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7Hex Dragon: The Knightly Orders of Thur

Thur is an ancient kingdom decended from the mounted nomads of the steppe. After a many year war with the Imperial Sorcerers, they surrendered and became a province of the IS. They were able to maintain a good bit of their local customs and law, including their Knightly Orders. They are named after animals as the superstitious and animistic nomads felt that certain animals were omens from the gods. The Orders have a certain clannishness about them from back when individual clans ran the Orders. The clans have mostly disappeared, but the Orders thrive.

Much of the flavor of Thur comes from the competitions and rivalries of the Knightly Orders. Duels are common, though duels to the death are frowned upon in all but the most egregious insults. Many in the IS feel that these Orders are barbaric, but don't know how to oppose them successfully. They are trying to use the Order of the Chameleon instabilities to work against them all.

The king is hereditary, but where that breaks down, there have been plottings by the clans/orders to seat one of theirs on the throne. Very rarely has this broken out in civil war as there are many pressures holding that in check. The first is that the hereditary claims have been fairly solid. The second is that the Bats and Foxes are very good at manipulating and dealing. The third is that the Clans were more ambitious than the Orders and they have greatly faded (especially under the IS, but even before that as Thur continued to expand and become more imperial). The fourth is that the Bears and Boars have agreed on sharing power with other orders in a somewhat civil way and most don't want to oppose the combined might of the Bears and Boars. The Llamas actually held the peace once when the war with the IS started to go against Thur. The Boars started publicly questioning the Bear's leadership, and the Wolves, who were being decimated, backed the Boars, threatening to split the stable alliance. The Llamas made a large and very public display to show that they sided with the Bears, on procedural grounds if not exactly military confidence. The populace mostly fell in behind the Bears and Llamas, leaving the Boars with too few allies and a pressing enemy empire to deal with.

Orders: Bats, Bears, Boars, Foxes, Hawks, Llamas, Ravens, Wolves, Chameleons

  • Order of the Bat

    The Order of the Bat are the true assassins and special ops Order. While the Ravens make a show of force for larger scale special ops, the Bats are much more stealthy and undercover. The Bat is silent and feeds at night, and they often work their operations at night. They can lay low in the wild and launch kidnappings and assassinations. They are the smallest order, with just a few dozen members. They are much less likely to carry crests or identify themselves. The head and his 2nd in command are the only ones who will will wear their appropriate insignia to the Thurian Court. They specialize more than any in Unarmed Combat and Spying, living in the wild, poisons and dagger. They wear little or no armour (up to leather so they can use their Unarmed Combat skills and stay silent). They have a rigorous training and testing and when the squire is "knighted", he does not receive a sword, spurs or war hammer, but rather a blued stiletto so it won't reflect light. The Bats are usually close to the King who utilizes their services as assassins and even undercover personal guards, until such time as they unite with the Foxes to kill the King!

    The Bats do not get along publicly with anyone except the Foxes as they don't interact with many other orders enough to be friends or enemies. There are some small resentments about their secrecy but they are not so influential as to warrant much rivalry. It is thought that they also supply many members of the Order of the Chameleon. The Llamas are very suspicious of the Bats and do not like them, and the feeling is mutual. It is surmised that their origins are a splinter group off of the Ravens and the story is vague and changes depending on if you talk to a Bat or a Raven.

    Their field operatives must retire at 39 and take on less strenuous roles like trainers, courtiers, advisors, etc. They are also one of three orders (with the Foxes and Llamas) who actively recuit some women in this otherwise male dominated society.

  • Order of the Bear

    The Order of the Bear is the gold standard of Orders and likely the original, if not certainly one of the original, Orders. The Bear was considered a symbol of strength in defense and valiant battle. They staff the heavy cavalry that made the Thurians a unique and feared army. They are a large Order and allow many part-time members that can be called up in time of war and are looked upon to organize the core of the cavalry and infantry. They have the largest and grandest tournaments that include horsemanship, wrestling, hand-held weapons, archery, foot races, etc. They feature drop weapon as they are strong and well suited to Hand-to-Hand Combat and can use that power to disarm pike wielders so they can charge through. The classic war hammer is more ceremonial with them as they have a wide variety of weapon masters (with lance, spear, sword and polearm being most popular). Their base of operations is a large estate just outside of the city of Thur and revolves around their large tournament fields, stables and lists.

