|Leader||Grey Baron Richarr Tyrmont-Tirgunn|
|Headquarters||Castle Virgadulvlas in Tirgunn|
Known as researchers of the occult and defenders against the darkness, the Darkwald Order is a Knightly Order with a unique calling in life. Created by a band of aberrant-hunters obsessed with studying the supernatural, the order acts as a constant guardian against unknown forces, warning others around them of the danger posed by such corrupting Aberrancies. Sporting signature tricorne hats alongside their weaponry, the Darkwald Knights carry out their honorable calling in contrast to other knightly orders. Despite having mixed reception for their tactics and history, the Darkwald Order continues to fight against any aberrancy deemed a threat to the Regalian Empire, receiving both praise and scorn for their duty.
The Darkwald Order finds its origins in the waning days of the House of Prendegeist, a minor noble house that once ruled over the lands of Tirgunn. The final head of the house, Lord Renault, was an avid scholar who obsessed with studying the occult, as well as hunting down various aberrants around his lordship. To accomplish these goals, he recruited a band of like-minded people who would follow the Lord of Tirgunn wherever he wished, looking for ancient artifacts of mysterious power to better understand the supernatural of the world. Together, the group collected many assorted artifacts and documented their hunts of both Vampires and Werebeasts alike, creating a small library with the findings they made.
Eventually, this pursuit of the unknown would be the downfall of the Prendegeist bloodline; after discovering a unique Artifact during one of his hunts, Lord Renault began to change from his normal appearance and gained a new obsession with ravens. Stylizing himself as the Raven-Lord of Tirgunn, he became more reclusive, with his aberrant-hunters going out to pursue their research without the lord, only sharing a few words with him when he gave them the time of day. One day, these hunters were preparing their horses for a new hunt, when they heard a window crash and a servant woman scream. Upon investigation, they deduced that the Artifact that the Raven-Lord had found possessed an unnatural curse, which had led to his demise.
With the Prendegeist line extinguished, the Lordship of Tirgunn passed to the House of Tyrmont, a cadet branch. Upon his arrival to the seat of power in Tirgunn, the aberrant-hunters began to warn the new head of the household of the very real danger the supernatural posed to the region and the Regalian Empire at large. In his desire to seek out the occult and understand it, Lord Renault fell to its corruption and was damned to his fate for not exercising caution. This, the hunters concluded, was the fate that met any who gave in to the temptations of the occult. Making use of their skills in hunting Vampires and Werebeasts, the band decided that their new calling in life would be to train others to combat the aberrancy seen in Aloria and provide them with the skills necessary to overcome these obstacles through education and military training. Inspired by their devotion to this calling, Lord Tyrmont agreed to form a military order of knighthood, citing the evils of the occult and their lasting effects on the Empire if left unchecked, and established the Darkwald Order.
With the Order set up, the Darkwald Knights began to recruit new members into their ranks, teaching them how to research the occult and fight against the many kinds of aberrancies. Soon their membership began to deploy further out from the Lordship of Tirgunn, continuing to research supernatural activities and dealing with local sightings of demonic activity. While many locals praised the Knights for their duty to guard the mundane populations against the forces of demons, others held concerns over some of the methods used by some Knights to carry out their mission. Every so often, word would arise that the use of torture or blackmail was used on innocent civilians to track down suspected aberrants, with the worst reports alleging that several slain aberrants were not even aberrants at all. Despite the negative press at times, the Darkwald Knights maintained that their cause was an honorable one, justifying that at times a morally grey action was required to save the greater good; as the organization still provided a critical function in the Regalian Empire, they continued their mission to fight the occult, even with some organizations like the Viridian Order denouncing their actions if they appeared dishonorable.
While unrecognized at the Imperial Court for most of their existence, the last 50 years saw many changes occur with the Darkwald Order. In 279 AC, the Undead Scare saw Emperor Justinian II lose all three of his sons, prompting him to create the Purist Movement, an ideology revolving around protection against Aberrancies and favoring strong conservative politics, something which appealed instantly to the Darkwald Order. Sympathetic to the Emperor’s loss, the current Grey Baron approached Justinian with an offer: grant the Darkwalds Imperial Respect, and they would be the fighting arm to prevent another Aberrant crisis in the Empire. With little discussion, the Emperor approved of the arrangement and the Darkwald Knights were allowed to use their knightly titles in public. While the Regalian Senate protested the decision for a few years, they were ultimately silenced when the House of Balaur fell in 285 AC. With the death of the Ânian House came a flare-up of supernatural activity in the Baldmark region of the Regalian Archipelago, prompting the Darkwald Knights to deploy to the region, where they began what appeared to be an endless battle between Aberrants and Knights in the dark forests of the area.
To this day, the Darkwald Knights continue to fight all forms of Aberrancy around the Regalian Archipelago and, as new innovations such as Puretek arrive in Regalian society, the Order gains new ways to guard against the creatures of darkness. Even with the Imperial Decree of the Magi seeking to permit the existence of certain aberrancies, the order continues to hold true to their calling, eliminating the occult wherever it preys upon the mundane populations of the Empire. And while many still consider their methods to be questionable at best, others are all too relieved to see a few tricorne-wearing knights walk into a town plagued with a Vampire outbreak.
