The Argent Order:
By Aaron Kavli
This is an order created by the Laranian Church. It was founded in
Trierzon by St. Lucidin of Armain in 563 TR. The order is dedicated
to routing out the worshippers of the 'dark gods' Naveh and Morgath, more
so than the followers of Agrik, though they are by no means safe.
The order is somewhat covert and rarely seen, but they are rumored far
and wide with the same mystique attributed to those things often heard
of only in whispers. It's members are few, rarely exceeding two hundred
members in Lythia at any given time. Harn, due to its repute
as a dark and mysterious place, boasts about thirty.
The members usually work in groups of two or three, sent across the known world. Few members of the church really know much about the order, but they are well known and respected by the higher circles of the clergy. Many of the members of the Argent Order maintian their regular church positions waiting for the need to do the Order's business. Both priests and knights belong to the order, so can be found in any area.
Though small in number, they have great influence and can call upon aid from any Laranian sources they need; fighting orders, temples, priests or even Lords who are devout worshippers. They are mistaken as being an arm of the Ethelanca (The Holy Office), but they do draw on this resource often. But more importantly, they are well versed in public speaking and are excellent orators. They can whip scared or indifferent populations into action against those the order wishes to expunge. This sometimes leads to misguided witch hunts, but this too adds a fear to those who would do evil, adding more to the effectiveness of the Order's reputation. On more than one occasion, suspect characters have left town just on the rumor that the Argent Order was coming to investigate the area.
The members are only selected from the most pious priests and most devout warriors from the churches orders. The most important aspects of a member a high Willpower and courage to be able to face the horrors they will seek out and encounter. But the church does what they can to help the order. All members are presented with a shining broadsword, consecrated by the Pontiff himself. The broadswords are high quality (+3WQ), most often of Khuzan make. They are prized items and a member of the Order will go to great lengths to regain and protect theirs.
But the second item is more important. They are also given a small, silver sword amulet, the Talisman of St. Lucidin. This gives the wielder and all worshippers of Larani within 100 feet a +2 bonus to their Willpower. This is very useful, as many of the orders worse enemies are the Morvrin, and dark priest of Morgath who wield the insidious Shadow of Bukrai. Whether the strength of spirit lended to owners of these amulets is truly divine or just a matter of the holder's faith is arguable (by those less devout souls), the fearlessness universally exhibited by members of the Order is not.
The order is based in Areshomes in Trierzon, using the area's many churches for research and support. Though they have no official seating, the Headmaster of the order resides in the main temple of Larani there. The current leader is Drugan the Paladin,
a serious and contemplative man of thirty. He is a very skilled and experienced warrior, and fanatically pious (to a fault some would say, out of earshot). It is rumored his faith has turned back Bukrai's shadow and made dark undead beg forgivness at his mere look.
Due to the Order's scattered nature, and its shroud of secrecy, its members have no separate title than what they usually hold. Some knights title themselves Paladin, but most simply refer to fellow members as Argent Brother, Sister, Father, or Mother dependant on position in the church and reputation in the Order.
Another aspect borne of necessity of a small order is that each Priest is skilled at arms (not uncommon in Laranian circles) and each Knight is a member of the 3rd circle clergy, at least. The Argent Order has access to all of the Church's known rituals, something not often made available to every clergyman of the church. Long time members of the Order are usually mighty warrior-priests, able to best the bravest warrior and call down the blessings of Larani with equal skill.
This is a Laranian unarmed fighting technique dating back to the 6th century TR. This is one of many aspects of the Laranian teachings that has been well documented. Even as such, it is not widely taught, generally only to the members of the Argent Order and some members of the Ethelanca. A limited number of the priesthood are taught as well. It is actually a well guarded secret, especially how it was brought to the Church and the documents are kept well guarded by the Ethelanca.
In 583TR Sir Uten of Gelamo of the Argent Order was assigned to investigate
suspected Navehan activity in the nearby town of Lodus. He entered town
as a commoner, not wanting to give himself away. After some time,
he befriended a man who soon asked if Uten was interested in learning the
ways of "those with power". Seeing this as a possible lead (in fact
the only lead found, this group was very careful) he agreed and was soon
brought to the Navehan's secret temple. Soon he was walking in darkness,
learning the dark ways of Naveh. His faith was sore tested, but he
stayed in the light of Larani praying for her strength and forgiveness.
Among the things he learned was a deadly unarmed technique they called the "Way of the Shadow Fist". This technique involved quick strikes and holds designed to disable and kill a person before they can call out. Stealth and guile were an ingrained part of the skill. These cowardly ways did Uten l earn, along with dagger and assassination techniques. He also learned much of the dogma and beliefs of the church, including some of their dark rituals. In fact much of the Ethelanca's knowledge of Naveh's ways came from Sir Uten's report. He would later be tasked with killing the man he befriended in mortal combat.
Sir Uten had decided that learning of the Navehan's ways was important and delayed their destruction for this purpose. He was soon to be initiated into the 3rd circle of the dark church, but a stranger showed up one night. Using the stealth (cowardly but useful) he learned, he eve's dropped on the stranger talking to the high priest. The stranger was a priest claiming to have had a vision of an intruder in this temple. Sir Uten left and returned in proper attire and with a company of soldiers. The Navehan temple was attacked and all of the members were killed or captured and the temple was razed. Only the stranger had escaped.
Sir Uten returned and traveled to the Argent Order's headquarters.
He gave his full report and spent a full year in a monastery to cleanse
his soul. After he left the monastery, Sir Uten decided that the
Navehan's fighting technique had it's merits. He got permission from
the Argent Order knight commander to develop and teach the technique, changing
it to a more honorable style. Sir Uten over the next few years, developed
Tala Ma (Silver Fist). Though some of the stealth and cunning were
still incorporated in the new technique, the form was developed into a
more direct way of fighting without the assassination aspects (though it
is rumored that these
techniques were taught and recorded).
The Tala Ma developed into a deadly fighting style taught to the members of the Order and to the Ethelanca. Sir Uten taught many who later became the masters to teach others and so on down the years.
Sir Uten would later succumb to nightmares and become convinced he had strayed to the shadow. He approached the high Inquisitor of the Ethelanca for help. Exorcism after exorcism were performed, but the nightmares continued and finally Sir Uten asked to be sent to a distant Abby to live his life trying to regain the light. Were he any less of a hero, he might have been burnt, but he was allowed to go. Three years later he was murdered in his sleep. Many believe it was the wandering priest from Uten's report. For his work and his piety, Sir Uten was canonized in 668 TR.
Tala Ma is the final form of what was taught by Sir Uten, having been changed
slightly over time by various masters. Tala Ma is a very formal technique,
the training involves various forms and maneuvers incorporated with prayers
and cries to Larani.
Most are taught that Sir Uten was gifted the ways of Tala Ma by a vision from the goddess. Very few know of the true background of it.
Tala Ma incorporates various holds and throws with follow up strikes. For all of it's form and style, Tala Ma is a violent technique to cripple foes as fast as possible (the basic ideal of it’s fore father). Most of the moves involve a hold of some sort followed up with a strike to the neck, or a violent twist to the opponent's neck or arm. Many members of the Argent Order learn this in their training, as do some other members of the Ethelanca. Though an effective technique, most martial training still involves the honorable use of sword and shield.
Techniques: Pressure Points, Focused Punch. (see HarnMaster Gold)
Though the ethics of such an act is dubious at best, if an attack using this style is initiated on an unaware (IGNORE) opponent, a pressure point option may be used with out first obtaining a hold.