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 Adamantine Arrow

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Join date : 2014-09-19

PostSubject: Adamantine Arrow   Thu Apr 23, 2015 12:40 pm

Nickname: Warriors

Rote Skills: Athletics, Intimidation, Medicine

Summary: The Adamantine Arrow defends sanctums and cabals with its combat magic.

There are weapons that bring death, and weapons that grant life. The Adamantine Arrow embraces both. Every order practices essential occult defense techniques, but the Arrow goes further, internalizing the metaphor of war. It is the order's political stance and occult praxis. For some, it's a hard, ascetic path that burns away cowardice and encourages action over contemplation. Others see the order as the perfect platform to lead the Awakened's secret battles, selling services to the highest bidder or even seizing Demesnes away from the weak. Above all, the Adamantine Arrow acts. Members are not given to purposeless cloistering, navelgazing meditation, or weak pacifism.

They know the Awakened are in the midst of an esoteric war, and bring a strong hand to bear for the right side. But there's the question: Which side is the right side? Once, the Arrow protected against all threats, internal and external. They were called the Ungula Draconis, the Talon of the Dragon. None could deny that this was righteous work, because it kept the flame of human power alive in an age rife with conquering monsters and renegade witches. In time the ideal turned to warmongering and conquest. A mere soldier in the gleaming streets of the city could become a god in the wilderness. And if there, why not in the heavens?

Arrogance led to the Fall, and the Fall led to the Exile. The Arrow has always claimed to be above politics, devoted to the pure duty of defending the secrets of magic from its defilers. Now, however, doubt and opposition wrack the old orders. Every time an Arrow mage chooses a side, she shapes the political arena. It's little wonder that such mages often grow impatient with mere guardianship and strive to seize power for themselves.

An Arrow is a warrior first, but this isn't as narrow a calling many suspect. For every frontline fighter who rends the horrors of the Abyss with bare hands and soul, there's a strategist who sees and manipulates the secret, struggling patterns of the world. Economic, ecological, and more esoteric conflicts are studied, mastered, and beaten into any shape an Arrow desires. Mages see reality as a many-layered thing, full of signs and movements invisible to the uninitiated. The Awakened art of war follows these patterns using a thousand techniques.

The Adamantine Arrow is assured of its roots in Atlantis, but it does not claim any particular historical event as its own. Instead, it champions the common virtues of warriors from many cultures. An Arrow might insist that these virtues are the spiritual radiance of the order's legacy after the Exile, a torch burning to guide soldiers of all ages away from petty violence to a common ethic of justice. If this is true, though, it poses a contradiction, for the order carries within it the capacity for atrocity, rule by junta, and a thirst for violent, self-justifying power. Like the occult art of war, this flaw can manifest in endless varieties, making it hard to detect and check. The Adamantine Arrow recognizes the essential problem, but is not always sure whether a particular action upholds its ideals or sins.

Warriorship is never its own virtue. Only righteous service gives an Arrow's life meaning. After the Fall, the order defended other mages from the new dangers of the Fallen World and swore oaths of loyalty. Today, this is still the Adamantine Arrow's primary role. Its mages defend Demesnes, sanctums, and cabals as long as they are legitimate heirs to Atlantis. Some Arrows purportedly guard evil things that cannot (or because of some cruel fate, must not) be banished from the world.

When Arrows assume power, they claim to follow their ethos in spirit. Sometimes a threat arises that requires martial leadership. Sometimes an Arrow's charges are morally or mystically weak, and she feels the best way to uphold her oath is to take command. But while the Adamantine Arrow is respected, it cannot guarantee that its members are virtuous souls. Power, not prudence, motivates many members to take up the mantle of rule.

Members

The Adamantine Arrow attracts a large number of young mages impulsive, confident men and women who believe their Arcana automatically confer martial wisdom. These petitioners are quickly disabused of such notions. An Arrow trains to endure much and live simply. Arrow mentors dangle the secrets of battle magic before their eyes, only to deny teachings until a student has humbled himself with hard work, ascetic discipline, or a tortuous quest. Some masters are incredibly harsh, and leave proteges with physical and psychic scars. Some never graduate beyond the petitioning stage, but in most cases mentors are loathe to let one of the Awakened waste her life. The best teachers create warrior-diplomats who can handle etiquette and bloody combat with equal confidence. The worst teachers turn out emotionally stunted guardians whose awkward, taciturn nature might be mistaken for quiet wisdom.

