Paladins are the mortal champions of the gods. A paladin may act as the extension of the gods will in the physical world and when doing so may be allowed the use of some of the powers of the god. These powers aren't always available to the paladin; rather they are something the god chooses to grant them when the paladin needs it or asks for it. They're not given lightly and their usage is never guaranteed.
Becoming a paladinEdit
In theory, anyone can become a paladin, but in practice really only humans and anfylk do and the human paladins far outnumber the fylkin ones. Becoming a paladin is not something you can apply or train for, the choice is entirely up to the gods. Once a persona has been chosen as a paladin though, they are usually have plenty of opportunities for both training and support.
A god will almost always chose a person that is strong and virtuous in the eyes of the god; someone that represents what the god stands for and that which they feel is important. As always, there are a few notable exceptions, but even those turned out in the end to be excellent representatives for what their god stood for.
A paladin generally doesn't have any powers of their own. Some have been able to both channel and weave the aether, but those are exceptions to the rule. Physically and mentally they're almost always stronger and more capable than most people, but not supernaturally so.
Instead, a paladin asks their god to lend them its power and the god, if willing, lends it. There's never a guarantee the power will be provided. If the god doesn't agree with the purpose it's to be used for, or deems that the paladin should be able to handle the situation themselves, no power will be granted.
Asking for power can be as simple as thinking about it and it can even be done subconsciously. Sometimes the god even grants the paladin usage of its power without it being asked for at all, consciously or subconsciously.
The powers that the god can grant their paladin are virtually unlimited but usually falls within one of a few main categories:
- Light. The paladin summons light. This can be simple light to see by, but it can also be light that brings courage to the paladin's allies or fear to their enemies. The holy light of a paladin can sometimes even be painful and damaging to the their enemies.
- Healing. A paladin can request healing for those who are hurt. Divine healing is significantly more powerful than the healing that can be accomplished through conventional magical means. Healing is not lightly granted though. Usually only those in direct service of the god or paladin or who are essential to the god's agenda may be granted divine healing.
- Protection. A paladin can request protection from harm both for themselves and for their allies. The protection rarely includes complete immunity from everything, but is usually sufficient when combined with the efforts of the person protected.
- Perception. This power gives the paladin the ability to see truth, spot lies and tell good from evil. Perception will also allow the paladin to find the way to safety when lost or in danger and it will allow them to discern the will of their good.
- Exorcism. At it's most basic exorcism is the act of removing unwanted or unnatural influences from someone or something. Most commonly it's used for removing enchantments from objects, places or even persons.
In the past gods have often provided their paladins with transportation, generally in the form of a horse or other suitable mount. In the modern world, with extensive railroad networks and air-ship travel this is a lot less common. Trains and airships are fast and convenient and while mounts are useful in uncharted areas they can be difficult to transport. The traditional paladin mount is these days very much a thing of that past.
It will need to be pointed out again, that the usage of the god's power is never guaranteed. The paladin will always have to ask to be granted the power and the may not be. The final decision always lies completely with the god.
Once a person becomes a paladin they have little to no time for personal life or any other pursuits that don't tie in directly with their calling as the champion of a god. Times of relaxation are rare and short, usually spent travelling. Vacations are unheard of.
Most of a paladins time is spent questing. A quest is a mission or task set out for the paladin by their god. It is rarely a precise assignment but rather an indistinct yet powerful feeling of being needed somewhere to do something. Once the paladin reaches the location the nature of their quest will usually become apparent.
Quests can be varied both in scope and complexity. They can be as simple as providing a person with moral support in their time of need and they can be as complicated as rooting out organized crime on an international scale. Quests can take anything from a few minutes up to several decades to complete. In the case of the longer more involved quests the paladin is often able to complete other, lesser quests on the side.
A paladin, being able to request the power of perception to spot lies and tell right from wrong, does not need the same kind of evidence that regular law enforcement does. This is something that has caused major international scandals as paladins on quest have taken out national heads of state or the leaders of multinational corporations.
These incidents have caused the support for paladins to decrease significantly and in some cases churches have withdrawn support for paladins associated with them. Some nations have attempted to criminalize paladins or paladin activity, but without much success. Gods do not much care for the laws of men and consequently, neither do paladins.
Good or evil?Edit
Paladins are fiercely, even fanatically, devoted to their god. In its service, the paladin may perform actions both good and evil in pursuit of greater goals. What lengths a paladin is willing to go to in order to achieve their goals depends on the god they are tied to. Gods chose persons that reflect their own ideals to be their paladins and the paladins act according to it. Hence, paladins associated with certain gods are known to cause more collateral damage than others.
