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Ebonstryfe

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..............."Honor, justice, these are the tools of the weak."..............

The Ebonstryfe is the fanatical, militant arm of The Black Sun. They also act as the 'secret police force' of The Black Sun; weeding out those within the Rhysol following who would oppose the God's efforts to gain dominion over the world. Those who fail to acknowledge the god's grace are all potential targets of the Ebonstryfe. Made up of 500 members, the Ebonstryfe is composed of dark paladins skilled in politics, arts of war, intrigue, interrogation and torture. They are feared and respected even by those who know nothing of Rhysol or his plans. They are the source of nightmares and command a legion of soldiers, monsters and followers all acting in the name of evil and chaos.

Contents

History

So it was that the young woman by the name of, Myleena Vos, spoke into the mist, "Evil is its worst enemy. Each individual is out for their own gain. The hordes lack discipline and there is no respect for those who command and those who command have no respect for one another. In chaos, evil feeds upon itself. In this time of chaos, the greatest enemy of order is chaos with a direction. Give it focus and it will conquer all opponents." The woman was young yet she had a wisdom to her unlike any who came before her. The mist slowly took form and revealed itself as Rhysol, God of Evil and Chaos. Shaken yet undaunted, Myleena did not hesitate to continue. "The failures of the past can only be amended by change. We must be strong yet sway with the wind. In doing so we may live forever and maintain our strength while changing with the ways of the world. As I see it, the key to victory is focus and the ability to adapt to our enemy." With those words, Myleena Vos sealed her destiny in becoming the greatest Voice of Rhysol ever to exist. Blessed with the memories and skills of all who came before her, Myleena not only spoke the words of Rhysol; she became his eyes, ears, and touch. She was to be his consort, his earthly guide and the greatest foe to purity and light ever to exist. With her words also came the eventual formation of Ebonstryfe, the fanatical, militant arm of The Black Sun.

The Organization

The Ebonstryfe operate under a rather unusual vision; though serving evil and chaos, they possess a fanatical focus and direction unlike any other dark force seen upon the face of Mizahar. Where the Syliran Knights exist to bring order and peace to all they see, the Ebonstryfe wishes order through destruction and corruption. Those who choose not to bow to their wishes are destroyed without quarter. They are funded through heavy taxation, robbery and political meandering. The city of Ravok is their main source of funding with the general population freely giving a portion of their wealth to service of Rhysol.

The Ebonstryfe is organized in such a way that their various strengths work to complement one another. The soldiers form the backbone of the order, fighting on the battlefield in a variety of roles, from foot soldiers, to cavalry and beyond. The paladins guide the soldiers with faith, gnosis and djed while weeding out those who would be traitors to Rhysol and the order as well as threats from outside. Their unholy power is used on the battlefield to aid their soldiers and harm enemies. Paladins each undergo rather diverse magical training thus their unique talents are often unpredictable and helpful in so many ways. Many use their arcane arts to predict the movements of their adversaries and use magical power to obliterate their foes. Indeed truly frightening paladins spread their training to include numerous areas of magical training as well as differening arts of combat and non-combat alike. The Ebonstryfe is led by the Ebonlord who reigns as supreme commander of the entire order. He is advised by the Chaos Lord as well as masters and marshalls in command of smaller divisions.

Allies and Enemies

The greatest enemy of the Ebonstryfe is the Syliran Knights. The Ebonstryfe seeks the capture or destruction of anything related to the dead god, Sylir. The Ebonstryfe has no true allies any anything resembling an alliance is merely a tool used to further the order's goals. Occasionally, the Ebonstryfe has been known to benefit from the murderous acts of the minions of Krysus, however they do no condone mindless killings; the Ebonstryfe always has a deeper motive for the things they do. The only one's that may gain any mercy and some rare moments of respect, are followers of Akajia, Goddess of Night. Otherwise, all followers, all orders and all servants of any other god or goddess and all who would oppose the will of Rhysol are considered enemies worthy of extermination.

