by Grant Smuts
Few can boast seeing their blades burst with holy light, yet I was privileged to see one cut through a firestorm and bring a mage to heel without killing him. Through the inferno and the chaotic cacophany of magic, a blade, aglow with gentle moonlight, brought silence and stilled the madness and furore of the battlefield.
– Valt Feremas
The Order of Saint Audren
–excerpt from the work of the historian Carrius Rimward.
The age of fire lasted a century, and it was ended by the blade of the hero Audren Vance, who gave his life in the defence of his homeland. The details of his heroism is recorded in other tales, most notably the works of Valt Feremas and Gerold Black, The Melancholy Saint.
In the first year of the Age of Dreaming, in the wake of his passing, Yearne Halleth, formerly of the legendary 53rd Mages’ Battalion of Cloudrend, set up a league of warriors who would carry on the legacy of Audren’s life of virtue, bravery and sacrifice. In gratitude for sparing the city of Valharrow further destruction at the hands of Rykisedek, King Almanus II granted Yearne’s request – the plot of land blessed by the god Dumah before his sacrifice. The people of Valharrow gathered and built the tower in an act of unity and personal sacrifice. In less than three years a great spire rose amidst the skyline of Valharrow. The published notes of Yearne stated that the Grace of Dumah was strengthened by the show of support and faith by the common citizenry of Valharrow.
Yearne named it the Tower of Dedication, as both an act of gratitude, and a promise to the people of Valharrow; it would become the base of operations of the Order of Saint Audren from that day forth. For their standard, the Order took the form of the Sword of Fading Light, and behind it, the Crescent Moon, symbol of the god, Dumah.
Mission and Purpose
Yearne knew that the defeat of Rykisedek did not mean the end of the world’s troubles. The Wilding Wall, shattered when the Impossible Emperor was cast down, had left thousands of nightmarish monsters and mages maddened. Formerly the head of the 53rd Battalion, Yearne understood the dangers these relics of the Age of Fire posed to a world desperately seeking stability. Recruiting the magically gifted and talented warriors alike, she set out into the world, clearing the countryside of the foul and the monstrous. Understanding that only a few of these would be imbued with the light of Audren’s Grace as she was, she studied as much as she could of the god of Light and Silence, and understood that the path to the same magical power was in both reflection and physical prowess. Of the hundreds that joined the ranks of the fledgling Order, less than a tenth of them ever found the ability to channel the silent light of the stars. For the others, Yearne decided not to abandon their ardour, reserving her own fully realized knights for the most dangerous of missions – the hunting down of dark mages and the demons and cruel demigods created by the Dreaming of Rykisedek.
When the Academies of Magic came to understand the threat an anti-magic Order posed to them, many attempted to politically destroy the Order, to little avail. The world filled with the darkness of the Wilding Wall needed the light of Audren’s disciples, after all. In time, however, the Order’s influence had grown to encompass political matters, something that led to the destruction of the kingdom of Auster. After this catastrophe, the Order’s influence was curtailed, and its numbers diminished, though they remained powerful and enigmatic emissaries and, sometimes, advisers to those in power. Despite the controversies caused by Kosmer Raith’s leadership, the Order remained an essential power in the world for their heroism – and many capable politicians have noted how merely their presence unnerves the usually unflappable Academians.
Powers and Abilities
Over the years the knights of the Order have refined their skill and ability. While Yearne understood the value of learning multiple weapon skills, she, and her closest followers all favoured the sword – a practice that would soon become the signature of the Order, as reflected by their crest.
Famously, the members of the Order wear little to no armour, understanding that even the finest Gladdensteel mail is of little use against monsters sometimes many times their size, and often with magical abilities that would make armour useless, or even detrimental to its bearer.
Knights of the Order favour a swift, acrobatic style, less focussed on parrying as it is on evasion. Their focus on swords has formalised their training, to a degree, into five styles, which are based on two basic forms: Dreamstep and Ironstep. This martial training is a closely guarded secret within the Order, knowing that its knowledge keeps them ahead of other more formal training. Their swift, offensive styles often allow them to overwhelm their opponents quickly, while their basic knowledge of each of the forms allows them to adapt should a fight wear on longer than a few moments.
Light and Silence
What the Order is famous for is their ability to completely sever and deaden magic. Through reflection and physical prowess, and an oath sworn on the blessed foundation of the Tower of Dedication, knights of the Order can channel the power of Dumah himself, in the form of a starlight radiance. This radiance often adheres to the shape of the wielder or of his weapon, though those practised in this ability might conjure shields or spears of solid light. It is this latter ability that allows Knights to defeat dark mages without killing them, as the radiance itself is not harmful.
The Grace of Audren, as it is now more famously known, disrupts the circle and incantation of magic before it can be completed, and it can also completely nullify the effects of magic already cast – for instance, a knight bearing a Grace-Imbued blade can cut through a mid-level fireball with no ill effects. The Grace can also cut through the wards of wizards and magical entities, giving the knights a nearly insurmountable advantage against those who rely on magic.
