The coasts of the island-dotted Boshic Sea have always brought visitors to admire her beauty: salt-encrusted stone spires, wind-blasted cliffs, myriad tropical isles, brilliantly colored coral reefs. Bards have sung of its beauty, monks have meditated the wonder, and sailors have tried vainly to map out each atoll and key. When the entrepreneur Bowerblade clan began to invest in resort colonies, great interest was taken in the Boshic Sea. The tiny villages on the coasts and indigenous island settlements that thrived on small-time fishing and cottage tourism had their livelihoods threatened by burgeoning colonies that sprawled wherever the Bowerblades could afford to build. Gradually, the wilderness that was once the Boshic Sea deteriorated, replaced by bustling towns of vacationing nobles. Most objectors eventually accepted the loss of the wild Boshic. Others, however, refused to give up the fight.
On the tenth anniversary of the opening of Edgewater Resort Town, the Bowerblades held a regatta festival, the richest of nobility commanding hired sailors and slaves from their couched litters. Just before the race began, a strange sight appeared from behind a closeby atoll: a small navy of rickety rafts, aging fishing craft, and native-made canoes. Dismissed as a large fishing party, the nobles began their regatta - and sailed into disaster. As the makeshift fleet drew closer to the yachts, they could be seen bristling with armed men. Brigands clothed in kelp and armored with crustacean carapace boarded the yachts, killing all aboard while giving battlecries of "For the reefs!"
A public relations disaster for the Bowerblades, funding for the colonies disappeared and the merchant families pulled out of the Boshic. The families of those killed demanded retribution, but sending an army to the distant shores, sailing island to island hunting down rebels in an abandoned territory was deemed to expensive. Inquiries to the various fishing villages revealed nothing but general antipathy toward the intruding merchants and relief that they were gone.
In secret, the villages knew well of the attack: they had staged it. When the resort towns first began to rise, a small council was formed of elder fishermen, native tribe leaders, and dissident admirers of the Boshic Sea. An unlikely alliance was formed, declaring itself guardians of the atolls from all threats. The pagan beliefs of the indigenous tribes took root in the rebels, taking totemic animals as their spirit guides and enrobing themselves in ceremonial garb. An retired paladin who had taken to meditating on the shores for years organized the band into knightly orders, granting the warriors chivalric titles and claiming fraternity among them. As they swore oaths to myriad gods to protect the shallow sea with their lives and souls, they were dubbed the Grand Order of the Reef.
After the Bowerblade colonists were routed, the Reef Knights dispersed themselves to the various archipelagoes and shores to ensure invaders never again breached the sacred coasts. At first they allowed civil admirers of the sea - monks, rangers, bards and the like - to explore and observe the Boshic. After a few unfortunate incidents of mistrust led to bloodshed, the Reef Knights now meet any non-native visitor with force. Legends now abound of the queerly garbed warriors that wander the islets of the Boshic Sea, boldly fighting any traveler that dares to enter the ancient shores.
The Grand Order
The head of the Grand Order of the Reef Knights goes by the title of "His Lordship, the Shore Shaman and Grandmaster, Akai," or on various occasions "Lord Grandmaster" or "Akai". The full title is an amalgamation of chivalric and indigenous titles. Grandmasters are elected for life by the masters of the sub-orders. The true name of the grandmaster is rarely known, for upon election, a grandmaster relinquishes his old life and completely assumes the mantle of Lord Grandmaster as his being. While symbolically an important position, and carrying considerable influence, the grandmaster actually has relatively little power. His primary purpose is to preside of the Council of Order-Masters, which communally meets to determine the course and actions of the Grand Order.
Members are very rarely recruited into the Order; instead, interested parties must seek out a knight themselves. For indigenous tribes, knighthood has become a ritual for young nobles to become full-fledged adult warriors. The nearby fishing villages are not usually very active in joining the Order, but appreciate the protection and readily offer food or shelter to any knights that may need it. Fishermen in a few villages have started a tradition of offering a firstborn son to train in the Order by the time of adolesence, establishing a new sort of apprenticeship system. On rare occasions, potential knights come from elsewhere, either nearby kingdoms or from far off. These are mostly disgraced soldiers or thrill-seeking mercenaries, but also include rogue sorcerers, sailors, and rangers from other shores.
The Fraternal Orders
Only the Lord Grandmaster belongs exclusively to the Grand Order. All other knights, immediately upon induction to the Grand Order, join one of several sub-orders, known as the Fraternal Orders. Each has its own territory and modes of action.
Order of the Cuttlefish - Masters of disguise, these knights act as scouts, performing reconaissance and assassinations as needed. They take as their totem the cuttlefish, a sprightly and small creature that can adapt its appearance to remain unnoticed even when immediately beside prey or predator. The formal uniform of the Order is a helm made from the body of an octopus, cured into leather with an eye slit cut out, the hollowed tentacles hanging from the chin; beneath, a robe of various mottled colors is worn. In most practice, however, a knight of the Cuttlefish Order wears camouflaged gear to match wherever he swims, be it coral, kelp, or sand. Often layers of camouflage will be worn so that the wearer can adapt the equipment to various environments when tracking an intruding boat. They often swim unaided by floatation, using breating tubes and goggles beneath the waves. On other occassions, they may use a small raft or board. As silent as they are invisible, many sea captains in the Boshic have found sailors to suddenly disappear, only to be found floating in the surf later. They also specialize in poisons, made from various reef dwellers such as the stonefish or certain jellies, allowing them to paralyze an enemy and quickly escape.
