Friday 30 April 2021

The Knights of Grief

"What's that boy?
ahhhhh, its content yer after is it?
Needs contents for ye blog do ye?"
(Image by Mike Ploog)

"Why just blog ye development notes!
And why nots says I? Why its content pure is it not?
Desire ye a substack boy? Fer the old ship blogger is mighty leaky ye'll find."

Amongst my many other labours, 'Queen Mab' trundles onwards, amongst the many denizens of that Queens strange ever-turning palace are the following (development notes only, not quite ever Draft One);

The Knights of Grief

You Hear: soft steps, the tapping of glass. A toneless humming.

You Smell: Pomade, a subtle musk, or nothing.

You See: A fine gentleman, a prince or Knight. He bears a sword of broken glass and his sighs are aurora borealis. His movements are lazy, drifting, indifferent, like a gentleman in his own parlour.

currently 'Sir Tau Hekaton'

The Seven Knights Of Grief

Seven - Sir Iota

An old bearded fellow, something of a Quixote, ancient, can barely hold his sword. Genial, even kind and helpful. "I have time, time enough for all after all..."

Six - Sir Rho Pente

In his 50's. Like a seneschal or grave warden. Distracted, busy on some important matter, will take a little time off to aid you in some minor way.

Five - Sir Sigma Deka

In his 40's, a slightly stiff, but still strong man, sober, visibly tired of you. May give you vital information or knowledge, largely to get you out of his way. Wants to get it over and done with.

Four - Sir Tau Hekaton

Early 30's, a warrior in his prime, a busy man with no time for you. Indifferent, focused on his duty. Says and does the minimum to get you from his path. Mildly contemptuous. [I IMAGINE THIS IS THE KNIGHT YOU ILLUSTRATED]

Three - Sir Phi Chiloili

In his mid 20s, a supercilious and fey noble whose automatic surface civility slides past like oil on glass, barely concealing the churning monster of his frustration and rage.

Two - Sir Psi Myrioi

A boy in his early teens, cruel and mad. Stay away. A strangely knowing, even despairing figure. Nihilistic and hysterical manner. "Begone filth..."

One - Sir Omicron Aperion

Perhaps twelve years old, can barely hold his sword. An extremely evil and bitter manner, terrifying levels of knowledge, total indifference to human life and all existence, an eternity of emptiness behind his eyes. Will actively make your life immeasurably worse on the smallest interaction.

What Would People In This Reality Know About The Knights Of Grief?

- They serve Mabs desires.

- (in more depth) they serve her lethal desires.

- They cannot be, and have never been, defeated.

- If a Knight is coming to kill you, then you will die and that’s it.

- If you are in a Knights path you will either be killed or removed some other way, and that's it.

- They are all fine gentlemen.

- They are all ineffably sad.

- The youngest are the saddest, but also the cruellest.

- They carry blades of broken glass and breathe aurora borealis when exerting themselves.

- They seem to know everything, or almost everything, about you. One never really knows what they do or do not know, but it feels as if they know everything.

- One Knight can reduce a realm to chaos.

- They seem tired, almost worn to nothing, as if 'going through the motions'.

- There have possibly been other knights of grief, and new knights recruited, though it has never been known for a Knight to die, for instance, in combat or from disease.

- Even the High ladies SHIT THEMSELVES when a Knight of Grief arrives. (Palace Royalty know about the Time Loops and know that the Knight may have experienced this encounter perhaps thousands of times,. If the knight is here to kill them then they are going to die, so all they can do is hope that's not the reason they are there.)

Visible/Tangible Effects Of Encountering Them

- They know your name (obviously).

- they may know a lot about you and will often deliver some information that directly effects you.

- 'Impossible' catches and reactions.

- Will place themselves exactly to deal with impossible-to predict future events, like explosions etc.

- They will comment on things before they take place, i.e. "Speak to the grey haired beast" - then such a beast enters.

- Chekov’s gun all the time - if they have some random object with them, its going to be useful to them pretty soon


- They seem to fight in a tired, almost somnambulant way.

