The mysterious knights who rode with the Demon Queen’s host of cultists and madmen when they stormed the City of Zangiers call themselves the Order of the Serpent, although it is recognized by the more astute that this is nothing more than a public facade. They played their part in the conquest of the city, and then quickly took over the ruins atop the Rock of the Seven Waters; raising above it standards emblazoned with the symbol they fight under – a twisted black snake, knotted and biting what ought to be its own tail. The citadel that they rebuilt had become little more than a legend at that time, even to those who had lived their entire lives in the shadow of the Rock and relied on its waters for sustenance, and it’s mysteries are many.
To this day they play something of the role of boogeymen to the people of Zangiers, never appearing so often that their presence becomes unremarkable. It is even more unusual to see them traveling in a group, but even so it is their brotherhood that strikes the most terror into the hearts of the more sinister inhabitants of the city. The Order numbers at least two hundred, and to outside eyes and ears there appears to be not the tiniest whisper of dissension among them. It is poison to the dark and paranoid mind of the cultist or the criminal to think that there exists within a stone’s throw a group so dedicated to one-another, whose impulse to support or revenge one-another cannot be bought or reasoned with.
The terror these men (and there are those who will tell you that they are, in fact, something other than mortals) inspire is not limited to those of a more sinister bent, of course. They make a calculated effort to strike fear (or at least respect) into all that they deal with. When you meet a Knight of the Order (assuming that he wishes his true nature known) his countenance will be hidden behind a veil of steel or else of silk. His stance and demeanor will demonstrate both martial prowess and a willingness to die for the cause, secure in the knowledge that his brother Knights stand behind him. Furthermore, future dealings are liable to not be with the same man, but some other who has stepped in armed with full and exacting information of all that has transpired. It is in this way that the Order makes plain to all it deals with that they are not a collection of individuals, but one whole – one family, if you will, acting with a singular sense of purpose.
What exactly that purpose is, none else can say, and the Order certainly isn’t sharing. Of course this, too, is part of their mystique. Rumors as to their activities and agenda are many, some no doubt encouraged by the Knights themselves, and include:
- That the great wagon, drawn by a dozen huge oxen of a breed unseen in the area before or since, that they are said to have led into the city in their conquest in fact contained some great artifact – some say a strange god-ling beast either dead or sleeping.
- A wide variety of magics are ascribed to the Order, but none can convincingly claim to have seen anything overt; of course subtlety is typically the opposite of weakness when it comes to matters arcane.
- The Citadel on the Rock predates the founding of the City of Zangiers (which was itself more than a century and a half ago), but by how much no-one can be certain. Furthermore, there are rumors of ruins beneath the place that stretch back even further into antiquity.
- The Order takes interest in many strange things, both magical and mundane. Exactly what knowledge they may or may not value is not something anyone else can guess. However it is just about always true that it is better to cooperate than to attempt to defy their will.
- Agents of the Order may (or may not) be anywhere, but they are known to have placed overt operatives in both the Kingdoms of the West and the Great Empire and the many subsidiary warlords in the East.