Knightly Orders of Elvendeep
It is often said that the Deepish collect titles as others do old coins. Through various origins, a great number of Knightly Orders have risen up among these fair folk, each promising a Knighthood, a pension, great honour, and occasionally a utilitarian function in protecting the nation. Though both Elflords and Commoners will hold a Knighthood or two, a growing middle class has begun to use the prestige gained by multiple decorations to climb the social ladder.
It should be here noted that unless an elf has completed his tour of duty in an Order (usually twenty years), he is technically a ‘Bachelor’ of that Order and not a Knight, but that distinction is not often attended to and bachelors are known as Knights regardless..
Explained herein are seven of the most prominent Orders, although there are many more. Each is distinguished by a decorative baldric of a certain colour, embroidered with white swans, the national symbol. Orders with similar colours are often intense rivals and argue heatedly about whose guild chose its colour first.
Lifetime members of an order (such as its Captains and Lords) wear two baldrics, crisscrossing their chest, while those who are serving their single tours wear only one. A Knight done his tour will keep his baldric (and hang it in a prominent place in his home), but in most cases will instead wear an ornate medal or pin on his dress clothing to signify his Knighthood, save on formal occasions. Many elves wear several such decorations, as the more Knighthoods one claims title to the more respect and honour he is awarded.
The Order Diluvian
Much has been sung about the dashing and merry River Elves of Elvendeep, but these do not refer to a ‘race’ of elves, but to the stalwart Diluvian Order. These Knights are the highway patrollers of that element which serves as the primary Deepish means of travel: the water.
Though elves do not often go a’ boating on the sea, they have an abiding love of rivers, streams and canals, which crisscross much of the central Soranion. These waterways are far superior to the few Deepish roads since they do not mar the forest’s beauty, but enhance it and follow its dips and curves naturally.
But just as the roads of a nation must be watched against bandits and foreign incursions, so must the rivers of Elvendeep, and here is found the role of this Order. Decked out in brilliant blue baldrics and brightly hued bandanas and sashes, the sparsely armoured ‘riverines’ patrol the Malchur and its tributaries in a variety of boats, from the tiny to the giant. At points the Malchur is hundreds of yards wide, while some smaller branches are little more than streams.
The Knights’s primary weapons in this pursuit are crescent-headed rigger arrows to damage ships’ lines, harpoons to latch onto offending vessels, and sabres and spears for boarding a hostile deck. Not to be left out, magic is greatly useful to the fluvial warrior, and besides typical spells and enchanted arrows, he will often be able to summon up a Water Elemental or cast other water magic with practiced ease. Many times an enemy ship has found itself suddenly unmoving in the calmest of waters – when moments before whitecaps abounded in the heavy current. It might run aground in an area thought to be several lengths deep. Or alternately, a vessel might find itself swept out to sea on the cusp of an unseasonable flood.
A Diluvian Knight must also be an excellent swimmer and boater, knowing the eddies and currents of water and wind like no other. Navigators are well respected for their innate knowledge of all the myriad watery paths of the Soranion.
The smallest type of Diluvian boat is a simple kayak. Able to hold one or two elves depending on its make, the tiny craft lightly skims across the water, or dances through rapids and rocks. They are made with hide stretched over a wood frame, and most Knights are trained early on in their tour to construct such a craft from handy materials. These are often used as scouts, messengers, and transportation, but rarely in any type of dangerous situation, as they are easy targets. Wild Elves are often touted as the best pilots of these small craft, as they use them regularly in their everyday life.
The second main type of vessel is a skiff, the workhorse of the Order. Each is about 34 feet long, wooden with a square sail and oars (though occasionally water magic carries them), and designed for speed and a shallow draw of only three or four feet. Two light archers (with short recurve bows and flight arrows) are stationed one astern, one forward. Two heavy archers (armed with giant elvish longbows and heavy sheaf arrows) amidship, two more knights (typically a warrior and a magic-user), and a Captain and Boatswain bring the crew to eight. The Captain is most often a High Elf, but worthy Common and Wild Elves have been known to achieve the position. The Boatswain, the ship’s first officer, is the highest rank a Commoner will usually attain. The skiff’s most common duty is patrolling. Any ship not allowing the riverine crew full access to its manifest and men is scuttled or turned away.
