“Great Athos, Keeper of all Oaths, I am a humble farmer and have tended my fields well and with diligence. I have a family of
good standing and friends who toast my name. Might men call me honorable?”
And Athos said: “Before Honor you must know Valor.”
“Righteous Athos, Lord of Light, I have left by my fields and gone into the heat of battles untold. I have slain beast and brute; all
my enemies thrown down in mortal death. Might men now call me valorous?”
And Athos said: “Before Valor you must know Truth.”
“Holy Athos, Truthsayer, I have looked into the heart of my deeds and found murder and deceit. I have slain the innocent and
made enemies of friends. I have not Valor or Honor. Might men now call me truthful?”
And Athos said: “Tell me what Truth has taught you.”
“I am a humble farmer.”
And Athos said: “Now you are ready to become a Crusader.”
Athos is the Lord of the Eddar, oldest and wisest of the gods, and the Crusaders are his mortal knighthood. Founded by the god himself, Crusaders champion the weak and wretched, and at all times they pursue the three virtues of Truth, Valor, and Honor. The knighthood is known and respected the world over and is arguably the most cohesive and steadfast force of Light that has ever been raised. Time and again, this order has proven its mettle, and the reputation of all Crusaders stands on the shoulders of even the youngest knight. In these dark times, those who answer the call of chivalry and honor must be ever watchful for there are enemies in every corner, and lies lurking in every shadow. The battle against the Demon is a bitter one, but Athos has given his knights the power to fight the Foe and all his many minions. The crusaders teach that through courage, discipline, and faith the darkness will be lifted; the Scourge will one day be thrown back forever.
Rank & File
When a person of valorous heart begins his career as a Crusader, he does so as a squire. Like all other ranks, there are many who never advance beyond this title. For them, service to the knighthood is reward in and of itself. However, should a squire desire to advance in the Order, he must not only reach a certain level of training, but must also prove himself by taking the Test of Truth. Only when the squire passes the Test does he earn the right to be called a Knight. Progression into the ranks of Templar and – most rarely – Champion follow a similar pattern, the knight needing to pass the Tests of Valor and Honor respectively Knights are responsible for the squires below them. While sometimes a particular knight may take responsibility for a single squire, it is far more common for all knights to assume responsibility for all squires. Thus the behavior of all squires affects the honor of all knights ensuring close knit bonds between the various orders off the knighthood. For their part, Knights are more/less autonomous, though they are subject to the orders of a Templar. The main stronghold of the Crusaders is the city of Archum Valoris, or “City of Valor” in the Kingdom of Valan-Tir. Archum Valoris is a sprawling complex that is over a square mile in size – virtually a small country unto itself. It is not only a testament to the power of Athos, but to all of the Eddar, and one can find elaborate temples to all three within its walls.
The Crusader Creed
While at first glance the Creed is incredibly simple, the deeper meanings associated to it by the Knighthood are quite intricate. It has formed the backbone of the Order for more than a thousand years, and even today, scholars and Crusaders alike continue to debate its subtleties. The Creed asks that a Crusader not only exemplify these traits within herself, but also that she hone her senses to understand how they work in the world around her.
Being and perceiving. The First Virtue. This is also the first step in understanding the way of the Crusader. This is the virtue that is at the truest heart of the Order. Truth is the hallmark of Athos, and by perceiving and being truthful a Crusader grows closer to the God. The Book of Truth is the first and most widely known book of the Knighthood. Only by mastering Truth can a Crusader intuitively understand the impetus behind the second ethic.
Being and Doing. This is the Second Virtue. Valor is the action taken when one understands Truth. This is the active principle of the Creed. It is the distinction that turns the philosopher into a champion. This ethic is defined in the Book of Valor as, “the principle that embodies the task of all mortals to take action against deception, cowardice, and dishonor. It is the light of Truth made fire.” By being valorous, a Crusader teaches the first ethic to the world around him. Valor heavily influences the behavior of Crusaders, and leads to such principles as Courage, Chivalry, and Humility. When a Crusader performs deeds that are Valorous, he begins to earn the final virtue.
Being and gaining. This is the reward of the champion. Honor is difficult to accurately define, but Crusaders feel it is inspired by the renown accorded him by his peers. The Book of Honor is the most secreted book of the Order. It is believed that it contains the exact words of Athos himself. Within are passages that reveal the pure soul of what it means to carry honor, and the responsibilities that are tied to it.
Truthbringer, Lord of Light, Sky Father, Oathbinder. These are the many names of Athos, Lord of the Crusaders. While the origin of the gods is a subject of endless debate, it is widely held that Athos, Lord of the Eddar, was the first of his kind. Athos is credited with forming the pantheon of the Eddar and is hailed as its ruler. He is the lord of Paradine, Father of Truth, and champion of Honor. Athos is said to rule his pantheon like a watchful father – slow to take action unless no other option is available to him. He carries the hammer Njorgandir upon whose head is written all the oaths made in the Nine Worlds.
In times unknown, Athos married the goddess Syrilith, making her his Queen. Eventually – for reasons that are hotly debated even to this day – the Queen of the gods abandoned her husband, forming her own pantheon – the Sh’ddar. The betrayal is written deeply in the long history of Athos and is the impetus behind the forging of the first clergies. To her mortal followers, Syrilith gave the never before seen ability to channel her power through prayer. This is the first time in history that prayers were invoked to call upon the power of a god and the result was as far reaching as it was effective. To counter Syrilith’s sorcerers, Athos was forced – albeit with reluctance – to forge a clergy of his own. The Crusaders were born. Only in recent centuries, since the Covenant of the Gods, have the hostilities between these two most ancient religions finally come to an end.
Because their lord is the father of the Goddess of Healing, the Crusaders also have a very long and noble history with the Healers of Evora. These two faiths have worked side by side for as long written memory tells and they have provided a cornerstone for hope and virtue in the world that has remained undiminished for thousands of years. Crusaders are commanded to aid the Healers whenever possible – and to be the sword arm that the Goddess herself has forsaken. It is also said that Athos is responsible for awakening the Dragon who had ever slept within the wood of Ysarril, the Worlds Tree.
The holiday of Athosaad takes place every Dragonrise at the Summer Solstice. This is the Day of most Light and the power of the god as the Lightbringer is celebrated by all. The common folk make offerings of incense and sage to the god and burn candles all night long. Crusaders who are not dispatched elsewhere make a pilgrimage to the Obelisk of Truth in Valan-Tir to give thanks to the god who forged them. This is also known as the Day of Honor, when Crusaders relate the heroic and honorable deeds accomplished throughout the year. Trials are given, squires are made into knights, and friendly melees are performed to show off prowess in battle.