The Ancient and Honorable Crown-Sworn Order of the Black Hart
Prestige Class

"Strength of the Black Hart,
Protector of the Realm
With all skill at arms
I am the envoy of steel."

"Might of the Black Hart,
With all skill at arms
The Shield of the King
Overcomes all opposition."

"With all skill at arms,
I am the envoy of the Crown's Justice."

- Battle-Chant of the Order of the Black Hart, first spoken on the first day of a Knight of the Black Hart's ordainment.

The famed Order of the Black Hart is easily the most fearsome Order of Knighthood in all of Fiore; men of puissant skill at arms not only willing, but eager to lay down their lives if necessary in the defense of dynasty and sovereignty and entrusted with vast plenipotentiary powers to act in the name of the High King.

The Order is sworn to defend the rightfully crowned High King of Fiore regardless of circumstance, politics, or personal beliefs. They owe no loyalty to the High King himself, only to the crown that rests upon his head, but they take their duty extremely seriously; many a High King's reign has been extended by the unswerving loyalty of the Order, and many a would be usurper is stymied by their existence.

Elite troops, able bodyguards, crack operatives, foreign envoys, expert cavalry both aerial and landbound, and merciless executioners when necessary, the writ of the Order gives it's members massive judiciary powers and authority extending so far as summary execution without trial when necessary. The imposing black sable cloaks of office and stag head symbol worn by Black Harts engender instant respect, obedience, and no small amount of fear even among the battle hardened for where walks a Black Hart walks a judge, jury, and executioner whose court is always in session. Membership is a highly sought honor, and the only way out of the Order is feet first. Those who betray their cause or embarrass the Order are seldom heard from again; those that are heard from are quickly silenced. A Black Hart speaks with the voice of the High King, and answers to no one save superiors in the Order and the High King himself.

Some of the greatest heroes of Fiore's history have their names inscribed in the Order's membership rolls, and all of this Harts of old died serving the Order. Even old age isnít an escape; those too old to serve must still wear their livery in public and are included in all services and administratum until they die. Most codgers are 'ordered' to extended leave at their residence to 'await further orders' and allowed an effective retirement should they keep their head down and not make waves, but elderly members with useful skills are pressed into service as planners, administrators, logistics, and liaison officers. Thus when the Order rides to war, it's command and control is handled by crusty old veterans who know what they are about while the younger members of the Order concentrate on the actual combat. Thus Black Hart operations tend to be extremely efficient and employ a minimum of outside assistance, being almost entirely self-sufficient.

The Black Harts themselves are usually men of action, younger sons of nobles left landless by order of birth, jumped up freemen who have pursued a coat of arms by personal accomplishment, and particularly Knights of Heritage. Knights of Heritage are the children of older Knights who were born and raised among the Order and trained for membership all their life. There are many multi-generational lines of Knights of Heritage, and they often hold positions of great authority within the Order, as they are more in tune with the ideals of the Knighthood than their peers. The VanGreers, Tellerums, Ultimsures, Untholoraans, Pek'gragins, Threesons, and the ubiquitous Caerwillians are all entire families who have been in the Order for generations. The VanGreers in particular have a long history in the Harts, as they are of the line of the Orders founder, Earl Brockavey Marston VanGreer. Regardless of their origin, all Black Harts take the same oath and treat one another as brothers. No backstabbing, internal politicking, or pursuit of personal agendas is allowed. Offenders of this creed are warned once and then dealt with, permanently. Entry into the Order rescinds all personal rights to the purview of the Orders leadership; therefore there is no recourse to the law against superiors in the Order; a Harts fate rests in the hands of those above them. Thus has the Order remained pure in the very heart of political machinations? Their unsullyable standards and their refusal to be bought are well known, and only an uninformed foreigner would be foolish enough to attempt a bribe.

Wherever a Black Hart goes, the presence of authority is known. Such a life is lonely, and beset with dangers. These dangers include the obvious ones which come from without such as invaders and denizens of the Beneath, but also those that come from within such as political intrigues and criminal activities. Due to their terrible responsibilities and authority, a Black Hart's only friend is usually his weapon and other Black Harts. It is a hard life but a noble one, and the Order never lacks for applicants.

