The Knights of Tirith.
By Aaron Kavli
The Knights of Tirith,
the Holy Defenders of Larani
and Guardians of the lands of Tirithor.
The Knights of Tirith are an order of warriors, loyal to Larani and sworn to uphold her honor and defend the weak and innocent. The order consists of an unknown number, though it is thought to be only a few dozen and slowly growing. Only the most pious, chivalrous, and brave warriors are elevated to this order, by the Lady of Dolithor. Many of the order have not only been elevated to serve in such an honored position, but have also been elevated to the status of demi-godhood by Larani herself.
Larani uses her Knights rarely, and usually only in small numbers. They act as Larani's royal guard and as special emissaries of their goddess. The Knights are often sent to deliver important messages to Larani's followers and clergy, and to occasionally aid a worthy with courage or skill. The Concordat limits their involvement in the mortal realm, but there are many scriptures in church doctrine that describes a Knight answering a call to fight off the demons of Agrik or other dark foes. It is believed that often Larani will answer calls for aid by dispatching one of her brave knights.
The last recorded mass deployment of the Knights of Tirith was during the defense of Alamire led by Saint Sir Ambrathas. The debate as to whether these knights were actually from Tirithor, or if they were a earthly order, is hotly debated. One side argues that they were summoned by the priest's horn and appeared from nowhere, thus proof they came from Dolithor. The other side points out that were they truly Larani's divine Knights, they could not have fallen at Alamire. Instead they propose these were mortal knights who answered Larani's call and became the Holy Knights of Tirith upon their deaths. It is a matter seldom discussed any more at length by the Tirnatha, and then only with groans, sighs, and screams.
The official church position is that the Knights were indeed Larani's own, but were made mortal for the battle. Were it not so, the true measure of the mettle of Ambrathas could not have properly been tested. As Larani's chosen champion, his final ascension required a test of true faith. Ambrathas showed his dedication and, along with the mortal knights, were raised to Larani's side.
While the church has no say in who is raised to
the Knights of Tirith (even they acknowledge this is Larani's affair),
the concept of ecclesiastical infallibility allows them to inform
the laity who Larani has chosen. These announcements can become very political,
and many regions have slight disparities in their list of Knights. Many
of these regional Knights are said to be charged with protecting the lands
of their birth. The Tirnatha tries to dole out such elevations in their
most powerful bishoprics to prevent this disparity from growing out of
control. Most Laranians assume that any warrior who has been canonized,
especially if that person died in a particularly noble fashion, will be
accepted into the order.
The Knights and the Church.
The Laranian church has long had a tradition of holding a distinction between the clergy and the laity. However the members of the church's holy fighting orders, and the Knights of Tirith to an extent as well, fall in between. They have not reached the ecclesiastical grace of the priesthood, but their dedication is above that of the lay worshipper.
Most church discussions of the Knights of Tirith,
and their earthly paragons, revolve around their service to protect the
church and its followers. The Knights themselves are not divine, though
some are demi-gods, but are worthy of praise by their elevation with the
grace of Larani. Just as these Knights serve Larani, so do the proper knights
of Kethira serve their liege and church. Many priests, lay worshippers,
and especially Laranian warriors, will pick a Knight of Tirith as a patron
guardian. Often this patron is handed down from generation to generation.
Saint Sir Avandil the Prophet.
The roots of the Knights of Tirith have been with the Laranian church since its beginnings at Alamire. Their deeds and bravery are among the first things written in the Songs of Alamire. But little detail was given about the order, and that usually in parables. Knight-Commander Orthas is in several such tales in the Book of Shields.
Most of the church's current information on the Knights of Tirith was provided by a knight of the pontiff's personal guard at Tengela (which would later become the Company of the Holy Sepulchre) named Sir Avandil of Shodaeyth. Sir Avandil was well known for his piety and honor, as well as his skill at arms.
Sir Avandil awoke one night and rushed to the pontiff's chambers, causing quite a stir and commotion. He pleaded with the pontiff to allow him to leave as Larani had visited upon him a vision and bid her follower do a quest. Being well respected and pious, Sir Avandil's request was granted and he left the next morning taking only his horse. He proclaimed that all the supplies and weapons he would need would be provided. Sir Avandil would not be seen for three years.