The third is a caravel type, a ship very limited in its mobility, for it cannot move outside the Malchur itself, but very powerful. Though the elves do not hold much with ‘dwarvish’ contraptions like ballistae and catapults, the over 100 ft long caravel is packed with archers and magic-users for ranged attack, has ramming capability, and has a long swing arm on the aft that may be used to latch onto an enemy vessel and allow the knights to board her using it as a bridge. Some of these ships, though commanded by a Captain, holds a Commodore in charge of operations for a specific area of Elvendeep’s waterways (who must, of course, be a High Elf by birth). A few are the personal ships of the Lord Admirals of the Order Diluvian.
In addition to ship-to-ship combat, the Order Diluvian has several alternatives in combating enemy incursions. Certain points along the river are booby trapped to allow uprooted redwoods or elf-triggered landslides to block off entryway. Because of the environmental damage, this is a last resort tactic and those more subtle are preferred.
Shore-stationed knights have a number of well-placed watchtowers and docking points where ships may put in and shore-to-ship combat may be engaged upon. This includes chains and ropes stretched across the river and anchored well. Properly used, such a tactic might destroy a ship’s rigging and masts. Most of these watchtowers are well disguised as part of the local brush – and those who wonder at the seeming undefended entrance of the Malchur – which is navigable nearly to Elfspire itself - quickly learn that any shadow in any tall tree may hold an elven watcher – more than capable of picking off a captain by bow or casting a debilitating spell. What is more, such a watcher may easily summon the force of his Order through the superior Deepish messenger bird system.
The Order Diluvian’s headquarters is at Highport, that small market and fortress shortly below the confluence of the Malchur’s parent rivers that marks the highest point foreign ships are ever allowed upstream, though both a road and a canal provide access to Elfspire.
Diluvian Knights serve a twenty year tour of duty and are identified by their blue baldrics. Membership is not limited to any of the three classes of elves, and has proven to be quite attractive to those of mixed City-Wild parentage.
The Order of the Root
This guild of patrolling watchelves serves an invaluable purpose in Elvendeep, as they are the first line of defense and the earliest warning against attacks from the hated drow of the under-realms (often called Antipodia by the Deepish, as they consider it on the underside of the world).
As with the Knights Emissariat, the Knights of the Root are organized into two distinct divisions: The Overwardens and the Underwardens.
The Overwardens patrol above ground, travelling to and fro among the wilds of the Soranion, performing two primary tasks. In designated areas, an Overwarden halts and sets up camp next to a particularly old and large tree. There he spends a number of days working his own magic and that of totems issued to him upon it, urging its roots to delve deeper and deeper so that they might warn of vibrations that would indicate drowish tunnelling. To prevent routine from becoming weakness, these trees are ‘retired’ after several years and a new tree in the area chosen to sink its roots. In this way drow subterfuge and spying may not easily find a way past the Order’s net.
His second task, of course, is travelling from one such ‘Deeping Tree’ to the other and spending days using his magic to ‘listen’ for the vibrations of tunnelling coming through the roots. Once every month, he reports back to Elfspire and the Order’s Headquarters by way of messenger bird – enchanted to know the message, rather than carrying it. It is treated very seriously if a Warden does not report on schedule.
The Underwardens are primarily taken from the ranks of the Common Elf clan of the Symari, those elves who mine in shallow tunnels beneath the Soranion. (See Common Elves) His task is similar, only rather than the trees themselves, he uses his magic on the roots which permeate the Symari’s burrows, to deepen, to retire, and to listen. They also report monthly, but usually by way of small mammal companions rather than birds.
The Underwardens and the Overwardens are well coordinated, so as not to be patrolling the same areas. Overwardens patrol only where Symari tunnels, which are not entirely widespread do not stretch.
They are also gifted cartographers and the Headquarters of the Order in Elfspire is revered as a source of the most up-to-date and detailed maps of Elvendeep, both above and below. In this way, Underwardens may be alerted to seemingly innocuous tunnels which are actually cleverly disguised drow penetrations.
