The Line of Duty – The Three Military Orders of Kryta

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The relationship between the three martial arms of the human nation of Kryta is a delicate one. The Seraph are the army, the police force, and the protectors of the populace. The Ministry Guard serve the ministers, government officials, and nobility of Divinity's Reach. The Shining Blade are the queen's personal bodyguard and, as the well-informed may tell you, her spies.

Lieutenant Serentine knelt beside the body of the minister, careful not to cut herself on the broken slivers of glass that surrounded his right hand. A shattered goblet lay in fragments across the cobblestones of the alley. Shards twinkled in the light of her lantern. She turned over a piece of glass cautiously and watched a bit of red wine stain the stone beneath. What had the minister been doing in the poor area of Divinity's Reach? Who was responsible for his death?

"Lieutenant?" One of her men stepped into the end of the alley, saluting. Serentine looked back over her shoulder and arched a brow. He shifted uncomfortably in his red livery, the symbol of the Ministry Guard blazoned on his chest. "The Seraph are demanding control of the crime scene."

"The Seraph?" She rose from her crouch, adjusting the warhammer on her back. "They have no jurisdiction. A minister has been murdered. This is a Ministry issue."

"Murdered while he was inside the walls of Divinity's Reach." A new speaker pushed aside the Ministry guard and strode down the alley toward her. "That's clearly our area of concern." He was handsome, sandy-brown hair hanging lightly across his coppery eyes. "Lieutenant Serentine," he greeted her as an afterthought.

She narrowed her eyes. "Captain Thackeray. Taking a personal interest?"

"He was murdered by bandits in our city streets. You bet your hammer, I am."

Seraph

The most numerous of the Krytan military organizations is the Seraph. They stretch their influence across the nation, with outposts in every major town, and patrols that struggle to keep roads free of bandit attacks and centaur raids. Yet they are also the most beleaguered, struggling to maintain supplies and munitions for their soldiers. The highest rank in the Seraph is captain. At any given time, the queen has from five to ten captains in the Seraph; each operates independently, but in coordination, under her command.

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Each Seraph captain is granted authority over a certain territory of Kryta — be it the embattled foothills of High Timber Claim or the lowlands of Nebo Terrace. The troops under their command report upwards to them, and they receive their orders directly from the queen. In recent days, Queen Jennah has been absorbed in her duties to Ebonhawke and the treaty being negotiated with the charr. Most of the command of the Seraph in Kryta has fallen on her closest captain, Logan Thackeray, whose immediate authority covers the city and environs of Divinity's Reach. Now considered the first among equals, he organizes the body of Seraph response to overall threats against the nation.

Ministry Guard

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The second largest martial unit is the Ministry Guard. Typically seen only in Divinity's Reach, it is their task to keep the peace in the ministry and provide personal security for the Krytan ministers and their aides. This usually also translates into being protectors of the nobility of Kryta, most of whom are heavily involved in the ministry.

Although their jurisdiction is more limited than the Seraph's, it is also more empowered; the Ministry Guard have the right to overrule Seraph authority where ministers are concerned, in order to keep governmental secrets secure.

The Ministry Guard is headed by the Commander of Divinity's Reach, who reports to the legate minister, the ministry's highest office and speaker to the queen.

Shining Blade

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The Shining Blade are the queen's own guard. Derived from the original Shining Blade, freedom fighters during the War in Kryta, the modern Shining Blade watch over the Royal Family itself.

Although they are the smallest and least-known of the Krytan military units, the Shining Blade are superlatively trained as an elite force. Unknown to most of the populace, many of the Shining Blade also perform more covert duties. From spying on political enemies to carrying secret messages throughout the nation, the Shining Blade carries out hidden missions at the request of the Krytan Throne. Their leader is the Master Examplar[sic] of the Shining Blade, a position appointed by the queen. The Master Exemplar reports only to the queen, and may supercede the authority of either of the other two branches of military with the queen's permission.

When Queen Jennah's father died and she was invested to the Krytan throne, she appointed Countess Anise to the rank of Master Exemplar. Anise is a cunning political mind in her own right and has served in the Shining Blade for many years. Anise defended Jennah as her personal guard while Jennah was a young princess. The two are very close companions. Although Anise is not thought of as a powerful combatant, her cunning and ability to predict the actions of others has long served to keep the queen safe. Now Anise protects Krytan interests with an equally sharp edge.

The poison in the wine was difficult to track, but unusual enough to make a positive identification. Smugglers, no doubt working on behalf of the bandits, had gotten it to the inn. But what caused Minister Brios to go there in the first place? Serentine paced the wide halls of the Ministry Chamber, avoiding the peasants who scuttled along on business here or there. They did not concern her; only the safety of the ministers did.

Something had to have drawn Brios downtown. Something important enough for him to go quickly, and shady enough that he didn’t bring a guard. Had he been engaging in treason? It was possible. More than a few ministers were on record with the belief that the treaty with the charr was foolhardy; throwing away victories and condemning Ascalon to charr rule forever.

Opening the door to Brios's office with her master key, Serentine stepped inside. She ruffled through every scrap of information she could find, digging through his desk unreservedly. Receipts, dinner invitations, missives from Ascalon Settlement—the area that Minister Brios represented—and scraps of notes from various ministry sessions. Nothing personal. Nothing that named the inn or implied a reason for him to leave the safety of his apartments.

"Take the schedule-book, and seize any classified files." She ordered the two guards that followed her. "One of you stay on door duty here, and the other..."

