This is still very much a work in progress and subject to change.
Full name: The Order of the Protectors
Emblem: A gold cross on a blue background.
Uniform: Blue with a gold cross. For full knightbrothers it is full platemail armor (to be worn as much as possible) with a blue tabard over it. Centered on the chest is a gold cross. For Laybrothers and non-brothers a blue tunic or shirt with a gold cross on the chest on the upper left or right (either is acceptable).
Leader: Knightmaster Godric Neville Kenward
Second in Command: Senior Knight Commander Sir Jacob Harrick
Headquarters: Thrush Castle - Headquarters for the Order. Southern Midlands, the eastern slopes of the Sathmore mountains. Roughly close to the m in Sathmore. Named for the Mountain thrush birds that nest in the area.
Size: Several thousand but exact numbers are a secret. Usually estimated at around 1 -2,000 full brothers. Also known to control 8 castles of various sizes. Mostly small ones.
Founded: Officially recognized in 611CR with the merging of 7 smaller orders. Some of the smaller orders date back as far as the 457CR.
Nature of the Organization: The Order of Protectors is a Knightly military order that exists in the Midlands. Unlike most knightly orders which are mostly of a social/political nature this order is organized more along military lines and it's members are professional, full time fighters. Although small in numbers their better training and leadership make them a lot more formidable than their usual feudal opponents. They are military professionals in a world of amateurs.
Founded to help protect Followers threatened by many enemies (Including but not limited to the Lightbringers). They still carry out this task. Technically they are loyal to the Patriarch but act for the most part independently.
They are a lot more mellow than the larger Order of the Shields. They are dealing with a more scattered problem than the Shields whose main opposition is clear and easy to find on the border with the Sathmore empire.
The order is divided into several different branches:
- Brothers of the Sword - this is essentially a full time army complete with cavalry, infantry, artillery and even a small air force. Nicknamed 'The Swords'.
- Wandering Brothers - This is the less organized aspect of the order. Mostly made up of members who are not permanently assigned to a task. Most act as trouble shooters moving about on tasks that don't really fall into the other categories. Edmund (see below) is a member. His task was to handle small problems like a gang of bandits plaguing a town, raiders attacking a pilgrim caravan…). A goodly number of paladins are in this group. Their unique mixture of knightly/priestly skills are wasted among the Swords.
- Brothers of the Cloth - The order has a small number of full time regular priests.
- Lay Brothers - The order has a large number of workers and craftsmen who work for the order but not taken the full vows. Most full members start as lay brothers.
- Hired help - with too many places and not enough members the order does have a considerable number of employees. People hired to do things. Always non-combat like stonemasons, cleaning staff etc …
- Feudal obligations - The order owns and controls land in many areas that come with peasants who owe feudal obligation to the order. Usually these people are allowed to pay their obligation with noncombat labor (like building or rebuilding things) or with a payment of cash or goods. This has the benefit of making the order self sufficient and not reliant on donations from people or money from the Ecclesia. A fact the Patriarch is not happy with.
- Hospitals and charity wards - The order does run a series of hospitals and charity wards.
Lord Jacob Harrick – Senior Knight Commander – nicknamed Lord Smiley for his total lack of a sense of humor.
Brother Helmutt - Older paladin & friend of Edmund
Knightmaster Godric Neville Kenward. Stands only 5'2" tall.
Brother Crosley - An old knightbrother whose specialty is fighting the undead. First mentioned in 'Pondering the Past' .
Brother Heddwyn - The order's historian. Conducted some of the first archeology excavations done by the order. Considered one of the founding fathers of archaeology. His book 'Uncovering the Past' is considered the first archaeology text. Mostly remembered by later generations as the namesake of the prestigious 'Heddwyn award' for archaeology,
For a real world example see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_order
Thrush Castle - Headquarters for the Order. Southern Midlands, the eastern slopes of the Sathmore mountains. Roughly close to the m in Sathmore. Named for the Mountain Thrush birds that nest in the area. All full brothers come here to train and taking their final vows. It still the home of most of the order. Built on one spur of a steep ridge line. It is surrounded on 3 sides by steep slopes.
Castle Brodarl - Near Ralathe, Southern Midlands. Close to Herstel Forest.
Cantel Roegh - (Castle Red) Located south of Ellcaran on the border with the Sathmore empire. Since the orders founding the fortress has been attacked 9 times and besieged twice. In the castles long history it's known to have changed hands (both peacefully and by violence) at least 12 times. During the Lutin invasion it changed hands no less then 6 times in 2 years. It holds the second largest contingent of the brothers. It is named Castle Red because of the red bricks used in its construction. The current fortress is less then 200 years old but the site has seen various fortifications for millenia. The order will do a series of archaeological excavations starting in CR920 that will find traces of previous buildings on site as old as 3500 years old.
Ambly Turnou - Near Vineta, Delavia Outer Midlands. Note that the surrounding countryside is 90% Lightbringer. The castle - a gift to the order is small. Really just a tall tower surrounded by a curtain wall. The order keeps a low profile here. They do not fly the orders banners and few know that an Ecclesia order owns the place. It is there to keep an eye on Marigund to the west,the Aelves to the east and Elderwood to the north. It is considered a hazard posting and only full brothers are assigned there.