Should the Grace also pass through the body of a magic user, they will find themselves unable to cast any spells or use any magic abilities for a time, potentially rendering them helpless.
Those embracing the Grace of Audren will also be able to see the threads of magic that form the essence of spells.
This ability is very taxing, however, far more so than magic is to mages, and so knights can ill afford to use it constantly, instead having to pick precise moments to both attack and defend. Experience and training can slightly lessen the drain on one’s stamina, however.
The Order divided their gifted warriors into several divisions within the Order, each serving their own unique purpose.
The original Order found its roots in the Broadswords, when Yearne herself left her magic behind and focused on learning the sword, as Audren once did. In the end, she was thought to be a mightier warrior than even the hero himself.
The Broadswords are sometimes called the Order’s shock troops, being the most numerous, and the ones most often dispatched and seen by the public eye.
An offshoot of the Broadswords Division, the Sabres emerged during the days of Gerold Black, the Third Hierophant. They were initially envisioned as being the elites of the Order, but instead they simply became a separate division who practised using curved blades instead of straight ones. That said, Sabres are often considered to be more skilful warriors than their Broadsword counterparts. During the days of Skellian Vetz, Sabres were often used to assassinate troublesome Academy-Heads, until that practice was brought to an end by the Reformation. Beyond their usual training, Sabres are often given lessons in diplomacy, and are those most likely to be used as emissaries.
Yearne, understanding that wizards and arcane powers served as half of their potential enemies, decided to implement an Academy of her own within the Tower of Dedication. She decided to follow the curricula of universities from Duringard across the sea, lest the Mages’ Divisions fall to the same politicking that drove other Academies. The mages, in time, learned to mould their spells to Audren’s Grace, managing, through their secrets, to create an impossibility and set them apart and above other mages.
A natural offshoot of the Mages and their study, the Research Division dedicates itself to the accumulation of knowledge of their foes and their own abilities, seeking to improve the Order’s effectiveness in the field. Unlike the other Divisions, the Research Division receives minimal combat training, though they have an intimate knowledge of the Grace of Audren and its applicatiions.
As the Order honed their abilities, what they could do with Grace improved. In time, they learned to imbue arrows with Grace, albeit for a brief time. The Rangers were formed during the days of Gerold Black, when the Order fought more monsters than men, and their journeys often took them to distant, dangerous lands. Against powerful magic creatures, ranged attacks became a favourable option, with knights weakening their adversaries before closing in for the finishing blow. Gerold Black himself headed the first iteration of the Rangers’ Division
The Order has been recalled. Its knights have withdrawn from the world, ceasing its errantry for a time. Under the present Hierophant, Ronan Solidor, the Order has been called to reflect on the messages left by his predecessor, who deeply studied the replicating effect of the Wilding Wall. The former Hierophant reputedly manifested a portion of the Wilding Wall, and it is believed that Ronan Solidor did the same, attempting to determine the truth of the continual infection of the world when Rykisedek had long since been defeated…
“Time doesn’t flow as it should here. It is an ever-branching spiral, continuously spreading both inwards and outwards until it loses itself in its own entanglement. This was the fragmentation of a land shattered into a thousand different images of itself, a dream splintered and mending itself in lopsided ways. There was no healing here. There was only mutation and deformity, a wild, repeating reverberation between sorrow and nightmare, echoing endlessly.”
Thus, the Order has been recalled, supposedly to reassess and reaffirm what it was that the Order was meant to be doing in this day and age – which was the official story, certainly.
It is at this time when a man named Morvannon comes to the city of Valharrow…
Dreamstep: A martial form practiced by the Order, which focuses on evasive techniques and is the basis of two styles, unique to the Order.
Dumah: God of Light and Silence, Spirit of the First Moon and the Upper Sky, and patron of the Order of Saint Audren. His form was dissipated in a pivotal battle with Rykisedek, though his effort was instrumental in Rykisedek’s eventual defeat.
Gerold Black: Third Hierophant of the Order and founder of the Ranger’s Division. His philosophical treatises on magic and the role of the Order as itinerant saviours and inheritors of Audren’s will has largely shaped the public’s perception of the Order.
Gladdensteel: An alloy, the crafting of which is a closely guarded secret by the forgemasters of Cloudrend. Gladdensteel retains magical enchantment far longer than other metals, and often acquires elemental attributes through repeated enchantment.
Grace of Audren: Sometimes merely referred to as ‘Grace’ – it is the light-imbuing of Dumah’s starlight blessing, which allows the Knights of Audren to sever magic in all its forms.
Impossible Emperor: An epithet of the dreaming beast Rykisedek.
Ironstep: A martial form practised by the Order, focusing on offensive flurries, and is the basis of three styles unique to the Order.
Special thanks to Ernest Peter De Wet for his artwork.