The coils of the World Serpent
Knights of Solamnia
Before the Cataclysm, the Knights of Solamnia were the greatest order of chivalry in Ansalon. Between the Cataclysm and the War of the Lance, the knights became reviled and scorned by the people for their inability or unwillingness to combat the Cataclysm. After the War of the Lance, the Solamnic Knights regained their status. They sought to revive their code of honour and apply it to the ‘new’ Ansalon.
Origin and History
The Knights of Solamnia arose in the Age of Light, about three millennia before the War of the Lance. The order of knighthood emerged from the ruin of the decadent Ergothian Empire.
Rebellion Begins: The commander of the Ergothian Palace Guard, Vinas Solamnus, rode from the capital city of Daltigoth to quell a rebellion in the northeast. Arriving at the troubled spot, Vinas saw that the rebellion was justified: the people toiled beneath the Empire’s oppressive tributes and tyrannical laws.
Solamnus assembled his legion. In an impassioned speech now lost to history, he detailed the imperial atrocities and announced plans to champion the people’s cause. In addition, he promised any soldier loyal to Ergoth safe passage back to the capital. But the warriors were moved by the people’s plight and, risking exile or even death, most chose to stay.
In the midst of a fierce winter, Solamnus mustered his knights and the local frontier nobles. He then launched a series of daring campaigns, which came to be called the War of ice Tears. The rebel army doggedly pushed the imperial legions back to the very gates of Daltigoth. Vinas laid siege to the city, executing many covert raids inside the city walls.
In two months, the city fell—a revolt among the citizens of Daltigoth forced the Emperor to sue for peace. Thus, it was not armies but common folk who brought independence to northeast Ergoth. The people from Hylo to the Khalkist Mountains chose Solamnus as King, naming the country Solamnia in his honour. Though the nation did not become a great power during the Age, the name Solamnia became synonymous with honesty, integrity, and determination.
Quest of Honour: In 2225 PC (Pre-Cataclysm), the Lords of the Northern Reaches besought Solamnus for help. They, too, had thrown off the Ergothian tyranny and wished to unite with Solamnia.
Though Vinas wanted to comply, he saw the task as impossible: the ideals and customs of the nations differed markedly or even conflicted. King Solamnus therefore launched his Quest of Honour to find an answer to this problem. He left his most trusted lieutenants in charge and journeyed into the wilderness.
Various apocryphal stories tell how Takhisis, the Dark Queen, initiated several covert plots to topple Solamnia in the absence of her king. Fortunately, Vinas’s lieutenants had learned well from their king and commander and foiled each plot.
Meanwhile, after many weeks of wilderness travel and hardship, Solamnus sailed to Sancrist Isle. Arriving bruised and wind-torn, he forged into the wilderness. In time, he found a glade where a stone of black granite lay. There he prayed and fasted to the gods of Good. After several days, the gods Paladine, Kiri-Jolith, and Habbakuk came to him. They instructed Vinas to create a knighthood that would last for generations to come. Three separate orders would be created, each upholding a high ideal from one of the three gods.
These knights would unite the northern lands with Solamnia and carry on Solamnus’s vision of honour and goodness. According to some legends, Vinas then saw a vision of the future downfall of the knights. According to others, Paladine reassured Solamnus that the knights would rise as often as they were truly needed. Some legends even report that each of the three gods told Solamnus a great secret of wisdom, and wrote these secrets on three tablets of black granite. The wisdom tablets are purportedly lost, scattered about the continent.
All legends agree, though, that the gods then transformed the stone where Solamnus prayed into a pillar of white crystal. The crystal blessed and sanctified the glade, sealing the gods’ pact to watch over the orders of knighthood. The gods were bound to the pact unless the knights strayed from the narrow path of honour. Solamnus returned and established the three orders of the Knights of Solamnia: the Orders of the Crown, the Sword, and the Rose.
Knights of Legend: Vinas himself became the most famous Solamnic Knight, though two of his contemporaries also became legends: Bedal Brightblade and Huma Dragonbane. Bedal Brightblade single-handedly held a pass into Solamnia against hordes of desert nomads. His sword Brightblade was of dwarven make, never rusting or losing its edge despite heavy use. The tomb of Bedal lies buried in the southern arm of the Khalkist Mountains, its location all but lost. Legend states that Bedal will return to aid Solamnia in its darkest hour. Sturm Brightblade, a knight of great honour and fame, is a distant descendant of Bedal.
Only one Solamnic Knight ever exceeded Vinas in virtue: Huma Dragonbane. He led a group of heroes to destroy the Evil dragons and drive them from Solamnia. Huma’s greatest ally was a silver dragon who, in her human form, had fallen tragically in love with the knight. During their battle with Takhisis, Huma sustained a mortal wound. Some accounts say he died where he fell; others say his death was slow and painful, causing the agonized gods to inflict thunderstorms across Ansalon. To this day, many Solamnians claim that thunderstorms mark the gods’ mourning for Huma.
Huma was reverently buried in a tomb shaped like a silver dragon. Many who aspired to knighthood pilgrimaged to the spot. As the world darkened, the path to the tomb became rough and overgrown. Soon, folk even questioned whether Huma had truly lived, or was only a legend. The location of Huma’s tomb fell from memory.
During the War of the Lance, a band of heroes found Huma’s tomb. There they also discovered the special metal used to make Dragonlances. Wanting to finally establish the truth of the Huma legends, the heroes opened the tomb. It was empty. Had the gods of Good taken Huma’s body up to the heavens? Had the evil dragons or even Takhisis stolen the body? The original legend, told by the elven bard Quevalen Soth, was now too fragmented to offer any answers. The discovery of Huma’s tomb had only deepened the mystery.
