The Legend of Godsbane
Disease, famine, and warfare wracked Rassilon during the decades after the Blizzard War. Clerics, once the lynchpins of society, were powerless to stop the rapid disintegration of society. Although civilization quickly regained a slim foothold, the former kingdoms had shattered into rival city-states, baronies, and jarldoms. As the winters deepened and the Hellfrost beasts began their rapacious attacks, those unable, or unwilling, to hire the many mercenaries who found their services greatly in demand looked to their neighbors for aid. Charity, however, became a thing of the past.
Baron Arthan Gulver was a minor Anari lord among many. One night he dreamt of two dragons, one gold and one white, fighting. The Hellfrost dragon slew the gold, and the land of Rassilon became covered in ice, its people enslaved by frost giants. On awakening, Gulver realized his dream was a dire warning. If the people did not stop their petty feuds, the winter would devour them. Summoning his 12 most loyal knights, Gulver presented them with a vision of stability, a vision of hope.
They would found a new order of knights, the Hearth Knights, whose duty it would be to aid any township in peril, protect the southern lands (the most densely populated), and to fight against the Hellfrost hordes. Although few in number, the knights were more than a match for the bands of thugs and mercenaries troubling the land, and support for them quickly grew. Although they asked for no reward, the order grew rich on dona-tions from grateful citizens and from the treasuries of the goblin and orc nests they cleared. Gulver was a pragmatist. He knew that no matter how powerful the knighthood became, it did not have the resources to stop the advance of winter. In his final days, he summoned his inner circle and ordered them to construct a castle across the mouth of Hellfrost Pass.
The mountains were a natural barrier to the advancing ice, and the pass was the only route through for the fell denizens of the north lands. Although it took almost a century to construct, Hellfrost Keep was completed to Gulver’s design. Gulver’s corpse was entombed in the crypt beneath the stout walls. Since Gulver’s death, the snow has advanced consid-erably further, bringing with it harsher winters and more dangerous beasts. With famine and disease returning, not to mention countless thousands of refugees fleeing the ice, the knights have found their resources stretched. Patrols in strength are limited to the three forts around Hellfrost Keep, leaving the northern settlements to fend for themselves. The situation is far worse in the west, where the Knights’ presence is minimal. Lone knights still take battle into the frozen wastes, but the order as a whole is refocusing its attention to ensuring no evil crosses through Hellfrost Pass.
Within the Hearth Knights are three distinct orders, the Shield, Sword, and Lance. The lowest ranking knights are the Shield Knights. They guard Hellfrost Pass and man the forts in Heligio-land, as well as any towns and villages within the borders who will allow their presence. Although they perform patrols, they are primarily a static force, waiting for the enemy to make his presence felt before they strike. Next there are the Sword Knights, who actively travel the Hellfrost in search of beasts to slay. Sword Knights usually operate from the forts rather than Hellfrost Keep, traveling deep into the wastes for extended periods and
returning only to resupply and make reports.
In order to become a Sword Knight, a knight must spend six months in the outer Hellfrost and slay a fearsome Hellfrost beast in single combat. In game terms, the creature must have the Immunity (Cold) ability and have a Toughness rating at least 6 higher than the knight’s.
The smallest order is the Lance Knights. These hardy souls spend much of their time in the Hellfrost core, tracking down and eliminating threats to the Hearth-lands, searching for routes through the great mountain ranges, and mapping the land. To qualify as a Lance Knight, a knight must first serve a minimum of a year as a Sword Knight. He must then quest into the Hellfrost for a minimum of six months and slay a powerful Hellfrost beast in single combat. In game
terms, the beast must have the Immunity (Cold) ability and have a Toughness rating at least 10 higher than the knight’s own.
Although all three orders of knights were created as equals (each just having a different role), over time the Lance Knights have come to be seen as superior to the Sword, and the Sword superior to the Shield. However, within each order there are actual ranks. Being the most numerous of the orders, the Shield Knights have the most rank distinctions. Shield Knights are the lowest rank, then Shield Sergeant, Shield Captain, and finally Shield Commander.
Within the Sword there are only Sword Knights, Sword Captains, and Sword Com-manders. Lance Knights don’t use any ranks, there being so few of them to make positions of leadership within
the order meaningless. The chain of command works on order, then rank.
A Lance Knight is seen as superior to all those beneath him, a Sword Commander senior to a Sword Captain, a Sword Captain is higher than a Sword Knight, a Sword Knight outranks a Shield Commander, and so on down. Knights are addressed as Sir or Lady <first name="true">
when not using their rank. Thus, Sword Captain Ivana Targinsdohtor can also be addressed as Lady Ivana.
At the very top of the order are the Masters, who take the title Lord or Lady. The head of the entire order is the Lord Marshal, who must be a Lance Knight. Beneath him is the Lord Deputy, his assistant and a Sword Knight, and the Lord Seneschal, a Shield Knight in charge of finances
and logistics. These titles never change because of the sex of the holder. Each Master selects his own successor, though ap-proval must be sought from one of the other Masters to prevent abuses of power, nepotism, and such from tainting the order.
The current heads of the Hearth Knights are Lord Marshal Jaufre Humbert (male Anari), Lord Deputy Ag-nes ap-Jurgen (female Anari), and Lord Seneschal Uther Penharksunu (male Saxa).
The order has a central banner, a long flag with a large white segment, a small blue segment, and a smaller black segment. These divides represent the three sub-orders of
knights and their comparative numbers. Shield Knights sport a stylized sun design, a circle
with eight radial triangles protruding from it. The shield is white and the triangles yellow. Sword Knights sport the emblem of a sword with a fiery blade. Lance Knights carry the emblem of a fiery lance piercing a Hellfrost dragon’s skull.