Lore

History and Lore of Imarel Knighthoods 

by T.A. Saunders ©2011 v1.6

Defining the Path of Knighthood

To become a knight is perhaps one of the most rigorous and exhaustive processes a person can undergo. It is a life of harsh discipline with strict dedication to a church, an order and a deity that requires that knight to be ready to answer the call to arms at a moment's notice and to sacrifice all that person is in the name of their chosen deity. Knights are expected to be the model of civility in public and the righteous arm of their god on the battlefield. They serve as lords of territories, destroyers of heretics and justices of the peace. A knight lives this life without regret and praises their god when their death finally comes with the last breath they have.

Because of this harsh, disciplined life, few actually qualify to become knights of any kind. Initially, when knighthoods first formed, women weren't allowed to even petition for candidacy. In the last two hundred or so years, this has changed along with many other modernization the various Orders of Imarel have had to employ. Candidates for knighthood must first find a sponsor within their chosen church of faith (providing that faith has knights, not all do). Then the candidate must be tested, in both knowledge of their chosen faith and at skill at weaponry, especially the sword and the horseman's lance. While the latter is more for competition in the modern era of Imarel, the use of the sword is still paramount to a knight's military duties. It is the symbol of their faith and the righteous justice of their god, should they choose to use it.

Providing the Tests of Faith and of Skill are passed, the candidate then becomes a squire, who is assigned to a knight of the church's choosing. If a knight had sponsored the squire, it is likely (although not always) that squire will be assigned to the knight that sponsored him or her. If the squire was sponsored by another church official, or individual of good standing within the church, the squire is assigned to a knight who is willing to train him or her in the practices of knighthood. There is no set regimen for training, as it differs from knight to knight; some will make the squire do menial and often embarrassing tasks, others will choose to take a more hands-on approach and take their squire when duty calls.

Finally, when the knight in question has proven him or herself, they are knighted and given the title, Knight-Errant. The Knight-Errant is considered a junior member of whatever Order he or she chose to follow and is sent out in the world, to address minor issues big enough to require a representative of the church, while small enough to be handled by somebody with little actual field experience in handling knightly issues. These issues can be be anything from traveling with priests as bodyguards, settling a dispute between families or tracking down a thief.

After no less than five years as a Knight-Errant, if he or she has proven competent enough, they will be granted the title of Knight and will be given greater responsibilities within the Order, including going into battle in support of the church and the local government. For example, whenever the Windsong Republic goes to war, a contingent from the Holy Order of the Flamebringer always accompanies the Windsong troops, so long as the goals of the church and the government align. Many knights fulfill their careers at this level and are satisfied with that.

Those who are exemplary at their given tasks as knights, can petition to become Knight-Captain. This rank consists of the very best knights, in both prowess on the battlefield and knowledge of their given faith. They lead other knights into battle and often act as a war-time priest for other soldiers that aren't knights, but wish the blessing of their faith upon their army. Knight-Captains have also acted as negotiators for cessation of hostilities between opposing armies and often take on high profile matters of church that may involve government officials, foreign dignitaries and others of grand (or notorious) repute.

Above the Knight-Captain is the Knight Templar. These Knights are the head of specific chapters of an Order and act as representatives of the church for a local populous. They have leave to decree the will of the church and speak with authority on the will of that knight's chosen deity. Indeed, only a Lord/Dame or an Archpriest speak over the word of a Knight Templar in matters of religious significance. Knight-Templars are also used to weed out corruption in the church for this reason.

Above the Knight-Templars is the Lord Templar or Dame Templar(if female). These individuals are in charge of whole areas where several Order chapters are located. They are second only to the Archpriest of any particular faith and is considered the vessel of divine will within the church. A Lord or Dame Templar can call the Order to battle, rescind such commands, or order members of the church either rewarded for their faith or punished for their heresy. Where an Archpriest is the mouthpiece of a deity, the Lord and Dame Templars are the righteous fist.

