The Knights of Vingaard
The Knights of Vingaard are split into three orders - the Order of St. Cuthbert, the Order of the Crown, and the Order of Tyrus. While they have different focuses, they all follow the Measure of Vingaard. Knights of Vingaard are usually of noble blood, though ocasionally an aspiring knight is knighted by the Queen of Vingaard, becoming a noble in his own right.The Measure is as follows:
Noble service cheerfully rendered.
Defense of any charge unto death.
Courage and enterprise in obedience to rule.
Respect for all peers and equals.
Honor to all above your station.
Obedience and respect from all beneath your station.
Scorn for those who are low and ignoble (see below).
Military prowess exercised in service to your lord.
Courtesy to all ladies (if the cavalier is male).
War is the flowering of chivalry.
Battle is the test of manhood.
Combat is glory.
Personal glory above all in battle.
Death to all who oppose the cause.
Death before dishonor.
The disdain of a Knight for that which is ignoble extends to their weapons. Knights of Vingaard see leather armour as the armour of peasants and thieves, and will prefer anything else to it. After that, they will usually choose ring/chain mail or a breastplate. However, what any knight truly aspires to is a glorious suit of full plate mail. Likewise, knights see combat by lance and long sword as most noble, and it is these weapons which they usually profess in. If a Knight has a weapon specialisation, it will always be in one of these two. After these, knights prefer swords of any kind to other weapons, bows to crossbows, and anything to a cowardly dagger, which they will only use if they are being grappled. In general, ranged weapons are considered cowardly, though they may acknowledge situations where they are useful (such as on the battlefield, where they are a tactical necessity).
Their training is not without fruit, and fighters who are Knights of Vingaard gain certain abilities due to their extensive training. They are well versed in both riding and mounted combat, and can be considered thoroughly proficient in both. They will also have extensive knowledge of court politics and social niceties and etiquette. Furthermore, while they may only specialise in either long swords or lances, they gain a +2 to-hit and a +3 to damage with their weapon of choice, as opposed to the usual +1 to-hit and +2 to damage.
A knight usually begins in service to his father, who will be a lord or some other such noble. If his father is not suitable, he will be apprenticed to a practicing knight as a page at a very young age, to learn the ways of knighthood and nobility in his service. As he grows older, he will ride at his master's side as a squire, fighting with him and doing honour to his master, to his order and to his country. As he proves himself worthy to his master he will be given more and more independence, sent on tasks or quests of his own to test his mettle. Eventually, when his master deems him ready, the young man will be released to go out into the world and make a name for himself, to prove himself noble, honourable and worthy of knighthood or to die trying.
As he grows into fame and renown, he will eventually come to be called for the Accolade. At the Accolade, all young nobles who have proven themselves will be called, as well as - though rarer - those who have been recommended for the Accolade by a Tyrean Knight, even if not of noble birth. A young noble may grow well past adulthood without being knighted; at the Accolade, his noble deeds will be taken into account, balanced by any black marks against his name or tales of ignobilities that he has comitted. Once his deeds have been heard, he will be judged by the knights in attendance at the Accolade; only Knights of the Crown and Knights of Tyrus may judge the Accolade, and a show of swords will be take to determine whether he is worthy. If he is judged unworthy, he will be sent from the Accolade. While he can hope to be called for the Accolade in the future, being rejected by the Accolade is seen as a great dishonour, and is a sign that they are "unworthy" of knighthood. A knight errant who is rejected from the Accolade has a lesser chance of being called again. The most common way for an ignoble man to become a knight is to manage to get a knight to accept them as squire.
If a knight passes the Accolade, he will be knighted by the King or Queen themselves along with the other new knights. Before they are due to meet the King/Queen, they spend a night in the Holy Chapel of the Trinity, praying to the gods for virtue and thanking them for their gifts, preparing themselves for their dubbing as true knights of the realm.
All new knights immediately join the Order of St. Cuthbert - to progress from here to the Crown or the Tyrean Order is their goal. The knight and his possessions and retinue are housed by their sponsor - usually their father's estate or the estate of whomever their master was during their training for knighthood. If none are available to take them on, they will be housed by the Kingdom, though this is seen as less noble. All new Knights of the St. Cuthbert are granted a finely crafted set of plate armor (not full plate mail), lances for battle, a finely crafted longsword and shield, and a warhorse to ride into battle. They will also be granted heraldry specific to their own knightly name, and banners and shields bearing their crest. All of this will be granted to the knight once they swear fealty to King and Country (or Queen and Country, as the case may be). It is common for the newly knighted to also receive gifts from their family and from other families who seek favour with the newly made knight and their house. If the new knight was baseborn, the heraldry extends to producing a coat of arms and motto for the newly-created house and entering these into the records.
