The Order of Adal dated back to the reign of Arn around the end of the 2nd century. The Order was founded with the purpose of defending the Alliance of Adalmearc both from enemies without and within. Over the centuries, the Order waged numerous campaigns, some lasting days and some lasting years; each time, the Order was ultimately victorious. The reason for its success was a combination of factors: its large support base across the realms, the general stability of its heartlands, its ability towards promoting commanders based on merit, and the fact that it was a standing army consisting of professional soldiers; there were none who could muster as swiftly, fight as expertly, and do so with such numbers as the Order could.
The Order was recognisable by its symbol, a white, seven-pointed star on black background. This symbol could not only be seen upon its banners but also on the surcoat of every knight and soldier serving in the Order. The uniform was an example of the discipline of the Order compared to the more disarrayed levy armies otherwise employed in Adalmearc; it made them a fearsome sight upon the battlefield made all the stronger by their reputation as a skilled fighting force. When not wearing the surcoat, knights could be recognised by the golden spurs that they alone were allowed to wear; squires wore silver spurs, which other noblemen might also do.
Organisation of the Order
The Order was spread out across the Seven Realms of Adalmearc, and it was the largest organisation in the realms. Its headquarters took up the northern part of the Citadel in Middanhal, where the greatest concentration of its forces were also located. Middanhal had a very large city guard, which was considered part of the Order; in times of need, the guard was often mustered along with regular conscriptions in order to quickly field a large army. The situation of the capital's garrison was an exception; other cities typically had their own guards. There were garrisons of the Order in every minor capital, but their task was primarily to keep watch and keep Middanhal informed of any events of interest. The situation was slightly different in Thusund, where the Order’s headquarters and main garrison lay in Herbergja; the Order only maintained a small presence in Dvaros at the court of the king of Thusund. Outside of Adalmearc, the Order typically had a knight in Alcázar as an envoy from the high king to the Kabir of that city.
The leadership of the Order could be divided between permanent and temporary positions of command. The permanent positions were the marshals. The head of the Order was the lord marshal, who was subject only to the high king. In times of war, he was authorised to summon the levies of every feudal lord in Adalmearc, including the vassal kings. There was no limit to his authority in military matters except that of the high king’s. Each of the Seven Realms had its own local marshal as well. Their tasks were to watch the peace inside their own borders and take action if it was threatened, either directly by leading their own available garrisons or indirectly by requesting aid from Adalrik and the neighbouring realms. The marshal of Adalrik had a special title and was known as the knight marshal to distinguish him from the marshals of the six lesser realms. Formally, his tasks were exactly the same as his peers, i.e. keeping the peace in Adalrik; he was generally thought of as second-in-command of the Order, however, and would usually assume control of the Order in an emergency should the lord marshal be unavailable.
While the marshals were in permanent positions of command during peace, temporary positions were created during war. Whenever an army was fielded by the Order, two commanders were chosen. One to act as its captain, meaning its supreme commander, and one to act as its first lieutenant. Normally, the captain would remain out of combat with the reserves, directing them as needed as the battle evolved. The task of the first lieutenant was to lead the infantry on the front lines, reacting to any developments there. This is not a hardened rule, however, and at times a first lieutenant took command of the cavalry instead, for instance, if that position was deemed more important.
Whenever the captain and first lieutenant had decided on where to lead the army personally, other knights would be chosen to fill the roles of ordinary lieutenants; one to lead the archers, some to lead centre or the flanks of the infantry, one to lead the cavalry etc. whichever roles were not being filled by the captain and the first lieutenant. Should there for some reason not be enough knights to fill all the roles, men-at-arms would be chosen instead; see the section concerning subdivisions of the infantry for an explanation of man-at-arms.
The Order’s soldiers were divided into two groups, the infantry and the cavalry. Any man might be considered to join the infantry regardless of background, though the Order had strict criteria concerning health, strength, and similar. The infantry made up the majority of every Order garrison, as well as any army that the Order fielded. A soldier typically joined on a 7-year contract, receiving a post somewhere to man: a garrison in a city, castle, watch tower etc. Pay was a little above what an ordinary skilled worker might receive, which no doubt helped making it easy to find recruits. Furthermore, there was extra pay for those soldiers manning the Langstan due to the isolated nature of the post.
During times of war, when the standing garrisons were not enough to handle matters and actual armies would have to be raised, the Order would call for general muster. In such times, recruitment criteria were relaxed, and this was an opportunity for men to join the infantry who might otherwise not pass the rigid requirements. After a finished campaign, most of those soldiers would be dismissed; but those that had performed well might be offered the 7-year contract, according to how many permanent hires were necessary to fill out the depleted garrisons.
