|Chapter Seven: Rule of Archaea (p.3)|
The Villain Organizations
Listed below are the villain organizations and societies of evil in the Realm. Each group is listed in alphabetical order with their description, their beliefs, and their goals. Player-characters are not allowed to be members of a Path of Black organization without turning villain. The information found here should be used by the Elder of the Realm and by players to enrich adventures and character histories. Like all the material found in this chapter, this section is not necessarily common knowledge. Much of this information should remain player knowledge only. The Elder of the Realm must carefully adjudicate what the player-characters know and do not know.
Many millennia ago, far into the misty past of the Lost Age, it is said that the Icuni flourished in enlightenment and harmony. However, as the fragmented records of the Age reveal to mistic scholars, such prosperity and illumination came at a cost. It is said that with great effort, with powerful rituals, and with the aid of an ancient relic called the Staff of Channeling, the Icuni divorced themselves of every shred of evil, vice, fear, and hatred. Unfortunately, the blackness and the darkness could not be destroyed. Therefore, the Icuni contained it, imprisoned it, collapsed it upon a small island in the middle of the inner Archaea Sea. Then, with cataclysmic magics, the Icuni sank the island in the hopes of forever sealing the evil below. They instilled within a chosen Curi, the first of the High Seers, with the vigilant charge of guarding the knowledge of the island and the Staff of Channeling left at its center that maintains the wards and barriers and seals against the darkness. For hundreds of years, the High Seer of the Realm continues to guard the secrets of the Isle of Night and holds tight the ordainments woven through the Staff of Channeling. However, whenever a High Seer passes and the hold upon the island wanes for but a moment, it is said that the Isle of Night rises and some of the darkness escapes to wreak misfortune in the Realm. Each newly initiated High Seer, in his or her succession, takes on the duty and the burden of keeping the Isle of Night in check.
In recent years, after the end of the Age of Silence, the Realm has slowly begun to remember. It has remembered to walk on the Path of Light and it has remembered how to stray on the Path of Darkness. In 1353 CE, on di mita noc--the Day of the Night Path or the winter solstice, evil erupted into the Realm. On that fateful day, the first manifestation of the Bane destroyed a small village near Caven, Josson. The ground simply turned dark as if stained by pitch, the sky grew cloudy blocking the sun, and the air grew cold and perfectly still. In an instant, like a wide sinkhole, the earth simply swallowed the village and all of its inhabitants into an inky pit. Everything disappeared and the ground returned to normal as if nothing had happened. Across the Realm, all sensitive to the ebbs and flows of the Mists felt the rising evil and the loss of life. Auguries into the event revealed only a single but vast presence-the Bane.
White mistics believe the Bane to be a creature of pure malevolence and corruption spawned by the darkness and evil that resided on the Isle of Night. It is an entity of chaotic sentience dwelling in the underworld of Archaea. The Talanthi call it ma-gor or "the great death." The Ebani name it Heart-taker or He-Who-Drowns. The Curi fearfully call the Bane nocagau or "the blood of night." As the Realm awakens from the Age of Silence, the pulls of the Paths grow in strength. In every age there comes a great evil. In the Third Age of Heroes, it is the Bane. The Bane has risen to become the foremost and formidable nemesis to the Path of White and leads the charge for the Path of Black.
No one is certain to the motivations of the Bane except for the primal urge to further evil. Manifestations are hit-or-miss, unexplainable, and disconcerting. The Bane lashes out at the Realm as if blind. At times, a manifestation will be as simple as an area of darkened field or as calamitous as the rotting of an entire crop of plants. Manifestations come in many forms but share similarities-the darkening of colors or shadows, a haunting chill, strange sounds, and at times signs of decay, rot, or damage. Whenever the Bane gathers enough strength, it reaches up from the underworld and randomly touches the Realm. Some say the Bane cannot directly perceive the Realm for it stands yet in the Light. Therefore, the Bane gathers minions to be its senses and slowly encroaches upon the land hoping with every manifestation that the Realm becomes bit by bit more corrupted.