Cataclysm and Knighthood: The Kingpriest of Istar’s monomaniacal quest to extinguish Evil was quickly eroding the foundation of the world—the balance between Good, Neutrality, and Evil. Krynn was poised on destruction. Ironically, the gods could halt the destruction only through an equally destructive force. They dropped a fiery mountain onto the capital city of Istar. The resulting devastation changed the face of Ansalon and sundered her great civilizations.
Solamnia, though spared the worst, was overrun by evil creatures. Beasts boiled up from beneath the earth and ravaged the nation. Many knights died fighting these gruesome horrors. After years of such attacks, the people’s faith in the Solamnic knights dwindled, then vanished. Rumours purported that the knights knew of the Cataclysm in advance and refused to avert it. There was a kernel of truth to these rumours.
Lord Soth: Lord Soth, Knight of the Rose in Dargaard Keep, had known of the disaster and chose not to avert it. Soth’s unimpeachable honour first began to crumble when he fell in love with an elf lass, a disciple of the Kingpriest. Breaking his knightly vows and his wedding vows, Soth seduced the elf and brought her, pregnant, back to his keep. Then he slew his barren human wife and claimed she died of natural causes. Soth took the elven woman as his lawful wife and the half-elven child he sired became his legal heir.
The elven woman, discovering Soth’s evil, prayed for a way he might redeem himself. In answer to her prayer, the gods revealed to her the impending Cataclysm. It could be averted only if Lord Soth rode to Istar and sacrificed his own life to stop the Kingpriest. Soth, wanting to regain his honour, even if it meant death, rode off with his loyal knights. On the road, Soth was confronted by a troop of elven priestesses who threatened to divulge his adulteries and murder. Further, they claimed his elven wife was unfaithful to him.
Desperate to guard his secrets and enraged by his wife’s alleged infidelities, Soth turned back from his quest. The burning mountain fell. Soth reached Dargaard Keep in time to watch his wife and child perish in flames. He did not lift a finger to save them. Instead, he walked to his burning throne and sat there. The throne became his pyre. The fire killed the innocent—the elven woman and her son—but only transformed the guilty. Soth became a death knight; his retainers burned away to skeletal warriors; and the elven priestesses became banshees, eternally circling his throne and keening his sins.
These foul deeds blighted the name of the knighthood in a time when knights were needed. Soon, the Oath and the Measure were publicly jeered. Words escalated into violence. Knights were foully murdered; their castles and homes were invaded and seized; their families were slaughtered or driven into exile.
Centuries of heroism fell to years of panicked hatred. The Solamnic Knights faded from view. Some forsook the road of honour and took up the simple tools of labourers. Others roamed the countryside under false names, continuing to fight evil. Others still, who could not bear to work in secret, left Solamnia and settled on Sancrist. To this day, a settlement of knights thrives there.
The Organization of the Knighthood
The ancient organization of Solamnic Knights has withstood great upheavals in its 2,500-year reign. The most profound tribulations occurred after the Cataclysm, when many circles of knighthood dwindled or disappeared and the Great Circle—the oldest established body—moved from Vingaard Keep to Whitestone Glade on the Isle of Sancrist.
From 2225 PC to the Cataclysm, the Knights of Solamnia were ruled by the Grand Master (i.e., the Lord of Knights) and the three High Knights. Since the Cataclysm, however, the Grand Master position has remained vacant. To fill these positions, the knighthood would need to order a Grand Circle of Knights. A Grand Circle requires at least three quarters of the established circles of knights to send two knight representatives to vote. Sadly, only 63 knightly circles are known to remain—not enough for a quorum. Knights are, however, presently emerging across the continent’s face and slowly refilling the ranks. Perhaps a new ruling council can be elected soon.
The position of Grand Master must be filled by a High Knight—the High Warrior, High Clerist, or High Justice. Once elected, the Lord of Knights serves for life unless found guilty of a breach of honour by the unanimous decision of the High Knights. The Lord of Knights commands the High Knights, who in turn command their respective orders of knighthood.
All three High Knights and the Grand Master must be present for a Knightly Council, which makes all the decisions for the knighthood. The High Warrior rules the Order of the Crown, the High Clerist rules the Order of the Sword, and the High Justice rules the Order of the Rose. Each order chooses its own leader by nomination and election, independent of the others.
Each order contains numerous geographical circles of knighthood. The troubles after the Cataclysm reduced many circles to covert cells. These cells appear throughout Ansalon, in major cities and towns where knights are despised, distrusted, or even banned outright. Cities such as Nordmaar, Tarsis, and any Dragonarmy-occupied town contain covert cells. Most knights dislike having to work secretly, but they endure for sake of the Oath and the Measure. Some maintain communication with the Grand Circle in Sancrist, but many are isolated. All such cells adhere to the Oath, slaying evil and giving aid when needed. Every day, these cells receive the pledges of new Knights of Solamnia. And every day they grow bolder.
In other cities, knights are welcome—for the citizens know of Solamnic heroics in the War of the Lance. Here circles exist openly and are easy to find. Sancrist and the cities of Solamnia contain numerous open circles.
Motto and Laws
For over 15 centuries, the knights have lived by two codes: the Oath and the Measure.
The Oath is simply “Est Sularus oth Mithas,” which means “My Honour is My Life.”
The Measure is a voluminous set of laws that defines the term honour. The full measure is detailed in the writings of Vinas Solamnus and his successors—a library of 37 large volumes.
Obedience to the spirit of these laws is the chief goal of knighthood. During the War of the Lance, the Solamnic Knights forgot the spirit of the Measure and clung to the unfeeling letter of the law. In time and at great cost, the knights learned that honor lies in the heart of each knight, not in a set of dusty books. This realization points to a brighter future for the Knights of Solamnia.
A summary of the Measure for each Order can be found here: