Way of the Wicked
The Knights of the Alerion
This venerable brotherhood of knights dedicated to Mitra’s service was once a minor order. However, during the war of succession, they were the only order to side with House Darius. All the rest sided with House Barca. With Markadian’s victory and the elevation of House Darius to royalty, this order has risen to become the greatest and most prestigious order throughout the land. To “fly with eagles” (the heraldric symbol of the Alerion is the eagle) is used as a synonym for joining this order. Fiercely religious, all its members must swear oaths of service to Mitra and support the Mitran Church. Oaths of chastity and poverty are not uncommon among the more devout members of this order but are not required.
Uniquely, this order of knights does not require noble blood. Any commoner who can pass the rigorous tests of membership can become a member. Of course, the overwhelming majority of its members are highborn. How often do farmers train with the horse and sword? Still, some of the most prestigious members are common heroes who have answered the call of the Shining Lord.
Nowadays one could be forgiven for thinking this the only knightly order in the land. This is untrue of course (see below) but what is undeniable is that the Order is the most influential military organization in Talingarde. This Order is led by no less august a personage than the King himself. Markvadian V called the Brave is the highest ranking member of the Knights of the Alerion.
Sacred Brotherhood of the Gryphon
The other major order of knights in Talingarde, the Brothers of the Gryphon are actually a coaltion of older orders that banded together after their membership numbers were shattered eighty years ago in the war of succession. Largely secular, their order requires no divine oaths to join. They do however require noble blood.
Since the war of succession and their pardon by the Victor, the Brothers have proven their loyalty to Talingarde again and again. Numberous Brothers have served as commanders on the Watch Wall. They have held every possible military position of any prestige. Still today, there is no doubt this is an order in decline. Led by Lord Vastenus of Barca, the king’s most trusted commander, there remains some jealousy amongst the Brothers of the great prestige the Knights of the Alerion now enjoy.
The Church of Mitra
If there is any organization that may rival the royal house in power in Talingarde today, it is the Church of Mitra. There is no community of any size that does not have at least a church house and a single priest of this religion. There are involved in the daily lives of the peasants like no other group. Every birth, every death, every marriage, and every festival is presided over by a priest of Mitra.
Overwhelming, the Church is a force for benevolence throughout the kingdom. Has there ever in history been an organization with such power and influence and yet so untroubled by corruption? This is not to say the Church has not had its scandals. Priests who indulge their vices; bishops who misappropriate funds for personal gain; cardinals who use their office for power instead of holy work — these happen. But what makes the Church of Mitra so remarkable is how rarely they happen. The servants of the Shining Lord are trusted by the people of Talingarde and for good reason.
Led by the High Cardinal Vitalian of Estyllis, the Church is experiencing a zenith of influence and culture. In Matharyn, the kingdom’s capital, the great Cathedral of the Sanctum Solaris has just been completed. Its soaring frescoes and magnificent statuary are without equal on the isle.
The Blessed Order of St. Macarius
This monastic order has dedicated itself to healing the sick and relieving the suffering of the people, thus following in the footsteps of the founder St. Macarius the Mendicant. They do this without charge or any expectation of repayment. This has earned them the gratitude and love of people throughout the domain. Further, in times of war, the brothers of this order accompany the army into battle. Healing both sides, they do their best to minimize the loss of life. There are even tales of these monks healing bugbears who attacked the Watch Wall in hopes that these acts of kindness will eventually lead the shaggy invaders to reconsider their violent lives.
This order has another claim to fame. Most of the clergy who follow Mitra will never cast a single divine spell. Most priests though they worship Mitra are not direct channels for his will. Of the rare priests who can actually use divine magic, the overwhelming majority are members of this order. The leader of this order prefers to remain anonymous but is doubtless located at the Monastery of St. Macarius, the order’s central base of operation and founding site.