Friday Lore Post: Knights in Kyaine

Dolovai’s order of knights is well known for its training, discipline and, mostly, its centrality and total obedience to the Dolovin crown. In Kyaine, knights also exist but are less common and less centralized.

Unlike in Dolovai where only the reigning monarch can anoint someone as a knight, any noble can knight someone in Kyaine. In peacetime, Kyainese knights are generally attached to a specific location such as a fort or castle, and are in charge of the defense of that location. There is typically only one knight at a time, appointed by the local lord to manage that region. These tend to be lifetime appointments given to older servants until they either die or choose to retire, at which time they are replaced. Any knight will have at least a half dozen and sometimes as many as a hundred fighters under his command, depending on the size of the fort or region they’re protecting.

Knights answer directly to the lord who anointed them, but rarely interact with them unless there’s an issue in their region or the lord is visiting. Often the people appointed as knights are senior household guards or bodyguards who have earned a promotion and cannot progress any farther in their current place. In some cases it will be a friend of the family, or a distant relative. It used to be common for third or fourth children or cousins of the sitting lord to be knighted, but that practice has fallen out of favour recently, mostly because it tended to lead to armed rebellions against noble houses by distant relatives who felt disenfranchised.

In peacetime, Kyainese knights work mostly administratively. They tend to remain in their forts, arbitrating minor disputes and seeing to the defense of the region, quelling bandits, training citizens in self-defence, and so on. In times of war, things change very abruptly.

When Kyaine goes to war, the nation’s knights are mobilized and expected to bring the people under their command to fight for their lords, who are expected to be fighting for the crown. Knights become the generals in Kyaine’s army when the army is raised, and are expected to be responsible for troop training and discipline, as well as battle strategy. Whether or not they participate in overall campaign strategy depends on the knight and on the lord, but they generally at least consult, having more experience with tactical and military matters than most lords.

In a battle scenario, knights outrank most nobles, and are expected to be fully in command of all aspects of the battle. Of course this means they are blamed if the battle goes poorly, and many a Kyainese battle has ended with a knight being stripped of rank for losing the battle. Knights are also prime hostages against Kyainese forces. They know all about the Kyainese strategies and therefore the enemy having them is a huge concern, and because they are responsible for overseeing all battles, the war effort cannot continue without them. Many knights are raised in wartime, when a new general is needed for any reason, and often after a war has passed, there are a few years of chaos and uncertainty while the various Kyainese nobles who may have raised new knights try to figure out where to assign them, as knighthood is not a status that can be removed according to Kyainese law.

House DiGorre has knights like any other noble family, but they do not have different status or rank than any other knight, nor do they have any additional duties at any time. There may be more of them because House DiGorre controls such a large swath of lands, but they don’t hold any sway over any other knights in the land—no matter how much they might pretend to. During wartime this has certainly become an issue, but the law is very clear on their status.

The other major difference between Kyainese knights and their Dolovin counterparts is in the training of squires. A knight in Kyaine may have (and often does have) several squires, most of whom will never become knights. Squirehood in Kyaine is an institution that exists both to serve the knights of the kingdom and to provide training and education to youths. It is an apprenticeship of sorts that results in the squire knowing how to fight, but also knowing how to administrate land, settle disputes, understand Kyainese law, and various other skills. When squires are released from their duties after three or four years, they are poised for any number of jobs, and many of them enter the service of the noble houses associated with the knight who trained them, though many do not.

As in Dolovai, Kyainese squires are, of course, expected to be sexually available to their knights at all times. If anything, Kyainese knights actually have more control over their squires sexually than Dolovin knights, having the ability to prevent them from leaving the fort or castle they occupy, for example. Kyainese laws pertaining to knights offer no protections whatsoever to squires, stipulating only that they are to serve their knight unreservedly, and that they will be trained in the ways of law and war in exchange. Many former Kyainese squires report that their period of squirehood was one of informal sexual slavery, some claiming to have been refused clothing for the entire three years of their training, or being made to wear a chastity cage, or to sleep tied to their knight’s bed, or other such inconveniences. Among those who have admitted to being treated in such a way, only a small number have ever complained, and nothing has ever come of these complaints, as squires have effectively no rights under Kyainese law.

Because of the major differences in their systems, Kyainese knights tend to think that the Dolovin way of doing things is silly and that having a centralized order of knights is an invitation for chaos. Similarly, Dolovin knights tend to think that Kyaine’s way of organizing their knights is a sure way to make sure nothing gets done, including victory in wars. But this system works for Kyaine and no attempts to alter it have been made in recent memory, so it will likely continue to stand into the future.

Excerpts from “The Social Institutions of Our Time, Modern Edition,” by Moira Marksadder, published at the Academy for Magecraft in Three Hills, DN 1954.

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