The Grim Mantle
The Order of the Blazing Sun
The Order of the Blazing Sun
The Order of the Blazing Sun is a small order by comparison to some, yet the order is old, well established and very wealthy. The order has a reputation for being a small and elite fighting force, often operating as deadly part of a larger force. The order is unique in its decision to offer protection and services to the outlying towns and cities whilst also maintaining all of its operational and logistical requirements in house. However despite its well renown reputation, some other paladin orders are suspicious of the Order of the Blazing Shields inclusion of the Inquisition into its ranks and its use of subterfuge.
The Chapter master has the right to veto a decision, however this is a rare occasion and even a Chapter Master would have to explain his reasoning for such a decision. The three chapters make up the bulk of the order and each has different duties within the order.
The three chapters are all considered to be of equal rank and importance, however the High Inquisitor has always been ranked higher than the other members of the High Council, even so the High Inquisitor cannot make decisions that affect the order without a majority vote of the high council.
The shield is the main fighting force of the orders armies. This chapter trains in conventional warfare and squad tactics. They also run and maintain the Orders forges and Relic weapons. The orders diplomats are also members of the chapter of the shield, and although they would not normally go to war they are fully trained knights.
The chapter of the Sword is smaller than the Shield, yet in many cases more formidable. The sword is the long arm of the order, trained in smaller confrontations and skirmishes, the sword maintains patrols around the towns under the protection of the order and also act as Arbiters and Judges for the disputes and injustices of these towns.
In war the sword would operate in the Vanguard of the main fighting force, or as small special detachments sent to handle important tasks. The sword also manages the basic training of new recruits and the Justice system of the order itself. The knights Templar are trained in single combat and horsemanship.
The Chapter of the Hand are the healers of the order, They comprise of 3 parts, the Infirmary, that deals primarily with members of the order, the Clinic that deals primarily with people outside of the order and the Apothecaries that deal with research. The chapter of the hand also deals with healing lands as well as people, and is often called in to heal blighted lands and help barren crops grow.
The Inquisition is the chapter of the Order that deals with the subversive and underground elements. The Inquisition operates under the ideal that sometimes things must be done for the greater good. The Inquisition is still bound by the same rules that govern all paladins, and must act in a manner that is Lawful and Good, however the nature of their tasks grant them some leniency with the Lawful part. The Inquisition is very secretive even to other members of the order, however it is known that many of them practise magical arts, learning spells that control the mind and controlling the power of fire in battle. The inquisition also employs many informants and information gatherers that exist outside of the order. However the main job of the Inquisition is to tend to the purity of the order itself, recently after the events in the town of Kovax the Inquisition has been charged with seeing to the purity of the towns under the orders protection as well.
The Chapter of the Scribes is the fifth and final chapter of the Order, The scribes are almost as secretive as the inquisition when it comes to their activities, however it is known that the Chapter of scribes deals with chronicling the deeds of the order, and enchanting various armour and weapons for the order. The scribes also sometimes hint at a task involving the interpretation of some ancient prophesy however they only ever release details when and if it suits them.
The scribes have recently started a new project involving inscribing some of the more basic healing methods of the Chapter of the hand, in order to educate people in how to tend wounds and ailments.
The Chapter of Absolution
The other chapter in the order is the chapter of Absolution, this is a chapter in name only, consisting of criminals and heretics that have been captured by the order. If a criminal is charged with death, they may opt for the Chapter of absolution instead, this chapter takes all that wish to enter, on one condition. All members of the Chapter of absolution are issued with an unbreakable magic collar that cannot be removed. This collar allows the order to track the Absolvers (as they are known individually) anywhere they might go and pin point their location immediately. The collar will also explode if the wearer performs any significantly evil deed. This chapter is a last chance for any criminals or even Paladins that have turned their back on the order.
Should the Absolver manage to distinguish themselves in the eyes of the order they may be granted conscription into the order for life, however it is very difficult to impress the order from the ranks of Absolution and many will die long before they are granted a pardon. This doesn’t stop many criminals and oath breakers from taking a shot at the chance of (partial) freedom. In the past on rare occasions ex members of the Chapter of Absolution have risen to great heights in the order, one such ex-Absolver even became Marshal of the sword.
