The Knights Hospitaller are a product of the crusades. They were founded in 1113 in the Kingdom of Jerusalem as a monastic order dedicated to caring for sick and injured pilgrims in the Holy Land. Soon this assignment was expanded into providing armed escorts for those pilgrims. The order quickly grew and together with the Knights Templar they became very famous fighting forces in the Holy Land. After the Holy Land fell to the Muslims again, they first temporarily relocated to Cyprus but wanted to acquire their own territory and in order to do that they conquered the island of Rhodes. They held on to the Rhodes for a bit over two centuries until the island was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. The survivors of this battle moved around for seven years until they gained the island of Malta and turned it into their bulwark. Fortifications were built all over Malta and the Knights quickly resumed their battles against Barbary pirates and Muslims. Around this time they also started to study the various dangerous magical creatures that roamed the land and they hunted down the ones they considered dangerous.
In the 16th and 17th century the Order started to get into monetary problems and lowered themselves to more and more privateering in the Mediterranean. This helped them in repairing their economy a bit and in 1651 the Knights purchased the Caribbean islands of Saint-Christophe, St.Croix, Saint Barthélemy, and Saint Martin. The Knights started some small attempts at colonization. But purchasing the islands was expensive and they weren't really making a profit, so in the early 1660's several Knights wanted to sell the islands back to France. A lot of bickering ensued until suddenly in 1663 the Pope stepped in. The New World was at that time being colonized by several nations and reports of powerful magic and strange creatures have concerned the Holy See for quite some time. The pope wanted eyes and ears in the New World. He wanted strong fighters to protect the investigators he is sending into the untamed lands. And as luck would have it the Knights already have a strong fleet and they own a couple of islands. The Pope bailed out the Knights, settled their debts with the French and basically annexed Malta into the Papal State. The Knights moved their whole fleet to the New World, leaving behind only a symbolic force on Malta, and made the island of Saint Croix (Or Sanctus Crux as the Knights named it) into their new fortress. In later years the Knights colonized and purchased a few more islands in the Caribbean and started establishing Auberges (Outposts) on mainland Vespuccia as well.
The Knights and the Inquisition quickly started to butt heads in the New World. Before the Knights moved there they mostly just ignored the Inquisition. They operated on different terrains and didn't have much contact. After the move to the New World things changed. The view the Knights had on Christianity and how it should operate started to get influenced by their new home. It quickly became common for Knights to believe that Christianity should be reunited and preferably in a peaceful way. Reconciliation between Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox Christians and the many other groups that exist became their chosen path. Protestants were accepted into the order again and after the [Treaty Of Sanctus Crux] the British Venerable order of St. John and the Dutch Johanniter Orde were merged with the Knights Hospitaller again. They started to accept converted Natives into the order as well. The Inquisition on the other hand wanted to reunite Christianity the hard way with everybody accepting Catholicism as the one true path. Both sides really started to dislike each other. The Inquisition actively hunts magic users, the Knights accepts magic users among them. The Knights view the inquisition as power hungry madmen. The Inquisition views the Knights as little more than toothless old dogs, as an order whose time has long since passed, and are no longer capable or willing of doing what they must. This internal battle within the Church has often been called the Small Schism.
Today the Knights are respected by most Christian nations and by several of the Native nations of Vespuccia. Their pirate patrols are the major reason the Caribbean hasn't been completely looted by Blackbeard's Pirate Kingdom. The Knights have helped with the founding of [Kaya Salina] and are their faithful allies.
The Knights have a complex government that often works in a very decentralized manner because of the various nationalities that need to be represented.
Grand Master of the Order The leader of the order who also has the title of Cardinal and Reichsfürst (Prince of the Holy Roman Empire) Together with the Sovereign Council he leads the order and takes all the final decisions. The other council members advise him. He is elected for life from among the Knights.
Sovereign Council of the Order of St John The council that rules over the Order and makes all the decisions regarding the politics and diplomatic relations of the Order. The Grand Master has the final say in all matters, but the Council can depose the Grand Commander in extreme situations. The council consists of:
- Grand Master of the Order
- The Grand Commander of the Order, responsible for spreading the principles of the Faith, supervising Priories and Subpriories, compiling reports on visits to be sent to the Holy See on the state and life of the Order, and seeing to the religious aspects of the activities of Knights.
- Grand Chancellor of the Order, responsible for the foreign policy and the diplomatic missions. The current Grand Chancellor is [Dame Marie Auguste von Thurn und Taxis].
- Grand Hospitaller of the Order, responsible for the hospitals of the Order and the charitable and humanitarian actions. He also ensures that Christian principles of care and human dignity are respected.
