The Thirty are first mentioned in Legend, Gemmell's first book, but like most of the characters in that novel it is not their first chronological appearance. The creation of the Thirty is described in the book Waylander , when a Source Priest named Dardalion falls in with a ruthless assassin known as Waylander. In the novels, Source Priests are meant to be utterly pacifistic, spreading the message of brotherly love and worship of The Source, the creator of all things. During the story, Dardalion is saved by Waylander, who teaches him that sometimes people must fight to preserve the ones they love. Dardalion then gathers twenty nine other like-minded priests with the intention of using their spiritual powers to fight evil and founds the first Temple of the Thirty in Skarta.
The members of the Order live a monastic life, practice celibacy and follow a strict regime of spiritual and martial study. By the time of Legend, the Thirty are accepted as the finest soldiers and tacticians in the world. The down side of this is that they can only be called upon once. It is accepted that once the order is requested for aid, they will fight until all but one of them has died - the survivor then uses the money earned from the fighting to found a new order. Although it is not made clear in the books, it is suggested that the order has quite a large membership, and the Thirty are selected from the most suitable of the brothers only when they are requested for aid.
As a rule, all the members are known as Brother, with the exception of the founding Abbot, who is referred to as Father. When the order rides to war, four brothers are appointed to specific duties; The Voice of the Thirty, the Heart of the Thirty, the Soul of the Thirty and the Eyes of the Thirty.
Powers and appearance
Physically, there is no norm to which the order conforms. Years of physical and mental discipline ensure that each member is at the peak of his condition. All the members of the Thirty are especially chosen for their mental powers however, and like all source priests they share the talents of astral projection and telepathy. This allows them share a single consciousness with each other. In addition, they are able to fight on the astral as well as physical plane, manifesting their faith in the form of silver armour and weapons. In dire situations, they can join together into a single group consciousness known as Temple. This sharing is extremely powerful, yet very dangerous as it can threaten to totally subsume the personality of any individuals within. The only known exception to this rule was Decado, who possessed no mental powers but nonetheless led the Thirty in The King Beyond the Gate. In battle, each brother wears a suit of silver plate armour, carries a silver sword and shield and wears a white cloak. Each helmet bears a numeral on the forehead, numbered from 1 to 30.
Dardalion formed the first temple around the year 460, and it has been estimated that the order remained in existence for approximately three hundred years. Chronologically, the highlight of the Thirty was under the leadership of Serbitar at the Siege of Dros Delnoch (Legend) yet by the time of the The King Beyond the Gate , it is clear that the order has been in decline for some time. By the year 788, the last of the Thirty are wiped out to a man during the War of the Twins. It is unknown whether the order is re-founded after this time.