- "The order is capable of changing. It has before, and I intend to force it to change again. (...) I will drag them into the future, whether the Elders like it or not."
- ―Tanwyn Angharad, Paladin of the Mantle.
The Mantle of the Bright Star, also known as the Knights Illuminor, is an Abrahamic sovereign state much like the Vatican that once commanded it, composed of scholars, soldiers, archivists, and wizards who operate on an international scale.
Members of the order are charged with the task of safeguarding or protecting sensitive magical material and tech, artifacts, forbidden texts, confiscated and volatile Red Matter-fueled weaponry, Legacy Weapons and offering sanctuary to endangered magical creatures, most notably Phoenixes. During and after the Golden Age of Magic and prior to World War II, they were the military arm of the Kingdom of Ausonia, which was later reorganized into the Republic of Ausonia in 1945.
The Mantle today serves as the magical counterpart of the AECIF in the EU, and maintains a system of fortresses located at key points around the globe for the purpose of rapid response when a threat arises that the local authorities cannot handle. However, no such fortresses exist in Elven countries.
The Knights Illuminor date back to the era of the Crusades, tracing their roots primarily to the Teutonic Order. From the very beginning of their existence, their charge was the protection of the "Blood of God" and punishing those who would lay claim to the power that God had intended for His Children alone. The most infamous example of their persecution of any inhuman magic wielders was the Northern Crusades in the Baltic, Finnic, and Slavic states of eastern Europe, which resulted in the destruction of the Elven kingdoms in those areas, and rendered the elves an endagered species.
Their bid for conquest and religious purification had resulted in the destruction of many wizarding communities and individuals, and established anti-magical sentiments in many cultures across and beyond Europe. Their influence was so severe that many wizards were forced to go into hiding, signalling the end of the Golden Age of Magic.
In 1806, the last Holy Roman Emperor, Francis II, abdicated. The Holy Roman Empire collapsed shortly after, and Francis met with the current Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, Emeric Uriel. In secret, he instructed the Grand Master to travel to Switzerland, and meet with a conclave of knights in the Alps.
To Emeric's surprise, he met with knights bearing the red cross of the Knights Templar, who had been disbanded nearly five hundred years ago. They had continued their ways in secret, studying old relics and magical artifacts with the assistance of dwarves and even elves. Initially repulsed by the presence of inhumans among them, Uriel eventually acquiesced to the merger of the two orders, on the condition that they would continue their crusade against those who would misuse God's gift.
Ever since, the Illuminors have expanded across the globe, their main base remaining within Europe, specifically Ausonia. The Knights of today are generally considered to be non-partisan despite their roots, though they have no presence in the Elven kingdoms due to their history with that race. Dedicated utterly to the safeguarding of magical history, knowledge, the sanctuary of magical creatures, and of course, protecting the public from the very same, the Illuminors have fought with distinction in numerous military campaigns despite the organization's relatively small size.
Prior to their independence, the Mantle has historically served as the military arm of the Kingdom of Ausonia, though this has become less apparent over the centuries leading up to the final schism between the Mantle and state.
The Kingdom of Ausonia created its own armed forces in 1810, after repeated incidents where the Mantle refused to participate in certain instances of colonial warfare due to moral objections. The Knights were reduced to an elite task force that was to be a branch of the kingdom's armed forces, which only furthered tensions between members of the order and Ausonian rulers.
In 1922, due to increasing disassociation with a government they found to be immoral and not sharing several of their most important tenets, the Knights splintered off from the Kingdom of Ausonia, becoming their own organization while their former state relied more on their own state military. The organization became international, seeking to expand their influence and induct new Knights into their ranks without being bound to the sovereignty of their country of origin.
During World War II, Ausonia allied with the Axis Powers. Some members of the Knights supported this decision and were willing to fight in what they viewed as a long-awaited spiritual, supernatural and biological cleansing of Europe, while other members were horrified and wanted no part in Ausonia's alliance. This resulted in a schism that tore the Mantle apart.
The Mantle would never recover from this crack that divided its brotherhood, and resentment, regret and bitterness lingers to its modern day ranks.
Modern Day Edit
Starting as early as 1946, the Illuminors have allowed both and non-Christian or non-Catholic religious Type-IIs to join the Mantle, in response to the growing presence of magic in the 20th and 21st Century. However this decision was borne mainly out of desperation for new recruits, having lost many to the Hexerbattalions of the Wehrmacht, and it led to more problems. During the decades after the second world war, the Knights began to suffer from factionalism, culminating in a near secession crisis.
The crisis was caused by the growth of technology into a power that could rival the traditional magic of the Illuminors. Two factions emerged, the Paladins led primarily by the traditionalist magicians and their allies, and the Templars, being led chiefly by newer Type-I members who chafed at the idea that they were less competent due to circumstances decided by their birth. The two factions quarreled over whether they should embrace the new technology fully, or stick with their tried and true Legacy Weapon based magical approach. The result of the crisis was the division of the previously universal seat of Lord into two, the Lord who represented the technological faction, and a new position known as the Magus who represented the magical faction. The two factions as of today do not get along well and tend to segregate their units, even in situations when merging the two approaches would be better.
During the Awakening Incident, the Knights Illuminor participated in the fight against parahumans globally, with many of their fortresses becoming bases of operations where counterattacks against the uprising would originate. Their dedication to protecting civilians and cooperation with other factions with the same objectives would earn them a favorable public reputation. The Mantle lost many of its Knights in the years of fighting, leading to a power vacuum and the need to further relax its recruiting standards. This did nothing to aid the factional conflict within the organization, as a disproportionate amount of the Templars died compared to the Paladins.
After the Awakening Incident, the Illuminors quietly slipped out of the public eye to nurse their wounds and better address their inner divisions. It is only recently that they have begin public operations once more.
Post Awakening Edit
In 2015, the Knights Illuminor responded to an incident in the United States in the town of Portland, Maine where a chimera had escaped containment and was wreaking havoc in the city. With the aid of the United Liberators Coalition the creature was neutralized, though one Knight was lost in the operation. Notably, this was their first interaction with the Coalition, which prompted the Knights to work more closely with them since.
In the wake of the 2020 Samoan Incident, a representative of the Knights ordered the censure of Kaitiaki due to the death of a native from Fennel Island she caused, and the disruption to the weather patterns in the surrounding area. Their escalating debate with the Coalition over their protection of her caused some friction in their relationship, hindered further by the media undermining both organizations by circumventing clearance levels and sensationalizing their otherwise civil discourse. Despite this, the case against Kaitiaki was dropped, and as a result the Knights came under greater scrutiny. Their impartiality had been called into question, and during the next year they nearly lost control of several of their bases in nations less friendly towards Europe. It was not until their involvement in the Third Leningrad Metahuman Insurgency that they regained some of their lost respect globally.
- Lord and Magus: Originally a single post known simply as the Lord, the positions were split after World War II to grant more representation to the nonmagical side of the Mantle. While nominally equal in rank, they have very different obligations.
- Lord: The Lord personally manages the efforts of the Templars and Stewards, and has far more political authority than the Magus in terms of the overall stance of the organization. They spent most of their time dealing with diplomatic and bureaucratic problems and the Council of Elders. To be eligible for the position of Lord one has to first serve with distinction among the Templars and prove themselves skilled at managing their holding as a Steward, usually in the form of introducing some form of advancement to improve the logistics of the Mantle as a whole.
- Magus: The Magus personally manages the efforts of the Scribes and Paladins and spends much of their time doing research into the intricacies of Legacy Weapons and the spatial resonance effect. To be eligible for the position of Magus one has to first serve with distinction among the Paladins and as a Scribe make a significant contribution to Ars Magus, usually in the form of creating a new subset of runes and incorporating it into the greater whole.
- Noble Families: Derisively called "Janissaries" by the more forward looking members of the Mantle, the Noble Families are ancient Magus lines that have served in the Mantle for generations and have been given noble titles and hereditary positions in the Council of Elders for their service. While the Paladins are the most archaic branch, the Noble Families are the most backwards looking.
- Elders: A branch constituted of retired members from the others, along with representatives of the Noble Families. The Council of Elders serves as the "civilian" side of the Mantle government, or as close as the Mantle ever comes to having a civilian side. Elders also serve as teachers in the seminaries and dignitaries when the situation calls for it.
- Stewards: The branch responsible for managing the physical holdings of the Mantle, such as fortresses, mines, RM and other resource stockpiles, farms, and internal transportation. Historically they have been predominantly been members of the Noble Families, but in the past century it has become traditional for Templars and a few Paladins to be promoted to this position after a long period of meritorious service.