- Receiver of the Common Treasure, responsible for the administration of the finances and the property of the Order.
- 8 Piliers, the leaders of the Langues. They usually reside in the Auberge of their Langue and may choose to send a representative to the Council to vote in their name.
Langues The Langues are the base of how the Knights work, each Langue (or Tongue) is a subgroup of the Knights in which a language or language group is represented. There are 8 Langues and their Auberge (Headquarters) are usually located in a colony of the nation where that language is spoken. Each Langue is headed by a Pilier who is also a member of the Sovereign Council. A Pilier is elected for a 5 year period. The 8 Langues are:
- France (French, Breton), Auberge in Quebec.
- Great Britain (English, Welsh), Auberge in Rhode Island
- Spain (Spanish, Basque), Auberge in La Habana, Cuba
- Portugal (Portuguese) main Auberge in Sanctus Crux after they were expelled from Brazil.
- The Netherlands (Dutch) Auberge in Nieuw Amsterdam
- Papal State (Latin, Italian) Auberge in Sanctus Crux
- Germany/Scandinavia (German, Norse, Swedish, Finnish) Auberge in Fort Kristina.
- Native (Cahokian, Nahuatl,...) Auberge in [Kaya Salina].
Priories A priory is a smaller enclave of the Knights, something that falls under the various Langues. Priories can be kept by anything from Knights of Justice for the larger ones to commoner volunteers for the small ones.
The Knights Hospitaller are renowned for their fighting prowess, they have been fighting for more than 600 years and have a reputation to keep high. Now they are especially good at fighting at sea, but they are very skilled while fighting on land as well. They still use traditional armor, swords and shields, but they've also adopted guns and modern fighting techniques. The typical Knight is much more likely to be a swarthy cutlass-and-pistol wielding Marine or a frontiersman than a towering figure with heavy armor and a greatsword. The Knights are also famous for their combat pragmatism. If they fight, they fight to win and despite the fact that they're an order of Knights that have a Knightly code they will fight very dirty if needed.
Light of God The Knights have a powerful artifact that they use to weave magic into their tunics and the sails of their ships. All the tunics and sails have a Maltese Cross woven into it and a Knight wearing the tunic or the captain of a ship with Knight sails can light up those crosses. Usually the crosses are lit up as an intimidation tactic: if a Maltese Cross lights up, you know that the Knights are here and that you're facing a well trained and equipped opponent. A Knight can also choose to have his cross release a flash of light strong enough to blind the opponent for a short time. The ships of the Knights can do this as well, giving them a short time in which the crew of the other ship is blinded and unable to fire their cannons or properly maneuver. This is one of the dirty tricks of the knights.
The Knights also use Bioluminescent water creatures harvested from their islands to paint targets, urging other Knights to attack that position or to focus cannonfire on that position.
Membership The Order consists of a strong military presence divided in Knights of Justice, Knights of Obedience and Sworn Men.
The Knights of Justice are the true Knights, they pledge a lifetime of service to the order, taking vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Usually they come either from Old-World Noble families, or from especially wealthy new-world families. These Knights bring a considerable amount of wealth with them when they join the Order. They can usually be found captaining ships, working in Sanctus Crux, or leading especially important quests. While the requirement that you must be of noble birth isn't technically a rule, a lot of these Knights are nobles. There are roughly 500 Knights of Justice.
Knights of Obedience are generally less-wealthy than Knights of Justice. A big difference is that a Knight of Obedience do not donate all their wealth, nor do they automatically pledge a lifetime of service. A Knight of Obedience pledges twenty years of their life to the service of the Knights (Although upon reaching that mark, most of them choose to pledge another twenty). Most adventurer-Knights are going to be Knights of Obedience and there's about 3000 of them in the Order. Knights of Obedience can be seen undertaking quests, manning important lodges, serving as officers on ships, and carrying out important tasks for the Order.
Knights of Obedience also make up the backbone of the Order's infantry and marines. They may sometimes serve as common sailors, but are usually being groomed for more important work. As the Order is largely nautical, they have limited need for a large ground force. Traditionally, a Knight of Obedience will spend the first few years of their service as a Marine or Soldier. If they distinguish themselves during that time, they may become an officer, be given some minor administrative or diplomatic role, or given leave to become a Questing Knight, traveling the New World carrying out the Knight's mission. A truly exceptional Knight of Obedience may become a Knight of Justice, upgrading their oath and pledging the rest of their natural life in service to the Order.
