The Crown and the Circle
“Nine Teachers to guide the Crown, Nine Virtues to keep them sound” -Ixian nursery rhyme
Basic: The Crown and the Circle refers to the governing body that resides in the highest peak of Ekthalon – the Horned-King Malleus and the Circle of Teachers.
Symbol: A symmetrical mandala featuring a stylized shadowed mountain peak over a sea of rolling clouds and against a dark sky. On the right side is a golden-red sun and on the left is a crescent moon.
History: The Circle of Teachers and the Kingship of Ixia are governing bodies that date back to the founding of the misty Kingdom itself – thousands of years ago. The first Circle of Teachers, each a disciple of Tulken the Thinker, raised a King from one of the Ixia’s mightiest heroes and most honored protectors: the Troll champion known as Ixus the Peace-maker. Before the Peace-maker, the Mountain was a death trap, wriggling free from the claws of climbers and leading them off of cliffs and crags. T’was Ixus that calmed Mount Ekthalon’s mysteries to Ixian residence, communing with the Mountain’s spirit at Ekthalon’s peak and quelling her hatred of his people.
The throne upon the peak of Etkthalon, called Crown of the Teacher, has never been hereditary – the ruler of Ixia is chosen by the wise folk of the Circle, not by the mandate of one’s bloodline. There have been occasions where Kings and Queens have risen from non-Circle members or from the scions of royalty, but these are extraordinary instances. Rarer still is the occasion of an Ixian King that hasn’t been of Tulken’s ilk – the only example of this is the Minotaur known as Malleus, the current ruler of Ekthalon.
Malleus’ appointment was born of unusual circumstance: the Circle of Teachers found themselves in need of a King after long centuries of division and conflict. Malleus proved himself capable of unifying Ixian belief through his conception of the Nine-fold Virtues and therefore capable of unifying the Ixian people and the Circle of Teachers itself under his leadership.
Current: Even after many years, the Crown and the Circle are still dealing with the effects of Malleus’ sundering of the gate, an act that shattered the peace granted to Ixia by solitude and isolation from the rest of the world. The destruction of Patience is an act still lauded by the Circle although their opinions on the matter still differ.
There are Teachers that believe Malleus’ deed to be a call to action – to bring the peace of Ixia to the rest of Midworld. There are also those that believe that Malleus meant to keep Ixia from stagnating, to let the rest of the world into Ixia. A tiny, though vocal minority believes that it was all a grave mistake from the very beginning – outsiders do not belong in Ixia and opening the gate only means letting in the chaos and the conflict of Midworld unto Ekthalon’s tranquility.
In the long years since the Gate’s destruction, the Horned-King has stepped back from the daily duties of his Kingship – deferring these to the Circle or to other counselors. For the most part, Malleus’ days are spent in meditation and in contemplation. In court, the Horned-King more often listens than he speaks, although everyone, Ixian or otherwise, finds their ears bent immediately to his voice when it graces the chambers.
Currently, the Crown and the Circle seek to perform the two-fold task of maintaining Ixian stability and creating allies in Midworld. There are those that have noticed that Malleus is well-informed regarding the events that transpire in the world outside Ixia, suggesting either an extensive intelligence network or a prescient foreknowledge that to which only he is privy
Leadership: King Malleus is extremely unique among his forebears but he is also touted as one of the greatest to sit upon the throne. Many of his edicts and his decisions redefine the Ixian perspective without defying the spirit of the Misty Kingdom. Even the opening of the Gate of Patience is an act more lauded for its necessity than considered to be an act of audacity.
However, King Malleus stands at the brink of his years. He is far older than any King or even any Nightkin has ever been, his beard stretches beyond his hooves despite his gigantic frame. Many doubt that he will last beyond the next few years. But even in his twilight, he can still move with the vigor of a Minotaur half his age. The only thing that seems to evade him is the truth of his mortality; he has yet to recommend a successor to the Circle, despite all queries to his counsel.
Shadow beneath the Crown
Basic: The protectors of the Ixian Crown, the herald-enforcers of the Royal edict and the keepers of Ekthalon’s peace.
Symbol: A dark grey mountain or kite shield that eclipses a bronze sun with nine, long and wavy rays.
History: The Shadow beneath the Crown is also known as the Order of the Crown and it is one of the oldest organizations in Ixia, although its primary functions have changed with the passing of centuries.
