History of the Order of Voln
History of the Order of Voln is an Official GemStone IV Document, and it is protected from editing.
The History of the Order of Voln
Culoney of Hendor
- 1 Section I: Introduction
- 2 Section II: The Founding
- 3 Section III: The Early Crusade
- 4 Section IV: The Fiery Blade of Anodheles
- 5 Section V: The Sign of the Shield
- 6 Section VI: The Archives of Nydds
- 7 Section VII: The Unity of Waterford
- 8 Section VIII: The Immortal Company
- 9 Section IX: The Horned Cabal Wars
- 10 Section X: On the Fields of Tyllan
- 11 Section XI: The Four Days
- 12 Section XII: Before the Walls of Elstreth
- 13 Section XIII: Under the Shield Banner
- 14 Additional Information
Section I: Introduction
Life is a cycle. The soul is born, lives, and dies. In our world of Elanthia, this cycle is watched over and guided by our lords and ladies of Liabo. It is a delicate balance, in which resides the promise that every spirit will have the right to pass through the Gate of Ebon and to meet with the fate that waits beyond. The Keeper of the Keys, the Lady Lorminstra, watches over this final moment under the grace of her father, Lord Koar. It is her duty to ensure the balance of life and death, that the promise of peace awaits every soul that departs its body. Yet, in our world of good, there is evil, and evil cannot rest without action. In that the soul is among the greatest of our natural born qualities, it is also among the things most desired by those who live in shadow and wickedness, designing always to obtain it for purposes of bondage or vile consumption. Offering salvation to the souls of Elanthia and the evil that enslaves them is Lord Voln and the Order that carries his mandate.
In a war fought for balance, the great enemy, Luukos the Snake, devourer of souls, has for thousands of years sought to tilt the stability of our world to his advantage by stealing the spirits of both the living and the dead. Those spirits that are not consumed by his obscene hunger are enslaved within prisons, not of brick and mortar, but of rotting flesh and evil essence. Thus, the undead rise trapped within their own decaying bodies or within even greater and fouler constructs. The undead are creatures that exist to serve the Snake and other evils, to hate the living, and dwell only for the destruction of others; all the while, within them are souls anguishing for freedom from their fate. These abominations of life, so deemed by the Lady Lorminstra, destroy the living; they destroy the balance.
In a time and place unrecorded, this is how it all began.
That it was in the past is all that is known. That in a town, a village, or a hamlet, there lived a family who had a son. He might have lived a happy existence, before those creations of the Snake arrived. What is known is that by their hands, all that he loved and cherished was destroyed. If at the time he did not know how to wield a blade, he taught himself how. If at the time he knew nothing of armor and shields, he took to wearing chain mail of black and carrying a shield of white. His name was Voln and he dared to challenge a god: a human who had lost all and sought to bring vengeance to the one who had brought suffering to his world.
So it came to pass that the Lady Lorminstra, the enemy of the Snake, came to the warrior who had made it his life’s mission to defeat her foe and gifted him with the knowledge of his birthright. His father, no mortal, was the Lord of All and Everything, the Arkati Ruler, Koar. Under the discovery of his own immortality, Voln ascended to the moon Liabo and became a deity with powers proper to those of such status. From that day forth, Lord Voln continued his war against Luukos, seeking to free the souls enslaved within the prisons of the undead and to abolish such profane existences from the face of Elanthia. There is no date to mark the start of this great crusade; however, time does record a moment in which one of its most remarkable developments occurred.
Section II: The Founding
Before the Empress Selantha Anodheles raised the banner of the Turamzzyrian Empire over the western half of the continent, another empire lent its shield to the land and people. Known as the Kannalan Empire, it was not as racially homogeneous as our current empire. Ruled over mainly by a collection of giantmen, halflings, and humans, at its height, its culture and riches spread across much of the Imperial territories of today. For as much as one might admire its attempt at racial harmony, the failure to ultimately overcome the strife between the races led to a severe weakness in defense and an ultimate collapse under the onslaught of humanoid and undead invasions more than a thousand years ago. In the remnants of the empire, where cities fell and villages vanished from maps and history, defiant pockets of resistance to the inevitable existed.
Ballads remain of these individuals who fought to the end to preserve civilization from the hordes of barbarism, from the lone soldier to valiant companies ranging the countryside to protect the weak from harm. In the vicinity of the now ruined city of Kedshold, a Manor Lord fought desperately to avoid joining those songs of the fallen. His name was Fasthr K’Tafali, a giantman who led a company of his own people against the growing threat of the undead. They were all warriors, men and women who sought to protect theirs, and whose number dwindled after every engagement with the enemy. Every fight was a struggle in defeating the Snake’s minions, and every victory pyrrhic. K’Tafali bore the weight of leadership and the weight of the inevitable. He knew that ultimately the fields that had once been seas of wheat that rippled with waves of wind would become the bone yard for himself and his people. Defeat or flight seemed to be the only options. Yet the land called to them. It was the soil that had been tilled with the sweat of the labor of their ancestors and now, the blood of its defenders. It represented the past, the present, and the future, for as long as it remained, what was lost could be regained. It was on a night of forlorn hope, with a reported army of the undead several times their number slowly surrounding them, that history marked a change in the war against the Snake.
None had been forced to remain in the hours earlier that day that represented the last chance to escape the certainty of death that the horde symbolized. The Manor Lord had given all the chance to flee to the south or west, where the refugees of the once great Kannalan Empire now gathered, but none accepted. A defiant host they became and on the eve of battle, they sat around the fires of camp reflecting on the deaths of the past and the certain deaths of the future. It is written then that the flames of the fires burned white and rose into the heavens like pillars of light, turning night into day. From forth this light emerged a man in black armor, with face grim and eyes determined. On this day, Lord Voln began his instruction of Fasthr K’Tafali and his men in the means of defeating the undead.
It was not a process that was completed overnight, as the path of Lord Voln is not one easily taken and accomplished. The next day, the fact that the Manor Lord and his men stood alongside the son of Koar was enough to alter the fate of K’Tafali’s people and the Snake’s army was defeated. For three years, Lord Voln came and went, teaching techniques that in the future would symbolize an Order. In the year 4045, or 1300 by the Kannalan reckoning, the fields rippled with wind across the stalks of wheat, no bone yard yet. The threat of the undead that had come in the blackest night had been repulsed by K’Tafali and his followers.
On a day now unknown to us later that year, a statue was raised to the paladin of Lady Lorminstra outside of what is now the city of Krestle in the barony of Bourth; the Order of our Lord Voln was founded. On the banners flew the symbol of a white shield on a field of black; in the midst of darkness, it was a device of protection that represented not only Lord Voln and his crusade, but also the Order in its position in that time in place. While the Snake’s minions continued to plague the rest of the continent, a shield was raised in the region surrounding Kedshold. From among K’Tafali’s followers, men and women with white shield amulets around their neck set forth into the wilds with missionary zeal to accomplish the goal of their Lord Voln and to protect those in fear, as they had protected their own loved ones.
Section III: The Early Crusade
Those who swore their lives to the Order became brothers and sisters in arms, often seeking the darkest of realms where the threats of the Snake, the Jackal, and other evils were greatest to build their fortresses and outposts. Those buildings that survived eventually became monasteries where the most dedicated came to live and serve. Space for swords gave way in time to space for tomes, as the war to reclaim the land from the undead also became a war to reclaim the past. Time not spent training in arms and following the Path of Lord Voln was dedicated to saving the writings and histories of the past and the study of religious theory. By no means was the Order the only place where such was done, but it was one of the few, doing its work relatively unknown to all but members and traveling scholars. Thus, the early Order spread slowly in the eastern half of the former lands of the Kannalan Empire, while to the west a new power began to emerge over the next two hundred years.
