Beneath the Golden Moon
The Order of the Checkered Shield
The Order of the Checkered was founded in 1322 by the King of Kanday,
Andasin I, in conjunction with the Laranian
Church. The brief history of the
interactions between this Order, the Laranian
Church and the Order of Hyvrik provides
much of the background for the development of this institution.
The following story is one telling of the foundation of the Order.
It was a stormy day, when his Lordship Andasin I awoke in terror,
alone in the large bed. His face was covered with sweat, and with the
early morning light barely breaking through the clouds, he wondered
briefly if he was still dreaming. But he remembered his wife's visit
to her parents, and reality fell into place around him.
"Oh goddess." he murmured softly in horrified shock as his dream
slowly came back to him. "It must be stopped!"
"I dreamt it, Regee," Adasin said later in the privacy of his study.
His friend, Sir Reginald of Bright Haven, sighed. He'd known Andasin a
long time. Slowly he sat, knowing his leader's eyes were upon him, and
smiled. He leaned back into the comfort of the velvet-lined, oaken
chair and placed his muddy riding boots atop the king's desk, with a
contempt for the title that only long term friendship can build.
"So what do you want me to do about it?" he asked, his war-torn face
breaking into a crinkled smile. Andasin chuckled and smiled back. "Do
you remember when we were still young?" Regee asked with a dreamy look
on his still-smiling face.
"Aye. When the sunlight through the glass windows in chapel used to
dazzle us." He glanced at his friends dirty boots, then away. His
private study was small in comparison to other rooms, but it still
felt cavernous somehow.
"And the raised voices of the brothers and sisters in hymn." Regee
sighed. "Why not tell the congregation of old men you're supposed to
have to council you?"
Andasin smiled at his friend's blasphemy. Regee was more devout than
he, but you'd never know it from listening to the man. "Perhaps I
should." Andasin said, getting up from his seat, and pushing his
friend's muddy boots off the desk at the same time.
"My fellow devotees. Last night... The Lady of Paladins gave me a
dream. I saw a giant, black hand reaching out from cloudy skies. The
thunder rolled and lightening flew from the gloved fingers -
towns and villages were destroyed. I watched as whole families died -
surrounded by flames - they burned and melted as though made of wax.
Villages became embers and charred, lifeless husks on a melted
sea of boiling wax.
"Slowly, from over the ridge there rose a mounted knight. First one,
then two, then a hundred armed and armored men's horses crested the
rise. The lightning showed me their colors - those of the order of
Hyvrik. They stood before the oncoming storm - and those towns lying
further still, to the south. Their horses didn't flinch from the
thunder, and beyond them, the storm clouds could not build.
"The horses moved forward, and as they did the molten landscape grew
cool. Blackened earth sprouted green, and the embers and husks grew
over with vines, and trees and wildflowers.
"But the storm, while pushed back, did not abate. It remained there,
growing in strength until... until I felt it would overcome the
knights. At that point a knight turned to me, but it was an empty husk
of armor - it had no face. Hollow, I knew it would soon crumble before
"I awoke with the clear knowledge that a holy order of The Lady of
Paladins must be founded to confront this dark hand. Its colors were
that of Hyvrik, and it shall be called The Checkered Shield!"
To Regee's surprise, the old men energetically rose to their feet and
applauded their king. "Hun. Good speech." he said softly, nodding from
an alcove at the king, like a father to a son on his first oral
presentation. "Well, when he sets his mind to something..." Regee
shrugged and silently left the cathedral, not wanting to take part in
the politics that would follow.
Make no mistake, the Order of the Checkered Shield is a fighting
order. They are Laranians, all of them, and fiercely so, but that does
not change this basic fact. Anything which impedes their primary
function - fighting and winning - is removed or adapted to suit. In
the case of the Meken, particularly at Menekod and its neighbouring
chapter houses, this has meant some quite considerable changes in
standard Laranian doctrine and thought.