The Order of the Crown was founded of the bodyguards of King Ixus the Peace-Maker. After Ixus and his retainers had pacified the cruelty of Ekthalon, the survivors of that expedition swore to protect the King of Ixia until the end of his days. These Trolls of tested skill and proven power lent their teachings to those who swore to continue their watch over the rulers of the Misty Kingdom, thus creating a legacy that bound great martial and magical strength only to those who selflessly guarded the realm. Those who desired mighty lores would only be given such when they bent their power to the Crown’s protection. Even those who desired to serve without ambition were allowed within the Order of the Crown if their talents were up to the task.
As the decades passed and the Order grew in numbers, the Order’s functions grew as well. When long ago the Circle and the Crown chose the witch-hermit Taluka to be the next King, it was the Crown-Keeper Warden Graka Tumbletooth and the Order of the Crown sought their next liege out through the worst blizzard Ixia had ever known and across leagues of treacherous terrain.
No longer did the Shadow beneath the Crown serve as mere protectors, but also the Crown’s voice in Ixia and its hand in any conflict when it came to pass – whether it be rampaging elemental spirits, a territory dispute between settlements or even the pacification of an uprising, the Order of the Crown’s task is not only to protect the Crown but to ensure that it is heard and heeded.
Current: The Shadow beneath the Crown seeks to maintain the peace within Ixia. Diplomacy is the main course in this case but a show of military power is also necessary to keep the peace. Since Graka Tumbletooth, it has been split into three sections, all beneath the leadership of the Order’s master: the Crown-Keeper Warden.
The Preservers of the Crown are guardians of the inner and outer sanctums of Ekthalon’s peak. Grey Witches and Virtuous Priests are the norm amongst these sentinels who blend the martial and the magic to better guard their liege. The numerous magical wards that protect the royal grounds are personally supplemented by the Preservers’ attention. The King is attended by Nine Preservers at all times, though they are not all within immediate distance or even within line of sight.
The Messengers of the Crown are herald-warriors sent as the voice and the hand of the Ixian King upon his Misty Kingdom. They are highly trained in decorum and diplomacy, learning the many customs of the different societies that comprise Ixia. The Messengers of the Crown are also highly trained in the arts of war, in the unfortunate cases where the words of the King require enforcement or diplomacy is insufficient.
The Watchers of the Crown are the eyes and the ears of the Crown and the Circle in Ixia. Each major settlement and most minor settlements are within the jurisdiction of at least one Watcher whose task is to send reports to their Order in Ekthalon’s peak. This portion of the Order is known to most Ixians although the identity of the Watcher of a particular district may not be known to its residents. When trouble arises, it is the Watchers’ task to send word to the Crown and provide intelligence to their allies.
Leadership: Z’akil Runefang is an ancient Troll whose bloodline reaches far back to the ancient hero Imbul Runefang, who toiled against Ekthalon in her cruel days and gave his life to keep Ixus the Peace-maker from harm. This Crown-Keeper Warden is a good friend as well as the military counselor to the Horned King.
Never seen without his Witch-blade (a runed staff wrought of his legendary ancestor’s fossilized spine), Z’akil is more director and ritualist than protector in his old age. There are those that say that he must step down soon but the Horned King values Z’akil’s organizational skills and his years of experience more than he does his skills at guardianship. For his part, Z’akil’s great desire to retire from his task is overwhelmed by his patriotism – but that does not prevent him from half-jokingly complaining about his various physical ills or the duties he has to endure.
Vigil over Patience
Basic: The Vigil over Patience (the Order of Patience) fortify the runed walls, maintain the warding spells and patrol the wild spaces that separate Mount Ekthalon from the Greyteeth and the rest of Midworld.
Symbol: A stylized archway with a gate adorned by a runed staff on the right and a spear (leaf-shaped blade upwards) upon its left. All of this is contained within a large stylized ring that encircles the gate and the spears.
History: The Order of Patience was founded in the turbulent wake of King Grellken’s departure. To them was given the task of protecting Ixia from the outside world.
It was Galveus, the Minotaur whom Grellken smote, that unified the fragmented remnants of Ixia’s defenders with those with the Bearer of Ruin that desired to protect their new home. Legend holds that King Grellken’s strike dubbed him with the purpose that he needed, with the spirit that was taken from him during his domination beneath the Demonic banner.
He took to the task with a fevered fervor, rallying the broken armies of Ixia and their former invaders both to the duty at hand. Galveus sought to unify, not to lead, but his efforts bore him to the seat of leadership within the foundling Order. In time, his former enemies grudgingly gave him their respect and eventually their admiration for the tirelessness and the efficiency of his efforts – the greatest of which is the melding of powerful sorcery and witchery to the task of Ekthalon’s warding. Besides the creation of “the Patient Warden” section of the Order (also called the Patient [sing. and pl.]), it is his mastery of Insanomancy that created the powerful Memory Ward upon the Gate that removes the path to Ixia from the minds of the unworthy.