The center of the Order was near Kedshold, where the great manor of Lord Fasthr K’Tafali had been converted into the first monastery of the Order. A hive of activity at the time, a visitor would have found the monastery constantly in motion, from the training of new followers in one section of the grand estate to the living quarters of the masters of the Order in another; it was here where soldiers for the cause returned from battle with the undead to recover from wounds, to bury and honor the fallen, and to prepare for the next engagement. In another area of the monastery, those who believed in Lord Voln and the Cause, but for one reason or another were unable to take up the sword, instead took up the hoe and spade and cultivated gardens and fields to feed and supply those who did. If one wished to serve in the Order, a way and purpose was always found.
Much of the energy of the time was devoted to the war against the undead with companies marching off under the black and white shield banner to seek out those hordes of the enemy that presented the greatest threat. Rarely did an equal number return, many instead departing down glory's road. In the thousand-year history of the Order, the militaristic aspect of Lord Voln’s cause reached its height in these early centuries, not to be matched again until the Horned Cabal Wars nearly seven hundred years later. Relatively few monasteries were successfully founded in this early part of the Order’s history. Those that were established were smaller than the K’Tafali Manor and done by grant of Fasthr K’Tafali, with their grandmasters placing themselves under his authority. It was a federal system of organization that later, under the stresses of history, evolved into the loosely confederated system that exists today.
Outposts of the Order were more numerous than full-fledged monasteries and were established in the surrounding regions of Kedshold. Often operated by no more than a dozen or so followers of the Order, they ranged in distance as near as the modern city of Waterford and as far as River’s Rest. In the shadows of the great surviving cities, the Order often nearly vanished behind the presence of the greater religious organizations such as the Church of Koar. Its greatest impact was with those who lived in the far more vulnerable villages and small towns, and often these were the source of the largest number of recruits to the Order. In the first two centuries, many a great deed was performed and many a fight won by the founding members of the Order.
During this time, our Lord’s battle was fought by the great strength and virtue of the giantmen. As opposed to the many races of Elanthia who comprise the Order in this present day, few non-giantmen wore the shield about the neck. As the Kannalan Empire had broken and splintered along racial lines, so had the Order been founded by a race of one. As the Order expanded and the Shield offered its protection to others, valiant heroes of other races rose to stand in common cause with the giantmen, and in time the grandmasters invited these heroes to join the brotherhood. Thus did the other races raise themselves to our Lord Voln’s mission, and as the centuries have passed, the membership of the Order has slowly shifted to reflect the racial trends of the region within which it was founded.
Section IV: The Fiery Blade of Anodheles
The history of the Order flows like a river to the sea. Its progress is inevitable, yet there are always falls and rapids which can severely disrupt and alter the very flow of the water along its journey. Nearly two hundred and fifty years into the history of the Order such a force of change occurred in the form of Selantha Anodheles and the expansion of the Turamzzyrian Empire. It is the beginning of an intertwining fate between the two entities that continues to our own modern day, as time and time again, the decisions made upon the Sun Throne in Tamzyrr drastically affect the Order of Lord Voln. The first such case occurred with the outbreak of war between the Turamzzyrian Empire and three surviving cities of the former Kannalan Empire, Gor’nustre, Kedshold, and Toullaire. Presently known as the War of the Kannalan Alliance by Imperial historians, the conflict began in the last twenty years of the forty-third century of our general history. The causes and reasons behind the war have no place to be discussed in this history, only the effects the war had upon the Order, which were severe. The initial implications of the war began with the closing of territories to ordlyn members of the Order, who sought to journey to monasteries and outposts located within Turamzzyrian borders. The Empire, while yet containing a percentage of elves and other non-humans amongst its population, deemed that the Kannalan Alliance would most likely make use of a sympathetic ordlyn population for the purposes of spying. Despite the work of the Order to help eliminate the minions of the Snake within Tamzyrr’s reaches, the brothers and sisters of our Lord Voln quickly found themselves unwelcome and unwanted.
Two years further into the war, as it developed into a frustrating stalemate for the Empire and the Alliance, Imperial officials increased the pressure on the non-humans within their borders. The ordlyn members of the Order were not exempt from the cruelty of the Empire. Incidents of ordlyn members, while in the midst of traveling from one location to another, of being arrested and even executed for spying were recorded in the annals of our histories for the time. It was in this time that the legend of the great elf Fineval originated.
Fineval, a prominent Master of a monastery north of Elstreth, and other ordlyn and hathlyn members of the brotherhood had been directed to leave the region by Imperial authorities or be arrested and tried for espionage. The brothers did not comply with the directive, for an undead menace had appeared in the vicinity of the village that the monastery safeguarded, and the brotherhood felt compelled to stay and face the threat. Fineval did not wish for violence between the followers of his monastery and the company of Imperial soldiers who had been sent to retrieve him, but the delay brought the brotherhood into violation of the directive. Thus, at Fineval’s request, the Order struck a compromise with an Imperial party to allow Fineval and his ordlyn and hathlyn brethren to deal with the undead first, in exchange for their uncontested surrender immediately after. For what he believed his last time, Fineval and his brothers went into the field and released the souls of the suffering. When the last of the undead had been sent onward for our Lady’s Gate, Fineval turned himself over to the Imperials.
Swayed by the Order’s bravery and adherence to duty, the commander of the Imperial company released Fineval and his band but bade them to travel into the wastes of the South lest they run afoul of other Imperial patrols. It would be a dangerous journey, but one by which Fineval and his band would be able to continue to follow the Mandate of our Lord. Otherwise, they would be condemned to the prisons of Tamzyrr and be deprived of our blessed mission. Master Fineval undertook the journey and led his followers deep into the wastes, never again to be seen within the Empire. It was believed by many that Fineval and his band had found death in the decision to follow our Lord and so joined the rolls of many martyrs for our cause. It was a time when the convictions of the followers of Lord Voln were tested, and the bonds they held with their fellow brothers and sisters tempered or shattered.
Section V: The Sign of the Shield
With the ongoing conflict and tenor of Selantha’s decrees, the giantman Grandmaster at K’Tafali Manor feared that the Empire would seize the founding monastery’s property, including its library. As a result, just prior to the incident with Fineval, the Grandmaster arranged for the documents within the monastery’s library and archives to be sent out in three directions: to the west to a monastery at Fairport in the Kingdom of Torre, to the east in the territory that would eventually become Highmount, and to the north to the recently founded Kingdom of Hendor and its small monastery in the city of Nydds. The main escort contingent were ordlyn, under the realization that to remain in the now Imperial-controlled land would result in detainment if not death.
Among those who departed from K'Tafali Manor was the Grandmaster, the last in a succession of giantmen who had guided the Order since the days of our founder. Under disguise, he departed with the greatest selections of the library to Hendor and the north . In his stead stepped a new Grandmaster, a human, one which might please the new Turamzzyrian overlords of the shattered lands of Kedshold. This tenure was a short one, as not long after, the great monastery that once served as a beacon to all followers of our Lord Voln was consumed in flames. Like most fires then, as well as those now, it likely was one caused by accident or folly which brought an end to the monastery. Legend, though, speaks that as our Great Lord Voln came first in fire to teach, that he saw fit to remove the place of his first teaching by the same means, for that which he had built no longer truly stood.
