The Silver Horde is the name given to a gang of extremely old Barbarian heroes led by Cohen the Barbarian. Barbarian heroes usually go around killing mad priests, stealing the riches of hidden temples, rescuing maidens, and so on, and then spend the money on drinks, women, horses, or just the expensive lifestyle in Ankh-Morpork. Barbarian heroes tend to get rich quickly and then run out of money quickly. One day, Cohen decided to gather a few old Barbarian heroes to invade Hunghung, the capital city of Agatean Empire, for a last grand theft, a retirement score to provide for the last years of their lives.
The phrase "rich in years" is much more than a euphemism in describing the old age of these Barbarian heroes. Each of these old men has decades of experience in fighting and staying alive. Their weapons are kept in Mad Hamish's wheelchair, and are a positively ancient collection of rusty, notched blades. Like the men themselves, however, the worn state of the blades in no way suggests that they are not exceedingly dangerous, despite being wielded by old men who should by no means be able to hold them anymore.
Contrary to expectations, the Silver Horde knows the meaning of fear. It is something that happens to other people.
The Horde are devotees of the Hero's Code, which states that the greater the odds against the hero, the greater the victory. It is this philosophy that leads them to take on an army of 700,000 men entirely on their own and emerge victorious (with some unwitting help from Rincewind). Interestingly, it is implied that had the Horde attacked Captain Carrot during their invasion of Dunmanifestin, they would have lost because of the very Code that had kept them alive so many other times in their careers.
When Old Vincent died choking on a cucumber in a very un-heroic manner, the Horde decided that the gods needed to be taught a bit of a lesson and decided to return fire to them, with interest, in the form of Agatean Thunder Clay. They invaded Dunmanifestin, disguised as the Gods of Fish (Cohen), Love (Caleb, although nobody really wants to know what kind of love), Swearing (Truckle, obviously), Being Sick Again (Boy Willie, as Vomita was already the God of Being Sick), and Things Lyin' Around (Hamish). Despite a successful confrontation in which Cohen cheated Fate, the Horde decided that maybe blowing up the gods wasn't the best course of action, given that there would be nobody left to remember them (the explosion at Dunmanifestin would have damaged the Disc's magical field and drained all magic away, thus destroying the world). Sacrificing themselves to save the Disc from, well, themselves, they plunged ten miles down into an explosion that turned a mountain into a valley. Despite this, the Horde ambushed the Valkyries who came to take them to the afterlife, stealing their horses and riding off to find other worlds to conquer, inspired by a quote about Emperor Carelinus. Before they left the Disc, they freed the First Hero, who stole fire from the gods and was imprisoned and cursed to have a vulture eat his liver every day, and gave him a sword. As Cohen said, they don't think they're dead, and when have they ever cared what anyone else thought?
The members of the Silver Horde are:
- Cohen the Barbarian, or Ghenghiz Cohen
- Boy Willie
- Caleb the Ripper
- Ronald Saveloy, or "Teach"
- Truckle the Uncivil
- Old Vincent
- Mad Hamish
The Horde's fighting style as described in Interesting Times, whether intentional or not, is similar to the sword style invented by the Lonely Invincible Swordsman in Louis Cha's novel The Smiling, Proud Wanderer. That is, it involves no acrobatic movement, or any specific move, but the practitioner always manages to move himself out of harm's way and strikes at the opponent's weaknesses. In Terry Pratchett's novels, the Horde gained this simply by having enormous experience in not dying. The Horde's survival is simply put down to being exactly where they want to be at any given time (i.e., not where the opponent's sword is).
The name clearly alludes to Roundworld's Golden Horde, a term referring to a division of the Mongolian Empire made after the death Genghis Khan. The territory of the Golden Horde at its peak included most of Eastern Europe from the Urals to the right banks of the Dnieper River, extending east deep into Siberia. On the south, the Golden Horde's lands bordered on the Black Sea, the Caucasus Mountains, and the territories of the Mongol dynasty known as the Ilkhanate.
The origins of the name "Golden Horde" is uncertain. Some scholars believe that it refers to the camp of Batu and the later rulers of the Horde. In Mongolian, Altan Orda refers to the golden camp or palace (Mongolian: Алтан Ордон, Altan Ordon = Golden Palace). Altan (golden) was also the colour connoting imperial status. Other sources mention that Batu had a golden tent, and it is from this that the Golden Horde received its name. While this legend is persistent, no one is positive of the origin of the term. In most contemporary sources, the Golden Horde was referred to as the Khanate of the Qipchaq, as the Qipchaq Turks comprised the majority of the nomadic population in the region (the Ulus Jochid).