Galveus’ successor was Sulindrixatharin, called by most as Rin the Black. This Deepling created “the Vigilant Warden” portion of the Order of Patience. The Vigilant Wardens (or simply, the Vigilant) patrol the Ekthalon’s lowest slopes and the Greyteeth itself, keeping as silent and as stealthy as their new leader. Just like Rin herself, the Vigilant Wardens soon developed a reputation for dark deeds and for militancy beyond necessity that conflicts with the peaceful ideology of Ixia.
This reputation holds true even during the modern era and the Order of Patience more often draws those Ixians with darker, more shadowy souls than not – those willing to pay any price to keep their Kingdom safe from interlopers.
Current: Except for the Silver among Shadows, the Vigil over Patience is the organization that deals the most with the rest of Midworld.
The Gate of Patience is merely the final portion of Ixia’s defense. Much of the Misty Kingdom’s safety lies in the secret warding spells that keep the unworthy from Ekthalon’s higher slopes. The Patient maintain the walls and the spells that protect the entire mountain from intrusion. They are also one of the few sources of higher learning in Ixia for the more destructive aspects of magic-use.
In lieu of spell and ritual, the Vigilant Wardens rely on cunning and on footwork to keep the Misty Kingdom safe. Their five-person patrols shadow the tunnels, the pathways and the cliff-faces of the Greyteeth for intruders. The Vigilant are under strict orders to “keep intervention” at the minimum, but rumors whisper of rogue Vigilant that pursue their prime directive with ruthless abandon.
Leadership: The female Cambion known as Sleeping Winter is the current Gate-Keeper Warden of the Vigil over Patience. Her dislike for the Horned-King is well-known despite her overall silence on the matter of the injury to the Gate of Patience. Like her predecessors, Sleeping Winter is one of the most fervent advocates for Ixian isolation from the rest of Midworld – she believes that her home is best protected by solitude and by independence.
Despite her feelings on the matter, Sleeping Winter is intensely devoted to the protection of any emissaries or diplomats from the other Kingdoms that attempt to parley with Ixia. Their protection is given the same precision and planning that the most urgent expeditions are conferred. No emissary whose arrival has been previously announced has ever come to harm after entering the Greyteeth.
Basic: The Silver among Shadows (or the Order of Silver) is an organization that focuses on knowledge – the collection of lore from all over Midworld and the propagation of Ixian ideals and interests across the known world.
Symbol: A mandala of a black clawed hand grasping a shining silver spherical orb that shines rays of light whose lined inter-weavings against a shadowed field creates the backdrop of the symbol. The orb is sometimes replaced with a apple-like fruit sliced in half with many seeds like a pomegranate – the Jub-jub fruit of legend.
History: When Malleus sundered the Gate of Patience, the shockwaves of his actions affected all in the Misty Kingdom, be they thinkers, workers or warriors. And while there are those in Ixia that desire a return to the isolation from the rest of Midworld, the Silver among Shadows were created by those within the Circle of Teachers that sought to better their realm through the seeking of secrets and the gathering of lore from outside of Ixia. Within one year after the gate to Ixia was opened and Arcturus the Errant had spoken to Malleus the Horned-King, certain Teachers (specifically Teacher Talker, Teacher Traveler and Teacher Terror) pooled their resources and their influence to create the Order of Silver.
With permission from the Ixian King, the Teachers traveled to different settlements and to the different Orders of the Misty Kingdom and recruited talented individuals and squads toward their lofty objective. Not only was this new Order a massive project but it also reflected a massive change in Ixian perspective – that there was more to the world than Ekthalon itself, that enlightenment was found only on the metaphorical mountain’s peak because it afforded a clearer view of reality in its entirety.
After a few years, the Order of Silver had a sprawling Athenaeum called the Eye of Silverlight as its headquarters near the Darkling Halls – the fruit of intense efforts in pooling Ixian knowledge and mighty earth magics. Tomes and tablets of many texts have been placed here, born from the labors of the dozens of sages and scribes that seek to interpret the reports of their kindred abroad or that have copied the scripts from recovered lore.
During the initial recruitment phase, the Teachers chose skilled protectors, intrepid explorers and brilliant scholars in their construction of the Silver among Shadows. Although a variety of talents and expertise was required for this project to work, several requirements had to be fulfilled by each participant: they each had to be willing to travel beyond the reaches of Ixia, they had to be willing to interact with foreign Kingdoms and they had to accept the perilous nature of their objective.
