A History Compiled by Lord Denschlep Tigre VI
Lord Defender of the Palatine Order
and Twentieth Baron of Selnendrin
Our world now is scarcely recognizable from the world of thirty-five centuries ago. Many of the nations that exist today were already founded, but the rulers of these nations were vastly limited in their authority. The world was ultimately ruled by gods, or at least gods they claimed to be. They were not any actual manifestation of ultimate, unlimited power, but they were apparently immortal and empowered with fantastic magical ability. These were not kindly masters, in fact they were horribly oppressive, vicious, perverted, petty and cruel.
They called themselves gods, but there were those that refused to believe it. They knew in their hearts that these creatures could be destroyed and many dedicated their lives to that end. Theirs were dreams of justice and freedom that could only come with the fall of the gods.
Hardin Meldresse was then King of Aldoreane, and he knew as a certainty that these self-proclaimed gods could be brought down. He gathered his personal guard, and swore with them to end the rule of these creatures. He called those that swore with him, Palatine, guardians of the palace. They had determination but did not yet have the means to accomplish the task. For years they trained their minds and bodies, studied their opponents for strengths and weaknesses, and they bided their time. For two centuries they and their heirs worked, trained, studied and plotted, until the grandchildren of their grandchildren finally found defectors among the ranks of these gods.
Derak and Dureath craved dominion over the world, and found that their “family” was the only true impediment to their goals. Dureath had long since been cast from the family, her perversions were far too elaborate and disgusting for her family to endure. They cast her out under a terrible curse, they destroyed the ability of her body to create blood. Dureath nearly died from this curse until she found that she could feast upon the blood of mortals. She also found, that if she did not completely drain her victims her curse was spread like a disease, and she raised followers from this curse.
Derak was fair of face and form and his voice could charm any, even his family. They did not see through his honeyed words, and unknowingly shared their deepest secrets with this master of deceit. Derak found Dureath and they entered a pact to share the world between them. Derak learned of the grim resolve of the Palatine, and together they approached Hardin Meldresse IV and convinced him that they shared his loathing of the excesses of their family. We may never know whether Hardin believed them, or if he simply found them to be a weapon to be exploited, but they entered an alliance.
Derak and Dureath taught the Palatine the secrets of the gods, and they infused a specially prepared gem with great power. A diamond of incredible size, the combined power of these two brought life to it, and it was bound to the Palatine. But unknown to Derak and Dureath, the life force of Hardin Meldresse was also infused into the gem upon his death, and his honor, bravery and desperate desire for freedom and justice became equally as powerful within the gem as the combined power of two gods. This gem became the Star of the Palatine, capable of infusing the members of the fledgling order with very special and equally unimaginable powers. With this power five thousand Palatine Knights of Aldoreane stormed the palaces of the gods at Balisere. There were sixteen of them, all save two were destroyed and three thousand knights had fallen. The two survivors were the defectors and allies to the Palatine.
Dureath retired to the dark places of the earth and waited upon Derak to draw the world under his influence. Derak quickly betrayed his allies, he seized the Star of the Palatine and returned in triumph to Balisere. With no others of his kind to stop him Derak built the foundations of his armies and fortified his island. Without the Star to grant special abilities to the Order the abilities of the Palatine faded, but not their heart nor their honor. Derak built his empire, and began to expand to the continent.
Finally, under flags of truce, he came to Aldoreane speaking of peace and past alliances. He strode proudly into the throne room of Aldoreane and greeted King Deren Meldresse as a brother. He presented a beautiful standard with the crest of the Palatine to King Deren, and as Deren reached for it Derak drove it through his body, murdering the last free ruler of Aldoreane. War was now fully and desperately waged between Aldoreane and the Heron Empire. At the end of a series of long and bitter fights the last of Aldorean’s strength in arms was crushed.
With the fall of Aldoreane the surviving Palatine were welcomed to the old Kingdom of Selnen. But not all of the surviving royal family escaped, Chaliese, daughter of Deren, was taken by Emperor Derak and forced to bear his children. She presented him twin sons, Basdred and Brubak. One of these sons was to rule Aldoreane as a Meldresse, giving legitimacy to his claim over the rich territories of the crown. The other son was Basdred Heron, Imperial Crown Prince. Derak was to regret the birth of at least one of his children.
The legends of the Palatine Order persisted, and much of their lore was preserved by the Kings of Selnen in the repositories of Mount Kerdan but it was not until the two hundred and fifteenth year after the Unification that the Palatine Order of Selnendrin was officially founded by the Realm.