The Knights of the Root form the front line of defense, as well as the scouts in anti-drow campaigns. Their tactics are old and practiced, and include collapsing and flooding tunnels, and inserting monstrous beasts into openings and sealing the path behind them. Drowish contingents which are too strong to be dealt with in such a manner are carefully monitored and sometimes led purposely until they find a Deepish force ready to do battle as soon as they break the surface.
The knights of this order are identified by their Brown baldrics, as well as by their heavily laden packs and riding stags for the Overwardens. Patrolling knights, who serve, unlike most of the other orders, multiple five year tours of duty, might be outside civilization or elven contact for up to a year in the more sparsely populated regions of the nation. They must be decent rangers and excellent survivalists in addition to practiced magic users.
Membership in the Knights of the Root is not limited to any of the classes, though only High Elves may reach the upper echelons of rank. Both Wild Elves and City Elves, and also those of mixed parentage, migrate towards the Order. City Elves who join up tend to be aspiring artists and musicians, wishing for time in bucolic isolation in which to meditate, relax, and work on their personal opus, or in the case of the Symari, to fight against their dearest foe. Wild Elves view the Order as a chance to prove oneself as a survivalist as well as gain great honour. And no magic-user of either origin considers his 'druidic' ecomancery of any value unless he has communed with the trees as only these Knights do.
Because of the isolation, Knights of the Root serve four tours of five years each, rather than the usual twenty. No less than one year and often as many as ten pass between the tours. Overwardens must first be Knights Emissariat, as their job requires both rangering skills and a gift in communicating and working with the Sorani – with whom the Overwardens often travel. In the first tour , a new Bachelor is paired with one in his fourth. In the middle two, he is alone.
The Order Elite
Originally the personal guardselves of the Deepish monarch, and later that of the High Council and Governors, the Elite Guard (as it is often called) took on a new role during the Governorship of Sidastriel Frostfall. As a part of this elven hero’s sweeping changes, all elven cities save the capital of Elfspire were abandoned and destroyed without trace. As a ‘gift’ to the Spiri to compliment his ‘gift’ of nearly three-quarters of Elvendeep to the Sorani, Sidastriel merged the Elite Guard with what remained of each city’s former Watch and instructed them to keep peace in a city which quickly became one of the largest of the known world.
A diversified organization, the Order has foot patrols, cavaliers mounted upon Malchurian stags, riverines patrolling the canals in small skiffs, and a small number of aviating Knights.
The Elite Guard is divided up into divisions, each with jurisdiction over a certain area of Elfspire, much like the Royal Guard of Arangoth. And, like the Royal Guard, the Elites have outposts in all other settlements and fortresses in the country. Though any elf is free to join its ranks, the officers are drawn from the ranks of the noble High Elves, and a stint as such is considered a mark of honour among that ruling class. Not to be outdone, the political dividends of such devotion to the peace of one's city is considerable.
Those elves that serve over twenty years as a member of the Elite Guard gain a Knighthood. The Order Elite often encourages its elves, especially the officers, to reenlist for several terms. Higher pensions and ranks are awarded for each tour completed. The Captaincy is a position held until the Captain retires or is expelled from office by the Governor and Council. It is a very desirable position, as the influence one gains makes it easier to attain higher office.
The Elite Guard’s NCO ranks include that of Constable, Inspector and Sergeant. Higher ranks, those accessible only by High Elves see Lieutenants, Superintendants, and finally, the Elite Captain.
During wartime, the majority of the Elite Guard remain in Elfspire as a final line of defense and a force for continued order in stressful times. Small Bands are also included with armies and act as Military Police as well. The best of the best, however, are often drafted into service of the Fourth Column.
Although they wear uniforms of varying colours and cuts according to rank, Elite Knights may be further identified by their bright red baldrics.
The Order Emissariat
An Order as old as the Kingdom itself, this is a binary guild committed to being a conciliar force between the City Elves and the Wild Elves. Founded jointly by heroes of the Sorani and Spiri, the Order offers the green baldric and twenty year tours of duty to elves of each persuasion, ending with their Knighthood and pension.
City Elves joining the Order are ‘Thithers’ as they go forth to the depths of the Soranion and spend a great deal of their tour living among a tribe of Sorani and learning their ways – both in the forestry and culture. Previous to and following this period of cohabitation, the Thither Rangers patrol Elvendeep’s borders and supervise the trade of Sorani hides and furs to Elfspire.
