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Hellknight

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Hellknights in action.

Hellknights
Symbol of the Hellknights.
(Organization)
Large
Militaristic

Type
Military order
Leader
Varies by order
Alignment
Headquarters
Varies by order
Goals
Varies by order but primarily maintaining order
Scope
Regional (predominantly Cheliax)
Structure
Military hierarchy
Source: The Inner Sea World Guide, pg(s). 266–267
For other meanings of "Hellknight", please see Hellknight (disambiguation).

The Hellknights are a collection of knightly orders with a unique focus on the promulgation of law. They are interested less in the social goodness and charity typical of paladins, but rather in the foundation and stringent maintenance of order at all costs. In their iron-handed exaction of law—specifically, the laws of their various orders and their home country of Cheliax—Hellknights emulate the organized and effective armies of Hell. They are not concerned with morality or methods, only results. If people cannot be trusted to obey the law out of their own senses of civility and social righteousness, Hellknights provide the need to obey out of fear of a master's stern hand.1

History

Daidian Ruel and the White Plague

Daidian Ruel, the first Hellknight.

The family of Daidian Ruel, a Wiscrani worshiper of Aroden, was killed by members of the demonic Path of Grace cult in 4575 AR as part of the years-long White Plague of murder and suicide. Ruel was refused justice by cult collaborators among Westcrown's upper classes, and he abandoned his faith and formed a vigilante posse to capture, beat, and kill the cultists. The Westcrown Dottari did not approve of his vigilante methods and arrested him in Sarenith of 4576 AR, but his followers broke him out of prison—against his own orders—hours later and absconded to Fort Rivad, then a Taldan ruin.234

Ruel subsequently returned to the city and gave an impassioned speech indicting Cheliax's inaction against corruption and chaos before King Gaspodar, who was so moved that he pardoned Ruel and commissioned him to form a new knightly order. The speech, now known as "Merciless", remains one of the Hellknights' most important philosophical texts.234

Founding of the Hellknights

Citadel Rivad, first headquarters of the Hellknights and current home of the Order of the Rack.

By Sarenith of 4577 AR, Ruel's order defeated the Path of Grace, and a grateful King Gaspodar gave Fort Rivad to be the knights' permanent home and authorized its restoration into Citadel Rivad,24 which was completed in Neth of 4580 AR.2 Ruel's public and repeated rejection of Aroden led the god's followers to dub the group "Hellknights", a denigration that Ruel defiantly adopted and which effectively made Ruel the first Hellknight.24 Ruel recruited his ally Sheel Leroung to his cause; Leroung would go on to form the Order of the Gate at Citadel Enferac in 4599 AR and is known as the first Hellknight signifer.5

Infernal influence

Ruel became obsessed with the thought that the soul of his son, who died by cult-encouraged suicide, was damned to Hell's topmost layer of Avernus, and sought Leroung's aid in summoning devils and interrogating them for information. Ruel incidentally learned much about how Hell organized its legions, and in respect of those methods incorporated them into the Hellknights'.24

However, Ruel came under the influence of Voulgarghas, a gelugon, who convinced him to search for ways to save his son's lost soul. In Calistril of 4589 AR, Ruel disappeared on the same night as a fire at Citadel Rivad's library and the death of one of Leroung's apprentices. He was never seen again, and while Hellknights believe Voulgarghas knows of Ruel's fate, the gelugon has kept that knowledge secret.67

Philosophy

Regardless of their severity, Hellknights are not an inherently evil group; they are wholly unconcerned with morality. Although there are numerous evil members—particularly among their upper echelons—the majority of the orders are impartial arbiters and enforcers of order and justice. They see the study of Hell's tenets and even the summoning of devils as tools meant to intimidate and strengthen the individual resolve of the orders' members.8 Hellknights are taught to replace emotion with steely discipline,9 and are not interested in methods: only the end results matter.1

While Hellknights are widely feared and respected, the common Hellknight joins out of a sense of duty and a wish to be a part of something greater, seeing a world ruled by laws and free of rampaging beasts and cheating thieves as a future well-worth striving toward, even at the sacrifice of freedom. Countries and rulers sometimes invite Hellknights into their lands, leaving the dirty business of harsh law enforcement to an already loathed third party, although convincing Hellknights to leave once they have been welcomed sometimes proves problematic for more freedom-loving societies.8

Training

Hellknights face barbazus as part of their Hellknight test initiation.

They train with summoned devils, the signifers of their orders coaxing the ingenuity of diabolical tactics from infernal tongues, while the rank and file members spar against the very denizens of Hell—making nearly any future conflict a far less daunting prospect. They learn that sacrifices must often be made for the greater good, obey draconian regimens of military conduct, commit to encyclopaedic memorization of the laws of their orders and local governing bodies, and undergo constant drills to train their bodies and minds.8

Appearance

A Hellknight in Hellknight plate.