Perhaps the greatest wonder in the Order of Silver are not the myriad talents of its roster, the quickness of its establishment or the sudden vastness of its influence: the greater mystery is in the smoothness of its organization. Usually, a quickly burgeoning order suffers from mismanagement and tribulations but the Silver among Shadows has suffered precious few of these… as though the seeds of its creation had been planted and planned long before Malleus even took up the cudgel to break the Gate of Patience.
Current: The Silver among Shadows seek to continue the work that Tulken began when he strode across the length of Midworld and learned all that he could for the advancement of his people.
The lesser portion of the Order, its Sages and its Sentinels, remains housed in the Eye of Silverlight, to record, collect and protect the gathered lores as well as to train new recruits. The Eye is carved partially within the flesh of Ekthalon. The Eye is a series of halls crafted in a manner that encompasses the stylings of the Nightkin, the sinuous imagery of the Shaedling, the sturdy craftsmanship of the Troll and the remoteness of the Gnome.
These halls comprise a spherical complex built underground and shaped by powerful Grey Witches to harness the elemental energies of the mountain toward spells of warding and of scrying. A greater portion of the Eye is used to store the gathered lore while the other sections are places of residence, study, training and labor.
It is known in Ixia that the Eye of Silverlight is one of the highest places of learning in Ekthalon; those who desire to learn about the outside world would do well to ply its texts for knowledge and the Sages of Silverlight for guidance.
Those who roster the greater portion of the Order of Silver are called Silverlight Striders who operate in semi-autonomous groups called cells, each answerable only to the Lore-keeper Warden of Silverlight. Each Strider cell (which numbers 5-20 members) features not only lorekeepers that collect and report information but also staunch defenders to protect them from attackers and scouts to reconnoiter for hazards. The Lore-keeper Warden is not unwise to the ways of the world. Ixia is a place of peace but the rest of Midworld is not such a paradise; those who join the Silver among Shadows face grave danger. Indeed, many Strider cell scholars are warriors themselves, stout and strong despite the stereotype.
Nevertheless, many cells of the Order of Silver have vanished especially when trying to enter perilous areas such as the Obsidian Wastes around Kenrei, the sunless tundras of Kali-Ishtar or the tangled jungles near the Labyrinthium. Not only do the members of this Order have to contend with the hazards of Midworld but also the politics of its mortal denizens – almost every Kingdom would take harsh measures to the known presence of a cell because of the political implications of an information gathering organization to inter-Kingdom diplomacy. Accordingly, the Order of Silver sustains and leads itself with little in the way of publicized control or influence from the Crown and the Circle. Also, each individual cell keeps a measure of discretion regarding its true motives in an area.
Despite the dangers faced by the members of this Order, there is little shortage in Ixia for those who desire to see the world and learn all that it has to teach. After all, the Misty Kingdom was built upon the dreams of a Troll who risked a thousand dangers to learn from the greatest of teachers: Midworld itself.
Additionally, there is a new movement among the Order. Not only content with gathering knowledge for Ixia’s advancement, many cells have taken it upon themselves to advance the beliefs of Ixia as well. These cells attempt to bring peace to troubled areas by providing protection, healing, pacification, mediation or even material supplies (such as food, clothing, shelter).
Those cells who follow this movement refer to themselves as Shepherds instead of Striders. They recognize that their actions often endanger or hinder their prime directive of gathering information, but something about their upbringing prevents them from letting evil go unprevented and unchallenged. Their deeds echo the heroism and the goodwill of the Ixian Kingdom long restrained and waiting to be unleashed upon a shadowed Midworld.
The leadership of the Order has yet to take action against or in support of these so-called Shepherds, but rumor has it that the time of deliberation of this matter is coming to an end.
It is believed that she gave up her honored position as the Teacher Terror to direct this organization and train those who would risk the perils of Midworld for knowledge’s sake. Another reason for her stepping down from the Circle is because the Order’s need for political autonomy in its dealings in the foreign world. In the unfortunate case of a Strider cell’s interrogation, the Silver among Shadows must be able to deny governmental connections and therefore contain any blame unto itself.
” A star in the darkness, a song in the silence” – the hearth-verse of Choir Caellinrah.
Basic: A secretive, powerful clan of Shaedlings that hold considerable influence and resources in Ixia with the ultimate goal of Shaedling supremacy over all.
Symbol: A pillar of silvery, sinuous Flame against a dark violet field flanked by six shining stars.