While no gods are actively malevolent or outright evil there are those whose agendas are contrary to those of most other gods. Consequently the paladins of these gods tend to act in ways that go against what's commonly accepted as good.
Once in a while this results in paladins ending up in conflict with each other, either because the goals of their respective quests conflict, or because one's quest is to stop the other. These conflicts are the stuff of legends. Countless books have been written and numerous films have been made about these battles between paladins, real or imagined.
Organization and supportEdit
Paladins are divided into two groups, Consecrated and Independent paladins. There are several other ways in which paladins can be grouped as well, but as the distinction between Consecrated and Independent has such significance it's considered to be the most important one.
Consecrated paladins are those who receive backing and support from a church or other religious organization devoted to the same god as the paladin. They are considered official members and representatives of the church and are often highly ranked in the church's hierarchy; after all, they know the god better than most. The support provided by the church is both material and spiritual.
First of all, consecrated paladins have access to all the training they need to perform the tasks set before them, both in the martial arts and in more scholarly subjects – especially diplomacy, geography and the social sciences. They generally don't have much time for studying though, as questing takes up most of their time. Occasionally, though rarely, a paladin's quest will be one of self-improvement and they are given the opportunity to learn more on a subject or hone their bodies into even better shape.
The life of a paladin is rarely easy and especially younger paladins will often need someone to talk to or confide in. Their actions may have had dire unexpected consequences or they may have been forced to make difficult choices between only bad alternatives. They may have successfully completed their quest but in doing so they may have performed actions they'd rather not have. Spiritual guidance and moral support can be essential for the well being and longevity of a paladin.
Material support is also important for a paladin as money is needed to finance their activities. Paladins may be the champions of gods but they still need to eat and sleep like other mortals. It's also not just the paladin that needs to eat. Consecrated paladins rarely travel alone. They often keep a retinue of at least a handful of trusted companions who need to be fed and clothed.
On top of mere money the paladin may be provided with holy or blessed equipment, usually weapons or armour, possessed by the church. These pieces of equipment are generally old and priceless and the paladin is expected to return them to the church once they retire so that they can be passed on to future paladins. Should a paladin be lost in action the church will go to great lengths to recover its possessions.
Finally a church may be able to provide a paladin with military support. This is uncommon but not unheard of. Most nations these days separate church and state, and while many churches may still be influential political forces, they're not allowed to maintain their own armies. Some do though, and they can, when asked, lend their full military might to a paladin.
Independent paladins have no church or other organization providing them with permanent support for their activities. They may occasionally receive donations from benefactors or rewards for deeds done, but they have no steady income.
Most of the training they have is from before they were chosen to become paladins. Usually they will have been soldiers, policemen or similar, but a few are graduates from the school of hard knocks. Their lack of training is compensated for with experience, stubbornness and a fanatical devotion to their god and their cause.
An independent paladin rarely owes more than what they can carry along with them on their travels; a few changes of clothes, weapons and equipment and perhaps a cherished keepsake from their past. They also tend to favour the gift of transportation, making use of a holy paladin mount the god provides for them. They prefer travelling by horseback and go to great lengths to ensure a comfortable journey for their steed when they do have to travel by train or air-ship.
Few paladins, mostly independent ones, travel alone. Consecrated paladins will almost always keep a retinue of followers with them. They may not always bring them along on quest but they are rarely far away or out of touch.
Almost all consecrated paladins and even a few independent ones have access to an airship of their own which they tend to use as a base of operations. These ships are usually large enough to house the paladin and their retinue and to let them travel in comfort even on longer journeys where several nights will have to be spent on board. Though by no means luxurious each member of the team will have a cabin of their own, a small private space to sleep and to store their possessions in.
The pilot and crew of the ship don't have to be part of the actual retinue, but it's uncommon that they aren't. The retinue almost always contains one pair of magic wielders (weaver and channeller) and a few weapons and combat specialists, as well as perhaps a negotiator or scholar of some sort. All in all a typical paladin retinue consists of between one and two handfuls of member.
Most people who are part of a paladin's retinue for more than a few quests will usually remain with it as long as they are capable of performing their task. They'll eventually become grizzled old veterans with countless battles and years of fighting behind them. An old paladin backed by its full retinue is a fearsome foe indeed.