Ruire of Ralstaa

The Ruire of Ralstaa are legendary and savage warrior-nobles. Those who devote themselves utterly to war are known as 'knights', but training as a warrior, a priest, and a leader is intrinsic to the duty of all of the nobility of Ralstaa, and so Ruire refers to the ruling warrior-priest elite of that land. Ruire are an indomitable and brutal group of noble houses and warrior cults, that forge the Ralstaan ruling class into warrior-priests of unmatched skill, deeply entrenched in the unforgiving philosophy known as the 'way of the warrior'. It is said that man for man the ruire of Ralstaa are possibly the finest warriors to be found anywhere in the world, and they hone their skills with constant conflict, either by taming their brutal homeland or else fighting on the field of lawful combat against one another, as noble gladiators, each striving to end the others life in the blood-sport known as the tourney. Only the very finest survive.

The Ral Warrior


Most notable and memorable to an outsider is that warriors of the Ral wear their hair long, and it is believed in Ralstaan culture that the longer the hair the mightier the warrior. Warriors also commonly wear their long golden hair in dreadlocks for durability, though those more concerned with appearance especially in the modern Lleweith kingdoms braid their hair with copper wire instead. To the folk of Ralstaa long hair is a symbol of power, in men it signifies the ending of life and in women the giving of life, thus short hair in a woman signifies infertility, short hair in men might either signify old age or weakness, and many warriors defeated in lawful combat and spared have their heads shaved, or are scalped. The practice of pluming one’s helmet is done with the shorn hair of warrior who wears it, and is generally a sign that he is on a quest for revenge, though often horsehair plumes are added to a helm by many warriors wishing to emulate long hair, these are considered ostentatious in the extreme. Great warriors wear a belt made of the hair of the men they have slain about their waists or shoulders, grim trophies attesting to their ability to shed blood.

Ral warriors are drilled with a strong code of conduct, they are masters of martial combat, often using punches and throws as well as their weapons in single fluid motions and attacking at blinding speed from nearly all angles. Kicks and other athletic attacks are rendered impossible by the heavy armour they favour but their fighting style is one of speed and skill rather than sheer brute force, with a single well placed blow felling a foe where perhaps a flurry of hammering attacks would not have.

Training

Knights in Ralstaa come exclusively from the various noble houses of the land, not just those core houses who control kingdoms, but the various houses allied to these noblemen too. Whatever the warrior's origin, he is sent to become a page at the age of twelve, whereupon he may be selected as a squire by a current knight. During this period a boy, for despite the relative equality of Ralstaan culture only men can become knights, will practice daily at wrestling and sparring with wooden sword and shield. However largely his duty is to learn the ways of priestcraft, so that he can be initiated into the Ralstaan Canonate, as all noblemen are. If a knight does take a liking to him he will become a squire, and will do all of the menial duties for that knight like maintaining his weapons, armour and mount, helping him don his armour and carrying his helmet and shield at tourney. Knights have servants for such menial tasks as cooking and other things that do not relate directly to his tools of battle. During this time the knight will train the squire in the ways of single combat. When the knight deems the training done and not before he sets his squire a task, of great risk and difficulty, to test him. This can range from spending night in prayer atop a frozen mountain to bringing back the head of a fierce creature, but whatever it is it would surely kill a normal man. He will offer nothing more until the task is complete, but seldom actually sets a time limit, so that the squire can wait until he feels ready. When he returns with the task done, or dies a noble death in the attempt he becomes a knight. Usually a knight will be a page for seven years then a squire for a further two or three. He may then choose to become a questing knight, a knight bachelor, or join a warrior cult, where he will receive further, special training. The vast majority become questing knights, seeking to make a name and found a dynasty, putting their likeness in the Hall of Heroes and their souls aside Rallah beyond the land of dust and shadows.

