- For other meanings of "Hellknight", please see Hellknight (disambiguation).
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 organized and effective armies 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.1
Daidian Ruel and the White Plague
The family of Daidian Ruel, a Wiscrani worshiper of Aroden, was killed by members of the demonic Path of Grace cult in 4575 AR as part of the years-long White Plague of murder and suicide. Ruel was refused justice by cult collaborators among Westcrown's upper classes, and he abandoned his faith and formed a vigilante posse to capture, beat, and kill the cultists. The Westcrown Dottari did not approve of his vigilante methods and arrested him in Sarenith of 4576 AR, but his followers broke him out of prison—against his own orders—hours later and absconded to Fort Rivad, then a Taldan ruin.234
Ruel subsequently returned to the city and gave an impassioned speech indicting Cheliax's inaction against corruption and chaos before King Gaspodar, who was so moved that he pardoned Ruel and commissioned him to form a new knightly order. The speech, now known as "Merciless", remains one of the Hellknights' most important philosophical texts.234
Founding of the Hellknights
By Sarenith of 4577 AR, Ruel's order defeated the Path of Grace, and a grateful King Gaspodar gave Fort Rivad to be the knights' permanent home and authorized its restoration into Citadel Rivad,24 which was completed in Neth of 4580 AR.2 Ruel's public and repeated rejection of Aroden led the god's followers to dub the group "Hellknights", a denigration that Ruel defiantly adopted and which effectively made Ruel the first Hellknight.24 Ruel recruited his ally Sheel Leroung to his cause; Leroung would go on to form the Order of the Gate at Citadel Enferac in 4599 AR and is known as the first Hellknight signifer.5
Ruel became obsessed with the thought that the soul of his son, who died by cult-encouraged suicide, was damned to Hell's topmost layer of Avernus, and sought Leroung's aid in summoning devils and interrogating them for information. Ruel incidentally learned much about how Hell organized its legions, and in respect of those methods incorporated them into the Hellknights'.24
However, Ruel came under the influence of Voulgarghas, a gelugon, who convinced him to search for ways to save his son's lost soul. In Calistril of 4589 AR, Ruel disappeared on the same night as a fire at Citadel Rivad's library and the death of one of Leroung's apprentices. He was never seen again, and while Hellknights believe Voulgarghas knows of Ruel's fate, the gelugon has kept that knowledge secret.67
Regardless of their severity, Hellknights are not an inherently evil group; they are wholly unconcerned with morality. Although there are numerous evil members—particularly among their upper echelons—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.8 Hellknights are taught to replace emotion with steely discipline,9 and are not interested in methods: only the end results matter.1
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 have been welcomed sometimes proves problematic for more freedom-loving societies.8
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.8
Every order of Hellknights has a distinctive, intimidating style of full plate armor that distinguishes them from the others810 that is only allowed to be worn after the individual Hellknight has defeated a devil in combat.11 All Hellknights wear the armor of their order as a matter of pride and are rarely seen without it. The Order of the Nail's armor, for example, features a horned helm and demon-faced breastplate.8
Organization and orders
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.8
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. Below are the seven major orders and their headquarters in alphabetical order:
- Order of the Chain at Citadel Gheradesca near Corentyn (Cheliax)
- Order of the Gate at Citadel Enferac near Pezzack (Cheliax)
- Order of the Godclaw at Citadel Dinyar in the Aspodell Mountains (Isger)
- Order of the Nail at Citadel Vraid near Korvosa (Varisia)
- Order of the Pyre at Citadel Krane near Ostenso (Cheliax)
- Order of the Rack at Citadel Rivad near Westcrown (Cheliax)
- Order of the Scourge at Citadel Demain near Egorian (Cheliax)
Numerous lesser orders of Hellknights exist, although few are known outside the borders of Cheliax. Although less pervasive, these smaller orders are only slightly less feared than their better-known brethren.13
- The Order of the Coil was formed in the former colony of Sargava (now known as Vidrian), and sought to prevent the "pollution" of the colonists by native cultures14 Its current status since the reforming of the government under strictly local control is unknown.15
- Little is known about the secret Order of the Glyph.16
- The Whisperwood's Order of the Pike hunts down monsters1
- Egorian's Order of the Scar stalks assassins1
- The Order of the Torrent rescues victims of kidnapping, but have been in severe decline for the past several decades. It exists almost entirely in Kintargo.
- The Order of the Crux was hunted into extinction by the Order of the Scourge, although three graveknight members remain.14
- The Order of the Thorn was destroyed by the Order of the Pyre during the Chelish Civil War,17 with the decisive battle being the two-week Siege of Demain in Arodus of 4635 AR.1819
- The Order of the Vice exclusively battled threats from the Great Beyond.20
For additional as-yet unincorporated sources about this subject, see the Meta page.
- James Jacobs et al. (2011). The Inner Sea World Guide, p. 266–267. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-269-2
- F. Wesley Schneider. (2009). Path of the Hellknight. The Infernal Syndrome, p. 65–66. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-198-5
- F. Wesley Schneider. (2016). Path of the Hellknight, p. 5. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-60125-843-4
- F. Wesley Schneider. (2016). Path of the Hellknight, p. 6. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-60125-843-4
- F. Wesley Schneider. (2016). Path of the Hellknight, p. 19. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-60125-843-4
- F. Wesley Schneider and Jerome Virnich. (2015). Hell Unleashed, p. 3. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-60125-757-4. This source is presented as an in-universe letter written by Vanchient Lor and might be unreliable.
- F. Wesley Schneider and Jerome Virnich. (2015). Hell Unleashed, p. 44. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-60125-757-4
- F. Wesley Schneider. (February 15, 2008). Hellknight Order of the Nail, Paizo Messageboards.
- Alexander Augunas et al. (2015). Monster Summoner's Handbook, p. 10. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-60125-758-1
- F. Wesley Schneider. (2009). Hellknights. What Lies in Dust, p. 68. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-197-8
- Alexander Augunas, Robert Brookes, Anthony Li, Luis Loza, and David Schwartz. (2016). Armor Master's Handbook, p. IFC, 2. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-60125-829-8
- Wolfgang Baur, Adam Daigle, Jeff Erwin, and F. Wesley Schneider. (2012). Lost Kingdoms, p. 37. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-415-3
- F. Wesley Schneider. (July 7, 2008). Raising Hellknights!, Paizo Blog.
- F. Wesley Schneider. (September 23, 2009). Hellknights Unleashed, Paizo Blog.
- Alexander Augunas et al. (2020). Legends, p. 112. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-64078-254-9
- Larry Wilhelm. (2016). "Scourge of the Godclaw". Scourge of the Godclaw, p. 47. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-60125-842-7
- F. Wesley Schneider. (2016). Path of the Hellknight, p. inside back cover. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-60125-843-4
- F. Wesley Schneider. (2016). Path of the Hellknight, p. 7. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-60125-843-4
- F. Wesley Schneider. (2009). Path of the Hellknight. The Infernal Syndrome, p. 66–67. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-198-5
- F. Wesley Schneider. (2009). Path of the Hellknight. The Infernal Syndrome, p. 71. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-198-5
- Will McCardell et al. (2015). Familiar Folio, p. 5. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-60125-731-4