Great Oak Order
|Great Oak Order|
|Leader||Grandmaster Gulbrandr Magnison|
|Headquarters||Grand Lodge of Tryllejag|
|Affiliation||Various states with Velheim populations|
Known as Monster Hunters to many, the Great Oak Order is a Knightly Order that takes the concept of honor in an unconventional direction. Created by Velheim living in the northernmost reaches of Alorian civilization, the Great Oak Knights made a name for themselves as master hunters, going after only the most dangerous of creatures in order to have their names sung throughout the centuries. While often seen as wanderers, more interested with nature than with other knightly ideals, anyone who is challenged by one of the Knights can be sure that their combative prowess is just as effective on people as it is with the animals they hunt. Today, the Great Oak Knights are spread out in their Lodges across various nations and states in Aloria, offering their skills up to those who wish to hire these legendary hunters.
The Great Oak Order finds its origins in Ellador, a few decades before the Cataclysm, in what would eventually be known as the Tryllejag Realm. When Velheim Ailor first settled the area and came into contact with the Dwarves, the two Races stumbled on a unique type of Fauna, the Ogre. While the Ogres desired to be left alone, and the Dwarves were content to let them be, the Ailor had other desires. Believing these creatures to be symbols of strength and tests from Basjtur to determine his champions, as well as demonic creatures that deserved to be killed to aid the Herrehem, these Velheim began to organize hunts to defeat the Ogres. In a quest to gain favor and honor, many of these beast hunters began to organize themselves into small groups, though it would not be until after the Cataclysm that the Great Oak Order was formally established.
While many today do not know this fact, the Fifth Void Invasion was the chief catalyst in forming the Great Oak Order. As the Void began to corrupt the minds of Fauna such as the Ogres, so too did it increase their aggression. This ultimately resulted into a full-blown conflict in Tryllejag, where Ailor and Ogres fought one another in a war for dominance over the island of Makat. During the many battles of these decades, the Ailor began to discover that there were more than just Ogres that posed a threat to their way of life. In 30 AC, the Trolls were discovered as an Ailor warband happened upon a cave initially thought to be home to Ogres. Corrupted from the Void Invasion, these Trolls also caused their cave-dwelling neighbors, the Dire Wolves, to migrate into the nearby forests, leading to encounters with the Ailor and Dwarves that lived nearby. With these and other Fauna seemingly making Tryllejag even more difficult to reside in, the beast hunter groups began to come together to create an organized response to the growing dangers to their survival. As such, it was around 50 AC that the Great Oak Order formally became the organization it is known as today, as that was the year that the Grand Lodge of Tryllejag was first established.
With a unified body of huntsmen dedicated to the glory of the hunt, the Great Oak Knights took the fight to the Trolls, Ogres, and Dire Wolves. While initially proving to be an insurmountable challenge to the Ailor, the creation of the Order allowed for groups of hunters to formulate battle tactics against the local Fauna, allowing for the beasts to be pushed back. Many great warriors fought during these times, with the Grand Lodge of Tryllejag immortalizing their feats through their songs and records. Though Tryllejag finally had an answer to their Fauna problem, other areas of The North Belt were having their own difficulties.
In the east of Ellador, the Hedrylli Empire had been at war with the Desprinces of Dorkarth since 30 AC. During this Unspoken War, Vampires and their Cahal slaves fought against the Hedrylli army for decades, with aid being called by the Ailor to all areas of Aloria. One of the first to answer this call was the Great Oak Order, who surprisingly joined with their former Ogre enemies to defeat the “Great Chieftain” as the latter described. While ultimately more focused on subduing the Cahal and fighting other Dorkarthi creatures of the Vampire, the Great Oak Knights did provide assistance to the Hedrylli, and eventually the Desprinces were defeated. The damage the Unspoken War caused to the Hedrylli Empire was done; decades of constant fighting had caused the nation to weaken internally, while many Velheim began to set out throughout the world to convince their cultural kinsman to take up the sword and expand their reach. One of these groups eventually became the Skagger Horde, which arrived in the Drixagh region of the Regalian Archipelago. With these Skaggers also came a few dozen Great Oak Knights, interested in exploring other areas of Aloria to spread their fame, while setting up new Lodges in the region. Many assume that the term “Knight” was adopted by the Great Oaks during the Skagger Wars that followed, as some of them began to encounter the Wirtem and Regalian Orders that featured similar cultural importance to local populations.
