Pantheon of Heroes
The Holy Order of the Band of the Shield
The Holy Order of the Band of the Shield is a moderately sized company of warriors dedicated to protecting the civilized people of the world and spreading the word of Alodar. As champions of civilization, the Paladins of the Order can often be found providing security for travelers heading into the wilderness, manning the defenses of distant outposts, and guarding temples and religious sites.
Somewhat uniquely for a company of warriors, the Holy Order operates on a sort of franchise basis. While there is a central which dictates broad rules and policy, negotiates large scale contracts, and mediates conflicts within the organization, it is largely removed from the day-to-day operation of things. Instead of operating as a united front, there are numerous small cells spread throughout the region. These cells, which vary in size from five to about fifty members each, are largely autonomous, and rarely have direct interactions with other cells, barring specific circumstances.
The process of creating your own cell is fairly straightforward. A group of at least five warriors heads to the main branch, and presents an appeal to join the organization. If they can prove that they have at least a base level of combat ability and have a strong devotion to Alodar, all they have to do is pay an admission fee, and swear a few oaths of fealty to the organization. At this point, the leader of the group is granted the title of Shieldbrother, and is given the rights to operate a cell in an area which is not currently under the jurisdiction of a different cell.
The Holy Order of the Band of the Shield is an order devoted primarily to worshiping Alodar. While they don’t deny the existence of the other four gods of the pantheon, they view Alodar as the chief deity. In their canon, he is the most powerful god and is the god who takes the most direct interest in the world. They are a deeply devout group, and take matters relating to faith very seriously.
While the Order is tolerant of other sects who worship the Old Pantheon in their own right, the same cannot always be said about other faiths. While the official policy of the Order is to simply leave practitioners of foreign religions to their own devices, many of the cells do not hesitate to make their distaste known. Many Shieldbrothers openly preach about the heathens and infidels in their midst, and it is almost unheard of for the organization to take a contract from anyone who does not share their beliefs.
As a whole, the Order can be considered a cult unto itself, and many cells spend a surprising amount of time evangelizing when they’re not fighting. Many of the more successful cells, as well as the main branch, employ at least a couple of noncombat members who focus on diplomacy and education. As long as one’s faith is strong and one’s tongue is silver, a man can rise quite high through the ranks without being able to handle a sword.
The Holy Order of the Band of the Shield (Initially known simply as the Band of the Shield) was founded in the year 300, in the city of Starbreach. A small group of warriors who had trained at the Academy formed the Band of the Shield. Their initial goal was to patrol the roads, protecting wayward travelers from the dangers of the wild and helping to bring a bit of civilization back into the world. They were to travel the world, righting wrongs, and acting as a bulwark against darkness.
As time went on, the group quickly began to pick up steam. Only a few months into their quest, the group managed to make a name for themselves by intervening in an attempted hostage taking attempt of one of the local nobles. In thanks for their support, the group was awarded quite a hefty bonus, as well as honorary titles. While it was primarily luck which brought them to the scene, their amazing timing and good fortune convinced many of their members that they had been ordained by a higher power. With this in mind, the group restyled itself as the Holy Order.
Today, less than half of the twelve founding members are still involved with the organization. Three have been confirmed to have been killed in action, four are presently missing, and one officially resigned. The remaining four hold top positions in the Order, and spend nearly all of their time presiding over official matters.
RECEPTION AND CONTROVERSY
The Holy Order enjoys a fair amount of popularity throughout Alleria. Small cells are present in just about every city in the republic, and some cells actually serve as the official police forces of some smaller settlements. In many of the larger cities, the Order has curried favor with various influential families and clans, and work is rarely hard to come by.
Of course, not everyone is thrilled with the Order. While the organization has not grown large enough that they’re causing great difficulties for most of the large and established groups, the rapid growth of the Order has raised a few eyebrows among the more seasoned mercenaries. They do not appreciate the competition for jobs, and they regard the Order’s public relations campaign with suspicion.
In addition, the group’s religious practices have caused tension in the past. Their almost fanatic devotion to Alodar is often viewed as a bit odd by many who keep the faith of the Old Pantheon, and is considered outright offensive by many elves and Jianese. While there has never been anything proven, there have been rumors that the Holy Order persecutes nonbelievers. There are whispers that profits from robberies and murders which occur out in the wastes find their way back into the Order’s coffers.
The main branch has been very proactive dealing with these rumors as of late. There’s been a public apology, and a group spokesman has reiterated that while the Order offers its services primarily to fellow believers, it does not intend to discriminate against anyone for their beliefs. In addition, they have engaged in a bit of witch hunt, cracking down on a couple of cells which they claim were not acting in good faith and were attacking innocent people. Whether this internal policing is a genuine effort at reform, or if they’ve just decided to use autonomy as a shield and find a couple of scapegoats is unclear.