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Sinaic Order
Urukasian Order
Shield insignia of the Order (XV century onwards)

Active

1201 - 1654

Allegiance

Church of Aloia (1201 - 1593) Independent (1593 - 1610) King of Tarajan (1610 - 1654)

Type

Catholic religious order

Headquarters

Saint Petersburg (1201 - 1224) Bergenfort (1224 - 1350) Winterstadt (1350 - 1654)

Nickname(s)

Saxon Knights, Saxon Order, Sinaic Knights

Patron

The Virgin Mary

Attire

White mantle with a black cross (sometimes black-and-golden cross)

The Order of Saxon Brothers of the House of Saint Mary in the Sinaic Lands, commonly known as the Sinaic Order, was a Catholic religious order founded in 1201 in Saint Petersburg, as a branch of the wider Saxon Order. While the Saxon Knights had their focus in the christianization of the Baltic Region, which would later form the Kingdom of Aloia, the Sinaic Knights were founded with the main goal of spreading Christianity to the Lands of the Sinaics (at the time known simply as Sinai, now part of East Tarajan).

The Order was soon able to successfully settle in the Sinaic lands, in few decades becoming a power to be reckoned with by local rulers, on one hand; on the other hand, the establishment of strongholds all over the Sinai soon led the Order to push for more autonomy from the Grand Masters in Saint Petersburg. However, full independence will only be achieved in 1593, when the Protestant Reformation imposed the abolition of Catholicism in Aloia.

Despite its independence, the Order soon began to decline in power, and in 1610 the threat posed by northern Planitan and Sinaic rulers forced it to swear allegiance to the recently-born Kingdom of Tarajan. This decision inexorably linked the future of the Order to the events unfolding in the Kingdom during those tumultous years. As a result, when King Sigismund VI abolished Christianity all over the Kingdom in 1654, the Order was dissolved and its properties secularized, going to form the Grand Duchy of Middensteden, the Duchy of Bergenfort, and part of the Duchy of Anneland and the County of Stargard.

History

The beginnings

In the XIII century the Saxon Order, founded almost two centuries before at the beginning of the XI century, had already achieved significant results in its fight of christianization in the Baltic Regions. Its prestige was growing, and its knights were justly known for their valour and revered by many Christians as protectors and missionaries. Thus, when merchants from the coastal and river towns of Moravia, Bohemia, and Pontus, began to search for men willing to protect their scattered outposts in the Sinai, it came as no surprise that they called in the Saxon Knights. Merchants from those regions had already reached the Sinai three centuries before, but the situation was growing increasingly worrisome for them: the Sinaic lands were subject to neverending conflict among tribal chiefs, who soon understood that the trading posts established by those strangers could be an invaluable source of money, obtained through threat of raids or even annhilation. The Knights were more than willing to accept their new mission: not only it would have provided them with more donations from the rich cities of the west, but it would also have been a wonderful occasion to spread Christianity among the Sinaic savages and, even more deeply, through the Allai Mountains and the fabulous lands of the Ajans.

In 1201, then, during a solemn ceremony in the fortress of the Order at Saint Petersburg, a group of one hundred knights, led by the Komtur Erik Von Augsburg, were invested with the holy mission of spreading Christianity to the Sinai. They embarked in Sinope with also twelve missionaries, and finally landed at their destination, in the bay that would later become Bergenfort, few months after their departure. The Komtur immediately used the local trading post as base, fortifying it with a wooden castle. Then, the missionaries were sent to the local tribes, each of them escorted by some knights while Erik himself retained ten of them as reserve.

Masters of South Sinai

The mission of the Knights soon appeared in all its difficulty to Erik: although the first tribes were keen to accept Christianity, further west and north the position of both knights and missionaries was threatened by the presence of larger pagan chiefdoms. Their power will soon be demonstrated when they united their forces in the so-called Sinaic Empire, only few years after the arrival of the Knights. It is not clear if the formation of this large and powerful entity was the result of a perceived threat posed by the Knights and their Christian beliefs: the Sinaic never undertook a major operation against the Knights (and this fact probably saved their lives), preferring to focus their energies against the lands of the Ajans on the other side of the Allai Mountains. Between around 1230 and 1250, the Sinaics were involved in a prolonged war against the Shahdom of Astana in the west, which ultimately ended with a crushing defeat by the Ajanic army led by Mahmoud Jahan Shah (1248 - 1257). In the aftermath of the defeat, the tribal empire soon collapsed, opening new opportunities for the Knights and the missionaries alike. Led by Erik and his succesor as Komtur, Sigmar Von Feuchtenwagen, the Knights had been able to secure their position all over the Bergen peninsula, fortifying its borders with the mainland with a series of wooden castles, while tribes further west were put under pressure. A sign of the strength of the Order position was the decision, by the Saxon Grand Master Ulrich Von Feucthenwagen (cousing of Sigmar), to recognize the Sinaic Knights as an autonomous branch of the Order, with their own seat at Bergenfort, and to bestow to their leader the title of Master. The Sinaic Knights were still Saxon Knights (bound to the same rules and code of conduct) and their Master was to be appointed by the Grand Master in Saint Petersburg. However, they were now able to be more independent in the decisions to be taken on the field.

