Order of the Ashen Heart
Order of the Ashen Heart – “Why should I run from you, demon? Would I run for fear of pain? No, pain is an illusion of the senses. Would I run because I fear death? No, for if I met death I would embrace him as an old friend. I will not flee from you, demon, because the Saint has commanded your end. By the Heralds and Her will, I will destroy you!” – Initiate Esmeralda, later Sister Superior Esmeralda, Demonsbane.
Symbol of the Order: Black and white flames surrounding a blood red heart.
The Order of the Ashen Heart rose to prominence well after the Heralds departure. The Orders founding was a bare 250 years ago, but made an instant name for themselves in their homeland of Sangue. It was during one of Sangues more bloody civil wars that the Order was founded. A church dedicated to the Herald of Preservation was attacked for harboring wounded loyalists to the current crown prince. Fire was set in the foundations of the church and those who fled the oil fueled flames were met with hails of arrows and crossbow bolts. When dawn broke, the church was a bare skeleton of stone and ash, littered with the bleeding or smoking remains of those who tried to escape. When citizens and the town watch mustered up the courage to explore the remnants, they found one survivor. Clad in ash smeared full plate, the woman only to be known as the Saint stood in the wreckage of the church clenching an equally sooty greathammer. She rounded on the citizens as they timidly asked if she needed help, and demanded to know who had burnt down the church. With fury shining in her eyes, the Saint soon found that only one woman besides herself stood in the ruins of the church. She was Malissa, the First Sister, and she told the Saint that it was the rebels seeking to unseat the current ruling prince that had attacked the church.
‘Serve me, Malissa. Serve me and do what must be done in the Heralds name. I can see the strength in your soul, and I can see that these injustices pain your heart as much as they pain mine. Kneel, Malissa of Sangue, and rise a Sister of the Ashen Heart.’
Like a phoenix, from the smoking ruins of hallowed ground did the Order of the Ashen Heart rise up. The rebellion was suddenly offered resistance from an unexpected quarter, and with each bloody victory the number of Sisters of the Ashen Heart swelled. An army of zealously faithful woman tore province after province away from the rebels, with no quarter asked nor given upon the field of battle. Those who surrendered were not always spared, for the Saint would gaze upon their soul and either warn them never to give into evil or execute them on the spot. When the crown prince visited the first convent of the Ashen Heart known as the Brazier, he was welcomed into the convent with great ceremony, as was due his station. But when he met the Saint, it is said that she did not kneel to him; that it was he who was forced to kneel beneath her baleful gaze. No transcript exists of the conversation held within the convents walls, but when the prince left his hair was snow white and he immediately decreed that the Order of the Ashen Heart was to be considered a sanctioned order of Oath Sworn.
Today, the Order of the Ashen Heart has convents present in every major human kingdom, and accepts members of any race so long as they are female. They are an uncompromising force, zealous in the execution of their duties and fearless of pain or death. Eventually the Saint fell in battle, and her post was taken up by another sister who casts aside all of who she was to don the silver death mask of the Saint. Until they too are martyred in battle, they are the Saint, and by their voice is the Ashen Heart led boldly into the future. No evil can hide from them, and no sacrifice is too great to see their Saint’s commands through.
Initiate (Level 1-2): Before taking their Oath, Oath Sworn recruited into the Order are referred to as Initiates. Initiates are expected to obey the orders and directions given by any other member of the Order of the rank of Sister or higher.
Sister (Level 3+):
Celestian (Level 6+):
Retributors (Level 10+): At this rank, the Sisters of the Ashen Heart are beyond all fear. Known as Retributors or ‘Sinless’, such Sisters are unhesitating in the persecution of their duties. So zealous in their beliefs, the Retributors will engage in actions unconscionable to lesser Sisters in the persecution of their duties. Some of the most reknown Sinless have committed atrocities in the name of rooting out evils, and are only honored within the confines of a convent.
Seraphim (Level 15+):
Sister Superior (DMs Discretion): By performing an exemplary act of valor and dedication, often courting martyrdom in the event, a Sister may be elevated to the rank of Sister Superior. Upon ascension to a new rank, the title of the Sister will change to reflect that advancement. So, upon becoming a Celestian, a Sister Superior will be known as ‘Celestian Superior’. That being said, any senior member of the Order can be called ‘Sister Superior’ appropriately, as that title is respectful and can be corrected for future reference.
Canonness (DM Discretion, discouraged rank for PCs):
Relations with other Organizations:
The Knights of St. Kairen: “Fools to the last, they would try to turn Paragon artifacts against the very devils that made them. I admit, their battle prowess is notable, and despite their limited numbers they have made great strides to stamp out the evils of these lands. But their reckless disregard for the insidious dangers Paragon relics present is almost enough to outweigh all the good they do. Sisters, do not stand in the Knight’s way when they are fighting with us, nor when they are destroying evil in their own manner. But if you see them take or use Paragon artifacts, it is your duty to stop them, by whatever means necessary.” – Canoness Marianne Voce, when questioned about the Knights of St. Kairen’s dealings in magical items.
The Keepers: “Vermin pretending to be nobility. Obsessed with making all the world dance to their tune, they hoard knowledge and power like a dragon hordes coin. Accept their aid, but never rely on it Initiates. The gifts of guidance and assistance given with one hand are only acts to conceal the dagger they wield in the other hand.” – Celestian Superior Henrietta, instructing a new class of Initiates.
The Witchkin: “What are the Witchkin? Noble monsters, would be my answer. They willingly destroy their own bodies to better root out and destroy the evil of this world. In my mind, they are very close kin to us; uncompromising and self-sacrificing, resolute in their beliefs. That said, I cannot help but find their presence unsettling. I pray that they never blur the lines between man and monster too far, lest they become what they sought to destroy. If that day comes, Canoness, I will march at the forefront of our lines to purge them. They would want it that way.” – Sister Rosalito, upon return from a joint mission with members of The Witchkin.
The Lamp Lighters:
The Blackwood Trading Co.:
The Saint: The Saint is the leader of the Order of the Ashen Heart. The Saint is not a person so much as a title. Each Saint (except the first) was at one point an ordinary member of the Order of the Ashen Heart who was elevated to the position of Saint when their predecessor dies. This is not a position of power given by the previous Saint, or one where the Canonesses convene to declare one of their number the next Saint. Rather, it seems to be a selection by destiny alone. Some of the more scholarly Sisters posit that it is the soul of the Saint who races through each Sister in search of a new vessel. However this phenomena comes to pass, whoever is selected ceases to be anyone other than the Saint. Even though conventional wisdom would dictate that the potential pool of candidates is only members of the Order, there is a recorded instance when Juvia de Acrassia, a local orphan girl no more than 14 years old marched up to the gates of the Brazier and demanded entry. When she was turned away from the gate by its guardians because she was not yet of age to swear her body to the Order, Julia sprouted ash white wings and soared on a column of light over the walls. She blessed the guards for their desire to keep children safe, but chastised them for not letting those who wished be Sisters into the Brazier. She was no longer Juvia, she was the Saint.
Primary Religious Text: De Lexicanum Sanctus. The translation from Ancient Arcassian to Arcassian is “The Word of the Saint” or “The Saint’s Word”. Penned by the first Saint, the Lexicanum is the primary holy text of the Order. Most full Sisters carry a copy of the Lexicanum with them for guidance in the field. It is equal parts battle tactics and religious sermons speaking to the duty of the Ashen Heart.
The majority of the Sisters wield bludgeoning weapons. Mauls, Morningstars, Maces, and Flails are all very common, with many Sisters practicing with Throwing Hammers in order to supplement their arsenal.