The lasting effects of the War of the Kannalan Alliance were felt up until the Wars of the Horned Cabal. Those outposts and monasteries that survived within the borders of the Empire, which had once been fully representative of the Order’s racial composition, gradually shifted to be operated by only the human followers of Lord Voln. After the Empire’s expansion from its victory in the conflict, this meant that the overall percentage of the monasteries and outposts came under the influence of this policy. The Order taught that it was the faith in the follower, not the blood, which was important amongst the characteristics sought for membership, but it also taught that the laws of the land were to be respected, if it meant that the war against the Snake could still be fought.
The non-human members of the Order found themselves concentrated in areas where Turamzzyrian power did not reach. As Chaston’s Edict flourished in the west and south, many brethren trekked to Hendor and then to the wilds of the north and east, facing often more dangerous perils. They went with faith in heart and weapon in hand, intent on carrying on Lord Voln’s mandate.
Section VI: The Archives of Nydds
In the early years of the Order's founding, it had been enough to know the goal and motivation of the Order, as set aside by Lord Voln, was to go forth in our Lord's name to release the souls of the suffering. Indeed, one of the older documents that remain to this day, written by an early scholar of the K’Tafali Manor monastery, stated, “From the fire came our Lord, and from our Lord, came the fire, so that we might pursue his crusade against the enemy to vanquish the suffering of the world." For centuries, such thought was enough to sustain the Order, but as the number of brothers and sisters grew and the monasteries that housed them spread across the land, questions began to arise.
From the outset, some members of the Order thought it blasphemous to consider questioning or discussing the very essence of our Lord Voln's mandate to his order. In Nydds, however, where the greatest portion of the library of K’Tafali had been moved, the scholars refused to let what some considered a tradition of unthinking to hinder their examination of the core belief. The early scholars sought to seek reinforcement through intellectual discussion of the idea that the Order existed as one of mercy. A mercy built by going forth to release the enslaved who suffered in the powers of the Snake and his allies. The Nyddian scholars desired, then, to reinforce what was presumed with the underpinnings of theological inquiry. In The Compassion of our Lord, an argument famous amongst the Nydds’ scholars of the time, composed by the halfling scholar Habbiton, she defended the right to explore a greater meaning to our Lord Voln’s mandate:
“...while it is above us mere mortal followers of our Lord Voln to proclaim to know his mission, that is in itself, a divinity that we shall never reach; it is also at the same time above us to assume that we, as servants of our Lord, would be capable of understanding his message from the moment it was gifted upon us in the days of Fasthr K’Tafali. It is blasphemy to question his message; it is not blasphemy to seek to further understand its divinity and how there it then relates to us, his humble followers, and the greater world about us.”
Much of the philosophical work in Nydds met with some resistance in those monasteries usually located within the borders of the Turamzzyrian Empire. In these monasteries, a distinct philosophical viewpoint had begun to develop, in part caused by the political climate following the disaster of Toullaire in which unrestricted studies in the arcane had resulted in the city’s complete annihilation. Many of the members of the Order in neighboring regions feared a theological disaster that might destroy the Order from within. Any questioning of the original mandate could result in unwanted conclusions or answers arising, which they feared might well undermine the Order itself.
Also in part, this reluctance came from the homogenous nature of these Imperial monasteries, in which the presence of ordlyn followers was rare if not non-existent. The humans who joined these monasteries brought with them the prejudices of the Empire, which, while tempered by the legacy of acceptance from the founding of the Order, still created a distrust of the unknown qualities of their ordlyn brothers and sisters. In a city of the Hendoran kingdom, a political entity beyond the control of Tamzyrr, the ordlyn and hathlyn represented something slightly alien and unconstrained to those followers with Imperial backgrounds.
Section VII: The Unity of Waterford
The tradition-based monasteries, mainly found in the city of Fairport in the County of Torre, annexed into the Empire more than a hundred years earlier, were prepared to accept and counter the arguments of Nydds. The second largest portion of the K’Tafali library had been sent to Fairport, capital of Torre, which at the time had been independent of the empire. Now within imperial borders, the archive had allowed for the growth of theological studies, not as large and energized as that in Nydds, but with an inherent human-centric bias. In response to Habbiton’s The Compassion of our Lord, a Traditionalist human scholar by the name of Barennen published The Understanding of our Lord:
“...The presumption that the mandate of our Lord Voln was not directed to our Founder in any form but the very literal sense in which it was delivered is a grievous mistake that errs on blasphemy. In the immortal nature of our Lord, the divinity of his words absolutely must have been phrased under the expectation that we, as mortals, could only understand the simplest aspects of his grace. We do not need further explanation or rationale to crusade against evil than those specifically mandated for us to follow, and to do anything else strays from our Lord’s path and places our most holy mission in jeopardy...”
The scholars of Nydds remained unconvinced by the Fairport argument and continued to explore the intrinsic nature of the mandate of our Lord Voln, despite the warnings of the more traditional followers of the Order. A testament to the unity of the Order, writings of both sides were distributed throughout the other monasteries when time and couriers allowed. More often than not, a visitor to a monastery in the time of this theological debate would have found the contrasting works shelved side by side, regardless of the traditionalist or liberal nature of the Grandmaster. It was not unusual for a brother or sister to arrive at Fairport or Nydds convinced by the works of one or the other that their duty to Lord Voln compelled them to seek out the centers of thought and enter into the discussion as well. One such follower, a human from the Barony of Bourth made a pilgrimage to the Halls of Solace, and only a year later published The Value of the Soul. His name was Brother Dandrell, and in his work, he built on the writings of previous Nydds’ scholars, with the argument that as followers of Lord Voln, it was their duty to evolve in their service and understanding.
“...In the lifetime of man, we are born, we live, and we die. From the beginning in the time of our birth, we are expected to learn the ways of our elders and to follow the examples that our predecessors laid out before us. We are told ‘Do not do evil’, and in the days of our youth we know this simplistically, and as we grow into adults, the realization that evil is not simplistic comes to us, to not ‘do evil’ means much more than to avoid the misbehavior of adolescence. From the point in which we, as followers of our Lord Voln choose to take up his faith and mandate, we cleanse ourselves of the evils of the world. In essence, we are born again as children, and upon this birth receive our holy mandate from our Lord. As those who walk the path of our Lord, it is expected of us to mature under his divine words and guidance. The literal mandate is the stepping stone to the greater mandate. Every soul has value, and it is for that cost that our Lord Voln sends us into the wilds to free those in bondage, not simply as a mission of bringing balance to the world.”
Considered one of the most important writings to come out of the Halls of Solace in the time period, it spurred the creation of a group of writers who energetically began publishing supporting arguments to Dandrell’s master work. The traditionalist in Fairport referred to this core group of brothers and sisters as Dandrellians. The Dandrellian message that the Order existed to not simply free the souls of the enslaved, but to do so because of their inherent value was popularly spread amongst the monasteries in the Hendoran region as well as the eastern region of the Turamzzyrian Empire. In the view of many, it reinforced the principal belief of mercy and solace as the foundation of our Lord Voln's mandate.
