- "The God of the Dead's chosen Knights provide a steady supply of settlers to populate His ethereal realm."
- —The Knights of Morr.
Whilst the Cult of Morr has few, if any, official templars, they do have the Black Guard. Also known as the Knights of Morr, these universally dour and serious warriors have an even more serious responsibility: to guard both the living and the dead from the endless malice of the Undead and those who would raise them. For the most part, they are a defensive order, protecting the great temples and graveyards of the Empire and the dignitaries of the cult, only riding to war in exceptional circumstances, such as during a crusade against the Vampire Counts. Unlike most knights, they are also trained in the use of ranged weapons to prevent their enemies from bringing their strength to bear in close quarters. This, along with their foreboding black obsidian armour and their strict vow of silence when on duty, means they are shunned by most other knightly orders, but such is the price of duty.[2a]
The Black Guard of Morr inspires feelings of fear and dread in both friends and foes alike. The combination of their all-enclosing black, obsidian plate armour and their vow of silence makes their presence unsettling, and many whisper that they are really Undead spirits bound into the service of the Cult of Morr by its priests.[1a]
The truth, of course, is far more mundane: The Black Guard are mortal Knights who are devoted to the God of the dead and whose purpose is to guard the graveyards, mausoleums, and other sites sacred to Morr. In some instances, they are called upon to hunt down Undead and the Necromancers who would bring them into the world.[1a]
The Black Guard rarely march to war, spurning conquests and threats in favour of standing watch against enemies from the realms of the dead. Not surprisingly, most forces marching against the dark counts of Sylvania find members of the Black Guard among them. Notably, however, the Black Guard took part in the Crusades against Araby. Their presence was to prove invaluable during the siege of El Haikk, when their silent and stalwart demeanour terrified many of the defenders, who believed they were the angry spirits of their ancestors returning to kill them.[1a]
The true reasons behind the Black Guard’s involvement in the crusade became clear after the Sultan was slain and his armies scattered. Rather than return home, the Black Guard marched onwards towards the Land of the Dead, Khemri. There they sought to do battle with the Undead armies of the Tomb Kings, and entered a protracted war with them, allying themselves with some of the native people who lived in their cold shadow. Many of the Black Guard perished on the crusade in Khemri, named the Black Crusade in their honour, but those who returned brought with them fabulous treasures and dark tomes, now interned within sealed vaults beneath the Temple of Morr in Luccini, opened only in times of great need.[1a]
- "The Empire's dark guardians do not retreat nor surrender, even when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds."
- —The grim resolve of the Black Guard.
The Black Guard are instantly recognisable, for they wear heavy suits of black obsidian plate mail, ornately carved with raven imagery and padded to allow the knight to move with eerie silence.[1a]
The armour totally hides any sign of the living knight encased within; this is partly theatrical, the better to maintain the knights’ otherworldly aura of fear, but is also practical, as even the most minor of touches can allow some creatures of the night to drain their preys’ souls from their bodies. Finally, when fighting foes who have a knack of returning from the grave, and who use Dark Magic to unleash nightmares and other foul spells long after the field of battle has been quit, it can be sensible to hide your identity.[1a]
Members of the Black Guard take vows of silence when initiated into the order, and are not permitted to speak or to utter a sound when on duty. This further adds to the air of menace that surrounds them. The Black Guard are permitted to speak at specific times, such as to call out warnings or orders in battle, although there are some within the order who maintain their vow of silence at all times outside of prayer. The most penitent and fanatical members of the order cut out their tongues to enforce the vow.[1a]
The Black Guard fight from the backs of mighty, black warhorses similarly clad in barding made from black lacquer or obsidian. When mounted, they fight with huge greatswords and warhammers that glint silver as they smite their foes. The Black Guard cannot always fight from horseback, especially when standing guard or pursuing their enemies into tombs or crypts, and when on foot often use wicked-looking halberds.[1a]
The Black Guard’s principal purpose is to serve as guardians of the temples and Gardens of Morr. They vigilantly protect these sacred sites from defilement by graverobbers and their ilk, patrolling the grounds with weapons at the ready. Many of these knights attach themselves to Morrian dignitaries, providing protection and adding to the priests’ sinister atmosphere. Whilst the Black Guard rarely has the opportunity to confront the more vile opponents of their faith, they welcome such opportunities, and are more than suited to the task of destroying Undead.[1a]
Members of the Black Guard are a curious lot, for it takes a peculiar person to voluntarily spend his time stalking the mist-shrouded grounds of the Old World’s cemeteries. Most are tormented souls who see themselves as more akin to the dead they guard and the Undead they fight than to those who walk, talk, and breathe around them in everyday life.[1b]
The Life of a Black Guard
Black Guards appear to watch the open portals of Morr's temples night and day, without rest. In truth, guard posts are split into three shifts. However, each Black Guard is barely distinguishable from his replacement, and guard changes are conducted so discreetly that even someone standing nearby could miss it. When not on duty, Black Guards conduct martial training exercises and attend lessons under priests of Morr, who instruct them on theology and the undead.[3a]
When Morrian priests are required to travel long distances for funeral services, a Black Guard often accompanies them. Black Guards have also been known to escort priests of other gods, particularly Myrmidia and Verena, when they visit a Morrian abbey. The Order sometimes assigns Black Guards as chaperones under the false pretence of escort duty.[3a]
In towns where the Order of Morr houses the Fellowship of the Shroud, Black Guards are prone to being caught up in cult politics. Although a Black Guard’s responsibility is to the priests, many Black Guards aspire to join the Knights of the Raven. They often assist the order's Shroud agents, hoping to make a favourable impression. If the assistance involves destroying Undead, Black Guards who abandon their posts can later claim that they were simply obeying the strictures of Morr.[3a]
Black Guards are otherwise incorruptible. Only the most dedicated of Morr’s followers could endure standing all day in full plate armour, silent and expressionless. Only with the express permission of the Order do Black Guards leave their temples for long periods, typically for family duties or religious pilgrimages.[3a]
Vows and Strictures
Black Guards observe all the regular strictures of Morr. In addition, they observe the following vows.[3a]
- Vow of Stoicism: The service of Morr is to be taken seriously. Black Guards may not laugh or make jokes, whether on duty or not. Their stoicism is sometimes unintentionally humorous, but this does not constitute a breach of their vow.[3a]
- Vow of Silence: Black Guards may not participate in conversations while on duty. If asked questions by superiors of the Order, Black Guards may answer, but only with the minimal number of words. The vow of silence does not apply to combat situations, when Black Guards communicate in Battle Tongue.[3a]
- Vow of Sacrifice: When faced with undead attackers, Black Guards must defend Morr’s temples to the last drop of blood. Against living opponents, or when facing the undead on neutral ground, Black Guards are permitted to conduct a strategic retreat if the situation warrants.[3a]
The Black Guard of Morr take their name from the massive suits of plate mail armour they wear, ornately crafted from pieces of obsidian. Obsidian armour is bulky, but the sinister appearance it gives its wearer strikes fear into the hearts of all who face them in battle. Obsidian armour is almost always worn as a full suit—the disadvantages caused by its bulk make it impractical to use without the advantage of the intimidation factor.[1c]
In addition the black stone known as Obsidian is the bane of magic, totally refractory and inactive. In instances such as the Obsidian Hall of Altdorf, Wizards can feel their power dimmed by the presence of so much while all around them.[5a]
- 4: Total War: Warhammer II