Galen Chaliese, born Brubak Meldresse, learned that Dureath was encroaching upon the borders of his adopted homeland. He gathered all that still followed the traditions of the Palatine and together they sought out and destroyed the followers of Dureath. Seven years later they would finally corner Dureath in the Northern Frontier, and after weeks of siege Galen directly confronted the weakened goddess and destroyed her.
The valor of Galen Chaliese, and his decades of service to the Realm convinced King Kieran to form the Palatine Order of Selnendrin, proclaiming that it would serve as the highest military order of the Realm. His final act before his death was to grant Lord Galen the authority to build what would become the driving force of justice. Lord Galen was honored as the first Knight of the Order after it was reformed. He was further honored as the first Baron of Selnendrin, Commander of the Order.
Ten centuries have followed, and the Order has served at the forefront of every major action that preserved the Realm from the forces of tyranny. The Palatine stood with Queen Meriel when the throne was threatened by dynastic civil war in the midst of another war that threatened the survival of the Realm. They stood alone at Blood Canyon to buy the time needed by King Anoré to reform his shattered armies, dying nearly to the last man in a battle that at last avenged the Palatine upon the last of the “gods” when Galen struck down his unwanted father. They rode with Mandrake Telbrantil through the teeth of a murderous blizzard to engage and army with a single Corps, and drove their enemy from Dorbantant, and leaving little of the enemy to slink home in bitterest defeat.
Sixteen centuries after the destruction of the “gods” the Palatine under King Ramon I orchestrated the crushing defeat of Quarletz and the death of Basdred. The Palatine of Selnendrin were stronger than those of Aldoreane before they met Derak, but until then they we were far from the Palatine that crushed the self-proclaimed gods. The Order was then reborn, the Star of the Palatine had been recovered. It infused the Knights of the Realm with the power to right the wrongs, heal the sick and dying, and to serve as the Sword of the Crown and Shield of the Realm.
They stood proudly at the end of a terrible war, and had ended it with bravery, honor, savagery and swiftness. They had once again preserved freedom and justice with their blood and sacrifice. Every man and woman of the Order had earned all of the glory that the Realm could bestow. But, the Order did not exist for glory, their oaths bound them to the people of the Realm. They had thrown down Basdred, but he would not be the final nor the greatest threat to the Realm.
They swore anew to harness the power that had been made available to them, they pledged to hone their skills, and dedicated themselves to learn all of the arts of war but also the demands of justice. They knew that their borders were still threatened, by land to the far north, and by sea.
Their valor had been tested and would again be called upon. Once again would come the order, ‘Forth the Palatine’ and history would fill with their exploits and sacrifice.
Many only see the elaborate ceremonies that are open to the public, or the elaborate social affairs hosted by the Order and from these infer that we are more of a social institution or a gentlemen’s club than a combat organization. This is a misconception of monumental proportions. In the Third Great War the Palatine Order rode at the head of every major assault on the western front. Our losses were staggering, three of every ten to enter the war fell in battle, and of the seven remaining four would suffer injuries that would insure that they would never again serve under arms. Of fifty thousand that entered the war, only fifteen thousand were still capable of service, and many only because they ignored wounds that would have made lesser soldiers retire from action.
One does not ask to join the Palatine Order, nor is admittance into the Order guaranteed by class, blood or even by relation to a Knight of the Order. The Knights of the Palatine Order are the greatest soldiers and warriors of the Realm and exemplify the finest in military training, prowess, bravery and honor. This is an honor achieved through hard work and selfless effort, they are chosen from the hundreds of thousands of soldiers of the realm and even or civilians that possess the desired attributes. The Order will admit all that meet our ideals of honor, bravery and sacrifice without regard for class, sex, appearance, education, refinement, or blood, even the Sovereign of Selnendrin is not guaranteed admittance to the order.
Recently, at court, I was amazed to find that the perception of the world outside of Selnendrin regards the Order with complete incomprehension. We are a military order that admits women, serves as equals regardless of class or nobility, and it is our vow of sacrifice that is to them the most incredible. We are sworn to insure that justice is equally applied to all, no matter how humble their station. We treat all as equally deserving of common respect and courtesy, and collectively we tend to show less respect for the upper classes than the lower. We recognize that the person pushing the apple cart has the same rights and inherent value as a great land owner.