The fear of the Fairport traditionalists that thinking into the Order's mandate could lead to dangerous developments did not go unsupported. For as much that Brother Dandrell's thoughts had reinforced the core beliefs, it undermined the thoughts of others in the Order. A Dandrellian by the name of Halluck, writing from Nydds, fervently believed that the Lord's Mandate carried a message of more than simple mercy, but the underpinnings of an even greater crusade against the Lord's enemies. In The Eyes of Our Enemies, Halluck wrote passionately:
"…what good is the trimming of weeds, when they can be unearthed? It is folly to see our mandate, as given to us by Our Lord, to seek not victory against the enemies that he has ordered us to combat. It is well that we offer solace to the suffering, but in turn, we offer injustice to those who will someday suffer. Our Lord has commanded us to seek out his enemies, to remove the scourge of the undead from our blessed lands. To leave behind then, those who aid and assist our greatest Enemies, in the immortal enslavement of others, is to do nothing at all but check the tides.
Be them breathing or not, we must pursue all enemies of our Lord Voln, all who pervert the natural order of our Lady Winter, and all who serve the Snake. It is not a changing of our mandate, but the greatest fulfillment of it. That we might seek victory in this battle amongst gods, to assist to the fullest amount that we mortals might claim; it is the least we can do as humble servants of the Lord Voln…"
From these words, the Halluckites were born. A more expansive mission spread to those open to Halluck's words of a mandate that sought victory, in addition to solace, in the war against our Lord Voln's enemies. No longer were the undead the Order's sole enemies, but also those who aided and abetted them and their creation. In the fervent words of Halluck, Voln's blade now turned toward the living, as well as the undead. This was the truest and most faithful path of adherence to Lord Voln, the Halluckites determined. The sense of fortitude established by the Dandrellians was nearly shattered as brothers and sisters adopted the Halluckite mission against and to the dismay of the rest of the Order.
In response to the Dandrellian challenge regarding interpretation of the mission, Halluck argued that the reason for Lord Voln never mentioning living foes is simply that the undead horde battling Fasthr and his men were neither created, led, nor supported by living minions. In support of this theory, Halluck noted that the histories of the time document that Fasthr and his men did not need the Symbol of Thought in the early days of the Order, because the undead could not intercept standard mental communication that is used by people of all races and allegiances. Thus, Lord Voln saw no need to discuss what was not relevant to the mission at hand. It was not until later that the Order determined a need for the Symbol of Thought to avoid cohorts who could intercept mental communications for their dread allies.
The Dandrellian scholars soon after sought to rein back the very freedom of thought they had worked hard to establish for themselves. Sister Meinius, a traditionalist turned Dandrellian from Fairport, best represented the Dandrellian response to the Halluckites in her work Humility of the Servant, arguing against this tangent of Dandrell’s reasoning:
"…Our Lord is our teacher, our mentor, and guide. That he desired us to be his sword and Elanthian servants is not of dispute, and in that mission of our Lord, we have striven for these many centuries. In the methods that he, our Great Voln instructed us, we were shown only the means to combat the Suffering, not those who created it. More so, they do not escape punishment, for indirectly, as we save the souls of their armies, the agents are weakened; to seek enemies elsewhere, to wet our blades and our fists with the blood of the living, is to forget the humility of our service to our Lord. It is not our place to do that which we were never told to do…"
With some success, the Dandrellians were able to counter and restrict the adoption of Halluck, but not without at the same time opening the doorway to an extremist thought in the traditionalist direction. At the front of this new movement, a counter-Halluckite philosophy evolved from the writings of a former priestess of our Lady Lorminstra, Sister Nepson. One of the many noted Traditionalists, Sister Nepson wrote from a furious perspective, shaded by her past service to the Lady of Winter. In one of the last great manuscripts of that age of scholarship, Let Not Slip the Balance, she argued that the core element of our Order's mandate was not even that of mercy, but of balance between life and death. Since our Lord Voln served the Lady Lorminstra, his mission was in support of hers, to undo what evil had done. Further, evil had a place in Elanthia, it existed by Lord Koar's grant, and as such, it was not the place of any follower of our Lord Voln to seek to do what Lord Koar chose not.
In that Nepson rejected the foundation of mercy, the followers of her position, later labeled as Nepsonians, presented an even more radical departure than the Halluckites. Schism, which the Traditionalists had long feared, haunted the hallways of monasteries and trembled the hearts of our Lord Voln's most devoted followers.
Members of all factions sought illumination from our patron through holy communes, seeking assurance that their particular interpretation was the true path of the Paladin. Time and again, priests received the cryptic response, “The path of the Paladin is already known to the truly devoted.” The Dandrellians interpreted this as a chiding of the Halluckites and Nepsonians for straying from the long-established mission, and as indication that Lord Voln has no patience to suffer queries about the literalness of his statements. The Nepsonians were perplexed with the vagueness but still interpreted the statement as an affirmation of their path as the truly devoted. The Halluckites, naturally, held an alternative interpretation. Halluckite scholars argued that our Lord Voln’s cryptic answer was due to King Koar’s decree forbidding outright conflict among the Arkati and lesser spirits. However, they posited, our Lord Voln fervently wishes to strike as strongly as possible against the Snake and his ilk without blatantly violating Koar’s decree. In their reasoning, Lord Voln implies that the Halluckites have captured the true mission, but he cannot state it explicitly without foregoing his plausible deniability with his king.
It might have well been the destiny of our grand Order, to splinter and weaken, to be divided by the very knowledge and thought encouraged by the library of the founding monastery but for the actions of the grand master of the Halls of Solace. His name was Gervin, a half-elf who had lived and served for nearly half the time of the Order's existence and refused to see the devotion of his life destroyed.
At his request, the leaders of the Dandrellians, Halluckites, and Nepsonians, gathered in the city of Waterford, beside the waters of the Tempest, to find something to bind them together. Great were the debates that were given in that Hendoran city as to the purpose of the Order's existence. Even finer have been the collected works discussing them, which serve as the beginning point of every scholar of our Order hence for the understanding of the philosophies of our brothers and sisters. At the setting of the sun on the ninth day, the gathering came to a conclusion. It ended in bright spirits, a sense of relief for the future, for the scholars had come to an agreement that since became known as the Waterford Creed. It is a simple creed. A creed designed to bring all together, excluding none.
Voln is our Lord,
We, his servants, seek out his Enemies,
To bring Mercy and Balance to the Suffering,
For this is his Mandate,
And this is our Duty.
The fear of schism faded. In the grand scheme of Imperial history, these arguments of theology passed mainly unnoticed. A topic of uncommon knowledge debated by a lesser known order that few had ever heard of beyond those directly aided by its presence.
It is important to note that this conflict of religious philosophy never became a wedge that drove the Order beyond the brink of schism, due most likely to the continuing belief that faith in Lord Voln and following his was more important than manner in which in it was done. Another factor in the binding strength of the Order was its solidifying confederation style of organization. No one monastery led the others. While various monasteries might set the example for smaller ones in their vicinity, every Grandmaster was free to operate and run their monastery without the reproach of others.
