I slunk away in terror as the mass of the Undead Knights of Knonii fell on us with their heartless rage. I watched as three fell to wounds that would have killed a man in moments, their legs and arms being hacked from their bodies. Yet my stomach failed me as I watched one sever the arm of a man he was facing and without preamble bent down, picking up the arm as the man screamed at him and replaced his own missing arm. Continuing on, leaving the man to die as his life’s blood poured from his wound.
— Anonymous soldier.
For centuries, the dreaded Knights of Knonii raged across the battlefields of the Middle Kingdoms. Hacking their way through their foes without any discernible pattern or reason, fiends on the field, never diminishing in number no matter the number of battles due to their ability to heal all wounds by replacing damaged organs with healthy ones. Terrifying in their distinctive mail hauberks and slitted helms. A score or more of them, sweeping out of nowhere every decade or so with no warning and no known way to defeat them.
It took the combined efforts of three armies to trap and finally overcome them. Each was beheaded in turn during the fray, at no mean cost in lives. The heads were pulled from the field where they could be burned and then buried. The bodies fought on for a time before toppling, no longer to rise. In fear, the armor was buried miles away from the helms.
Peace reigned for a time. But rumors of the knights have begun to surface again.
During the height of the Grandian State a mighty crusade against the Cruvelians was called by priests of the principal deity, Ugreid. The priests of Ugreid declared the Cruvelians to be heretics whose goddess Thuria had spurned the path of Right by using infants in sacrificial rituals. The Knights of Knonii, already famous for their valor and cunning on the field, were quick to take up arms. With Urgeid’s blessing and the backing of the Knights, Grandian was able to raise the necessary troops and march.
Fueled by righteous wrath, the invading army swept across the land, arrowing straight for the capital city and home to Thuria’s prime temple. But, before they reached it, a priestess snuck into the tent of the Lord Knight Commander. With a word, she bound him to his cot and put a spell of silence upon him. Expecting to die, he was surprised to find that she only wished to talk, to tell him of the Cruvelian side of the tale.
According to the priestess, infants were held in high regard and were never sacrificed. Ugreid, she claimed, was pursuing a grudge against Thuria simply because she had spurned his advances and refused to become his consort. She pled with him to turn back and to stop the senseless violence against her people.
The Lord Knight found himself conflicted. Could the tale be true? She could have easily slain him. And if she could do that to him, she could have taken out most of the knights and crippled the army single-handed. He could find no reason to doubt her. Anger began to replace the confusion.
The Knights quit the field to return home. Without their leadership, the rest of the army also returned. As one, the entire knighthood strode up the steps to Ugreid’s main temple and demanded to know the truth of the tale from the priests. With them they carried the body of one of their own, the youngest of the knights whose inexperience had cost him his life.
“Did this youth die in an unjust cause?” The Lord Knight Commander ground out through clenched teeth. “Did we slay innocents on the whim of a mad god?”
The priests did not respond. Instead, thunder rumbled through the sky and the face of Ugreid himself appeared, full of rage.
“Go!” he ordered. “Go and kill that whore’s sheep! If I can not have her, I want to see their blood!”
“We will not fight for you,” the knights declared. To a man, they threw down their swords and shed their armor.
“Cowards!” the god cried. “Hear me! Never again will you be cowards. You will fight until the world itself crumbles to dust.”
And with that the knights found themselves once again covered in armor and carrying their weapons. Unable to die and unable to remove their armor.
Over the centuries of their eternal curse their collective minds crumbled as did their bodies. Not able to eat or sleep. Not able to die or take their own lives, as their souls are held within the armor not their frail flesh. Their souls beating on the metal plate that is their invisible cage. They slowly began to slip into a rage, angry at the living and at being cursed unjustly.
The first to fall to that rage were the priests.
The Gods did this. They are not a better power, almost as petty as mankind. Perhaps more so.
— The Lord Knight Commander (name forgotten)
This inner conflict began to erode their sensibility of right and wrong, of good and evil and corroded away what remained of their mortal humanity. Their first campaign was against the priests of Ugreid to punish them for their trickery and their eternal prison. During this campaign is when they realized their need and ability, to replace their injured limbs with those of fresh able parts. They returned to fall upon the priests of Ugreid and bind them, tearing them apart while alive and forcing the others to watch as they replaced lost limbs with those of the fallen.
The sole exception was the head priest. Him they bound within the armor of their slain brother. The armor wrapped him up as it had the others. Ugreid abandoned his priest.
Ugreid bound the souls of the knights into their armor. Wounds may take their limbs and their bodies may rot away but they still live on within the metal links and plates of their armor, helms, and weapons. Over the years, their minds have deteriorated into blind hatred and madness. They kill to keep themselves whole by replacing lost parts with those found on the dead and the dying. The power of the armor seals each new limb to the body. When the body itself rots away, another body is found to replace it with. As the knights live within the armor, it does not matter who wears it.
Heads can be replaced, as long as it is done within a day. Otherwise, the body fails and topples over. The knight still lives in madness, trapped within the metal. Anyone donning the armor is taken over by the madness and becomes the knight.
Their weapons are never far from hand. No matter what happens, any weapon lost will reappear in the knight’s grasp before the next swing.
Even when whole, the bodies they take will slowly decay. At least once every decade, the knights must replace all flesh, otherwise the bodies decompose and they become trapped in immobile armor.
Someone has found the armor of the Lord Knight Commander. Perhaps a thief uncovered it and made a profit selling it to a warrior. No one is certain what happened. The poor soul has the armor but not the helmet. Swayed by the power of the old knight’s rage, he finds himself thinking strange thoughts and losing chunks of time. During those times, he searches for the missing helmet and the armor of his companions. He has unearthed a few of them and they have begun to kill again. The remnants of sanity will not hold for long.