Wild Elves become ‘Hithers’ upon joining the Order and come to the centre of Elfspire for the duration of their tour, likewise spending a good deal of time living with an inviting Spiri House. They also assist the government in clerical functions, learn civilized ways and strategy, and supervise the receiving of Sorani hides and the sale to Felt and Leather guilds.
The Lords Emissary are stationed in the great treetop fortress of Thassalon north of Elvendeep and coordinate the workings of the Order from there.
History of the Order
The Order's history begins when Elvendeep was first formed and friction began to occur between those civilized elves and the native inhabitants of the Soranion, the Wild Elves. Provincial lines laid out by City Elf surveyors, those in the absence of natural boundaries, were rarely respected by the Sorani, who could not understand how an imaginary line could control their movements. As such, they took umbrage when City Elves began to build their orchards and estates on their traditional hunting grounds. City elves were outraged when Wild Elves poached their favourite riding stags.
What is more, when either tried to make amends, the other did not understand. The story of the Order Emissariat begins with two elves against one another. Seeking to avoid violence after a roaming High Elf’s laundry fouled his favourite swimming hole, the Wild Elf Riverchill cuffed the offending party’s ear gently, then raced off as fast as he could. The bewildered Vardiminar Faran simply rubbed his lobes and stared, not understanding that he was meant to race Riverchill to settle the dispute. He finally concluded that he was more fearsome than he thought.
The stories of Vardiminar and Riverchill are many and celebrated, but suffice to say the two eventually became inseparable companions. When tensions became too high to stand, Riverchill, now a Chieftain, returned to Elfspire and found his companion. He and the Elflord Vardimanar Faran, whom the Wild elf called Swiftcurrent, beseeched then King Wyndralesse to allow them to create a means to bring the two strains of elfkind together. Wyndralesse responded that he had been troubled by the same problem, but could not see any perfect solution.
“Let me go thither, to the Soranion’s glades” replied Vardimanar Swiftcurrent, “and bid my boon companion come hither, to thy golden court. Though I might perish before I be forcibly separated from him, as we have grown bonds stronger than any oak’s branch, I say let us part. Let we two leave one another and be the first to see fully how the other has lived. Through such an experience, we may yet compose a song of peace from two voices.”
The Court gasped at such a beautiful request. Vardiminar, knowing he had the audience, switched his metaphors abruptly, a common tactic in ancient oratory.
“Let we two bend our labours to digging two trenches, that an epoch from now two mighty rivers might merge and become one, with currents and eddies each of their own nature, but surging in one course and to one destination. Fie on these miniscule rocks and stones that even now bend our shovels! Are we not elves?”
The Court put hands to their hearts, so touched were they. But Swiftcurrent was not finished.
“Thou’rt taught as pupils: we are the dew, they the downpour. But are we not all made of the selfsame stuff? ‘Twere it not for how each drop is cast to the earth, would they not be called with one sound? But are we not elves?! Let thou Vardiminar of the House of Faran fall fast and hard upon the path, let thou Riverchill float lightly to the lily. Let thou any other elves that take up our cry do the same, and thou wilt see peace. Thou wilt see a true and united Elvendom!”
The Court held its breath.
“My thoughts echo his.” Added Riverchill stoically. The assembled High Elves burst into applause.
So moved was he by the High Elf’s words and the two elves devotion to each other, the King knighted both upon the spot.
Next the two went to a Dance being held in celebration of a conference between many Sorani Chieftains and Riverchill spoke to the assemblage seated around a council fire.
“I have heard the tale of an elf who did not like to swim.” He began slowly and thoughtfully. “He did not like the river’s water, and hated how it would get up his nose and into his belly while he tried to frolic in it like his tribemates.
“It came to it one day that he was forced to cross the Malchur in flood and was taken by the current. This elf had much magic and could have used it to save himself but was too busy trying to keep his head above water. He drowned and his tribemates mourned for him for many days. They held many dances and sang many songs and finally gathered about to tell his life’s tale.