Finally, a newly landed knight will be granted a measure of land. This will usually be in the form of 1 to 3 farmsteads totalling no more than 1,000 acres between them. In particular cases, such as that of a knight who slew a dragon or some similar feat of valor, as much as a small town may be granted. The people who live on the knight's land dwell there in tenant holding, and the knight has the right of tenancy over the land. This means that he may replace the tenants at any time he wishes, and that he has the right to demand tax from the tenants. Usually this tithe is 10% to 20%, but it can be as high as 50%; half of it will come in as silver, and the other half will be in the form of raw goods. To find out how much a farm produces, refer to this page.
A knight draws no pay or wage from the Kingdom, but within Vingaard their financial stability is guaranteed. In any inn of the Kingdom, they will be granted free room and board, and so at any military establishment, guard outpost, or barracks within the Kingdom. They are considered a minor noble throughout the realm, and will be treated by all with respect and dignity. Repairs and maintenance upon their weapons by royal blacksmiths will also be free, though they will be expected to pay an independent merchant. Finally, all knights are granted the right of trial by combat; it is believed that knights hold special patronage by Belzor, and in cases where a knight's guilt in a crime is uncertain, he may demand to be judged by a combat between himself and either his accuser or a champion chosen by them. If Belzor is willing, he shall live.
Regardless of which order they serve, a Knight can be called to war or service at any time. Although they have sworn fealty and undying loyalty to the Kingdom, this is technically a request and can be refused by a knight. When they ride to war, knights have the right to the spoils of war. In addition to this, a knight who is being called to fight will be rewarded not in coin but in the granting of a fiefdom, a small area usually consisting of a Keep staffed by men-at-arms and servants, and several villages which pay tithe to him. While knights can be granted land in other ways, such as for particularly valorous deeds, this is the most common. Until a knight receives the Accolade they are considered a knight-errant.
A page, squire or knight-errant has particular title attached to their name, though a page or squire will often be referred to by the name of their liege ("-squire to Ser Royce"). A knight who has no lands or holdings to their name, or who has no more than individual strongholds or plots of land to their name is prefaced with "Ser". A knight who is a ruler in their own right and has had a fiefdom granted to them to be ruled by them is referred to as "Lord".
All told, there are about 5,000 knights in Vingaard, split across three orders.
The Order of the Sword
This order is composed of the youngest knights, those who have yet to prove themselves in battle. All new knights of the Realm occupy the Order of the Sword. As they are young and unproven, the duties of a Knight of the Sword is simple - to follow the Code always, to prove themselves in accordance with the Code and to bring the valour and nobility of the Knights of Vingaard with them, wherever they go, within Vingaard or outside of it. A good part of the Order of the Sword have no fiefdoms of their own. They are based in the Pilgrim's Chapterhouse at the city of Lionsgate. This order numbers about 3,500 knights.
The Order of the Crown
The larger of the two higher orders, this is the "main" order of knights. The duty of the knights of the Crown is to Ruler and Country; they have accepted the lands of the Kingdom, and they have sworn fealty to the Crown. While Knights of the Crown may still adventure as those of St. Cuthbert do, many of the Crown focus more on the protection of the realm, turning themselves and their militaries to its service, to serving in battle or to simply serving in some other way, such as travelling across Vingaard and doing the work of justice, or being stationed in one of the Keeps that protect Nevermoor by sea. If nothing else, they may simply be expected to maintain their fiefdom and be kind and just lords. The Order of the Crown is based in the chapterhouse closest to the Queen - the Grand Chapterhouse of the Knights of Vingaard, in Solamnus. This order numbers about 1,000 knights.
The Tyrean Order
The smallest order of knights, composed of the oldest and wisest, the Knights of Tyrus have each been personally promoted to their position by the King or Queen. In many cases they have large tracts of land to their name, and many occupy the position of lords of considerable land. Many eschew combat at this age, choosing instead to take on an apprentice in the form of a page aspiring to knighthood, or simply moving in noble circles. When they do ride to battle, it is usually as commanders and generals. The Knights of Tyrus command a great deal of respect for their lives of valour, and as such occupy much the same position as a lord or other significant noble. Although they have little need for a chapterhouse outside of meetings and knightly councils, the traditional home of the Tyrean Order is in the Temple of Sacrifice, at the base of Mount Tyrus. This order numbers about 500 knights.
The Knightly Council
The knightly council is a gathering, similar in nature to the Accolade. There are two types of knightly council: the Small Council and the Grand Council. The Small Council is hosted three times each year, and knights are invited to the chapterhouse of their order to discuss the affairs of Leng and make important decisions. The Grand Council is more rare, called in times of emergency or grave decisions, and is hosted at the Grand Chapterhouse in Solamnus. The Knights of all three Orders are invited to attend it, in order to debate and come to an agreement between the orders. Each Knight of St. Cuthbert is equal to one vote; a Knight of the Crown is equal to three, and a Tyrean Knight is equal to five votes. The most recent Grand Council was called to decide upon the fate of the Forsworn in the year 100 AE.