The Many Tools of the Ral Knight

Knights wear full armour, each of the subraces has a preference for type. Dunsain tend towards a plate-mail mix with heavy chest, groin and shoulder armour and mail on the limbs. While they favour the maneuverability this provides they give up perception by wearing heavy visorless helms. They tend towards wearing ankle-length split skirts in their household colours and banners on their backs, and much of their fighting is done on foot with heavy weaponry such as greatswords and warstars. Lleweith knights wear heavy full plate made up of bands of metal much like a heavier version of the the armour of the Haedrasians, giving them protection with some degree of movement. Under this they wear a thin mail around the joints and over vital areas. Unlike the skirt of the Dunsain the Lleweith tend to wear tabards, but Ral tabards tend to cross the upper body in two strips and fall between the legs at back and front below where they are belted. Their helms are more commonly visored and all about the armour is designed for maximum flexibility without having to sacrifice strength. Lleweith are fond of fighting in the saddle of either a horse or bird, and so their primary weapon tends to be a polearm, especially popular are the lochabers and halberds paired with cut down versions of the same weapon for close fighting. They also tend towards a medium kite-shield and the banner at the back much like the Dunsain. Shaeish knights are fond of full plate suits with split skirts and banners, but without the banding of the more advanced lleweith suits, so they are some of the heaviest and least maneuverable of the Ral knights, but they make up for this by wearing characteristic open-faced helms with nasal guards. They too are happier in the saddle, and horses are the common mount of the shaeish kingdoms and so spears and lances backed up by a stout mace are their weapons of choice, and especially large shields are also common, with many tower-shields designed to attach to the leg armour of the mounted knight.

All knights only wear their helms in battle so as to display their hair, and all wear belts of hair as is Ral custom. Plaids are also common in the Dunsain where they are more conscious of their Clanlander heritage, but not so much in former Devil-Duke nations. Armour is always of the finest quality and very ornate, custom-made to the wearer, usually inlaid with precious metals and often plated in bronze or brass. All knights armour has certain protective blessings inscribed on it to protect from ghosts and simple magiks.

Knightly weapons are not only an extension of the Ral knight’s body, but also of his very spirit. No one has access to a knightly weapon except a knight or man who has murdered a knight, and they are immediately recognizable. By law any non-knight caught with one is killed. These fine weapons are made with folded metal to produce and unequaled edge. Perfectly weighted with the finest attainable materials and certain ceremonial blessings known by those smiths who are retired knights, and only they know the secrets of crafting such weapons. All such weapons are custom made for their owner and adjusted to suit him throughout his life. All knights carry, and are consummate masters of, the knightly warsword, an exceptionally heavy three foot shortsword with a hilt just long enough to take and hand and a half and heavy pommel working in perfect counterweight. This is their first and most ceremonial weapon, and whatever they come to favour best no knight is more savage than with this in his hands. Ral knights can draw this short blade, behead an opponent within its arc and resheath it in a single movement, and the best do so so quickly that their foe is dead before he realizes the weapon was drawn.

The Joust and Tourney

Knights regularly ‘joust’ in tourneys in Ralstaa; however here jousting is a bloodsport. Knights usually prove themselves against prisoners, beasts or occasionally captive trols where they hunt, then many of their finest face one another in a contest until either one party is physically unable to fight anymore or to the death. Numerous careers end this way, and many bloody feuds have their birth in this practice, however the over-abundance of nobility keeps this practice popular, and also means that man for man the knights of Ralstaa are some of the finest, and most ruthless warriors to be found anywhere.

Falling on the Sword

Ral questing knights or members of knightly orders who dishonour themselves or commit a crime against their liege lord are expected to ‘fall on their swords’, meaning that their sword is mounted point forward in front of them and they are expected to walk into it, impaling their gut, until the wound meets the hilt. To save face he must do this before his death without crying out or hesitating, but a knight who has cared for his sword finds this relatively simple. Lleweith knights have allowed a fellow knight to step forward to care for the knight’s honour by beheading him should he be about to hesitate or cry out, but most other cultures consider this new tradition weak. Usually the knight is scalped immediately before falling upon his sword and his scalp burned. The scalping is a universal trait, but knights who belong to knightly orders, or warrior cults usually have their own tradition, but it still goes by the name ‘falling on the sword’ regardless of the actual method.

