The Brotherhood of Steel
Today, we talk about one of the more controversial factions who were present during the Reign of the Demon King: the Brotherhood of Steel. To some they were a band of vigilantes, exacting a harsh justice in the lands outside of the control of the Demons. To others, they were a noble line of soldiers who refused to lay down their arms and give in to the Demon King. As with all contrasting views, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
The Brotherhood of Steel’s origins start in the Imperial Army in the years before the Fall of the Empire. There was a company of Imperial Soldiers known as the Gold Shield, because of the ornate golden shield on their banner. The Gold Shields were lead by Captain Vescha Hendengren, a large and strong Kotkalan.
The Shields were based in Arelean, but had several campaigns in Vaasari hunting down Orc Slavers, and in Kotkala where they pursued Bandit rings. Hendengren was an excellent tactician, whose hallmark was combining stealth with blistering assaults to decimate his opponents on the field. The company was awarded several citations for valorous service, and there was talk of promoting Hendengren to General in the next few years.
The Formation of the Brotherhood
When the Empire Fell, Hendengren and the Shields were stationed in Arelean. When the proclamation came from the Demon King to stand down, he ordered his men to arm themselves, and then took them to western Arelean to camp in the woods. He sent scouts to gather information on the Demon armies, so that he could plan his attack.
When the scouts came back, they talked about the crushing defeats the other Imperial Army units had suffered, and how the surrendered prisoners were taken north to the Demon Forge. The scouts were unable to gather much information on the Demons themselves, other than their unnatural coordination on the battlefield.
It was then that Hendengren made the decision not to engage. Dying on the field was noble, but he took the Imperial Army oath to heart, in which it was stated: “To protect the citizens of the Empire wherever the Empire’s light shines.” He had other plans for the Shields.
Hendengren gathered his senior officers together, and they made the decision that it was best to go into hiding and try to better understand the new enemy. He also thought that it would be better if they did not stay one large unit, and instead split the Shields up into smaller groups of 10 to 25 people, each lead by one of the senior officers.
Each group would become its own force and would operate with the goal of hindering the Demons, gathering intelligence, and protecting the citizens of the Empire. It was then that the Gold Shields were disbanded, and this new collection of groups took up the title The Brotherhood of Steel.
It should be noted that the Brotherhood was not made up of only men. There were women who were part of the original Gold Shields. The term Brotherhood meaning the alliance of these groups. Steel was in reference to the armor that the soldiers wore, in comparison to the Ebon shells of the Demons.
As mentioned before, the Brotherhood was made up of small groups of 10 to 25 individuals. The leader of each group was known as the First, and their second in command, Sargent of Arms. The rest of the group were simply known as Brothers (despite gender).
While each group was autonomous, all recognized Hendengren as the First among Firsts. Most often the groups operated independently, so if captured they could not compromise any other brothers.
To maintain some form of communication, Hendengren and his officers did devise a system for communication, using symbols, at designated locations. These symbols directed the high-level efforts of the Brothers. Occasionally, two or three units would come together for a conclave, but never more than that in one area.
Reign of the Demon King
In the early part of the Demon King’s reign, the Brothers operated mostly in Arelean, using the lands in Vaasari and Kotkala as places to regroup and recover. But after the Kotkalan Rebellion (Which is coming soon in our discussion) the Brothers spread out and moved throughout the Fallen Empire.
Without any formal supplies, and living on their own, the Imperial Armor the Brothers wore began to wear. The Brothers were forced to implement makeshift repairs, and to piece together suits of armor from fallen brothers, or from any old stockpiles of armor they could scrounge.
This is how the Brothers became known for their signature armor. Often the armor was made up of several original Imperial pieces along with a patchwork of various other parts, some new, some antique. The Brothers were adept blacksmiths, and were able to craft sophisticated armor, despite their nomadic conditions. Often the Brothers would add spikes and blades to their armor to make them more dangerous in battle.
In their later years, the Brothers knew they could not engage the Demons and turned their focus to the areas outside of their enemy’s direct control. In those areas at that time, there was a proliferation of Warlords and Bandits taking advantage of the absence of the influence of the Demons and of the Empire. The Brothers took them on, coming to the aid of the people.
To avoid detection from any Demon patrols, the Brothers would hide their armor in their caravan, and travel under the guise of merchants. They would send scouts into the nearby areas to look for trouble. When they found some, often in the form of a group of bandits, they would observe their actions.
The group would then argue the case of the offenders, without them being present, in what was called the Council of Judgement. This council was a remnant of military justice, from their Imperial Army past. The Second would state the charges to the First. Other Brothers were welcomed to argue on behalf of the accused. Then the First would render judgement.
If the accused was found guilty then the Brothers would attack. The attacks were swift, and always during the pre-dawn hours. The Brothers did not take prisoners, nor did they trust local authorities to mete out the correct justice. Instead, those that survived the attack would come to one of two sentences: Maiming or Death. Those that were maimed often lost their sword arm or were branded. The dead would be put on display and branded, so that the people knew that the Brotherhood was watching.
From personal accounts, while the Councils were designed to be impartial, there are no stories where a council found anyone not guilty. Also, there were very few tales of anyone being maimed by the Brothers. Nearly everyone that the Brothers “tried” died in the attack or were put to death shortly thereafter.
The Second Generation
During the time the Brotherhood was in operation, a second generation of Brothers were born. These children were nomads, and raised with the traditions of the Brothers. When they were teens, they would be in charge of keeping the caravan supplied and tending to the camping duties. As they came of age, they were trained in combat, and eventually handed down a set of armor from another Brother. The older Brothers would then take the role of master armorer, dedicating themselves in teaching blacksmithing to the younger Brothers, as well as keeping all the armor in fighting condition.
I had the chance to travel with a group of Brothers during the Reign of the Demon King. I spent a summer traveling through Western Kotkala with them, and was party to several of their raids. Their justice may seem harsh, but the times were equally harsh. We take for granted the safety Olmkala provides us, but in those days western Kotkala was a dangerous place, and ill fortune could fall upon anyone. In that sea of lawlessness, the Brothers represented the last vestiges of the Empire.
In our next lecture, we look at the early reign of the Demon King, and how Kotkala laid the seeds for our eventual freedom.