Order of the Wall
The Order of the Wall is an ancient Menite martial order, founded in the Warlord Era, whose members are known as paladins. Their main mission is to protect Menoth's flock from the trepidations of the wilds. Though its membership has ever been small, those elite few who do count themselves as paladins are among the finest swordsmen and most dedicated warriors in western Immoren. The purity of this cause has served the order since the dawn of civilisation and has allowed it to endure even when faced with potential extinction at the hands of foreign tyrants. In recent years the Order has seen a sharp decline in numbers, due to both the strictures and high demands of the Order's chosen way of life, as well as conflicting interests with the ruling scrutators of the Protectorate of Menoth, who view the paladins as unreliable and untrustworthy.
The Order of the Wall was founded by Priest-King Valent Thrace as a union of devout warriors leading the defense of Calacia and the Wall of Thrace, which protected the city that would one day become Caspia from the barbaric Molgur of the Wyrmwall Mountains. Those first paladins became the inner core of a larger army of pious Menites who not only defended the civilised world but ventured into the wild dominated by the Molgur to drive them back.
By the time of Priest-King Golivant, the Order of the Wall had developed into a proud and respected brotherhood, few in number but esteemed above all other warriors of the early Temple. Even generations after his death, Valent’s legend continued to draw some of the bravest men of the faith into the order’s service. In the bloody battles against the Molgur, paladins vigilantly defended exposed villages from retaliation.
With the final defeat of the Molgur, the civilised world became a larger and more secure place, and petty kings and city-states turned to warring against each other. Paladins preferred to retain a more defensive role across these myriad city-states, some of which sponsored their own small organisations. There was little to no contact between these groups, each referring to itself as the Order of the Wall and each considering itself descended of the traditions established by Valent Thrace. The paladins' unwillingness to march forth alongside the ruling priests or kings in battle ensured they were given limited support, and lacking patronage from the ruling caste, their upkeep fell to the people whom they protected.
The Orgoth invasion redirected the efforts of the paladins, once again providing an outside aggressor whose threat was more pervasive than any seen before or since. Across western Immoren, as the invaders reached each area in turn, paladins gave their lives in resolute service and made many brave stands against the tyrants. This era is remembered as one in which the paladins united to reduce human suffering and shield the helpless.
In 392 BR, the Orgoth forced the disarmament of the Order of the Wall. This forced the paladins to adopt a more restrained outward appearance and to operate individually as best they could. They met in small and secret gatherings to conduct furtive ceremonies to renew their vows and initiate new members.
Finding themselves powerless against the Orgoth, paladins had to learn to function with greater autonomy and limited support. Many paladins began operating as loosely associated individuals with no obvious ties to others. The Order of the Wall had become an ideal, a shared set of beliefs, but no longer an organisation with any sense of structure.
Occasionally paladins were arrested for intervening against Orgoth authorities and were subsequently subjected to torture and interrogation, even past death. By the middle of the fifth century BR, the Orgoth became aware of the order’s true nature, and paladins started to be arrested and executed whenever found.
The remaining paladins are forced to scatter further and go entirely underground. In the same regard, most fighting paladins maintained only a loose association for mutual protection with their brothers. The Orgoth formally outlawed the Order of the Wall in 392 BR as a terrorist organisation.
Paladins still resisted the Orgoth as opportunity allowed, and they continued to find subtler ways to defend Menites from oppression. Though far too few in number to have had a significant impact on the Orgoth governors, they served as a bold example even to non-Menites and symbolised the tenacity of the Immorese spirit.
The transition into a secret and illegal organisation greatly impacted the order’s ability to initiate new members, however, and deeply affected the survival of those paladins bold enough to openly resist Orgoth rule. Two exceptions to this were the ancient Caspian chapter, which remained free, and some few scattered chapters in the remote regions of the northern Khardic Empire. The Caspian paladins, though still affected by the decline of the Menite faith, were sheltered from the Orgoth behind Caspia's impenetrable walls, while the rural Khards experienced less attrition from the rise of the Morrowan faith and lived in desolate locations where Orgoth control was less pervasive.
During the Rebellion, the Order of the Wall underwent a period of regrowth in Menite communities. The reputation of the order was respected by Menites and Morrowans alike; the stand paladins had taken against the Orgoth had not been forgotten. By 86 AR the order could function openly within various liberated territories. Throughout the following century the order would serve to both protect and rebuild western Immoren as it gradually broke itself from Orgoth rule.
In the early Iron Kingdoms Era the order set out to restoring its chapter houses, its traditions, and creating a more rigorous training regimen for initiates. Although the Menite faith continued to decline against the Morrowans, the Order of the Wall as a whole experienced a slow but steady resurgence, riding a current of goodwill it had earned during the Rebellion. However, such an organisation could only be supported in cities and towns with sizable Menite communities. As the Menite religion declined, so too did the number of places suitable for a chapter house of the order.