It is appropriate, however, to present first the more orthodox and
visible view of the Order's philosophy - the Code of the Melana. This
is not laid out formally anywhere, but is presented here in a
summarised format. The general tenor of the Code should be clear from
Because it is the Code of the nobility, of the mounted knights, it is
the main influence for the view others have of the Order. However, the
Melana are a fraction of the number of soldiers in the Order; the
Meken outnumber them greatly, and (according to themselves) bear the
brunt of the real fighting. They have a very different outlook, one
which is occasionally termed "Menekod Laranianism", though it is
rarely spoken of directly.
- In the heat of battle, it is honor that comes before Victory.
- Followers must be brave, compassionate and Honourable in all tasks,
words and deeds.
- The most honorable battle is one with no hope of victory for a
cause that is just.
- The culture of the land is yet another person to be protected from
the wrongs of injustice.
- A knight must be motivated by duty to his vassals, servants, his
lawful superiors and to his clan.
- All battles, even against one's own brethren, must be fought
- In battle, quarter may be offered, and accepted with honor.
- If one's opponent is evil, quarter should be offered, but not
- To defeat, yes, but never must an honorable knight slay nor maim
- Combat to sharpen one's skills must always be friendly, and fought
only to the first blood.
- Challenges, for rites of passage, or tournaments must also be
fought in a friendly fashion, and always with honor.
- Trials by combat will let Her Ladyship of Justice determine who is
This "common" view is quite simply derived from what has already been
mentioned. The aim is not only to protect; it is to fight, and to
win. A lost fight is of no use; doomed heroics belong to stories - and
In order to fight and win, the soldiers must be extremely proficient
killers. They are trained to be so, and their religion is used both as
a justification for their existence, and as a spur to achieving this
standard of excellence. Service to the Goddess is synonymous with
being a good soldier, killing the enemies of Larani. By shedding the
blood of the impure, the One who Bleeds is renewed and
The focus on Larani, indeed, is perhaps greater among the Meken than
anyone else, both in the Order and outside it. Every trio is named
after a saint, every Ûnir is named after a period in the
Laranian Calendar, which is represented also on the banners of each
Ûnir. Mekednir lead the men and women under their command in
prayer, before meals, before battle. Emblems are carried, oaths are
sworn, kills are dedicated, and trophies are sacrificed.
Naturally, of course, there is some variation between individuals;
some are more devout than others, some are less fanatical than
others. Nonetheless, it is fair to say that the Meken are warriors of
the Goddess indeed, at least in their own definition.
Duties of the Order
The Order was created a hundred years ago as a force to guard the
borders of Kanday, in particular the land borders in the north. Since
that time Kanday has grown considerably larger, but this purpose
In addition to this directive, however, are numerous other duties. The
Order is charged with protecting groups and individuals within Kanday
- priests of both Larani and Peoni being the most common case. The
military power of the Order is expected to be at the service of the
King of Kanday, at least to some extent, and their prowess is
frequently called upon for smaller matters.
There are two main types of soldier at Menekod: the Meken (common
soldiers) and the Melana (the knights). While only those of noble
rank can be Melana, anyone can be a Meken - though few gentles
are. Additionally, only nobles may occupy the officer ranks of the
The smallest unit size among the Meken is the trio, which consists of
two Meken (this word can refer either to any common soldier, or the
lowest rank among these soldiers) and a Baseka, who leads them. There
are three trios to a Ûnir, which is the basic operative unit,
and they are led by a Mekednir. This unit of ten soldiers are the core
around which patrols of all sorts are formed, and generally work
independently of other Ûnir, except in large confrontations.
Mekednir is the highest rank open to non-nobles; above this is the
Tirman, who commands when more than one Ûnir is deployed in the
same situation, and the Akrana, who (during the off-season) acts much
as a Tirman. Finally, above all of these is the Reblena of the Meken;
at Menekod this person is supreme commander of not only all Meken at
Menekod, but all Meken in the Order of the Checkered Shield.
During the off-season at Menekod, there are typically four Ûnir;
in 1320 there are five, with the fifth unit being a pseudo-military
group of those with nonetheless useful skills.
