Upon the Rivalries and Conflicts of Knightly Orders, Part III
Date: Thu, February 03, 2005
From where did the Knights of Holy Shielding come? Who were they? What were the sources of their conflicts?
Upon the Rivalries and Conflicts of Knightly Orders, Part Three
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It has been noted quite often that the orders of knighthood share many rivalries and feuds with each other and with other groups, although there has been little explanation of why these conflicts exist. Quite likely, the origins of these rivalries extend back to their founding in the Flanaess, and their revelation proves once again that there are two sides to every conflict; that peoples and nations supposedly viewed as good can turn on each other just as can the forces of evil; and that one should beware when assigning the term of "good" or "evil" to any given situation in the Flanaess. – The Brother of the Cruel Summer.
The Knights of Holy Shielding were founded on a combination of new and old ideals. They were the creation of those nobles of the Great Kingdom living on the north shores of the Nyr Dyv who refused to break away with the Viceroyalty of Ferrond when that territory seceded from the empire in 254 CY. These nobles and their subjects were some of the most devoted and tradition-bound of the Aerdi, and their loyalty to the ancient ideals championed by the great overkings of old was faultless. Upset and depressed at the rapid decline of the imperial regime in Rauxes, these nobles rejected that decadent government and also refused to swear allegiance to the new Kingdom of Furyondy.
Old ideas of honor, justice and courage made cause with new ideals of unity and cooperation against mutual threats in forming the Knights of Holy Shielding, or the Knights of the Shield. Threats from the Bandit Kingdoms to the north, Furyondy from the west, and from the newly created nations of the Duchy of Urnst and Nyrond to the east led the nobles first to pledge their mutual, undying support in the creation of their knighthood. The Knights of the Shield scored decisive victories against invasions from all its neighbors, and the knighthood eventually led the nobles on the northern shores of the Nyr Dyv to found their own country in their territory – The Shield Lands.
The Knights of the Shield and the Shield Lands soon developed a bitter rivalry with the Knights of the Hart in Furyondy. Apart from the basic reasons for all national rivalries, such as matters of trade, prestige and diplomacy, Furyondy and the Order of the Hart were bitter about their loss of face against the Shield Lands when they tried invading the latter in the 270s CY after Furyondy’s secession from the Great Kingdom. The other dispute, of course, centered on a clash of values; Furyondy broke away from the Great Kingdom, the Shield Lands remained loyal. Subtle clashes in philosophy and the ideals of goodness also played into the long rivalry between Furyondy and the Shield Lands. The Knights of the Shield and the Knights of the Hart were foremost in these rivalries; while the Order of the Hart in Veluna and the Knights of the High Forest had little animosity for the Shield, they were nonetheless dragged into the conflict.
After Furyondy’s failed invasion of the Shield Lands, the orders of knighthood and their nations did not engage in any more armed conflict. They both had to deal with much graver threats in the Bandit Kingdoms, and later the Horned Society and Iuz. The hatred between the Bandits and the Shield comes, obviously, from the former raping, looting and pillaging of the citizens of the Shield Lands. Fortunately, the Bandits could do little more than raid and plunder; whenever they met the hosts of the Shield Lands in head-on combat, the Knights of the Shield led the way in giving the Bandits a sound thrashing. The only reason the Shield did not totally crush the Bandits was due to the Shield Landers’ sense of mercy and their own abhorrence at ruling over the degenerate Bandits.
The Horned Society and Iuz need little explanation. They posed a terrible threat to the Shield Lands and the Knights of the Shield, and had strong, disciplined military forces that could match the Shield Lands blow for blow. They also enlisted humanoids, mercenaries and horrible monsters, all of which were deadly enemies even to the trained and disciplined Knights of the Shield.
Iuz disappeared before he could threaten the Shield Lands, but the years from 550-580 CY saw skirmishing and conflict along the banks of the Ritensa River, as both the Bandits and the Horned Society struck at the Shield Lands. The Knights of the Shield stood against these threats, even as they constructed great forts such as Torkeep. The Shield Lands also grew alarmed at the alliances made between the Society and some of the Bandit Kingdoms, especially Warfields and Wormhall.
The Shield Lands’ non-evil neighbors could always call on the Knights of the Shield to assist them when they asked. Their help was valued on more than one occasion, especially by the Urnst states and even Greyhawk on one occasion. However, despite the good and true character of the Knights, many of them and their citizens also exhibited an overwhelming pride and arrogance. Knights serving in foreign countries often decried whatever they saw as immorality in these lands. This irritatingly self-important attitude did not incline any of the Shield Lands’ neighbors to return the favors done them by the Knights of the Shield when the Shield Lands were invaded in the Greyhawk Wars. The general dislike of the Shield Lands and its knights by the surrounding states led most of the Shield Lands’ neighbors to grimly look on as the arrogant knights were crushed. Shield Land expatriates claim with some justification that their neighbors were ungrateful curs who abandoned them in their time of need. This even after many of these same neighbors took in Shield Lands refugees; the irony here is that neither side appreciates what the other has done for them.
And, unfortunately, the Knights of Holy Shielding and the Shield Lands would eventually fall. The first blows of the Greyhawk Wars came in 579 CY, when Warfields, Wormhall, and the Horned Society struck at the Shield Lands. The conflict remained on a low scale for two years, and so the rest of the Flanaess took little notice. But by 581 CY, the conflict had become full-fledged war. The whole of the Flanaess was an armed camp; and the Greyhawk Wars shook the continent to its very roots. Three more years of vicious fighting continued, with the Shield Lands standing virtually alone against the Bandits, the Horned Society, and scattered forces of Iuz. In Patchwall 584 CY, Holmer, Knight Commander of the Knights of Holy Shielding, Earl of Walworth, and Honorable Lordship of the Shield Lands, rode out for the last time to confront his enemies.
This was, arguably, the Knights’ finest hour. Their nation and their order were doomed; but they fought on with courage, valor and daring to the last man. The invaders were eventually triumphant, but victory cost them dear. Earl Holmer slew Hok, Guardian General of the Bandit kingdom of Warfields, in single combat. He also slew one of the Hierarchs of the Horned Society. Holmer’s hurled battleaxe cut the wizardly Hierarch in two even as he himself perished from the wizard’s prismatic spray.
The Knights of Holy Shielding are now almost all gone. The Shield Lands are but a historical memory, and are fully a part of the Horned Empire. However, they stand out for their courage, their ability, their honesty, and their good nature...qualities that even many of the good nations of the Flanaess lack at certain times.