Hierarchy of the Ebonstryfe

The rank structure of the Ebonstryfe incorporates both military and religious elements into its organization. The hierarchy is divided into three main groups; the Soldiers, Paladins and Lords. Soldiers are the lowest-ranking members of the Ebonstryfe however they do form the backbone of the order. At this stage of their membership, Soldiers are given the title of Sir or Madam. Would-be soldiers enter the order at an apprentice level where their initial training takes place. It is at that point too that they learn their place within the order and begin the fundamental instruction that the order requires. Apprentices are quickly trained in the art of battle and how the order approaches such a thing. They also form the bulk of the support staff for the rest of the Ebonstryfe. This involves training not only in combat but also religion, politics, economics and subterfuge. Soldier's having mastered the basics of these areas of training, begin to but their lessons to more practical use. Most members of the Ebonstryfe on the battlefield hold this rank. As a soldier progresses and displays greater levels of skill, they may be promoted to the rank of Commander. Commanders are placed in a leadership role over a unit as well as an officer in a company. A Commander who has proven that he is capable of leading others and has shown that they are completely devoted to Rhysol and the Ebonstryfe and have excelled in their different areas of training may then be considered for progression to the Paladin rank. A Paladin is granted special magical training to compliment their other abilities and gain a special Gnosis Mark from Rhysol.

A Paladin commands a company of 10 units or 50 soldiers. From there, upon advancement in rank, the Paladin becomes a Marshall in command of a force of 10 companies or 500 soldiers. Marshalls may then advance to the rank of master where they command an entire army made up of four forces or 2000 soldiers. Master's gain a second gnosis mark from Rhysol and are of the highest rank most members of the Ebonstryfe will ever attain. If a master commands their army in a way that benefits the city of Ravok, the Ebonstyfe, The Voice and Rhysol in some profound and lasting way, they may be considered for the position of Chaos Lord. The Chaos Lord is one of two members of the Ebonstryfe who possess the title of Lord and are granted a third and final gnosis mark thus transforming them into Druvin. The Chaos Lord oversees the Ebonstryfe armies and all they encompass. They are second to the Ebonlord; the head of the entire Ebonstryfe. The Ebonlord answers only to Rhysol and The Voice and has complete domain over the order.

Although baring a strong military element, the Ebonstryfe has members in all walks of life. Those who do not operate directly within the military aspect of the order, may still hold similar ranks while not necessarily commanding soldiers. These individuals are granted the exact same respect and benefits that anyone serving in the military has.

Along with soldiers and the various ranks of paladins, the Ebonstryfe possesses a unique form of pseudo-divine being called a Dravlak. Dravlaks are living creatures, humanoid or beast that, much like the Druvin, bare a sliver of Rhysol's divine essence. Where the Druvin display all of the benefits of Rhysol's blood, the Dravlaks display the opposite. Their bodies are twisted and demonic in appearance and function. Regardless of what they were before their transformation, Dravlaks are like raging animals awash in so much internal chaos that they find it next to impossible to reason on their own. This is why each Dravlak has a keeper of sorts who manages and maintains the beast. Dravlaks are the shocktroopers of the Ebonstryfe; unleashed upon enemy forces in order to intimidate and break opposing ranks before full engagement beings.

Title Unit Type Unit Size Pay/Day
Ebonlord (Druvin) The Forces of the Ebonstryfe The Entirety of the Ebonstryfe 142gm
Ebonknight (Druvin) Legion (2 Armies) 4,000 soldiers, 100 Dravlaks 71gm
Master Army(4 Forces) 2,000 soldiers, 50 Dravlaks 42gm
Marshall Force (10 Companies) 500 soldiers, 25 Dravlaks 28gm
Paladin Company (10 Units) 50 soldiers 14gm
Commander Unit 5 soldiers, varying # of apprentices 7gm
Soldier N/A Varies 4gm
Apprentice N/A Varies 0gm