History: It is known by Choir Caellinrah and her vassal Choirs that the first Caellinrah was the first daughter of Shaedis, cursed and gifted with the darkness. Caellinrah was a mighty namer of Demons and many of her kin showed talent in the Elven art of Sorceris, the magic of threading one’s will upon the fabrics of reality. This princess of the Twilight Empire and her Choir disappeared when the Sun Empire broke the Twilight’s back with tyranny and butchery.It is now sung that Caellinrah did not diminish with the Twilight Empire but was dragged into the depths of the Underworld where they fell into the sway of Demons. But the darkness and the will of Caellinrah persisted through the long centuries. Caellinrah the Namer maintained the unity of her people through her charisma and her powers over dark forces. Nevertheless, Caellinrah and her Choir endured long years of imprisonment and birthed many Gorgon but kept their core bloodlines pure.When the armies of the Vaults were mustered against Midworld, the current Matriarch, Vaellindriel Caellinrah, made certain that they marched alongside the Bearer of Ruin with the hopes that Ekthalon’s energies would aid them in a desperate escape attempt. The reality proved to be greater than their hopes – and they found freedom from their chains in the Misty Kingdom.
The Caellinrah recovered swiftly when they were returned to their own minds. They attempted to create a united front for the disenfranchised Elves and Gorgons. Choir Caellinrah headed this movement, of course. A majority of Shaedlings and many Gorgons flocked under the leadership of Vaellindriel and the newly established Celestial Church to reclaim what remained of their beautiful culture, their rituals and their traditions.
Choir Caellinrah attempted to show good faith to their saviors, lending their powers of enchantment to build four towers of warding around the Crown of the Teacher. This project would mark the last such cooperative works for many centuries as the Circle and the Choir disagreed in many policies and many aspects. Furthermore, while Grellken’s Law allowed the Shaedlings and Gorgons to be protected from retribution, it did not allow them free reign of society. When faced with the prospect of assimilation, Choir Caellinrah and its vassal Choirs resisted – they wanted to regain the glory of their culture in their own boundaries. They gave their dues to the Circle of Teachers (and later, to Malleus) but only the barest minimum, creating their own tower-cities away from the citadel at the peak.
Choir Caellinrah remained distant but far from obscure. They continued to hold a political presence at the Crown of the Teacher, sending envoy and emissary to voice their concerns in whosoever would listen. It was through their efforts that Shaedlings and Gorgons eventually became allowed to enter the Circle of Teachers (although such labors were somewhat diminished by the same privilege given to other Nightkin).
Choir Caellinrah also made productive use of their expertise in alchemy and in spellcraft – their goods and services command high prices in Ixia and elsewhere. Their greater wealth aided their charismatic influence and their steadfast connection to the Celestial Church; to this day, many Shaedlings and Gorgons seek to join their ranks with Caellinrah and their vassal Choirs.
Finally, Choir Caellinrah is home to more than a few incidents which shrouds a dark mystique over them such as the destructive rampage of demonic entities (reported to the Crown and the Circle as the work of elemental spirits, seven centuries ago) and a series of murders and assassinations in their main Tower-City (reports of these never reach the Crown of the Teacher).
This new influx has catalyzed a new renaissance for Choir Caellinrah and has catapulted them from relative obscurity to true prominence. Every ear in Ixia has heard the name of Caellinrah and knows of the power that they wield. Even the Twilight Elves of far away Labyrithiumm and Firbolg have heard of Caellinrah – connections to sympathizers in these distant locales have been crystallized and utilized for the past few years.
Indeed, there is a star rising in the darkness, singing in the silence- and it is the Choir of Caellinrah.
Leadership: Central to this rise to power is the current dynasty of Caellinrah, Matriarch Avorah, a Shaedling single-mindedly dedicated to her people’s cause yet far-reaching enough in her strength to maintain a vast web of resources. Matriarch Avorah Caellinrah is one of the youngest Matriarchs, having only reached 50 years of age. From her mother, she has also inherited the position of Twilarch, the Hierophant-Priestess of the Celestial Church.
Avorah has ever been the brightest of talents to have been born in Caellinrah but she showed a glint of her true potential when she led a strike force of Elves and Gorgons to subdue a Demonic entity that had been prowling the outskirts of the Caellinrah Tower-City. Rumor has it that she laid the creature and its brood low single-handedly, although at great cost to her companions; she was the only survivor.
Matriarch Avorah not only demonstrates prodigious talent in sorcery but also a willpower and aggressiveness toward the goals she sets. Not only does she push herself relentlessly toward the objective, but she pushes those below and beside her as well – and thanks to her presence, they accomplish their goals.
Her power has been waxing ever since. There are those who say that she neared her apex when she became Matriarch and Twilarch at the same time. But those who watch with wisdom know that the true depth of her strength is yet to be seen. Even now, she has set her sights upon the Circle of Teachers – a position that no Matriarch has even achieved.