In 482 AR along with hundreds of thousands of the faithful, the majority of Cygnaran paladins and some foreign ones answered Visgoth Sulon’s call to pilgrimage in Caspia. The Caspian chapter remained the largest and most organised of the order, and its leaders quickly foresaw the impending violence that would result from Sulon’s sermons. Many worked to mitigate the impact of his rhetoric, hoping to placate the pilgrims and encourage temperance. Ultimately this effort was to no avail, and when violence erupted, pitting the Caspian Watch against the faithful in the eastern portion of the city, the paladins had no recourse but to fight to protect the Menites.
The Cygnaran Civil War was an extraordinary time for the order, and many paladins had great difficulty reconciling their faith and code with the necessities of war. The division between Menite and Morrowan was not as extreme as that between Immorese and Orgoth or Menite and Molgur nor did the treaty that ended the war to found the Protectorate of Menoth offer much recompense to the order.
Paladins readily joined in the crusades to expand the borders of the Protectorate into the Bloodstone Marches. Thousands were still flocking to the new theocracy, and attacks by hostile Idrians and other threats were a common occurrence. None could deny the historical parallel between the infidel Idrians and the Molgur. Yet even in this time of relative popularity and renewed purpose, the Order of the Wall was quickly eclipsed by the rapidly expanding Knights Exemplar.
Over the following decades, as the Protectorate of Menoth became more secure and increasingly militant, the order continued to diminish. Though victories saw individual paladins rise to renown, and while the order remained popular among the common people, its ranking members were removed from the halls of power and rarely consulted by the priesthood.
The gulf between the Order of the Wall and both the clergy and the other martial orders was greatly widened under Hierarch Kilgor Ravonal. As the Knights Exemplar and Temple Flameguard were repurposed to become an organised army, the paladins of the Order of the Wall were marginalised. Ravonal's endorsement of the Knights Exemplar as more perfect warriors in the eyes of the Creator may have robbed the Order of the Wall of many potential candidates. This marked a rising sentiment that the Knights Exemplar were the more useful tool of the ranking priests and particularly the scrutators and were therefore of more use in war.
Since the traditions of the paladins of the Order of the Wall place the importance of their own moral code and the tenets of their order over obedience to the clergy, who are in turn led by the scrutators, mistrust and animosity has grown between the Order of the Wall and the scrutators that only increased after Garrick Voyle founded the Order of the Fist. This police force was designed to root out heresy and sedition from the common people - the very people the Order of the Wall had pledged to protect. In the majority of conficts between these groups, the scrutators ruled in favour of the Order of the Fist.
This bias became even stronger when Voyle seized power as hierarch in 588 AR, and dozens of paladins were executed for heresy in the early years of his reign. Even the traditional role of paladins as bodyguards of high-ranking priests was largely stripped away during Voyle’s reign, as he preferred the protection of Knights Exemplar and warjacks like the Devout. The Order of the Wall is preserved only out of a sense of tradition and because these paladins are popular figures with the populace, but there is no question the Knights Exemplar have risen to become the preeminent warriors of the Temple.
By the end of the sixth century AR Hierarch Voyle publicly discussed the possibility of eventually disbanding the Order of the Wall altogether. It is possible this would have come to pass if not for the spectacular rise to prominence of the Harbinger of Menoth in 603 AR. The Harbinger chose High Paladin Dartan Vilmon as her bodyguard, and this indirect endorsement of the order subsequently began a period of resurgence that continues to this day.
During the Caspia-Sul war, the order is put in the role for which it was created: protectors of the faithful during a period of turmoil. The paladins of the order performed many heroic deeds in defence of Sul and subsequently saw many youths petitioning to become initiates. The Harbinger herself continues to publicly champion the order, while Vilmon serves as the brightest and most public example of its purpose and noble spirit.
The Paladin Code
The basic code of a paladin of the Order of the Wall is relatively simple. A paladin is tasked to:
- Obey the Creator of Man
- Shield the helpless and alleviate suffering
- Preserve civilisation and the Temple
- Uphold the True Law by battling the faithless
Paladins are expected to hone themselves into living weapons and to stand ready to sacrifice their lives to preserve their principles.
The Order of the Wall does not recruit and believes that initiates should experience a genuine call to join. Few possess the faith and personal resolve to make such a choice, and fewer still have the strength to complete the journey.
Initiates often join at ten years of age, most aspirants having by then already gained a strong martial instinct and a basic understanding of the use of sword and shield. Aspirants are screened and must demonstrate exceptional stamina, strength and mental fortitude. It is not uncommon for the majority to be turned away, more often disqualified for mental rather than physical failings. Relatively few young warriors can temper their rage with the mercy required of those who would wield the order’s blessed Firebrand blades. For those accepted, early training is provided by older recruits who have not yet attained the rank of paladin, under the direction of retired paladins.
As initiates advance they achieve a greater understanding of the Canon of the True Law and of the principles of the order. Considerable time is spent reading and studying spiritual texts. Along with this development of their spiritual self, initiates receive first-hand instruction from training officers and occasionally active paladins. Expert swordsmen by the age of fourteen, initiates spend the final years of training honing their defensive prowess and learning to draw on their faith to attain a level of martial prowess beyond the capacity of most men.