And some candidates don't need to be tempered. These are the natural tacticians and athletes that Arrow elders seek to train and importantly rein in before they can endanger others. The Adamantine Arrow doesn't give these young mages a choice in the matter. While they learn battle spells easily enough and can fit their mind to a strategy with fluid ease, they need to be taught honor, discretion, and a sense of responsibility for the rest of the Awakened. The order mourns when it fails to indoctrinate these initiates. It brings shame to kill them, and their names are not spoken again.

Old mages tend to join the order in response to a crisis, or out of a sense of outrage. The Arrow gives them the tools to avenge themselves or to right a wrong. Ideally, the order only accepts vengeance-seekers who can learn to broaden their perspective and see that all of the Awakened deserve help.

Philosophy

The Adamantine Arrow practices what it calls the Brilliant Road or the Adamant Way. The Atlantean name had no precise translation and meant both "unyielding wisdom" and "light of thunder." The Adamant Way is divided into five precepts the Hand. The human hand creates, communicates, and destroys. It is always meeting, negotiating with, and vanquishing the external world, and is one of the primary gates for the sense of touch. Accordingly, its five "fingers" represent the ideal ways for a warrior to conduct herself in the Fallen World. They are:

Existence Is War: All beings learn wisdom by first separating themselves from the unity of things, and then by separating the unity of what remains. Only by examining what has been broken can a mage understand its original wholeness. If she remained in original bliss, the unity of all things would be felt in much the same way a cell is connected to a greater colony of tissue: Like a machine, without true understanding. Life is more than suffering: It is a continual test of will and creativity. In this scheme, even the Exarchs have their place. They separated the Supernal from the Fallen and created the ultimate test. Even though the Arrow honors lost Atlantis, the sundered cosmos gives it the opportunity to test itself beyond anything the lost city could provide. Practically speaking, an Arrow should be able to use any fighting method as an allegorical solution to a nonviolent problem, and any peaceful technique to win a war.

Enlightenment Is Honor: Mages know that everything has an esoteric meaning, so meaning alone cannot be a sign of wisdom. True enlightenment is the ability to create meaning as well as reflect it. Oaths are how an Arrow connects to the wider world, turning its lessons into unbreakable bonds of honor. An oath rewrites a mage's identity into something larger than herself. When she promises to protect a companion, she shares the meaning of her vow with her charge and her enemies alike. Oaths should never be broken, but they shouldn't be too narrow, either, lest a warrior place her judgment in formal words rather than in dynamic thoughts.

Adaptability Is Strength: An Arrow should never rely on magic alone, or pure power of any kind. If she uses magic, physical strength, or cutting words habitually to prevail, she cleaves to one way of doing things and denies the lessons afforded by new tactics. Pragmatically, an enemy can pick up a warrior's habits and use them against her. Sympathetic magic is the root of many martial spells. Unless she sheds thoughtless habits, a mage will make herself vulnerable. While it's easiest to see the problems inherent in relying on magic (or one kind of magic) too much, the order also charges members with examining their mundane lives. Is a mage overly fond of material luxuries? Prideful speech? If so, she should correct herself. Some Arrows turn to ascetic living, but others careen from practice to practice, ready to change their dress, manners, and even names to ward off complacency.

The Supernal Is the Self: There's a reason only humans become mages. A human being is, in essence, no different from the cosmos. The body, mind, and soul form a microcosm of a larger reality. Physical discipline is more than a matter of muscle and bone; it's a way to explore occult reality, which lies embedded in the flesh just as Atlantean wisdom can be found in the Fallen World. The mind's hidden depths and brilliant heights recall the Supernal World.

Service Is Mastery: Over the ages the Adamantine Arrow learned that the obvious ruler is rarely the true master of an occult hierarchy. Similarly, Sleeping governments rely on a web of hidden actors. It's obvious then that power comes from action, not passive contemplation or meaningless structure. A state or secret society benefits from its figurehead, who is the focal point of the group's ideals and the face of its hidden power. An Arrow should never seek power for herself, because she would only be promoted to an ineffectual, symbolic post. Instead, she serves a cabal as advisor and guardian. The ruler represents an ideal that the mage should strive to obey, even if the actual person doesn't always live up to it. In times of crisis, an Arrow may be the effective leader, but her actions should always be in service to that ideal rule, which is forever outside her dominion.

Rituals And Observances

The Adamantine Arrow values efficiency, so it integrates its rites into the practical aspects of training and exercising the warrior's art.

Oaths: An Arrow is rarely without an oath to some person, cabal, or ideal. An apprentice's first oath is to his teacher; he's expected to obey any order, no matter how ludicrous or dangerous. By putting himself at the mercy of a master, a mage is forced to strive beyond self-imposed limitations. After that, an Arrow finds his place in Awakened society by vowing to serve a person, organization, or cause. Arrow mages' oaths are loose enough to allow plenty of room for interpretation and almost never require them to obey an order to the letter. Instead, the warrior promises to serve and the recipient of the pledge trusts him to make best use of his expertise.

