Vigilant Training and Life
The Vigilant Order looks for children who are healthy in both mind and body – those with congenital deformities or debilitating illnesses are only very rarely accepted into the order. As most of those children inducted into the Order are unwanted bastards and orphans, the Order isn’t quite as choosey as it once was.
Induction into the Vigilants requires the prospective Initiate pass three tests.
The first test is a simple physical and medical examination designed to weed out those too infirm of body to survive the training the Order requires of its members. The stringency of this examination is somewhat variable – depending on the age of the Initiate seeking induction. Older children must pass more grueling physical tests as a part of their examination.
The second test is a psychological evaluation. There are some who simply do not possess the correct mental and emotional composition/disposition to survive long in the Order. Others would quickly become monsters more terrible than those the Order already faces. The work of the Vigilants is psychologically scarring – no one makes it out completely sane. The Order attempts to minimize the impact their lifestyle has on its members by selecting candidates from those with strong wills and flexible personalities. This helps mitigate the creation of Ravagers.
The third test is not one which can be passed or failed per se – merely one whose results can vastly alter your destiny as a member of the Vigilant order. The third examination is one of the soul – wherein a candidate’s special talents and potential for magick is probed. It is a rare thing that a candidate be rejected from the Order on grounds of this test’s results.
Induction: Induction into the Vigilants as a Initiate is informal at best. Children chosen by the Order are divested of most (if not all) of their worldly possessions and stripped of their surname as they are separated from their families forever. A Vigilant-in-training is referred to only by their first name (or a nickname in many cases) until they become a full Vigilant.
Initiates are whisked away to the Iron Citadel – the western fastness of the Vigilants which stands near the border between the civilized world and the dark domain beyond. There they are installed in what is called the Tower of Bells.
Initiate Life: Initiates receive a fine education focused on rounding out their knowledge. They also begin physical and mental conditioning – the difficulty of which is ramped up as they age and progress. Initiates are only allowed to handle weapons in supervised scenarios and are not allowed access to the Lores at all.
Some Initiates also begin training in the use of any special talents they may possess during this stage. The study of Sorcery does not generally come up during this period of training, however, as most do not begin to develop the power until they have undergone puberty.
Initiates are normally allowed to become Initiates under 1 of 2 conditions.
(1) An Initiate who reaches the age of 13 and has performed in an adequate capacity in their studies and conditioning will become an Apprentice pending a final examination. Those who reach this age without making sufficient progress or those whom fail this examination are given enough money to life off of for three years and apprenticed into a mundane craft – never to return to the Order.
(2) Any Initiate may attempt to solve the Riddle of Bells – a mysterious challenge which, if completed, will allow that Initiate to become an Apprentice instantly and at any age. Just figuring out what the Riddle of Bells actually is can be a daunting feat in and of itself.
Apprentice Life: Apprentices are no longer cloistered away discretely in the Tower of Bells and are, instead, allowed the run of the Iron Citadel. Each is assigned to a full Vigilant who acts as their mentor and guardian during these years – supervising their training outside of the regular courses all Apprentices must attend and pass. Many Vigilants are required to take on more than one Apprentice due to the limited numbers of full Vigilants in this age.
Apprentices focus on becoming more proficient warriors, hunters, and survivors. They are allowed to carry weapons at all times and are taught to use them with deadly and devastating effect.
Apprentices also begin to learn of the Ten Lores of the Order of Vigilants – laying down a foundation of knowledge concerning fighting and destroying supernatural threats. It is around this time that those with special gifts begin training in their use as well – primarily in one-on-one training sessions with their Sponsor and others who have taken an interest in their training.
Sorcery also begins to develop in those with the aptitude for it but most don’t proceed far into its study – learning barely enough to establish basic control and perform a few tricks. Powerful sorcerers are exceedingly rare and few advance far into the Art. Those who do possess the potential to be truly powerful would normally begin to learn the fundaments of the Art at this time, however.
Apprentices undergo rigorous, some say torturous, mental and physical conditioning as well. They learn to survive in terrible situations and learn how to fight and kill. During the latter portion of their Apprenticeships, they will patrol the roads and hunt down local criminals and wild beasts to sharpen their skills as hunters and inure them to the act of taking life.
When an Apprentice turns 17, if they have survived up until this point, they must either choose to be Marked (and follow through with all that this entails) or be cast from the Order forever.
Those cast from the Order at this stage are stricken from the records and never spoken of again. They are called the Shamed.
Those who choose to be Marked undergo a mysterious rite wherin a brand of some kind is applied to their flesh. They then speak a binding Oath. This precipitates convulsions, fits, and a hallcuinatory delirium. Many die in the throes of this affliction or are driven insane. Those who remain hale of both mind and spirit have one final trial to undergo before they are considered a Vigilant.
The Marked Ones are cast into the wilderness with only a single knife each and the clothes on their backs – usually in groups of five. In the dead of night, that which dwells in the darkness will come for them – drawn by the power of the Mark upon their flesh. They must survive the night to claim the title of Vigilant.
Vigilant Life: Vigilants live a life of danger and darkness – traveling the lands of Men to investigate strange happenings and eradicate evil wherever it may be found.
Vigilants can sense the presence of supernatural activity in a general sense – no two Vigilants can sense the same sorts of things nor in precisely the same capacity. They use this sense along with problem solving skills to track down supernatural evil and destroy it or contain it.
The Vigilants are often, themselves, hunted by both man and monster – they frequently operate in secret in many lands. Most become used to sleeping little and moving often – staying too long in a single place can cause problems for the locals as their Marks draw the supernatural to them as surely as they are drawn to it. Only within consecrated or warded ground are Vigilants truly safe from being bounded by the things which go bump in the night – the Iron Citadel is, luckily, completely warded. Many wear a piece of warded jewelry or armor to suppress the effects of their Mark but this also dulls their supernatural senses.
Most Vigilants work in tandem with a partner or a small group – rarely do they travel completely alone. Some are known to ally themselves with common folk with useful skills to see their work done. All Vigilants serve until death or madness takes them.
There used to be many different factions within the Vigilant Order but now there appear to be three primary camps controlled by the nine current Master Vigilants.
More on the factions of the Vigilant later.
Master Vigilants: Master Vigilants are a rarity. These experienced and powerful veteran Vigilants have survived decades as members of the Order and displayed mastery of several Lores. Most are also possessed of a special gift or talent which sets them apart.
One must petition the current Masters to become a Master. A mysterious trial is administered to the prospective Master. Luckily, failing this trial is rarely fatal and there is no consequence for failure save tha the petitioner may never again petition for the rank of Master. Theoretically, one could petition to become a Master at any time after one has become a full Vigilant. Tales of the Order’s history cite Master Theadric Kynes as the youngest ever to attain the rank – at the age of 20 years.
More practically, Masters make policy within the Order and provide guidance for the other Vigilants and deal with outside agencies. Their work primarily concerns politics and the interchange of power and influence.