- Healers: Arguably the oldest branch of the Mantle with their origins in the monasteries and hospitals that the proto-knights guarded, Healers are responsible for relief efforts in areas ravaged by supernatural effects, maintain and develop the ancient medical knowledge of the Mantle, and in times of combat serve as medics. A less often publicized part of being a healer is learning how to perform and thus counter Dark Magic, with the more senior ones being fully capable of fleshcrafting with ease. This is the most independent branch of the Mantle and recruits freely from all other branches. The most senior healers have permanent seats on the council of Elders to ensure that the interests of this branch are represented.
- Scribes: The branch responsible for managing the ancient archives and vaults, conducting archeological investigations, acquiring and analyzing notable magical artifacts, and are responsible for incorporating new runes into the greater Ars Magus system. Older Paladins and a few Templars usually transfer to this branch once they no longer are capable of serving in the field. A subbranch of the scribes are the artisan smiths responsible for maintaining Legacy Weapons and creating Descendant Weapons.
- Paladins: Paladins tend to be the most archaic branch of the mantle, due to their domain being the use of Ars Magus and Legacy Weapons in combat, runecraft research and development, and countering Dark Magic in the field. Due to this, they are universally Type-IIs, and a significant portion of them are scions of the Noble Families. There is presently a schism within this branch, split between those who are interested in modern magitech and those who wish to continue as they are.
- Templars: Templars are the most modern branch of the mantle, as it is their duty to keep abreast of technological developments, evaluate them for potential incorporation into the Mantle, and then create an equivalent that can be manufactured within the organization. Until recently Templars deployed to the field using an experimental power armor frame, but after a disaster was caused by a high profile member, that program has been shut down. Templars are predominantly Type-Is.
- Knights: Knights make up the majority of the Mantle, and it is assumed that all higher ranks will also meet the Knight qualifications. It is at this point that a specialization is usually chosen, though more promising individuals or scions of the Noble Families will have already chosen one at this point. Knights are evenly split between Type-Is and Type-IIs.
- Squires: The lowest rank that is allowed to be near and train for combat, Squires are Pages that have been granted the right to train to be Knights, and usually will be mentored by a Templar or Paladin personally should they show significant promise.
- Pages: The lowest official rank, Pages are noncombatants who are beginning to learn the ropes of being in the organization. Similar to interns in a way, they tend to be assigned as assistants to Elders, Healers, and Scribes for the duration of their service.
- Oath of Allegiance: The first oath sworn by a new member prior to their formal knighting, recruits within the Knights are referred to as squires, and train first in a seminary under a group of elders, and then under a senior member of the order. As the squire pledges obedience and adherence to the rites and doctrines of the Illuminors, the knight overseeing their training teaches them proper conduct, guidance, the order's history and their mission, and prepares them for formal entry into the order upon completion of their training. Violating this oath by betraying the order is punishable by death, and less severe violations can result in censure or even excommunication, a thoroughly unpleasant experience where the gifts granted to the fallen Knight are ritualistically stripped from them.
- The Oath of Defence: The Knights, though they no longer actively hunt down nonhuman wizards, swear an oath to protect the nonmagical population from the excesses of the magical. This means that their most common task is to hunt down dark wizards who feel that their power gives them the right to oppress those without. Knights train specifically to combat traditional wizards throughout their time as squires, and typically upon knighting are more than a match for their preferred prey. This oath also applies to depredation upon humans by magical creatures such as dragons, and during the previous centuries, the Knights killed more dragons than any other organization in Europe combined.
- The Flesh Taboo: The Knights Illuminor has made it a part of their oath to pursue and punish any wizard guilty of tampering with humanoid flesh or DNA. This practice started with its religious roots where the Mantle considered all supernatural activity not performed by a member of the church to be heresy. The key part of this oath is the preservation of the sanctity of God's creation, and thus all things that twist or change the world, especially living creatures are considered suspect. With the rise of science, the Knights have become less vehement about persecuting those who utilize "natural means" to effect change, but the use of magecraft is still considered heresy and will prompt a swift and generally lethal response.
- V-22 Osprey
- Charlemagne class Airship
- Durendal, the invincible sword of Roland.
- The sister sword of Ascalon, and famous for being enchanted to be all but indestructible and having the capability to cut through steel with ease, this Legacy Weapon is one of the greatest assets of the Knights Illuminor. No longer used since it was nearly lost after Roland's death, and once again during World War II, it is reportedly kept hidden in a vault to prevent it from being destroyed or stolen. Its Descendant Weapons are a very common sight among the higher ranking members of the Knights Illuminor, and are famous for being very hard to destroy and having cutting power well beyond even modern ensiform channeling devices. They are usually issued paired with a Descendant of Svalinn to serve as a sheath.
