And so it was, at the dawning of the Age of Kings, that the treachery and wickedness of the Fey led them to break the All-Father's Last Commandment, and the Elves waged the War of Tears upon the Sons of Men. The New Kingdoms of men were divided, as prone to fight each other as the Elvish host. One by one, the New Kingdoms began to fall before the Elvish onslaught, the savagery of the Orcs, or the fury of the Northmen. Men prayed for the return of the All-Father, but He would not come, and the faith of the people waned. And then, just as the future looked its darkest, a beacon of hope was kindled, and the tide of fate began to turn. A young warrior named Cambruin appeared in the Kingdom of Caledorn, a warrior who could not be defeated in battle. Cambruin spread the word of the Five Virtues, which he said were the source of all his strength, granted to him through the grace of the All-Father. As Cambruin's fame grew, the strongest and most noble warriors flocked to his banner, becoming the first Knights. Battle by battle, league by bloody league, the Knights won Cambruin a kingdom through toil and war and became legend by bringing the light of his wisdom to all who would see it. As his kingdom grew, Cambruin's enlightened rule transformed the Heartlands into a land of peace, order, and justice. In time, the One Kingdom spread from the jungles in the South to the Ice in the North, with legions of Knights as the High King's defenders and enforcers. Once the Sons of Men were united under Cambruin's banner, even the ancient armies of the elves were as wheat before the righteous swords of the Champions, the greatest of Knights, who served Cambruin as his lieutenants and companions. Men throughout the One Kingdom praised Cambruin, calling him the All-Father returned, or the mightiest of His Archons, the savior of humanity.
Alas, that ever those days of quest and glory should come to such an evil ending! Peasants of virtue who had followed Cambruin's vision and noble warriors who had given up title and family for the High King's cause were given lands for their service. As the War of Tears dragged ever on, even the greatest Knights began to go astray, their strength sapped by an easy life of wealth and greed or consumed by bloodlust born of war. Some tried to revive the Path of Virtue, creating the Holy Knighthood of the Sash, while others convinced the High King that crusades against the fey folk and the Dwarves of the mountains were the key to peace and order. The Knights lost their way, and ancient feuds resurfaced. Dissention split Cambruin's court, and even the knights of the Shining Champions, Cambruin's chosen, quarreled amongst themselves. The High King, alas, was too distracted by the War to see the shadow growing at his back.
Finally, on the eve of his final victory, disaster struck. Even as the walls of Kierhaven, the last great Elvish stronghold at the edge of the Northern Wastelands, broke before the strength of the High King's siege, the King himself hunted Elvish archers in the nearby forest. The King came to a great Oak tree, the largest ever known, and in the shadows of its ancient boughs he was betrayed. The Betrayer, one of the King's own Champions, drew the great sword Shadowbane and drove it through Cambruin's heart. And so was broken what could not be broken, and with it Hope was broken. And the very World was Sundered, and the Heavens raged and wept at the High King's passing and at the death of his greatest Champion. And while the Knights of the Sash cried in vain to the All-Father and launched their inquisitions, most of the Shining Champions fell to accusations and petty quarrels. They warred over the scraps of the High Kingdom, and the Age of the Petty Kings was reborn.
Two Knights who still clung to their virtue, Sir Adelard and Sir Mardiock, realized the error of their ways, and left that place, waiting for the High King's return. Long they rode, spreading the gospel of the Five Virtues, and teaching young warriors the Code they had learned in their youth. Those who showed sufficient strength of body, virtue, and purpose were made knights, to spend their lives fighting for justice. And so it has fallen to us, the Knights of this sad age, to keep Cambruin's dream alive in the face of chaos and despair. The All-Father would not have given us so great a King without an heir to follow him. As Cambruin himself arose from humble origins, so his heir must be living, somewhere in the World, unknown. It is our quest and our highest duty to find him.
You have proved your skill and demonstrated your virtue in the face of opposition. Therefore, by the powers vested in me I hereby dub thee a Knight of the One Kingdom. In the name of the All-Father, Saint Hederic, and Saint Lorne I grant you the right to bear arms and the power to mete justice. Take you these spurs as the badge of your noble office, and in your every quest and feat of arms may the glory of the Lost Times spring anew. Go now, Sir Knight, and strive for the Code!
Each Knight must renounce all claim to any land and title granted by birth, pledging themselves instead to live by the grace of their deeds and the generosity of the people they defend. Every Knight strives, above all, to uphold the five virtues of the Code by word and deed. Know you then the virtues:
- Bravery is the Knight's lifeblood, and the force that drives him to deeds of honor and glory. A Knight must be brave first and foremost, matching his courage not only against his foes but against the impossible task that faces all knights: re-forging the One Kingdom and re-establishing the rule of the High King.
- As the High King of old was a river of prosperity to his people, so must his knights be ready to give anything they have, be it the coin in their purse or the strength in their body, to any righteous soul who asks.
- Pride is the ultimate villain, the greatest foe any Knight ever faces. All of our strength is born of our purpose, which comes of the Code, King Cambruin's great gift. All of our works are done for his glory and the glory of the All-Father, not ours. When a Knight forgets that he is only a servant and thinks himself a master of men or destiny, he repeats the betrayal that slew the High King and sundered the land.
- We strive through quest and hardship to renew the One Kingdom, and thus to redeem the world. Defeat is enough for any foe: let the example of your virtue shine even to your direst enemy, that he may see his error and take up our Code as you have.
- If valor be a knight's blood, justice is his very soul. The strong should not prey upon the weak, as animals do - we are men, and the All-Father wrought us to live well, so that we might enjoy the fruits of our labors and rule as masters of the world. Let no crime go unpunished, for despair is the ultimate poison of hope, and the bar to our great goal. When every man, lowly peasant to rich merchant, lives without fear of war, theft, or oppression, then will justice have been created, and the One Kingdom reborn.