What a Paladin is has changed much over the years. Once we were mighty warriors of the Holy cause, champions of the Gods and those they blessed to walk among us as their Avatars. We all know how that turned out, and I am sure I do not need to explain why we are not that any more. While some Chapters of our Order still cling to the old ways and the ideals of the Gods, we true Paladins have moved on, stout in the belief that although the Gods and their Avatars were a lie, the Holy cause was not.
Well, not a Holy cause any longer. When the truth was revealed we were rightly reviled, the many kingdoms, empires and free peoples of this world unable to pick us apart from the Masters we once served. But we true Paladins saw what had happened and turned our might against those we had served and fought hard to save this world, and it was that action alone that allowed the Paladin Order to survive. If only was had turned earlier, but hindsight is a pointless endeavour and we must never wash away the sins we committed.
We went through many changes after that. Our power was still vast, our history still one not to be forgotten or forgiven. When the lines of the three major Kingdoms were drawn, our Order almost died. Yet even those who had banded together for years still had no trust for each other. Seeing this we offered our services as keepers of the borders, a Order not pledging loyalty to any one kingdom, but rather to all three. Neither we nor the rulers much liked the idea, but it saved us and saved their fragile peace.
When the three kingdoms became two, we tried to stay out of it. But when the soldiers clashed on the borders we could not just sit and watch the pointless murder of innocents. We protected those areas we had lived in for years, breaking yet another oath we had promised in good faith. When the dust settled they feared we would claim the lands as our own, but that was never our intention. We just wanted to protect the people, and from that moment on that became our Cause, one so much like the Holy one we had once followed, but built instead of our own beliefs and promises.
They made us leave the two kingdoms who remained. They gave us boats, livestock, a few chests of gold. They made it seems like an offer, but we all knew it was an order. We made no fuss, for the most part. This was when the Order fractured. We may claim the title of the Order, being the largest Chapter, but we not one as we used to be. Paladins all, but not together.
Those of us who left were not all Paladins. Some of us took wives and created families. Some people just wanted to come with us, happy with the way we had run the borders. In total two thousand Paladins sailed that day, with some three thousand others who were not of the Order. We sailed for weeks before we found the Island, this island, that we now call home.
For a few years the idea of a Paladin Order was silent, bubbling under our lives as farmers, wives, husbands, sons and daughters. We were not an Order, we were a Town. Some of of you may find it strange to hear from an old fighter like me, but those few years where I tilled the earth and tended only to my own family and friends are the happiest I had, but also the most unfulfilled.
Many of you in this room have never felt the power of a God rushing through you. It is intoxicating, addictive and filled with love. It is warm, a cocoon one never wishes to leave. When that left, the emptiness was intense. My family helped fill that void, but it was only really in the work of the Order that I felt like myself. So when the emissaries of the two kingdoms came to us, here, and asked for our help, I was the first to say yes.
Five hundred or more of us left to sail back to the land we had been forced to leave, to protect the exact same people who had told us to leave. Some, it turns out, did not sail to help but rather for revenge. Yet the majority of us purely wanted to help, as we had always wanted to help.
The Wizards were a terror like few other. But we did what we always did; we studied, we planned, and we toppled. Yet the revelation that the power those Wizards wielded as in fact the same we had once been gifted was a true revulsion. The Wizards were want the Gods had wanted us to become, and I am forever thankful to those Paladins who first thought the orders of the Gods. I was young then, and if not for the strength and the wisdom of those older than me I fear I would have been one of those monsters.
Still, the message was clear. The Gods were still here and they were pissed. They could still gift their power, which meant they could still create Avatars. We were meant to defeat the Wizards, the Gods wanted it. They are creatures of time and patience, creatures looking for a challenge and entertainment. They play with us, angered that we walked away from them yet amazed and intrigued by that very same act.
Some wanted us to grow then, become the Grand Paladin Order once more. I admit to being one of those at the time. It was pointed out to me by a woman that we still cannot name despite her bravery and clear allegiance to this Order, that the stronger we grew the stronger the enemies would become. For us to win, the fight was not here. For us to win we needed to find the Gods, we needed to find their minions, trace their Avatars and study them. We needed to do what we always did; study, plan and then topple our enemy. But most of all we needed to accept once and for all who are enemy was, the Gods.
Now the Paladin Order is one of shadows. The Gods love action, war and excitement. To stay their gaze we needed to become something they could not stand to watch. Paladins had always been the light, the bright colours; we needed to become the grey. So we did. We became the bureaucrats, the accountants, the paper pushers. We slide under their gaze as we try and undermine them. Glory is no longer ours to hold, all that matters is victory.
And yet we need to give the Gods something to watch, so we push heroes to do the glory work. But heroes are a mixed bag, even the competent ones are a bizarre mix of world saving and individual life destroying. So to add to our boring cover and to protect the people in a way that will not bring undue attention, we have opened up our Insurance branch. Every hero who operates in the two kingdoms must have insurance cover, and you are here to make sure they do. When they bungle an act of daring or do, or injure a poor bystander in the process, we will make sure those injured have the help they need.
Now we are not naive, we are aware some people will try and claim money they have no claim to. That is why you must investigate every claim, get detailed reports of the incidents and only pay out to those deserving. Of course, the fact that you will be able to investigate and ask any questions you wish may come in handy for our real purpose, but I am sure many of you have come to that conclusion.