Knights of the Shark - Shark Knights are well-known as dread warriors of the coast. They are the primary patrol of the Reef Knights, gliding along the reefs and shoals on their longboards. Paddling and waveriding are their primary mode of transport, though they employ a small foldable mast and sail when necessary. Shark Knights dress in hardened sharkskin armor, the helm often incorporating the dorsal fin or jawbones of their totem. Unlike the shyer Cuttlefish Knights who carefully observe prey, Shark Knights will actively pursue any intruders with zeal. They are often armed with sharktooth barbed javelins or oar-shaped clubs lined with teeth. They will often chant or wail on their approach, praying to the shark gods for assistance and protection. The knights believe these prayers make them invulnerable to their enemies, to which there may be some truth: the fearsome appearance of a howling Shark Knight is often enough to ward off intruders, or at least make them cautious and curious.
Society of the Coral Buckle - Considered when of the most noble ranks, Coral Buckles are the cavalry of the Reef Knights. Their order is titled after their uniform, a large belt buckle made from coral and carved with the image of waves. Because aquatic mounts take such skill to train and ride, this order is relatively small and of elite status. They ride a variety of steeds, often porpoises or sharks, and rarer exotic creatures such as fell squids and even hippocampi. A small contingent of Coral Buckles can also be found patrolling the shoreline on seals or walruses.
Militia of the Lobster - Lobster Militia are the mainline defense of the Reef Knights. They armor themselves from head to toe as their patron totem, with harness made from hard shells, coral, and bone, all painted in a bright red. They bear shields made from great clams, and wield polearms made from whatever sharpened items they can fashion: claws, teeth, squid beaks, barbs, shells. Where most of the sub-orders' members are fairly independent in method, Lobster Militia travel in packs of fifteen or more on scavenged barges or large rafts. They are often used in boarding ships, dropping a spiked plank onto an opposing vessel and travelling across in a sort of narrow phalanx.
Enterprise of the Ray - Where the Lobster Militia is comparable to a hoplite phalanx, Ray Knights might be liked to skirmishers or light infantry. They wear layered shagreen armor, light and flexible, with a broad cloak made from a whole ray skin. They carry a number of javelins made from stingray barbs, with one denser spear to be used in melee combat. Often found with Lobster Militiamen, they travel on light skiffs or rafts, adept at quickly skirting over the waves and around reefs. Once their javelins are depleted and Lobster Militia are deployed, they will attack with wild abandon, leaping and jabbing at enemies with their long spears, just out of sword reach. Ray Knights also uniquely use the tentacles of some of the more deadly jellyfish of the Boshic. Using a shagreen pouch and a large glove on the left hand, Ray Knights store and fling whole jellies at their opponents, causing chaos and paralyzing stings in enemy formations. Handling the jellyfish is a potentially deadly feat, one which requires long training and a steady hand to do properly; thus, only the most agile and dexterous recruits are allowed into the ranks of the Enterprise of the Ray.
Brotherhood of the Scallop - While not the most physically intimidating sub-orders of the Reef Knights, the Brotherhood of the Scallop is perhaps the most fearsome. The Brotherhood is the mage branch of the Order, its members often local shamans, immigrant sorcerers, defrocked clerics, and sea-going druids. Wearing kelp cloaks fastened with a shell buckle, Scallop Knights command the power of the sea. Their range of powers is wide, from directing schools of fish as familiars to summoning squalls and crashing waves on intruders. Theirs is the smallest of the sub-orders, but are unmatched in their destructive power. It is for this very reason they only rarely use their full potential: while a brief tsunami would handily destroy an enemy vessel, it would also wreak havoc on the Boshic's reefs which the Knights are sworn to protect. Thus they usually relegate themselves to keeping watch through the eyes of sea-dwelling familiars or supporting other Knights with their magic.
Beyond the Boshic
After the destruction of the Bowerblade holdings and the liberation of the Boshic Sea, the Masters of the Fraternal Orders gathered to discuss the Grand Order's future. It was agreed that their sacred vows would remain, lest any again dare to sully the pure Boshic coasts. Master Korsu Vorm, the firey head of the Knights of the Shark, was the first to suggest that the Grand Order expand its vows and look beyond the local shores to a more universal goal. "Why is the Boshic Coast," he reasoned, "any less deserving than the Ansilian Seas, or the Great Lake of Marshai? Should not all the seas be under our care?" Others disagreed, arguing that the Boshic was uniquely worthy of protection given its status as a virgin coast, and the logistics of guarding every shore in the world at the least daunting. Some even questioned his sanity, placing the value of the sea above all human life where the Order was founded to defend against greedy nobles. A debate broke out and for days on end the Masters argued. Passions roared, until Master Vorm declared the Grandmaster "unworthy of the noble title Akai" and himself the true Grandmaster, marching off with his rebel Knights on a crusade for another far-off coast. Thus a second Grand Order of the Reef was formed.
Tempers have long since cooled and the fractured knights are once again whole. However Vorm's Crusaders, as the rogue knights were known, are still found on scattered shores throughout the world. In most regions they are few and far-between, seen more as exotic relics than a real threat to anyone. On a few coasts, though, the Reef Knights rule and govern all travel in their claimed land.
The Grand Order of the Reef
"From his strange raft, the bizarre man stood, shell armor glistening in the sun. Bringing his stingray-barbed spear aloft, he howled: 'Be wary, trespasser! This reef is under my guard, and I her patronage! Bring not your boats near my shoal, lest you suffer the wrath of the Reef Knights!'"
- The logs Cpt. Creos Althea, Boshail Coast, 6 Ventôse 986.