Every order of Hellknights has a distinctive, intimidating style of full plate armor that distinguishes them from the others810 that is only allowed to be worn after the individual Hellknight has defeated a devil in combat.1112 All Hellknights wear the armor of their order as a matter of pride and are rarely seen without it. The Order of the Nail's armor, for example, features a horned helm and demon-faced breastplate.8

Organization and orders

Following Ruel's disappearance in 4589 AR, his successor Aligois Thels reorganized the Hellknights' structures to align with the ranks of the ancient legions of the Jistka Imperium.134

Organization

The leader of a Hellknight order is known as the lictor, while a leader whose training is more scholarly and less martial is known as a vicarius. Beneath him are an order's master or mistress of blades (field commanders) and paravicar (leader of the order's arcane/religious forces). Beneath them, paralictors (Hellknight officers), signifers (Hellknight spellcasters), rank and file Hellknights, and armigers (Hellknights in training) flesh out the ranks.8

Major orders

Maidrayne Vox, Mistress of Blades for the Order of the Nail, wears her order's distinctive armor.

There are numerous orders of Hellknights. Most have holdings in Cheliax, but a few have expanded or moved to operate outside the country, most typically in regions formerly held by the empire. Below are the seven major orders and their headquarters in alphabetical order:

Lesser orders

Numerous lesser orders of Hellknights exist, although few are known outside the borders of Cheliax. Although less pervasive, these smaller orders are only slightly less feared than their better-known brethren.14

Extinct orders

Cavalry brigades

Hellknight cavalry brigades are the horse-mounted units of Hellknight orders. Hellknight cavalry brigades consist of a number of Hellknights and a single field-maralictor. The troops are typically based out of a static fortification and work within a day's ride of their base due to the logistical issues inherent in supporting larger units.

Hellknight cavalry brigades are highly trained groups that fight in unison, often through arrow volleys, lance charges, or mounted melee attacks. The brigades move swiftly and efficiently over open land, regardless of the terrain.22

Favored familiars

Signifers choose loyal, disciplined familiars who respect authority. Dogs and hawks contribute to success on the battlefield, and arbiters and imps reinforce the Hellknights' adherence to law.23

References

For additional as-yet unincorporated sources about this subject, see the Meta page.

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 266–267. Paizo Inc., 2011
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 F. Wesley Schneider. “Path of the Hellknight” in The Infernal Syndrome, 65–66. Paizo Inc., 2010
  3. 3.0 3.1 F. Wesley Schneider. “Order without Mercy” in Path of the Hellknight, 5. Paizo Inc., 2016
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 F. Wesley Schneider. “Order without Mercy” in Path of the Hellknight, 6. Paizo Inc., 2016
  5. F. Wesley Schneider. Order of the Gate” in Path of the Hellknight, 19. Paizo Inc., 2016
  6. F. Wesley Schneider & Jerome Virnich. “Infernal Apostles” in Hell Unleashed, 3. Paizo Inc., 2015 . This source is presented as an in-universe letter written by Vanchient Lor and might be unreliable.
  7. F. Wesley Schneider & Jerome Virnich. Hellknights” in Hell Unleashed, 44. Paizo Inc., 2015
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 F. Wesley Schneider. (February 15, 2008). HellFile:Hellknights symbol.webpknight Order of the Nail, Paizo Messageboards.
  9. Alexander Augunas, et al. “Monster Summoners on Golarion” in Monster Summoner's Handbook, 10. Paizo Inc., 2015
  10. F. Wesley Schneider. Hellknights” in What Lies in Dust, 68. Paizo Inc., 2009
  11. Alexander Augunas, et al. Armor Master's Handbook, inside front cover. Paizo Inc., 2016
  12. Alexander Augunas, et al. “Introduction” in Armor Master's Handbook, 2. Paizo Inc., 2016
  13. Wolfgang Baur, et al. Jistka Imperium” in Lost Kingdoms, 37. Paizo Inc., 2012
  14. F. Wesley Schneider. (July 7, 2008). Raising Hellknights!, Paizo Blog.
  15. 15.0 15.1 F. Wesley Schneider. (September 23, 2009). Hellknights Unleashed, Paizo Blog.
  16. Amirali Attar Olyaee, et al. Toulon Vidoc” in Legends, 112. Paizo Inc., 2020
  17. Larry Wilhelm. “Scourge of the Godclaw” in Scourge of the Godclaw, 47. Paizo Inc., 2016
  18. F. Wesley Schneider. Path of the Hellknight, inside back cover. Paizo Inc., 2016
  19. F. Wesley Schneider. “Order without Mercy” in Path of the Hellknight, 7. Paizo Inc., 2016
  20. F. Wesley Schneider. “Path of the Hellknight” in The Infernal Syndrome, 66–67. Paizo Inc., 2010
  21. F. Wesley Schneider. “Path of the Hellknight” in The Infernal Syndrome, 71. Paizo Inc., 2010
  22. Paizo Inc., et al. “Monsters A-Z” in Bestiary 3, 44. Paizo Inc., 2021
  23. Will McCardell, et al. “Introduction” in Familiar Folio, 5. Paizo Inc., 2015