    They often settle matters of honor with wrestling contests and not the traditional armed Judicial Duel.

    They are encouraged to marry and start estates and to have many, many male children.

    They have various specializations and are a wide ranging group that include Unarmed Combat, horsemanship, weapons, strategy/tactics, physiker, logistics, training recruits, new followers, etc. Their prototype is the large and gregarious warrior who can wrestle, ride and, when called for, drink. They breed some of the biggest/strongest war horses in Thur (approaching draft horse stature).

    They have the widest range of crests including their lances, bears, swords, wrestling, horses, etc.

    There is a high spirited and mostly healthy rivalry with the Boars who are a splinter group from the Bears and claim similar functions as the Bears. The Boars show up in force and pomp to every Bear tournament and the results are tabulated and compared all year.

  • Order of the Boar

    The Order of the Boar is a splinter group from the Order of the Bear. It has been many centuries, but some of the bad feelings still persist in latent ways. The exact nature of the schism is little understood and interpreted differently depending on if you ask a Boar or Bear. It had to do with the proper temperament of a warrior (Boars are a little more amped up than the Bears), organizational efficiencies and what kinds of recruits to allow a full time position and knighting, or only be a reservist (to use modern parlance). The Boars are similar to the Bears in their generality, but have a wider variety of Cavalry and Infantry (the Bears focus mostly on heavy calvary and infantry). They focus a bit less on Unarmed Combat and more on Weapon Mastery (which they have a wide variety of Masters of great renown). They use the spear (boar spear often) and naginata quite a bit in battle, but swords, hammers and crossbows are also well represented. They are the second largest Order, behind the Bears, but their tournaments are definitely second rank, with the Bears holding the two biggest in the year (the Spring and Late Summer tournaments). The Boars have had to move theirs around the Bears to less hospitable times.

    The Boars maintain a strong tradition of Judicial Duel (they are a little more hot headed than the Bears), though not to the death. They use blunted spears and the first to knock their opponent over or cause significant injury wins.

    They have generally good relations with all Orders (except maybe the Bats), but hold some in small distain like the Foxes and Bats for not being vigorous enough. They have a spirited and mostly healthy rivalry with the Bears, and show up to the Bears tournaments in full force and pomp.

    Their stronghold is an estate to the northwest of Thur, on the ancestral lands of one of the founding members. It was spared in the IS seige due to being in the Northwest and that it was essentially deserted as the Boars were all out in the field.

    Their crests are also wide, but most often feature a Boar to demarcate themselves from the ever famous Bears.

  • Order of the Fox

    The Order of the Fox are the court spies and diplomats of old (they have been mostly replaced by the IS advanced spying techniques). Many of the Order of the Chamleon come from here as they are bitter about being removed from their role as head spies and diplomats in remote courts. They specialize in Unarmed Combat, Dagger, Spying, Courtly Graces, and other useful functions. They are looked down upon by many orders as being effeminate, but they are lethal killers and are now plotting against the IS and the Thurian nobility to take back some control. They are gifted plotters and have not been uncoverd and have not allowed any IS secret police to infiltrate them. They hold no tournaments and are not especially gifted horsemen (though all Thurians have background in horsemanship and some Foxes use their advanced Horsemenship skill to get ahead in courts as a show of skill and good breeding, only the very wealthy in the IS are good horsemen). They eschew the war hammer, prefering the rapier, short sword, and other more courtly weapons (the war hammer is considered unrefined/barbaric in many courts around this part of Cidri). Though many have walking canes that are basically light and elegant picks.

    Their power is Detect Enemies for their work in remote courts. (See the Fox's Cape).

