Shields of Yondar
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Since 133 AL, the kings and queens that rule over the kingdom of Yondar have employed a group of highly skilled knights to act as their personal protectors. This group of protectors are known as the Shields of Yondar.
The reason for the group's creation was built on the foundations of a tragedy. King Ignatz, Yondar's ruler in 133 AL, woke one morning to the horrible news that his eldest son had been assinated by an unknown party. He felt the lapse in defences and subsequent death of his son was due to lacking a dedicated protection detail. In light of the tragedy, he gathered his most skilled and trusted Knights and offered them new roles. They would act as his Shields, dedicated protectors, who were sworn to defend King Ignatz and his family until their last breaths.
As generations of kings and queens ruled and passed, the Shields of Yondar grew in both size and power. They became legends amongst not only the common people, but their fellow knights as well.
All seemed to be going smoothly, until one day the shadows looming over the royal family of Yondar grew suffocating. These shadows - rebel leaders who opposed the royal family - had discovered the Shields of Yondar's open secret; their dedication and vigilance in the presence of the royal family would offer the perfect ruse for a handful of rebels to get close to the royals and destroy them.
So I write it into the laws of this land. Every ruler of Yondar shall have their favoured knights, to act as shields to the crown and throne. Henceforth, these elites shall be known as the Shields of Yondar.
They will serve without question. Their skills shall be impeccable, unrivalled. They shall strive for perfection in their work, for no ruler should accept any less of them. Should the time ever come, they should give their very lives for their ruler, they should fight until their dying breaths, so that Yondar is never left without a leader on its throne.
The first two hundred or so years after their formation served as proof that Ignatz was right to create an elite force. But King Yvan Stahl of Yondar felt that the Shields needed less input from himself in what he deemed to be their more boring tasks. Things such as recruitment and training.
Ever the bookworm, King Yvan put his mind to work, and eventually came up with the idea that the best Shield should be the one to lead the others in such tasks. He would appoint Ser Gallavaine as the first ever Shield Captain in 374 AL.
Shortly after King Yvan's death, his daughter - newly crowned Queen Livia Sthal - would trial having multiple Shield Captains. This plan fell through after several conflicting orders were given, leading to the murder of one of Livia’s Shield Captains and the subsequent exile of the other.
Order must be maintained. Without it, cities crumble, guilds perish, and the world weeps.
The Shields are no exception. They must not be allowed to crumble, or falter, lest they endanger the life of their ruler. So the Shields shall be led by a Captain - the most talented, the wisest, he or she who stands with more loyalty than the rest. And there will only be one Captain, for having multiple voices of leadership paves the way for dissent.
Hundreds of years passed and the Shields remained largely unchanged. It wasn’t until King Lawrence Streif assumed the throne that more Decree of Shields were written into Yondar’s laws.
In consultation with his twin sister, Alexandra Streif, the two decided that despite the exceptional skill that the Shields boast, their new recruits should still undergo a period of training. Firstly, to ensure that they understood exactly what it was they were agreeing to when they were sworn into their oaths. Secondly, to ensure that their skills would be up to standards before officially being sworn in as a Shield.
This decree was made, in part, to further dissuade any separatists attempting to join the ranks of the Shields. Lawrence and Alexandra were not fools. They knew that they had an uprising at their doorsteps, just waiting for a spark to ignite that little fire of contempt into a blaze. Unfortunately, their attempts to stop this were made far too late.
For in 870 AL, the separatist faction led by the Noble House Stryken devised a plan to destroy the royal family and finally finish what they had started in 829 AL - the liberation of Yondar.
“Your Majesty, you asked to see me?” Captain Corinna says.
Queen Raelle turns, a small smile on her face. She notes the way the Captain has tucked her helmet under her arm and the stray, damp strands of fiery red hair that stick ungraciously to her forehead.
“Yes, Captain. Thank you for coming on such short notice. Please, do take a seat,” Queen Raelle replies, gesturing to the sofa in the middle of the room.
“Of course,” Corinna says. She takes the offered seat and tries desperately not to sink into it or let her shoulders sag, but the long day of fighting Stryken Separatists has taken its toll. “I would be a fool to deny a request from you, your Majesty. What did you wish to discuss?”
Queen Raelle’s face falls. She’s still stood a couple of feet away from the sofa looking uncharacteristically small. The silence stretches between them and Corinna almost reaches forward - she wants nothing more than to tug the Queen into her arms and provide her with the safety and comfort that Corinna has promised to portray until her dying breath.
“We have a separatist problem,” Queen Raelle says eventually and Corrina has to bite back a sarcastic retort - of course we do, we’ve had it for years - as the Queen continues to speak, “and it has infected the Shields who serve this throne.”
Stryken Separatists started training some of their most talented children and offering them up as knights for the royal family to use. All it took was a couple of generations before a Shield of Yondar proposed that a separatist child be trained as a Shield. The separatists knew that they would have a long wait for the payoff, but by 985 AL, they had at least three of their own amongst the ranks of the Shields.
Their plan to infiltrate the Shields of Yondar was almost successful. In 988 AL, the separatist members within the Shields collaborated in order to assassinate Queen Raelle and the rest of her royal line residing in the castle (her, two daughters and two sons). The only reason the assassination attempt was unsuccessful was because one of the separatists, unable to kill the young prince they had grown so fond of, had revealed to the princethe assassination plans.