Finally there's the Sworn Men. These are not Knights, although many of them seek to emulate the Knights in their behavior, they swear no oaths besides obedience to the order. They are the common soldiers, sailors, and servants of the Order. Like any soldiers, they are paid a wage for their service and may leave the Knight's service after a few years. For the most part the Sworn Men are drawn from the same population of sailors that crew pirate ships, merchantmen, and the navies of various powers in the new world. It's not unusual for captured Pirates to swear they were serving under duress, and pledge a few years of service to the Knights in exchange for mercy. If the Knights expect to run into some major ground conflict, they may raise an army of Sworn Men to serve as ground forces, however this is rare. Sworn Men are sometimes referred to as "knights" in reference to the order they serve (as in "A ship full of Knights arrived in Boston three days ago)", but individually they are not Knights, and are not treated as such. There are about 7000 of them.
Aside from the army there are Volunteers, not members of the Order at all, simply people who dedicate some time, effort, or resources to the order. These are people who keep the lodges, send reports to the Knights and do a wide variety of different things to support the order.
Being a Christian order, the Knights are obviously Christians. The majority of Knights is Catholic, but every since the [Treaty of Sanctus Crux] there's a growing amount of Protestant, Anglican and Reformed Knights in the order. Spreading Christianity is very important to the Knights and protecting these Christians is even more important to them. Sometimes the Knights stretch this rule a bit and protect potential Christians as well. Technically these people are heathens, but the Knights officially report that helping them might make them want to convert.
Holy Days The Knights obviously keep to all Christian holy days, but there are two days that are very important to them. June 24, the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. The evening of June 23 is St John's eve. It is usually celebrated with bonfires. August 29, Beheading of St. John the Baptist. A day usually spent in quiet contemplation.
Relics The Right Hand of the Forerunner, the right hand of St John the Baptist, the hand that baptized Jesus is the most important relic of the Knights. The relic is brought out and shown to the faithful on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (September 14). If the fingers of the hand are open, it will be interpreted as a sign of a bountiful year. If the hand was closed, it will be a poor harvest. The Knights use this relic to predict the harvest that is to come and use this information to play the market, making huge profits in the process.
The Icon of Our Lady of Philermos is their second most important relic. The icon is used in a secret process where cotton is blessed and woven into sails and tunics. The Maltese cross on the tunics and sails is then able to produce a bright flash of light or glow as a continuous light source. The Knights use cotton for this because regionally grown cotton gives better magical results, they are the only ones using cotton sails.
Life on the Islands of the Knights Edit
The Knights have a population of commoners living on their islands besides the Knights and Sworn Men. These people live a fairly normal life and are usually left to their business as long as they stick to the law. Slaves are kept on the islands and are used in the same way as in the other nations. The Knights make their money from taxation on the islands, profits from their plantations, donations and selling captured ships and their contents.
Names The Knights add a prefix to their name when they are sworn in to represent the fact that they are true Knights. They add [Fra'] to the name of a Knight, this is short for Fraternitas Hospitalaria, their original name. Aside from this a Knight has a name from the culture he or she is born in.
Code of the Knights Hospitaller Edit
- To fear God and maintain His Church
- To serve the Grandmaster in valor and faith
- To protect the weak, the diseased and defenseless
- To give succour to widows and orphans
- To refrain from the wanton giving of offence
- To live by honor and for the glory of God and the Sovereign Order of St John
- To despise pecuniary reward
- To fight for the welfare of all
- To obey those placed in authority
- To guard the honor of fellow Knights
- To eschew unfairness, meanness and deceit, unless when it is needed to uphold the Vow and the Code.
- To keep faith
- At all times to speak the truth
- To persevere to the end in any enterprise begun
- To respect the honor of women and men
Oath of the Knights HospitallerEdit
In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti, Amen.
Upon the True Faith of a Christian, may God witness that I hereby vow and dedicate myself as a servant of Christ and the Poor, the first qualification of a True Knight.
I promise to be faithful and loyal to Christ and to be guided by the ideals of the Sovereign Order of St John of Jerusalem: to do everything in my power to contribute to its Glory, Protection, Prosperity, Support and Utility: to combat everything prejudicial to its well-being: never to act contrary to its Dignity, but to conduct myself always as a true Knight of Christ: a good Christian and a person of Honor.
Believing that Christ will grant me a special token of his favor, I therefore, in all Humility, Charity, and Respect agree to join with every sincere and Godly Christian of whatever Church, to bring about by prayer and deed the salvation of the Christian World by helping to promote a lasting Christian Unity.
I will adorn my Knighthood with true Charity, the mother and solid foundation of all virtues.
I will wear on my person the Christian Maltese Cross of eight points, to constantly remind me of my religious vow of always bearing in my heart the Cross of Jesus Christ, adorned with the virtues that attend it.
So help me God.