Traditions of the Ebonstryfe

The Ebonstryfe was founded on the ideals of strength through focused chaos. This is why full members of the Paladin rank or higher are expected to be well versed in politics, economics and arts of subterfuge. Through these areas of influence, a member may bring chaos and ruin to an opponent before ever lifting a blade against them. While the Ebonstryfe is indeed a militant organization, they are fanatically religious as well as dangerous without weapon or armor. No Paladin is the same as another. One may be a skilled military tactician in charge of many soldiers while another may be a mid-level politician working inside an opposing city government in an attempt to corrupt and/or break the leadership from within.

Many paladins and even unit commanders madate evening recitations of prayer to Rhysol in order to maintain faith and dedication to the cause. Each evening as the sun sets, soldiers and paladins alike present themselves in front of their commanding officer. Even those not serving in a military role undergo the same rite. During the day, soldiers are expected to perform their everyday duties. In the evening, they must spend time on their individual focus. Some focus on excercise and practice with a weapon, others study their arcane arts or spend time in meditation and prayer.

The Ebonstryfe works for the betterment of the order, the Black Sun and Rhysol. Individual ambition for one's own sake is discourged while ambition for the sake of Rhysol is encouraged. Soldiers are expected to work together as are paladins. Duels are common within the Ebonstryfe however. A duel can take place for a number of reasons though typically it is to settle a dispute of some kind between members. Duels are to the death and the winner is considered to be the one in the right. There are normally few if any rules in such a contest as honor is not a tenet that most members possess. Deuls may also determine advancement beyond the rank of paladin. A paladin who wishes to advance in rank quicker than they normally would, they may challenge their superior to a duel. These challenges are not made or taken lightly and the winner is the one left alive and will either retain or attain the position challenged.

The Ebonstryfe takes a very grim view of failure. While there may be setbacks in various arenas of conflict, utter and complete failure will be met with harsh discipline. This is often based on the circumstances. A minor infraction may only result in the severing of a finger or a series of lashings. Following the punishment, the member must face their commander, look them in the eye and swear to Rhysol that he will never commit the offense again.

Some offenses are severe enough to bring about execution, such as treason, disobeying orders or murdering another member of the Ebonstryfe without some gain to the order or Rhysol. In such cases, the offender is executed in one of a number of very painful, prolonged methods. Examples include being slowly burned from the inside out by members trained in the use of djed, stripped of one's flesh until they eventually bleed out or forced to drink a poison that rots one's innards over a span of weeks. If the offender is not yet in custody, they will be hunted down and killed accordingly.

As with all other followers of Rhysol, the day of an eclipse is one of the most holy of times and the Ebonstryfe dedicates these days to unconditional prayer and ceremony honoring their dark lord and all that has been done in his name.


Recruitment

Recruitment for the Ebonstryfe often begins at a young age before an individual becomes too set in their ways. This usually occurs around twelve years of age for citizens of Ravok although some candidates may be accepted afterward but never later than the age of eighteen. For the next three years, the young petitioner undergoes a program of rigorous physical training and indoctrination. Their bodies, hearts and minds are shaped through harsh trials and they learn quickly the values of obedience.

After this three-year period, petitioners are ready to become apprentices and begin the full training toward becoming a soldier. Though not as common, the Ebonstryfe does welcome older candidates who have sworn their allegiance to Rhysol and to the order. Like those younger than they, older petitioners undergo their own program of training and indoctrinations. The program is different however, focusing on removing existing world views and replacing them with the will of Rhysol. Depending upon the individual; their skills, abilities and nature, they may be inducted sooner or later than normal.