Cantel Leonine: Lion Castle. Located over a hundred miles inside the Flatlands. It is the most isolated and distance place the order maintains. Named for the prides of lions known to frequent the area. Rumor has it at least one pride of werelions inhabit the area and are supposedly on good terms with the Knights.
Fulgar Castle: Located in the town of Fulgar, a few hours north of Komley, Northern Midlands. Mostly intended to keep an eye on the threat from the Giantdowns. The order only just recently came into possession of the place and has yet to really fully move in.
High Wolf Castle: Located in the northern part of the Midlands on the southern edge of the Great Barrier Range. Close to where the border of the Southern Midlands/Outer Midlands meets the Barrier range. Between two (unnamed rivers). An old fortress located high up on a mountainside. VERY remote and very hard to get to. The origin of it's name is lost to time. An archeology excavation by the order (The first of many over the centuries) in the 800's will show that a structure of some sort on the site for over 3,000 years. The current fortress was built by one of the orders merged to create the Protectors. It was meant as a final, last stand, doomsday bunker in case of another Lutin invasion and the crash of civilization. Some of the tunnels sunk deep into the mountain run down for hundreds of feet and could protect their occupants from a nuclear blast. Definitely overkill but after the apocalypse of the invasion of 150CR understandable.
Marigund: Recently there has been talk of the order taking control of a castle in or very close to Marigund. With the increasing religious tensions in the Midlands it is seen as a measure of safety. The order itself is not too happy with the idea -seeing it as sure to cause even more trouble in an already troubled area. Technically the order does have a presences there. A single brother who (occasionally) travels as part of the cardinal's entourage but the brother does not often go to Marigund itself.
The order has several issues that threaten it. Some internal, some external. The order is technically loyal to the Patriarch and must take orders from him. But they act independently. This semi-independence has caused trouble with past Patriarchs who try to control the order more closely.
Another more serious issue is politics. The orders tasks is to protect the Ecclesia and their property and that is all. The order strives very hard to remain above petty political conflicts usually with good results but more than one nobleman has tried to drag the order into a secular conflict. Another problem is that exactly what is their responsibility and what powers they have. In the Pyralian kingdoms that is fairly easy - just stop the Sathmore. In the Midlands things are a lot more confused. Everything is mixed up and the differences get difficult to figure out. In one famous incident the order sent some Wandering brothers to 'help' in a conflict they were told involved Lightbringers ruthlessly raiding Follower caravans. Upon arrival they found it was a greedy nobleman using the Lightbringers as an excuse to expand his territory. The noble was most upset when the brothers took him under arrest and let his son take control.
And no nobleman likes some outside group (regardless of their religion) coming in and telling them what to do. Often this leaves the order in a difficult situation. But it has proved it's worth many times over. Often they get involved because they are outsiders who can be trusted to handle things honestly and fairly. They often wind up mediating disputes between Followers.
There is among some members a desire to add another branch to the order: Slayers. These are Follower knights who believe that instead of just fighting all the enemies of the Patriarch they should be killing them regardless of age or gender. The MK version of 'Kill them all, let God sort them out'. The group is thankfully small but it's presence does worry the higher ranking knights.
Size: One big problem the order faces is size. In spite of serious attempts at growth it is still very much a small group. Too few people to cover too large an area. The necessity of defending a border with the Sathmore empire draws a lot of strength often leaving the order over stretched in the rest of the midlands. One example is during the Winter Assault Edmund was the ONLY full brother in the northern Midlands. A fact the order has since corrected and now has 10 full brothers there. Which is STILL a ludicrously small number. To counter that the order recently gained control of Fulgar castle. A small castle which it is planned to be home to over 100 Brothers and three times that many lay brothers and soldiers.
The order owns and controls land in many areas that come with peasants who owe feudal obligation to the order. Usually these people are allowed to pay their obligation with noncombat labor (like building or rebuilding things) or with a payment of cash or goods. This has the benefit of making the order self sufficient and not too reliant on donations from people or money from the Ecclesia. A fact the Patriarch is not happy with.
One rich crop is mustard which is shipped all over the Midlands. The order marks each barrel or bag with a gold mustard flower on a blue circle. (They used to use a gold cross but that tended to limit sales.) In a sincere bit of irony the spice has become popular as of late in Sathmore. A trade the order is encouraging as it means there are more things crossing the border than raiding parties.
Another is various wood that is cut and shipped all over. One of their best customers is (ironically) Marigund which pays large sums for the Euldarn and Yew trees for use in making bows. Needless to say the order has mixed feelings on that.
