The Old Ones
The Order of Kites
THE ORDER OF KITES
Far from Vornheim are regions of stark mountains and dark forests, a wild, ancient land that the Church holds only the most tentative of claims upon. The Old Ways are still practiced in this gloomy land and hordes of heathens lurk in the lands on the far side of the mountains, and both of these forces threaten to plunge the region back into the firm grasp of evil as far as the Holy See is concerned. Happily for the Church, a martial brotherhood of soldiers arose in these hinterlands, defending the steep mountain passes from heathen invaders and purging the deep arbors of witches, sorcerers, and blood-stained priests. This military body is known as the Order of Kites
Although the Church maintains the illusion that the Brotherhood is a devout knightly
order, the truth is less glorious. The Brotherhood is a pragmatic body, one more concerned with their daily survival than any lofty vows or codes of honor. Bloody and battered, the Order clings to their holdings by their fingertips, bolstering their ranks with anyone desperate or mad enough to join. This policy means more than a few of the Order are former outlaws or other ne’er-do-wells who sought sanctuary and anonymity in the dark mountains, earning their keep by slaughtering pagans for God. And despite the pretenses they root out black magic whenever it is found. The Order skirts the line
between necessity and heresy on a daily basis.
Outnumbered and underequipped, the Order of Kites uses any advantage available to them in their war against the heathens—including the confiscated magical tools of slain pagan priests and incinerated witches. Brothers of the Order claim these trophies from their fallen foes, an occurrence which has developed as an unofficial rite of passage in the Order’s ranks. So common is this plundering of defeated heretics that the local diocese faces the uncomfortable position of unofficially acknowledging that the Order of Kites now owns more “heretical” tools than the enemy! The local priests try to police this custom when possible, but the effectiveness of such magical objects in the war against the heathens cannot be denied, and a blind eye is largely turned to the practice.
Origin of the Order
If you move beyond the foliage line of Mount Greyrock and continue on that rocky path known as the Frozen Trail, follow it as it skirts the Eastern edge of the World’s Edge pass you will eventually stand in the chilled shadow of The Last Fortress of Vorn. This monolithic keep was created during the final campaign of Vorn’s unification and is said to mark the northern point of the Empire. The keep itself was created in what is called the Miracle of Rock and Iron.
The Miracle of Rock and Iron
As the tale is told, in the 49th year of Vorn’s rule, World’s Edge pass was the site of a great battle in which Vorn himself was wounded. During the melee a great snowstorm swept down on the combatants and Vorn became separated from the Hausmacher, his elite guard.Thought cut off, Vorn fought on with righteous fury, lleading the charge with a patchwork host of irregular auxiliaries made up from recently converted tribes of the local region against a vast force of heathen savages. It was during this fight when the warlord leading the heathen force, some powerful fel-champion of a dead forgotten religion , managed to wound the divine warrior himself. When Vorn’s blood fell on the rocky slope it hardened to iron and expanded outward along the mountain, rising up and forming impenetrable walls. Hundreds were killed as the force of this upheaval flung entire companies from the mountainside, hurtling to their frosty doom below. Thus, the keep was formed around Vorn, the auxiliary force, the fel-champion and his remaining berserkers.
While the masses of the heathen army wailed outside the walls a deadly and vicious corridor battle began inside the fortress. Without torches the only light came from the arrow slit windows that were darkening as the storm outside intensified.
Outside of the fortress the shock of the intense weather and the destructive earthquake caused both sides to waver, and then rout. Over the next few days the core of Vorn’s army would reform in the forest at the southern base of the pass. The heathen army however, fleeing north never rallied.None of this mattered inside the keep, which in the coming days none could enter. The battle continued for 8 full days in almost permanent darkness. During this time, the auxiliaries truly learnt what it meant to be in the presence a sightless god, even if they didn’t know him to be divine, and as the days continued no sin seemed judged nor no evil punished, if it meant victory and survival.
At the end of the 8th day, only with the final barbarian slain did the gates open and Vorn and the other survivors emerge. Vorn looked over these damaged rag-tagged men and for their service named them the Order of Kites and bestowed on them the fortress, while charging them with maintaining control of this wild region of the Empire. After a few days recovery, he rode south and never returned.
The Fortress Today
The fortress looks as if it was formed out of a single piece of iron, where a wall meets the floor or ceiling rather than appearing as two pieces of metal there is a gentle curve connecting them seamlessly, The same is true of every wall, ceiling, floor, palisade or buttress, the entirety of the fortress’s original architecture.
As time has passed parts of the fortress have rusted away, entire walls or floors have turned red and brittle then snapped. Rather than accept this as divine favour by the god of rain and rust however the Order have replaced the walls with a harlequin of materials, from fine masonry to compacted rubble, wooded timber floors to thatch roofs. This gives the keep more of a patchwork quality today than it’s original appearance.
The floor plan generally follows what you would expect from a keep, however there are exceptions, a room may have one iron wall that looks like it was bleeding iron lumps, one room is almost a perfect sphere 5 meters wide with only one opening, if you leave the great hall by the eastern door you’ll quickly find yourself in a labyrinthian corridor system that new squires sometimes get lost for days in. Once, during the Era of Commander Desdril the Slothful a rusted wall gave way to reveal a previously inaccessible room; inside were two dried out corpse surprisingly well preserved. They quickly rotted after discovery. Old veterans warn frightened squires to never wander too deeply into the Keep, for the garrison is far too small to patrol its deepest vaults, and Vorn only knows what lurks in its many inaccessible or undiscovered chambers.