The Guild of Arcane Combatants: A secret society? Hardly. The guild is known across the whole broadness of Tyria as a warehouse of warlords and the training grounds for the next generation of adroit generals. But every society, regardless of renown, has its secrets.
Tyria is a continent like any other continent in that it has had its splits and sunderings. Kingdoms fall and reform, agricultural and industrial zones fade in and out of existence, societies crumble under their own weight and pick themselves up again. The most recent of these reformations took place a hundred and seventy-nine years ago when nation-wide war tore Tyria into what was close to becoming irreparable tatters. That it never quite fell that far is due to the efforts of a few far-sighted men, leaders, who quelled their own ambitions long enough to see the bigger picture. The Tyrian Alliance Council was formed.
Though the Guild of Arcane Combatants is older even than this, they have not always been as they are today. In fact, the guild's main point of weakness is that it has undergone a major metamorphosis during almost every major political upheaval in the last 500 years, and while its flexibility has allowed it to continue to exist through troubled times, it has had to fight hard to project and maintain a sense of stability in its ranks. These days that stability has almost been achieved.
In order to maintain that stability, the guild elders - the infamous Battle Mages - have taught recruits and younger members only a vague history of the guild's activities prior to its most recent reshaping, keeping the knowledge of what the guild once was to themselves. Rather, focus is kept on the last 179 years of guild lore, which is plentiful and vibrant enough to capture the hearts and minds of any who end up among their ranks. The main tenets, however, have remained the same.
Battle magic and the artistry of arcane warfare is an ancient one, and reading old books one gets the idea that its practitioners have been active since time immemorial; but it is only in comparatively recent times - that is, at the guild's initial founding 500 years previous - that Lord Arcane Commander Salen Wylamadar philosophized that though armed conflict is sometimes an unavoidable necessity, nations could only hope for what he called 'humane, precise, and logical warfare' if their highest ranking officers were impartial and had no sense of patriotism. So it is that forswearing one's nationality is the first initiate oath of the guild.
Salen wrote also that sanity could only be brought to warfare by the extraordinarily skilled and the exceptionally educated. So it is that a dedication to expertise is the second initiate oath of the guild.
Salen had much to say about evenness of viewpoints, that where the inevitable death of other beings is concerned, one should be able to see the numbers and statistics as well as the humanity of the now-living. So it is that developing a sense of balance is the third initiate oath of the guild.
And there it is, though it's usually quoted in the local tongue, the credo of Arcane Combatants: Impartiality, Skill, Balance. Adreiem, divorka, borasis.
In its current incarnation, the guild is both and academic society and a brotherhood. If a child is indeed found to have magical capabilities, parents will often send him to be tested for guild eligibility, as a trained combatant mage is assured a well-paid or official position in one of numerous courts/military installations across Tyria. Many are tried, few are chosen.
Once being sworn in, trainees go through seven years of basic training, a process which includes beginner and beginner-intermediate level principles of magic as well as the war history of every kingdom, large and small, across the continent and extensive study of tactical texts well-known and obscure. They study also such subjects as psychology, metal smithing, and even cartography.
But its after this period that the fun really starts. Upon completion of basic, the young mages - now having attained the rank of Sortie Mage - are allowed to choose their field of specialty. What they choose here will set them down the road to the rest of their lives. Some of the many options are:
- Tactics and maneuvers
- Guerrilla warfare
- Arms and armor
- Shields and cloaking
- Generalship and marshalling
- Militia training
Not only are certified and ranked guild members certain to be masters at their craft on a purely physical level, but the incorporation of magic into the trade puts them on another plane altogether. The guild's master tacticians have been accredited with an almost supernatural ability to predict the outcome of any battle, or indeed an entire war, before it has even begun. They can concoct strategies so genius in their apparent simplicity that they will turn the tide of an entire war. Terrain seems to shift somehow under the feet of those armies wealthy enough to hire a topographic mage. Spy rings run by guild spymasters never fail to return with vital information, and whole encampments have disappeared under the magical cloaks of shield mages.
With skills such as this under their belts, monarchs and dynasts can have little worry of ever being overthrown by those less powerful than themselves. The rich stay rich, and the poor, wellâ€¦ you know. So why does it happen sometimes anyway?
People wonder: with no political affiliations except to their own guild, what happens when two guild mages, hired by opposing kingdoms, meet on the battlefield? Why is it that one wins and the other loses, even when the losing side sometimes starts out with the advantage? Don't ask the guild mage, he or she won't tell you. You'll hear whispers, though, and when the speaker is powerful enough not to fear retribution, you'll hear outright complaints that sometimes it seems that battle outcomes have been decided from the outset. You'll hear that somehow, every conflict from major wars to minor skirmishes seem to work to the guild's advantage.
Still, it's murder to go into battle against a guild mage-controlled army without having similar firepower on your own side.
So who's really running the kingdoms, anyway?
Of course, this guild isn't specific to Tyriabut can fit into anyone's campaign