Playing one of Aquitaine’s Templar Knights will take some effort on your part. You will need to read all of Aquitaine’s documentation, although not necessarily in one sitting. These are playable characters but rather specialized. Story concepts will be challenging but incredibly fun to write.
Purpose and Tasks
The core task of the Templars was always to protect the Faithful against all dangers, and to protect the land from dangers of an arcane nature, no matter whether they threaten people of the faith or others. With the founding of Aquitaine, the protection of their home nation also became part of their purpose.
Protection of the King: The Templars are also tasked with the protection of the Royal Family.
Organization and Structure
High Lord Commander: The commander-in-chief of the Order, their leader in war and peace. A High Lord Commander candidate is selected by the High Hall and then called to the Trial of the High Lord Commander, if he survives, he is inaugurated.
The High Hall: The High Council of the Templars – usually the wisest and most respected Templars are selected amongst the Twelve members of the Council.
Outside of that, all Templars are of even rank and obey the one set above them in the military structure. A Templar might hold command over a full thousand others, but outside his military role, he stands no higher than them.
Usually, a person receives the Calling before making the decision to become a Templar. The Calling is often a moment of clarity or, more rarely, an actual vision. Either way, the Calling is always profound and life-changing. In the majority of cases, it is just a short moment, a ray of light on a summer’s day and the absolute certainty within themselves that they know their life’s path.
Cases of visions are very, very rare, and are sometimes viewed critically. Sometimes a child is sent for testing without a Calling, which is why the fourth trial was created.
Candidates are usually between 10 and 13 years of age when they enter the Trials. Only boys may enter the Templars, there are no female Templars.
The Trials for entering the Order of Templars, the Order of Seekers, and the now-extinct Ardir-Jangir Brotherhood are all held on the same day, the 1st Day of the New Year (1st Day, 1st Moon – January for us mundanes). It is known as the Day of Trials.
The Trial of Strength is a classical weapon’s trial where candidates must fight each other and older Novices. This trial is not meant to determine their martial skill, but their reaction to pain, injury, and pressure. Their will to hold out and not give ground, to go back and fight some more.
The Trial of Endurance is usually a task of mindless, backbreaking work – often demeaning work too. To become a Templar, a candidate must be willing to not question but obey and to do thankless chores without complaint.
The Trial of the Soul is the most tricky of all. The exhausted candidates are separated and told to rest, as their next trial will happen upon the morrow; they are forbidden to leave the fortress. Each candidate will be approached by some peasant during the evening, asking for help – always, the peasant will claim that the Templars have dismissed him, but he still needs help, often his child was kidnapped by robbers or some other family member is in danger. To help the peasant, the candidates have to leave the fortress.
In the Trial of the Soul, obedience is a failure – those who follow the Templar’s command to not leave the fortress will fail. To pass the trial, the candidate has to go with the peasant and try his utmost to help. The danger is “real” (the kidnappers usually are older novices, or freshly named Templars), and helping said peasant requires courage and skill of the youngsters.
What the Templars are looking for is whether or not the candidate is willing to help, even when it means breaking some rules (as the Light commands the strong help those weaker than themselves), how the candidate conducts his “rescue” and how he reacts when confronted by the Weapon’s Master in the end.
The Trial of Will was created to find candidates who are sent to the testing because their families demand it, or were forced. This is not just to weed them out, but also to provide help for them. Many actually get sent to a more suitable path by the Templars.
Life of a Novice
The boys who pass the Trials and are deemed strong enough in body and spirit to be trained as Templars enter the Novitiate. The clothes they wore when they arrived are burned before their eyes, and they have to surrender any personal possessions they might have with them, so they can be sent back to their families. Traditionally the Templars keep a small token of each novice, something that reminds them of where they came from, and that will be worked into their Templar Blade, should they succeed in their path. The Novices are then clad in the traditional Novice grey and take the Novice vow, ‘to obey, to learn, and to seek for their path in the Light.’ After this, they are led into the Templar cathedral for the first time, for prayer.
