“To Err is not Knightly”
The Grey Order follow Sidhe, and some believe they are chosen personally for the Order by him. They are all chosen from the nobility of Ithron, and must be either human or half-elven. (A noble half-human is likely to be a half-elf. While in theory a dwarf, orc or halfling could marry into the nobility and possibly produce children, at this time they would not be eligible for membership of the Order)
The Order doesn’t accept squires, as the other orders do. Instead a noble joins as an Errant, a probationary member of the Order but one who is expected to be fully competent with arms and armour. After the Errant’s prowess and valour have been proven, by adventuring, completing quests, and generally being an upstanding member of the community, the Errant is knighted.
Of all the Orders, the Grey Order set the greatest store by personal perfection. Once knighted, a member of the Grey Order strives to be the very best he or she can be. They take great pride (some would say too much) in their appearance, and it is simply not done for a Grey Knight to look unkempt or dishevelled, although a few maintain that the stains and scrapes of battle have a dignity all their own.
All Greys (with some some minor exceptions) wear the same livery – a grey tabard (for Sidhe) with a black sash worn diagonally (as a reminder that mortals are imperfect).
The higher ranks of the Order are divided into two branches, the Knights Adventurous and the Knights Devout. Only those knights who have never sinned, and who feel particularly drawn to Sidhe, follow the path of devotion. They gain all the power of a devotee, but can never stumble on the way – even the most minor sin causes them to fall from grace. Those who fail tend either to leave the Order and become priests or devotees of the Church of Sidhe, or to retire from active life. Should they ever reach the top rank of devotion they may remove the black sash, as they are as perfect as a knight can ever hope to become.
The Knights Adventurous are those who are not so devout, and tend to embody the other aspects of Chivalry and Courtly Love.
The Founding of the Order
The order was founded in 389 by four devotees of Sidhe in an endeavor to hold true to the values of justice, peace & honor.
Danyal – The Head. A proven commander, listener & tactician, no-one disputed his rise to leadership.
Hermigan – The Strength. By far the most devout of all, he believed in nothing but the Word of Sidhe and the need for balance.
Eolthirin – The Heart. Compassionate, poetic and fearless, the true warrior poet of the order.
Marcus – The Voice. The arbitrator, the calming tone in many council argument, wrote an early draft of Ithronian law, and became one of the land’s first Judges.
All four were half-elven – almost abhorrent in society’s eyes – but through an unquestionable show of valiance, honor & truth, in a period of less than 50 years the Grey Order soon stood shoulder to shoulder with the Griffin Knights of Norham, with numbers matching theirs.
By the 450’s the Griffins and Greys operated hand in hand, Ithron was brought out of a dark period, and soon after the Templar order established a small keep in Labry
In 491 dark times fell upon the town of Norham, a dragon named Xissacus had laid siege to the town bringing with him a vast horde of Foulspawn, Mercenaries and assassins to crush Ithron’s capital to claim it’s rapidly growing wealth.
The Griffin order called for the aid of the Grey order immediately. At Greykeep, their stronghold in Barrenly, the Greys held council.
Danyal was adamant, they would march as soon as they possibly could. Eolthirin & Marcus vehemently agreed, but Hermigan stayed silent. He had decided not to march. In prayer to his lord Sidhe he had seen the necessity to leave the Griffins and Norham to its fate, as the town had become a place of greed and debauchery and in Hermigan’s eyes was bleeding the rest of Ithron dry of its resources.
Hermigan therefore ordered his quarter of the order to remain at Greykeep and let Sidhe’s will take its course. Few of his men saw true justice and knightly values in his decision, but they were ultimately loyal and therefore stayed behind. After a period of much debate and pleading from Hermigan for the other three to stay, Danyal, Eolthirin and Marcus left with their men for Norham.
Few details are known about the battle of Norham, for quite simply very few survived. Xissacus was indeed defeated, by Danyal himself in a valiant effort that unfortunately claimed his life too. Only 30 knights survived, and of them only 5 were Greys.
Eolthirin was the only one of the 3 founders to return to Greykeep. Danyal had passed leadership to Eolthirin among his dying wishes, and despite being the compassionate one of the order Eolthirin returned to Greykeep enraged by Hermigan’s ‘betrayal’ and immediately cast him out of the order. Few knights had sympathy for Hermigan at this time, but he was given ample provisions and sent on his way.