In 1255, thanks also to the flow of reinforcements coming from the Baltic, the Knights were able to defeat a Sinai tribal confederation at the Battle of the Grey River. Few hundreds Knights, aided by two thousands Sinaic soldiers (the Knights used them as local militia) were able to defeat and scatter an army of almost ten thousands tribal warriors. Although the aged Sigmar was severely wounded (he died few days after), the whole territory lying between the peninsula and the Allai were now open to the Knights and Christian penetration. In the following century, the whole area will be heavily settled, becoming known as the Middensteden (literally: "the cities in the middle"), new core of the Order's power. With an incresing influx of knights and migrants from the Aloian lands, and the conversion (forced or voluntary) of more and more Sinaics, the lands under the Order's control soon assumed their own unique characterization: administration was structured around fortified bouroughs, with a castle seat of the local Komtur, a urban community of traders and craftsmen, and a surrounding rural hinterland punctuated by smaller fortifications, held by nobles (usually secular knights from Aloia, but sometimes also converted Sinaic tribal chiefs). The rural villages were mainly inhabited by Sinaics, who slowly fell to a servile condition.

Finally, in 1350 the new Master, Conrad Von Geerwald, moved the seat of the Order from Bergenfort to Winterstad, the most important city of the Middensteden.

The Sixty Years War (1348 - 1408)

The Battle of the Grey River was followed by a period of relative peace for the Sinai: the Knights slowly imposed their control over the Middensteden, while the Sinaic tribes of the north were too busy fighting each other in the attempt to establish a new balance in the vacuum left by the fall of their empire. However, the situation was poised to change. In 1344, most tribes of the north were united under the leadership of one ruler, Samuitas. A clever diplomat and skilled warrior, Samunitas had in his mind the restoration of the Sinaic Empire as his ultimate goal. He understood that it was impossible to undertake further operations against the Ajans: the true enemies were the Christians. Thus, four years later, at the head of the most massive army ever seen by the Sinaics, he moved against the Middensteden. He soon found himself unable to conquer the new stone-made castles protecting the lands of the Order, so he decided to opt for a different strategies: leaving the castles behind, he began to systematically destroy everything on his path, trucidating the men, and taking women and children as slaves. The Order reacted: Conrad Von Geerwald, who had just reached the Sinai from Sinope, immediately led his Knights against Samuitas. However, he was forced to withdraw due to the huge disparity in numbers. A first truce was thus signed the following year.

However, that was just the beginning. Samuitas learnt from his mistakes: he sent messangers on the other side of the Allai Mountains, offering gifts and rewards to all those Ajans engineers willing to reach him. He needed them to learn how to conquer the castles of the Order. In 1353, he was ready: his army crossed the Vliha river, entering again in the Middenstden. Conrad Von Geerwald didn't react as quickly as before: probably, he thought that the castles at the border would force once again Samuitas to withdraw. Thus, he was shocked when he learnt that the Sinaics had conquered Mittenwerden and Marienburg, two of the most massive strongholds near the Vilha, killing all their inhabitants, and continuing their march against the Middensteden. Something had to be done.

The Master understood he had only one viable path: to muster all his forces and march against Samuitas before the whole Middensteden was plundered. But the mobilization of the scattered knights took far more time then he had at first expected, and as a result, the Order didn't take any further massive action against the Sinaics except for few skirmishes and raids against their supplies. However, Samuitas himself didn't exploit the opportunity: troubles aroused among his own ranks, when tribal chieftains challenged one another over the booty of the recent conquests; also, many of them also didn't approve the idea of continuing the campaign, since they still feared the Order's retaliatory capabilities. Samuitas spent months to quell all these problems and, at the end, winter was too near to keep going on. He set his own camp near the Vilha, not far from the ruins of Marienburg. He also ordered to begin to rebuild the same fortresses he had desotryed, in order to use them against the Order.

The war was reprised the following year, as soon as snow melted away. But this time, surprisingly, the first move came from Von Geerwald. The Master now had all his knights reunited around his banner, together with a strong infantry corp coming from the remaining cities under the Order's suzerainty. In March, he was already moving, threatening Mittenwerden, whose walls were not yet finished. Samuitas was surprised by such a bold move, and he didn't react properly: as a result, Mittenwerden was again razed to the ground, and most of the Ajan engineers employed in the construction were taken prisoners or slaughtered on the spot. Then, Von Geerwald withdrew on his bases. Clearly, the Order was not yet finished.

Samuitas was pressed to avenge the setback: he moved all his forces against the core of Middensteden, seeking a final confrontation with the enemy. At first, the Master, together with most part of the notable members of the Order, was not willing to accept battle. What happened next is still subject for conjecture among scholars: a popular tale, boosted by few accounts of the time, states how a young brother of the Order, Guillaume De Fressart (of mixed Aloian-Marquetien ancenstry, who'll become Master in his late years), unsheating his sword, swore that he'd not fall back until the last of the pagans had been killed, converted, or left the lands of Christianity; such a bravery finally moved the other, more seasoned, knights to action, and Von Geerwald himself standed alongside the young brother. Scholars believe that what moved the Master toward his decision was, more pragmatically, the need to free Middensteden and its rich plains before the harvesting season. Whatever the reason, fact is that the Order moved toward accepting Samuitas' challenge. But it did so on its own terms.

Instead of directly intercepting the Sinaic army, Von Geerwald maneuvered toward the Vilha, threatening Samuitas' rearguard. The Sinaic chief hastily changed direction and finally made contact with the Order forces the 2nd April 1354, in what was to become the Battle of Grunwald.

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