The Sisterhood of Sin'inari, the Realm's foremost organization of white mistics, fears that the Bane's influence will continue to grow. The Sisters' lives have been threatened on a number of occasions when the manifestations struck close to the home of the seers, Lleander. Both the Sisterhood of Sin'inari and the Brotherhood of Esshien, as well as the powers of good in the Realm, struggle desperately to curb the Bane's advance. The protection of the High Seer has become of primary importance. The Sisterhood knows that if the High Seer or Lleander were to fall prey to the Bane, the tight control on the Staff of Channeling and the Isle of Night would falter. The resurfacing of the island, even if momentary, would serve as a sure doorway for the evil into the Realm.
For now, the Bane remains like a greedy child-full of tantrums, curiosity, and wildness. Anyone sensitive to the Paths often feels a sinking presence far beneath them; the feeling is described by the Curi as being constantly watched by an unwavering, chilling stare from below. In time, the Bane may grow in experience, in knowledge, in perception, and most dangerously, in control. Already, the Bane can manipulate the size and potency of its manifestations. Though it cannot place them with accuracy, the Bane is often drawn to places of power, the calling of its name, or the strong presence of magic or misticism.
The full description of the Banemen can be found in the full-version of the Archaea sourcebook.
The Black Ring
The Black Ring is an underground society dedicated to the dark arts--Spirit magics and black misticism. This villainous group formed after the awakening of the dark seer Serach in 1194 CE. Serach himself stole the Book of Darkadian, the most powerful manual on Spirit magic, from the catacombs of the High Academy at Darkwell. The Dark Seer also discovered where the bones of the first and infamous Archon of Spirit lay and resurrected the necromancer Darkadian. Both Serach and Darkadian led the Realm back down the Path of Night until they disappeared into the Age of Silence.
However, the Black Ring remains and spreads its influence through subterfuge, guile, and furthering the Path of Black. Though few in number, this group--also called the Lampblack Society--continues research and exploration of the necromantic arts and cursed rituals. The Black Ring holds the Council of the Table of Bone in contempt and ignores the Crown's restrictions on the Arche of Spirit as decreed by the Edict of Night and Day.
Originally a small Marjoran mercenary company, Boden's Fist has grown into an elite group of ruthless and violent men-at-arms. The group is named after a Marjoran chieftain of a small village in western Marjor; Boden is gruesomely remembered for his prowess in battle, his many raids across the border in to Barag, and his bloody successes during the Marjoran-Baraki civil war.
Though no formal organization exists, small handfuls of mostly men form "fists" across the Realm-mainly in the wilderness areas where the arm of the Crown is short. Each "fist" stresses loyalty to the group and to each other, but the gain of payment and the garnering of reputation is even more important. In fact, many members keep long tallies of the number of dead they have killed and different "fists" rival one another competing for the most kills.
The group is nicknamed "Boden's Butchers" for their attitudes toward fighting. Rough, stormy, uncouth, fierce, dominating, pounding, relentless, and bloodthirsty are words often used to describe Boden's Fist. Members live for "pay-for-slay." In fact, these mercenaries find no difficulty in accepting silver and gold paid to them by villain organizations.
Boden's Fist members find special pleasure and challenge in fighting Barrakkers, Knights of the Banner, and Lords of the Tiger. They hope to hold themselves up as the greatest warriors in the Realm. Any chance to prove their might is taken with fury and frenzy.
The Branch of Ellan
In the spirit of Reiellan resistance, the Branch of Ellan is a loose collection of druids, rangers, and retainers who have turned away from the wisdom of Aurasan and the law of the Crown. Began centuries ago, after the death of the Grand Druid Allwyr in 193 CE, the Ellani druids felt the Circle to be too elitist, too passive, and too neutral. The druids of the Branch reveled in the stormy side of nature, the destructive power of fire and storm, and the disruptive changes found in wind, sea, and land. During the Time of Division, the Branch of Ellan sided with Reiel's secession from the Council of the Realm and began the Druidic War in 223 CE. Though the rebellion was defeated in 248 CE, the Branch of Ellan continues to fight the "tyranny" of the Sar and the Circle.
Staying mainly in the deep forests of Reiel, Asta, and Josson, the Ellani druids use whatever means available to strike at the loyal Realm. The Branch has a particular disdain for the Watchers and the "single-minded" justice and history the guardians of the Circle mete out. Furthermore, the Branch hopes to discovered the locations of the Twin Towers of Elemental Power and take control of the great magics to use for their own ends.