Prerequisites
Base Attack Bonus:+6
Feats: Expertise, Mounted Combat, Power Attack
Skills: Gather Info 3 Ranks, Knowledge (law) 3 Ranks, Ride 3 Ranks, Sense Motive 3 Ranks
Abilities: Str 13+, Dex 13+
Requirements: Must gain entry into the Order and pass their indoctrination training, and then swear an Oath to serve and protect the Crown of Fiore from all threats both foreign and domestic and to both obey and enforce all laws of the rightful coronated High King regardless of personal beliefs, circumstances, or former allegiances prior to joining the Order, to follow all orders of said High King and duly appointed superior Knights of the Order except where those commands directly prevent protection of the Crown and the High King coronated with it, or else suffer themselves to live no more.
Requirements: Membership in the Order is for a lifetime of service. The only way out is by death, natural or 'premature'.
Alignment: Must be Lawful

Level

Attack

Fortitude

Reflex

Will

Abilities

1

+1

+2

+0

+2

Strength of the Black Hart

2

+2

+3

+0

+3

Protector of the Realm

3

+3

+3

+1

+3

With all skill at Arms

4

+4

+4

+1

+4

Envoy of Steel

5

+5

+4

+1

+4

Might of the Black Hart

6

+6

+5

+2

+5

With all skill at Arms

7

+7

+5

+2

+5

Shield of the King

8

+8

+6

+2

+6

Overcome all Opposition

9

+9

+6

+3

+6

With all skill at Arms

10

+10

+7

+3

+7

Envoy of the Crowns Justice

Hit Die: D8
Skill Points: Int Bonus + 4 / level

Skill List: Climb, Diplomacy, Gather Information, Handle Animal, Heal, Intimidate, Jump, Knowledge (law), Knowledge (local), Knowledge (nobility & royalty), Knowledge (tactics), Listen, Ride, Sense Motive, Spot, Use Rope, Wilderness Lore

Class Abilities
Strength of the Black Hart: At 1st level the Black Hart is able to strike with terrible force. Once per day the Black Hart may choose to inflict bonus damage equal to his class level for one full round with all melee attacks as a free action. This is an extraordinary ability.

Protector of the Realm: At 2nd level when opposing a foe who seeks to cause harm to the Throne of Fiore or any citizen of Fiore loyal to the High King other than the Black Hart themselves the Black Hart gains the strength of their oath sworn convictions and leap into action heedless of danger. Once per day under the circumstances described above the Black Hart may opt to gain a competence bonus to AC equal to their class level for 5 rounds. This is an extraordinary ability.

With all skill at Arms: Black Harts are flexible and practical. They allow for personal preference in their fighting style. Their mentality is 'whatever works, works'. At 3rd, 6th, and 9th levels the Black Hart may choose a single bonus feat from the list below. The Black Hart must meet all the prerequisites of the feat selected. Feats in italics are from Sword & Fist: Cleave, Dodge, Great Cleave, Hold the Line, Improved Disarm, Improved Initiative, Improved Sunder, Improved Trip, Improved Unarmed Strike, Knock-down, Power Lunge, Sunder.

Envoy of Steel: At 4th level, the Black Hart has learned to finish subdued foes rapidly. The Black Hart gains Death Blow as a virtual Feat.

Might of the Black Hart: At 5th level the Black Hart is able to strike with great power. Once per day the Black Hart may choose to gain a competence bonus to hit in melee equal to his class level for 1 full round as a free action. This is an extraordinary ability.

Shield of the King: At 7th level a Black Hart has become adept at protecting the High King and the wards they are oftentimes assigned to guard by request of the King. If the Black Hart is within 5 feet of an assigned ward that is attacked, the Black Hart may elect to place themselves between their ward and the incoming attack as a free action; functionally the two trade positions. This ability may not be used more than once per round. A Black Hart may only have one ward at any time, and superiors in the order or the High King himself must assign that ward to the Black Hart. This is an extraordinary ability.

Overcome all Opposition: At 8th level a Black Hart has become very efficient about divesting enemies from their weapons and wreaking havoc on the weapons in the process. When the Black Hart executes a disarm against an opponent an opposed attack roll is made as normal; if successful the Black Hart has landed a solid jarring blow that not only has the chance of knocking an opponents weapon from their hand, but also has potential to harm the weapon itself as well. With this one successful opposed attack roll the Black Hart has disarmed the opponent and landed a successful weapon strike following the rules for each in the PHB. If the Black Hart lacks either Improved Disarm or Sunder, this ability draws an attack of opportunity. If the Black Hart has both Improved Disarm and Sunder, this ability does not draw an attack of opportunity. This is an extraordinary ability.

Envoy of the Crowns Justice: At 10th level, the Black Hart has become adept at finishing helpless opponents without pausing. Once per day the Black Hart may make a coup de grace following all standard rules as normal but as a free action. This is an extraordinary ability.

Former Black Hart's: Black Harts police their own as well, so a Black Hart that has lost their way is typically caught and brought back around or dealt with. Should a Black Hart seek to give up the Order, they must either hide their identity forever or leave the nation permanently. They maintain their class abilities but loose all authority and rights in Fiore. Furthermore, they may designate their own ward when using their Shield of the King Ability, but must identify their ward before combat starts.