- Should they kill someone, they are already moving on, blade swinging idly from one hand - they are moving through  dance they know well.

- They specialise in rebounding their enemies attacks upon them in unexpected ways.

- They can deflect bullets.

- They can deflect lasers & things moving at the speed of light.

- If they seem to lose it only puts their enemy in a position which will destroy them.

- They rarely have to fight as everyone in the Palace knows about them and will often just run for it if they think the Knight is coming for them. But they also know that "running for it" means that whatever they do will end up killing them, as like running into a spike, falling down a hole, having a heart attack etc. There is nothing you can do..

Vulnerabilities - Is There Any Way To Escape Them?

Technically, no. If they are coming to kill the PCs then the PCs are going to die.


First, they will never be coming for the PCs (or at least almost never) in the context of the adventure.

Second, there may be ways....

The exact wording on the original text: "They must repeat time till they have correctly fulfilled her desire." then  "and must repeat their action again and again and again, being reborn each time without aging either forwards or back, until the Queens order is fulfilled. This might be something as simple as bringing a cup of tea, or reducing a world to chaos before her Wyrms darken its sky."

So, what happens when desires conflict, if two knights come into conflict with each other? This would be a major problem for them - two loops colliding means what? If they end up in a direct conflict then they will just both end up looping forever, so they will be very careful to avoid conflict with other Knights of Grief. Even a tangential interaction might create a knot of time. 

So one solution to being mixed up with a Knight in a negative way might be to quickly involve another Knight, they will be anxious to avoid any entanglements.

What is the exact wording of Queen Mabs desire? Can they fulfil it in a technical way, or fulfil it in a substantial way but miss some technicality and still displease her. 

If you know for certain the desire the Knight is trying to fulfil, then that gives you a lot of contextual knowledge to avoid their attentions or manipulate your interaction with them.

Also, what about Knights who are not currently fulfilling a desire of Queen Mab? Are they just hanging around? What happens if you encounter a Knight who is not fulfilling the Queens desire? They are presumably not time-looping at that point and so are just an immensely deadly close-combat opponent with thousands of years of experience. So still dangerous but not impossible.

So Knights will be very careful about disguising when they are or are not about Mabs business and extremely secretive about what orders they do have from her, they also will avoid each other a great deal.

Plus Mab can change her mind.

Plus what happens if you freeze one in ice without killing Him? Presumably he lives until unfrozen, dies at some point and repeats, but that’s a very long alter-loop. Are they just impossible to imprison?


  1. I'm glad to see you're pursuing this setting. I vaguely remember you expressing doubts about it at some point, but I always thought this setting sounded super interesting.

  2. This is very interesting idea, the potential problem of dealing with somebody who has almost precognition and also doesn't die.
    Putting on into ice will probably kill one shortly, unless the ice is of 'instant cryofreeze' variety. I'd go with Flesh to Stone, it creates statues which can be then put somewhere for adventurers to mess with.

    1. Hmm no magic in this dungeon but we do have hyper-science. 'Stasis' might be a good equivilent.

    2. This or some kind of silicification, although the latter probably not much different from cryo, in sense that it kind of kills the subject.

  3. Ah, the melancholy of inevitability, one of my favourite vibes. This really reminded me of a scene between the incomparable Ian Holm and the suspiciously attractive Kate Beckinsale in the 'Sitting on a gate' scene from the otherwise awful '98 Alice through the looking glass. Such a good scene; such a bad movie.

    Anyway, I love the idea of someone who's going through the motions of fighting you, but it's all so tedious and depressing, because he's already beaten you - he defeated you before you were born, before the deepening of the coastal shelf you grew up on. He's long since killed you and moved on - you just haven't realized it yet.

    Definitely a concept that works so much better in fiction than in gaming. Your queen mab stuff is some of the best you've written, but I think trying to make it work in the face of player agency is trying to fit a right hand foot into a left hand shoe, as the poem goes.