The Hellknights are a collection of knightly orders with a unique focus on the promulgation of law. They are interested less in the social goodness and charity typical of paladins, but rather in the foundation and stringent maintenance of order at all costs. In their iron-handed exaction of law—specifically, the laws of their various orders and their home country of Cheliax—Hellknights emulate the most organized and effective armies in all the planes: the legions of Hell. They are not concerned with morality or methods, only results. If people cannot be trusted to obey the law out of their own senses of civility and social righteousness, Hellknights provide the need to obey out of fear of a master’s stern hand.
Regardless of their severity, Hellknights are not an evil group. Although there are doubtlessly numerous evil members—particularly among the upper echelons of power—the majority of the orders are impartial arbiters and enforcers of order and justice. They see the study of Hell’s tenets and even the summoning of devils as tools meant to intimidate and strengthen the individual resolve of the orders’ members. Hellknights are taught to replace emotion with steely discipline. They train with summoned devils, the signifers of their orders coaxing the ingenuity of diabolical tactics from infernal tongues, while the rank and file members spar against the very denizens of Hell—making nearly any future conflict a far less daunting prospect. They learn that sacrifices must often be made for the greater good, obey draconian regimens of military conduct, commit to encyclopaedic memorization of the laws of their orders and local governing bodies, and undergo constant drills to train their bodies and minds.
While Hellknights are widely feared and respected, the common Hellknight joins out of a sense of duty and a wish to be a part of something greater, seeing a world ruled by laws and free of rampaging beasts and cheating thieves as a future well worth striving toward, even at the sacrifice of freedom. Countries and rulers sometimes invite Hellknights into their lands, leaving the dirty business of harsh law enforcement to an already loathed third party, although convincing Hellknights to leave once they’ve been welcomed sometimes proves problematic for more freedom-loving societies.
The leader of a Hellknight order is known as the lictor, while a leader whose training is more scholarly and less martial is known as a vicarius. Beneath him are an order’s master or mistress of blades (field commanders) and paravicar (leader of the order’s arcane/religious forces). Beneath them, paralictors (Hellknight officers), signifers (Hellknight spellcasters), rank and file Hellknights, and armigers (Hellknights in training) flesh out the ranks.
There are numerous orders of Hellknights. Most have holdings in Cheliax, but a few have expanded or moved to operate outside the country, most typically in regions formerly held by the empire. There are seven major orders:
- Order of the Rack at Citadel Rivad near Westcrown (Cheliax)
- Order of the Scourge at Citadel Demain near Egorian (Cheliax)
- Order of the Nail at Citadel Vraid near Korvosa (Varisia)
- Order of the Godclaw at Citadel Dinyar in the Aspodell Mountains (Isger)
- Order of the Chain at Citadel Gheradesca near Corentyn (Cheliax)
- Order of the Gate at Citadel Enferac near Pezzack (Cheliax)
- Order of the Pyre at Citadel Krane near Ostenso (Cheliax)