A foot soldier in the Order was trained and drilled to fight in formation, using a long spear, a short stabbing sword and a very elongated kite shield; these shields were typically of such size, they could overlap with the one belonging to the man next to the soldier, creating a shield wall. They could also easily protect most of the entire soldier’s body against arrows. The soldier was also trained in close combat with a smaller, round shield as these were employed by garrison soldiers and the elongated shields by field armies. Lastly, to avoid fatigue, the long shields were made so that they could be rested against the ground when not in use; both types were also lashed to the soldier’s forearm using leather strips, meaning he would not have to strain his hand gripping the shield at all times. Lastly, the strips served as a mechanism to allow the soldier to carry his shield on his back on long marches.
Subdivisions of the infantry
It is uncertain whether archers were considered a separate group of soldiers or part of the general infantry. Certainly the Order used archers to a much less degree than it used foot soldiers, simply because archery was a difficult skill only learned slowly compared to the relative ease with which recruits could be drilled to fight in close combat formations. It seems the Order rarely used archers on a permanent basis for their garrisons, except perhaps for the largest of these, and generally only recruited archers in times of war when an army had to be fielded. In such cases, they did not train these archers themselves but recruited them from the skilled segment of the populace.
A final note about the infantry of the Order concerns the term man-at-arms. This was not an official title as such. It simply designated a veteran warrior of the Order; thus it would always be one of the footmen who were engaged in a 7-year contract rather than those being recruited temporarily for a campaign. It is certain that these men-at-arms held importance even if they were not officially recognised. There are many examples of commanders in battle relying on the men-at-arms to act as officers, directing the less experienced soldiers and acting as substitute commanders whenever knights were not available or indisposed.
The knights of the Order made up the cavalry of the organisation. To some extent they were an amalgam of the old warrior class of the northern culture and the new nobility that arose as the tribes of Saelnar evolved into the Seven Realms. The honour code of the warriors of the old tribes, whose descendants were called beorns as the lowest rank of nobility, was passed on to the knights; they combined this with the training and equipment of the new nobility.
It was customary for a boy of noble birth to be made a ward of another nobleman, typically an ally of his father, at the age of seven. The boy was then trained as a page until the age of fourteen when he was often returned to his father and given further instructions according to what purpose he was to serve later in life. Sometimes, this exchange took place between the age of fourteen and twenty-one instead or in addition to it. The knights of the Order adopted this practice but to a much greater degree.
At the age of seven, eligible boys were given to the nearest headquarters of the Order. Such was typically located in the capital of whichever realm they are in, except for Thusund, where the Order trained its new knights in Herbergja. For the next seven years, the boys were trained as pages but in limited fashion. They were given instructions in weaponry, they were taught basic mathematics and writing and also history. Their history lessons focused on military history, however, and served to give them a basic understanding of strategy and tactics. It is believed that the teachers of this subject were meant to keep an eye out for any page exhibiting particular talent or insight into such matters; these pages were then made squires for knights that typically held command to help train the next generation of Order commanders.
When around fourteen – it does not seem to matter exactly whether the page is still thirteen in some cases – the pages would become squires. This meant becoming attached to a knight and following him regardless of where he went, whether that means going into war on a campaign or sent to a desolate posting at the Langstan or northern Vidrevi. The squire had several duties towards the knight such as tending to his steed, his armour, weapons, and equipment, and generally acted as a servant. In turn, the knight was expected to continue the squire’s training in fighting, equestrian skills, and generally prepare the squire towards becoming a knight.
When reaching the age of twenty-one – and this age limit, on the other hand, seems to be enforced strictly – the squire was considered of age and could become a knight. This was a highly ritualised practice with several oaths and acts to be carried out. The squire would spend a night in vigil, preparing his spirit for taking the oath of a knight. This was done directly afterwards with one hand upon an altar to one of the gods, and this oath seems to have been considered of utmost importance. All of this is explained in Knight’s Codex, a compilation of all knowledge concerning the Order; it speaks of the extreme value the knights place on their honour and their oaths.
When the squire was ready, he would receive the accolade: the three touches of the sword to his shoulders. Apparently, it was originally done by the high king himself; but this must have proven impractical quickly, especially as knights began to be trained in the other realms. Now it was typically done by the various marshals of the realms, though sources say that technically, any knight could confer the accolade on a squire.
Siege of Tricaster
An example of this event survives to reach us in one of the texts. It concerns a particularly vicious siege of Tricaster in Korndale by invaders from Ealond. As the city fell, the Order garrison defended it step by step, being forced into the city keep, and then defending that step by step as well. In the end, chance would have it that only the knight commander and five squires were left defending the last tower. As they waited for the attackers to break down the door, the commander is said to have knighted each of the squires so that they might die as knights, which they subsequently did. In a twist of cruel irony, while the knight was said to have been heavily wounded in the final battle, he eventually recovered and thus survived as the only one, a testament to his great strength and stamina.