Many abroad also view us as akin to the ancient temple guardians of old. These were men born and bred for their size and ferocity to protect the temples of the ancient gods. They lived communally, serving long lives of duty and celibacy. I am the first to admit that I would have no idea how to live a celibate life. While I may not have enjoyed life with all of my wives, I treasure my children greatly. It would serve no purpose to enforce celibacy upon the ladies and gentlemen of the order, indeed it would rob the Realm of their bloodlines. Those that serve so selflessly raise their own children to embrace these ideals, and thus the lines of service follow from one generation to the next. There are no regulations regulating the most private lives of the Palatine Knights, some live austere and celibate lives, others opulent and sharing their affections widely. As long as their private lives violate no laws, and bring no discredit to themselves or the Palatine Order then their lives are their own to live.
Honor is a paramount virtue to the Palatine Knight, our word should remain inviolate. Our reputation is that the Palatine do not lie, and cannot be lied to in turn. Due to our inherent abilities it is very difficult to deal falsely with a knight of the Order. But above all things our duty is to the Realm and her Citizens. In order to maintain the safety, surety and security of both, should the occasion call for it, a Knight may be forced to lie, cheat, steal or even murder to meet their oaths of defense. The Palatine have been called upon many times in the past as spies, and have been forced to take actions that were often distasteful to them personally, but this too is demanded by our stern oaths. Every such action is examined by the order, and should such actions be found unnecessary then that Knight will submit to the justice of the Order.
Their devotion to the realm, the accomplishments of the warriors past, and their willingness to kill or die in defense of even the most humble of the subjects of the crown grant them praise and adulation in all corners of the realm, and a growing reputation throughout the world.
The size of the Palatine Order is regulated by law, only fifty thousand may serve actively at any given time. Half serve within the Two Corps, the remaining twenty-five thousand are scattered throughout the remainder of the military and civilian community.
There are three degrees within the Palatine Order: Knight of the Palatine Order, Lord of the Palatine Order, and Lord Defender of the Palatine Order. One must progress through all three in order.
The Knight of the Palatine Order can serve the Crown as part of the military (normally in a junior to middle officer’s billet), in one of the Corps of the Palatine, or they serve independently as knight errant.
The Lord of the Palatine Order normally serves as a high officer in the military, and officers in one of the five corps or member of the royal guard and even occasionally as knight errant.
The Lord Defender of the Palatine Order serves as a command level officer within the military, a high officer within the Palatine Corps, or as a member of the Command Battle Staff. The Lord Defender is rarely given, and it is unusual to find more than one hundred living members at any time.
The safety of the Sovereign of Selnendrin and the immediate family is directly entrusted to the Palatine Order. The Royal Guard are one thousand hand-picked Knights of the Order, they are sworn to sacrifice their lives in the defense of their charges, and over the centuries eight hundred and twelve have made the ultimate sacrifice to their nation.
An honor guard is similarly provided to the Count of Selnendrin, Commander of the Royal Army and Royal Navy in the Sovereign’s name. Similarly, the Baron of Selnendrin, Commander of the Palatine Order is afforded a guard of honor. Each is comprised of twenty chosen knights, sworn to the defense of their charge.
The Knights of Hesterbur are garrisoned at Hesterbur and are dedicated to the defense of the capitol of the Realm. In times of greatest threat to the realm they will ride with the Sovereign of Selnendrin as the First Corps of the Palatine Knights.
The Knights of Kerdan are garrisoned at Mount Kerdan, they are the sworn defenders of the Royal Archives and the Royal Mausoleums within that mountain. During time of war ten thousand will ride with the Sovereign of Selnendrin, as the Second Palatine Corps.
The Palatine Order, as a whole, aren’t incredibly impressed by worldly possessions, they are pledged to donate one tenth of their income to charitable institutions. One example is Marshall Lord Mandrake Telbrantil, Lord of Talmaran and Lord Defender of the Palatine Order. He directly owned several thousand square miles of land and the income from this was set aside for his heirs, operation of the Talmar Academy and the Fort Talmaran Orphanage. He was known far and wide as Papa ‘Drake, beloved by those in the Royal Province that governed, and revered by the thousands of children that he represented as a father. Thus he satisfied all clauses of his oaths of humility and generosity, yet controlled a large fortune and remained one of the richest men alive.
When one is initially considered for the Order they are named as Candidates of the Palatine Order. After due consideration by the Order their recommendation is either returned for later consideration without prejudice or they are accepted for membership.
If accepted they will then pass through the Ceremony of Ascension, a ceremony that dates back to the original Palatine of Aldoreane. It is a ceremony with many meanings, some hidden to all outsiders, others common knowledge.
