Into the Wild (KingMaker AP)
Bandits from the River Kingdoms and Issia nearly spelled the end of the Taldan colony of Rostland in its early years. Sirian First’s reputation as a duelist drew the attention of a bandit chieftain, who offered the baron a wager: half his fortune against the bandit leader’s head, if he could best him in a duel. Baron First accepted, and lost. He paid his due and disappeared, too ashamed to show his face any longer, most assumed.
Yet Sirian returned years later as Baron Aldori and, in a highly-publicized “rematch,” defeated his foe in seconds and reestablished his rule in Rostland. Baron Aldori then issued his own wager: 100,000 gold pieces to anyone able to best him in a duel of blades. Thousands flocked to Rostland to answer this challenge, and the “Sword Baron” defeated them all. He founded the Aldori school of sword fighting, and established the influence of the Aldori Swordlords over Rostland for centuries.
With the change in regime, many swordlords fled Brevoy to other realms, such as the River Kingdom of Mivon. A few became sell-swords, prostituting the arts of the Aldori School for the coin needed to buy them food and shelter. The rest primarily settled in or near the free city of Restov.
In Brevoy they are minor nobility now, ruling nothing more than their city and the surrounding towns, outranked both by the throne and the Great Houses. Most think of the dueling academies now when they think of the Aldori Swordlords- the best teachers and duelists are not necessarily noblemen, but masters of sword styles and heads of schools.
Goal: The Restoration of Rostland
The Aldori Swordlords are only a remnant of what they once were. Once, the Swordlords were nobles determined through their own skill, beholden only to those who could best them with a blade. Now they are forced to bend the knee to a man who rules by the flimsiest of rights. Their institutional pride still smarts from the ambush in the Valley of Fire while simultaneously being inflamed by the deserved reknown of their fighting salles. Some are content to keep the status quo, but the fiery talk in the tap rooms of Restov is growing hotter every night.
Aldori Swordlords revere skill, not some higher ideal of good or evil. And while they yearn to overthrow the yoke of Surtovan rule, they do so in the hopes of reinstating their own rule, not out of an overblown love of personal freedoms.
There is no one leader of the Swordlords. There is a Council of Swordlords who advise Restov’s lord mayor in governing the city, but the Swordlords as a whole respect ability with a blade more than they do family or political connections. In the days before Choral, rank was won and lost through dueling. Though that may be because in order to devote oneself to the study of fencing, one must not have to worry about where your food is coming from on a day to day basis. i.e.- Aldori Swordlords and their students tend to be wealthy or at least well off.
Each salle has its own leader, and there are dozens of fencing schools in Restov alone, not to mention Mivon or the traveling fencing masters who tutor the rich who cannot make the trip to Brevoy to train. The most famous of the Aldori academies in Restov are the Liechtenauer Academy, whose most famous master is none other than the First Swordlord herself, Jamandi Aldori; The School of Aldori Combat, led by the legendary Galtan Georges Eleder; the Jacobin School, owned by former Eleder pupil and fellow Galtan refugee Jules Jacob; the Lion’s Blade, created by Taldan bon vivant Stilicho de Cervantes; the Society for the Promotion of Aldori Fencing, organized by minor House Lebeda scion Elena Belova; and the officially un-named Sidyak School, taught by Viktor Sidyak, with his famous “one-and-a-half tempo” style.
The center of Aldori dueling is Restov, though the Swordlords of Mivon dispute this. One cannot call oneself a true Aldori Swordlord unless they have spent time on the wooden floors of one of that city’s fencing salles. There are many schools the teach many variations on the Aldori style, which leads to frequent friendly, and sometimes not-so-friendly, conflict between adherents of different forms. Within Restov, though, there is no one headquarters for the Swordlords- they can be found virtually everywhere.
Anyone can join one of the many fencing schools as long as they have the money to pay the tuition. Whether they can become a true member of the Swordlord tradition depends on their skill with a blade.
Officially, the only way to gain prestige within the Swordlords is to fight and win duels. Even the heads of various schools still have to answer challenges from time to time. Unofficially, one can quietly gain prestige by performing anti-Crown activities, from speaking eloquently in one of the frequent conversations about the political climate to robbing Crown tax collectors (and not getting caught).
In and around Restov, being a Swordlord carries great prestige. A respected member of the tradition can call on other Swordlords and students for their aid against outsiders, primarily in force of arms but also financially or in the form of safe houses to escape the clutches of the law for speaking out for Rostland’s freedom.