Since the first manifestation of the Bane, the tribes of Eban have been plagued by the coming of darkness. With the rise of Heart-taker and the growing number of the Unnamed, servants of the Bane, the Ebani have felt their strength, their unity, and most of all, their pride failing. Even the ties of blood and clan are threatened by the Bane and are embodied in the Clanless.
The Clanless are Friends of the Night; they have turned away from the Path of White and embraced the seductive promises of the darkness. Warriors, wisefolk, sons, and daughters from almost every clan have renounced their lineage to join and form their own clan. The Clanless are also called the Spear-breakers, the Black-Moon-Dogs, the Many-Taken, and the Walking-Drowned.
The Clanless are servants of the Path of Black. Hiding in the wilderness of Eban, they wait for the day the darkness will overcome the land. They will lead the charge against their once-brothers and once-sisters. Meanwhile, the Clanless harry the Tribes, raiding villages, and recruiting more Spear-breakers. Some have even traveled into Reiel and have joined the Branch of Ellan. Others have set sail in small, make-shift boats and made their way to the wilds of Asara.
"Darkling" is the common name for any humanoid ranging from impish goblins to gruesome orcs to loathsome trolls to monstrous ogres and giants. Most are human-sized or smaller with dark skin, a thick but closely cropped covering of hair or fur, with animalistic faces, hands, feet, and stances. Said to be the children of the Path of Night, darklings often live in the dark corners of the Realm staying in deep forest, wilderness, swamps, caves, and mountains. For the most part, darklings stay clear of humanity and civilization, the soldiers and guards that cities bring, and the powers of good. However, at times, hunger or greed or even curiosity bring darklings and humans together in conflict.
The simplest of darklings are the lesser darklings-full of foolhardiness, greed for treasure, child-like intelligence, superstitions, and often all too willing to serve those with power. Lesser darklings are often the toadies, the foot soldiers, and the yes-men of the Path of Night.
Greater darklings serve as a counterbalance--brutish, strong but slow, fierce in battle, and powerfully sturdy. Greater darklings are the muscle, the bodyguards, and the strongmen.
Finally, somewhere in between the sniveling lesser darklings and the gargantuan greater darklings are the middle darklings or aristocratic darklings. The aristocratic darklings are the most like humans, in both form and fashion, and have developed a strong society and culture (hence their name). The middle darklings have learned to read, to make weapons, and some have learned to wield magic and misticism. They are often the leaders, the captains and generals, and the minds behind the other groups of darklings.
Recently, the true nature and alignment of the darkling clans scattered across the Realm have come under debate. Once thought to be the brood of evil and the hands and eyes of the Path of Black, evidence gathered by several organizations including the Watchers, the Players, and the Academy have proven a curious discovery-not all darklings are dark, cruel, and malevolent. Perhaps the darkling bloodline has grown too distant from the aboriginal clans and the taint of the Path of Black has faded over the centuries. Though most darklings still react to humanity with hatred, fear, and violence, some clans have turned toward parlay and truce offerings. In fact, in a handful of places across the land, a tentative peace has been made with a few clans of darklings including the Cold-Water-Hole darklings near Sanctar, Icuna, the Gray-Gray-Foothills darklings near Hallow, Taus, and the Bone-Finder darklings near Caven, Josson.
Some progress has been made in the last few years-mostly on the part of aristocratic darklings interested in cooperation and coexistence and the scattered communities of humans willing to work toward a benevolent agreement. However, much of the darkling resentment toward the citizens of the Realm is reflected in the distrust and abhorrence of any darklings deeply rooted in the minds of the people of Archaea. Furthermore, for every single hand offered by the darklings in friendship, a hundred fists or spears are raised in conflict. Suffice it to say, it will require many years, perhaps centuries, before the place of the darklings changes in the Realm.
The full description of the Darkmen can be found in the full-version of the Archaea sourcebook.