In 469 TR Sir Avandil returned to Tengela hardy and whole, though somewhat distant in demeanor. He immediately set to telling his tale to the church scribes. The story would finally become titled as The Holy Vigil of Sir Avandil the Prophet. While not officially part of the church doctrine, this tale is accepted as being "born of the saint and the Lady, thus true wisdom to the church to be learned by all".
Sir Avandil's vigil describes a lengthy journey where every manner of obstacle was presented and overcome by bravery and faith. The final section describes Sir Avandil being asked to aid a poor village against dangerous monsters.
"Thus did the villagers emplore to save them
from creatures born of earth and flame, who devour
us wholly with gleaming tooth and nail. Taking up only the weapons of the common man, Avandil
rode forth and rent the ranks of the beasts.
After a time his steed was bitten into thirds
and the knight Avandil was pierced and slashed
savagely that he was forced to lean upon his fallen steed and the piled bodies of the slain
monsters. Then from a trumpet's wail and a cloud of mist did three Knights come and finally
defeat the demons."
The text continues to describe how Avandil was
taken back to Dolithor where his wounds were tended and he was shown the
workings of the Knights of Tirith. There Larani told him that she is not
one to deny a warrior such a brave death, but that his journey of faith
was to be told and passed down upon his return. This chapter details the
list of the Knight of Tirith he met and several bits of wisdom they passed
to him. Sir Avandil died in his sleep in 500 TR and was canonized in 543
TR. It is universally accepted among the clergy that he was elevated to
the Knights of Tirith upon his death.
Notable Members of the Knights of Tirith.
The Knight-Commander of the order is a demi-god named Orthas, who was elevated by Larani after he was slain defending a maiden against a demon of Agrik. Orthas was already known in Laranian scriptures, and spent much time with Avandil while he recovered. Orthas is known to be utterly loyal to Larani, and in all things puts her noble wishes above anything. Much of his wisdom concerns the consequences of ignoring the writs of Larani.
Annea the White was the only female to speak with Avandil, though she spoke of other noble women in the order. Above all others, Annea inspired him the most with her lady like manner, and bravery. She is described as having "a regal beauty that casts shadow upon the base immodesty of the likes of Halea", and Avandil felt quite blessed by her visits. She died a virgin defending her grandparents from raiding bandits. While known to don her snow-white armor and fight along with her fellows, Annea is more known for her purity and is often considered the conscience of the order. It is said there are none save Larani that is more pure of heart and spirit.
Cherbolk is somewhat of an oddity as he is described as a centurin, who are considered by most to be nothing but legends and are certainly not usually associated with Larani. However, one need only look to Mendez to see that Larani will accept all forms of brave and loyal creatures. Cherbolk did much of the healing on Avandil, and spoke at length of Larani's grace in accepting such an ugly beast as himself.
Serpim, known as Bowbane, had been granted the ability to stop arrows in mid-flight by a magical shield given to him by Larani. While a brave warrior, Serpim apparently spent most of his time performing tricks for Avandil and generally keeping his spirits up. Serpim is charged with observing the progress of Laranian pilgrims, and protecting them on their journeys.
Maxim Toh Nalit spoke of being with Ambrathas during his final day on Kethira. Maxim still wears the scars of the battle proudly, where he held off a dozen raiders and killed three fold more before being felled himself. During Avandil's last days in Dolithor, Maxim trained with the prophet and gave him such knowledge of sword lore that it is said none could match Avandil upon his return.
Deardyn spent the most time next to Avandil, and humbly served him food and drink. While Avandil slept, Deardyn read to him from Larani's own holy scripts, giving the questing knight much wisdom. While awake, Deardyn asked many questions about the people and places of Avandil's lands. Deardyn is the most likely to be sent with holy missives on Larani's behalf. The Knight revealed that he had actually spoken to Avandil several times in different guises during his quest.
The Holy Vigil of Sir Avandil the Prophet
goes on to mention the names of some 20 other Knights of Tirith that Avandil
met, though no other information on them is provided. The text also states
that Avandil was certain there were other knights that he had not met.
When his wounds were healed, Avandil was escorted to the gates of Dolithor
on his resurrected, trusty steed where he rode through and found himself
again on Kethira.