Recruits to the Ebonstryfe are typically human although the occasional non-human will join the ranks. The order is open to a number of races who truly profess their complete devotion to Rhysol; outside of Ravok this is quite rare. These non-humans may discover that their fellow Ebonstryfe members are not always welcoming of their company. Rhysol of course accepts all who would follow him so non-humans are sometimes accepted although grudgingly by the Ebonstryfe itself. As with all candidates, the order checks into their backgrounds to weed out those who would betray them as well as evaluating what skills the petitioners might bring with them. This may involve various forms of magical interrogation meant to weed out undesirables.

It is important to note however that even though non-humans may be accepted into the Ebonstryfe, it is not the norm by far. There are some races that will find greater difficulty than others while a handful of races will be not be accepted. Those races that are not accepted will more likely be captured, imprisoned and/or exploited in horrendous ways.

Races Accepted Fully: Humans

Humans are the most accepted in the Ebonstryfe. They are not generally bound by innate racial/cultural/social restrictions that may otherwise prevent other races from either choosing to join or being considered for acceptance.

Races Accepted Occasionally: Dhani, Human-Subtypes (Individual Cultures May Make This Difficult/Impossible), Kelvic, Mixed-Blood Isur, Mixed-Blood Zith

A handful of non-human as well as human sub-races are occasionally accepted into the Ebonstryfe. Dhani and Kelvic are the more common non-human races who find entry into the Ebonstryfe. Both may encounter no small amount of difficulty being accepted by their fellow soldiers but with great effort and training, they may rise to a respectable rank. Human subtypes may also be accepted however many have ingrained social/cultural/religious hangups that prevent them from accepting Rhysol as their primary deity. Mixed-blood Isur and Zith, may find acceptance in the Ebonstryfe though they may experience similar difficulties to the Dhani and Kelvic.

Races Accepted Rarely: Symenestra, Zith, Jamoura (Dark)

On the most rare occasions, the Ebonstryfe may accept a member of the more bestial races. Symenestra often have skills that aid in the more subtle arts that the Ebonstryfe values while the Zith's ability to fly and operate at night is invaluable when it comes to patrols and scouting efforts. Although only seen once or twice since the Valterrian, the Dark Jamoura may find potential membership assuming they are able to control their chaotic rage and violent, explosive tempers.

Races Never Accepted: Akvatari, Charoda, Ethaefal, Eypharian, Ghost, Isur, Konti, Nuit, Pycon

These races will never find real acceptance in the Ebonstryfe. The reason being that they are either too alien in appearance to be of much real use as soldiers or their religious/racial backgrounds are too strongly against following Rhysol. Ethaefal are born of Leth and Syna, Isur are born to Izurdin. Akvatari, Charoda, Pycons and Eypharians are too non-human. Ghosts are too mentally broken and preoccupied with their own meanderings to be of much use. Their skills are often too limited and it takes a specialist to control them. Nuit are seen as being physically too weak; requiring too much maintenance to keep together thus severely limiting their overall usefulness. These races, while not being acceptable for membership, may find themselves victims of exploitation and experimentation if they are found and captured by the Ebonstryfe.

After serving as a petitioner, the prospect becomes an apprentice, serving under a patron Commander and filling a supportive role within a unit. It is during this time, typically around a year, that their training and indoctrination are first put to practical use. When an apprentice proves they are worthy of advancement and completes the Crucible, they usually serve one year of general service as a part of a unit (Note that Player Characters may spend significantly less time). Upon becoming a full soldier, they may choose to specialize their training. While all members are proficient in basic combat, soldiers can expand upon that training. Many become part of the cavalry; learning the art of mounted combat. Some train further in the precepts of faith and become involved in internal security and, when at war, support services and interrogation. As they progress in ranks and become more than simple soldiers, a member may become involved in the vastly important task of indoctrination, discipline and control within the order. Other opportunities involve becoming an ambassador or other politically minded individual where learning how to gather information on other races and nations becomes a great benefit to the Ebonstryfe as a whole. Such tasks are reserved for those of paladin rank or higher and these individuals may also take up or continue training in the manipulations of djed. War mages are a popular choice for such members as is focusing on divination and gathering of external intelligence.

