Chronicles of Neverael
The Eben Guard is an organization shrouded in mystery. To the common folk, they exist only as a rumor – a barely understood, nigh mythical cabal of strangers who come from the far East to take their children as part of some centuries old agreement that they have little knowledge of.
That they exist is verifiable – their so-called Tithe Collectors visit communities throughout Antegaea every nine years on Valpurgis Eve – Solclaim the 13th. On this dreaded day the Eben Guard performs it’s most controversial duty – that of identifying potential magick users and taking them to become members of the Eben Guard. Though many are identified who have the potential to manifest witchsight and begin to learn to use magick, the Guard is only authorized – by dint of ancient writ – to take those of particularly powerful ability or one-tenth (whichever is greater). Each of the Tithe Collectors receives special training that enables them to identify prospective Guards and guage their potential. Their choice in whom to take and whom to leave behind is fully supported by the local and national governments of those communities they visit – even when those who live in the communities don’t seem to even know what their purpose is. Interfering with the Tithing is deemed extremely bad luck and with good reason – many of those whom the Guard would take become the target of spiritual posession and worse. Left unattended they wreak havoc in their communities until a Guard is dispatched to see to them.
Children chosen by the Guard and returned to the Eben Peaks for training are inducted into the Guard as Initiates and receive a formalized basic education which rivals anything available elsewhere. They are tutored in literature, mathematics, politics, and science. They also undergo grueling day-to-day physical conditioning and rudimentary weapons training. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, they are tutored in the philosophy and theory of magick use – as understood by the Guard – and begin meditative exercises designed to help open their magickal pathways faster.
At the age of 14, most Initiates take a test called, simply, “The Trials” and graduate to the rank of Soldier. Soldiers continue their education in warfare and weapons training – learning specialised techniques in areas where they’ve shown particular aptitude – and also begin to refine their magickal studies into a focus if they have not begun to do so already. At this point they begin practicing magick proper, as opposed to simple meditative and basic witchsight or mystical techniques. Soldiers also begin to accompany older Guards into the field on missions – usually very basic sorts of missions but mortality rates amongst the Soldiers of the Guard is high. These years are when prospective Guards earn their next rank with blood and sweat.
When a Soldier is ready, usually at the age of 18 or so, he or she may opt to be tested to become a full Eben Guard. This test is called “The Unseeming.” No one who has experienced it and lived likes to talk about it and the whole affair is shrouded in considerable mystery. Roughly half of all who take this final trial are killed outright or come back comatose and remain so for the rest of their lives. This final trial can be taken at any time once an Initiate has become a Soldier – it is entirely their choice as to when they believe they are ready. The youngest to ever take and pass The Unseeming was a 15 year old Soldier – now a living legend in the order.
Full Guards have many different duties within the order, but their training and learning don’t stop when they become Guards. Many undertake specialised forms of training at this time, such as that required to become a Tithe Collector. Some become Blitz Guards – the front line defenders in the case of an incursion from the Blacklands. Others become ambassadors and travel to faraway courts and palaces to act as liasons between the Guard and some distant ruler. Others become Witch Hunters – Guards who root out rogue Witchborn, Spirit-Ridden, and other magickal horrors and capture or purge them. In this, the order steps lightly, as not all Witchborn encountered out in the world are considered “rogue” – only those who use their gifts for malicious purposes. Finally, there are the so called Wardkeepers who specialize in maintaining the artifice that generates the wards that hold the Blacklands in check.
The order’s primary purpose, however, is to maintain the wards and other safeguards which keep the horrors of the Blacklands from penetrating into the rest of the world. They take this duty deadly serious. It is, in performing these duties, that most casualties within the order occur.
Members of the Guard are discouraged from resuming contact with their families once they’ve become full Guards – and there are some very effective strategies which the Guard employs during it’s member’s training to help discourage the assumption of such old ties. While msny members of the Guard do, secretly, harbor desires to see their families and old friends once more very few ever act on these desires – and they feel they have good reason not to. No one outside of the Guard really knows why this is.
The Guard is structured around a merit-based system of promotion – with preference given via seniority when two members of the same rank interact. Even a relatively young Guard of sufficient skill to be promoted is accorded full respect by older, less capable Guards.
The Eben Guard’s leadership is comprised of a council of nine advisors who report to a trio of officials called the First, Second, and Third Guards. The First Guard is the most powerful official in the entire Guard and is, often, the most blatantly powerful and experienced member of the Guard. He is the chief executive of the Guard – he has broad power to make decisions or to veto decisions and can act without council approval when immediate action is required. While the entire Eben Guard, technically, reports to the First he (or she) has broader control over the Blitz Guard – able to deploy or withdraw Blitz Guards as needed without much oversight from the Council. The Second reports only to the First and acts as the head of diplomatic relations – between the council and the Triumvirate, the Guard and the Concordant Council, etc. The Second is also responsible for seeing to the Wardkeepers. The Third is the primary liaison between the Guard and the Iron Knights – he or she also oversees the activities of the Witch Hunters and the Tithe Collectors. The selection method of the First, Second, and Third Guards is a closely guarded secret.