Hermigan was never heard from again until 991 when he appeared in Labry uttering lamentations for his brothers who fell 500 years previously. He claimed now to be ‘The Hand of Sidhe’, and he was erratic to say the least. Claiming that only Sidhe’s balance was paramount to the future of Ithron he would one week lay waste to a Foulspawn tribe or bandit horde, when the next week a village would be murdered in cold blood by him. He bore a Rune for killer on his face and harnessed incredible power.
The Grey Order prayed long and hard to find the true meaning of Hermigan’s return to find out that he had indeed been used as a weapon for balance by Sidhe across the globe, but now his task was done, and Hermigan was required no longer.
At the Great Barrenly Fayre in late 991, Hermigan was finally defeated by the Grey Order with the help of the adventuring community of Ithron, and now rests in Sidhe’s halls.
In the founding years of the Order its opinion of ladies was that similar to that of the Griffin Order. Its change to that which it is today is down to many factors
Sir William was one of the few knights of the order to take up arms and join the crusades. When he returned to his native land, something in him had changed. Whatever piety or eagerness for battle had prompted him to join the crusades in the first place had completely evaporated in the scorching sands of the Konn. And, as one of his contemporaries put it, he “wallowed in the style of vice as though he believed that all things were governed by chance and not by Providence.” He scandalised the local populace by abandoning his wife and taking the wife of a local count as his mistress. Despite this, the wicked and almost sacrilegious humour of his poetry won William an enthusiastic audience, whether he was advocating the setting up of an abbey of whores, or offering irreverent prayers.
The bawdiness and overt sexuality were a reflection of the changing times: with the energy of warfare directed towards foreign soil, a relative peace had come to much of Ithron. Men spending less time on the battlefield turned their attentions to enjoying the pleasures of the company of women.
Andreas Cappellanus the Chaplain of the Order at the time believed the ideal of love should be more spiritual than sexual. He envisaged the union of man and woman as a path to the state of transcendence and union with the divine. With the help of several ladies from the local courts he created the “Art of Courtly Love”, the rules of which are still used today by members of the Order in love.
It was also Chaplain Cappellanus who, along side several high ranking members of the Order, came up with the “Code of Chivalry”. This over the centuries has become the oath that all members of the Order must swear, both upon joining the Order and when they are knighted. It has since spread, in a slightly diluted form, to all the Ithronian knightly orders.
The Axirian invasions
The relative peace of Ithron was eventually shattered by the first Axirian invasion. The Axirian force had surprise on their side and their battle-mages were nothing Ithronian Sorcerers had ever seen. After several defeats, however, the combined might of the Grey and Griffin Orders alongside the Sorcerers of Ithron turned the tide of battle.
When the second invasion came both sides had learnt many lesson from the time before. But after many hard fights victory was once again on the side of the Ithronians.
During the third invasion in 678 things went terribly different. The Axirian forces brought with them a newly formed order of knights: Ithrons first taste of the Black Order. After the initial clashes the Grey Order withdrew to its keep in Barrenly and held council. What exactly went on in that meeting may never be discovered. All that is known is that the first order given after the meeting was for the Order to stand down, withdraw from the field of combat and leave the fight to the rest of Ithron. Rumours of what went on in the meeting are many. Some think that the Order believed that they had won enough battles for Ithron and it was time to strike a balance. Other believe it was simple cowardice while some even believe that the Order was acting on a command from Sidhe himself.
After the order was given, the Head of the Order, the Chaplain and the most devout knights left the keep, never to be seen again. This left the Order in disarray. Some knights ignored the orders and kept fighting, some left the Order, while most prayed for answers.
Ultimately, without the full combined opposition of Ithrons Knightly Orders Axir’s invasion was successful. After the war many Grey Knights, disillusioned with their own Order, joined the Black Order and brought with them their own devotion to Sidhe.
The Order Today
The Order is now somewhat different from the other Orders. Where the Griffins and Blacks take children and train them in their ways, and all three other Orders maintain large military organisations, the Grey Knights are made up of individual nobles who, as adults already experienced in the world and in war, feel a calling to the way of Chivalry. As such the Order has few great castles, and no armies of servants or men at arms, but instead encourages its members to wander, to follow the service of Sidhe and the call of adventure, and to help those who cannot help themselves.
You are unlikely these days to see a great force of Grey knights taking the field beside the Griffins – but in some dark hidden corner where one knight can tip the balance in favour of good and light, that knight is very likely to be wearing Grey.