Hail all of those who are able
Any person can
Any person will
But the Guardians prevail.
In the early years following the passage of Alm, Wintersholm was the only safe place of refuge. As time passed, the population grew too numerous and people set out to form new settlements. Some of these new places remained secure, and over months and years, even prospered. There was a debate amongst the defenders of Wintersholm as to whether these emerging villages and towns should fall under the authority of the city, or whether they should fend for themselves. Some argued that these communities should fall under the Church’s authority in Wintersholm, as the city was the only truly secure location in the realm. Others stressed Alm’s teachings which clearly urged caution in matters of power and control. Ultimately wisdom prevailed: it was decided the new communities would be allowed to rule themselves, provided they followed Church doctrine, but that Wintersholm would use all of her strength to defend and support these budding settlements.
So, the early protectors struck out to these areas, marking paths and forging trails while trying to determine the quickest and safest routes between communities and Wintersholm. These brave men and women became known as the Guardians. As the Guardians grew in number and their protection was extended and came to be relied upon, these small settlements continued to prosper. Wintersholm itself changed as well. It became a bustling city in its own right and the central hub for the Guardians. Eventually the Guardians took over administration of the city’s defense completely.
Since the first person to organize the defense of Wintersholm was female, the tradition is that the Guardians be commanded by a female given the rank of Matriarch. She is responsible for the internal affairs of the Guardians, defending the people of Wintersholm, and setting the Guardians’ missions and patrols. Beneath her are a cadre of captains and administrators who assist her in daily operations.
In the vast areas of unsettled land between towns and villages, the Guardians are the law. In each community, the Guardians only have as much authority as the governing body of that area allows. Most are welcoming of the Guardians, but a few instead choose to defer to their own watchmen, even going so far as to force visiting Guardians to turn their weapons over at the gates.
The Guardians are responsible for the survival of their own organization, and do so via gifts and donations as Wintersholm takes no tithe nor taxes. It fulfills its duties as a sacred obligation in service to Alm.
The Guardians’ Oath
We as Guardians offer all that we can to protect the sanctity of our fellow man, the freedom of our kin, and the honor of our ancestors. With knowledge, weapons, and shields, we do these deeds, never putting a lone man over the needs of all, or the desire of self above another. We strive no less than to serve Alm in all of his wisdom.
The 3-6 man teams of Guardians who set out into the realm to help, rescue, and protect others are called a Patrol. A typical Patrol consists of Patrolmen and one Patrol Leader who is usually a more experienced veteran of the Guardians. Newcomers who have yet to be officially received into the Guardians are called Tenderfoots, and are probationary members who are learning the ropes.
When a Tenderfoot is promoted to a Patrolman, he receives the piece of equipment common to all Guardians—the oilcloak. The oilcloak is a soft lined, weather-resistant cloak treated with alchemical materials to make it incredibly durable and resilient. While the outside of the cloak is always a dark brown color (hence earning the Guardians the nickname of “the brown cloaks”), the color of the warm lining on the inside of the cloak is chosen by the Tenderfoot’s mentor and is meant to represent something about the wearer.
When a patrol group is formed, each member participates in the Ceremony of Light conducted by a member of the Clergy. The ceremony produces a Beacon, a glowing orb of celestial energy which serves the group and is in fact comprised of their essence. The Beacons are those who guard the Guardians: they illuminate dark areas, warn of incoming threats, and can interact with known glyphs and sigils.
• Tenderfoot: Probationary member
• Patrolman: Standard rank of the Guardians
• Patrol Leader: Veteran and leader of a Patrol
• Guard Captain: Supervisor of groups of Guardians, responsible for coordinating their Patrols across geographic regions
The number of patrols have waned in recent decades as the lack of a constant threat and a period of relative peace produced fewer citizens who wanted to be Guardians. Casualties from the unexpected war with the Yellow Moon Goblin tribe has further reduced their numbers. Wealthy merchants have also taken to hiring their own guards to travel with their cargo instead of relying on the church protectors. As such, the Guardians have lost some of their clout and prestige in recent years. Whether their organization can fully recover from these recent difficulties remains to be seen.