The full Novitiate is seven years long, and Novice training is hard, purposefully hard. Novices are housed by year of entry together in very simple, spartan dormitories, and while they are encouraged to form a community and support each other in their daily lives, they are never coddled. Novice training is comprised of weapon training, spiritual training, general education, and a long list of chores, in between they are to keep the rhythm of mass and prayer. On the outside, Templar training seems incredibly hard and, to some even unbearable, though most adult Templars have good memories of their Novice years. Though it should be noted that experience says that the simpler the background of a Novice, the better he usually does in training, while children of higher-ranked families or very protected children often have a hard time adjusting to training.
“Novice training is hard, and even for someone of such incredible potential, it will not be made one-ounce lighter. Better he breaks as a Novice than he breaks when he is a full Templar, and others rely on him.” (Novice Master Geran of Silverpine Height)
While Novices are all of the same rank – much as the Templars later are – the further they are in training, the more they are expected to measure up to full Templar standards. Especially in the last two of the seven years, Novices are expected to hold themselves as if they could be called to their Templar trial on any day, at any hour. Younger novices that misbehave are usually given additional chores or light punishment. Older Novices that misbehave will be given much harsher penalties.
Older Novices are also called out of their training to assist in various tasks such as assisting in the Templar hospital, assisting in emergency situations, and so on.
The Trial of the Templar
After seven years, the Trial of the Templar looms ahead of the Novice. The Trial is regarded with equal amounts of anticipation and fear. Novices do not know the exact nature of the Trial, only that once it begins, it cannot be broken off. It has to be endured to the end, and failure means death. The tests are not only physical but mostly spiritual, testing character and soul, pushing the Novice to the very limits of what they can take and well beyond. Out of four who begin the trial, one will fail for certain.
Each novice called to the Trial is given one chance to refuse, and to try again in one year. If he refuses again, he will be dismissed from training. Those who are now called “Defenders” in Aquitaine are almost entirely comprised out of failed Templar Novices and still serve the land in good capacity. For those who enter the trial and fail, death is certain.
The Nature of the Trial is a closely kept secret, and the following information would only be available to someone who passed the Trial:
Once the Novice decides to go through with the trial, he is led into the Hall of Trials, where seven Seeker chalices await him. Each of the chalices will send him into a dream – a vision of sorts – but the consequences of the dreams are very real, wounds will bleed. Some Templars carry physical scars from their Trials. The novice is told that once begun, his Trial must be completed. The novice may choose one of the attending Templars to be his guide. The guide may extend a little help and encouragement to the Novice during the trial, it is seemingly little on the outside but has made a world of difference for many a Templar who passed the trials.
The chalice, when approached, will send the Novice into a dream – the Novice will be unaware that it is a dream but will perceive the events as real. The Novice can feel pain and be hurt inside those dreams. These dream-injuries can translate, to some extent, to their physical body. Each chalice is designed to teach a certain aspect of their path to them.
- The First Chalice stands for the strengths and how to understand them.
- The Second Chalice stands for their weaknesses and how to understand them.
- The Third Chalice stands for the Past that still ties the Novice.
- The Fourth Chalice stands for the burden he is striving to accept.
- The Fifth Chalice stands for all fears the Novice may carry.
- The Sixth Chalice stands for the suffering they all face at the hands of their enemies.
- The Seventh Chalice stands for everything that holds the Novice back.
Each subsequent Chalice is harder than the one before, with the last two being especially cruel. During each successful step, the stages of the Blessing are ingrained on the Initiate’s body and soul, which is the true reason why the trial must be completed without interruption, because breaking off in the middle will surely kill the Novice, through the unfinished Blessing.
If the Trial is passed, the candidate will spend the night in prayer and contemplation and be inducted into the Order the next day.
If a Templar is not 25 by his induction, he will still have to undergo the annual testings for Magic.
With the induction into the Order, the Templar also receives his blade, the Templar sword. While Templar swords are fairly similar, they have two distinctive details that set them apart. Each blade is made for its specific wielder, adjusted to height, strength, and fighting style. The second is a personal detail – often something from their home that is worked into the hilt, a reminder where they came from.
Upon induction any Templar will swear the following vows:
Under the Light and before the Eyes of the Faithful, I swear to uphold the Codex Lumiatar, to defend the Faithful against all harm, no matter who brings it to them and to stand ready for the battle that is to come.
Under the Light and before the Eyes of the Faithful, I swear to never use magic, to condone its use freely, or to allow it to harm the people.