All members of the Ebonstryfe, from petitioner and above, are taught the battle techniques of the Syliran Knights, the order's most hated enemy. They learn not only the tactical weaknesses of their enemy, but also the weakness of the heart. By understanding what it is to be a Syliran Knight, the Ebonstryfe learns what it takes to defeat them. All members, no matter how low a rank they may hold, are taught to be leaders. Though some may make better followers, those who lack ambition are considered weak. Weakness is not allowed.

Quests and Trials

The quests of the Ebonstryfe typically revole around their single minded purpose; to bring all under the will of Rhysol. Each challenge the Ebonstryfe overcomes brings the conquest of Mizahar ever closer. Some may involve open warfare while others are more covert. Each member is expected to make sacrifices for their god and for the order and may be assigned to a variety of missions. All members must undergo the Crucible before becoming soldiers and beyond.

The Crucible:

Continuations past the rank of apprentice requires the individual to pass the Crucible. Failure means death or worse. To date, there has never been a case where one who fails the Crucible has survived. The test centers around the themes of obedience, betrayal and faith. Typical problems posed include whether or not the individual is willing to sacrifice everything for the will of Rhysol. Will obedience win out over personal desire? Will the individual be willing to betray their closest friends and loved ones in order to benefit the order? Will they give themselves fully to Rhysol and trust in their lives and very souls to the god? The Crucible can take many forms and could be simply an illusion, the reality unknown until the final judgement. It could also take the form of actual real-world missions where a person must prove their worth. The test itself is always dangerous and often brutal in its cruelty. Those who pass however become strong and confident in their actions.

Those who pass the Crucible are offered full membership as soldiers of the Ebonstryfe. They are free to persue training in as many fields that they wish and are encouraged to do so in those that benefit the order most. Those who prove themselves to be more than a simply soldier may be offered the opportunity for paladinhood. The ascension of a soldier to the paladinhood takes place in a sacred ceremony. They travel to the Temple of the Black Hand in Ravok and place themselves in seclusion within one of the many chambers specifically designed for this. They fast and pray for five days before the actual ceremony. During this time, they reflect upon themselves and their own reasons for choosing the path they are on. They allow their minds to drift into the waves of chaos and search for a direction. At the end of thise period, the individual receives a message from Rhysol, himself. This message often takes the form of a vision; sometimes real, sometimes imagined. What they experience is different from everyone else but the final message is always the same; Rhysol is the only way to escape the horrors of unbridled chaos. Ironic considering that Rhysol is indeed chaos personified.

During the actual ceremony following the divine message, the newly acscended paladin is embraced in the flesh by, The Voice, and given a kiss. With that kiss comes the second gnosis mark granted by Rhysol.

The primary objective of the Ebonstryfe is the conquest of Mizahar in the name of Rhysol. Smaller acts of conquest may present themselves from time to time and the if the order feels they can claim a city as a part of their territory or bring people under their control, they will do it. Be it through direct military action, political positioning or economic dominance, the Ebonstryfe will seek conquest over anything that presents an opportunity.

One must know the enemy in order to defeat them. Because of this, intelligence gathering is a critical aspect of conquest. Through the use of djed as well as their covert political and economical strategies, the Ebonstryfe has turned intelligence gathering into a fine art. Paladins frequently undertake quests to uncover information, working with members of the Black Sun, in order to be successful in gathering information. These individuals are feared even by other members of the Ebonstryfe as they are capable of appearing in almost any area under the influence of the Ebonstryfe and rooting out traitors as well as gaining an intelligence foothold over their opponents.

Second only to conquest is the drive to find fragments. In the quest to conquer Mizahar for Rhysol, the Ebonstryfe is tasked to hunt down fragments of pre-Valterrian gods as well as destroy and desicrate holy sites and relics of current gods. No divine entity is safe from the Ebonstryfe in this quest. What is done with the fragments once captured is unknown to all but the highest ranking members of the Ebonstryfe and The Black Sun. It is believed that they are drained of their divine heritage until they cease to exist. The stolen divine energy is then thought to be transferred to Rhysol in order to increase his power and one day raise him to the highest rank of divinity.