    They are smaller and a bit more homogeneous then the Bears and Boars. They are one of three Orders to recuit some women (women court spies are very helpful in a male dominated court, now aren't they). Their Crest is the Fox on ochre background. Many have adapted this to the local customs of the baronies, duchies and courts that they serve in (and are trying to form a Western alliance with the manors of the western Borderlands and they have very covert contacts with the Duke of Mt. Bronar with an idea if they can convince the Thurian nobility to turn on the IS, they can ally with Bronar, have him march on the northern border of the IS while the Thurians send a strong cavalry to the front that will turn on the IS army suddenly in the midst of battle, sacking the command structure and breaking up the infantry. Then another stronger cavalry that will march on Dar Karador itself in a lightning strike to disable the military ability of the IS (without going into Dar Karador itself). So far they have not had much success convincing Bronar in this scheme.

    Their stronghold is just outside the royal keep in Thur, in an elaborate and courtly mansion with well manicured gardens, fountains and a lavish, if relatively small, stable.

    The Foxes are the only Order to have publicly good relations with the Bats (the Wolves and Hawks are actually appreciative of the Bats, but they won't defend them in public so much), as they use each other's skills and have plotted together to overthrow many a King. They get along well with the Ravens as the Foxes often provide the intelligence to coordinate the Raven's attacks and when they don't the Ravens often can give them good intelligence from deep behind enemy lines. They distrust the Llamas as being politically naive in upholding the letter of the law. This can get in the way of the expedient methods of which the Foxes must avail themselves to get their work done. They don't want to look over their shoulder and see a do-gooder Llama trying to prosecute them for getting their difficult and grey-area job done.

  • Order of the Hawk

    The Order of the Hawk has descended from the long-range hunters of the ancient nomads to the current-day scouts. The Hawk was considered an omen of luck in the hunt and far-sighted wisdom. They have spirited and fast stallions, having horseraces and skill in jumping and manuvering tests and tournaments (which few Bears show up for, but the Foxes, some Wolves and a few Ravens and Llamas will attend). They are, unsurprisingly, good with Hawks and using them to hunt and scout. They usually win the flat out races and archery at other Orders' tournaments. They are quick to laugh but serious on the field.

    In war, many of the Hawks are scouts and intelligence gatherers. They ride ahead and estimate enemy strength and positions. They feed this especially to the Wolves and Ravens for their functions. They will often ride with the Ravens in a supporting role (especially when the Ravens are short handed at the beginning of a campaign). Their specializations are in logistics, scouting, mathematics, horsebow and horsemanship. They are not only scouts, and do provide some light cavalry and other functions (messengers, flanking units, supply chain escorts, etc). They are one of a few orders proficient with the javelin, horsebow and crossbow. Their horses are fast and light stallions.

    Their power is Far Sight to help them find enemy positions and count troop strengths (and to shoot their bows). They also have some Speed Movement laying around!

    Their stronghold is several miles west of the city of Thur, in the foothills of the backbone mountains (this is a new home, their old home east of Thur was totally destroyed during the IS siege).

    The Bears and Boars look down on them a bit for being "light weights". They get along fairly well with the Llamas, Foxes, Wolves and Ravens. They grudgingly use the Bats and can even be grateful/relieved when that Bat's mission is done, but they won't say too much publicly about it. They take great pride in riding circles around the lumbering Bears and picking them off with blunted arrows from their rapid fire horseman's bows. The Llamas often call on the Hawks to find and root out larger brigand strongholds (and on the rare occasion that a Llama is attacked while riding a remote judicial circuit, the Hawks will aid in bring all involved to complete and total justice). They have good relations with the Wolves as they work in similar areas and the Wolves use the Hawks' intelligence to help them do their ancillary missions like flanking maneuvers, raids against the enemy's archery line, etc. A few Hawks are covertly in the Order of the Chameleon.

