◊ Be professional, not mercenary. ◊ Don't work for nothing. ◊ Keep our secrets secret.
Origin & Summary
"Tell me of the Weedsman, baba," said the child, curled up in its warm bed, looking at his wrinkled old grandmother. "The Weedsman, the Man of the Weeds," the crone of a woman said, drawing a long, narrow finger to rub the bridge of her nose, "he is called this because he is one who is kin to the weeds and roots. He burrows in the ground and eats what the earth provides. He is a danger to all, and you must never summon him or call for him, unless the need is great." The old grandmother heaved and her eyes watered as she coughed into her handkerchief, her grandson's big eyes like dark mirrors in the night lighting of the room. Wiping spittle from the corner of her mouth, she continued, "He is a danger to all, but for monsters and vermin there is no better cure. Be careful, though, for he is both greedy and selfish, and fleas and the mange are set upon those who dare to touch him, and so you must never do this." "Yes, baba." "Eeeh," crooned the old woman, withered and squinted like a dried prune, "The Weedsman's greed is great, and he will take both food and drink enough to sate seven men if he is allowed his way. You must also never allow young lasses to draw near him, for his lust and dark powers will lure them in and make them unfit for marriage." "Does that mean Marishka would be unable to marry, baba?" "Yes, child, so you must never allow her to meet a Weedsman," she coughed, and dabbed her lips with her handkerchief again, "When dealing with the Weedsman, pay them only their due, and no more, lest he become greedy and refuse to leave until his glut for coin is satisfied. No more should you pay unto him than a silver penny for the head of a goblin, two for an ettercap and three for a cockatrice. For a werecat.." the woman trailed off into murmurs, but her grandson did not notice. He had fallen asleep.
The Weedsmen are an old order of monster slayers, whose origin has been lost to the ages. Though tales exist of them having been around for centuries, nobody knows precisely when or how they came into being. In fact, a great deal about the order is shrouded in mystery, from their training, how one becomes a member, and their methods of hunting monsters. All that is known of them is that they have existed almost as long as humans have resided in Iendol, and that they are reclusive and solitary entities. The direct result of this limited knowledge and their questionable origins is that the order and its members suffers greatly from a negative reputation.
There are more rumours about the Weedsmen than there are truths, though to the average person the two are quite often conflated. Hearkened in many places as being the bringers of misfortune wherever they go, wild tales of Weedsmen abducting children, laying with witches and consorting with demons are not uncommon. There are those who are not swayed by flagrant stories, however, and are willing to acknowledge the necessary role that Weedsmen play in Iendol, as more often than not the hiring of a Weedsman is the most assured way to find matters involving monsters resolved. The reason for this is that despite the ill-held view of the order, even their detractors cannot deny that they are highly skilled, if not the best, at their chosen profession: Hunting monsters.
Beliefs & Practices
Despite what the Weedsmen themselves would have others believe, there is not any sort of Weedsman Code which they are obligated to uphold. Rather, the order's members will often pretend that there is such a thing as a Code in order to appease the sensibilities of the common folk and prospective employers. As more often than not, Weedsmen are approached to handle all manner of unsavory work such as assassinations due to their uniquely honed skills, they will often invoke the idea that killing humans is 'not part of their Code' in order to avoid having to argue the fact that they simply do not wish to do so, being that they are not killers for hire. 'The Code' is also similarly invoked whenever an attempt is made to persuade them to work for free. It is not uncommon for a Weedsman to chidingly remark that they cannot work without payment because their Code forbids it. There is a level of cunning to this façade, however, as the notion of the Weedsmen having a sacred code of conduct that they abide by is often comforting to those they encounter, as it gives the impression that they have rules and restrictions that they follow. There is respect to be had for a person who follows a Code, and the Weedsmen know this, and do not attempt to correct others who presume that they act in accordance to such a thing, as it often eases their passage through negotiations and confrontations.
Though they have no official Code to speak of, however, there is an unspoken agreement or sentiment that is shared throughout the members of the order in regards to how to conduct one's business as a Weedsman. Mercenary conduct is not forbidden, though it is somewhat frowned upon as it propagates the impression with the masses that members of the order are for hire for any manner of dirty work. Similarly, the threatening and murdering of common folk is highly disapproved of, as there already exists enough fear and persecution of the Weedsmen as is without some fool adding to the bad blood between the order and the average peasant - should a Weedsman catch another member of the order behaving in such a manner, it will usually ends in the death of the guilty party.