Finally, there are the Champions; these individuals are considered to be in direct contact with their deity and take orders only from that divine figure. They do not answer to the church, but often consult with the Archpriest on matters of great importance to the Church or to settle disputes by combat with opposing Orders, if need be. In the rarest of instances, the Champion of a faith can be asked to face off against infernal (or divine) beings that have intruded upon Imarel without cause. These Champions are singular individuals per Order and only a Lord or Dame Templar can challenge to become a Champion if there isn't one, but once given the position, it is that individual's position for life, or so long as they are faithful.

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Knight Rank Chart

Candidate
Squire
Knight-Errant
Knight
Knight-Captain
Knight-Templar
Lord/Dame Templar
Champion

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Samurai Rank Chart with Descriptions *

Chugen (Candidate): A chugen's primary duties are to learn the martial arts, archery, horsemanship, spearmanship and swordsmanship. Addition to physical learning, they are also required to learn the code of the samurai warrior, Bushido. Basic knowledge of customs, courtesies, and protocols are also required. In order to become officiated they must prove themselves in a test of both knowledge and skill before a superior.

Ashigaru (Squire): An ashigaru's duty is to be the nameless, driving force of their lord's forces. There may be any number of Ashigaru in a Daimyo's retinue; hundreds is likely, thousands wouldn't be considered unusual. The likelihood of any one Footman proceeding beyond this position is rare, as few have the aptitude and tenacity required. Even then, some who do simply don't survive the battlefield ill-equipped against superior forces. However, those who do receive much in the way of training, both as a warrior and as a man.

Hyougou Samurai (Knight-Errant): The mainstay of their lord's forces. Now well-armed both defensively and offensively, these trained soldiers' task is a daunting one. Carrying the flag of their lord into battle may seem either suicidal or completely pointless, however it serves the Ashigaru as a rallying point and as a potent source of morale and purpose on the battlefield. These warriors are hand-chosen by their Busho, or even a Taisho in larger armies, as their representatives on the battlefield and their fall can be a crushing blow to morale.

Samurai (Knight): The epitome of Taijun's male warriors, the flip-side of the coin to the Scythe Witch, a Samurai's job is to serve as their master's bodyguard without question. Selected only after five years of exemplary service, it is an honor above almost any other and to lose it is a disgrace among disgraces. Trained to the extreme, they are able to fight toe-to-toe with the Masar, Zissah, and other forces of Chaos who reach Taijun from Vocoria. At this rank, the Samurai is provided with a steed of the utmost breeding to ride onto the battlefield.

Busho (Knight-Captain): After years of service or some extraordinary deed, a Samurai might be promoted further. A Busho captains a unit of Samurai, in addition to a retinue of Ashigaru and the Samurai's Chugen. They take orders from their Taisho, often to secure a specific area or eliminate nuisances such as bandits or Masar. While what some might consider an easier job than those before it, a Busho who neglects his duties or grows lax in practicing his skills will often meet his end on the battlefield due to lapsing morale.

Taisho (Knight-Templar): A Taisho's duties are above and beyond that of a Busho, now tasked with addressing concerns such as meriting out funding to ensure the performance of his many Busho. A Busho's appearance on the battlefield is a dire thing, both for themselves and their enemies. Seen as a driving force behind that of their Daimyo, many a Chaotic minion consider their death a major blow and will throw themselves upon them en mass to crush them. Often considered foolhardy, as a Busho's might and skill is said to never grow dull with age, older become keener.

Hatamoto (Lord-Templar): A Daimyo's blood brother, his most trusted retainer. Rarely does more than one exist per Daimyo, but on occasion there may be more; two to three at the most. To achieve this means a loss of life on a fundamental level, as one loses the choice to pursue anything else in life. These men act as their Daimyo's shadow, messenger, and living shield as a matter of fact, living for these things just as they breath.

Daimyo (Champion): A Daimyo is a vassal of the Shogun, ruler of Taijun. The number of these he has at any one time is fluid, often numerous in war times with Albadosia and the minions of Chaos, while in rare times of peace it may be no more than a few. To become a Daimyo means to have been a Hatamoto at the time of their Daimyo's death, and while ascending to the position is on some level an honor it is also a shame, for it often means they failed in some manner to protect them. Those who inherit the position for any reason but death by natural cause are suspect to much scrutiny for often vast amounts of time, and must dedicate their lives to betterment and retaining the Shogun's influence as Adnor's Voice.