“After the tale of his birth, his beauty, and his children, a wise elf by the name of Wind’s Reach told the tale of his death. He chose not to lament the death, however. Instead he warned the elves of his tribe against the dead elf’s foolishness. If he had accepted the river, let it flow into him and become a part of him, he would have found the peace within which to work his magic and the water would have become as air to him. But he could not and so, for his stubbornness, he died.”
This was all Riverchill spoke, and yet the Chieftains murmured amongst themselves wondrously. Vardiminar spoke up.
“I see now how wise my friend Riverchill is. I burst with pride to support all his profound words and efforts.”
And so the two-part Order Emissariat was founded, by which means City Elves, as ‘Thithers’ might live amongst the Wild Elf tribes and learn their ways, and vice versa for the wild elf ‘Hithers,’ and both sets of ambassadors bring greater understanding and greater unity between such different elves. Wyndralesse became known as The Reconciler for his efforts.
(The above is an abridged version of events. Some operas, and even some histories, place Vardiminar’s speech as lasting a day or more and containing no less than one hundred metaphors).
Over the years, the Order has taken on an increasingly military aspect, but the core goals remain the same. Its base is the tree-top fortress of Thassalon in the highlands north of Elfspire. There the council of twenty Lords Emissary and their staff see to the administration of the Order.
During wartime, the Order Emissariat, including all those who have completed their tours-of-duty, finds its place alongside the First Column, advising, battling alongside, and coordinating the guerilla cells with Elfspire. Both current Thithers and those done their duty may be identified by the Green Baldric, a symbol of their Order.
Common and High Elves may enter into the Order Emissariat upon application and review for a twenty year tour of duty. They face at the end of this tour a Knighthood, a near unmatched skill at woodsmanship, a purse of coin, and a promise of further opportunities in serving Elfspire.
The Thithers are partly based out of a multitude of outposts throughout the Sorani province, along the border and in the inner reaches. Here they serve a number of functions: as a resource to Sorani tribes who wish to communicate or understand the decrees of the High Elves in Elfspire; as supervisors of the fur trade, which sends the best furs and hides of the Wild Elves to Elfspire to be made into felt and leathers; and they act, in concert with the Wild Elves, as border guards to control entrance into the Soranion and protect it from threats.
- Thither Scout
This is the initial rank of a Thither, held for two years. Scouts are drilled in basic ranger training, perform tasks about the outpost, accompany patrols, and begin learning about the Sorani through books, manuals, and personal contact.
- Thither Runner
After two years of basic training, a Thither is adopted into a Sorani tribe, where he will spend the next ten years living their nomadic lifestyle. He has some contact with his or another outpost, but the vast majority of his time is spent learning to live as a Wild Elf, following their customs and traditions, and intensively training in their wilderness survival skills. Thither Runners emerge from this experience with skills unmatched by lesser rangers and an imprinted knowledge of Sorani customs.
- Thither Ranger
The final eight years of a Thither’s tour of duty is spent back at the outpost. Here the elves act as officers and instructors, leading and training the Thither Scouts, and as full-fledged servants of the Order Emissariat. This is the most common rank, and the one retained by those who have completed their tour and not chosen to remain with the Order’s regulars. Thither Rangers also undergo advanced tactical training, learning how to use their new skills to the utmost in battle and bordering work.
As an interesting note, many City Elves emerge from their tour with the honour of a Sorani name, just as Vardiminar took the surname Swiftcurrent. Many fair folk in Elfspire who currently hold similar compound surnames are themselves former Thither Rangers, or descended from one.
- Thither Captain
Only those who are asked to remain with the Order, and choose to accept, attain the rank of Thither Captain. These are the Knights in charge of each outpost. The only higher rank is that of a Lord Emissary, which only High Elves and Sorani can attain. Thither Captains tend to be High Elves, but the occasional Common Elf has distinguished himself to the point of being elevated.
A Wild Elf also enters the Order Emissariat in expectation of a twenty year tour of duty. On his release he also gains a Knighthood, a sign of deep honour and respect, as well as the promise of a place of prominence advising his band on their relations with Elfspire and the civilized world. Fine gifts, however, replace the purse of coin, which they often have little use for.
The Hithers are based in small colleges, complexes with barracks and learning areas, throughout Elfspire and carry out an array of duties, including the receiving and processing of Sorani furs and hides to be distributed to various buyers to be made into felt and leather.