However, this sentiment is disregarded when it comes to the matter of payment; due to their reviled reputation, it is not uncommon for the common folk to try and refuse payment on a job done. In these circumstances, it is not unacceptable for a Weedsman to threaten or ensure payment through intimidation. This may at times lead to bloodshed, an unfortunate but at times unavoidable event in a Weedsman's career that only furthers their negative reputation. Another unspoken rule is the general consent amongst Weedsmen to safeguard and protect the secrets of their craft. This is done both out of a sense of tradition amongst members of the order, as well as for the sake of practicality: if the secrets of their trade were common knowledge, it would reduce the need for their being employed.
With regards to the actual practices of the order, however, the Weedsmen maintain a role as mediators between the world of monsters and the common folk, serving to bridge the gap between those monstrous entities who are peaceful and the humans (and other non-humans) who would otherwise be fearful or prejudiced towards them. They hunt monsters, but only as a means to preserve the delicate balance between the two worlds and to protect the common man from the dangers that prowl in the dark.. or at least that is the intended purpose of the order. As the order itself is split into multiple schools, each pursuing their own philosophies and methods, the degree of how faithful each school is to the traditions of the order varies greatly - though ultimately most Weedsmen follow the sentiment of the order's tradition and role to a certain degree. Each school has its own secretive location where members of those schools retreat during the winter seasons, or to recuperate after a difficult hunt. These locations are usually the abandoned ruins of castles or temples once belonging to old humans or elves, though some schools break with this tradition.
Recruitment & Training
The path to becoming a Weedsman is not one that is open to the average individual, as each member is chosen deliberately and specifically as a result of an a curious process that seems to only make sense to those within the order. Weedsmen choose those who are to join the order based upon their strangeness, having a talent for finding rare individuals possessing some bizarre abilities, traits or attributes that set them apart from the average individual. This may manifest itself in the form of supernatural abilities, birth defects that grant unnatural traits, or indications as being marked by Fate. In the case of the last matter, many Weedsmen will find recruits by invoking the Law of Surprises instead of taking a monetary fee for their work.
"Give unto me the first thing that greets you when you return home." -- "Give unto me that which you find at home, but do not expect."
When invoking the Law of Surprises, the result may end up being that of a child. When that is the case, the child is taken by the Weedsman to be trained by their school in the ways of the order. Naturally, this plays a large part in the rumours and tales that Weedsmen abduct children for nefarious purposes, though ultimately to the order, this is seen as the child being marked by Fate to join the order. Individuals of an older age are sometimes recruited into the order as well, though they rarely take to the lifestyle and ways of the order as easily as those who are raised in it, nor do they excel as naturally as they do.
The training methods of the Weedsmen are exceedingly difficult, bordering on the suicidal at times. Each school has its own variation upon the training, though ultimately the basics boil down to the same thing: Surviving for three months in the wilds with no food or preserves given, with strict instructions to only take grasses, weeds and berries for sustenance. Those who survive are pushed to even greater limits of stamina and survival by then being put through gruelling physical training while maintaining this diet for another month, upon which they may partake of normal meals, though the nature of the training intensifies as well. Should the recruit not be dead by this time, the training continues while dividing time between martial teachings and knowledge lessons.
Every Weedsman is taught to be able to recognize monsters by sight, as well as by markings, and ultimately which ones are dangerous, which ones are not, how to track them, and which methods are best utilized to hunt and to kill them. Once a Weedsman recruit is ready, they are granted a silver medallion bearing the symbol of their school, and are given their new name to accompany their identity as a member of the order. All previous ties to the member's old life, if they existed, are intended to be severed through this new name. The manner in which this name is chosen is often selected by members of the recruit's school, and is based on some defining characteristic of theirs.
Due to the harsh nature of the training, most young recruits do not survive the trials placed before them by the order, though the older recruits hardly fair any better. This, partnered with the specific nature by which recruits are taken, and the highly dangerous nature of their profession (owing to monsters and prejudiced humanfolk alike), results in the Weedsmen being a very small, and isolated order, with each school barely reaching a higher number of members than ten at the very most, and the majority having only half that number to show for their efforts.
The School of the Hawk
Hawks (among fellow Weedsmen); Scavengers (derogatory term used by other Weeds, especially Ravens)
Strengths / Weaknesses
△ Tracking and scouting. △ Skilled ranged combatants. ▽ Lacking in close-combat skills. ▽ Somewhat mercenary.