Section VIII: The Immortal Company
In 4621 with the publication of The Waterford Creed, the scholars parted ways and returned to their respective monasteries with a greater sense of unity that had been missing since the theological arguments of the previous century. At a point in which the small Order appeared to be at the height of its confidence, a disaster befell it that would affect it in a way not fully felt for centuries. It was named the ‘Witch Winter,’ in reference to the Ice Queen Issyldra who, through the use of magic still unknown, locked the Kingdom of Hendor into an unnatural winter that persisted for nearly a decade. Under her command, hordes of humanoids emerged from the mountains and overwhelmed the defenses of the kingdom. City after city fell as the Hendorans were forced to choose between flight or death by starvation, by freezing, or by monster. One such city was Nydds, a bright beacon of discussion and thought among the followers of our Lord Voln.
At the Halls of Solace, the ordlyn members of the Order found themselves in the same quandary as others of the same races in the Hendoran monasteries and outposts. Much of the flight of the citizens of the Kingdom was to the south into Imperial lands, where any great number of ordlyn was not welcomed. The only options that remained were to stay and face an expectation of death at the hands of Issyldra, travel to the west and north into the lands unknown, or live a life of repression within the Empire. Further complicating the problems facing the Order in Hendor were the archives of the Hall of Solace. Immensely larger than the original library sent from the K’Tafali Manor monastery centuries ago, it was impractical to expect to transport it all away from the danger that was befalling the northern kingdom. The decision was made to send the most precious documents that represented the greatest work of the monastery away and to attempt to conceal and hide those that were to remain.
Those monks most fervent with concern for the protection of the writings were overwhelmingly Dandrellians, and as they dispersed from the city, it is often cited by scholars as the moment of the end of their movement. The reason for this decision was found in two facts. First, the liberal thought that most often identified a brother or sister as a Dandrellian had in some form or another been accepted by most monasteries, thus diffusing their individuality within the Order. Second, the lack of concentration of the group resulted in the end of a string of congruent writings and papers that had been their trademark. Away and apart from each other, the thoughts and writings diverged into different beliefs and philosophies. It is in this time that some of these Dandrellians explored even more radical thoughts on the mandate of our Lord Voln and several sects of the Order came into existence.
The decision made by most of the ordlyn members in Hendor at the time was to either remain at Nydds or venture into the unknowns. Despite the pleas of their human brothers and sisters, those who had not the blood of humans could not bring themselves to live under an authority that could not recognize the value of all souls, the prevailing philosophy concerning the issue of race and service to Lord Voln. Later deemed the ‘Immortal Company,’ a large number of the ordlyn members of the Order gathered at the Halls of Solace and met the fate that was due them when the city finally fell. Reports made by members of the Order, who returned to the city years later with the Turamzzyrian Army in its reconquest of Hendor, spoke of finding the bodies of the fallen Immortal Company as if they had only recently been slain. The expressions upon their faces were similar to those in a dream-filled sleep. The archives were found untouched and upon its opening, it is written, a great gust of wind blew forth from its interior, and the bodies of the Immortal Company fell to dust and vanished in the breeze.
Under the banner of the Turamzzyrian Empire, Hendor was repopulated, and Nydds once again became a place of education and scholarly debate. The Halls of Solace were reclaimed and repaired by the Order, and while to this modern day, it represents a key center of theological thought and discourse among the Order, even as one of the most welcome places for ordlyn, it has yet to achieve the scholastic heights found prior to the winter that froze the heart of Hendor. Nor would the Order reach a racial composition as diversified again for the next three centuries, not until the most recent and greatest impact upon the Order since its founding occurred: when the Order of our Lord Voln went from relative obscurity to one of the saviors of the Turamzzyrian Empire.
Section IX: The Horned Cabal Wars
They came from the south and out of the barren wastelands, five in total, liches of great strength and power derived from the possession of an artifact known as the Sphere of Sorrow. They became known as the Horned Cabal, and their intent was to destroy the empire of man. The first recorded sight of the monsters was written down in 4953 in the regions of Aldora and its great city of Elstreth, the home of the once powerful Chandrennin family. A land of mountains and hills, of valleys and dales, it was chosen by the Horned Cabal as the first portion of the greater target of the Empire to inhabit and destroy. By use of the Sphere of Sorrow, they raised packs of the undead to attack and raze the small farming villages of its southern borders. The sheep and goats that dotted the fields of the duchy were replaced with the graves of those who had sought to defend their homes from the invading menace.
For the first years of their advances, the Southern Sentinel Urgland Hurrst found his men incapable of halting the minions of the Snake as they spread their deprivations further and further into the interior of Aldora. The threat of the undead had been one experienced less and less by the region, and they were not well equipped to fight such dreadful foes. When reported to the Sun Throne miles to the north, the threat was met with little concern, and little support was sent to aide the Sentinel in his pledge oath to defend the Empire. The skill of the Imperial Drakes was directed against them, but the mages of the Empire had been sent in too few numbers to change the tide of the conflict. Seven years into the beginning decade of the Horned Cabal Wars, it was brought to the Sentinel’s attention that there existed still an obscure order dedicated to the work of Lorminstra’s Paladin, and in 4960 the first White Shield banner was raised in the land of Aldora. In the city of Elstreth, an outpost was founded that in time would become one of the greatest monasteries in the history of the Order.
It is recorded that the first engagement that the Order met with the forces of the Horned Cabal occurred in a small village to the south of Elstreth. A company formed of men of the Southern Sentinel and followers of our Lord Voln reportedly stood in a field before the village while the undead attackers advanced steadily and without hesitation. It is not known how much faculty one of the undead possess or how much the soul bound within can see or know of the world outside its prison, but what is known is that the attackers must have seen something different in the stance of the men and women that had been missing in the defenders of the past years. It was conviction. A report sent to the Southern Sentinel after the battle read, “...they stood resolute and unflinching in the face of the enemy. We could see in their eyes a confidence, and in the moments before the violence began, their discussion consisted only of how to follow up their victory...” The battle in which the defenders had been out numbered by the advancing undead concluded with a complete rout of the Horned Cabal forces.
Through the following seasons of that year and into the next, the presence of those of the Order of our Lord enabled the Aldoran defenders to halt the advance of the dreadful undead foes. As if a sword forged for a specific purpose centuries ago, the Order emerged in this time as the weapon for the Empire to defend and strike with against the Horned Cabal. Yet even to the surprise of the most veteran Masters of the Order, the numbers of the enemy increased with their every defeat, in attempt after attempt to overwhelm the defenders of Aldora. By general agreement, the brotherhood began to draw reinforcements from those monasteries in the south and from the east of the Empire to counter the rising numbers and the outpost founded only a few years prior evolved into an established monastery. In this time, the children of the city of Elstreth found a popular pastime in watching small companies of men and women marching to the monastery under the black and white banners of the Order. Concurrently, the leaders of the city themselves began to take a general interest in the Order itself.
Before long the first great number of ordlyn members of the Order, called from the far north from monasteries founded by ordlyn in the time of the Witch Winter, arrived in Elstreth to the shock of the citizens of the city. It was the first time that such a significant number of non-humans beyond slaves had walked freely in the streets of the Aldoran town. The initial protests to their presence by city officials quieted however, when the band decisively and courageously defeated an attempted raid on the city by the Horned Cabal. The legacy of the Order in which its faith is blind to race, began to spread first from those Aldorans fighting alongside the members of the Order and to their families and the general population.
The land, in which a millennium ago different races had fought and died against the great onslaught of the period, saw once again man beside giantman, elf, and other ordlyn, fighting a menace that sought to destroy the civilization of the west. It was in this growing period of the Order in Elstreth that the Chandrennin family, exiled from Tamzyrr after the fall of their dynasty on the Sun Throne, began their interest in the Order and our Lord Voln; a process made possible by the presence of the theological writings from more than three centuries ago.
