The Knights of Shadow are a religious military order in service to the Lord of Shadow. They are deliberately patterned after the chivalric ideal of knights by their founder, King Halar the Undying, with the instruction that their King should be regarded as the worst of them in all ways. Or, to put it another way, every knight in the Order should strive to be a better human being than the King himself. They generally ignore the technicality that the King is either a blood-sucking monster or the avatar of a god and simply do the best they can to improve themselves in martial skills, general education, and philosophical pursuits. Their purpose is to serve the Lord of Shadow, obviously, but they also serve the Kingdom of Karvalen with their King’s permission. The needs of the Church of Shadow are not enough to keep the bulk of them occupied, so they can be found anywhere there is a Temple of Shadow, assisting the local nobles or serving the royal interests. Primarily, they act to bolster the forces of the city guards, provide magical assistance when the local wizards are not sufficient (or are nonexistent), and generally encourage an adherence to the laws of the kingdom.
The Knights of Shadow are generally divided into three main branches: The Swords, the Shields, and the Banners. Each of these branches is well-trained in what they think of as the essential skills of a knight, but each also specializes in one or more of these skills.
The Swords are generally accepted as the “typical” knight. While any Knight of Shadow will possess considerable skill at arms, the Knights of Swords are the true combatants. In addition to any other studies, they drill relentlessly, constantly striving to be stronger, faster, and more deadly than the day before. Frequently, they are the largest of all the knights and most proficient not only with weapons but with spells to repair their equipment. They also tend to be exceptionally good at first aid, since they routinely work at preventing from each other from dying from wounds received in training.
The Shields are no less martial than the Swords, but a Knights of Shields have a different focus. They are defenders and healers, with the understanding that a good offense is a great defense. They are excellent bodyguards and will often be found volunteering their services to caravans, noblemen, or even accompanying lone travelers simply to have someone to protect. Their magical skills lean more toward healing, defense, and detection, while they rely mostly on their physical prowess to defeat detected threats.
The Banners are easily the least martial of the three orders. Insofar as any Knight of Shadow can be an academic, the Knights of Banners are they. While they regularly practice their martial skills, their magical and social studies fill more of their time. Banners are sometimes called “Wizards of Shadow” in a derogatory way, which can result in a battle of wills or a physical duel, depending on who said it and the knight in question. To date, the Knights of Shadow remain undefeated in these contests. The function of the Banners is to act as ambassadors, negotiators, and diplomats. They are also the most likely to have an extensive education in magical pursuits, which earns them the title of “wizard.” To date, no Knight of Shadow has been sent to Arondael to study with the magicians, but if any of them is ever accepted by the Magician’s Council, it will be a Banner.
Unlike most organizations in Karvalen, the Knights of Shadow do not discriminate on the basis of gender. There are relatively few female Knights of Shadow, however, primarily due to the physical nature of some of the tests for a knight-trainee. The clergy of the Lord of Shadow, however, has no such tests, and it is possible to be a priest or priestess without being a knight.