The Judicators are the knights of the order that deal with the law and legal system, The order of the Blazing Shield employs a method of legal resolution that uses the Adversarial model. Two Judicators will Argue for and against the crimes of the accused, before an arbiter if both sides argue equally then Balthazar will give clarity to the arbiter to dispense justice.
The Judicators and Arbiters are all part of the Chapter of the sword, and are all skilled swordsmen as well as skilled wordsmiths. The laws of the order take precedent over the laws of the local area, so many people will approach the order for justice when conventional means have failed them. However the Judicators only deal with first tier justice, as in major disputes, murder, banditry and crimes against humanity.
The judicators believe that everyone has a right to a fair trial should they want one, if a criminal chooses to throw away that right it is their own choice and the order will assume an admission of guilt. The Judicators often preach that sometimes the application of justice must be postponed in order for the guilty party to face a fair trial and have even gone so far as to protect hardened criminals from harm at the cost of their own lives so that the criminal can face fair trial.
They are fanatically loyal to the ideals of justice and fairness.
Crusaders and Invictus
The right of the Crusade is a sacred tradition of the order dating back to the first Order Master known only as The Knight of the Flame. It is said that The Knight of the Flame completed a great feat for his order and as a reward he was given enough land and wealth to start the Order of the Blazing shield. In honour of its humble beginnings the order still holds the rite of Crusade in high regard, although Crusade means something much different to the Order of the Blazing Shield. The rite of Crusade can be granted to well regarded paladins in cases of great dishonour or as a reward from exceptional devotion to duty.
The rite of Crusade is looked upon as not only a great honour but also a great sacrifice on the behalf of the paladin conducting the crusade. A crusade is normally a near impossible task, that the Crusader must conduct alone. These tasks may included slaying a terrible foe or retrieving a lost artefact or Relic weapon. should a crusade be completed the crusader is automatically inducted into the hall of Bellator Invicti, the returned crusader is also granted a special rank for their successful crusade, the suffix title of Invictus.
The Invictus answer to the Marshal of their Chapter and are granted an honour guard of the orders best. The Invictus are granted vast access to the orders resources and are looked very favourably upon for promotion. However the rite of Crusade can only be granted by chapter Marshals and higher so crusaders are rare, also the massive danger of these tasks makes returned Crusaders rarer still. at any given time the order is lucky to have two Invictus serving at any one time, the highest number of serving Invictus the order has ever known was Five.
During their quest the crusaders are permitted to take on hirelings, followers and allies to aid them, should the crusade be completed the Order will grant each of the allies great favour and will allow them to be inducted into the order should they choose to. These allies will often go on to positions of power within the order but rarely move in rank higher than the Invictus themselves. The allies will have the choice of being assigned a chapter that suits their own talents or being trained in a chapter of their choosing, the order takes many non-paladins for such chapters as the Inquisition and the Chapter of the hand so the order can accommodate allies from several backgrounds and skill sets. If an Ally has proven himself worthy to the Invictus he may plea to the Chapter commander for absolution of his former crimes, but this is request is not always granted.
When a Crusader returns after completing his Crusade, the allies that have accompanied him on his quest are hailed as heroes almost as much as the Crusader themselves. Aside from being granted an honorary induction into the order. The allies will be granted many boons and gifts, this may include some of the finest equipment in the armoury (but never the Relic weapons) sums of money and even in some cases small plots of land. When the Allies are inducted into the order they will be permitted to join any of the Chapters of the order, however they will need to be talented in the ways of that chapter, or willing to receive training. For example a mage might be encouraged to join the Inquisition, but should they wish to join the Chapter of the Shield they will require training.
The inducted Allies will be made to swear an oath of loyalty to the order that states they will not turn against the Order or do the Order, or its subjects harm, breaking this Oath is an automatic Death sentence. If an Allies Alignment prevents them from joining the order they may be offered compensation, or the right to operate as an affiliate of the order instead of a standing initiate. Affiliates are offered restricted resources, but will still be afforded the full co-operation of the order, provided their intentions are lawful and good.
Tenants of the faith
The Order of the Blazing shield venerates the sun as the shining shield of Balthazar casting it’s rays across the world and bringing light to the darkness. The chapters represent the different aspects of Balthazar’s protection, sometimes referred to as the fingers of the fist. The Shield protects the innocent, the hand heals their wounds the sword cuts down those that would do them harm, the Inquisition fights the threat within and the scribes remind us of the foes we’ve faced in the past.
