The Dread Order

dreadknight01a

The Making of the Dread Order

It was shortly after the Sundering that the Dreadnaught Order began its ascent to the position it maintains today. The time after the sundering was terrible. Weather patterns changed; bringing famine, tornadoes, and great storms. Wandering bands of brigands traveled the countryside searching for victims, not because money was worth much of anything, but because they needed the supplies to stay alive. Worst of all, the monsters hidden deep within the labs of even the most benevolent Magi were now unleashed upon the world without a powerful master to control them. All people felt the power void from of the loss of the Magi. The Order of Paladyne was not immune to the effects of the Sundering. There was only one Great Temple of the Paladyne at that time. It was on Myrindal and now it was separated from the rest of the world. It lost control over any Temple that lacked Inner Sanctums (for various reasons, some because of size and some because of secrecy.) They couldn’t help everyone and many Paladins across the world were left to fend for themselves.

The fracture of the Order of the Paladyne into the Dread Order began as all of these sagas do, first in men’s hearts, then by physical boundaries, and lastly through necessity–some would argue it was a grab for power. In one very important temple housed deep within the harshest regions of the Southern Mountain Range on Pelor, the Temple of the Silver Gate, the Order had been housing knowledge the Paladynes did not want known.

In this Great Temple on Pelor there was no Inner Sanctum and no relief from outsides forces. The Paladins of fought an almost constant battle for survival against the elements, against starvation, and against the darkness they kept sealed within their walls. This Great Temple was formed when centuries earlier, a silver gateway had been found fashioned in the middle of a circular chamber, carved into the rock of the mountains. This gateway was crafted by forces more powerful than the Paladynes–a very short list–as a passage to the lowest level of the Abyss. Within the Abyss was the prison of the Dreadnaughts, a faction of the Titans opposed in all facets to the Paladynes. The Paladyne not being able to destroy this location, or even seal it, did the only thing they could do, send a force of their Paladins to guard it, tasked with standing vigilant against forces that would try to escape and those that would seek to open it.

Such a powerful gateway sends echoes of its power through the currents. Creatures of darkness are drawn to it without their conscious knowledge as well as those looking to seek great power. The Paladins at the Dread Portal had to both defend against those things would seek the Portals power on the material plane and whatever the Portal could throw at them from the Abyss.

The Paladins at the Dread Temple were the toughest the Order could find, strong of mind, body, and soul. They were the best of the best and against the constant conflict that they faced from all sides, they only became stronger.

After the Sundering, the task of protecting the Dread Temple from discovery or assault became secondary. Their isolated location began to be a boon and meant they only had to deal with the beasts of the deep jungles, formidable, but the frequency of beast attacks was minimal. Keeping the supplies flowing became more of a focus. The only safe passage for food to the region had to be cleared regularly of dangerous tropical predators on lower face of the mountain trail and equally dangerous arctic beasts as it approached the mountain peak, but that could be assigned to lesser Acolytes and Squires. The greatest threat came from the Portal and orders were given that each and every object or creature to come out of the Portal was to be destroyed. They learned to predict when such things would appear. Patterns in the currents were recognized by Paladins that came from long lines of Sorcerers. Others with these talents were employed to watch the mana currents for changes, marking the approach of supernatural creatures and undead from the dangerous lands below the Temple.

The Paladins at the Dread Temple found themselves changing against this tide of constant conflict, isolation, and vigilance. Slowly–without even the Paladins themselves noticing–they began to rely less and less on their Paladynes for their protective powers, instead using them almost exclusively for destruction. The Paladynes granted these requests out of necessity, knowing their Paladins needed to meet these foes with overwhelming force.

No one truly realized, especially those at the Great Temple, what this subtle change would mean to the Order of the Paladyne as a whole. The Dread Knights were born, even if they did not call themselves by that name yet. Some of the Paladins gave up their Paladynes and became Sorcerers to better serve their brethren. At first it was simply a tactical decision. They needed the knowledge of sorcerous arts as an early warning system, transportation, and means to fend off hordes of foes that could arise in seconds. It was an unfortunate situation but a necessity. Sorcerers without Paladin training that were brought to the Great Temple were more often interested in harnessing the untapped power of the Temple rather than defending it, so Paladins with Sorcerous talents were identified and trained for guarding the Silver Gate. It made sense that a former Paladin would be more committed to guarding the Temple as they learned the ways of sorcery to do their duty.