  • Order of the Llama

    The Order of the Llama came out of a more charitable background than the Ravens, Wolves and Bats. They are a newer order (only a three hundred and fifty years old, the founding members came from the Boars, Bears, Wolves and one Raven outcast). They pride themselves on protecting the poor and downtrodden, being slow to anger, but persevering in attaining justice once roused. Even though they mostly travel singly or in pairs (except in the most dangerous of areas or for special occasions), they are rarely attacked on the road as the Llammas will never rest in hunting down and bringing to Justice any brigands that attack them on the road. The llama is a peaceful animal that is not a carnivor, but is fierce in protecting sheep from wolves, often scattering wolf packs while herding the sheep to higher ground. They take this as the proper way violence should be used. They often travel trade routes to protect merchants and pilgrims and settle smaller disputes. They will often be the first to respond to brigand activity and will respond with quick justice. They ride warhorses and Battle Llamas (which they bred specifically for their own use to make sure they can travel the mountainous western areas, and areas where roads are scare, the llama's foot can handle grades and slippery trails better than a warhorse). They carry the classic Thurian Horseman's Pick, and wield spears and pike axes (lucerne hammers) when charging. They are veterinarians, warriors, physikers, trackers (got to find those hiding brigands!) and judges of last resort as their reputation of honesty and simple justice will make due where a trained Judge is not available in the backwaters of Thur and IS in general. They are often the only law in the far west and southwest of the IS. Their leaders are called the Justiciers and wear the ceremonial white Cloak with the gilt Hammer of Justice embroidered on the front and back.

    Their training is rigorous and they must pass basic reading and writing, weapons and horse/llama riding tests. Then they pick one or more specializations: vet/physiker, law (all Llamas study some legal theory), tactics, hunters/trackers/outdoorsmen, martial arts. They are tested then tested on their specialization before being Knighted. Only then are they awarded their Horseman's Pick and spurs. Their coat of arms feature scales, sheep, llamas (usually standing on or rampant chasing wolves from sheep which causes some small friction with the Order of the Wolf), sickles, and other symbols of Justice and Martial Prowess. Most are on a white background which they only wear to formal battle or judging duties. Their hammers are signs of the Hammer of Justice, standing balanced on the end of it's handle and falling on any who disturb the balance of Justice. In the name of balance, they recruit a small number of women and there must be at least one woman on the High Court of the Justiciers (the elder council and leaders of the Llamas, and Judges of final Appeal that only the King can override, and then the King better have a very good reason to do so). If you can get a Llama to officiate at a Judicial Duel, that lends the Duel some legitimation as the Llamas look down on young hot-heads trying to prove themselves by inventing insults to their honor so they can request a Duel.

    In War time they will come to the muster with heavy to medium cavalry and a small run of infantry. They will balk at any battle they consider unjust or frivolous. The Thurian Kings will often secretly consult the Llamas before any battle to make sure they are on board as a public spat with the respected Llamas can erode public support for any campaign.

    Their stronghold is a converted mansion of one of the founding members in the city of Thur itself, though on any given day, most of their people are out in scattered posts or riding judicial circuits in the farther reaches of Thur. As such it is often forgotten that the Llamas are much bigger than the 10-20 that are in the stronghold on any given day (in addition to support staff, stable hands, etc).

    There is a healthy rivalry between the Llamas and the Bears for martial supremacy in the Bear's tournaments (the Llamas take this more seriously than the Bears since the Bears consider the Llamas to be too small of an order to take seriously). The Llamas claim to better warriors out of finese and like to remind the Bears that they have a slight edge in the contests they compete in (more awards on a per capita basis). The Bears just laugh as they think they are the best generally, pointing out to the Llamas that they win the most awards overall and don't care about a few specialists. Llamas do not like the Bats and are suspicious of them, and have their doubts about the Foxes, but that does not stop them from working with them. The Foxes, Bats and some Ravens and Bears feel that their brand of legal justice smacks just a little bit of the too by-the-book IS and the Law Giver, and given the Llamas formed just shortly before the IS takeover, most of their history has been under IS influence. The work very well with the Hawks whom they call in to help find and root out larger brigand strongholds (or to completely avenge the rare times that a Llama has been killed while riding solo on a judicial circuit). They have on rare occasion also used the Foxes for intelligence on courtly injustice, but this is fraught with ethical peril for them and they try not to get involved in courtly justice issues.

