From: "Wayne S. Rossi"
Subject: [GREYTALK] Baklunish Faiths: Reverent Order of Guardians (Al'Akbar sect)
All right. Just because I do this stuff as I think of it, I've expanded greatly on the Reverent Order of Guardians from my Al'Akbar writeup, and I think you'll like them. They're the closest I have to a Baklunish sect of paladins, crusaders, and the like. The history at the beginning does eventually lead into the Order. Enjoy!
The Baklunish Faiths
The Reverent Order of Guardians
Sect of the faiths of Al'Akbar, LG Baklunish demigod of Guardianship, Faithfulness, and Duty
History of the Order
In the dark days following the Invoked Devastation, as the survivors of the Baklunish Empire struggled to stay alive, some went to farms and cities and others gave it up for a nomadic lifestyle in the untamed East, harrying passing tribes of Oeridians and the attempting settlers. As the coastal towns of Ekbir and Zeif were slowly growing and expanding, though, the second Bey of Ekbir died without leaving an heir behind. After the strife-filled year of BH 2339 (321 years before the crowning of an Overking in Rauxes), an influential priest of the new, fresh faith of Al'Akbar gathered a large group of followers together and put the town under martial law. The various factions, descended from surviving nobles of the old Empire, all had equally valid claims to the seat of the Bey, as far as the priest could tell. This wise, charismatic leader named Xevian deliberated over what choice would keep the town from falling apart, and came to the conclusion that there was no noble he could support as Bey and withstand attacks from the other families.
After a week of martial law, under mounting tension, Xevian conferred with and gained the support of the region's Ara Datras. The next day, he was crowned as the first Caliph of Ekbir. The valiant followers who had supported Xevian's takeover of the city were given the option to return to their earlier lives, or to be the Caliph's Honor Guard, keeping order in the city and around it. To the new ruler's surprise, every man accepted. A decade later, Xargun died, leaving his son Arimun to the Caliphate. Whereas his father was concerned with establishing and maintaining control over his lands, Arimun (who had been but 12 when his father took the city, but proudly wore the ceremonial tunic of the Honor Guard before his coronation) was a forward-thinker. He declared that each Caliph would choose his successor from amongst the priesthood of Al'Akbar, and instituted a fair, if strict, code of law that is still mostly in place in modern Ekbir. However, it is most notable that Arimun kept the Honor Guard, and expanded their ranks, creating a second tradition that would last for centuries.
A century later, as Xevian III sat on the throne in BH 2457 (a mere 202 years before the Overking), the three border cities of Zeif on the Tuflik-Sefmur, Ceshra, and Hlobala (Lopolla)-flourished. The Honor Guard of Ekbir now paled in comparison to the Zeifa soldiers, especially those of Sefmur who civilized the Tusman Plain. Seeing that the needs of the Baklunish people lay outside of just defending the now-great city of Ekbir, Xevian III freed the Guard from its royal bind, and instead declared that they would take orders from the highest ranking priest of Al'Akbar, be he Caliph or Ou Elshia, or any other rank.
The Honor Guard languished for years, becoming mercenaries on the borderlands, until the Tusman Revolution of BH 2486 (174 years before the Aerdi calendar began), when they had a purpose. At Caliph Arimun IV's urging, the former Honor Guard aided Raenal of Sefmur in becoming independent of Zeif. A mere eight years later, the group (bolstered greatly by many idealistic Tusmites) dissolved only to re-form as the Reverent Order of Guardians, an independent sect of Al'Akbar's church that was formally to take orders from Ou Elshias of the faith in Zeif and the new Tusmit, and from the Caliph himself in Ekbir. Eventually, the Order grew to recognize great theologians of its own as Ou Elshias, and they are granted the same respect as those of the other faiths.
Setup and Dogma
The members of the Reverent Order are known as Veril Datras, which is commonly translated as "Guardian of the Faith" or "Holy Warrior," both of which are very appropriate to the group. There is a rather cell-like hierarchy to the Order, where each Veril Datras of sufficient expertise (9th level) is in charge of from one to four younger Veril Datras. Beyond this, all Veril Datras are viewed as equals, except in deeds, where one is truly judged by his own merits. Great holy warriors have gone down in history as the most valiant and bold of Baklunish heroes. Most members also hold military rank in Ekbir, Tusmit, or Zeif, all of which embrace the Order by now. There are approximately 870 Veril Datras in the Order at present, with 450 in Ekbir, 250 in Tusmit, and 170 in Zeif. Each town has a khasvel (chapter), and each city has several.
Many Veril Datras ride alongside the medium cavalry of the Baklunish nations, and are legendary for leadership as well as fighting skills. They are always distinguishable from an average Bakluni, for a Veril Datras will wear a short-sleeved knee-length black tunic, with a silver and gold silk sash at the waist, and an 8-pointed gold star (reputedly, these are actually gold) over the heart. A similar star on black is painted on the shield of a Veril Datras. Most wear chain mail and wield scimitars, flails, and lances, in true Baklunish fashion. Only a handful (5% of the Order) are foot soldiers; the rest are light cavalry (and also excellent archers) or medium cavalrymen.
The core mission of the Veril Datras is to serve and protect the lands and people of Civilized Bakluna from Paynim or Nomad incursion, and in the case of extremity, from outside civilizations (such as the Flanaess). Beyond that, a member of the Order will almost exclusively choose to protect his homeland from attack by another Baklunish state. 30 such Veril Datras function in the Tusman Hills, fighting alongside Tusmite regulars against the occasional border invasions by Ketite soldiers and mercenaries, and making advances of the Tusmite border as possible. Interestingly, there is not a
stable core of Veril Datras in Ket, with a transient core that rarely numbers above a dozen.
The Reverent Order of Guardians is a greatly law-abiding group, and they tend to be shining examples of the best in Baklunish ethics and propriety. They have been known to dissuade fellow soldiers from much distasteful conduct, much to the delight of the leaders of occupied towns and the like.
Military service is not the only option for a Veril Datras, though. Many are noteworthy adventurers, and they are often called the Baklunish equivalent of the Flanaess's ideal knight, the Paladin. Indeed, there are quite a number of Paladins and Crusaders amongst the Veril Datras, and fighters also. Adventuring Order members can expect hospitality almost anywhere in civilized Bakluna, and in many places in Lopolla (though not the rest of Ket).
Joining the Order
A would-be member of the Reverent Order of Guardians does not have an easy time of it. The first requirement is that he has a sponsor within the Order who is confident of the bravery, loyalty, morality, and skill at arms of the candidate. Should he prove worthy to be a Veril Datras, the candidate will be the sponsor's subordinate. Then, he must pass three tests. First, he must stand on a pedestal while every Veril Datras in the Order's local khasvel (usually about a score) is given the opportunity to hurl insults, strike him with a truncheon, and spit on his person. If he does not cry for mercy, he has passed the first test. The second test requires the participant to be blindfolded and his head dunked in a vat of ice water for more than half a minute, held there by his sponsor, and he may not strike or attempt to free his face. If these two fairly simple trials are passed, there is a trial by arms the next day, and if the applicant lasts for five minutes, he is a Veril Datras, and the black tunic is given to him.
When a member is ready to advance and be free of his superior, he is taken down to Antalotol, and a day's ride south into the Paynim lands. His horse is taken, and he is left with a water skin, a scimitar, and his clothes (no armor) and told to return to Antalotol. Once he does, he is on his own and may sponsor other Veril Datras.
Wayne S. Rossi