Alignment: Any non-evil.
Symbol: A contract branded with a handprint.
Disciplines: Eternal Guardian.
Oath: Though students sometimes come to the Loyal Order of the Branded Waerloch for teaching, these individuals are not the majority of their recruits; instead, the Order prefers to offer a second chance to oathbreakers, traitors, and cowards. These individuals sometimes come to the Order, and sometimes they are offered a second chance instead of destruction by the Order’s members. Whatever the case is, they are branded on their palms and foreheads to mark them forever as traitors, and then asked to swear the following oath.
“Though my honor and glories are as filthy rags, still I swear to you: my blade to shield the weak, my word to be my bond, and all glory to my fellows in the Order. I will uphold the law where it is just for me to do so and avenge the betrayed against those who defile their trust, and may my soul shrivel and rot if I waste this second chance.”
Allegiance Benefit: Waerlochs of the Loyal Order gain a +2 sacred bonus on Perception and Sense Motive checks, as well as a +2 sacred bonus on saving throws against compulsion and curse effects.
A Waerloch who violates her oath (such as by betraying another deliberately) loses each of these bonuses (but not access to the Eternal Guardian discipline) until she atones by accepting a –2 penalty to all d20 rolls for seven days and nights. Repeated or flagrant violations may see the Waerloch expelled from the order (at which point she loses all benefits except access to Eternal Guardian) and, in all probability, hunted by her former fellows.
Description: The founding belief of the Loyal Order of the Branded Warloch is that everyone deserves second chances. Originally created by a forsworn knight who betrayed his honor to do what he felt was right, the Loyal Order both hunts and helps traitors and cowards, destroying those whose sins are truly unforgivable and offering a hand to help others from the mire of their miseries.
The Waerlochs of the Order stay spread out but keep in communication with each other through letters, magic, and infrequent gatherings (sometimes jokingly referred to as “cowards’ convocations”). They take positions as law enforcers or soldiers in places that permit such (some nations or municipalities are, not wrongly, concerned about divided loyalties) and join adventuring parties as guardians. The bylaws of the Order demand that its Waerlochs display their brands and explain their loyalties to any who ask (they are not suggested for undercover work), and a Waerloch who tarnishes the reputation of the Loyal Order faces severe punishment.
In practice, though, the Waerlochs of the Order are often very loyal individuals. Many of their recruits felt lost or dishonored by the oaths they’d broken or the causes they’d failed; others faced near-certain execution and had their lives saved by the second chance the Order offered. By accepting the brand, they have been given the chance to not only regain their honor but to once again have glory as the servants of a truly worthy cause. Waerlochs band together and support their fellows through hardship and doubt, knowing full well the many difficulties that can lead one to betray one’s word. New recruits to the Order are often solemn and do not talk much, but as they grow both as members and people they warm back up, feeling able to live their lives once more.
Common Tasks: Many Waerlochs are asked to take up long-term positions as members of law enforcement, military initiatives, or even other knightly orders who are willing to accept an acknowledged oathbreaker (one famous Waerloch has been the personal guardian of eight high priests, all of whom died of old age, and is serving her ninth even now). The Order also commonly asks its members to track down and capture or destroy oath-breakers, and may call them out in the event of local emergencies such as marauding monsters or impending invasions.
Available Services: The Loyal Order of the Branded Waerloch offers a variety of services, from legal aid and mundane equipment to introductions, travel papers (obtained legally; they can take time to acquire), magical goods and, especially, spells and items to determine truth. Waerlochs tasked with hunting a specific individual are often supplied with a compass or other tracking device keyed to that person, when such a tool is available.