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The Heraldric Order

Also Known As: The Order of Heralds, Couriers Guild, Messengers, Couriers, Harbingers, Forerunners, Ajira, Rasul, Negesyd, Utusan, Elch, Karere, Viator, Manzo, Elele, Sendill, Hírnök, Futar, összekötő, Bote, Bringer, Airut, Vakeel, Xìnshǐ, Erald, Tabeld

Summary
A rigoursly neutral honour society of messengers and couriers, the Heraldric Order has a dozen names all representative of a single ancient group which has spread across the continent, acting as trusted envoys between the disparate Aeldan cultures. Agents of the order are held in high regard as a result of their dedication, skill, and fortitude; they are typically able to cross the dangerous wilderness of Aeldos in a fraction of the time of most, survive encounters that would be deadly to others, and deliver urgent missives and packages where others would fail.

Description
Aeldos is not hospitable to humans. Voracious and powerful fauna, deadly and toxic fauna, crazed wild folk, and first age horrors are just a few of the terrors that Aeldans must contend with. To do so, they have built their cities into fortresses amongst the wilderness. Few cities survive without high walls, tall towers, and strong arms on bow and sword to guard them. With a few exceptions small towns do not exist, and travel between cities is a dangerous proposition. Despite the dangers trade and communication must occur and the most reliable organization for ensuring the latter is the Order of Heralds, a long standing guild of couriers, messengers, and envoys.

The order claims to trace its history back over two millennia to the Urul Imperium. Their internal lore claims that in the first age the Heralds acted more as facilitators and aides to the rulers of the Imperium rather than the messengers they have become, however in the aftermath of the cataclysm that destroyed the Imperium the surviving Heralds banded together. Driven by a sense of duty and hope the diminished Heralds first found sanctuary operating out of the city of Selene, a haven for refugees from across the Imperium. The group only resided in Selene briefly before leaving when the Lady of Selene implemented a policy of isolation, quashing any need for the Heralds presence.

The order records tend to gloss over the next several centuries of history. Some believe that the order survived in one form or another through this period of intense chaos and collapse, not as a singular entity but as fractured groups that gradually reunited over the centuries. Others claim to be able to trace the orders activity through this period, demonstrating an unbroken lineage. The truth is that the organization lay almost entirely dormant for nearly two centuries, its members scattered and its purpose lost. It wasn’t until it was revived by descendants of the first Heralds that the order as it is known today began to take shape. The reborn Order, led by three heroic figures, Nethlas, Taeon, and Naara, settled in an abandoned Shaper fortress in the West of the Crux, near Lake Ayr and the borders of modern Lux and Ossandria. This fortress, which would later come to be known as the Hall of Letters, positioned the Order at a key nexus of travel and allowed the organization to spread out into Aeldos, establishing waystations, contacts, and outposts, and recapturing some of the nobility of their ancestors. Unfortunately the world had changed significantly; the fractured Imperium was now composed of hundreds of new factions, each distrustful of outsiders and each inclined to avoid contact. Through hard work and dogged persistence the order’s leaders used their technical advantages, knowledge, and travel-skill to forge agreements with these nascent kingdoms and empires. By following a rigorous policy of neutrality over time their reputation as the most trusted messaging and courier service in Aeldos was cemented.

While the initial members of the Order were simply idealists trying to sustain the remnants of the Urul, their methods had evolved over time into a philosophical honour society, its members deeply, almost religiously devoted to the preservation of connection and communication between the increasingly diverse Aeldan cultures. The subsequent time has seen the nature and reputation of the Order lead to additional roles as translators, envoys, and fair arbiters between various cultures and factions.

In the current age the Heraldric Order is stable, if slightly arcane, and trusted by most. While some legends and stories speak of the exploits of its members, in general the Order fades into the background of daily life until it is needed.

Members are usually easy to recognize, known for their unique apparel, typically adorned in circuit or serpentine patterns. Most members arm themselves with sabers designed to be easily wielded from horseback and many Heralds have a distinctive eye, the result of a ritual marking the members ascendance to Herald which leaves one eye silver in colour

The Order maintains waystations (also known as Posts) in nearly every major settlement where missives and packages can be dispatched and where couriers can rest and resupply. The ‘Hall of Letters’ is located in the Crux; the area intersecting Lux, Mujin, Ossandria, and the Badlands.

Members of the Order are organized the following groups and ranks:

Novitiates: Typically under the age of 20, Novitiates are apprentice travelers who spend their first two years learning and traveling only under the supervision of higher ranking members.

Travelers: The majority of the order is made up of active couriers known as Travelers who make regular transits between their assigned posts. The attitudes and approaches vary, some seek only to attain the shortest transit times; some seek to keep the roads clear using their exceptional hunting and combat prowess; a small few are even assigned to locate new and shorter routes between posts. The uniting feature of the Traveler faction is in the name; they travel, far and wide, from one end of the continent to the other.

Heralds: If a Traveler survives long enough, and demonstrates sufficient skill, they are promoted to Herald, the elite messengers that operate between key cultural hubs and within the courts and halls of the powerful. Most Heralds act as trusted runners, diplomats and arbiters for the orders most powerful clients, while a smaller portion of this group act as teachers for the orders noviates. In return they gain access to additional training, equipment, and pay.

Forerunners: The leaders of the order are a council of seven elder Heralds known as Forerunners. Originating from every corner of the continent the forerunners oversee the order, its command and control, and the operation of key posts. Rumors suggest that there are a smaller leadership group above the Forerunners but no evidence for this exists.

Custodians: The Order cannot operate with travelers and Heralds alone. The custodians are the quartermasters, stable-masters, book keepers, farriers, and clerks who enable the smooth operation of the order. They are often unseen by outsiders, but no less vital to the orders operation.

Members compete against each other to see who can transit the difficult paths between waystations the fastest, and the Order endorses these competitions, providing champions with marks, additional ranks, or other perks.

The universally recognized symbol of the Order is three feathers, red, black, and grey, believed to represent haste, wisdom, and secrets

Membership in the order is elite but selective. Noble title disqualifies candidates (renunciation and oath are required to overcome this). As a result most messengers are low born or bastards. This does not diminish the difficulty of induction into the order; Prospects must pass a series of tests; oral, written, and physical, to prove they are suitable. Successful members must demonstrate fluency in at least 3 languages and undergo extensive physical training to learn how to survive in both the wild and in the courts of various nobles.

The Order has treaties and agreements in most major settlements and nations granting them consideration in entrance and exit, rights to approach royalty, and even extra-territoriality in some places.

Members utilize a variety of means of transport; Ship, Horse, and Tyrn. They also utilize trained messenger Urvogel for more common routes. The fastest method of transit is the Elaped, a rare Syrinal ungulates bred and trained only by the Order. These long legged, tireless, and intelligent creatures share much with horses but are born of the same repti-avian stock as Grommen and Bellatori. Only the Heralds of the guild on urgent missions are entrusted with such beasts.