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Order of the Crimson Guardby James Ruhland
The Order of the Crimson Guard is a Fighting Order intended for high-level and Epic-level campaigns. It is led by the Magistrix of Thyatis, Vivianna Romanones, Lady Knight of Dread. It is the successor unit to the Knights of the Silver Shield, a fighting order that fought under her command during the Final War with Alphatia (aka the "Wrath War") during the later portion of that conflict. The Knights of the Silver Shield never lost a tactical engagement to the enemy during countless fierce engagements, but was forced to withdraw towards Thyatis City as the Thyatian Armies retreated before the Alphatian onslaught. By the time they stood at the Mesonian River, the Order's numbers had been significantly depleted, but those who remained were battle-hardened veterans with considerable experience and the unit had received several commendations from the Emperor and the Senate, and numerous battle streamers flew from the Order's Standard, and the Order of the Silver Shield readied itself for a final climatic battle for Thyatis City, a battle that never came. After Alphatia was destroyed and the Final War between the two Empires ended, the Order of the Silver Shield's numbers decreased yet again as several members departed to seek their fortunes in other pursuits. While a majority of the survivors remained in the Magestrix's service, the Order of the Silver Shield had served its purpose and needed an infusion of new blood. It was reconstituted as the Order of the Crimson Guard, and began to recruit new members under that designation, while retaining the spirit of the Order of the Silver Shield.
It's purpose, as defined by the Magestrix, is to be guardians of Thyatis and civilisation (as she understands it). The Order serves her directly, as strike troops and aerial security, performing missions as directed by the Lady Knight and her deputies. They were vital in pacifying the plateau of the Isle of Dread and its underground caverns, and are vital now in securing it from interlopers. Their current primary external missions are centred on performing strikes against monsters in the Shadow Coast of the Isle of Dawn and against the Thratian resistance in the Thyatian Hinterlands of Davania.
Like the Knights of the Air, the Order of the Crimson Guard is mobilised on Thyatis' behalf during time of war.
The normal uniform of the Crimson Guard is a mithral breastplate +2, worn under a crimson tunic. The tunic has gold braid and black collar tabs. Its flap is buttoned asymmetrically over the right breast. Over the left breast, the heart, is the Order's crest (see below for description). A black leather belt is worn around the waist, with a silver buckle upon which the Order's crest is enamelled. From the belt a crimson rapier scabbard hangs, the rapier (+2) having a gilded hilt emblazoned with a two-headed eagle grasping twin lightning bolts. They wear crimson trousers with a black line running down the side of the leg and black leather boots. This is topped off by a open-faced helmet with a sweeping neck guard and small "bill", which is tightly wrapped in white cloth. On the front of the helmet the unit crest is worn as a cap badge. When dismounted, a case for a short composite bow of distance (+2) and arrow case is worn. When mounted, these are attached to the mount, and a Thunder Lance is wielded as well. A buckler bearing the unit crest is carried at all times.
The "subdued" uniform, worn when stealth is considered important, is similar in design to the above, but is forest green instead of crimson, as is the helmet's cover. Special weapons (adamantine, silvered, etc) are available in the unit's armoury, and they will have the appropriate equipment when it is known it will be useful.
A (circular) shield with a silver background emblazoned with a crimson sunburst, within which is a golden two-headed eagle grasping a lightning-bolt in each claw, each lightning-bolt curved to resemble a sabre. Six five-pointed crimson stars form a semicircle below the sunburst, and an 8-pointed crimson star is centred atop the sunburst.
The silver shield represents the unit's heritage as the successor to the Knights of the Silver Shield. The eagle-and-sunburst is the Magestrix's coat of arms. The 8-pointed star represents the Magestrix, and the six five-pointed stars each commemorate a fallen member of the Knights of the Silver Shield.
The unit's official motto is "Custodeamus Civilis", meaning "We Guard Civilisation" in Old Thyatian, embodying what the Magestrix sees as their primary purpose. It has an unofficial motto as well, "AAA - 0", which stands for "Anything, Anytime, Anyplace, bar none", which is commonly used by the troops and left in their wake on "calling cards" or as graffiti. The Order of the Crimson Guard routinely fights on other planes and worlds, under any imaginable condition.
The total number of Knights in the Order of the Crimson Guard is difficult to establish, but is estimated at between 60 and 80, including the various cohorts with the rank of Knight that are sworn to the Lady Knight. About half the Order's membership are agents of the Magestrix, Cohorts reporting directly to her and her closest advisers, in her direct service. The rest form a military unit as described below.
The main body of Order of the Crimson Guard consists of 4 Flights, which in total include roughly half the membership of the Order. Each Flight is divided into 2 Wings. In each Flight, A Wing consists of 1 Paladin 16/Rogue 1, 1 Cleric 16/Rogue 1, 1 Wizard 5/Fighter 1/Rogue 1/Eldrich Knight 10, 1 Fighter 16/Rogue 1. B Wing consists of 1 Bard 17, 1 Cleric 16/Rogue 1, 1 Wizard 5/Fighter 1/Rogue 1/Eldrich Knight 10, and 1 Fighter 16/Rogue 1. All members of both teams are Half-Celestial and Axiomatic as a result of spells cast on them by the Magestrix. All have half-Celestial Dragonnels as mounts which have likewise been rendered Axiomatic as a result of the same spell.
The Order of the Crimson Guard thus has a fighting strength of 32, or 64 with their mounts (which are intelligent and participate fully in battle). It may not be large, but due to the skill of its members and the powers of their mounts, even a single Flight can make a difference in battle, especially when dragons and other agents loyal to the Magestrix are attached.