First, the hair of the candidate is cut short, men are shaved of all facial hair, symbolizing the devotion and humility of the candidate. Hair is vanity, and a Knight of the Palatine Order must always remember that their lives have no more inherent value than even the most simple Citizen of the Realm.
Candidates are then led to the baths beneath Handron Hall, they enter the baths at midnight and they will not emerge until dawn. The water of the bath starts very hot, and cools until nearly freezing, the life of a knight is not one of comfort, it is one of sacrifice. This symbolizes the purging of all other ties of loyalty to their past life and the removal of any responsibility outside of the Order.
They are taken, still soaked from their immersion and led to the chamber containing the Star of the Palatine, they are laid upon a bier of marble, covered with a cloth of rough hemp. Their old life is symbolically at an end. Under the influence of the Star of the Palatine Order they will sleep naked for an entire day, bathed in its light and infused with its abilities and receiving its guidance and blessings.
They rise the next morning and are dressed in a wear a long white tunic, to symbolize that they enter the Order with only pure intents, without seeking personal gain from their acceptance. Over this is draped a red robe with long sleeves and a hood indicating their pledge that they were ready to shed blood or have their blood shed in the service of the Realm. A close fitting black coat is placed over all, proving that Death must be met by all.
The Candidate will then spend two days of fasting and meditating in this garb, learning and exploring the power and abilities granted them by the Star of the Palatine. Their time is spent in solitude and silence as they slowly discover the full implications of the life that they have been both chosen for, and chosen.
At sunset of the second day the candidate is brought to the arming room. They spend the night keeping the “vigil of arms”; standing unmoving before a marble table with their arms before them. Their weapons, arms and armor are infused with the light of the Star of the Palatine. These are the implements with which they shall represent, defend and ultimately justice and freedom.
At the first touch of dawn’s light they are clad in their full battle array by Knight of the Order and led into the presence the assembled Palatine Order. If the Sovereign is a member of the order, then they will preside at the Induction, otherwise the honors are performed by the Baron of Selnendrin. The Oaths may only be performed before a member of the Order.
The Candidate will present their sword to their sword to the Baron of Selnendrin who infuses it with the power of the Order. If the Sovereign is a member of the Order it will be presented to them to administer the oath. Otherwise, the Baron of Selnendrin will administer the oath that binds the Candidate to a lifetime of service. As the Candidate swears the oaths spurs are buckled on, and at its conclusion the sword is returned with the charge that this weapon is now an instrument of justice, and other use would forfeit the rights, privileges and the very life of the Knight of the Palatine Order.
My proudest day was when I stood before King Reeve Meldresse and swore that: I, Denschlep Tigre the Sixth, son of Goren Tigre the Third and Verona Meldresse Tigre swear by my life and my sacred honor that I will serve as the Shield of the Realm and Sword of the Crown. I will have no loyalties to any save my Realm, my Sovereign and my Order. My blood and my very life are pledged to the defense of our people and all that we shall hold sacred, to this end no sacrifice that I shall make shall be too great. I will pursue any task to this end without regard to reward or personal gain or safety. I will defend the rights of the Citizens of the Realm regardless of their station, their rights and safety are more sacred to me than my own, their comfort more precious than my very life, Justice shall apply evenly to all. Those, individually or collectively that threaten the safety, surety or security of the Realm or even its humblest citizen shall receive my wrath as payment for their transgressions. Treason to the Realm shall ever remain abhorrent to me, and I will do all that is possible to return these offenders to the justice of the Realm, or will insure that these transgressions are repaid in full should they be beyond the reach of justice. Any of my Order that shall betray their oaths is my sworn enemy and I shall not rest while they enjoy life or freedom. My life, my heart, my blood, my muscle, and my resolve are my nation’s to command. All that I shall do binds me closer to this sacred vow, and should I defile this vow I ask that those of my Order deliver unto me the maximum punishment known. Thus I, Denschlep Tigre the Sixth, Knight of the Palatine Order do freely pledge, promise and swear to all before me.
I have enjoyed many proud days, the births of my children, several marriage ceremonies, promotions, medals and even my appointment as Baron of Selnendrin, but none would have the impact that my ceremony of induction did upon my life. I was a changed man, in both mind and body. I have served in most beautiful peace, and bloody war, and always beside me were the men and women of the Palatine Order. In life and in death we serve together.
© 2009, Tim Boothby. All rights reserved.