- Svalinn, the shield that protects the earth from the sun.
- The other mainstay Legacy Weapon of the Knights Illuminor, this kite shield, named for a mythical shield in Norse mythology, was created from several weak Legacy Weapons taken during the Northern Crusade. Enchanted and used to defend its wielder from harm, it, like Durendal, resides in a vault hidden from those who would steal it. As it was created to compliment Durendal, it incorporates a sheath into its design for the safe storage of the blade, which allows it to also be paired with Ascalon, a blade of similar length. Its Descendant Weapons impart an impressive level of physical and magical resistance to those who wield them and were notably used to successfully combat parahumans during the Type-III awakening incident.
- Ascalon, the Holy Sword that felled the dragon
- Ascalon was the sword of St. George and is the only dragon slaying blade that is still actively wielded by the Knights Illuminor. As a Damocles-class Legacy Weapon, it is immensely valuable due to its overwhelming affinity for healing and purification magic. Most infamous is its ability to instantly transmute any blood it comes in contact with into pure "holy" water, which results in even shallow cuts from the blade becoming fatal. It is the only Damocles-class Legacy Weapon that is still openly wielded, and its Descendant Weapons are typically carried by dedicated Healers. It is rumored that it was forged using fragments of the spear Longinius itself.
- Numerous others whose names have not been made public.
- A short dagger with a chamber containing Areum in the hilt, these are the de-facto channeling devices of Type-IIs serving in the Knights Illuminor, and are typically crafted by the Knights themselves upon becoming squires. Though they are crafted with modern technology and metallurgy, their appearance still resembles the athames of old. They are in fact Descendants of a Legacy Weapon, which explains why they can match modern wands despite not incorporating advanced technology.
- Ars Magus
- A corruption of the phrase "art of magic" in Latin, this is the term used to refer to the subtype of magic commonly practiced by the Knights Illuminor. This subtype focuses heavily on using runes as conduits for the Paladin's will, and is thus one of the more reliable forms of magic available in terms of standardized results, which makes it easier to teach. A squire will usually use single runes or simple chains of them to produce simple effects, but a true Magus (Those among the Knights who specialize in magic) is capable of forming entire complex runic arrays with very little effort, allowing for fine-tuned and precise effects.
- Ogham and Futhark Master Runes
- The Knights Illuminor have a complete monopoly on the master runes for the Ogham and Futhark alphabets and have possessed them for centuries due to their heritage.
- Archaic Elven Master Runes
- Perhaps the greatest insult dealt to the Elves during the Northern Crusades was the seizure of the master runes for the Elven syllabary. The Knights's predecessors wasted no time in enchanting the blank runes, and thus all but destroyed the written records of their enemy, as what had once been script became dangerously unstable runic arrays just waiting for an unwary wizard to activate them.
- Runic Arrays
- The Knights Illuminor, due to their monopoly of multiple entire script styles, have some of the most advanced and intricate runic arrays in existence which give a massive boost to their combat effectiveness. As one Paladin (a Type-II knight) can activate every array within their Red Line, a formation of Knights is a terror to behold, as every one of them is enhanced and finding the wizards empowering them is a matter of chance.
- Ogham and Futhark Master Runes
Conventional Weapons and Equipment Edit
- Mark IX "Gallant" Power-Armoured Exoskeleton: A recent mark of powered armour created for use by the Knights Illuminor, the Gallant variant enhances the user's physical strength, protects the user with multiple layers of plated armour and extensive life support systems, and most notably, it incorporates an electromagnetic personal shield, a technology that most of the developed world is still experimenting with.
- Helmet: The Gallant variant's helmet includes thermal imaging and night vision, a heads-up display, and a flashlight mounted on the side.
- Palatine Axe: The weapon of the Templars, the Palatine axe is a halberd or poleaxe-like weapon which has an integrated firearm. More recent variants are modular, allowing them to fit varying attachments and even replace the mounted firearm with a different one. Known attachments include:
- A magazine-fed 14.5×114mm automatic rifle, for fire support. Capacity of 30 rounds. Optional backpack ammo storage for extended operations.
- A compact grenade launcher based on the M320 GLM, capable of firing 40mm grenades and smoke canisters.
- A shotgun based on the Kel-Tec KSG. The twin tube magazines holds a capacity of 7 shells each, and can store different types such as 12 gauge and slug shells.