Section X: On the Fields of Tyllan
The war that began in 4960 for the Order became one of minor conflict after minor conflict. It was a war of repetition with waves of attacks that climaxed in large engagements growing in size with every decade. The names of each great battle became shadowed by the next in the sheer size of the enemy encountered, a cycle that appears will only end with the end of the war itself. The Order found itself in this time reverting back to its more militaristic stance of its founding years. Priority was made on teaching the ways of combat over the examination of theological concerns, and while scholars remained in Freeport and Nydds, the writings published in this time are of little number. The tactic adopted the most by the Order was the dispersion of companies under the White Shield banner out into the borderlands of Aldora, to seek out the Horned Cabal threat before it could reach population centers of the duchy.
At the same time, the ranks of the Order itself swelled from the local population turning to the path of our Lord. In Elstreth, the reigning Chandrennin signaled his family’s conversion to Lord Voln with the construction of a great temple honoring our Lord Voln near the local monastery that later became known as ‘The House of the Paladin.’ It is among the great places of worship for our Lord Voln, but it also has become a place of remembrance for those of the Order and others who have fallen at the hands of the Horned Cabal. It was a place that, sixty years from the beginning of the wars, became visited by every citizen of the city and the location of the founding of a tradition of remembrance.
In the Wars of the Horned Cabal, there are three great battles that mark the beginning of the end. Those battles are known as Tyllan, Skyreach, and Elstreth, the first two occurring within days of each other in perhaps the darkest time of the war. It was in the twentieth year of the fifty-first century that the two battles were fought between the forces of Lord Voln’s grace and the wickedness of his enemy the Snake. It began with an act of deceit, a common tactic of the Snake, with reports of a large undead army marching out of the wasteland of the South in the direction of Immuron, a city in the Earldom of Honneland. The scouts of the Order and of the Duke of Aldora, Eorlon Chandrennin, rode at once to report the movement of the enemy force. In a conflict in which each decade created an apparent cycle of warfare to the Duke and to the Grandmaster of the Elstreth monastery, it seemed that the final battle of the passing ten years was now occurring.
While the Duke gathered his men and the followers of our Lord Voln prayed for deliverance and victory in the oncoming battle, horse-borne messengers were sent out in the directions of other monasteries by the Order and to the Southern Sentinel Kyr Calquinor for reinforcements in Ubl. Then by the light of a rising sun, the troops departed under the colors of the Chandrennin family, and of Aldora, and of the brotherhood under the White Shield Banner. The size of the enemy reported to the defenders of the Empire was nearly twice the size of their own force, but not a number that could not be overcome, especially in the flanking attack planned to end their threat. It was at a halfway point to their destination that a horse covered in lather emerged from the dust thrown up by the great march of men, a Master of the Order having come from the direction of their departure, Elstreth. Another army had been spotted emerging from the Southron Wastes headed in the direction of Elstreth of equal size or greater than the one that was presently descending on Immuron. It is said the Duke Chandrennin dismounted from his own horse and offered a prayer of protection for the people of Honneland, for he could not continue to their defense while his own home and citizens were at the mercy of the Horned Cabal.
The rearguard of the Aldoran forces found themselves the vanguard as an order to return to their home was issued under the blaring of trumpets. Confusion at the directions was replaced with outrage and determination to stop the Cabal from threatening the walls of Elstreth. Unbeknownst to those members of the Order of our Lord in this force, or to the Duke and his men, the horde that marched north towards Immuron had also changed their direction to southwest towards Elstreth. The Duke’s army and the companies of the Order were about to march into a trap.
The reports by survivors of the battle are still unclear as to which element of the Horned Cabal the defending army encountered first, the northern or the southern armies of the undead. What is clear is that until the moment when Chandrennin’s army was engaged on its north and south sides, there had been no apparent expectation of the trap. The forces of the Order had engaged with their enemy, and it is claimed that progress was made towards victory when the second horde attacked from behind. The battle that began late in the day lasted into the night where the only illumination came from the light of a full moon and onwards into the next day. Had one been on the back of a great blood eagle in the sky above the battlefield, they would have seen a mass of undead that surrounded an ever diminishing core of fighters composed of Chandrennin’s men and those of the Order. This core was eventually severed into two halves as observers from a distant hill reported later on. The army of the defenders had become a slab of metal caught between the anvil and a blacksmith’s hammer and for all their courage, for all their tenacity and stubborn refusal to accept their fate, they fought on, an ever-lessening number.
The battle reportedly ended near midday. The tales of the end placed the Duke Eorlon Chandrennin side by side with the Grandmaster of the Elstreth monastery, before both disappeared under a sudden wave of the enemy forces. With the defeat of the defenders, the combined army of the Horned Cabal turned their eyes to the southwest where Elstreth lay undefended. Only a pass in the Gattrof Mountains separated them from their destination. In their wake, they left the field of battle strewn with the bodies of thousands, hundreds of them followers of our Lord Voln. It is said by the people of Tyllan, a small town whose population had watched much of battle, that in the seasons that followed the defeat, black and white flowers, the colors of both the Order and of the House Chandrennin, blossomed in the places where those of the Order had been slain and as well the Duke’s fallen.
Section XI: The Four Days
At the time in which the last of the Chandrennin army was being overwhelmed by the minions of the Horned Cabal, another army led by the Southern Sentinel Kyr Calquinor passed by Elstreth under the concerned eyes of its citizens who watched from its walls. They had watched messengers race past the city gates, their armor ragged and blood-covered, and vanish to the west in search of the Sentinel’s army. The fate of their loved ones was yet unknown then, though their hearts most likely sank as they watched the column under the Sentinel’s command pass with an air of urgency. A journal kept by a merchant in Elstreth claimed that as the army marched past, wives and children shouted out the names of their loved ones to soldiers as they passed, asking for them to find and bring them home.
The horde of the Horned Cabal marched in the same ignorance as had the Elstreth army that it had defeated only hours ago, without knowledge of the force led by the Sentinel in their direction. It was an army larger than the one that now lay shattered on the fields of Tyllan, yet still many times smaller than the combined forces of the Horned Cabal. For the first time, Imperial troops had been sent to help the Earl Calquinor with the war against the undead enemy. A legion formed of men from Tamzyrr and The Swale marched alongside approximately two thousand men from the port city of Ubl and the gathered companies of the Order’s monasteries that were answering the requests of the slain Grandmaster of the Elstreth monastery.
The Gattrof Mountains that run along the eastern side of Aldora are small mountains, mere cousins to the Highmount or Dragonspine peaks to the far east. Still, the mountains were enough to push the Cabal’s army to skirt along the edge rather than try to navigate over their slopes and narrow passes. The mass crept around the edge of the mountains and devoured what lay between it and Elstreth, homes, farmsteads, and their unfortunate inhabitants. While one cannot speculate to the feelings of such wicked things that composed the army of the Horned Cabal, one must suspect that they possessed a feeling of eagerness and confidence. A city of man lay open to them, so they believed, and it was but a matter of time until it was reduced to ruin.