The Marigund Civil war (the Burning) was a key reason for the orders formation. The Order of the Shields at it's formation was given all of the continent as it's responsibility. But it concentrated it's efforts on the Sathmore empire and the Pyralian kingdoms. This problem came to the forefront during the Marigund Civil war. By the time the Shields noticed the 'small problem' the Burning was already a year old and the fighting was in full swing. The Brother sent to handle the issue hadn't been to the Outer Midlands in 20 years and did not understand what was happening. His attempts to stop it failed but he was successful in keeping it from spreading beyond Marigund. The Duke of Salinon eventually managed to bring peace back to the shattered country. In the aftermath the Patriarch realized he needed an Order dedicated to just the Midlands and its unique situation. There were already several smaller groups in existence. The oldest and largest (the Order of the Mountain Protectors) had been founded in 457CR. The Patriarch ordered all these groups merged to form one large organization which had the size and numbers the smaller ones had lacked.
Southern Civil War - In 707 a bloody civil war happened which the order failed to stop. The reasons for this as of yet remain unknown but is a serious failing or the order. It might have been due to the order being too busy elsewhere and just not realizing the problem till far too late. Many believe that the order has become TOO obsessed with defending the Sathmore border and ignoring the rest of the Midlands. The headquarters of the order is at Chough Castle located in the far southern portion of the Southern Midlands. There is talk of rethinking the Orders priorities and moving the HQ to a more central location.
Predecessor Organizations: The Order of Protectors was created by merging a number of smaller orders into one. Some of those orders are as follows:
Order of the Mountain Protectors.
All knightbrothers must wear full platemail armor with a blue tabard over it. Centered on the chest is a gold cross.
For Laybrothers and non-brothers a blue tunic or shirt with a gold cross on the chest on the upper left or right (either is acceptable). Or a blue tabard with the cross on the upper left or right if wearing armor.
Knightmaster - Head of the order.
Senior Knight Commander - Second in command
Marshal - In charge of the Brothers of the Sword and all lay brothers in a military role. Nicknamed The Senior Sword.
Senior Lay Sword - Highest ranking non-brother in the Swords. Always very skilled and well respected. Second in command below the Marshal.
Knight Commander - Insignia__ - Gold edging on their tunic or tabard. Helmet has a small crest of gold horsehair.
Knight Sergeant - A sergeant brother. Insignia - Silver edging on their tunic or tabard. Helmet has a small crest of blue horsehair.
Knight - Lowest rank of a brother who has taken all the vows. Has no Rank insignia but their tabard has the gold cross telling that they are full Brothers.
Knight-initiate - not yet a member of the order but a recruit who is working towards membership. Rank insignia- They wear armor with the blue tabard over it but NO Cross.
Lay Commander -
Lay Sergeant - A person who is not a Brother (not taken the vows) but possessing considerable knowledge and skills. Often thought of as equal to a knight Sergeant.
Lay Sword - A soldier of the order who has not taken the vows of the order. A common soldier who possesses combat skills.
Quartermaster - In charge of the logistics. Also called the Sulbier.
Turpular - Commands the Wandering Brothers. Always a Knight Commander.
Hospitaler - In charge or the order various hospitals and charity wards.
Castellan - A senior Brother (usually a Knight Commander) who is in charge of a castle. Insignia__ - Gold edging on their tunic or tabard which has a Gold cross in the center and a small gold tower on the right, upper corner. Helmet has a small crest of gold horsehair.
Senior Lay Brother - in charge of the lay membership of the order who are NOT in military positions. Sometimes called The Housekeeper.
Senior Brother of the Clothe - In charge of the orders full time priests. Always themselves a priest.
To gain acceptance to the order requires several things. First to be a nobleman and Second to be a Follower. The order requires that a person wishing membership MUST be a nobleman but have been known to allow the exact details of that to be hazy. There is one known case of a merchant whose son wanted to join the order but couldn't as he was not a noble. He bribed a local nobleman and his son was knighted on a Sunday. The young man applied to the order the next day and was accepted! He did become a full brother and served for over 3 decades. The man did earn the nickname of Ul-retar (wet ink) from the joke that his letters of nobility were so new the ink was still wet.
There is a large LOOPHOLE in that Nobleman rule. This loophole says that a person who has been a faithful lay brother for 4 years can apply to become a knight-initiate and that he MUST be accepted (no exceptions allowed - not even for lack of nobility). This does not mean he will pass the rigorous tests and challenges of an initiate but it means he will be given a fair chance. Many a knight-brother has taken that path to membership and at least two have risen to the level of Knightmaster. This is a tact admission by the order that nobles willing to take the vows are hard to come by. This makes increasing or even maintaining membership numbers difficult. So allowing non-nobles to join gives then access to a larger pool of potential members. Anyone who does pass the tests and challenges is AUTOMATICALLY given a knighthood and a patent of nobility. That title is real but has no real feudal powers behind it.
Marriage: The order has a unique situation regarding the marriage of a Knightbrother. All full brothers take (among other vows) a vow of celibacy. BUT if a Knightbrother wishes to marry he can do so but he must get special dispensation from the Knightmaster. There are at the moment around 200 married brothers.
Leaving the Order
The order does not like to lose members but it's understood that the rigorous lifestyle of a Knightbrother is not for everyone. So a Knight who wishes to leave can do so. No penalty or punishment. Such an ex-member can rejoin the order but to do so they must apply and pass the same challenges of a knight-initiate.
BUT a knight who is FORCED to leave the order as punishment cannot return but such a punishment is rarely used.