Before she could finish her sentence, Serentine's eye fell once more on a piece of paper that she'd discounted in her initial search. An invitation to afternoon tea with the Countess Anise, dated the same day as Brios's death.

"Anise." Serentine frowned. "Master Exemplar of the Shining Blade."

But if Brios had been considering treason…how did he walk away from a meeting with the queen's guard?

The Balance of Power

The three military orders of Kryta don't always get along well. In fact, they are notoriously opposed. The Seraph demand more authority over the nobility of the kingdom, while the Ministry Guard resist allowing those of common birth (and, they say, lesser training) access to their ranks. The Shining Blade is ever secretive, keeping their own counsel and acting completely without regard for the other two. It’s a tug-of-war for influence and control within the city of Divinity’s Reach.

The Krytan Rule of Law states that only the nobility receives a full trial; commoners receive magistrate audiences at the ministry; outsiders are given a hearing before the local Seraph authority. The Seraph man prisons and holding cells, no matter the birth of the individual being detained. The ministry takes charge of all trials and hearings, again, across societal bounds. This means that the Seraph can lawfully take authority over a noble-born prisoner brought in by the Shining Blade, or that the ministry can, in effect, refuse to present some or all information gathered by the Seraph during a trial. This system was designed to maintain an equal burden on both branches of enforcement, allowing the Seraph to utilize their superior manpower throughout Kryta while the Ministry Guard handles bureaucratic issues and legal rulings. In practice, the two groups all too often engage in a fierce contest over authority.

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Recently, the Seraph have been losing that fight. Their soldiers are preoccupied with battles against the centaurs and keeping the Krytan farmlands free of bandit attack, and they have little time for politics. Fewer and fewer citizens have the strength to join their ranks, and money to pay their soldiers is tighter than ever. And while they fight each day to keep the populace safe, the Ministry Guard live in plush chambers and lock down their control of the queen’s city.

Even as they struggle to keep Kryta safe, a distinct unit of Seraph enforces the queen’s will on distant Ebonhawke, supporting the Ascalon freeholders and lending their aid to the military there. Known as the "Fallen Angels," these black-uniformed Seraph are yet another drain on the military's resources, albeit one that is critical to the safety of humans in Ebonhawke, and therefore Kryta, and also to Queen Jennah's hopes of eventual peace with the charr.

"I'm sorry, Lieutenant." The countess smiled. "I can't tell you anything else about Brios."

"Can't," Serentine pressed the issue, "Or won't?"

"We talked about gardening. He was an enthusiast." The countess shrugged, auburn hair moving softly against pale shoulders. "What else could I say?"

Gritting her teeth, Serentine resisted the urge to make demands. "I see. And when he left this 'tea,' where was he going?"

"How would I know?" Anise smiled ruefully. "We weren't exactly close. It is a pity, what happened. I expect it will take some time for his successor to be appointed, and the vote on funding for the carnival will have to be postponed. Brios was such a supporter of the people... A shame. Ah, well. Will there be anything else, Lieutenant?"

Serentine knew a dismissal when she heard one. "No, ma'am." Bowing brusquely, she turned on her heel and strode out of the palace.

First the Seraph tried to seize authority, then the Shining Blade put up political roadblocks to stop the investigation. There was only one place Serentine could turn.

The Future of the Throne

The populace of Kryta respect the Seraph, but long years of war against the centaurs and the recent upturn in bandit attacks throughout the nation have worn on the people's patience. More and more ministers speak out against the armed forces, resenting their constant drain on the nation’s economy and the apparent lack of significant victories against evils threatening the land. Slowly, the Ministry Guard is seizing power within the city of Divinity’s Reach and in the hometowns of ministers across the nation, spreading their authority where the Seraph’s strength is lapsing.

This shift in the balance isn’t going unnoticed. It has caused some ministers to become emboldened, and speak out against the Seraph commanders—and more recently, in quiet tones, against Queen Jennah herself. Respected leaders throughout the land lay blame on the throne and say it no longer acts on the people's behalf; and they are earning more and more supporters for their cause. Unless the Seraph are able to solidify peace within Kryta, and overcome the dangers they face, the country—and the queen—may be in jeopardy of an uprising.

An armed one, with the ministry opposing the throne.

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Kneeling, Lieutenant Serentine placed her warhammer on the ground. "Thank you for seeing me, sir."

"Rise, Serentine," his voice held the wisdom of many years, bolstered by the strength of solemnity. "Tell me, guardswoman. How can I help you?" Legate Minister Caudecus frowned in gentle concern.

"I don't know where else to turn, sir. A minister has been murdered, and it seems as if the queen herself is hampering my investigation." Serentine hated saying it, even thinking it, but she knew that she could trust him. "I have been ordered to turn the case and all evidence over to Thackeray and his Seraph."

"Ah, Lieutenant," Caudecus patted her shoulder gently. "It is not our place to question Queen Jennah. Do as you are ordered. I’ll make sure the ministers know the Guard is not at fault. Without you, it is likely that Brios's murderer will never be discovered—or brought to justice. The Seraph are incompetent, but the queen's infatuation for that simple-minded captain blinds her to the country's needs. I will write to Minister Brios's family and see that they have money for their needs. In this time of trials, we must do all we can for one another.

"Nevertheless, Kryta will win through. As we ever have." Minister Caudecus smiled reassuringly. "Just leave everything to me."

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