The Valor Alliance is a coalition of a number of nations under a common banner, united by the Valor Knighthood, based in the Valor Hall, and constituted of all of Elleneisa north from the elven nation of Elethri on the east side of the Malaitha Mountains and the Southern Mountains on the west side. Elethri is technically considered part of the Valor Alliance, but functionally and practically is rather different. Cultural and religious distinctions and variations are permitted to the degree that they do not come into conflict with the tenets of the Valor Hall. The government of the Alliance is a complicated affair, with the High Master of the Valor Hall, who is chosen from the Valor Knighthood, presiding over the Valor Knighthood and being the single highest authority in the Valor Alliance. The kings or representatives of the various nations sit on the Valor Council and have a vote in the over-all governance of the Alliance and a great deal of say in decisions regarding their respective nations. The choice of a new High Master of the Valor Hall must always be from among qualified individuals of the Valor Knighthood and is made 1/4th from the previous High Master’s will, 1/4th from the Valor Knighthood (in which the regular army contributes a 1/5th vote) taken as a bloc, and the remaining portion from the Valor Council. Ratification requires 3/4th agreement, and until ratification the individual named in the will of the previous High Master has limited powers which include full war powers in the case of an on-going war.
The worship of various gods is permitted in the Valor Alliance, but they must have a ratified Order. The use and learning of magic is permitted only to wizards of the Valor Hall and to members of the religious orders under the worship of gods. Women cannot be wizards of the Valor Hall and cannot be true priests, but some of the orders allow gifted women to learn rudimentary spells of a few classes (all combat magic is forbidden to women). The gods are considered to speak to and guide their priests, who guide the men, who in turn guide the women, and breaking that order leads to vulnerability to seduction by demons who will drag the captured souls down to the netherhells. Women must either marry or join a temple and be consecrated directly to the gods, where they are secluded from the rest of society. Sexual relations are to exist only between a man and his wife, and violation of these laws (among others) can be treated by imprisonment, by death, and by purifying torture for the purpose of offering the soiled souls an opportunity to be cleansed. The prohibition of magic has lead to a variety of underground cults of a variety of dispositions, goals, and origins, that teach wizardry.
The Valor Knighthood is the symbol of the Valor Alliance. The Valor Knights are sworn to defend the peoples of the Alliance of the North (an alternate name for the Valor Alliance) against all that threatens them, specifically against the Nightmare that lurks in Nightshade Castle within the Icecrown Mountains and that threatens both their bodily livelihood and the eternal well-being of their souls, at whatever personal cost. Their skills are highly specialized, with their training being flexible and designed to use the specific skills and talents of each individual to the utmost, but all of them have rudimentary training in wilderness survival, a variety of weapon types, remaining hidden or unnoticed in various civilized environments, and various arts of subterfuge. They can come from all walks of life, from the highest nobility, to the wealthiest merchant clans, to peasant farmer boys and city drudges, but they must usually apply for entrance and pass the tests set them as young men in their mid-late teens. By virtue of their acceptance into the Valor Knighthood, they are all named nobility and brothers. As far as organized military organizations go, the Valor Knighthood is flexible and non-authoritarian, giving a fair amount of autonomy to all the Valor Knights and pardoning direct violation or subversion of orders as long as the violation or subversion is as successful as could be expected and adheres to the perceived spirit of the Order and of the orders. By virtue of their oaths and dedication, the Valor Knights are considered sacred to the Gods of Valor, though their role is different from that of the priests and they may require the services or attention of a priest in some circumstances.
The Valor Knights are honored and highly regarded for their dedication. Among the civilized nations of Ellenesia, honor is not understood to be challenging your opponent face-to-face in “fair combat” or riding at the van of the army, but unflagging dedication in service, no matter the cost. Cunning is also another form of honor, and the spy and the assassin puts himself in a place of even greater danger than the man who tries to scale the wall, for the one who scales the wall meets, most likely, a swift death, but the spy and the assassin, if captured, is fair game for whatever tortures his captors wish to subject him to. Such is the acceptance of this understanding among the civilized nations that it is not considered a war crime to do absolutely anything to a captive suspected of being a spy or an assassin from another nation, but it is considered to be an atrocity not to send his body back to the (suspected) nation of origin clad and honored as an honored ambassador come to an unfortunate end – or, if the nation who has captured the spy or assassin does not wish to make such a statement, to bury him with state honors.
The Valor Alliance is featured in the Legend of the Singer novels, Children of the Dryads and Sorceress of the Dryads, and in the forthcoming novel and short story, Kindred of the Sea and Gryphon’s Escape.