Knights of Holy Shielding
The Knights of Holy Shielding are the quintessential mounted knights of legend. They form the iron backbone of the Shield Lands army acting as elite heavy cavalry and patrolling the border between outposts and border keeps. Mounted on swift horses and sometimes even more exotic mounts, the knights can respond far more rapidly to threats than typical infantry or less experienced cavalry. This places the Order at the forefront of most battles with the enemies of the Shield Lands,
Within the Shield Lands, the knights act as traveling arbiters of law, providing the common folk and lesser nobility swift and evenhanded justice. Sworn to the Shield Lands as a whole and not to one lord or noble house, the knights are able to dispense justice within their homeland with an impartiality sometimes lacking from noble courts. Though binding once given, the judgments of Shield Knights may be appealed to the local noble family. This is extremely rare, as even in the past at the height of the Order’s overconfidence and arrogance the knights performed their judicial responsibilities with honor and fair- ness beyond reproach.
When between missions or not on duty, Shield Knights travel widely in search of adventure and glory. The elder knights of the order have found that well-traveled and experienced knights tend to exhibit greater wisdom and ingenuity when dealing with issues of both war and peace. The returning knights have a greater pool of life experiences to draw from, making them better knights and servants of the Shield Lands.
The primary duty of every Shield Knight has always been the defense of the Shield Lands. Over the years their enemies may have changed, but never has their devotion. In the War of Reclamation to regain land lost to the forces of the evil demigod luz during the Greyhawk Wars of the last decade, the Order believes it is their sacred duty to carry the Holy Realm to victory. They feel their failure in the past was a sign of Heironeous’s displeasure at the arrogance and pride they foolishly carried in place of honor and humility. To many, the War of Reclamation means not only reclaiming the lost lands, but also reclaiming the lost honor of the Knights of Holy Shielding. The war is not a means of assuaging their wounded pride, but rather a way to regain the favor of Heironeous and the respect of the people they are sworn to protect.
Organization: At the top of the order is the Knight Commander, who is traditionally the earl of Walworth, the province that contains the Shield Lands’ capital city, Admundfort. The current knight commander is Countess Katarina Walworth. It is her sworn duty to lead the Order in all matters.
Supporting the knight commander are several Knights’ Bannerette. Knights’ bannerette are knights who have served the Shield Lands and the Order with distinction and valor and have earned the right to bear their own banners into battle. Knights’ bannerette have also often gained the lands and titles associated with true nobility and hold as vassals several lesser knights. It is their duty to command battalions of knights, and to advise and report to the knight commander.
The Knight is the next rank of knighthood within the Order. Often referred to as vassal knights (if they hold their own lands) or as knights errant (if they do not) , they are accorded the honor of being addressed as “Sir” or “Lady.”
The newest knights of the Order are often placed under the tutelage of a more experienced knight to whom they report and from whom they receive training. These knights errant are the most common knights of the Order, and many spend years per- forming their duties loyally.
Junior knights yet to swear their oaths are called Squires. They are not officially members of the Order, but most members accord them at least a small level of respect for their current position as all knights were once squires and each still depends on the services they perform as servants, grooms, and assistants.
Particularly promising youths are sometimes taken as Pages to assist squires in their duties and begin learning what it takes to be a knight at a young age. Their duties are usually mundane and onerous, but these lessons in humility serve them well in later years.
The ranks of the Order of the Holy Shield are organized into several units. The smallest unit within the Order is the single Knight who is attended by his squire and any other retinue he may possess. Next is the Shield, consisting of six knights and their followers. For larger engagements, four shields form a lance. Lances are usually commanded by a Senior Shield Knight with many years of experience. Four lances form a Banner, which can boast the strength of nearly one hundred mounted knights and is commanded by young Knights’ Bannerette. Four banners form a Battalion, the largest formation of Shield Knights. Battalions are commanded by Senior Knights Bannerette and consist of as many as four hundred mounted knights and often three times as many followers and support personnel.
At its height, the Order of the Holy Shield stood at an amazing strength of five battalions. Between the invasions by the Hierarchs of the Horned Society and the Empire of luz, the Order suffered heavy losses and currently manages to field only two under- strength battalions. Due to tire current extent of the border and the lack of soldiers to adequately defend it Shield Knights are rarely, if ever, organized into units larger than banners any longer.
As of 593 CY, a garrison of one banner of Shield Knights is stationed at Critwall, Bright Sentry, Torkeep, Gensal, and the South Keep Outpost. Shields or Lances are garrisoned at each of the other major outposts along the border and at Critwall Bridge. The remaining knights are tasked with patrolling the reclaimed lands and defending the recovering villages and manors from raiders, brigands, and deserters. These free-riders often work alone, with companions, or rarely as part of a shield of knights.
The Code of Knighthood:
We are the shield bearers of Heironeous.
Honor is our conscience.
Valor is our blood, justice is our soul,
We uphold the law.
And protect what is right.
We offer all that we are
in the service of the Shield Lands
For as long as we draw breath!
History: Established in the mid–300s CY to support the lords of the petty domains north of the Nyr Dyv, the Knights of Holy Shielding once made up the core of an impressive army. Unfortunately, the years preceding the Greyhawk Wars saw the Shield Lands fall in humiliating defeat to the Horned Society and Bandit Kingdoms. Many Shield Knights fled to goodly nations, establishing relations with local rulers in an attempt to regain their lost homeland through military force. When the forces of the Horned Society withdrew in 583 CY, it appeared that those efforts were successful. The withdrawal proved only a brief respite, and soon the entire nation fell to Iuz. By the end of the Greyhawk Wars, only a third of the order’s original 1,800 esquires still lived.
In 587 CY, under the leadership of the newly installed Knight Commander Lady Katarina Walworth, the expatriate Knights of Holy Shielding returned to their homeland in force. With considerable support from Furyondy, they liberated Critwall and Scragholme Island in a series of bloody battles in which no quarter was asked or given. From Critwall, the knights continue to strike against very strong occupying forces to the north and east. The liberation of the Shield Lands and the destruction of Iuz and his armies are this order’s foremost goals.
Most Knights of Holy Shielding are now engaged in this “War of Reclamation.” However, several agents remain in Greyhawk, Dyvers, the Duchy of Urnst, and Furyondy, working as mercenaries and sending their revenue to support the army at home. Within the reclaimed lands, the Shield Knights represent the best sort of heroism. Commoners regard a Shield Knight with respect and awe.
Outside the Shield Lands, the knights are looked upon with less favor. For all their idealistic chatter, these were the same knights who failed to intelligently defend their own nation twice in the last ten years. Cynics reason that it is only a matter of time before they fall to defeat once again. Though the outside world knows the Shield Knights for an arrogance and naivete unacknowledged in their homelands, all know that Shield Knights can be trusted in word and deed. The Knights of Holy Shielding are noted rivals of the Knights of the Hart, who dismiss them with contempt.
The core of the Knights of Holy Shielding are paladins, though fighters and clerics of Heironeous are found among their number. Katarina is titular head of the organization, but the daily operations of the Knighthood are seen to by Knight Banneret Incosee of the Bronze Band (LG male human Fighter L13), a surpassingly brave Flan general.