Within the Melana there are only two rank divisions: Melana
(Companion) who are attached to a full Melana, and full Melana. Melana
(Companions) are those who have not yet been fully inducted into the
Order of the Checkered Shield (see below).
There are, however, large differences in status between the Melana,
and this is just as important as differences of rank to the Meken. All
twelve Melana serving at Menekod in 1320 are commanded by the Reblena
of the Melana.
Membership in the Order
Everyone who joins the Order of the Checkered Shield becomes an
Initiate, much as those who join the priesthood become acolytes. Only
after some time (normally a few years) are they advanced to full
member status; the advancement depends on performance both at the
tasks of the position and also on religious grounds.
Intiates who are Melana are Melana (Companions), by definition. Meken
who are initiates may rise to the rank of Baseka (though this is
rare), but no further.
The religious side of membership in the Order is a matter of more
importance to the Meken than the nobles. The latter go through a
relatively straight-forward induction into orthodox Larnianism, and
advancement to full member status is mostly a matter of demonstrating
familiarity of and dedication to standard Laranian ideals. For the
Meken, matters are somewhat less trivial. The religion of the Meken is
such that the troops themselves play a large part in administering to
the "spiritual needs" of themselves and other soldiers. Thus there is
far more to learn and absorb, since there is a greater amount of
"practice" (in the sense of performance of duties) than the nobles are
In the Menekod region, the conflict between the Order and the Agrikan
Order of the Company of the Copper Hook is the dominant focus of the
military side of the Order. As part of this conflict, the following
activities, among others, occur:
- Reconnaissance patrols
- These patrols consist of a lightly armoured Ûnir,
occasionally all mounted, spending anything from a day to a week
travelling through Kandayan lands and along the border with Rethem. It
is not a battle group, and are meant to avoid engagement with any
enemy sighted. Melana are not present in such patrols, unless the
Meken are without mounts (which is often the case).
- Guard patrols
- More heavily armoured and equipped than a reconnaissance patrol,
these groups generally consist of a Ûnir accompanied by one or
more Melana. While they are required to act only within Kandayan
borders, their purpose is to seek out and engage the enemy if
encountered. Such patrols typically last for no more than a few days,
and are often sent out in response to a previous sighting of enemy
- Defensive strikes
- Defensives strikes occur when a large enemy force is discovered
inside Kanday or near the border. Depending on the size of the threat,
anything from two Ûnir and several Melana are sent out to engage
and destroy or rout the enemy. Such missions are relatively rare, and
normally take place during the summer months, when the Order has its
full complement of troops.
The Order is a political as well as a military power (in as much as
the two can be divided). It possesses extensive lands, which gives the
Chabla of the Order the status, powers and responsibilities of a
secular lord. This is complemented by the religious nature of the
Order, and their association with both the Laranian
Church and the Order of Hyvrik, making
the Order of the Checkered Shield quite a power to be reckoned with in
The Order of the Checkered Shield is a religious fighting order, and
as such it falls under the jurisdiction of the Laranian Church in most, if not all,
circumstances. Its members are tried under canon law, usually by a
member of the Laranian Church but sometimes by
the Chabla of the Order.
Attitudes Towards the Order
The attitudes non-members bear towards the Order vary wildly between
great admiration and appreciation for it, and intense irritation at
its very existence - both extremes often being held by the same
person. For many nobles see that the Order brings great benefits - a
safe northern border being the primary one - but cannot help but feel
that it has far too much military and political power. For not only is
the Order militarily strong, it is also a great holder of land, and
therefore secular power. To cap it all off, its members are considered
clergy in that they are protected by canon law, and so are outside the
normal jurisdiction of secular rulers. Often this amounts to an air of
"untouchability" about members of the Order - something which
naturally makes others rather nervous.
The great power of the Order, coupled with the well-known military
skill and strong religious belief of its soldiers, ensures that
secular rulers tend not to enjoy any dealings with the Order, except
from a safe distance.
My thanks to Rebecca Downey for some of the material used on this