Armored Riders are the professional soldiers of the Broken Kingdom. Armored riders are named such due to their combat style that heavily emphasizes fighting from horseback, and are often clad in much heavier armor than what would be considered reasonable for most civilizations of Soi. Despite this, every rider is expected to be a well versed in melee combat and can be found entering battles on foot when needed with equal ease to their function as cavalry.
Armored Riders tend to wear very stylized armor usually designed after an animal or family symbol. The consistent gear every Rider possesses is their suit of heavy plate armor, a heavy lance, and shield. All secondary weapons are a matter of personal choice with some knights carrying broadswords and never giving up their shields while others opt to wield gigantic war-hammers and only use their shield when mounted. Due to the rareness of attacks on the Broken Kingdom, the Armored Riders are seldom mustered in their full numbers as cavalry but all first-hand accounts describe the sight of seeing thousands of these mounted warriors charging across the battlefield in formation as a terrifying sight perhaps only matched by the wanton charge of a fully assembled Goran horde.
The Armored Riders follow a strict a strict code of conduct like everyone else in the Broken Kingdoms called the Oath of Stone. In addition they swear the Oath of Iron which deals directly with how the mounted warriors are to interact in society. The Oaths are strictly enforced by the Truest King and his clergy.
Armored Riders are the professional soldiers of the Broken Kingdom. They form the backbone of the standing army of the Broken Kingdom and are responsible for the perpetuation of martial prowess within the Kingdom. They oversee and guide the weekly martial training of the populace, the Crucible of Prowess (the five year training every teenager experiences), the patrolling of the Kingdom's roads, escort of the Grand Parades, and other needful martial duties.
A unique duty that can be undertaken on a volunteer level is referred to as "Border Duty", rather than a mere patrol looking for incursions Border Duty refers to the bands of young Riders who ride out into neighboring lands to perform deeds of bravery. These bands are always accompanied by a Knighted Rider who acts a a mentor and functions outside of the command structure of the band. The Mentor's role is record the deeds of the young Riders and report upon their behavior and performance. Border Duty bands have a mixed reputation in the independent nations they interact with. While they are a welcome means of dealing with bandits, gangs, and other problems which require some martial daring-do to solve, the young Riders are notoriously high-spirited and due to their own culture tend to be very hard on the furniture of the local drinking houses.
Treatment of Subjects
Armored Riders who reach the rank of Low Knight begin to rule over the peasantry as minor lords. While the Low Knights are considered to have near full autonomy over the peasants on their lands, with the ability to tax them, their actions are still subject to the Laws of the Broken Kingdom, the Oath of Stone, and the Oath of Iron.
What this means in practice is that the common people of the Broken Kingdom are relatively well-treated, but can at times be relocated or have their goods seized by the local lord. However, any land they are relocated to must be of equal value with addition for the inconvenience. Any seized goods must have their value compensated in King's Cubes or other goods. Commoners who feel they have been mistreated can bring their cases to the Magistrates for review, but generally speaking as long as relocations or seizures are reasonably compensated and reasonably justified the the matter stands as the nobility would have it. Any wrongdoing on the noble's part subjects them to review by their peers and the Magistrate, as well as additional compensation to the aggrieved party. Gross misconduct has been known to result in loss of nobility and a return to the rank of Knighted Rider, a loss of Knighthood altogether, or exile.
Armored Riders and Knighted Riders themselves do not hold true political power. Instead they carry out the needful tasks of society and govern themselves. Upon being named a Low Heir by a Low Knight, a Knighted Rider begins to enter the realm of politics. Low Knights occupy small border keeps and guard the smaller outlying settlements. High Knights occupy larger fortifications in the interior of the Kingdoms which guard the large townships. These are the fabled castles of the Broken Kingdom, large enough to house hundreds of men-at-arms and Armored Riders. Finally, the capital city of each Kingdom is the seat of the Royal of that Kingdom. These cities are occupied and guarded by the largest fortresses in the land. Regardless of the size of the fortification, the keeps, castles, and fortresses serve as armories, training grounds, barracks, and vaults.
Armored Riders' identifying feature is the heavy armor they wear, usually made of thick iron plates. The armor is typically stylized after a symbol or animal of the knight's choosing. The weapons they use are often pattern welded steel. Knights carry two sets of weapons on them at all times, for both armored and unarmored opponents.
The knight carries his battle standard on either a worn tabbard or a small flag attached to one of their weapons.
A knight always has a mount with them, usually strong, specially bred warhorses that can carry the immense weight of these warriors quickly and tirelessly across the field. These animals are also armored in similar fashion to their riders. Other kinds of mounts have been observed but are rare.
The training for an Armored Rider is rigorous. Many knights begin their career training before the age of ten, eating large portions many times a day, going through grueling exercises to create incredible strength and athleticism. They must be able to climb ropes in full armor using only the strength of their arms, fight all day, and swim wide rivers in full gear.