In order to aid in their missions, the Darkwald Order has an extensive espionage network and always has ears to the ground. While often used to provide information on a certain mission, the network also ensures that each Darkwald Knight remains uncorrupted in their work, ensuring that the Order as a whole does not meet the same fate as the Raven-Lord of Tirgunn. As such, the Darkwald Order has a list of Aberrants that they target in their duties, which includes the following:
- Mages and Sorcerers
- All Arcane Afflictions
- All Primal Afflictions
- All Ordial Afflictions
- Anything else which confers Aberrant of Occult status.
As well as those aberrancies listed above, the Darkwald Order also has a strong distaste for those who are accepting and/or loving of aberrancy, as well as heretics and heathens. While they do not hunt these individuals directly, the Darkwald Knights do not approve of their worldviews, and will not hesitate to interrogate them to reveal the locations of actual aberrants if it pertains to their current mission, or try to convince them to accept pure, Unionist views.
Any Darkwald Knight that befriends or otherwise assists an aberrant, or shows sympathy towards them, is deemed a threat to the tenants of the order and is immediately expelled and unable to regain entry to Tirgunn (which as of 308 AC is ruled directly by the Darkwald Order). Their name is passed along the espionage network and is able to be hunted by loyalist Darkwalds in order to prevent their organization’s ranks from being corrupted.
The Grey Baron of Tyrmont-Tirgunn
The Grey Baron is the formal head of the Darkwald Order as Primae, but also family head of the House of Tyrmont. As the feudal Lord of Tirgunn, the Grey Baron serves as the Emperor’s representative in the lordship. The current Grey Baron serves as a top alchemist for the Imperial Palace, though tends to keep to his laboratory in Castle Virgadulvas where he conducts secret experiments on behalf of the Emperor and Scholar’s Court. The specific details of these experiments are relatively unknown, with only the High Steward and a select few Paladins privy to the Grey Baron’s work. Despite his general private life, the Grey Baron does occasionally meet with the rest of the Darkwald Order, often to present one of his findings or to suggest a specific mission for studying the occult.
The High Steward
The High Steward acts as the second in command of the Darkwald Order, though in practice has the most tangible power. Chosen by the Grey Baron following the retirement or death of the previous High Steward, they tend to be the most senior member of the Darkwald Order in terms of experience hunting aberrants and researching the supernatural. While managing the espionage network and teaching the Pages early in their instruction, the High Steward is also tasked with managing the Darkwald Library, the most infamous collection of tomes and history on the occult in the world.
The Elders are teachers and instructors at the Darkwald Order. They are considered the most talented in terms of martial prowess while also being some of the most versed in supernatural folklore due to their many decades as Darkwald Knights. There are twelve Elders in the Darkwald Order and together with the High Steward set the policies and standards of the Order, while using their knowledge to train the next generation of Aberrant hunters.
- The Paladins are the most decorated members of the Darkwald Order, known for their skills in both weaponry and in understanding various ways of defeating Aberrancies. Very few Darkwald Knights become Paladins, as becoming one often requires accomplishing a great personal feat for the order, such as eliminating an infamous Vampire Coven from a small city or contributing to a new section of the Darkwald Library through extensive field research and reports.
- Lieutenants are the highest rank any Knight can achieve before becoming a Paladin. These are some of the most skilled of the Darkwald Knights, but lack a certain finesse or skill required to become an all-rounder like their Paladin higher ups.
- Sergeants are the next rank any Knight can achieve after being promoted from Man-at-Arms. They are quite capable combatants, but lack refinement and dedication to become a Lieutenant.
- Men-at-Arms (or Dames-at-Arms) are the lowest rank any Knight is after graduation at the age of 21.
- Squires are the second step at becoming a full member of the Darkwald Order. They receive this rank at 14 when they finish their training as a Page, and will remain such until they graduate. Squires often accompany their Mentors outside of the headquarters to learn first-hand combat experience, acting as an assistant to their senior Knight.
- Pages are the first step in becoming a Darkwald Knight, and to enter the Order at the age of seven following the completion of an entrance trial, which sees the prospective trainee travel the path of Castle Virgadulvas in complete darkness. Once inside, Pages are taught in a classroom setting by Elders and graduated Knights, after which they are paired with a Mentor who provides more in depth instruction to the trainee in exchange for completing various chores to learn humility. Pages also accompany their Mentors outside of the Virgadulvas Castle, though their role is limited to non combatant roles due to their inexperience.
- Darkwald Knights are often recognized in their lack of heavy armor, intensely dark brown leather robes and their tricorne hat, their signature accessory, alongside a Raven pin granted after completing their first mission as a permanent identification of their membership to the Order.
- The Darkwald Order has mixed relations with parts of the Unionist Celatcy, viewing the sects and organizations that tolerate aberrants as corrupted and needing constant surveillance to ensure the lay populations are not corrupted.
- The current Grey Baron’s experiments have led to several rumors circulating about the order. Some sources claim that senior Darkwald members have brought back living aberrants to Castle Virgadulvas, never to be seen again.
- Woaden and Archan Ailor Lineages tend to make up a larger than average population size of the Darkwald Order, with a few Paladins well known for using Union Blessings to aid them in their Aberrant hunting.