Dark Knight Lore
Go to any market and you'll hear a dozen troubadours lamenting the tragic death of the High King Cambruin, praising his precious Code. It is good that the High King's memory is kept alive, but the simple folk are too busy looking backward to realize the simple truth: the World has changed, even if the heart and soul of Man has not. Cambruin was a wondrous man, and a fine king. The Prelates and Templars would have you believe he was the All-Father himself manifest on earth, but I think they carry this a bit too far. Cambruin was a man, just like any other, and he died like any other. And when he died, his precious Code died with him. The old legends say that the King and the Land are one. If this is so, then the shattering of the World reveals Cambruin's weakness. The next King must be stronger. So be it! The Code had long since failed - it presumes that we are all Saints or gods ourselves, not men. Look at the beasts of the field and wild. Does the wolf show generosity to the lamb, or modestly defer to the bull? Never! He eats the one, and stalks the children of the other. The All-Father made Men out of earth, and so we are creatures of this World. The strong will prey upon the weak, and only the strong deserve to rule and survive. Of the five virtues of the Code, three are impossible to achieve in a world of men, and another is a fiction. Generosity is a luxury no true ruler can afford, Modesty a lie that belittles one's strength, and Mercy a mistake. We are left with Valor, the highest virtue of all, and Justice. The knights of old sought some ethereal, transcendent ideal of fairness and called it Justice. It never existed, and it never will. The strong rule the weak, and the weak must serve in return for protection. Only the strongest party in a fight will win. This is Justice, the justice that is woven into every stone and beast in this world. Why should we men not live by the same standard? Fairness is the stuff of sentiment, and will get you killed on the battlefield. Mercy and courtly love are for poets, not warriors.
In the wake of the Turning, many of the High King's knights despaired, and gave up their spurs for hermitages. Some renounced their lands and titles and took up a fruitless quest for Justice. The rest of us realized what had happened and saw the spirit of the new Age. We rejected the Code and have instead formulated the Rule, the new standard of honor that all knights must live by. In the end, there is only one virtue: Strength, the one unarguable precept by which all men stand or fall.
The so-called "true knights" and paladins call us dark knights, but they forget that they are men just as we are, and just as Cambruin was before us. We gladly accept the name - for we are knights, and this is an Age of darkness. Forget the high born virtues of the others: King Cambruin won his crown on a field of battle, and his successor shall swim a river of blood to reclaim the High-King's throne. The lords and knights war amongst themselves, vying for the ultimate prize. As a dark knight, you will take your place in this greatest of games, the High Struggle, testing your strength and honor against the cruel wheel of destiny. So ride, dark knight! Ride to victory! And may the Hellfires take the weakest!
Over the years, the demands of Strength, Honor, and Valor have grown into the eight precepts of the Rule. Learn them well, and always live by their injunction:
I. Demand obedience from those beneath your station.
II. Offer obedience to those above your station.
III. A ruler's mandate comes only through Strength.
IV. Weakness in the mighty is rewarded by death.
V. The weak must earn our protection and our loyalty.
VI. War is the only true expression of chivalry.
VII. Avenge any slight or insult, however trivial.
VIII. Death before dishonor.