By the time the training is done, Armored Riders are nearly superhuman compared to the uninitiated.
Aside from physicality, the knights must be trained to use all manner of martial weaponry. Specialized armor-piercing weapons are a standard part of the training in the case they must ever fight another armored rider or similar foe.
Most armored riders hold a measure of disdain for ranged combat, aside from thrown weapons or weapons that require great strength such as incredibly powerful bows. Throwing axes are a particular favorite of these warriors.
The size of a Rider's retinue is directly related to their status among the Riders. Young Riders are typically only accompanied by other young Riders and entire bands will share the services of support persons. These support persons tend to be some sort of medical worker, a physical trainer, and a generalized smith for maintaining their gear, and at times a groom.
As the rank of the Riders increases the support persons are shared between fewer and fewer people, so that the most senior Knighted Riders may only share their doctors with two to five others. Low Knights tend to have these skilled persons servicing their family directly, and High Knights tend to pull the services of the most skilled in their perspective fields. Low Knights are always accompanied by at least a few low-ranking Riders or men-at-arms as personal guards. High Knights have personal guards which consist almost entirely of fully fledged Armored Riders, and the Royals have guards made up of entirely Knighted Riders, usually consider the second most dangerous warriors in the land only to the clerical-knights of the Truest King.
Advancement within the social structure of the Broken Kingdom can only be achieved through service in the Armored Riders. All positions of rulership and nobility draw ultimately on Knighted Armored Riders for their candidacy. The lowest ranks are the Armored Riders themselves. Ranking in the Armored Riders is typically based on a balance of seniority and deeds. The Armored Riders do not have ranks among themselves so much as a subset among them widely regarded as first among equals. These firsts tend to be aged Riders who have performed many deeds but have not won their knighthood.
The next rung are the Knighted Riders; once again there are no internal ranks among the Knighted Riders but rather those with seniority and who are held in high regard act as firsts within this stratum as well.
Chosen from the Knighted Riders are the Heirs of the Low Knights. The Low Knights are in return chosen for the Heirs of the High Knights. Royal Heirs can be drawn directly from the Knighted Riders, but typically this is only done when a biological son is to be chosen as an Heir. Non-biological Royal Heirs are typically chosen from among the High Knights or, in very remarkable instances, Low Knights.
Starting at the of Low Knight Heir, the Order of Truths begins to train individuals in a mental discipline. Not much is known about this training as those who know it are sworn to secrecy. It is rumored to make the practitioners immune to fear, explaining the calmness and focus of Broken Kingdom leadership mid-battle, even after sustaining wounds.
Typically each Low Knight will be serviced by a sizable contingent of Knighted and Armored Riders who make it possible for the Low Knights to do their duties of patrol and security. High Knights likewise are serviced by Knighted and Armored riders, but in far greater numbers. In like the Royals are serviced by ever larger numbers of Riders. All three stratum of nobility keep a force of men-at-arms in their fortresses. These professional warriors serve as guardsmen, archers, and garrison in support of the Riders who tend to take on more outgoing and independent roles. Men-at-arms typically live in the communities they serve rather than the fortifications themselves.
The entirely volunteer and professional force offers only two paths for entry.
The first is to be selected from among the youth and offered squireship at a young age. This is the typical approach most take as few with the potential are overlooked during the vigorous training and even fewer decline the invitation. Service as an Armored Rider is the only path upward in society aside from marriage in the Broken Kingdom, and thus many families begin grooming their sons even from the cradle in hopes they'll receive the invitation.
The second path is reserved for the grown men and women who either passed up the invitation or never received one and is considered to be the more difficult of the two paths, which begets its own level of prestige for accomplishing. The prospective Rider must defeat separate riders at jousting, swordplay, horsemanship, and athletics. Riders chosen to compete against the prospect are chosen by lot for each of the four tests. The prospect is allowed to enter these contests every twelve weeks and is typically observed by the council of Low Knights. Within a year of winning one of the contests, the prospect must achieve victory in the other three, otherwise their first victory expires and they will have to win that contest again.
Pilgrimage must be undertaken to the Cathedral by all Low Knights and the Heirs upon being selected as an Heir or upon ascending to the position. Here the High Clerist of the Truest King anoints the Low Knight or their newly named Heir. This pilgrimage must be repeated again for the rise to High Knight or to be recognized as a High Heir. New Royals or Royal Heirs are anointed by the Truest King personally.
Tournaments offer the main source of peace-time knighthoods for the Armored Riders. To achieve knighthood in this manner, an Armored Rider for the host kingdom of the tournament must win the Championship, beating the knighted participants of the host kingdom and visiting Knighted Riders as well for their victory.