The Hand Macabre
The Hand Macabre is said to have been started by a renegade Masquerade prince who fled to the island province of Midal. Though the Hand is not as extensive as nor possesses the resources of the Masquerade, they are considered extremely dangerous and deadly. They are always in competition with the Masquerade and have no liking for Masque members.
The Hand is the assassin's guild of the Realm. Their skill lies in stealth, secrecy, and accuracy. Whereas the Masque is said to believe in "honor among thieves," the Hand only believes in "protecting oneself and one's own." Another famous Hand saying is that "every life has a price as well as every death." The Hand Macabre has also been called the Thiefkillers, the Venomous, the Blood Thorns, or the Black Petals. In fact, the signature left at the scene of an assassination is often a black handkerchief embroidered with a single blood red tear in the corner or a blood red rose with a single black petal.
The Servants of the Sunlorn King
The full description of the Servants of the Sunlorn King can be found in the full-version of the Archaea sourcebook.
The Tower of Maga
In 200 CE, the black mistic Josson and his death-knight Meleager founded the city of Maga as the capital of the province of Josson. Unfortunately, in 213 CE, the spirit of the hero-mage Alatannin returned to the Realm and razed the city of Maga destroying both the cursed mistic and his undead lord.
However, the memory of Maga remains in the villain organization called the Tower of Maga. Coincidentally, "maga" in the Curi tongue means "mage" and the Tower is a dedicated number of spellcasters who have turned away from the Academy and the precepts of Alatannin. Though no physical tower stands at the ruined site of Maga, the members of this magical group hold power in halls and houses and towers across the Realm. Many are Unnamed, remaining members of the Academy or the Decavi or even the Circle and the House of Healers in name only.
The Tower of Maga hopes to steal away the power and resources from under the Academy and its allied organizations. Members gather lost spells, items of magic, and relics of power. Many smaller Academy halls and Houses of Morewen have been attacked, looted, and burned to the ground. Members also plot the collapse of the Council of Archons and the ruin of the Keepers of the Twin Towers. Assassination attempts have been made on important mages, including the Archons or guildmasters of the Academy.
Though small and few in number, the Tower is well-hidden and well-organized. Furthermore, the Tower favors the use of monsters, lycanthropes, darklings, and darkmen. In fact, the Tower claims responsibility for the creation of darkmen and continues research on other dastardly magics, often working in conjunction with the Black Ring.
The Unnamed (The Friends of the Night)
On the Day of the Night Path, on di mita noc, secret gatherings of darkly robed and shrouded figures come together in hidden rooms or darkened woods in the wee hours of the night. The winter solstice is a time when the Path of Black is at its strongest and the Unnamed used such a bleak evening to initiate their newest followers into the fold.
Tracing its membership back to the days of the first Age of Heroes, the Unnamed are dedicated to the pursuits as well as the preservation of the Path of Night. The Unnamed work together in anonymity--hence their mysterious name; only the astute or the clever ever learn of the true identities of the gathered. Meetings are held in mask and into the night; voices are whispered or disguised. Anyone could be part of the Unnamed--a farmer, a player, a blacksmith, a noble lady, a mage of the Academy, a healer, even the Lord Mayor of a town. Many are able mistics, trafficking in summoning, demonology, and necromancy. Others are simply loyal followers--"friends of the night" they are called.
The power and influence of the Unnamed rivals that of the Sisterhood of Sin'inari and their tendrils of intrigue and deception reach as far as the Masquerade. The Unnamed are the most dedicated, the most invested, and the most organized of the servants of the Night. Each uses their lives in the light of day to further the cause of darkness. Because any person walking down the street or sitting upon the seat of a council could be an Unnamed, paranoia and finger-pointing runs rampant across the Realm. No organization or government of good is safe and many continually glance over their shoulders or to those beside them wondering if they talk with, deal with, live with a Friend of the Night. Many times the "sign of the night," a full black moon, is scrawled or painted on the door of a citizen accused of being Unnamed.
The Unnamed use their resources, influence, and skills to maneuver and corrupt the ways of the Realm, to gather the strength needed by the Path of Black, and to find and initiate other worthy "friends." The Unnamed ready themselves for the next great battle between good and evil. Many serve as the forerunners of the other dark societies such as the Black Ring, the Hand Macabre, and the Tower of Maga.
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