My first loyalty is to myself.
To breathe the free air and walk where I will. To go unfettered by gods or fey.
I do not answer to destiny or hold to luck. I am my own fate.
My fortunes are my own to cast.
My second loyalty is to my weapon.
For without it I am incomplete – a shade upon the wavering roads of night.
It is companion and ally.
I was born on the day my fingers closed about its hilt, and Death alone may pry it from my grasp.
My third loyalty is to my Arena.
My brothers and sisters, captains and trainers.
Defending me as I defend them. Stronger joined than I could ever be alone.
In the Pit I fight for the renown of my Arena.
By the rhythm of the smith’s hammer shall its secrets become my own.
My fourth loyalty is to my land.
For it is the Mother who shelters my Arena.
Its lords and laws I willingly uphold lest they force me to break a higher loyalty.
The pinnacle of martial prowess, the Armsmen of Aeryn are a force that is as ancient as it is deadly. Founded in lost ages, the order of Armsmen was a response to the ever-growing amount of magical foes that dominated the land. Driven by the need to protect themselves, the lay people began to master fighting styles and techniques that gave them an edge against foes both priestly and magical.
The Armsmen are the ultimate expression of that mastery. All weapons are deadly in their hands. They use armor more effectively, and their knack for surviving blows is uncontested. Some Armsmen assume a nomadic, mercenary lifestyle, though most enjoy the benefit of joining with a home Arena. Arenas are as old and varied as Armsmen themselves, and all are known for teaching their combatants hidden secrets of martial skill. No town or city in the world is considered truly complete without a proper Arena, and the age-old competitions between various Arenas (both friendly and otherwise) are legend
Companies & Arenas of Note
The Rada reside in one of the most remote locations in the Sanctuary. Known as the Aerie, their arena is located deep in the Lower Sanavaar Mountains. The Aerie is famed not only for its locale but also for its Mistress. The Lady Alacia Dawn keeps glacial watch over her arena and teaches her students mastery over the One-Handed sword. All Rada are female, and while the occasional male is rumored to be trained by the Arena, such events are rare in the extreme.
The Iron Shield
The Bastion – as it is known – is the “official” Arena of Valan-Tir. Its resident Iron Shields are noted for incredible endurance, organization, and – as the name would suggest – shield work. Many of the smaller arenas in the kingdom look to the Iron Shields as rolemodels, and the opportunity to travel to the Bastion to go a round with a Shield is seldom passed up.
The Obsidian Brotherhood
Not to be outdone, the kingdom of Ashendar has founded the Pit, an arena that rivals its counterpart in every way and reflects the less than scrupulous values of its parent kingdom. The Brotherhood is highly aggressive and is famed for its ability to wield large weapons. Locals know to avoid familiar travel routes when the Brotherhood goes on “tour.” Foul deeds follow them wherever they go.
The arena of Prince Rainard of Valan-Tir is known as Rainard’s Hall – or Ghosthall. The exiled Prince’s band of Armsmen is the youngest – and one of the most popular in all Artanna. Their arena remains hidden somewhere outside the Kingdom of Valan-Tir. They seem to enjoy appearing suddenly in small towns to test the mettle of local arenas.
Lost to legend and myth, the Vanguard is believed to have been the largest company of Armsmen that ever existed. It was the Vanguard who rallied the many disparate arenas in preparation for the Long March. It was they who led the charge into the hinterlands never to return. All of the Vanguard was wiped out in the March – all save one – – Leoric Kaen, the Stormlord – who is said to have carried the Talon of War out of the demon hoard and into Artanna.
The Long March
Over the course of history, many groups have called upon the martial skill of various arenas. The Crusaders and Spell Swords in particular have often requested the aid of Armsmen to bolster their ranks whenever facing a particularly daunting foe. The reputation of arenas as free agents unfettered by political and religious allegiances has ensured a long and time honored role in world affairs.
One of the most famous incidents involving the Armsmen took place near the close of the Second Aerynugeth. The Citadel of Morander was hanging by a fragile thread. Ever at the forefront of war, the Reavers had long held the front line against Ixiel’s steadily advancing forces. Battle after battle they fought and many felt that the Great War had finally come – the war without end. Over time fear, distrust, and anger festered among the dark knighthood. Brother fought brother and chaos threatened to destroy the faith completely. When fledgling Valan-Tir called the Final Retreat, many Reavers failed to answer so consumed they were with the harrowing of the Enemy. They carried on – driven by madness and bloodlust. Many were captured and corrupted, and the Reavers outside the Sanctuary fought themselves as often as they fought the demon hoard.
In an act of desperation, the Citadels sent out a request for aid to all the Arenas it could reach. The result was the largest combined force of Armsmen the world had ever known. Known forever after as the Long March, their goal was to sail from Artanna into the hinterlands – meet and destroy the corrupted Reavers there – and to emerge with an artifact of power long sought by the Citadel of War.
To Armsmen, the March was much more than a religious crusade. They cared little for the Citadel of War and its pursuit of divine artifacts. These were the fighting men and women of the world, and the March was their last foray into their former homelands. This was their last great stab at the Enemy. This was their answer to the force which had taken lands and lives. The assembled Armsmen fell upon the Foe with anger and courage in their hearts and in time – to the awe of all Ysarril’s worlds – unimaginably advanced the front lines, pushing the demonic host back for the first and last time in all recorded history. Never had the Enemy been hit so hard by the mortal races – never had an army been massed that drove so deep into the Infernal heart. Those who survived the March told of epic battles; legendary courage and prowess in the face of overwhelming odds.Though the Citadels remain quiet on the matter, it is the very solid belief of Artanna’s greatest Arenas that it was an Armsman who alone could carry, Baelthorn, the Talon of War out of the hinterlands once and for all.