Symbol: The empty outline of a crown.
Disciplines: Golden Lion.
Oath: A potential Descendant is tested extensively before being offered the chance to join, to determine the nature of their character, their potential for leadership and their trustworthiness. Those who fail, for whatever reason, are often furnished with suggestions for other organizations, but those who pass are brought before the Golden Council. Their sponsor (see below) congratulates them and offers them tutelage and support in exchange for swearing the following oath of service.
“In name, if not in blood, I become your descendant. I will learn from your wisdom, benefit from your might, and guide your lesser servants well, and in exchange I shall serve your interests and protect you from the enemies that threaten you in death as they did in life, and may my glories fade with my good faith if I am false.”
Allegiance Benefit: A Descendant of the Golden Council gains a +2 competence bonus on Diplomacy and Sense Motive checks, and other allies within 15 feet of him gain a +2 morale bonus on saving throws against compulsion and paralysis effects.
A Descendant who violates her oath loses these benefits (but not access to the Golden Lion discipline) until her sponsor forgives her, or another sponsor from the Golden Council accepts her services. She remains free to leave the organization during this time (and persuading her sponsor to forgive her may be difficult enough to make leaving easier), but in doing so, she risks being hunted by agents of the Council who are tasked with keeping its nature secret.
Description: The Descendants of the Golden Council are a knightly order with a secret. Publicly, they claim to be descended from great kings, chiefs, and leaders, from whom they learn the arts of war and leadership. And this is, to an extent, true; many of the Descendants are literally descended from their sponsors in the Golden Council, and even those that aren’t are considered adopted by those sponsors. No, the secret part is this:
The Golden Council is still around, as ghosts. The forty undead heads of the Golden Council were all great kings, chiefs, and rulers in life. Now in death they thirst for the power they once held, the power to rule and command nations. For obvious reasons, they cannot simply assume their thrones, and so they raise students to do so in their place. The Descendants they train serve as the Golden Council’s hands in the world, amassing power and followers in order to rule nations that, ideally, will have the ghostly sponsor at their head.
This falls apart more often than it works. Clandestine internal strife within the Council puts Descendants at odds with one another with alarming frequency, to say nothing of rival organizations, entrenched political figures and dark plots of all stripes that may be moving along already. Even when a Descendant manages to achieve political power, they often chafe at having an undead warlord ordering them about. Some permit it in a show of loyalty, but most break faith with the Golden Council and attempt to hold their throne. This ends poorly for everyone involved; the assassination attempts and insurrections fomented by the Council in revenge usually wrack the unfortunate nation with chaos that takes years to truly recover from. Still, the Golden Council has eternity to work with and the blinding obsession of the living dead to drive their lust for power, and they will not be dissuaded any time soon, and in the meantime the Descendants they sponsor often lead lucrative and successful ventures— businesses, mercenary bands, or even more entrenched organizations such as royal guards or bands of spies, all resources that the phantasmal Council members wield as weapons against their numerous enemies.
Common Tasks: The tasks set by the Golden Council are largely dependant on one’s sponsor; some shades retain the ethics they held in life, while others were horrors in life that have only grown worse in death. However, almost all tasks involve either striving against an individual sponsor’s enemies (which may no longer remember that they even have such an enemy) and amassing power, be it through goodwill, assassination, political corruption, or other means. Individual sponsors tend to favor certain methods, which they pass down to their students as part of their training.
Available Services: Undead or not, each member of the Council operates a network that can include loyal servants, corrupt political regimes, favors, secret caches of material, and other Descendants. A Descendant with the favor of her sponsor may call upon some or even all of these resources, if they can show results for it.