Duels of Honour

A Ral Knight’s code of honour only applies to dealings with other knights and noblemen, but when a dispute with another knight arises simply attacking him is not an acceptable course of action. Instead a formal challenge to duel must be issued. While noblemen may meet a knight or another nobleman in duels to first blood or yield two knights will always duel either to the death or until one combatant can no longer continue and the other offers him mercy because the dispute is not one he feels is of sufficient gravity to take his opponent’s life, or because his opponent has fought so well that he chooses to spare him. If an opponent is spared thus it is considered very bad form to take his hair, but if he is legitimately crippled but spared he is shorn. Regardless this is never pre-decided, and all duels are assumed to be to the death until the outcome is determined. To be spared the knight must, of course, accept his opponent’s mercy. Stories of some of the most tenacious warriors tells of men fighting on missing multiple limbs rather than accept mercy, and in one famous tale the knight fights on without a head, though this is surely myth. Conduct during the duel is strictly governed by the rules of knightly engagement outlawing certain kinds of strike, hidden weapons, ensuring combat is single, one on one, stopping knights from striking fallen opponents until they rise (if they can), how and when a coup de grace may be delivered, and such. Offering mercy in such a duel is often considered as big a loss of face as accepting it.

The Callings


'The Calling' is a term used to refer to the service an heir owes the High King of Ralstaa upon his twelfth birthday. He must go to the High Kingdom's capitol at Tohl and enter into the Royal University where he will become a page and learn the ways of priestcraft in the Temple of the Sun, and be inducted into the Canonate before returning home to rule. A calling may go further, into that noble joining the ranks of a warrior cult or some other royal service, but whatever the case these callings are exclusive to the noble families of the High Kingdom.

Page Service

All nobles must surrender their heirs to the crown upon their twelfth birthdays for training as a priest. Occasionally they are allowed to serve at the regional capitol if their family is powerful or traditionally loyal, but most of these houses willingly choose to send their heirs, and in most cases all of their children, despite this. This training takes seven years at which point they are inducted into the canonate and sent home to govern their estates, or can pursue careers as knights or in the upper ranks of canonate. This service is mandatory, and even if they are currently governing their own estates or they become heirs during this training period, a steward must be appointed in their stead until their time is over. Any other noble born child may go through the same training at the crown’s expense, but they owe the crown five years service after they are trained. This is how the royal universities and warrior cults fill out their ranks.

The Royal University

The Canonate directly administrates the university, despite the fact it is funded by the office of the Lord Mayor of Tohl, and all scholars must be of noble lineage and must be initiated at least to the level of initiate in the priesthood of Rallah. Special Scholar-Canons form the upper faculty, though on a very rare occasion some magicians are also invited into the lower faculty providing that they are also initiated.

The Knightly Orders

The Knightly Orders, more commonly known as warrior cults, are by no means the only knights in Ralstaa, in fact their ranks represent the vast minority, but they are the only unified bodies of professional knights in Ralstaa. These orders have long histories, their own preferred gear, combat doctrines, and crown-appointed duties, but being a member of an order will also earn an individual a regular income and keep him in a style, if not fit for a king, at least better than a questing knight.

Matherian Knights
Based in Tohl Graihaen, these Dunsain Knights are fierce opponents of the clan-landers, though occasionally their ranks will contain a golem. The Maetherian Knights are charged with the defence of the Dunsain lands, specifically against clanlander invasions and ghans trying to penetrate through the cold gates. Currently nearly their entire order is deployed holding the walls of the City of Stone.

Palisade Knights
Guardians of The City, commanders of the Palisade Guard, The Palisade Knights are unequaled warriors who wear immense suits of armour, sacrificing manouverability almost totally in favour of juggernaught-like durability. These warriors are some of the most feared of all of the knights of Ralstaa, and despite the demands of the weaponry and armour for a naturally large frame they use they are also the most numerous of any individual order.

Tierellic Knights
Lleweith Knights based in Breconn, the Tierellic Knights are predominantly a questing order based on pilgrimages to the oracle for their ranking members. Charged with forming the first line of defense along Ralstaa’s north and west boarders, they often recruit from promising royal wardens, so most of their number are very capable in wilderness settings and skirmish combat. They are also some of the most active knights in tourney next to unaligned Questing Knights, often seeking to test their skills against the best that the rest of the High Kingdom has to offer.

