A paladin is a holy knight ordained by the priests of his church to fulfill the martial obligations of the church and the church's deity (or deities for a pantheon). Paladins are considered special ecclesiastic ranks that are outside the normal bounds of the church, bound by church laws to enforce local laws as well as church cannon. Paladins require apprenticing to other paladins for the most part, although upstart paladins have been called to their gods without formal training. Some priests have even initiated paladins upon their paths, as well. As a paladin advances in their abilities, their patron god or goddess grants them their holbraces, or symbols of the paladin hood. As the patron deity grants holbraces, paladins exist outside of the normal structure of the churches, able to enforce laws for and against the clergy, and yet still bound to the church.
Many a holy knight fails ever to earn a holbrace, despite a lifetime of service to his or her deity, and a lowly warrior with no formal training and a lifetime spent hunting the woods may earn a holbrace if his heart is true to the ideals that the deity espouses. Holbraces are tattoos of the forearm that can be seen over clothing or even bracers, and can only be hidden by force of will by the paladin.
The first holbrace granted tells all that a paladin has been anointed by his or her patron deity. That first holbrace is the rank of Banner. Banner paladins are often tasked with guard duties within a parish, or sent off in search of glory for the church itself. The second holbrace is the rank of Guardian, and Guardians are often used a bodyguards to high-ranking church officials. The third holbrace is the rank of Protector, and Protectors often have Banners assigned to them as squires and trainees. The fourth holbrace is that of the Defender, who is often assigned as godly representative of the church in combat. A Prelate is one who has earned five holbraces, and may command armies or troops for the church. Prelates often form their own orders, with other paladins and holy knights answering to their banner. An ArchPrelate, with six holbraces, is considered the representative of all the paladins of a church, and heads the holy order of paladins as an administrative and fighting head. There is rarely more than one ArchPrelate in any given church. On rare occasions, an ArchPrelate is promoted to Champion, with seven holbraces. Champions are sent forth by deities to battle great evils in the world – or at least great evils to the churches. A handful of Champions might exist at any given time, though rarely in one place at a time.