Summary & Methods
The School of the Hawk are the best trackers and scouts amongst the Weedsmen, being capable of following trails that normal men would never be capable of picking up on as a result of their intense and rigid training in the wilderness. Owing to their preference for working in the wilds and relying entirely on their own instincts and skills for survival, members of the School of the Hawk prefer to spend their earnings almost exclusively on the wares necessary for the creation of traps, and equipment, seeing the use of coin to purchase food provisions or shelter as a waste of resources and a sign of a weak individual. As such, they tend to have a low opinion of most other Weedsmen schools, especially the Lizards and the Lions.
Focusing on the use of ranged weapons such as crossbows, bows and throwing weapons, the Hawks tend to come up lacking in regards to close-combat encounters. However, as they tend to succeed in either crippling, maiming or outright killing their quarry from a distance, this disadvantage rarely hampers them during combat. As survivalists, members of the School of the Hawk are not above selling their skills as scouts and trackers to serve as spies for those who are willing to pay, even tending to take a fairly pragmatic approach to matters in relation to the secret nature of the order. If it serves their ends, they are not above selling select secrets for their own monetary gain, which has led to a distinct animosity between the Hawks and the traditionalist School of the Raven.
Despite this clashing of ideals and their pragmatism, however, the Hawks are one of the few Weedsmen schools who agree with the Ravens when it comes to upholding order's ideal of maintaining balance between monsters and men. This is largely due to the fact that the Hawks themselves live in such close proximity to monsters and the natural order of things that they are able to recognize the importance and value of maintaining neutrality and balance.
The School of the Hawk operates out of an abandoned and ruined castle keep in the Seebraule mountains by the name of Dirsych (Dryland) Keep. Deceptively well hidden amongst the sand and the mountains, the harsh environment favours the Hawks' stern and taxing nature as survivalists, as members of the school face the most difficulty in scavenging for food during their trials.
The School of the Raven
Ravens (among fellow Weedsmen); Tombcrows (derogatory term used by other Weeds)
Strengths / Weaknesses
△ The most knowledgeable on Monsters. △ Keepers of Weedsmen lore. ▽ Lacking in combat ability compared to other Schools. ▽ The most isolated and reclusive School.
Summary & Methods
Being perhaps the most traditional and typical of the Weedsmen schools, members of the School of the Raven are the ones known amongst other members of the order as the keepers (and seekers) of the order's broken and fragmented history, the greater depths of their teachings, and the school that knows the most about monsters and other creatures. While the Hawks are capable of tracking monsters based on their heightened skills as hunters, the Ravens are almost on par with them simply due to being able to identify the tell-tale signs of a monster's presence as a result of their deep knowledge of beasts. It is said that a member of the School of the Raven is capable of telling a monster's age, gender and breed based on an inspection of their appearance, and from there recognize the attributes that might differentiate one breed from one another.
This knowledge is what grants the Ravens the edge when it comes to combat, as they do not excel in any given field of combat in the way that other schools do. To compensate for this, they make use of their in-depth understanding of monster physiology and whatever weaknesses that they possess to craft traps, toxins and alchemical solutions that even the odds on the field of battle. For a Raven, a monster encounter is a test of one's wits and ability to think while on the move, as the slightest misstep may be the deciding factor between a gruesome scar to be talked about over drinks with a friend, or certain death.
The School of the Raven's reputation as being the most traditionalist is well-earned, as the members of the school are highly reclusive and tight-lipped about the order's practices and methods. They are not completely mute on matters of monsters, however, recognizing that when many hands are needed for a task, then someone will need to be let in on the Weedsman's plans to ensure that all goes as desired. However, it is a rare thing that a Raven will share the ingredients of an alchemical potion or the designs of a monster trap, let alone any of the deeper secrets of the order. Because of this, their dislike for the School of the Hawk is well-known amongst the rest of the order.
Wrach Ffon (Crone's Crook) is where the School of the Raven makes their home, hidden away in a secret, underground keep beneath one of the hills in Vicchen's marshes. Even other Weedsmen have difficulty locating the entrance to the place amidst the fog and the bogs.