* Contributed by S. Robles

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Understanding Knight Philosophy

Each knighthood represents a different religion; some favor Lawful gods, some favor the dark gods of Chaos. Knights of these differing ethos are essentially the same in every way, despite this one critical distinction. However, this striking similarity is based on deception; those who would swear themselves to dark gods and demon lords, otherwise known as Reavers, set about to lure those who would follow in the righteous path of lawful and goodly knights, or Crusaders, to their dark persuasion. While good and evil are really more of a point of view than a true philosophy, Crusaders generally follow a righteous and just path, whereas Reavers choose the shadows and perversion of justice to further their aims.

Initially, there were only Crusaders and it is believed the first Knighthood was Vasdun Mag Olum Nur Tashdan, or the Sacred Order of the Flamebringer. It is not known when the Dwarves first developed the ethos and philosophies that comprise knightly conduct, though many Dwarvish scholars believe it was ‘a long-arsed time ago'; some time after the Clan Wars and indeed may have been in direct result of them. When Dwarves and Humans began living and learning with the Dwarvish clans, many were taken into the knighthood. When the few remaining uncorrupted Humans came with the Sivanoshei to Imarel, there had been a handful of Human Knights amongst them and when Moonfall was founded in 3255 BF the first Human Chapter of the Sacred Order of the Flamebringer was established.

As these Orders began flourishing across Imarel and Ishaela and it became evident that these armored saints of the lawful gods meant to vanquish any and every bastion of the Dark Lords of Chaos, it was Miron, the Overlord of the Nine, that decided that he and the other Eight must also have their own unholy warriors, to advance their goals. Through visions he granted to his most loyal followers across Imarel, Unholy Orders began quietly springing up in every city that had a Holy one. Knights bearing the symbol of Miron and the other Lords of Chaos offered civility and charity to those in need, as the Crusaders did and used the influence gained to poison minds against the Crusaders of those cities.

Sometimes the tactic worked, sometimes not. Especially in cities like Tashran where there are many economically oppressed families, because of the Hazjid and with no help coming from the churches that preach in those cities, many of them turned to the dark knights for satisfaction. To many of these people, the symbol of Chaos meant freedom from repression, the ability to make one's own choices and to decide one's own destiny, instead of prostrating themselves before gods that did not seem to care for their plights. In cities like Bladefall, Tashran and Kasiq, Unholy Orders have a great deal of popularity, despite the fact that these dark saviors often exploit the very people that look to them for aid. This is done to earn favor with city officials by pointing out unlawful citizens, or those that could be unlawful. These tactics have served the Unholy Orders of Imarel well, having established a foothold in many impoverished or excessively lawless cities.

Many Holy Orders do what they can for cities infested with the secretive Orders of these dark gods, but by general tenant of philosophy, they will not impose their help onto others. Like following blindly down the path of chaos is a choice, so too must be the choice to accept the assistance of a Holy Order. Many Unholy Orders will preach the same line, only to subversively influence those in need to accept their aid, to place them in debt to the dark church or worse, force them to act in the name of their dark religion to further a particular ends. The influence religions and those who represent them on the general masses can be astounding and it is a difficult task indeed to win hearts and minds, when it is very hard to tell the difference between a Reaver and a Crusader, until the Reaver's subtle deception is revealed.

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Examples of Knight Orders

Cabal of Darkness: Meklah
Circle of Fury: Spirit of Vengeance
Claws of Decay: Spirit of Decay
Hands of the Truthsayer: Hiron
House of the Plague-Bearer: Abador
Knights of the Blood Lily: Non-deity affiliated cavaliers
Order of the Flamebringer: Kaal
Order of the Sacred Heart: Spirit of Tranquility
Order of the White Jayhawk: Philisteenja
Protectors of the Harvest: Jadaia
Ring of Light and Wisdom: Theesa and Thyia
Sword of the Wild: Zorah
The Iron Circle: Miron
Wings of the Valorous: Spirit of Valor

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The Evolution of Knighthood

In the earliest days of Holy and Unholy Orders, Knights wore heavy suits of armor and wielded swords in melee combat and lances while on horseback. As the world changed but the need for Knights remained, so too changed the appearance and tactics used by the Knighthoods of Imarel. While faith in one's deity had always been a hallmark amongst knights of any Order, it was not until the last two hundred and fifty years that knights shed their armor completely and began relying solely on their faith to protect them from harm. While this does not convey that a knight will simply stand in front of a bullet and expect their god will prevent them from being hit, the power of faith in a chosen deity does grant super-human reflexes against such things. A bullet could be deflected by the knight's sword or they could dodge it completely.