After a time, the Paladins began to rely on their Paladin-turned-Sorcerer-brethren for everything. Their arts were equipped to handle any situation that arose at the Dread Temple. Soon the Sorcerer Paladins began making the decisions. They still needed the martial might and protective powers of their Paladin brethren, so a symbiosis was formed. Paladins stood at the vanguard as the Sorcerers of the Order of the Paladyne destroyed whatever approached from deep mountain portal or the long mountain path. There were no threats they could not face. Then the Demons came.

Up until this point the Paladynes had only faced minor Demons and the occasional lesser Demon. Within the Abyss there are many other creatures, so they were not ready for the forces that would be brought to bear against them by the Arch-Demons, the Devourers of all Life. The Paladins were ill-prepared and almost lost the Dread Temple if it were not for a Paladin with Sorcerer’s blood that listened to the whispers of another denizen of the Abyss, a Dreadnaught.

The Dreadnaughts had been imprisoned for millennia, the losers of the War of the Titans, a purely supernatural battle that took place on another plane of existence between the forces of Chaos and Order. On the one side were the Dreadnaughts, the Champions and Lords of Chaos and on the other, the Paladynes, the Champions and Lords of Order. When they lost, the Abyss was their made their prison. They had only two ways out, as agreed on by the terms of the War, one was through the Silver Ring at the Dread Temple and the other through the soul of a mortal being used as a gateway. So the Paladins fought against anything that came through the Silver Ring, their task a two-fold measure to prevent the Dreadnaughts from returning and stop the denizens of the Abyss from entering this world. The Paladins of the Silver Gate were unknowing Jailors for the Lords of Chaos.

The Dreadnaughts hatred for the Paladynes was great, but it could never be greater than the hatred they felt for the Demons. The Demons were the antithesis of all things of both Law and Chaos and the only foe the Dreadnaughts and Paladynes had ever fought side-by-side to defeat. The nature of Demons is to feed upon living energy. The weakened and jailed Dreadnaughts in the Abyss were a feast for the Demons and the feasting was a never ending torment, always keeping them from gathering enough power to exit their prison. This hatred for the Demons and other beings like them, would be the foundation for the creation of the Dread Order.

The Paladin with Sorcerer’s Blood was named Vance Cavelet. Vance was a powerful Paladin of the Crusader order. His Paladyne had graced him with the destructive powers of Just Retribution. With his mighty two-handed sword Justicebringer he carved through the Arch-demons, but his powers were never quite enough to stop the tide. This was not a fault of his Paladyne, but of his waning bond with his Patron. Try as he might he could not win, and as his frustration grew, his link to his Paladyne waned. He began to draw more and more upon his sorcerous talents to compensate and in doing so, his link deteriorated even more quickly. This should have made him too weak to face the Demons, but instead his powers grew in entirely different ways than his Crusader brethren had ever seen. He had been listening to the whispers from the Abyss and calling upon the power those whispers lent him. From it he was able to channel all the anger, hatred and pain he felt into pure chaotic power. He harnessed sorcery in his blade, the blade once named Justicebringer became Doomreaver, and struck down the Demons with overwhelming force, turning their own power against them a thousand times stronger.

As the fights grew more intense, Vance drew upon more and more power from his whispering Dreadnaught Patron until it came to a point where when he fought in battle, his fellows could see the hulking chained form of some ethereal Titan standing next to him and aiding his swings. Many of the Paladins upon seeing this were shocked and terrified, but they did not turn against their brother. His powers had been the only thing stopping the world from a fate worse than death, utter oblivion.

Vance was watched warily at first, but as time passed and his deeds proved his heart was still in the right place, the Paladins became more accustomed to this power. Then, like Sorcery, they began to take it up this power themselves. Seeing this change in his brethren was like a mirror for Vance, allowing him to see what he and his brethren were becoming and what danger they were facing. He, like his brothers, were succumbing to the coercion of the Dreadnaughts in return for the power it gave them. Their Paladynes were gone and never to return to them in the same capacity. In this moment of clarity, Vance Cavelet knew he must continue his charge to guard the Silver Gate and train others to contain the power he possessed; he created the Dreadnaught Order.

