Avatars grow along with their creator, gradually transforming into higher forms of themselves. This is balanced by the fact that people usually grow slowly, over time.
Avatars die only from old age, poison, or injury. After an Avatar dies, the creator is a bit weakened, quite possibly traumatized, but he/she can recover and create another Avatar, even one identical to the one who died. Avatars usually don't tire, but they are fatigued by extensive or demanding work (construction, combat, and so on). However, they also regain energy over time. Additionally, Avatars do not require food or water, but they do require oxygen (need to breathe). An Avatar can also be healed if their creator expends Mana to do so, but only if the creator is within nine feet of the Avatar.
Finally, Avatars have magical abilities relating to their nature. Fire Salamanders and Komodo Dragons can spit or breathe fire, Spitting Cobras can fire streams of poison, Bullet Shrimp can fire bullets of magically compacted air, Jumping Spiders can jump vast distances, and so on.
So my question is, how would the military best take advantage of this?
In order to craft a good answer, you must:
explain why you think either A) soldiers will fight alongside their Avatars or B) use them as surrogates, accounting for the six-mile command range and nine-foot healing rule.
Explain why the military would either A) breed soldiers and have Avatars created for them at birth, B) have a filtering program to find future soldiers, give them an Avatar, and take them for training or C) do something else entirely. A description of how this would work is necessary.
Decide whether Avatars would be constantly guarding assigned areas (national security), or be brought out and mobilized when a threat arises (like regular soldiers).
Account for pros and cons of A or B in 1; A: when "plugged in" to an Avatar, controlling its movements, seeing what it sees, and feeling what it feels, soldiers would naturally be vulnerable to assassination. B: If soldiers fought alongside their Avatar, their chance of dying rises despite the Avatars defending and fighting alongside them, and soldiers can't be replaced or healed as easily as Avatars.
Avatars instinctively defend their creator if they're not fighting for them. Avatars are sentient and can act for themselves (but cannot betray or go against their creator's wishes). Additionally, Avatars can be commanded telepathically and share knowledge with their creator (the Avatars know what their creator knows or learns, and vice versa) if the Avatar and their creator are within six miles of each other.
Since Avatars grow with their creator over his or her lifetime, slowly and steadily, it's best for the Avatars to be created as early as possible if they are to be used in the army because then you'll have maximum development possible. It may be best to have a filtering process that finds young candidates and takes them away for military training, or simply selectively breed and train soldiers from birth. (Remember, Avatars represent their creator!)
While all Avatars have some magical ability, only a few can cast spells and those that can only cast spells relating to their type. Additionally, the damage an Avatar does is relative to the kind of creature they are. A lion or bear Avatar is going to do a ton of damage, while a stinging gnat will do little damage (unless of course it carries diseases).
Since Avatars can be replaced and healed relatively easily (as compared to people), and you can have four Avatars per soldier (never mind the fact Avatars evolve over time!), it seems preferable to use Avatars instead of people in combat. However, the nine-foot rule I made for balance is a pretty significant hurdle. Either the Avatars are fighting with their creators, or the Avatars have to make it back to their creators when they're injured.