Order Of Challenges: Even though the Adamantine Arrow's mages are famous for their dueling skills, they restrict challenges within their own ranks. Martial wisdom is hard to acquire, but all one has to do to lose it is die. The order prefers to avoid wasting its skilled members on pointless duels. Traditionally, a challenger must defeat an Arrow's subordinates before being permitted to duel him. This hierarchy of justice (or revenge) keeps bad luck from destroying a lifetime of accumulated wisdom and discourages internecine assassination under the pretext of a duel. This rule does not apply to challengers from outside the order. Those, an Arrow must face alone, if at all.

Titles And Duties

Ancient texts ascribe all kinds of structures to the old Ungula Draconis. For the order, these sources are like medieval lists of angels and demons: Lengthy, detailed and, for the most part, drawn from the writers' imaginations and wishful thoughts. These texts usually reflect whatever the writer thought was an elder, "high culture." In the Dark Ages, warrior monks were sure that the Talons of the Dragon were structured like Roman legions. In the 19th century, In the same period, Japanese mages imagined the Talons governing themselves like Ikko-ikki warrior monks.

Nowadays, most Arrows accept the fact that nobody will ever know the true organization of the ancient order. There are only fragments left, but they give the Adamantine Arrow the structure it needs to prevail. Perhaps the following titles are inventions of the Fallen age. It doesn't matter; the order adapts and abides.

The modern Adamantine Arrow is a meritocracy mostly. Personal politics matter. Pragmatic Arrows believe that gathering support and currying favor are strategies that deserve the same rewards as heroism, intelligence and fighting ability. There are five universally accepted titles, but their precise names might change from place to place. Arrows don't usually have to ascend to a higher rank when their reputations grow. There are battle-hardened Talons who never want to abandon their basic duties. Higher-ranked (but lower-Status) Arrows might be able to order these veteran Talons around in theory, but the reality is that lower-Status Arrows only approve the veteran's preferred plan. There are occasions when the worthiest Arrows must take up a new office. Somebody needs to captain a cabal or advise the Hierarch, and even though Arrows of any rank can do so in an unofficial capacity, it's often important to speak with the weight of tradition. Formal rank also makes it easy for other Arrows to find the right warrior for the job.

Talon ( Status 0 ): Arrows who survive apprenticeship become Talons. This is the fundamental rank of the order. Talons serve the order, protect mages, and uphold justice. Talons are also expected to present the best side of the order to other mages and keep their vows at all times. The doctrine behind Talon status is, "No Talon is alone." The order needs front-line soldiers to be ready for anything, but understands they're human beings first. They need comrades and leaders to share their wisdom and resolve. The ideal Talon bonds with his cabal and obeys his superiors. He doesn't rush into the fray alone unless it's absolutely necessary. He's humble and looks to other Arrows for guidance.

Banner Warden ( Status 1 ): All Arrows protect their cabals, but a few want to make it their full-time pursuit. This is a privilege, not a right. If a Talon performs general duties well, she can claim the Banner Warden's title. She accepts challenges on behalf of her cabal and puts its safety before everything else. When a warrior-mage becomes a Banner Warden, the order lessens her general duties, allowing her time and energy to focus on her charges. The order doesn't indulge this sort of thing lightly, which is another reason why Talons have to prove themselves dutiful Arrows before they become Banner Wardens. They need to subdue their egos as well, because their status takes the form of service. A Banner Warden should never be more than the second in command to the cabal's leader. Many use Oathbinding to further formalize their position. According to tradition, the Banner Warden always carries her cabal's arms, whether they're runes, the heraldry of the modern Pentacle or the carved bones, geometric designs or totems of other cultures. The doctrine is, "The Banner Is the Warden's Honor." If she lets the cabal's arms fall into enemy hands, she's dishonored herself. She should always carry the cabal's signs on her person unless she's naked or dead. In most cases, this takes the form of a piece of jewelry, tattoo, patch, or an item of clothing.

