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General Organisation of the Order -- 4. Joining the Order

by Bruce Heard

One may wonder why would people willingly join the Heldannic Order. By far the largest number of volunteers comes from the humblest kind. Volunteers come from native Heldann families but also from neighbouring countries. Another important source of priests and knights are the countless sergeants serving among the indentured soldiers, seeking to improve their condition. To outsiders, the Order offers a number of attractions ranging from food and shelter for the meekest, to adventures in faraway lands, or even anonymity and a new life for those on the run from debt or another land's law. All the Order requires at first is that recruits adopt a new name, thereby severing ties with their civilian life. Other than priests of other faiths, one may find all sorts of people from every walk of life among the Order, from runaway serfs to fallen nobility.

Serving Brethren: Those desiring to join the Order normally meet Chaplains of the Hammer whose responsibility is to carefully explain the conditions of life in the Order and its duties. Wealth and personal freedom become a thing of the past. Instead, the new brother is initiated to the hardships of the Order, its laws, discipline, and the sense of belonging to a brotherhood lying above one's own death. The newcomer is given the brown robe of the Serving Brother. For a year, the newcomer experiences in particular the austerity of his condition, handling all menial tasks for priests and knights alike. Serving Brethren may be sent to abbeys and other garrisons where their help may be needed, and report to the local Chaplain. As Serving Brethren labour through their daily chores, Chaplains begin their indoctrination and the evaluation of their skills. The most fortunate are the ones with useful labour skills acquired before they joined the Order. These include blacksmiths, scribes, cooks, carpenters, and so on.

Novices: If after a year the Chaplains feel a Serving Brother does not have what it takes to pursue life in the Order, they offer the newcomer to remain a Serving Brother permanently or to leave the Order. If the Brother's behaviour is deemed unacceptable, expulsion occurs before the end of the year. If on the other hand, the Serving Brother proves worthwhile and willing to remain, the Chaplains hold the ceremony where one takes the Oath of Service. The Chaplains then allow the newcomer to become a squire or a novice priest. Noviciate goes on for an undetermined length of time, depending on the novice's abilities. A squire may be required to serve a brother knight for several years. In times of crisis, talented squires may become Brother Knights in just a few months. A novice priest may need several years as well to study theology and master other aspects of the future Prior's area of devotion. When complete, the new Brother Knight or the new Prior receive their proper attire and equipment, and are transferred to their first assignment, most likely a commanderie or an abbey. Priors join one of the three clerical branches, depending on their skills.