Under the Light and before the Eyes of the Faithful, I swear to never use the Blessing I was given against another human being to harm or hurt, except against Darklings and Magic brood or in the last extreme defense of the innocent against a stronger evil.
Life as a Templar
Templars are assigned either to a fortress in the borderlands, to a Hunter group, keeping the wilds beyond the border clean or to another task that he is suited for. Templars live a life of missions, orders, and more tasks. Be it finding out the source of something plaguing a village, driving barbarians off their borders, or escorting a dignitary to foreign lands – all these are equal duties to Templars.
Templars of high skill and courage, with a record of outstanding deeds, will be chosen to lead other Templars, their given authority all difference in rank there is, outside of their command they are still equal with their soldiers.
While adult Templars may keep in contact with their families again (Novices are barred from all contact to their family) and even are permitted to marry, should they find their soul drawn to another under the Light, most Templars are firstly and foremostly at home inside the Order. The close ties that grew during the Novitiate usually expand rather than diminish.
Templars who grow so old that they are not able to venture into the field anymore, often serve in training novices, as mentors or retreat into seclusion. This again is a very individual decision, and it is no secret that there have been Templars who served well in the field up to a very high age.
The High Lord Commander
When the old High Lord Commander dies, and his body is burned, the High Hall meets to discuss a new candidate for the post. The law stipulates that no one in the Hall can be called to the task. It has to be another Templar. Usually, a well respected older Templar is chosen unless there is a clear sign that points to someone else. Sometimes there is an obvious candidate but often foretelling who the next High Lord Commander will be is hard, even for people knowing the Order well.
The High Hall cannot name anyone High Lord Commander, they can only call him to trial. “You are summoned to submit yourself to the High Hall to be tried under the Code that no one may break. The Light keeps you safe and guides your path.” This is the calling to the trial, the same words are used for criminals called into court.
The trial cannot be refused – refusing would mean being cast from the order, failure in the trial means death. If the trial is passed successfully, the next High Lord Commander is raised.
The position of the High Lord Commander is a particularly complex one in modern days. In ancient Cal’dyra, he was the head of the Templars and answered to the Chosen of the Light, the Head of the Church. Since the Fall of Cal’dyra and the destruction of the old Lumiatar, there has not been a Chosen of the Light for many centuries. As such, the High Lord Commander outranks the Head of the Speakers (Order of the Preachers) and is on almost an even footing with the High Seeker (Head of the Order of Seekers, the Inquisition), to this already complex balance comes his political position inside the Kingdom of Aquitaine.
Compared to the arcane, the knowledge of the Gift of Light is fairly young, and whether or not it belongs to the whole range of true magic is a subject of heated debate. The first individuals having the “Spark of Light” were discovered in Cal’dyra during the very beginnings of the Circle Lumiatar. As it was the Circle’s founder who discovered the first of those talents and taught them, it cannot be said how many more with the same talent lived in earlier days ignorant of their gift.
In the early days of Faith, the raw talent was a rare thing and required tremendous training and a strong will to master, though it did produce quite powerful Defenders and Priests. After the fall of the Defenders, the rise of the Templars began and with it a much stricter training and much closer search for potential candidates. While those years produced many naturally gifted and very powerful Templars, at least half of the order barely had the spark.
All this changed with the discovery of the Blessing. Through a series of trials and tests, the candidate would be forcefully opened to the source of his talent – to the Light itself, it is believed. If he survived the ordeal, he retained a stronger gift than he had before. In ancient Cal’dyra, there were several levels of such trials and Blessings, making Cal’dyra’s Templars a powerful and feared force. Several orders of the Priests adopted some of these techniques to a degree but never came to quite the same power as the Templars did.
With the Fall of Cal’dyra, much knowledge was lost, and only a few of the rituals and blessings remain in living memory. For the Templars, only the Trial of the Templar and the Trial of the High Lord Commander remain. While this was a severe blow to their power, the Trial of the Templar ensures to this day, that any surviving candidate has a substantial power to draw on. Of the other Orders, only the Seekers retained some old knowledge and adapted some of what remained for their purposes. Search and training for the raw talent with no Blessing at all has completely fallen out of use since the earliest days of Cal’dyra.