Propaganda is one of the Ebonstryfe's most potent tools. They use it to gain allies and garner support for their goals. Specially trained paladins may be sent to spread disinformation regarding other gods and speak of how the Ebonstryfe can protect a town from those who would threaten it while in reality they intend to control it. Propaganda regarding matters of intelligence and magical affairs is often used to discredit other magical organizations. Propaganda may be used within those territories under Rhysol's control to solidify or increase holdings.

Required Skills

Before being considered for membership into the Ebonstryfe, a petitioner must undergo special training to prepare them for becoming an apprentice. They become familiar with weapons of nearly any kind; depending on the talent and desire of the individual. They train in the use of poisons, torture and subterfuge while also honing up on their knowledge of religion, politics and economics. In order to become an apprentice, a petitioner must possess the following skills:

It may be possible to petition the Ebonstryfe to become an Apprentice with skills and abilities comparable to the ones listed above but this is done on a case-by-case basis with no guarantee that one will be accepted.

In order to become a full soldier, one must undergo the Crucible; the potentially deadly and mind-altering test of an apprentice's devotion to Rhysol. Soldiers are given a uniform consisting of black, brigandine armor and black uniform both baring symbols of the Ebonstryfe. They are assigned a weapon fitting their training as well. Soldier's are able to requisition a limited amount and quality of equipment in which to perform their assigned duties at discounted cost.

Future advancements in rank beyond that of soldier require not only a history of dedicated service to the Order and to Rhysol but also an increase in skill so to better serve in the new position. Each rank starting at Commander, requires an individual to have a skill increase of 15 points in any one skill. Thus a soldier raised to the rank of Commander must have 35 points in a weapon OR unarmed combat OR 45 points in any ONE of the five listed skills required as an apprentice. Simply spreading out five points among three different skills will not suffice.

To reach the rank of Paladin, one must have all of the skill, service and dedication requirements as well as undergo the advanced Crucible ritual.

Any rank increase is granted by a superior officer at least one rank above the person to be promoted and each rank increase brings about a series of benefits appropriate for that rank:

Soldier: Requisition equipment suited to assignment at 75% the normal cost. Issued a suit of black brigandine armor and black uniform emblazoned with the symbols of the Ebonstryfe. First Gnosis Mark of Rhysol.

Commander: Granted command of up to 5 soldiers and between 5 and 10 apprentices. Requisition equipment for self and/or those they command for 50% the normal cost. Offered the opportunity to bond and train with a horse of the Ravok Bloodbane breed.

Paladin: Offered free magical training from the Ebonstryfe at the headquarters in Ravok. Granted command of up to 50 soldiers plus associated apprentices. Requisition equipment for self and/or those they command for 25% the normal cost. Granted 10,000 gm solely for the purchase of a home in Ravok or outlying areas. Granted the second Gnosis Mark of Rhysol.

Marshall: Granted command of up to 500 soldiers and 25 dravlaks. Requisition equipment for free for self and 25% the normal cost for those they command. Taught a special lore involving the handling of dravlaks.

Master: Granted command of up to 2,000 soldiers and 50 dravlaks. Given a special token from The Voice in the form of a magically enhanced version of the weapon they are trained with.

Ebonknight: Granted command of up to 4,000 soldiers and 100 dravlaks. Granted the third Gnosis Mark of Rhysol if not already possessing it and thus made a druvin. Granted 25,000 gm solely for the purchase of a manor in Ravok or outlying areas.

Ebonlord: Granted command over the entirety of the Ebonstryfe forces. Answer only to Rhysol and The Voice and call upon all resources available to the Ebonstryfe. Granted residence within the Ebonstryfe headquarters at the Temple of the Black Sun.