The School of the Hound
Hounds (among fellow Weedsmen); Bloodmutts (derogatory term used by other Weeds, especially Lions)
Strengths / Weaknesses
△ Skilled at martial combat △ Favour strategic combat ▽ Highly mercenary in nature ▽ Lacking knowledge of Monsters compared to other schools
Summary & Methods
The misconception that many have of the Weedsmen as being swords for hire can often be traced to the School of the Hound, whose mercenary nature exceeds even that of the Hawks. Amongst one of the two most skilled schools in the field of martial combat, the Hounds favour medium to light weaponry and excel in matters of strategy and tactical approaches to battle. This often surprises people, as their fierce and wild behaviour often gives the impression of members of the school being little more decent than a gang of bandits. However, just as the hounds for which they are named, their wild nature does not obstruct them from working together as a 'pack' with expert precision to overcome an obstacle.
This focus on martial combat, however, has the result to it that the Hounds tend to not have as much knowledge of monsters as other schools do. While still standing head and shoulders over the average mercenary-turned-monster-hunter, the nuances of tracking and identifying the breeds of monsters often eludes them, as does the value of recognizing the difference between the temperament and behaviours of certain monsters in order to identify whether the offender in a conflict is the monster or a human. To compare, a Raven might understand that a bridge troll may normally be harmless and often beneficial to a community, and therefore investigate the reason for the troll causing trouble. A Hound will simply concede that a monster causing trouble has earned its punishment, regardless of reason.
Amongst other members of the order, the Hounds are the least popular due to their mercenary behaviour and rough approaches only adding to the misconceptions of the order.
The School of the Hound makes their home in the ruins of a keep that was dug into the side of the Mawreave mountains in Sengraf. Known by the name of Blaidd Uda (Wolf's Howl), the very nature of the location is part of the Hounds' fierce and wild nature, as well as their strategic skill, as members of the school rely on one another to survive the harsh woodlands.
The School of the Lion
Lions (among fellow Weedsmen); Housecats (derogatory term used by other Weeds, especially Hounds)
Strengths / Weaknesses
△ Skilled at martial combat △ Trained in utilizing heavy weaponry and armour ▽ Work poorly in groups ▽ Lacking knowledge of Monsters compared to other schools
Summary & Methods
Of all the schools that diverged the most from the usual behaviours and traditions of the Weedsmen order, the School of the Lion underwent the greatest shift in their methods. Though still somewhat isolation-prone and driven by traditions, the Lions pursue martial expertise on a level above all other things. Thanks to this pursuit, the Lions excel at combat even whilst wielding heavy weaponry and donning heavy armour, having developed their own distinctive techniques in the making of such equipment as to allow them more mobility than the average knight wearing plate mail might afford. The Lions guard these secrets jealously, and take no small amount of pride in their expertise in the field of single-combat.
However, their rigid methods and their inclusion of their own set of codes that resemble those of a knightly order set them apart from the other schools of the order. Furthermore, these practices make it very difficult for members of the School of the Lion to work effectively in groups with other individuals, favouring instead to go it alone as a means to prove their skill and worth. It is testament to their martial prowess that most Lions actually survive such suicidal practices. Alongside of the Hounds, the Lions are lacking in the levels of depth in regards to their learnings of the ways and nuances of monster hunting that other schools of the order have. Unlike the Hounds, however, this is owed largely to their almost knightly manner of conduct, as they perceive any threat to humanity as not deserving to be shown mercy.
Much like with the Hounds, this behaviour makes them unpopular with other Weedsmen, who view the Lions as having discarded the traditions and ideals of the order in order to affiliate themselves with the world of men over that of monsters. Meanwhile, the Lions have a low opinion of the School of the Hound on account of their mercenary and bandit-like appearance, viewing them as unrefined, lesser warriors.
The School of the Lion's hidden fortress of Caer Morthwyl (Hammer Hold) lies on the archipelago beyond the Blakkrut territory in the Arigel region. The Lions have an agreement with the Blakkrut, forged in olden times through proof of combat, that permits them passage from the fortress and into the lands beyond, though the Lions at times will trade in precious reds to appease good spirits between themselves and the ogres.
The School of the Lizard
Lizards (among fellow Weedsmen); Forktongues (derogatory term used by other Weeds)
Strengths / Weaknesses
△ Skilled at traversing cities (rooftop-movement and climbing) △ Well-connected with merchants and other social circles ▽ Primarily skilled at dealing with city-dwelling monsters ▽ Perform extremely poorly outside of cities
Summary & Methods
The School of the Lizard is an eccentric caste within the Weedsmen order, owing to the fact that, unlike other schools, it focuses its attentions and its expertise on the social world of men. Lizards are infiltrators and social chameleons, knowing to pose as members of higher birth or monetary status in order to gain access to inner circles of a community and those who control the inner workings of society. Unlike the other members of the order, they do not go out boldly to hunt monsters who lurk in dank lairs and caves and act with primitive abandon.