At noon following the day of the defeat at Tyllan, the second army of defenders met the vanguard of the Horned Cabal horde as it edged along the lower slopes near Skyreach. Driven by the news of the destruction of the Elstreth army, the Sentinel’s forces surged into the head of the Cabal force in an undisciplined show of infuriated will. The audacity of the attack overcame any prepared defense, and the attackers drove the undead backward into the foothills of the mountains. It was inevitable that the momentum of the attack diminished, and soon the defending force found itself being pushed back toward the city of the Chandrennin, leaving a trail of the slain for the Horned Cabal to march over in its advancement. Before the Sentinel’s men were completely forced back, it is written that the Earl rode his horse to the front of the line, and at great risk of injury and death, reorganized his men to form a long, solid line with the mountains behind the Cabal host. The line was at its thinnest in the center where the Earl had placed his greatest fighters, and it was there he had ordered his banner planted in the earth. On the right, in a position of honor, were the men of Ubl, to the left the holy forces of the Order and some of the Imperial soldiers.
In a tale of endurance and perseverance, in a battle in which valor was present in every man’s heart, the outnumbered army placed heel into dust and accepted the counterattack of the Horned Cabal. The unorganized horde reportedly rushed forward to the center of the defenders' army, its aim to smash the center and annihilate the last and final barrier between it and the cities of the south. Under this onslaught, the center bowed backward, and observers who watched from a nearby mountainside claimed it resembled an archer's bow turned backward. At that moment, the line should have broken. The army of the Sentinel Calquinor should have fractured in twain, but his soldiers held firm. Instead, the left and right of the Sentinel's army had gradually watched the majority of the Cabal's forces funnel together with the enticing aim of smashing the center. Through the momentum of the Horned Cabal forward, they found themselves in flanking positions. The men of Ubl rushed forward from the right and the warriors of our Lord with the Imperial soldiers rushed from the left.
Only a small portion of the Horned Cabal realized what was about to happen and rushed into a narrow passage of Skyreach, but the rest were trapped. The Sentinel's forces had surrounded the Horned Cabal mass, and the battle became a test of endurance and skill. The great numerical advantage of the enemy was lost as the majority of their fighters were stuck within the center of a mass, which left only its fringe to fight and die. It became a battle of ability, one in which the trained forces of Calquinor, the Order, and the Empire, held the edge as all mortal men do against the undead. Many of the defenders later claimed they knew not where the strength came to continue the fight, as hour gave way to hour, and slowly, the Sentinel's army ground down the enemy and reduced their number. For three nights and four days, the battle continued unabated. Some men did collapse and were replaced by better rested or the more determined. Of the small portion of the enemy that had fled to the mountain pass, they fought furiously to break the encirclement, but men of Ubl stopped them and fought yet another action of contrition.
Some described it like the sun when it breaks from the clouds when one has forgotten its radiance after the long days of winter. That was how the battle ended. The last of the enemy was slain, the last of the suffering released, and the battle was no more. Many collapsed where they stood, upon earth carpeted with the rotten remains of their enemies. Those who could continued on toward Tyllan to collect the fallen White Shield banners and to bury the dead with honor. The Sentinel Calquinor ordered a temple erected on the field of battle in honor to the fallen and to give thanks to the Lord Koar, Lady Lorminstra, and our Lord Voln for the victory of that hour. Others went to Elstreth and joined the city in a somber celebration.
The losses of the two battles combined amounted to more slain than had been killed over the last sixty years of the engagements with the Horned Cabal. The strength of the Elstreth monastery did not recover for a decade and nearly a generation of Elstreth’s sons had been lost on the battlefields of Tyllan and Skyreach. Of the two thousand men who had marched from Ubl with the Sentinel to save their neighbor Aldora, less than a third returned, and ever since, a festival of remembrance of their sacrifice is held on the anniversary of the battle in their city. Perhaps the greatest engagement of the Horned Cabal Wars, the Battles of Tyllan and Skyreach have entered into the histories of the Order as solemn reminders of the bravery and sacrifice of those who march under the White Shield banner. For the sacrifice of thousands in that week in 5020, the result was an enemy too battered and defeated to make another serious attempt on the Empire for nearly thirty years.
Section XII: Before the Walls of Elstreth
With the exception of minor border raids by small groups of undead, a peace followed that lasted for half a century. Only once did a threat emerge from the wastes. It disrupted the peace with a significant strike lead by a spectral champion to the northwest of Aldora at a major trade route between Idolone in Estoria to the city of The Swale in Chastonia. The monasteries in these regions joined with knights of Idolone and Imperial Drakes to retake the merchant road and the fortifications built along its length. The campaign was absent of any great battles and took just over three months of furious combat spread across the days between armies spread across the land. Glory be with our Lord Voln, who blessed us with such a victory.
The peace ended in the last quarter of the fifty-first century with the emergence from the wastelands of a great horde army of the Horned Cabal. It was for the first time in the records of the conflict that the five liches, which formed the leadership of the Horned Cabal, assumed direct control of their field army. Their army was described by scouts as a wide disorderly column that stretched over the horizon. Those things that lived fled, for it brought death upon all it encountered. The leaders of men who stood against this death were the Southern Sentinel, Marcus Calquinor, the Duke of Aldora, Bannon Chandrennin, and lastly, the blessed Grandmaster of the House of the Paladin, Allasander. It was decided by these men that the Horned Cabal intended to thrust into the Aldoran lands in an attempt to break the defenses that guarded the hinterland from the Wastes. Only the courage of the men of the South and the Order stood between disaster and the Empire.
The Arkati had long stilled the hearts of these men, and they had prepared with confidence the defenses and plans required for victory against the enemy. Thus, it was with tragic consequence when, on the night the vanguard of the enemy reached the outskirts of Elstreth, it was discovered that the Sentinel Calquinor had been poisoned. He had died with Luukosian deathwort upon his lips and an unfinished dinner plate beside him. By pronouncement of the Grandmaster Allasander, the assassination was declared the work of servants of the Snake.
While the Sentinel’s men were no neophytes when it came to battle, the loss of their popular leader was not without effect on their morale. It was as some began to feel that victory was slipping away when the banner of the House Chandrennin suddenly appear upon the battlefield. With torch in one hand and sword in other, the Duke Chandrennin arrived and rallied the troops of the Sentinel and threw back the first assault by the Horned Cabal. It was the first engagement of a siege that lasted for two weeks in 5074, composed of one minor battle after another that tested the resolve of both sides. While the night of the first attack was witness to the tragic assassination of the Earl Sentinel, it was also witness to a great corruption by the Horned Cabal upon the slain defenders. Using the Sphere of Sorrow, they reanimated the bodies of the dead through necromancy, a process that turned the flesh into a prison to retain the soul of the killed; in essence, the creation of the undead from the recently fallen.
The wills of men were shaken in those two weeks, when in the midst of battle they found themselves faced with an abomination that was once their friend, father, or brother. For those in the Order, it spurred the followers to fight even more desperately to free the spirits of those who had once been our brothers and sisters in the crusade of our Lord Voln. Yet, despite the great efforts and feats of courage in those two weeks, the White Shield banners fell alongside those bearing the colors of House Chandrennin and the slain Earl Calquinor. Each sunrise found the number of defenders slowly diminished in a gruesome parody of the Elstreth Army at Tyllan, if only at a slower pace. Each sunset found the minions of the Liches reinforced by the undead creations of the living that had fallen in that day’s battle. As in every legend and in the peculiar manner in which life itself came to imitate it, help arrived on the last day before defeat was imminent.
