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Friday, 3 September 2010

Brymstone beginnings 2

Another of the player-characters in the Brymstone campaign was Tobias of Vantery, played by Steve Foster with the degree of unbending self-righteous fervour that only someone who had been taught by the Christian Brothers could channel. Sir Tobias showed up in a couple of the Blood Sword books, illustrated here by Russ Nicholson in Doomwalk, and was a genuine warlock as per the Dragon Warriors rules. We played the game as written in those days, circa 1986, because the books were still coming out, so part of the point of running a campaign like Brymstone was to playtest the material that would go into DW Book Seven. Steve also played Cynewulf Magister before that, back when we were playtesting DW Book Four, so really he should be getting some of my royalties.

The early life of a fanatic

You were born a freeman's son, in eastern Albion. Your father Aldor was a staunch supporter and friend of the lord, Sir Caudris. Often he went to war with his lord, proudly astride the saddle in a coat of ring mail, with his longbow across his back and his sword at his side.

Your father was killed in a quarrel by a young stablehand when you were ten years old. The land and his house went to his cousin in Eckford, who sold it to your neighbours. They said their families were big enough already without taking you in, so Sir Caudris brought you to the manor house. He began to train you in the ways of chivalry. He took you hunting, taught you the use of sword and bow, made you practice long hours at the quintrain till your whole body ached. And he taught you to be a worshipful servant of God, and to seek for the Devil's works and worm them out wherever they lurked.

He bought your armour, sponsored your knighthood by Earl Montombre's sword. And when he rode with his sons on the Crusade, you went also.

Caudris of Leyfield died with all his sons on the crusade - all except his youngest, still at home in Albion, who then left the monastery where he had been studying to take overlordship of Leyfield. You survived the Battle of Ashatim where Caudris fell, and later joined the Worshipful Knights of St Wythan on Barada: the Knights Capellars.

This religious fighting order was formed when the Holy Realm was wrested from the Ta'ashim. It is their sworn duty to guard pilgrims on the road to Imbrahim, the sacred city. They originally called themselves "the worshipful Knights of St Wythan on Barada", but acquired their better-known name through their habit of blessing their swords before a battle in the chapel (or capella) where St Wythan's remains are stored. The Knights (mostly younger sons of the north-western gentry, with piety and chivalry in their blood and no inheritance to keep them at home) take monastic vows and cut their hair short to symbolize the casting off of wordly attachments. After a ceremony and all-night vigil at the Capellars' headquarters on the isle of Barada, the initiate takes up the distinctive accoutrements of the Capellars - a slender, slightly curved sword and a white surcoat adorned with an eight-pointed purple cross.

In the few decades since their formation, the Capellars have grown from a small band of poor knights to an extensive and very wealthy organization. They recognize no sovereign and are answerable only to the Pontiff. They loan and exchange money and have numerous business interests throughout the civilized lands. The Preceptory of the Capellars outside Ferromaine is almost every day crowded with merchants and explorers seeking finance or a secure vault for their treasures.

With regard to the Faith the Capellars are known to take a slightly heterodox line, but their usefulness to the Church gives them immunity from any repercussions. For example, they do not display the image of the cross anywhere in their chapels. The chapels themselves are octagonal halls where the knights stand in a circle facing the raised altar. They freely consort or even intermarry with the Ta'ashim, and some elements of the Ta'ashim religion have become absorbed in the Capellars' worship. They enforce their own laws and treaties, shunning the hospitality and company of other knights. Some practice wizardry and others have developed assassination skills in order to counter the power of the Marijahs. A "Knight" Capellar may thus be a true Knight - or he may be a Sorcerer or an Assassin.

Or, like you, a Warlock. You have studied magic, though you might have an ambiguous attitude to it: "Truly, magic is the Devil's instrument. But we must use any weapons to hand in our holy battle against the Prince of Lies. Let those who are slaves to unholy sorcery beware - some pious warriors have taken up these occult forces, and we are ready to turn them back upon our Lord's foes..." The apparent hypocrisy is unlikely to vex you. Capellars are not usually very rational men, anyway, and they are not prone to self-analysis.


  1. Interesting take on the knightly order. I always saw the Knights Capellar as a 100% match to the Knights Templar which, with their magic-tolerance, isn't quite a perfect match. Then again, the Templars did get smacked by the church/nobility for "devil worship" so maybe they are pretty close after all :)

  2. Kieran, I don't know, the Templars were reported to have some inner rituals, such as spitting on the cross, that caused raised eyebrows. As a secret ritual it makes sense - the cross killed Christ - but there's reality and then there's public perception.

    And they were surprisingly willing to do deals with factions among the enemy, perhaps because fanatics understand fanatics (and both are more hostie to their own moderates than to the other side)?

    I put a Templar wizard in one of the Knightmare novels ("The Sorcerer's Isle") and he articulated the ambiguous attitude towards witchery that I imagine the Capellars would have.

  3. Hmm, the Templars were said to have such rituals. Is this true ? Their Order was destroyed by the King of France who needed their wealth and he forged accusations against them. There may have been a drop of truth within, may be some kind of "comradeship's rituals", as still nowadays among some students or soldiers.
    I recommend you to read Umberto Eco's second novel "Foucault's pendulum" about this.
    So, a little more is unveiled about Tobias' past. But why does he bear the name of the Chaubrian city of Vantery ?
    And why, if I remember well, his spells had special names in Doomwalk ?

  4. Olivier, I agree; the truth of the Templars' rituals is unknowable. It would have been highly convenient at the time to find any pretext for disbanding them and seizing their assets, reckoned at 100 billion euros in modern terms:

    Tobias must have spent some time in Vantery in later life, though not a native of the city. His spells did have special names in Doomwalk - but then, none of the Blood Sword spell lists were consistent with DW. That's more in line with "real" Legend, where any spells you pick up might come from one of a hundred different books, all written according to slightly different magical theories.

  5. So, this is Tobias story?
    The guy had a large rate of casualty in the many times I played Bloodsword 4. It's good to finally know more about him!

  6. He's a tough nut, all right. Though nothing compared to Steve's truly mythical mage Cynewulf Magister!

  7. Awesome Dave!
    I do enjoy the fight with Tobias in Doomwalk.
    And the overnight hotel stay at the Capellar headquarters with nice Taashim artwork in Book 3.
    Interesting selection of spells (with Latin names) and he is a tough opponent.

    1. Those are Greek, T, not Latin! (I only mention that on account of it took me a lot longer to figure out what the Greek roots of those words ought to be...)

      I'd forgotten about that decorated chamber. Why didn't I get Russ to do an illustration? :-)

  8. Enlightening.
    Would be nice if Russ would make an illustration.
    Bloods word 3. 408.
    I would have just tipped the Taashim 1 gold piece and gone to sleep so as not to be churlish (and also not to disrupt my sleep and Circadian rhythm with a dagger in my ribs!)

    1. Too right -- that gold piece is more than he'd make in a week, anyhow.

  9. I would use the black satin cushion found in Psyche's scrying tower.
    Helps make sleep more bearable on the Reed mats.
    There should be an Endurance recovery bonus for sleep with that cushion! Maybe +1 to the player who has the privilege of hedonistic slumber with said pillow...

    1. Better spell it "Saiki", though. Just in case she's reading this...

  10. Ahhh.
    But she's pledged to a demon....
    Unless said demon has a good Wi-Fi connection..
    How time flies with my 8086 PC in the mid-80s..