The Black Stag is considered the highest order of knighthood in Keledon, although among the common people (and many of the realm's warrior knights) the Order of the Griffon is held in higher esteem.
Standard and IconographyEdit
Black and green are the colors of the Order. Its chief device is a dark green field, over which is laid one of a number of possible lighter green patterns. Over all this is found a black stag--usually its head, although sometimes the full form of the animal--atop which sits a red and gold crown, representing the Royal origin of the Order.
Members of the Order often wear a black pin depicting the Order's crest. During official meetings and ceremonies green cloaks are worn, on which are embroidered the black stag's head.
Founding of the OrderEdit
The Order of the Black Stag came into being during the days of winter, 1397 AS. During the Longest Night King Halar I held court within the great hall of Hawkwind Castle, shut off from the terrors and fears concealed in the night outside. During this night many tales and stories of valour were told, especially concerning the King's ancestor, Sothar, first ruler of Keledon.
According to legend, during the course of the evening a stag as black as pitch leapt into the Great Hall, passing through walls as if they were air. Pausing amid the shocked and startled assembly, the Stag snorted and bowed its head towards the throne. Some would later say that the ebon stag was showing honour and obedience to the king of the realm; others say this honour was intended for the court Druid, who stood beside the king. Moments later the stag faded from sight and was not seen again.
Halar I took this appearance as a sign, and desired to create an order of knights who would "bridge the boundary between forest and city"--an order of knights trained in the fashion of the Druids. However his Druidic advisor, Edryd Haftson, counseled the king against this and offered a different interpretation. Among the Druids the sign of the Gods was a stag as white as snow, shining with the light of the Otherworld. A black stag, he reasoned, must thereby represent the mortal realm, and an Order founded in its honour should focus on the problems and issues of mortals. He proposed the king create an Order which would contain warriors dedicated to the Old Gods, champions who could act in ways Druids themselves could not.
That very night Halar I created the Order, inducting himself and several of his most trusted knights into it. From that day forward the Order of the Black Stag became the highest in the land, and represented the mightiest warriors the realm could muster.
By 1560 AS the Order had ceased to be strictly composed of warriors. Halar II, now king of the land, began to admit his most trusted advisors and friends to the Order, without concern for their martial prowess. From this time on, the Order was less an organization of warriors and more an exclusive club for those close to the monarch.
However Gendar IV returned the Order to its roots, likely due to his love of tales of heroism and valour. Beginning in 1683 AS he began to replace deceased
members of the Order with candidates drawn largely from the battle-tested. Several of these were drawn from his own personal guard, themselves often coming from Houses loyal to the crown. By the end of his reign, the Black Stag again came to represent heroism, courage and good. Indeed, under Gendar the Order also served as his personal guard.
Gendar's daughter, Kaylia I, continued with her father's vision of the Order and its purpose. Subsequent kings and queens of Keledon have followed suit.
The Order of the Black Stag is comprised of those admitted to the group by the monarch; these appointments are for life, unless revoked by the monarch, who alone can do so. Those who have entered the Order due to their prowess and courage in battle, especially in the cause of the Crown, are known as Knights of the Black Stag. The monarch is considered the head of the Order.
One of the key features of the Order is its emphasis on ritual and ceremony. Its members meet privately and have specific ritual greetings, actions and apparel that are kept secret from outsiders.