- Hither Squire
The Hither’s initial two years is spent acclimating to city life. The elf learns to read and write in many different scripts and languages, and gains a passing acquaintance with the great works of history and literature. They are also taught higher mathematics and expected to aid in basic labours about the College.
- Hither Scholar
For the next ten years, the Hither is adopted into a City Elf family, be it High or Common (it usually depends on the Sorani’s own social standing). There he lives alongside the family, learning the basic routines of city life, as well as intensive studies in politics, history, diplomacy, and economy. He is employed by various families and institutions as a clerk. In addition, he also learns the civilized way of warfare, studying various works on strategy, tactics, and learning the various Spiri weapons, even occasionally swordsmanship (which most Wild Elves avoid).
- Hither Tribune
For his final eight years, the Hither serves as an officer at the College, educating the Squires, running the Elfspire-end of the fur trade, administering the institution and continuing his own higher education. He also functions in the Elfspire government, assisting the Sorani ambassadors to the Councils and performing a number of diplomatic and clerical duties attached to the Deepish oligarchy.
This is the rank Hithers retain even after their tour ends.
- Hither Master
If one is invited to stay with the Hithers and accepts, one becomes a Hither Master, the officer in charge of a College. They too can only reach a higher rank as a Lord Emissary.
The Order Laureate
The Knights Laureate are the most respected of the non-martial orders. Membership is awarded by the Order Masters to those who have distinguished themselves in the liberal arts: great historians, authors, musicians, actors, etc.
Once voted into the Order, the Bachelor must simply spend a suitable amount of time – not less than five years – devoted to a commissioned work. Usually this work is a tribute to Elvendeep of some sort, a history or ode. Once this work is completed and approved by the Masters, the Bachelor is Knighted and awarded a small pension. Among the many artists and writers in Elvendeep, this is considered the pinnacle of one’s career.
This Order is normally peopled with City Elves, and High Elves in the overwhelming particular, however there are a number of Common and Wild Elves who have earned the maroon baldric.
The Order Cantabile
This storied Order is among the most exclusive of all the Elven knighthoods, mainly because one must train for over three-score years to even be admitted. The Knights Cantor are also known as the Bladesingers, and of this elven art much has been said in the outer world.
In order to be admitted into the Order for one’s twenty year tour of duty, an Initiate must first pass a test of skill at the art of bladesong – that blending of magic and swordsmanship that creates elvendom’s greatest warriors. The finesse, grace, power, and complexity of the steps and skills of the bladesong are such that no elf has ever taken less than fifty years to learn it to satisfaction – and very few half-elves and no humans have ever achieved its secrets.
Once one passes the admission judges, he or she is given the silver sash of the Order Cantabile and sent from Elvendeep on an exile of twenty years. Abroad, the bladesinger is meant to further the cause of elvendom and protect those examples of it who find themselves outside the protective embrace of the Soranion. They are contacted four times during their tour for reports, but may not reenter the borders of the ‘Deep except on matters of the gravest emergency. In the case of war, all such Knights errant are immediately recalled.
During their tour, it is considered poor form if the Bachelor has fewer than ten epics composed about a heroic or glorious deed he has done, though it is considered no dishonour if those works are composed by the bladesinger himself. Paintings or other representations of the deed are also accepted.
Once returned and having displayed their poems or plays for the Lords Cantor and given full account of themselves for the last twenty years, they are Knighted and given their pension.
The Order Exemplary
Every five years, the Tournament of Allamystrea, last Queen of Elvendeep, is held in one of the few vast open spaces in the Soranion, the Perduring Fields. Here gather countless Spiri and Sorani, of low and high birth, to observe and participate in the contests of skill.
The assembled elven champions compete in a number of categories, including mainstays of archery, swordsmanship and spellcraft and also formation marching, woodsmanship, running and leaping. The event is closed by the traditional grubball tournament between the eight national teams.
The champions in each field, and the entire roster of the winning grubball team are Knighted and awarded the violet baldric for their performance. These are the Knights Exemplar. It is not surprising that the Lords Martial and their teams of recruiters are always in attendance and always paying close attention to these matches, as many of the successful Knights are handpicked for officer or Fourth Column positions.