THE HISTORY OF KNIGHTHOOD

IN THE HUMAN KINGDOMS

NTRODUCTION

The concept of the Knight, a person who demonstrates the ideal virtues of honour, chivalry, justice and compassion, has always been a popular one, various Orders of Knighthood having been in existence for almost all of recorded Human history, differing in the details, but showing remarkable similarity across the centuries and across the kingdoms. Given the more usual disunity of the Human kingdoms, the convergence of thought about Knightly ideals is perplexing, but no historian has, as yet, given a convincing argument as to why this should be the case. For the purposes of this history, it is probably best merely to accept that it is so, and worry less about the precise reasons.

Nevertheless, despite great similarities between all the different Orders of Knighthood, it is still a difficult task to define precisely what a Knight really is. We eschew the simple approach of saying that a Knight is someone in an Order of Knighthood, for that is to evade the question of what makes an Order a Knightly one. Such classification by definition can ultimately only be unsatisfying. So, what is a Knight? Historically, a Knight was a member of the ruling aristocracy, trained almost soley in the art of individual combat; in essence, a professional warrior. They were the backbone of most Human armies throughout recorded history, although it should be noted that their effectiveness and success were not always startling. But, in addition to martial prowess, a Knight has always been supposed to uphold higher values. Honour. Bravery. Gentility. Justice. Compassion. Resounding words all, but most often observed by their neglect. In this history we shall attempt to trace, kingdom by kingdom, the development of the Knightly ideals, their observance (or lack thereof) and the evolution of Knightly tradition and ritual.

THE FIRST KNIGHTLY ORDERS

According to tradition, the first Order of Knighthood was The Order of the Silver Tower, established by the first High King, Balmord the Red in 653 BA, and housed in the Silver Tower of Hyrios, a tower that was to become one of the most famous buildings in Shan Deral. Its mission was, in hindsight, almost entirely political. Balmord wished to unify all the Human kingdoms under his leadership, and it was his fond hope that such an outward symbol of chivalry would serve as a rallying point for Human patriotism. Furthermore, by extending membership of the Order to carefully selected families of the southern kingdoms he had so recently conquered, Balmord hoped thus to enlist them in his own grandiose plans of conquest. In particular, the younger brother of King Almstur Forbhu of Keril (recently slain by Balmord during the conquest of Keril) was appointed as the Grand Champion of the Order of the Silver Tower. Appointment to The Order of the Silver Tower was strictly by grant of the High King, and, in practise, was restricted to those of considerable political influence and military potential.

The vows and ceremonies of The Order of the Silver Tower have had a lasting effect on subsequent Knightly Orders, and their influence can still be clearly seen today. Essentially, the emphasis was upon upholding the honour of the individual, and secondly, that of the Order as a whole. The concept of the power of chivalric love had not yet appeared, and so the courtly graces of courtesy and gentility were undeveloped. Justice for Humans was one clear thread running through the philosophy of this Order, and hostility to other races was at times only thinly disguised.

It is at this time that the science of Heraldry in Shan Deral first appeared, although in only a rudimentary form. Each Knight of The Order of the Silver Tower selected a personal token for their use, but it appears that these tokens were not at first hereditary.

The kingdom of Fosner, unwilling to be outdone by its ancient rival Ren'tlic, was the next kingdom formally to institute a Knightly Order, The Knights of the Bramble, first convened in 620 BA by King Hyrtu Tengerion the Second. Although similar in many respects to its Ren'tlician predecessor, this Order was considerably less parochial in flavour, with an unusually strong emphasis on individual humility.

These two Knightly Orders, being the two most ancient, have always been considered the two principal Orders, and are still active today. They are open only to Humans still, and the vows sworn have remained practially unchanged from the time of inception. During his review of the Knightly Orders in Year 33, the Emperor Mobius mandated some changes; in particular, the more offensive parts of the vows, those tending towards Human parochialism and insularity, were removed so as to bring the Orders more in line with the current Imperial policies of racial unity.

HE LATER ORDERS

None of the later Knightly Orders has attained the stature of the two most ancient ones, although there have been many attempts at imiatation, as each Kingdom in turn instituted its own Knightly Order. Thus we see the formation of The Order of the Lance in Nordvar in 513 BA (an Order distinguished by its interesting initiation ceremony, in which The White Lady performs The Dance of the White Lance, a dance whose origin is lost in antiquity although it is clearly related to the ancient and malevolent northern ice spirit); we see The Knights Mortsemian in Khorobit (486 BA), The Order of the Uli in Sul (410 BA), and finally, the most important of the recent Orders, The Knights Agualegious of The Far Isles, first instituted by Queen Hermaghite Flaidoier in 261 BA.

