The Knights of the Shield were a group of information dealers and political manipulators that operated within the Sword Coast, Lands of Intrigue and, to a lesser extent the North, for over a thousand years, dating back before Dale Reckoning.
While on the surface they appeared to be a secret society of merchants and nobles who were interested in the mercantile and civic matters of their respective lands, their high leadership were in fact guardians of a secret in service to the archdevil-turned-deity, Gargauth. This was a secret to the citizens of Faerûn who knew of their existence, as well as most of their membership.
Areas of influence
Though they were based primarily in Baldur's Gate, Amn and Tethyr, the realm of influence of the Knights reached from Calimshan to Waterdeep. They had little influence in the City of Splendors however, thanks to a failed coup against the Lords of Waterdeep.
Since the disappearance of the Shield of Silvam, the "knights" of the organization would have their agents gather vital and valuable information from throughout western Faerûn and share it amongst one another. For many years they used this knowledge in mercantile practice, making wise financial investments and political connections to become richer and more powerful than the rest of the aristocracy in their respective cities. After the establishment of the Shield Council they used their network of spies and informants to manipulate and influence social, economical and military developments across the west as they saw them arise. Of course these machinations still benefited the members of the Shield in great measure.
While most of the Knights of the Shield believed their ultimate aim was the accumulation of wealth and influence, they were mistaken. The most senior-ranking members of the council served the whims of Gargauth, the god of betrayal and political corruption.
The Knights of the Shield minted their own coin, appropriately enough in the City of Coins as was common among guilds in the South. It was the same size as normal currency but was a particularly dense, gold coin, three times the weight of others.
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Since the 9th century DR, the organization and its network of informants were led by the seven-member Shield Council, which itself was led by the First Lord. They met sporadically, though never twice in the same location, to coordinate with one another and mark their collective progress. Four councilors were senior agents of the Knights of the Shield, power-hungry information brokers unaware of the great groups true leader, whereas the Second Lord, First Lady and First Lord of the Shield acted as servants to the Hidden Lord of the Shield himself.
The hierarchy of the Knights of the Shield serving under the council was a loose collection of members, agents and hirelings. Seeing as how their members were well-seperated by geography and culture they rarely collected in meetings larger than six. Old bylaws dictated that any given member could reveal their membership within the network to no more than three individuals, regardless of their identity or allegiance.
The Knights of the Shield were originally founded in the time of the Tyrant Eye Wars in −170 DR by a gathering exceptional minds to defend the kingdom of Tethyr; they adopted this name from the artifact, the Shield of Silvam, a magic artifact supposedly created by the wizard Zhyra Bardson-Ithal. Following the disappearance of the legendary shield, the order was falsely accused of having a hand in the murder of the king Leodom IV in the Year of the Twisted Tree, 187 DR, and disbanded shortly thereafter. However, its members continued to hold their meetings in secret, becoming more of a secret mercantile consortium.
A decisive factor emerged in the Year of the Shining Shield, 889 DR when the Duke Tithkar Illehhune entered in the Knights of the Shield. He brought with him a mystical shield known as the Shield of the Hidden Lord, which he claimed was a divine gift that heralded the group's return to glory and prominence throughout the Realms. Duke Illehhune and the allies he quickly made within the organization instituted the Shield Council, an even-more-secret cabal tasked with further increasing the power of the order.
Despite their usual discretion, the Knights of the Shield did manage to raise their own mercenary in Year of the Worm, 1356 DR to march against the forces of Dragonspear Castle, disrupting trade throughout the region. When the Council of Six manage to rally the Amnian army, the Knights turned their forces over to the military's leadership.
In order to carry out their various political machinations, the Knights of the Shield groomed their own militaristic enforcers known as vengeance knights. Using various bits of misinformation while clouding their own identity, the Knights presented themselves to their zealous warriors as benevolent patrons.
Each agent of the Knights of the Shield employed a number of vengeance knights at their disposal. Referred to as a 'patron' each Knight acted as a sort of mentor to their warrior-enforcers.
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