First Talon ( Status 2 ): First Talon is "officer" status in the order. First Talons aren't always former Banner Wardens. A Talon who stands out from the pack can step right into the rank. He needs to know how to plan and lead, but more than that, he takes responsibility for the mages under his command. That "command" is fluidly defined, based on the local situation and the First Talon's preferences. A higher-ranked Arrow sometimes formalizes the command structure, but more often, the First Talon announces his position, explains the situation and commandeers the mages he needs. First Talons should recruit Banner Wardens last so as to keep them focused on their cabals, but in emergencies, expediency defeats these considerations. The doctrine is, "You are a soul in many bodies. Do not defile any part of your soul." First Talons with a higher than minimum Status are sometimes given additional ranks, but this only takes place in very large or formal caucuses, where every mage needs a specific place in the hierarchy. When you witness Arrows with ranks such as Dragon's Bow or Okuden Kiyoshi, you're hearing examples of these secondary ranks. The order doesn't have any consensus about these titles, however; they're specific to various traditions and caucuses. The order doesn't have a separate "officer corps." Every mage starts as a simple Talon and rises through the ranks. In practice, some apprentices are groomed for command, especially if their teachers are highly ranked. This doesn't happen in most caucuses, but it isn't unheard of, either.

Thunderbolt Guardian ( Status 3 ): Preparation is the key to victory, so the order enshrines this principle in the rank of Thunderbolt Guardian. Thunderbolt Guardians are teachers and counselors, versed in several useful fields. The most famous Thunderbolt Guardians are those who teach the Adamantine Fist, but martial arts masters aren't the only ones to hold this rank. Scientists, actors, engineers and other experts qualify. They share their skills and offer tactical advice from the perspectives of their fields. Thunderbolt Guardians also personally apply their abilities to operations. If Talons are grunts and cops, Thunderbolt Guardians are Special Forces and SWAT. Don't take the military/police analogy too far, though; missions require bond traders and archaeologists, too. Thunderbolt Guardians come to the fore whenever the order needs special skills. Skill alone doesn't confer this title. Thunderbolt Guardians need to know how to apply their specialties magically. As a result, they're the order's chief rote researchers. Each Guardian focuses on rotes that harness the Guardian's best talents. Furthermore, just as Banner Wardens, Thunderbolt Guardians trade flexibility for focus, so the order only recognizes experts who know how to develop their abilities without losing sight of the Adamantine Arrow's overall goals. Theory matters only when it leads to effective action.

Adamant Sage ( Status 4+ ): In a better world, a true Adamant Sage would head every caucus, but the position has some strict requirements. Ancient texts and legends from the dawn of the Fallen World list the requirements. An Adamant Sage should be a second-degree Master or better. Her mundane skills rank her among the best thinkers and artisans of her time, and she's a skilled strategist and commander. Claiming the mantle of an Atlantean general is no easy task. Consequently, most Adamant Sages are not "true" examples of the title. They're the most accomplished Arrows in the caucus, but most are first-degree Masters or hold Adept rank in multiple Arcana. They have formidable talents, but fall short of the warrior-poet-philosopher ideal. An Adamant Sage leads the caucus and advises the Hierarch. Most Ruling Councils listen to the Sage when it comes to violent threats, but are more skeptical about pronouncements on more nuanced issues. A clever Adamant Sage takes advantage of this by playing the fool around politics, allowing rivals to grow lazy and overconfident. The order prefers actions to words, but that doesn't mean the order doesn't know how to deal with Consilium politics. Aside from quiet strategy, Adamant Sages are the best at marshalling raw force: The threat of violence so extreme that it forces a change in the status quo. Critics might call this crude, but the fact is that mages are sometimes too subtle for their own good. They weave schemes into the mix that slow down the Consilium's ability to act. Adamant Sages hold the blade that cuts through the Gordian knot of intrigue.

Factions

The Black Tower: "I've given my oath. There's nothing more to discuss, now." In addition to the general beliefs of the Adamantine Arrow, the mages of the Black Tower hold to a few axioms unique to their sub-faction of the order. (1) Devotion to a Worthy Cause Hones the Spirit. (2) The Fulfillment Of An Oath Strengthens The Supernal.

The Council Of Dragons: "It's quite clear that the Seers of the Throne have only appeared to withdraw from the Magnolia Hill area -- look at these recent reports." Beliefs of the Council of Dragons Outside of the general beliefs and practices of the Adamantine Arrow as a whole, the Council of Dragons subscribes to a few unique notions of its own. (1) There Exists A Second Wisdom. (2) A True Warrior Is A Philosopher.

The Crucible: "There's no time to wait for reinforcements. Our Hierarch is in there with those Banishers, and we need to get her out now. Who's with me?" Beyond those beliefs common to the entirety of the Adamantine Arrow, mages of the Crucible subscribe to certain ideals more specific to its ethic of reckless heroism. (1) Heroism Is A Mandate From The Supernal. (2) The Best Defense Is A Good Offense.
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