THE GOLDEN AGE OF KNIGHTHOOD

The period following the creation of the Nordvar and Flaidoier Dynasties has often been regarded as the flowering of knighthood in a Golden Age. At this time the institution of knighthood had not, as yet, been diminished by the actions of some more recent knights, and the vows of knighthood were, at least in the South, extended to include the concept of Chivalrous Love, or True Love as it tended to be known in The Far Isles.

The major instigator of this flowering of the courtly graces was Queen Hermaghite Flaidoier, the grand-daughter of the High King Forthar MacFearson, Queen of the Far Isles, and High Queen. Because of her sex, her rule was never as secure as that of her father and grandfather before her, and it was in an attempt to quell her unruly nobles that she made a deliberate attempt to institute more courtly graces into the concept of nobility and knighthood. At her court in Hyrios she collected many of the younger generation of nobles, inducting them into The Order of the Silver Tower, and creating close personal bonds between her and her court. However, she did not have the authority formally to change the vows of the Order, and thus was moved to create The Knights Agualegious, a Knightly Order based principally in The Far Isles, and the first explicitly to include in its vows the concept of True Love. Each Knight Agualegious was required to swear devotion to one Lady, and one Lady only, and furthermore, was required to behave at all times with a proper gentility and courtesy.

The court of Queen Hermaghite at Hyrios became the centre of a flowering of the fine arts. Poets and musicians gathered there, drawn from all points of Shan Deral by the possibility of wealth and royal recognition. Knightly tournaments gained great popularity, although they differed from those further north by a lesser emphasis upon the joust, focusing instead on individual and melee combat with hand-to-hand weapons such as the sword, axe or mace. Most unusually, these tournaments included also recitations of courtly love poetry and displays of courtly dancing, a tradition that was quickly to become established in the southern Human kingdoms. It was at this time that the science of Heraldry first gained in importance. The Flaidoioer tourments were regulated by four principal heralds, usually graduates of the heraldic schools at Hyrios and Dunmaen; traditionally they were called The Herald Puissant, The Herald Dragonverre, The Herald of the Cloth of Gold, and The Herald Trimortiane. The exact origin of these names remains obscure to this day.

THE DECLINE OF KNIGHTHOOD

Unfortunately, the practice of Knighthood did not long maintain such generally high standards as was the case during its Golden Age. After the death of Queen Hermaghite (who was deposed and brutally murdered in the so-called Affair of the Velvet Glove, in 242 BA), the concept of Knighthood never regained the level of Royal patronage it had previously enjoyed. One reason for this is clear; it was highly likely that the deposition and murder of Queen Hermaghite was indeed instigated by certain members of The Knights Mortsemian, and this was sufficient to cast suspicion upon Knights in general. It is a sad fact that such accusations were all too plausible, for at all times, even during its Golden Age, the institution of Knighthood struggled to live to up the high standards implicit in the vows. Many individuals struggled little, and failed quickly, and became a shame to their Order.

The subsequent history of Knighthood makes for a singularly unedifying story of brigandage, pillage and rapine. In this, Knights were proved to be no worse, but certainly no better, than the common run of soldier, and Knightly vows were observed only in their neglect. The time of the Yellow Pustulance saw the formation of the most recent Knightly Order, The Blood Knights, an Order dedicated, unusually, to the relief of the ill and the suffering. Based in Kiramu, this Order never attained the popularity of the more conventional Orders; It is still in existence today, but remains small and relatively weak.

Under the Emperor Mobius, the Orders of Knighthood have declined to vague shadows of their former selves. With interracial conflict disallowed, and relative peace enforced among the Human Kingdoms, Knights have found far less scope for their traditional predatory activities. However, they have retained a considerable ritual and ceremonial importance, and remain an important place in official ceremonies and pronouncements. Of the more recent Knights, the most famous would have to be sir Bormalid, of The Knights Agualegious, the famous Knightly paragon of The Far Isles, who lived from the Year 397 to the Year 450. Inspired by the example of Queen Hermaghite (in particular) he set out to recreate the Knightly ideals and behaviour of the Golden Age. His efforts, predictably, met with almost complete failure, although he gained considerable personal fame due to his prowess in the Tournament, and his efforts at reform. He died in typically romantic fashion, in a naval expedition to the far east. It is not known how far east his ships managed to sail, or exactly how he died, as no survivors of the expedition ever returned.


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