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The Knights of the Black Cross, or die Ritter vom (von dem) Schwarzen Kreuze in German, was a secret Cainite order within the ranks of the Teutonic Knights, named for the Black Cross of the Teutonic Order. It was under the sway of the Ventrue Lord Jürgen von Verden, lieutenant and childe of mighty Hardestadt.
The Order of the Black Cross was formed on Jürgen's behest after the Teutonic Knights were changed from a hospice brotherhood into a more militant order dedicated on fighting Pagans in 1198, after the Teutonics were expelled from Palestine after the loss of Jerusalem in 1187. When the order relocated his headquarters from Acre (which was inaccessible for Cainites due to the fragment of the True Cross that rested there) to Montfort, which lay further north in the Levante, Lord Jürgen's vasalls first integrated themselves into the structures of the Teutonics, enticing prospectful recruits into their ranks.
When the Order gained land in Hungary in 1211, the Ventrue became interested in using the order to launch assaults against the pagans in Prussia, Livonia and Lithuania and the native Cainite population. Despite Lord Jürgen's best efforts, the Knights of the Black Cross remained a minuscule part of the Teutonic Knights, but one who managed to prove themselves useful during the invasion of the Land Beyond the Forest and the territories of the Tzimisce following the Fifth Crusade.
Lord Jürgen remained to control the Order until his presumed execution in 1271 and after the Anarch Revolt, during the Thirteen Years War in 1454, in which Prussia expelled the Teutonics from their lands, the remnants of the Knights of the Black Cross were disbanded.
Given that most knights were fairly set in their ways and would oppose infiltration from nocturnal blood-suckers, Lord Jürgen's vampires were especially careful whom they would introduce into the knighthood. Members were made to believe that the Knights of the Black Cross was the true heart of the Teutonic Knights, even more elite than the order itself.
Most members had been ghouled and indoctrinated into service to the hidden masters of the Black Cross, that by the time they are granted the Embrace, few traits remain that would lead them to oppose their vampiric superiors.
The Knights' hierarchy was presented as follows:
- Grand Master - the order was nominally ruled by Lord Jürgen von Verden, acting as der Hochmeister (literally "the High Master").
- Grand Commander - also called Groß-Komtur, was the main agent of the Grand Master, a title held by no other than Lucretia von Hardtz. The female Groß-Komtur, however, would be called die Groß-Komturin in German.
- Order Marshal - also called Ordensmarschall was the next in line of power within the Order - a title given to Heinrich von Achern.
Any mortal member retains his original profession, but also gains a rank:
- Initiate - also called Eingeweihter, are those who had just finished a long period of monitoring from either Lucretia or Heinrich.
- Brother of the Cross - also called Bruder vom Kreuze, are those who partook in several sacraments of vitae disguised as wine.
- Commander of the Cross - also called Komtur vom Kreuze, is the one by which the knights swore an oath to shun the light of the sun, followed by the Embrace.