Antarria, the Shadows of Perfection
Recent history of the Solamnic Knights
After the cataclysm the knighthood suffered greatly, not only had their patrons withdrawn from the world, the world was in chaos and though they tried their utmost, the Knights could not save many. Over the centuries the common folk lost faith in them, and eventually even began to greatly mistrust those who would strive hardest to be their protectors, especially in the south. Noble families and common folk alike no longer encouraged their children to enroll in the Knightly Orders, by 50 years ago enrollment was close to zero. It seemed that the ancient and noble organization was a club for old men to reminisce about ancient legends, and would be extinct within a generation.
Then a young knight of the Crown, Archus Strongarm, led a band of adventurers called The Golden Seven and saved the kingdom from the machinations of Meregaunt the Deadman. His deeds of valor and virtue made him a hero throughout the continent, and the leaders of all three knighthoods presented him as the embodiment of all that it was to be a knight. He rose quickly, becoming the youngest High Justice in history.
The next 15 years would become known as the Rose Revival, and many brave warriors flocked to the knight’s banner, inspired by Archus’ example. It was a short golden age, fragile and too soon broken when the people found their trust betrayed.
The tide of history grows murky here, rumors began to be whispered that Lord of the Rose Strongarm intended to declare himself emperor and strip both noble and commoner of thier traditional rights and privileges. The knights moved to dispel these rumors
Some historians say Strongarm was justifiably reacting to unfounded fears and hearsay but lost control of the situation. The majority hold that he planted the rumors himself, as part of his plan to impose martial law and seize power. Baldric the Elder stands alone in his opinion that some exterior power planted the rumor and stirred the resulting discontent in an attempt to overthrow the resurgent knights, but his words are generally discounted.
Regardless, when the knights began to crack down more severely, arresting and detaining those found slandering the High Justice, it was seen as confirmation of Sir Strongarm’s intention for tyranny. The situation exploded. Riots broke out, members of the knights or their family were kidnapped or murdered, which led to even more severe retaliations. Agitators were tracked to the village of Karaschule, and when they refused to give up, the stockade was set aflame, massacreing all within, including the women and children. There was public outcry, the compgroup’s commander, a Warden of the Crown named Dieter Killefer, claimed during his trial that he had recieved direct orders from the High Justice to carry out the cleansing of the village. Such an accusation could not be ignored, Archus was temporarily suspended from his position as High Justice by a two thirds vote of all circles and brought in for a trial by his peers in the Order of the Rose.
The measure of the Knights of the Rose emphasizes Wisdom and Justice, and for nearly half a year they deliberated, bringing in witness after witness to testify in exhaustive detail about the massacre. There was little solid evidence to see, and it ultimately boiled down to the word of Sir Killefer against that of Sir Strongarm. The Rose Knights knew that if they convicted the High Justice, and distanced the orders from him and the tyranny he had, wrongly or rightly, been accused of, they could calm the people’s fury and salvage their position in Solamnian society.
It is a great irony that it was not some great and powerful evil that would bring about the downfall and slaughter of so many brave and good knights, but their own unflinching sense of honor. Killefer was clearly guilty of killing the innocent within Karaschule, and sentenced to be slain with his own sword upon the Isle of Vamacht, but the evidence was not strong against Archus and he was cleared.
For months the country had teetered on the edge of open rebellion, and then it fell over.
The Wilting War was the end of the Rose Revival. In the face of armed insurrection, the High Justice declared that a national emergency had begun, ordered martial law and disbanded the Council of Lords. He assumed the title of Grand Master, despite the lack of a High Clerist to crown him as stipulated in the Measure. Most of the Order of the Crown followed the High Warrior and their oathes of loyalty, fighting to put down the rebels even after the war had devolved into a dark and messy bloodbath of pacification that turned their stomachs. Without a High Knight to rally around, the Sword Knights largely followed thier own individual sense of honor. Some fought in Strongarm’s armies, others stood aside and tried only to protect their own friends and families, a few even joined the rebels, disillusioned with what they saw as a fall from grace. After his self appointment to the title of Grand Master, he again flaunted the measure in choosing his successor to the position of High Justice. The majority of his peers in the Order of the Rose withdrew their support for him because of his disregard for the just laws of the knighthood, but could not bring themselves to oppose him openly, withdrawing to their own manors. Those that did stay, including the puppet High Justice, tried to dissuade Grand Master Strongarm and temper his extreme actions with their own wisdom.
The war dragged on for two years of blood and tragedy, but ended in a single night of fire. A surprise attack of rebel forces led by Archus’ former comrades in the Golden Seven, set his stronghold ablaze. The great knight, responsible for both the Knighthoods resurrection and then its fall from grace, was last seen duelling with Sharp-Eyed Jack upon the west tower as it collapsed in a flurry of sparks. The attack claimed the lives of more than half of the old adventuring band, including Archus.
The loss of their leader struck a mortal blow to the morale of the Knight’s armies, already sickened at the slaughter of their countrymen. Many laid down their arms rather than continue, and those that didn’t were defeated within the year.
Unfortunately, nobody on the other side was willing to forgive, and once the Council of Lords had been reinstated they began a retributive campaign of prosecution, stripping the lands from most knights and awarding them to other lords with no connection to the Knighthood. Worse, angry mobs began lynching knights, their families and retainers, and the new authorities turned a blind eye.
Some knights managed to hold onto their lands for a few decades more, mostly in remote, out of the way wilderness regions. The name and reputation of the Knighthood seemed to have been smeared beyond repair, and those who still clung to its ancient ideals of honor, justice and chivalry were forced to struggle to survive. Some gave up such ideals, burying their arms and armor to live peaceful lives under new identities, others fled the lands of solamnia and built new lives on new shores. The truest remained in hiding, but tried to do what they could to help the people in secret, forming cells like the Shadowed Rose.
They would be there for Solamnia in it’s hour of darkest need. Despite the suffering the people had inflicted upon them, the few knights that endured held true to the light, and emerged as Solamnia’s protectors. During the War of Destiny, Poison Mulhallion rose from obscurity as a bounty hunter on Fewgaard’s mean streets to again redeem the reputation of the Knights.