  • Order of the Raven

    The Order of the Raven is ancient knightly order in Thur. The Raven was the Omen of Death, and the Order of the Raven used to play high class assassins and special operations on the battlefield (flanking maneuvers, spearheading a charge to break through an enemy line, attacking the supply line or command post of the opposing army, etc). As high-class assassins, they would call those disfavored by the King, or the Marshal of the Order, out for duels. They have evolved into a still harsh, but more open, knightly order as Thur prospered and grew (and other emerging orders took parts of their specialization away as their society and military campaigns became more sophisticated). They are awarded a combination iron crown/mask of hideous visage on their Knighthood (called the Burning Ceremony) and it is tossed into a fire to give it an even more grotesque, charred appearance. The squire has to pull it out with his bare hands (which rarely results in major injury). The mask is also a throwback to the days when they were glorified assassins, hiding their identity to thwart blood feuds. The Ravens often will soot and char their armor, barding, shields and weapons to remind themselves of their Burning and create the requisite fear in their opponents as their reputation precedes them (thanks to Runequest Slayer's Obsidian Templari WarClan for the sooting of armour idea). Their Order's traditional power is Induce Fear (the fear of death). They use the war hammer (which they call the Raven's Beak and claim they introduced it to Thur, which is unlikely), the Bastard Sword, and spear or lucern hammer (or Great Raven's Beak) when charging. Their symbols revolve around their horses, their beloved horseman's hammer or bastard sword, their burning, their masks (See the Raven's Mask) and the various symbols of death (raven, skull, crossbones, etc) which are embroidered on their tunics and surcoats. Their shields do not carry any symbols and are always charred and blackened before each battle. Their horses are a special breed that they maintain in a large stable at the order's Keep. They are either jet black or a bone/gray, and are fierce and temperamental creatures who are fast, but not as strong as some warhorses of the Bears and Boars (and not as fast as the Hawk's stallions but somewhere in between). It is claimed that they come from a breed of horses that were tamed by the minions of death herself to chase down those who would run away from her, and have special powers and senses. The Order revels in causing chaos and destruction for the enemy and are used to having great effect on the poor souls who guard the horses and supply chain or lost units wandering around after a battle.

    They are partially ascetic. They are allowed a wife and children, though only a minority have them, and their family must live away from the Order with limited visitation. They do not drink except one drink at funerals for Ravens that have fallen in battle and have a strict diet and routine (martial practices , horse care, etc). They start their training at a young age (9-11). The squire must renounce family (though this is not as absolute as the words sound, they must put the Order above family, which is often easy enough) and swear to protect the Order. They specialize in difficult missions involving speed and lethal effect (i.e. they are horsemen and warriors, not spies or thieves). They raid opposing camps to destroy food, horses or cut supply chains deep in enemy territory. They are talented in war, horsemanship, living off the land and strategy. They rarely fight with the vanguard as they are already in enemy territory preparing the way for the main army (think Grierson's Raid in the US Civil War for a model of how they work). Though if Thur itself is pressed, they will line up with the Wolves to defend the homeland.

    They are a smaller order (smaller than the Boars, Bears, and Wolves, maybe a bit bigger than the Llamas), not many wanting the life of the Ravens. Their numbers fluctuate depending on the temper of the times (longer, major campaigns and the ascetic martial attitude gains cache and they are in demand and will up their membership to make up for those lost in battle, long periods of peace will see their numbers diminish). But the Order is fairly wealthy having one of the oldest keeps in Thur and large tracts of land and hereditary families of serfs.

    They are friendly enough with the Boars, Bears and Hawks, suspicious of the Llamas and have a on-going rivalry with the Wolves who took their place in the point of the charge of the vanguard. They dislike the Bats as they appear to be a splinter group when the Ravens stopped any form of covert assassinations. Interpretations of the split vary depending if you talk to a Raven or a Bat. They think the Foxes are a bit effeminate, but don't actively disklike them for all of that. They get along very well with the Hawks as they rely on each other for intelligence.

