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Heldannic Knights -- The Anvil of BloodBy Bruce Heard
The Anvil of Blood
It is the sanctum sanctorum of the Order, a sect of priests from The Hammer guarding Vanya's artifact at the Holy Citadel in Davania. The sect is legitimate among the Order and known of most priests of The Hammer and the upper ranks of the other two branches. It includes only those priests who have at some point in their life guarded the artifact. These guards cannot reveal to anyone their function as present or past guardians of the artifact. The sect itself chooses who they want to join their ranks. The choice is communicated to the recipient through an anonymous message slid under one's door in the middle of the night, which the recipient may decline by not responding. Else, the recipient is to come to pray or confess at a specific time and place (most likely a chapel or a confessional expected to be empty at the time). Further instructions are left there for the recipient.
A special antechamber at the Holy Citadel leads to various chapels and priories under the fortress. Only one person may enter the antechamber at a time, and not until its previous occupant has exited. Inside the antechamber are several doors leading out. One of them requires a special mechanism to unlock. It leads to the area of the citadel that only the Anvil of Blood may access. The guardian must then put on a special uniform left on the other side of the door. It consists of red-enamelled armour and face-concealing helm, as well as a crimson tabard. Members of the sect come and go at different times to avoid meeting at the door. Few of the members know each other as a result, other than the handful controlling the sect. They are known simply as the Guides. The rest is part of a well choreographed series of actions to rotate and replace the guardians so the artifact always has at least twelve guardians at all times.
The members of the sect are sworn to defend the artifact with their life, and leave on a quest to retrieve it should it be stolen. A swift death awaits those who would reveal their function or anything about the artifact. If found lacking in any way, the guardian will find the door's intricate mechanism has changed, which is a clear sign one must depart. Members of the sect are considered the cream of the crop among priests of The Hammer, and all have in common that they had been awarded the cord.