The order looks down upon senseless martyrdom as a waste, encouraging it’s members to preserve life where ever possible. The order does emphasize that it’s members must put the lives of the innocent above their own but to throw their life away is an insult to Balthazar, Paladins of the order are encouraged to retreat from certain defeat so they can gain the upper hand in the next battle. This rule has aided the survival of the comparatively small order, however this rule is never mistaken for cowardice when an outsider sees the legendary tenacity and valour of the Order of the Blazing Shield.
The order of the Blazing Shield often teaches that sometimes the best way to beat an obstacle is not to go through it but around, and to that end have often employed unconventional methods
Paladins of the order are permitted and even encouraged to take lovers and spouses, the order does not prohibit promiscuous sex and promotes relationships between members of the order. The Chapter of the Hand includes a comprehensive maternity ward and children born to members of the order are looked upon as promising new recruits. Children born out of wedlock are not treated any differently than children of a married couple.
Paladins of the order are not restricted by sex, male and female Paladins fight side by side.
The order believes strongly in the mighty god Balthazar, however the order also looks upon the worship of any lawful, good god as something to be admired and encouraged. Guests of the order and many of the support staff are even permitted to worship their own gods, however the initiated members of the order are all sworn to serve Balthazar.
The Order sees only 4 crimes as worthy of a death sentence, those crimes are, Murder, Rape, Oath-breaking and extreme cruelty. Many other crimes would be punishable, but not by a death sentence.
Even in the case of a death sentence a criminal may opt for the order of Absolution instead, but the severity of their crimes will affect their acceptance into the Order proper.
Many paladins of the order hold a special grudge against human enemies and cultists after the recent events in Kovax, however the order has traditionally held a special hatred of the undead and Necromancers. Some squads in the Chapter of the sword still teach the ways of the Knights Exorcist, a discipline dedicated to destroying undead foes, yet this is become much rarer now, as the Order faces less undead foes.
The Blazing Shield is considered quite wealthy for a Paladin order, this wealth is accumulated through a combination of wealthy initiates, generous donations from the surrounding towns and villages and the fees charged by the order for the Judicators settling disputes. The Chapter of the Scribes often uses this wealth for philanthropic means, and as investment capital for local endeavours. The order has also been known to grant loans to citizens in good standing with the order, however the citizen must swear an oath to the order to abide the rules of the contract, and breaking this oath would mark the citizen for death.
Due to this wealth the Armouries of the order are well equipped with magical weaponry and armour, not to mention the mighty Relic weapons. The standard equipment of a paladin of the order is likely to be much higher quality than other Paladin orders might enjoy.
The mighty Relic weapons are one of the Order of the Blazing Shields most valued assets. These weapons are passed down from generation to generation, with some dating back to before the order was established. The Relic weapons take many different shapes and forms, and are only issued to the most promising young recruits, or Paladins who have excelled greatly in any given field.
When a Paladin dies his Relic weapon is returned to the armoury to be passed on to the next generation, however should a paladin live long enough to retire, their duty will be to spend the twilight years of their life researching ways to make their Relic weapon even more powerful. The Relic weapons are almost sentient and take on some of the spirit of their wielder. They also imparting to the wielder the wisdom and skill of all the paladins that have held them before, It is rumoured that a Relic weapon can even communicate with its bearer in extreme circumstances, however the is only anecdotal evidence to support this.
In a practical sense this means that as the Paladin uses the weapon more and more link between the weapon and the wielder grows stronger, and the weapon will impart more knowledge and skill to the wielder, improving in power and ability. When a Paladin is first issued with their Relic weapon it would have little more magical effect than a very basic magical weapon, but as the bond between the weapon and wielder grows stronger the weapons magical strengths will become stronger as well, the weapon will often gain new magical powers as this bond intensifies.
Due to the power and rarity of these weapons it is considered to be a great honour to be issued with a Relic weapon, they are not issued lightly.
Should a Relic weapon ever be lost, the order will issue a Crusade to a highly trusted member of the order to retrieve it. This Crusade will take a very high priority and the paladin that is entrusted with this Crusade could be pulled from other duties in order to conduct the Crusade. If the circumstances of the weapon being lost make it impossible for a single Crusader to accomplish then the order may even go to war to retrieve it. however this is extremely rare only ever happening twice in the Orders history.