The Knights of the Silver Shield had a peak membership of 250, of which half were full-fledged Knights and half were "Sergeants". Towards the end of the war, the strength of the Knights of the Silver Shield had dropped to 125. All the remaining original members were Knights, the "Sergeants" having been awarded Knighthood by that time. But just over half of the unit consisted of official members of the Order. The rest were troops picked up from other units - stragglers and survivors of units that had disintegrated or soldiers who had lost contact with their unit and voluntarily attached themselves to the Silver Shield. After the conclusion of the war, these troops reported to other units in most cases. Then several Knights were released from service to the Order, as noted in the unit's history. What remained was a core of about 40 Knights of the Silver Shield. Over the next year, the Order was reorganised as the Crimson Guard, and additional members recruited - mainly from other planes and worlds. The Order's strength was brought up to 64 by this method.
Attrition over the years has brought the Order's strength down to its current level, though rarely as casualties as (permanent) death is rare in the Order. The Magestrix is maintaining it at 64, including the mounts, which were recruited in battles for Arcadia/Nemansus. All members are Thyatian citizens with the noble rank of Knight, though only about half of them are Thyatian by birth. They are completely dedicated to the Lady Knight of the Order and the spirit she espouses.
Many are under the assumption that Thyatian aerial units have limited strategic mobility. However, the Order of the Crimson Guard is just one unit that disproves this faulty assumption. Indeed, it is far cheaper easier to teleport or otherwise magically move a unit mounted on flying creatures than it is to enchant a skyship to teleport.
A typical OCG operation begins with divinatory and scrying reconnaissance by the Magestrix, a simulacrum of her, or high-level spellcasters who are her senior Cohorts. A target is detected and intelligence on it is gathered. Then a Flight is briefed on all relevant characteristics of the target, its location, behaviour, geographical features, and anything else that is deemed significant information. Their maxim is to win the battle before the first arrow is fired, through planning and preparation, but they are not rigid and understand that plans are meant to be changed.
A full range of protective and enhancing spells will be cast on the members of the Flight before it sorties. Then a Teleport Circle, Worldwalk, or Gate(s) is cast, through which the unit moves, quickly taking flight over the enemy. Indeed, this is why Gates are often used, as it is possible to arrive in flight (while one can only Teleport from a surface to another surface - one cannot Teleport from midair or to midair). Tactics like this were perfected by the Thyatians in their conflicts with Alphatia, and allowed the Thyatian RAF and Knights of the Air to intercept Alphatian skyships encroaching on the Empire.
A wing will then strike the enemy, usually by surprise, with the other wing of that flight in overwatch nearby. Back at the Order's base, another Flight is at ready, and will sortie to the battlefield (again by transdimensional movement) if necessary. Divinatory scrying contact and telepathic bond contact is maintained with the unit in combat at all times, facilitating communication and coordination of the battle. Usually it is overkill to send the Order of the Crimson Guard to fight the enemy forces they battle, but the Magestrix does not believe in a fair fight - she believes in destroying the enemies of Thyatis and civilisation in the most efficient and effective manner, one that does not cost Thyatian lives.
The Order of the Crimson Guard believes in hitting the enemy fast and hard and is meticulous in attempting to insure every advantage before the battle even begins. Battle tactics are flexible, but normally conform to the following procedure when mounted. Dismounted (land) tactics tend to be similar, mounts may be present or not, but instead of flight they use foot movement (though spells for flight may be used where appropriate): The Wing tasked with engaging the enemy (designated "battle wing") will wingover and swoop down, firing spells, arrows, and blasts of Dragonnel breath into them. The overwatch Wing will stay out of the range of enemy arrows, and fire their own bows and spells in support of the battle wing. The battle Wing will then close with the remaining enemy to melee, using spells and melee weapons while the overwatch Wing will pepper enemies not in direct contact with the battle Wing, using arrows, powers/special abilities, and spells.
If the battle Wing encounters difficulty or it is otherwise deemed helpful, the overwatch Wing will quickly move in to support them with additional healing and enhancement spells, and engage the enemy. If they are fighting a foe that is giving them any difficulty and seems to be their match, the ready Flight will arrive in the battle on the third Round. If trouble continues, six of the Magestrix's Epic Cohorts will arrive after two additional Rounds. If they cannot defeat the foe, the Magestrix and her companions, including her dragon mount (Chrystonion) and a Golden Wyrm (generated by a Rod of the Wyrm) will arrive two rounds later to engage the foe. Any enemy requiring this level of response will be noted, should they survive the battle, and some follow-up (not necessarily hostile) will be made on them. Should they be deemed intransigently opposed to the Order's goals, they will be marked for elimination. The Lady Knight does not believe in letting foes survive to fight another day, and if they cannot be persuaded to align with her goals, the Order will be ruthless in eliminating them.
If a member of the Order falls in battle, great lengths are taken to recover that member, as the Crimson Guard lives by the axiom "never leave a fallen comrade". This enables the Order to heal or resurrect casualties. But none of the above should lead one to believe the Order will fight to their last man in any given battle. If they are taking losses against a superior foe, they are not above withdrawing, though they will generally attempt to re-engage the foe on terms more favourable to themselves at the soonest possible time, as it is believed that any opponent capable of withstanding the Order is a major threat, and priority will be given to eliminating that threat. Diplomacy and persuasion are often used by the Magestrix and her agents, however, as a method of transforming a threat into an ally. When this is not possible, however, the "hard option" is used, as is being done against the remaining Thratian resistance in the Hinterlands, and enemies in the Shadow Coast of the Isle of Dawn in an effort to pacify those regions for Thyatis and open them further to colonisation and the spread of civilisation. The Order, and its leader, tends to consider the Empire and civilisation synonymous - though not exclusively so, as Alphatians do. They accept that there are other nations that are civilised, but consider the Thyatian Empire to be the "Beacon of Civilisation" and its protector against chaos and disorder.