The Grey Knights
The history of the faction starts during the early days of civilisation on Earth, back when the first groups of Humans decided to establish cities and erect walls around them. Survival was a matter of having the power to take what you needed from others that lacked the power to defend themselves.
The African savannah was ruled by brutal tribal leaders that led their warbands against one another, slaughtering anyone that got in the way. One such warband would be instrumental in changing the nature of these conflicts forever. This, however, would not happen for several decades until, finally, the time was right.
Led by a man named Ugro, the warband dominated three times the area a tribe their size normally did. Savage, ruthless and always training for war, they raided surrounding villages to provide for their own. In just under two decades, what started as a small village turned into the largest city in the area.
Their constant harassment of their neighbours turned against them during a raid against a distant village. When the warband returned to their village, they found pillars of smoke rising from the ground. Everything they had built over the previous years was destroyed and every man, woman and child brutally murdered.
Devastated by the loss, Ugro's first reaction was to order his men to gather the dead and create a large pyre. The men of the warband used what was left of their village to burn their dead, watching in silence as the thick black smoke rose. None spoke a word and none moved a muscle as their loved ones were put to rest.
It was one of Ugro's lieutenants, a man named Bara, that moved first. He approached the pyre and reached into the ash, using it to mark his face. Over the remains of his family, he was the first to take the oath that would forever shape the future of the warband. Having lost his taste for raiding, he swore never to allow such carnage.
Bara painted his armour with the ash, burying his weapons in the ground once he was done. One by one, all the members of the warband followed his example. In the end, the warriors decided to split up, each choosing a different direction. These men were going to be remembered as the first Grey.
What followed is as much legend as history and the fates of many of the warriors are lost in time. What is known is that most of them found new villages and pledged their shields to the people. No Grey took arms to actively attack again, but all of them would give their lives to defend their new homes.
Their example soon drew others and each warrior took apprentices, men eager to defend their village from raiders. Over the years their numbers grew and it was not long before every village had at least two warriors painted in ash. With each warrior that fell, two more stood in his stead and the numbers of the Grey swell.
Most of the Grey at the time were hermits, living outside the society they were sworn to protect. These defenders were also isolated from each other, unwilling to discuss their oath and mission. That would change about half a century after the original massacre, when each Grey, old and new, received a summons.
The summons brought each Grey back to the site of the massacre, where the first among them took their oath. There, they found the old warlord, Ugro, sitting on a makeshift throne over the location of the old pyre. Beside him was the shrouded body of the first Grey, Bara, placed on a pyre of its own.The Second Oath
Over the ashes of their fallen comrade, the Grey took a second oath, the time for mourning was over, it was now time for them to live. When they returned to their villages, most of them took wives, ready to start families and pass the mantle of the Grey to their sons. Most of them also started being more active in daily matters.
With each generation, the legend of the Grey grew and after many centuries, all cultures had warriors dedicating their lives in protecting the innocent. From Egypt to China, the Grey stood their ground against all that would harm those without the means to defend themselves and the legend grew further.
When humanity met the other sentient races of Earth, the Grey were there, offering their shields to those that needed them most. They refused to take arms and many died as a result of their adherence to their oath. Their numbers diminished and, as humanity was enslaved, the Grey would lay low, waiting for the right moment.
Centuries passed before humans were ready to rise up, and many historians credit the Grey for the speed at which the rebellion spread. The Cleansing would mark the first time the Grey took arms willing to shed blood, though they still acted in defence of others, human or otherwise.
The faction would split as the time of the Cleansing finally came to a close. Two thirds of the Grey would remain behind, while the rest would follow the exiles to Mithbar, willing to protect them against whatever threats the new world might held. It is said that this last group had been the most aggressive during the war.
As the world advanced, so did the Grey. Those that remained on Earth would begin to integrate with the various warrior societies that started to form. Eventually, the Grey would be hidden as elite guards serving powerful rulers, in the knightly orders of Europe, the Japanese samurai, and countless other such groups.
The Grey would gather a third time at the site of the first massacre. There, over the graves of their fallen, their leaders started codifying the tenets of their order, writing the Code of the Grey. Their oath made them a target for many, so it was decided that they would remain hidden, guiding from behind the scenes.
Those on Mithbar would dedicate their lives to protecting those their kind had slaughtered during the Cleansing. It would not take long for non-humans to embrace the way of the Grey, and within two centuries, a third of the faction would be of non-human blood. It was one of the earliest factions not bound by species.
While the Grey on Earth had to stand their ground against all sorts of trouble during the Dark Ages and the centuries that followed, those that made the trip to Mithbar would soon face one of the most dangerous foes the faction ever took arms against, the hordes of the Fallen, monsters threatening all they held dear.
While the Fallen ravaged the land and massive armies gathered to face them, the Grey remained behind, their shields held against any Fallen that made it through. Eventually, the time of the Keepers came and the threat of the Fallen was gone. When the armies returned home, they found the Grey there, standing guard.
No place on Mithbar was ravaged more by the Fallen than the Sacred Isle of Avalon, and the Grey had been forced to establish a proper base there. While that threat was over, a new one arose as the Fomori tribes got bolder. Sensing the weakened state of the other races, they started attacking cities and settlements.
By the time of the Sundering, the Grey were so ingrained in the very identity of Avalonians that every Great House tried to have several members among their leaders. Membership to the faction was prestigious, especially among commoners, and doubly so for those that genuinely followed the spirit of the oath.
When the Realm of Mithbar started collapsing, the Grey defied their King and Houses, and did not join the offensive. Instead, they helped evacuate civilians back to Earth. Rather than risk open rebellion, the king of Avalon decided against punishing the Grey for it, and they returned the favour by defending his subjects.
With most of their numbers killed during the Sundering, the remaining Grey Knights of Earth decided to join their brethren in Avalon. In the five centuries that followed, the faction would restructure itself, to allow for the formation of an Auxiliary force, comprised of those that could not or would not be Sworn.
"One knight, one shield, one code."
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