Once their training is complete, initiates cleanse their spirits by undertaking a three-day vigil and then must speak the complete vows of the order. Afterward they are formally welcomed into the Order of the Wall and are granted the rank of paladin.
Paladins enter battle as a gathering of individuals fighting with shared purpose, not as a military unit. All paladins serve under the jurisdiction of one of the order’s senior paladins, who in turn report to a high paladin. Among smaller branches there will be no rank above this, with one or several high paladins leading a branch. The Order of the Wall in the Protectorate of Menoth and in the Old Faith each have their own grand paladin, who stands as a single voice of authority.
The Old Faith chapters are so loosely associated that their rank of grand paladin is largely ceremonial. Within the Protectorate the grand paladin holds considerably greater organisational power and could more readily exercise direct command over his subordinates. It is the grand paladin who is must ultimately answer to the Synod of Visgoths or the hierarch, and who is thus accountable for the order’s actions. The current grand paladin is Trenton Bouridor, who oversees the order membership from Sul.
Most branches rely on a relatively small support staff, usually retired paladins except for some former initiates who failed the requirements and so chose to serve in a different capacity rather than abandon the order. Day-to-day functions are typically carried out by the paladins themselves, for the order instils within its members a sense of humility that deems even the lowest tasks worthy of their attention. Senior paladins, though lacking the authority of priests, are entitled to conduct limited religious rites and ceremonies, particularly funeral rites and the investiture of initiation and promotion.
Whenever possible paladins will police their own branch, handling matters of internal discipline or breaches in their code. Within the Protectorate, scrutators are fully within their authority to dispense justice to paladins, but in the case of infractions by certain high-ranking figures, a scrutator would likely defer to the Synod or to a vice scrutator. In some instances the order may take steps to shield its members, though doing so is a political gambit not usually made.
Paladins prioritise forbearance and protection of the innocent, which can force them to disobey orders given by the scrutators. Priests take this as a sign that paladins lack the obedience that is the hallmark of the Knights Exemplar. But so long as they do not openly interfere with or defy the hierarch or his agents, they are left to their ancient code.
There is a sense among paladins of the Order of the Wall that they would prefer scrutators returned to their traditional punitive role distinct from the leadership of the priest caste. There is little doubt, even if they will not say it openly, that the upper echelons of the order believe the scrutators guilty of power abuse. It is the persecution, torture, and execution of the innocent that the Order of the Wall is most eager to prevent. By contrast, the scrutators consider the deaths of innocents trivial when done while rooting out perceived heresy. The Order of the Wall’s struggles with the scrutators have, from time to time, caused them to question their place within the Protectorate as a whole. Doubtless, many lives have been saved by the Order of the Wall quietly working to temper the severe edicts of the scrutators.
The order’s numbers within the Protectorate are currently greater than they have been in generations, and even Hierarch Severius has shown some tolerance for their role. Regardless, the political influence of the order remains minimal. Though extremely skilled warriors, paladins are too few and too removed from the priesthood to have any significant sway over the nation’s policies and decisions. While the order clearly has the approval and endorsement of the Harbinger herself, she is too venerated for ranking paladins to consider petitioning her.
Paladins have long been heroes to the common people, seen to embody the protection of Menoth sometimes neglected by clergy. Indeed, the order has endured a difficult relationship with the priesthood in the Protectorate because it is one of the few martial arms that answers to a code not rooted in obedience to the priest caste. The Knights Exemplar have been seen as the more useful tool of the scrutators, prompting the Order of the Wall to suffer a long decline. The order’s reputation does grant it a certain value, if only by softening the Temple’s image among a populace that might otherwise feel neglected and insignificant. The Order of the Wall serves its traditional role not primarily in protecting the faithful from infidels but by shielding them from Protectorate authorities themselves.
Due to its ancient origins, there are several unconnected branches of the order across western Immoren. By far the most prominent and numerous paladins outside of the Protectorate are members of the Old Faith in Khador. Tracing their roots back to Priest-King Khardovic rather than to Golivant, Old Faith Menites largely ignored the call put forth by Sulon. They continue to hold themselves respectfully apart and separate from the Protectorate. Regardless of differences, all paladins count themselves as members of the Order of the Wall. They recognise a kinship between them that transcends any differences.
Old Faith paladins still follow the same general principles and traditions, and though their interpretation of the Canon of the True Law is different, their adherence is no less important. The paladins of the Old Faith comprise a more unified Menite hierarchy than is found anywhere outside the Protectorate, looking to the Korsk branch and its grand paladin for leadership.
While Old Faith paladins all belong to a theoretically unified order, each branch is often left to govern itself. There are paladins in the desolate north of Khador who have no regular contact with their own chapter houses. Most Old Faith paladins look entirely to the needs of local Menites, and coordinated efforts are extremely rare. However, a paladin can expect a warm welcome at any other branch. To a lesser extent this is also true for paladins travelling from one nation to another.
Individual paladins in remote northern regions may spend their time protecting the faithful from the myriad threats that lurk within the frozen wilds. Functioning in such capacity, and driven largely by their own understanding of the order’s moral codes, they seldom have the time, opportunity, or even the inclination to confer with peers.