He taught his brethren how to teeter on that terrible line between giving up their soul and unleashing a Dreadnaught. He counselled forging a bond to control the Dreadnaught through its rage and hunger. The Dread Knights as they would be called, would forever walk this line so they could draw upon the might of the Dreadnaughts. Their task and mission would be to destroy Demons and the forces of the supernatural. The Silver Gate became the Dread Temple and was the first and only outpost of the Dreadnaughts sanctioned by the Paladyne Order. From there the Dread Knights and Paladins worked together to keep all that ever escaped its confines from harming the world. The Dread Temple stands to this day as the only place where Dread Knights and Paladins stand side-by-side without conflict.

The Master and the Apprentice

The Dreadnaught Order is not a path that a person treads lightly. It is a path that grants great power at a the cost of an endless struggle for the sentient soul. The Dread Knight is offering their body as a conduit for the power of the Dreadnaught and the Dreadnaught is struggling for a chance to reach out into the mortal realm, if even for the briefest moment, always hoping for their Dread Knight to succumb to them; granting them freedom. For these and many more reasons the Dread Knights do not increase their ranks lightly. Unless a man or woman has the self-awareness and humility to continually evaluate their actions; they can never be trusted with the means to Bond with a Dreadnaught. The Pilgrimage to the Dread Temple to create that Bond is only bestowed upon the worthy by a Dread Master to their Apprentice.

The Dreadnaught Order came by this Master and Apprentice relationship through a terrible journey. Trial and error showed that each person needed to be watched closely for signs of Dreadnaught influence. Vance had to cut down many of his own Paladin brothers before they succumbed to their Dreadnaughts. He could see it in their eyes when the Dreadnaughts began whispering to them and when the temptation was too great. He realized he would need to create a foundation for the sustainable growth of the Dread Order in these times by finding those of the right character to take on this responsibility. He realized that level of understanding can only come with a close relationship and that a Master and Apprentice bond would best suit that end.

Like his former Order, there would be places considered the bastions of the Dread Order, but unlike the Paladyne Order these Bastions would not be easily accessible, nor would they truly be the places where a Dread Knight would be trained. The Dread Knights would be tempered by the Trials of Desire, Blood, and lastly Temptation. The finding of one of these Bastions of the Dread Order would be the Trial of Desire, for the journey to find them would be perilous. Mentioned only in whispers, hidden from curious eyes and so dangerous to reach that only the most determined and resilient would survive the journey to their gates. Their discovery would prove the Supplicant had the desire to be a part of the Dread Order.

At the Dread Bastion the Supplicant would meet a Sentinel of the Order, not a Dread Knight. The Bastions are houses of the lore and knowledge of the Dread Knights, but it is not their home. They fight their foes in the world. The Supplicant will be surprised to see more Sorcerers and other studious individuals there. There may be a few Brothers of the Dread Order, but most are only there to research for a short time. The Sentinel then matches this Supplicant with their Master and so begins their Trial of Blood.

For years, even decades, the Master will teach their Apprentice sorcerous arts and their styles of combat. The Apprentice will fight alongside the Master facing foes that would shed their blood and shedding the blood of their foes in return. After the Apprentice has suffered wounds from his foes that would equal the whole of his blood, ten times over, the Master may deem them worthy of facing the Trial of Temptation.

The Trials up to this point only really prove one thing and that is the Supplicant turned Apprentice has the desire for power and will seek to attain it at any cost. The Trial of Temptation is the final proof that the Apprentice is worthy of becoming a Dread Knight. For the Trial of Temptation the Master brings the Apprentice to one of the Dread Temples. The Dread Order and The Paladyne Order guard these places jointly as they have always done since the first Dread Temple. There the Apprentice is put before the Silver Ring and fights alongside the Dread Knights and Paladins, all the while waiting for a Dreadnaught to reach out to them. When this happens the true trial begins.

The Master watches their Apprentice closely, carefully watching for that moment when the Temptation of the Dreadnaught will occur; that moment when the Dreadnaught offers power for the seemingly insignificant offer to enter this world. The Apprentice is asked to allow the Dreadnaught through the gateway that only a willing soul can make, and the offer is made even more tempting by the fact that doing so will be at cost the Apprentice nothing. When this happens, it is said that an Apprentice’s eyes change as if they were viewing something far away and the Dreadnaught begins to step through their Soul while the offer is made. At that time, if the Dreadnaught passage is met without a struggle, the Apprentice is cut down by their Master before the Dreadnaught has the full chance to manifest. If at that point the Apprentice fights it back and succeeds, they have defeated their Dreadnaught and gained its service.

And so the Apprentice becomes the Dread Knight.