Lloric
The personal guard of the High King and his family. The Loric have a reputation for being fierce beyond belief, and are legendary for their strength and prowess. They say that one Lloric Knight is the equal of fifty other warriors. Animosity with the Palisade Knights is rife since the two share a home. The Loric usually go quite lightly armed and armoured, and are most recognizable for the immense black lion-pelts they must collect to be initiated into the order. Squires must go into the woods naked and unarmed and kill one of the giant jet black mountain lions and come back with its pelt to join the order as true knights. If they come back without it they’re usually killed. Most Lloric wear heavy dreadlocks woven with bands of steel cord, and it is common for these to extend down to their knees or feet. They also favour old-fashioned visorless helms mounted with various kinds of horn or other animal trophies.

Questing Knights and Knights Bachelor
When a knight goes out on his own after his squiredom he becomes a questing knight. Questing knights own no land, so outside of military service they perform quests. They tend to have a staff with them at all times, and a good deal of family wealth at their disposal, so it it hardly rough living, but their quests are often great, and usually involve enforcing the High King's law, doing service for the local noble families, competing at tourney or slaying legendary beasts. Eventually a questing knight will either return home to retire or else he will seek out an unclaimed village and build a castle to found his own dynasty. Once he is landed the knight becomes a Knights Bachelor. He will continue to be a knight bachelor until he is recognized by the high king as a sovereign in his own right. Many will simply ally themselves with the local monarch, in return for a guarantee on their lands, and they remain knights bachelor forever.

The Templar Orders

Templar orders are where more advanced priests can be trained as warriors. Many also train with magicians, making them exceptionally well-rounded warriors, with an understanding of those powers divine and magical. However these few initiates receive no military training and are very very rare even within each order, and often too spread over various topic to be particularly effective. The Templar Orders are spit in two over specific philosophical differences, but both groups are on friendly terms, and usually work in units of one Acarian and one Selaerin Knight. Both these orders are in the process of moving their bases to Tohl Dannis.

Acarian Knights
Primarily concerned with religious matters and studies the Acarian Knights are usually well educated warrior-scholars and fine leaders, with little or no magical training. They are used to investigate religious phenomena, mainly based around the question of exactly where Rallah has gone and how she communicates with her loyal followers. They also concern themselves with the danger of Wraith Gates in the wilder regions of Ralstaa.

Selaerin Knights
Predominantly warrior-magicians the Selarin Knights are used to hunt rogue magicians or deal with magical phenomena and magical monsters, but are generally called upon to deal with nearly all abnormal occurrences, even when magic doesn’t appear to play any part. Predominantly the order is existence to police other Ral magicians, but also as the grand marshal changes they are perennially interested in finding the city of Troggort and dealing with individuals like the Carver and other powerful monstrous individuals in Ralstaa.

Other Groups

There are two other groups that a knight might retire to join, or begin his training in, that are filled out as a part of the calling. While these are not knighthoods in themselves nobles are able to move between knightly and non-knightly callings at their leisure.

Royal Wardens
The High King’s roads are protected by small cells of wardens, usually trained in skirmish combat and with bow or other missile weapon, and in their local terrain. The royal wardens are used to hunt down bandits and dangerous wildlife making their homes near roads. They are all noblemen, though women are welcome among their ranks as well as men. They are often called to act as a sort of police force, but strictly their purview ends if a threat does not directly effect traffic on one of the highways.

The Canonate
The Canonate is the ruling order of the royal temple, and its administrative and governing arm. Because the ruling line is descended from a divhi they are divine themselves and thus heavily involved with the state religion, and so all of the noblemen of Ralstaa are expected to be able to serve as the high priests of the temple of the sun in their homes, and administrate a temple of their own, by hiring priests and advising them when they need help. Being a priest, especially a trained noble priest, under a noble line - usually one's own - is a common practice for those noblemen who are not named heir to their born estates.

Ruire Orders of the High Kingdom of Ralstaa
Royal Orders Lloric; Matherian Knights; Palisade Knights; Tierellic Knights
Templar Orders Acarian Knights; Selaerin Knights
Other Callings The Canonate; Royal Road Wardens