In place of armor, knights wear vestments that reflect their position in their Order. These consist of a long vest, short-collared tunic, loose-fitting pants and hard soled boots, of uniform color. These vestments are often made from woven silk, linen or even Starweave and will have little decoration upon them, save the long vest, which often has glyphs or runes of that knight's order upon it. In colder climates, the long vest is often replaced with a long sleeveless buff coat. All knights are expected to keep their vestments clean and keep several sets, should theirs become tattered on the battlefield. These vestments are also blessed by the priests of their faith, to convey additional protection, beyond what Miracles of the Body the knight can perform.

The act of of a knight calling upon their chosen god to protect them or to aid them in various ways is known as a Miracle. Miracles fall into three categories: Miracle of the Body, Miracle of the Mind and Miracle of the Spirit. These Miracles are granted by a prayer and intense faith of the knight and generally never fail, unless that knight has severely displeased their god. Examples of Miracles include, spontaneous curing of sickness, deflecting a hail of gunfire with a holy sword or casting out a possessing spirit from a person's body. It is largely by these Miracles knights defend themselves in a world of evolving technology that would otherwise see their kind as obsolete on the battlefield.

In an age of mass conscription and sorcerous machines of war, such as airships and siege golems, the role of knights has changed on the battlefield as well. No longer are they the front line chargers that break enemy lines, but rather they are more often than not, commanders of troops, or in some cases, the elite soldiers of larger armies that can double as healers of the injured when physicians are taxed with wounded. Knights are considered leaders wherever they go, both martially and spiritually which has allowed them, collectively to maintain relevance in a world that has grown beyond lines of armored men clashing together.

Despite these changes, some things have remained the same; the code of honor all knights are expected to follow is still widely in use and expected, even in the case of Reavers. While there are slight differences between knighthoods, there are a few basic tenants that are expected of all knights, regardless of their beliefs:

    1. Mercy for those who ask of it.
    2. Lawful and chivalrous conduct in all matters.
    3. Respect for one's adversary both on the battlefield and off.
    4. Protect the weak from superior adversaries (this is open to interpretation by Reavers).
    5. Diplomacy before the blade (this is also open to interpretation by Reavers).

Aside of these basic tenants, it is still considered widely dishonorable for a knight to engage an enemy from afar in personal combat. While a knight may give the order to fire a cannon at an incoming line of enemy forces, he or she will do so only if the enemy is likewise engages in cannon-fire or similar long-range tactics. At the first opportunity, a knight will always engage their enemy headlong in battle. Furthermore, no knight will use a bow or a firearm in personal combat (though some Reavers may disagree with this). Such weapons are meant for hunting game not confrontation with the enemies of one's deity.

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Knight Weaponry and the Faith

As a matter of both personal conduct and honor, knights typically use a sword in personal combat, or can opt to use some manner of lance while mounted. However, in cases of either cultural or religious tenants, a knight (especially Crusaders) may opt to use a weapon more reflective of their religious edicts. For example, as Zorah's main weapon in combat is a spear, Crusaders of the Moon Huntress could opt to use a spear as their Chosen Weapon, in lieu of a sword. Kaal'Kor are deeply rooted in the use of hammers and axes, so a Dwarvish knight could then opt to use either weapon, in lieu of a sword (though many do use swords, especially those who follow Kaal).

This does not however, allow knights to break certain codes of personal combat. Shei Crusaders for example, may not choose a bow as their Chosen weapon, though could feasibly use one for hunting or other purpose. Since bows are against most knights codes of personal combat (Samurai are notable exceptions to this), one would not be employed by a Crusader or Cavalier. Reavers are less restricted, though not by very much. They are still expected to use swords as primary weapons, unless a religious or cultural alternative is available.


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