Following the Regalian Empire’s conquest of the Archipelago, a few Great Oak Knights went with fleeing Skaggers to The Skags, where they once again repeated the same actions of their forebears, setting up local Lodges and engaging in hunting the local wildlife. This practice of joining migrating groups of people in settling new areas eventually saw the Great Oak Knights spread out across the entirety of The North Belt, and even into continents such as Essalonia. Through their shared identity, these Knights all frequented back to Tryllejag from time to time, meeting brothers-in-arms they never knew they had, and sharing tales of their hunting feats. In recent years, the greatest challenge of the Great Oak Knights has been the Bone Horrors which have risen up. Despite this new foe, the Knights have taken up the sword to vanquish these foes, and continue to fight any dangerous creature that plagues local populations, all in the name of honor and glory to the hunt.
The Grandmaster is the formal head of the Great Oak Order. Unlike other Knightly Orders, the Grandmaster’s position is ceremonial in practice, owing to the spread of Lodges across Aloria. Despite this, his word still carries a lot of weight, and the local Elders still seek his guidance with regards to dealing with various challenges facing a local chapter of the Order. The current Grandmaster is Gulbrandr Magnison, who underwent Url Symbiosis when he hunted beasts in Jorrhildr during his time as a Knight.
The Lodge Elders
The Lodge Elders, or simply Elders, are the primary leaders of the Great Oak Order. Each Elder presides over a local Lodge, which is where all Great Oak Knights go to train when not hunting dangerous game. They are considered teachers and instructors of the Order, and considered the most talented in terms of hunting and martial prowess. Elders often use their knowledge to train the next generation of Knights, though a small portion of their membership goes around to nearby Lodges to engage in inter-chapter coordination and competition. Nearly every Velheim state in the North Belt has a Lodge Elder, with the exact number difficult to determine unless one were to visit the Grand Lodge of Tryllejag. While normally preferring to keep to their Lodge most of the year, Elders do sometimes travel to the Grand Lodge to update the Grandmaster on current events, and record the names of newly knighted individuals.
- The Master Hunters are some of the most renowned hunters produced from the Great Oak Order. Having spent several years hunting only the most dangerous of creatures in the most hostile environments, they have created a sense of demigod-like prowess through such feats, and often have their feats chronicled into modern-day sagas. As such, they are considered masters of the hunt and often are celebrated by the local Lodges as those who best represent the Order.
- Grand Hunters are the highest rank any Knight can achieve before becoming a Master Hunter. These are some of the most skilled of the Great Oak Knights, but lack a certain finesse or skill required to become an all-rounder like their Paladin higher ups.
- High Hunters are the next rank any Knight can achieve after being promoted from Man-at-Arms. They are quite capable combatants, but lack refinement and dedication to become a Grand Hunter.
- Men-at-Arms (or Dames-at-Arms) are the lowest rank any Knight is after graduation at the age of 21.
- Squires are the second step at becoming a full member of the Great Oak Order. They receive this rank at 14 when they finish their training as a Page, and will remain such until they graduate. Squires often accompany their Mentors outside of the headquarters to learn first-hand combat experience, acting as a bodyguard assistant to their senior Knight.
- Pages are the first step in becoming a Great Oak Knight, and to enter the Order at the age of seven. Once inside, Pages are taught in a classroom setting by Lodge Masters and graduated Knights, after which they are paired with a Mentor who provides more in depth instruction to the trainee in exchange for completing various chores to learn humility. Pages also accompany their Mentors outside of the Lodge, though their role is limited to non-combatant roles due to their inexperience.
- Since widespread Ogre hunting in Tryllejag ended by 150 AC, the Great Oak Knights have often left these creatures alone in favor of hunting the more aggressive Troll populations. However, there are still instances where a Knight will seek out an Ogre to challenge, though very few of these instances end in death, due to both sides seemingly content to let the other live in relative peace.
- Great Oak Knights often escort Old Gods worshippers who are completing their Rite of Julvira, as the Grand Lodge is located close to the Julvin Gate found in Tryllejag.
- Despite the Old Gods having a strong influence on the Order’s founding hunters, there have been Knights (and entire Lodges) that are not part of this Religion. The Lodge of Hinter Calem is an example of a fully-Unionist chapter of Great Oak Knights, who offer praises up to God Emperor Allest after a successful hunt.
- Great Oak Knights have been known to work with Darkwald Knights (or even alone) to hunt down Cahal, as they find that capturing them is as exciting as dealing with dangerous Fauna.