The prey of the Lizards is that of those monsters who profess a subtler, more discreet edge: Vampires, Doppelgangers and other types of shapeshifter are the quarry of a member of the School of the Lizard, whose training allows them to keep a marked eye for any indication of their presence, and the keen wit and subterfuge to manoeuvre through social circumstance to gain access to these creatures without drawing attention to themselves. After all, a shapeshifter will have little issue with abandoning one identity for another if it suspects it is being hunted - and a Lizard excels at ensuring that such beings do not realize it until they are already cornered. Occasionally, however, a Lizard may have to give chase to the city-dwelling monsters that they hunt, and in such a case they are also capable of traversing cities with the level of skill and agility often attributed to acrobats and dexterous rogues, with members of the School of the Lizard being adept at leaping between and running across roofs, scaling walls and overcoming other obstacles in order to keep up with their supernatural quarries.
Despite these feats, however, the School of the Lizard is very narrow in its expertise. Their knowledge tends to be very focused on those of monsters that dwell in cities and large settlements, and their combat abilities reflect that in kind. While they do not come up short in regards to battle, their focus makes them highly ineffective at functioning outside of cities, where there is a distinct lack of walls and buildings to scale, and even fewer merchants and social circles to exploit.
The School of the Lizard makes its base of operations out of an abandoned ruin of a castle by the name of Caer Du'Bryn (Castle Blackhill), hidden away in the mountains of Valrin, the high walls and towers often being used by Weedsmen-in-training as preparation for the walls and roofs of the cities that they might enter. Though it is rare that a member of the school returns to the castle after departing and setting up operation in a city, they may still return in order to seek out assistance, or if they are without dwelling at the time.
The School of the Rat
Rats (among fellow Weedsmen); Guttermice (derogatory term used by other Weeds)
Strengths / Weaknesses
△ Skilled at traversing cities (rooftop-movement and climbing) △ Highly skilled at stealth operations ▽ Primarily skilled at dealing with city-dwelling monsters ▽ Perform poorly outside of cities
Summary & Methods
The School of the Rat is the stealthiest and most agile caste of the Weedsmen order. As skilled at traversing cities and rooftops as they are at navigating the lower reaches through sewers and waterways, within the bounds of a city there are few places that a Rat cannot enter or travel to. Furthermore, their ability to move quietly and without being detected is unmatched by any other school of the order, which serves the School of the Rat well, as the monsters that they hunt are often shadowy and silent as the grave. Ghoulish creatures that prey in backalleys, vampires that prey on the slums districts, and the various Zofien creatures that favour the darker realms of the city, such as the wererat, are what the Rats hunt, and their skill at stealth is so honed that the best of its members are able to sneak up on these creatures without being detected.
However, just as with the School of the Lizard, the Rats are concentrated upon their efforts within cities, which comes as a detriment to their ability to function outside of a city's walls. While not as completely out of their element as the Lizards are, members of the School of the Rat do not have the survivability that other Weedsmen schools have, and cannot last longer than a few weeks without food supplies or shelter. Their ability to deal with monsters outside of their city-dwelling environment is also not as good, though they are still more capable than the Lizards are.
Despite working within the same environment as the School of the Lizard, there is little bad blood between the two schools. Though the schools will at times come into conflict of interest over a monster contract, there is an understanding between the two castes as to the role each plays in maintaining the monster problems within a city, with the Lizards taking care of the upper classes, and the Rats dealing with the lower.
The School of the Rat makes its base of operations out of a fortress by the name of Caer Arfordir (Fort Coast) set on the coastal edge of Frais's archipelago. The fortress has many waterways and tunnels running through its underground, which members utilize to familiarize themselves with traversing through dark and narrow territory. Much like the members of the School of the Lizard, those who leave Caer Arfodir will usually not return unless necessary, having instead settled in as pest control within a city or large settlement.
School of the Hawk
School of the Raven
The Hunter (known for: the Tale of The Butcher of the Ball)
The Poet (known for: aiding the Lord Regent of Eno)