"I wear the coat of arms with pride. Pride intermingled with regret. The things I've done, the treachery I've seen, it is not measurable or understandable in natural life, but history is written in centuries. By the grace of the gods, our tale might be told with empathy. I was first recruited under Empress Kallazir, whose reign taught me that life is fragile and subject to the whims of the rich. After her was Lord Jasperous, whose reign taught me that there are things in this world which wealth cannot buy. And so, on and on, ruler by ruler, I have watched the formation of our world. The same magic tattooed on my skin is the magic that will not let me die. That is what it means to be KingsGuard. KingsGuard is eternal."
The Holy Kingsguard is undying, and the only reprieve from the blood oath is death. Kingsguards come from all of the intelligent races of the Realm of Burning Mountains, Jüllest. They are sworn by an ancient magical pact to dwell at the right hand of the ruler of the Realm for all of their natural lives. Orcs, Elves, and Humans shoulder-to-shoulder in protection of the throne. You'll know them by the sickle upon their coat of arms; an emblem that they earned through the dealing of death and the routing of sedition's weeds.
To enter the Kingsguard is not a goal, but, rather, a birthright. The Royal Shamans determine which of the Realm's newborn children are meant to replace any Kingsguards fallen in combat, though the occasion is rarely called. They divine against the ancient scrolls of Hall'oek, which were discovered centuries ago among the sands of the Hail Desert. The three Shamans-- Orriga, Ichthilia, and Horace-- represent the three races of the Jüllest, and have lived longer than any can measure. Even the most ancient of the Kingsguard remember no other Shaman. Their Magic is unparalleled. Many say that they are the true rulers of the Realm, though they vehemently deny it.
The birthright is granted by the Twisting of the Knife. It is an ancient and revered ceremony that has not been witnessed in generations, but its ritual can be found among the stories told in the windows of the Glass Cathedral. It is the only modern instance of human sacrifice not considered taboo. Infants of the required race are brought by their parents from all across the Realm on the perilous climb to the summit of Marc-Juman, the tallest of the flaming mountains. Here reside the Shamans. Ichthilia, the coldest of the Shamans, plunges an ancient knife into the eye socket of an unwilling sacrifice (in old times it was a virgin, now it is a condemned prisoner) and collects the fluids expelled in a pewter chalice. The chalice is emptied upon the infants one by one-- drop by drop. The first infant to consume the blood is chosen, and the spells of Kingsguard are performed immediately. The Child is forfeit to the whims of the Shamans.
Some Kingsguards grow to resent their roles of servitude to a crown dictated by divine right, but, in the words of the ancient tomes:
"Rule they have by the heavens' rites, But obedience comes from hellish might."
The "hellish might" both is provided by and controls the Kingsguards, who, with one swift action, could easily conquer and claim the Realm. When a Kingsguard strays from the cult, they are rapidly and brutally dealt with. The ferocity of these troops is unmatched by the individual armies of the Kingdoms. This brutality may be a deterrent, but it doesn't stop some rebels from dissenting against the Holy Throne. Not the least of these threats is the Orcine Tribune.
The Orcine Tribune are followers of the old ways of the Orcs, carried through the generations by the scribes and storytellers of the once nomadic, seafaring people. Led by exKingsguards (if such a thing can truly exist) Brackis, Ollerk, and Fradg, the Tribune, in spite of the implications of its name, welcomes all disenfranchised citizens of Jüllest. The tradition of the Orcs states that no one is free when commanded by another, and no land can be conquered, for no being can control the Earth. Even the Tribune itself is only considered leadership because they are followed in their endeavors by like-minded folk.
Parallel to the Orcine Tribune are the Hillwaynes. The Hillwayne (or Dying Hills, as it translates) largely remain above the troubles and squabblings of Jüllest, due to their perpetual development of the school of Arcana. In constant pursuit of god-like enlightenment-- or, some would argue, power-- the Hillwayne intermingle with their counterparts in the realm only in times of great crisis. As you will soon see, one of these crises may soon be at hand.
The Kingsguard, to digress from distractions, is currently entangled with a rogue faction of the Orcin Tribune, known as the Glu'laq. The Glu'laq give praise and deference to the Elder Gods-- a clutch of divinities that are responsible for the early turmoil of Cantor. These gods were never widely followed in Jüllest, but hold a dark attraction to those easily enticed by the power of chaotic cleansing. Jüllest has recently been overwhelmed by an onslaught of Young Giants, or ogres, that plague all peoples of the Realm. They are a horrid caste of vicious creatures that despise the daylight and all things that make their home within it. Ogres dig themselves out of the ground, typically attracted by the bustling of life on the surface. No one knows from whence they come, but it is widely suspected that they are summoned by the Glu'laq through the unholy rite of living sacrificial burial.
The Ogres can be found in all corners of the realm. High mountain and under hill. Cross river and twixt streams. All corners. They pillage home and farm and city alike, and they show no mercy. If the legends are true, the beloved dead are trapped, soul and all within the Ogre until it is slain. It is the work of the Kingsguard to route these creatures from the land. For the good of the Ruler, and the good of the people, they must determine who is behind this onslaught. Now, whose side are you on?
A Tale by Chronic the Scribe