It is widely debated by historians as to why Emilie, the separatist Shield who leaked their plans to Prince Lawrence, did so. Many believe that, during her time protecting the young prince (who was 16 at the time) had fallen in love with him. This is supported by several letters written between them in the years before 988 AL, as well as reports that Prince Lawrenece begged his mother to give Emilie a more lenient sentence.
The prince went to his mother, who in turn told Captain Corinna of the separatists that had managed to infiltrate their ranks. Corinna decided to gather the royal family in one place, protected by the Captain’s most trusted knights, whilst they leaked false information to the rest of the Shields of Yondar about the locations of the royal family members.
The separatists were caught with no fatalities from the Shields, though some of them were left with a permanent reminder of their failings. The separatists were executed in a public display and their deaths led to Queen Raelle asking the Church of Van-Hael for a way to weed out corruption in the Shields.
This failed assassination attempt led to the Rite of Aegis - a series of trials that all Shields must pass before they truly become protectors of the royal family. By successfully completing the rite, a Shield is unable to act against the royalty they are sworn to protect. Since the Rite was implemented by Queen Raelle as mandatory in 991 AL, the royal family of Yondar has been impossible to approach with ill intentions. Up until, of course, the coup of 1467 AL.
Hierarchy of the Shields of Yondar
As protectors, the Shields are sworn to a particular Sovereign and will serve them until death (either theirs or their Sovereign's). This can make defining the exact hierarchy of the Shields tricky, since not all Shields will share a Sovereign.
There are essentially 4 ranks within the Shields that fall under the hierarchy depicted below.
Appointed as the leader of the Shields, their orders can only be overruled by a Shield’s Sovereign. Most of the time, they are selected by the reigning monarch, though there have been instances where a previous captain has recommended someone for the position and the monarch has agreed to select them. It is very unusual for there to be a Shield Captain that hasn’t had the current monarch sworn as their Sovereign.
These are senior knights of the order and are chosen by the Shield Captain. Typically, there is a Seneschal designated for each potential Sovereign. For example, before the coup at Castle Tirav, there were 4 potential Sovereigns (king, queen, crown princess, prince). So there would have been a Seneschal of the King, a Seneschal of the Queen, a Seneschal of the Crown Princess, and a Seneschal of the Prince.
The standard rank of the order. One is awarded this rank once they have successfully passed the Rite of Aegis. They answer to their designated Seneschal, who will share the same Sovereign that the Shield has been sworn to.
This rank is given to any knight that is training to be a Shield. A Shield Ward must have been imbued with the Blessing of Van-Hael. They will follow the orders of any Seneschal until they are told who their Sovereign will be, at which point their designated Seneschal becomes the one who shares their Sovereign.
The Blessing of Eternity is the defacto symbol of the Shields of Yondar. Any individual who bears this blessing has passed the Rite of Aegis and become a fully fledged Shield, sworn to protect their Sovereign.
Ser Gallavaine, appointed by King Yvan Sthal
Arden Jest, appointed by King Percival Greymount
Number within their ranks
As per King Percival Greymount’s orders, only his Shields are to be counted as legitimate. Therefore the official number is 13 Shields. Unofficially, there are rumoured to be more Shields that fled with Ronan Greymount and the rest of his family when Percival took the throne by force 10 years ago.
The nature of the Shields of Yondar is that their numbers fluctuate. Such is the way of an organisation whose members are chosen to guard a particular member of Yondar’s royalty. Though typically, we see at least 30 knights assigned to a single Sovereign, if not more than that.
Our young King Greymount is an outlier. With only 13 Shields to serve him, he is one of the few monarchs since King Ignatz himself who has had less than 15 knights. Is this through any fault of his own, though?
Some may argue yes; he uprooted his own father, after all, but before Queen Raelle’s decree that all Shields must undergo the Rite of Aegis, he would have had no problem finding new knights to serve him. And who controls the Rite? The Church. Perhaps, were King Greymount not so friendly with the Valissans, the Church would vouch for his claim of crown and throne and offer to proceed with the Rite of Aegis, as they have done for every other monarch since Queen Raelle.
Is this a sign that change is necessary for the Shields? Should their recruitment plans be updated once more, to take power away from the Church and return it, truly, to the hands of the reigning monarch? Only time will tell…
Lords and Ladies of the Shield
There are times, when a Shield of Yondar excels in their service and catches the praise of their Sovereign, where they may be given a title befitting of the respect they have earned. This title is referred to as ‘Lord/Lady of the Shield’ and is the highest honour bestowed to a Shield of Yondar.
Though the title does not grant them any additional powers within the organisation, it comes with the respect of the people and their monarch. Even those not native to the kingdom of Yondar hold Lords and Ladies of the Shield in high regard.
Once a Shield is granted this title, it is passed on to their children (should they have any). This happens regardless of whether or not their children actually opt to become Shields of Yondar and, for those who receive the title this way, it is more about respecting and honouring the original Lord or Lady’s legacy.
Typically, Shields start out as knights (sworn to protect the kingdom as a whole). They are recruited for their skills and loyalty, either by a current Shield or by a Sovereign. On occasion a Shield may also recruit a town or city guard. This is less common due to the fact that Shields (and their Sovereigns) rarely find themselves with a need to travel beyond the mighty walls of Tiraven.
Anyone who has attained the title of Lord or Lady of the Shield through birthright is automatically given the opportunity to join the Shields, though they must still complete their Rite of Aegis.