The Hellriders (also written as HellRiders and Hell Riders), and also known as the Riders of Elturel or simply the Riders, were an elite cavalry unit who acted as the primary armed force of the city of Elturel in the Western Heartlands in the 14th and 15th centuries DR. The Hellriders helped Elturel establish and maintain civilization in these harsh lands. They were one of the most renowned and well-regarded military forces in the Realms. For a city guard, they outmatched the armies of whole realms.
A typical Hellrider patrol of the mid-1300s numbered thirty warriors, with at least one cleric of Helm and led by a Marshal. They also had foot patrols of twenty warriors around the city. Travelers most often encountered the Hellriders via these patrols.
Skilled soldiers who fought from horseback, they were typically proficient with spears or lances, composite bows or horse bows, and a long curved sabers. They could fire their bows from their backs of their horses while on the move without hindrance. Their light warhorses were mighty destriers. They were strong and well-equipped.
In addition to guarding and policing the city itself, they patrolled the lands around that were within Elturel's jurisdiction with their well-known mounted patrols. In the 1300s, this included the farmed and settled parts of the Fields of the Dead up and down the Skuldask Road and Dusk Road, and the banks and nearby reaches of the River Chionthar using their four rowing barges. Any given point on the road would be passed by a Hellrider patrol every four hours, day and night, every day. However, they could patrol and escort caravans as far as Iriaebor and Waterdeep. In the mid-1300s, significant raids, sorties, expeditions, and punitive assaults on aggressive demihumans, as well as regular patrols, were commanded by Lord Dhelt, the High Rider of Elturel, or by High Watcher of Helm Berelduin Shondar. They patrolled the same regions in the late 1400s.
All around the Fields of the Dead, they established guardhouses and outposts, called Lodges, to supply the patrols, with fresh mounts kept ready and stocks of food, water, weapons, and flammables on hand. Situated at strategic sites, these Lodges were protected by stockades and strong magical wards against arson and theft, which could be bypassed by certain ward tokens. Windstream Lodge stood on Skuldask Road, southeast of Elturel, and Stone Eagle Lodge stood beside the Chionthar, west of Elturel and downstream; these marked the borders of Elturel's reach circa 1366 DR.
In the farmlands to the west, north, and east, they had warning beacons ready to light. Watchers on the roofwalks of Elturel's High Hall, home of the High Rider, were always on the lookout for returning Hellriders or the smoke or fire of the beacons.
To be a Hellrider was a job for life, no matter how short it turned out to be. Those determined to resign were given a final mission involving very difficult tasks, and even if they succeeded, and survived, they were stripped of their gear, exiled from the city, and named a heretic in the eyes of Helm, God of Guardians, for abandoning their post. In the mid-1360s DR, there were no living ex-members of the Hellriders—too many had died in battle. Lord Dhelt was a former leader of the Hellriders, but still led patrols and significant actions.
By the late 1400s, the Hellriders followed the Creed Resolute borrowed from the Companions. This set of oaths and maxims had them swear to serve the High Observer and the greater good, uphold Elturgard's law, and permit no difference in faith to come between them, nor attribute the Companion to one god or another, among other codes of behavior. If a Hellrider overstepped the limits of law or proper behavior, their comrades would admonish them to "recall the Creed".
On their commission, warriors of the Hellriders in the 1300s were granted a light warhorse and a suit of crimson and white plate mail armor, which was marked with an upturned crescent symbol. In the 1400s, they wore the new crest of Elturgard: the sun and its smaller, blazing companion.
It was said that every boy and girl of Elturel and the lands around dreamed of being a Hellrider some day, even those whose talents lay in the intellectual more than the martial arts. To call such a child a "hellion" was not an insult but a compliment, marking one as having the courage and drive to ride the Hellriders' destriers. Though they didn't all get special training, Elturians were practically raised in the saddle, learning how to ride and growing familiar with how horses behaved in any situation, even those that never became Hellriders. In turn, all true warriors of Elturel were Hellriders.
Thanks to the Hellriders' vigilance, caravans and convoys of riverboats chose routes through Elturel's zone of control so they could relax their own security, if only for a day or two.
It was said that a company of Riders had once ridden into the Hells themselves—namely Avernus, the first layer—and from this story, the Hellriders were named. One version told that it was to rescue one of their own, such was their great loyalty to each other. A later version held that they rode through a gate to hunt down and slay devils that had been harassing the good people of Elturel.
In the mid-1360s DR,[note 2] the city was visited by a mysterious magical veil, stretching from the land to the sky, so Lord Dhelt sent a couple of Hellriders to investigate. Meeting the captain of the Hellriders, they peered through and saw a desert land, but as they ventured in, Elturel disappeared behind them and they were trapped in Har'Akir, in the Demiplane of Dread.
Around the late 1430s DR, shockingly, the High Rider himself was discovered to be a vampire, with a vast network of vampire spawn, charmed minions, undead allies, and sycophantic collaborators that surprised even the Hellriders. Now exposed, the undead infested Elturel, and whatever victories the Hellriders won during the days, they lost sorely in the nights. In time, the second sun called the Companion appeared, blasting the vampire lord and his spawn to ashes while the remaining undead cowered from its light. Elturel was swiftly liberated from their dead grip. This led to the reign of the High Observer and the establishment of the Order of the Companion, but the Hellriders remained as they had.
- High Rider Lord Dhelt, former leader and patrol leader
- High Watcher Berelduin Shondar, priest of Helm and patrol leader
- ↑ The reason for this large discrepancy is unknown. It may be that there is a standing army of 200 among a militia totaling 2000, or a core of 200 elite mounted warriors among 2000 differently equipped warriors of other kinds, such as the foot patrols and lookouts.
- ↑ The date of Ravenloft: Stone Prophet is unknown; this date is assumed based on other works published at the same time.
- Video games
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 Jeff Grubb, Ed Greenwood and Karen S. Martin (1987). Forgotten Realms Campaign Set (Cyclopedia of the Realms). (TSR, Inc), p. 41. ISBN 0-8803-8472-7.
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 Ed Greenwood, Julia Martin, Jeff Grubb (1993). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 2nd edition (revised), A Grand Tour of the Realms. (TSR, Inc), p. 92. ISBN 1-5607-6617-4.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 John Terra (February 1996). Warriors and Priests of the Realms. Edited by Steven E. Schend. (TSR, Inc), p. 32. ISBN 0-7869-0368-6.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 William W. Connors (November 1995). Wizards and Rogues of the Realms. Edited by Anne Gray McCready. (TSR, Inc), pp. 38, 109. ISBN 0-7869-0190-X.
- ↑ 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 Jeff Grubb and Ed Greenwood (1990). Forgotten Realms Adventures. (TSR, Inc), pp. 84, 85. ISBN 0-8803-8828-5.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 227. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
- ↑ 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 Ed Greenwood (1994). Volo's Guide to the Sword Coast. (TSR, Inc), pp. 93–94. ISBN 1-5607-6940-1.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 Kim Mohan ed. (2015). Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 79. ISBN 978-0786965809.
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 9.2 Kim Mohan ed. (2015). Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 81. ISBN 978-0786965809.
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 10.2 Kim Mohan ed. (2015). Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 80. ISBN 978-0786965809.
- ↑ DreamForge Intertainment, Inc. (1995). Designed by Christopher L. Straka. Ravenloft: Stone Prophet. Strategic Simulations, Inc.