  • Order of the Wolf

    The Order of the Wolf fills several roles including providing leaders for the vanguard of the Thurian army, hunting down rogue units, some special missions in enemy territory (though the Ravens do more of that and are a little jealous of their "turf"). The Wolf was thought as a harbringer of war and they are often the lead charge (a point they take great pride in and remind the Ravens of) to break up enemy units before the heavy calvalry come in. They are the third largest order behind the Bears and Boars.

    They are the quickest of the orders to call a Judicial Duel to defend their honor (the IS, and even the Llamas, are not pleased with this). They, like many Orders, have a slight inferiority complex when competing with the Bears and take great pride in defeating them in tournament when they can.

    Their power of Speed Movement allows them to be the leading edge of the main army and to surprise and confuse the front line of the enemy by arriving faster than they expect. They take heavy casualties and are honored as such (even if grudgingly by the Ravens and Bears). They are on fairly good terms with most Orders who give them some respect for leading the charges.

    They specialize in lance (for the charge), thurian horsemans hammer/pick, spear, horsemanship, strategy/tactics, warrior/veteran, etc. They will occasionally have a few women in the Order, but rarely in leadership positions.

    They have several ceremonial wolfskin garments (some of a bright silver, see the Silver Wolf's Cloak) that are used in Knighting ceremonies. Which involve solo outings into the woods (Thurlid's Bane amongst others), horsemanship and martial tests facing multiple opponents who attempt to inflict some injury to see how the squire handles mult-attacker pressure under pain. They have a large wood lodge to the south of the city of Thur that is protected by a large stone wall. The lodge is ancient (though remodeled/reroofed/repaired/extended significantly during the centuries) and looks a bit odd inside more modern fortifiations, but it is their ancestral hall and they will defend it to the death (think Beowulf). They know how to celebrate after battle, but are not drunkards as they train very hard outside of combat.

    They get along very well with the Bears, Boars, Foxes and Hawks. They have good relations with the Bats, but harbor some distrust for them not being vigorous enough. Relations with the Llamas are strained as the Llamas think them immature hotheads looking for excuses to duel and the Wolves think the Llamas are a little "bookish" and rigid for their tastes. Plus some Llamas have crests involving rampant llamas scattering wolf packs in defense of sheep, which they hold to be an insult, though they try not to call them out in a duel over it as they have lost in the court of public and courtly opinion severely the few times they have tried. On the plus side, they have joined with the Llamas on one or two occasions to raid larger brigand strongholds, the Llamas needing the Wolves (and Hawks) unique talents there. The have some turf issues with the older Ravens, with the Wolves taking the glory of the leading point of the charge from the Ravens and the Ravens not allowing Wolves to do some of the deep behind the lines missions. The Wolves have many members in the Order of the Chameleon.

  • Order of the Chameleon

    The Order of the Cameleon is a recent and secret society made of members of many Orders who are unhappy with their subordinate position in the IS and work to subvert that arrangement. They do not have a single meeting place, but are clandistine and move their meetings around. Most Orders are represented (except the Llamas), but the Foxes and Bats have more of a leadership position. They all carry the traditional Thurian War Hammer as a symbol of the traditional might of Thur. Their power is Invisibility to avoid detection by the ever watchful IS. They wear dark armour with full helms to cover their faces and a plain dark green surcoat. All carry potions and hidden daggers to commit suicide if they are ever caught. They are a small and secretive, but growing influence at the Thurian Court. The IS consider them rebels and revolutionaries and will deal harshly with them, as soon as they can catch one. They are trying to convince the Duke of Bronar to plan a grand scheme where Bronar increasingly challenges the IS on border issues to provoke a fight, and when the armies are in the field, the Thurian units will suddenly turn on the command structure and the center of the IS line to disrupt them and allow Bronar drive in and scatter them. The Duke is justly skeptical that the Chameleons have enough influence to guarantee the Thurians turn against the IS at the crucial moment, and this isn't some clever scheme by the IS to get Bronar into the field, but is keeping discrete channels open that don't directly involve him to allow for plausible deniability.

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