The knight’s name was Etienne, and he remained an extremely popular figure in the legends of Korndale. It is said that once he had healed from his injuries and was released from captivity, he saw to it that the Order recognised the accolades given to the five squires who died in the last defence of Tricaster, ensuring that they were remembered and honoured as knights in death.
Status of the knights
While the regular infantry of the Order without doubt was always an important part in the Order’s victories, serving as a professional, standing army, the knights were the ace that the Order played. Their dedication to warfare made them elite warriors, and their great horsemanship made their cavalry charges rightly feared; none but the most disciplined of enemies were said to stand a chance against a mounted charge of Order knights. With the knights’ loyalty tied towards the high king in Adalrik rather than the vassal kings of the other realms, the knights remained the high king's most important tool in upholding his rule over Adalmearc.
To be eligible as a page and subsequent knighthood, noble birth was required. It seems an exception was made, though, in cases of fatherless boys who were sponsored by a nobleman of status, usually with a monetary gift involved – this seems to have been a favoured method of ensuring illegitimate sons were taken care of without causing a scandal or attaching ties to their birth families. The Order seems to have been very pragmatic on this account.
Becoming a knight was a very popular career for second sons; by this term, the sources seem to mean all sons except the eldest born. In other words, a ‘second son’ was any son not supposed to inherit. While knights could own land and inherit titles, there was a tacit understanding among the nobility that second sons should become knights and thus in a way were disinherited. This also allowed the noble houses to show their allegiance to the high king by granting him their sons to become his knights.
There were exceptions to this tradition of only second sons of landed lords becoming knights, however, especially in Adalrik. The margraves of Alwood, a small and impoverished fief, had a long tradition of being both knights as well as margraves. How exactly they handled this dual responsibility is unknown, but apparently it went well for them, or perhaps they received particular dispensation; the margraves of Alwood are mentioned in the annals on many occasions as being great warriors and a boon for the Order.
While second sons and lords lacking wealth made up a certain segment of the knights, the majority were beorns. These were the descendants of the old tribal warrior class who were in a difficult situation when the feudal society of the early centuries arose. Their ancestry and honour prevented them from doing the work of commoners and make their living that way, but since the kings and feudal lords of ancient Saelnar did not employ standing armies as such, they could not all maintain a life as warriors. The Order solved that problem.
In the Order, they could be employed as warriors full time; more than that, as knights they were highly respected. The Order furthermore paid for their equipment, horses, and everything else required for their status. There are indications that the Order also looked favourably on its beorn knights marrying and having children, since all their sons would by necessity have to become knights as well, thus providing the next generation of warriors.
That being said, it also seems common for knights not to have married. In fact that appears to have been the practice for knights who desired the highest positions within the Order; i.e. becoming a marshal. The thinking seems to be that to devote themselves to the Order as befits such a high position, a knight should not have a family.
Lastly, there are two subgroups of warriors within the Order that deserves brief mention. The first regards the rank of sergeant. This should not be compared or confused with the rank of lieutenant, which designated something entirely different. Lieutenant was a title that was temporary and referred to subordinate commanders of an army. The supreme commander of the army was styled captain while his second-in-command was styled as first lieutenant. The other commanders, leading the flanks or various detachments, was styled lieutenants. The sergeants of the Order were different, however.
There were at any given time more knights than squires. To fill this gap and provide knights without squires an attendant, the position of sergeant was created. In fact it might already have existed; noblemen without connection to the Order were sometimes mentioned as having a sergeant accompanying them. It is also possible though that the Order position was invented first, and the nobility took over the term to distinguish between a manservant or valet, which was common in the South, and an armed servant acting in the same capacity as a squire, which was common in the North.
Despite the apparently servile position of a sergeant, they should not be underestimated. Sergeants serving knight commanders could be very influential, and in battle there were examples of them temporarily taking over leadership of the army when a commander became incapacitated. Most importantly, any man could be a sergeant. While being a squire typically demanded noble blood and that one had served as a page, there were no restrictions on who could serve as sergeants. Whether a knight desired a sergeant rather than a squire, and whom he chose as a sergeant, was entirely up to his discretion; typically they would be chosen among the Order’s men-at-arms, but there was strictly speaking no requirement that a knight’s sergeant was even a soldier in the Order.
The other and very small subgroup of Order soldiers were the Templars. They are rarely mentioned in the annals, however, and do not seem to have played much of a role. They were knights dedicated to the protection of the great Temple in Middanhal, and they seem to have numbered around sixty at most. They were considered the elite of the elite; becoming a Templar demanded further vows of poverty, chastity, and humility. When not on duty, they spent all their time training arms, and they held a reputation as the greatest warriors in all the realms. As with the Knight’s Oath that all knights took, the extra vows of a Templar were for life, and just as with the Knight’s Oath, breaking one of these vows was considered the ultimate disgrace and loss of honour.