Section XIII: Under the Shield Banner
It arrived in the form of Patriarch Jaynus, the Grandmaster of the Halls of Solace in the city of Nydds. It is written that as the White Shield banner appeared over the crest of the hill along the road to Elstreth, observers noted a glowing aura around it. Behind the banner of the Nydds monastery followed more banners from other monasteries, signifying the presence of more than four hundred members of the Order. Ahead of them marched two thousand men from Tamzyrr, led by a hundred knights of the Empire in the company of nearly fifty Imperial Drakes from the Hall of Mages. The new arrivals were a significant addition to the weakened defenders, yet they were not the most precious thing to arrive with Grandmaster Jaynus’ banner that day. Through a vision during a ritual to Lord Voln, a solution to the Sphere of Sorrow’s power had been found, a ritual which would prevent the fallen from rising again as abominations of life and servants of the undead.
While the Horned Cabal had been stopped from recouping their losses in the field of battle, their army still greatly outnumbered even the reinforced troops of Elstreth. And so, a plan was devised. It was a simple plan that required those of strong hearts and great faith; it was a plan created by the two Grandmasters, Jaynus and Allasander. It was also a plan that was kept from the Duke Chandrennin for the fact that it was most likely a mission which would only end in martyrdom. The next day after a night of meditation for those involved, Grandmaster Allasander, with a select group of the most accomplished brothers and sisters of the Order present, marched into the battle with one goal in mind, to fight their way through the mass of the undead army to the five liches and to do their best to release the souls bound within their wicked bodies.
The plan swung into motion and did not come to the Duke’s attention as the battle raged on at desperate level until he noticed the White Shield banner beyond the line of combat, blowing stridently in the wind in the midst of a great mass of the undead. It was then that he saw the Grandmaster Allasander with his great blessed axe, Spiritcry, at the forefront of a band of monks of the Order who had deftly attempted to flank the army of the Suffering to strike at the liches. It was also then that he realized that his closest friend whom he had known from childhood had elected to sacrifice his life for an attempt to end the conflict. Unable to aid his friend directly, the Duke instead rallied his men further to defeat their enemy.
It was said that the greataxe, when wielded by Allasander, sang upon releasing a spirit from the bondage of the undead form. It was also said that on that day, its song was heard even over the din of battle as the Grandmaster led his band through the thick of the Horned Cabal’s forces following the attempted flank assault and to the very liches themselves. Some also said that it was a miracle of the Lord Voln that the band of brothers and sisters reached the Liches at all, while others proclaimed the great miracle lay in the fact that while his companions fell slain at the feet of the liches, Allasander persisted. Those observers who watched the Grandmaster from the walls of Elstreth with spying glasses reported that the shadow of a man in black chain mail seemed to impose itself over the Grandmaster. At the point that he received a wound that should have instantly killed a mortal man, he instead brought Spiritcry down in a great swing, releasing one of the five liches.
What was agreed upon was that the moment in which the Grandmaster of the Elstreth monastery died, the scream of the remaining four liches was heard miles from the battlefield and did not fade until they had vanished from the battlefield in retreat. The battle did not end upon that moment, but it was decided. The forces of the Horned Cabal, though still of greater number than the force they faced, lost the cohesion which had guided them against Chandrennin’s army over the last two weeks. Spurred by the sacrifice of the Blessed Allasander, the defenders of Elstreth found victory on that day in 5074. A famous tapestry that now hangs in the House of the Paladin portrays the Duke Bannon Chandrennin, later elevated to Southern Sentinel for his leadership, cradling the body of his friend Allasander in the dying light of the day in the midst of the great battlefield.
The Horned Cabal, the enemy of the Order for more than a hundred years, vanished into the wastelands to the south and has not since emerged for the last thirty years, nor even sent any significant number of undead to threaten the people of the southern empire. Upon their defeat, the Order of our Lord Voln finally achieved a recognition throughout the Empire that for nearly nine hundred years had eluded those who had carried on without relent the holy mission of our Lord Voln.
In the modern era, the Order has continued to grow and has continued its crusade based upon the mandate given to our Founder Fasthr K’Tafali in the year 4045. The war continues yet against our great enemy the Snake, Luukos, and all other evils who seek the same path of wickedness. A conflict that will not end until every soul has been released from bondage, and the enemy of our Lord Voln and the Lady Lorminstra is finally defeated. For as long as the White Shield must be raised to defend the living, it shall be raised; for as long as the path of our Lord must be traveled, it shall be traveled; for as long as the Order of our Lord must carry on, so it shall carry on. By the Blessing and the Grace of our Lord Voln, we shall continue on.
The Shield and the Sickle
Established in the forty-sixth century as an ideological offshoot of the traditional thought centered in Fairport, Torre, the Shield and the Sickle assumed the mission of keeping the Order free of corruption and infiltration by enemies of the Order. The origin of the Shield and the Sickle began with the fears of Fairport members of change to the inherent nature of the Order with the beginning of the Solace Movement out of the Nydds monastery. The founding members originally were Traditionalists who traveled extensively to the other monasteries to argue for the Barennen defense of our Lord’s mandate. Under the success of the Dandrellians and the spread of the Waterford Creed, these brothers and sisters shifted from a theological to a secular defense of the Order. The Shield and the Sickle has since adopted the motto, “To Reap What Evil Sows.” Their symbol is the White Shield of the Order inlaid with a gold sickle.
The leadership of the Shield and the Sickle is based at the Fairport Monastery, but is independent of the Fairport Grandmaster. The head of The Shield and The Sickle is known by the title Winter’s Keeper, an allusion to the organization’s protection of the Lady Lorminstra’s mandate to our Lord Voln. The position is commonly voted upon by the Precepts, brothers and sisters who have been raised by the Winter’s Keeper to lead the organization’s outposts throughout the empire. Those under the command of the Precepts are known simply as Reapers.
The Shield and the Sickle is most widely found within the inner core of the Empire and counts humans as their main base of members, mainly to the organization’s geographic spread. Other races are by no means excluded. Much of the principal task of the Shield and the Sickle since the onslaught of the Horned Cabal Wars has been to seek out and expel those who kneel to the Snake and other enemies of our Lord Voln. While Grandmasters are by no means required to adhere to the wishes of the Shield and the Sickle, they often give great weight to their words and allow them free action. Likewise, those of the Shield and the Sickle rarely make accusations they do not firmly believe correct. In the event of such a charge, often a trial is held by which the Grandmaster of the nearest monastery assumes the role of judge, while a Precept argues the case for expulsion from the Order.
Not much is said of the Fallen. For they are the members of the Order who have been expunged for unholy acts and deeds. They are those who serve the enemies of our Lord Voln. They are those who deny the brotherhood of the Order but retain the teachings with which our Lord blessed Fasthr K’Tafali. Their symbol, if they choose to bear it, is the broken shield. They walk among us; be wary of their words, for their tongues are laced with lies and deceptions.
Second Volnesday of Eorgaen – The Day of the Paladin Observance: A vigil is held in the open throughout the night to watch the passage of our Lord’s constellation and to meditate upon his mandate.
First Volnesday of Lormestra – The Day of Our Lady Observance: A vigil at night to honor the Keeper of the Keys, followed by the passing out of silver keys to strangers to remind them of their final fate.
First Volnesday of Phoenatos – The Day of Our Allies Observance: A vigil at night to honor those who aid against those who are enemies of Lord Voln.