This week, a somewhat tardy Jacinth looks at a group whose origins stretch back into the early release days of Dark Majesty and whose actions have had great impact in recent months, the Order of the Raven Hand:

As many of the terrible and profane customs of our cousins in Milantos illustrate, no matter how dark a force may be, there will always be those who worship or otherwise seek to exploit it for their own ends. Such is the case with the Order of the Raven Hand, a group that the most debased of Milantean nobility would likely admire.

The Order’s true origins remain a mystery, but they first came to the public’s attention when a rash of disappearances, if not outright abductions, struck across Dereth. Those disappearances were traced back to a small cult that had occupied the Marescent Plateau of Marae Lassel almost since the island’s discovery. The cult tempted recruits with promises of a place to belong and a fresh start, but those who investigated discovered the horrifying truth behind this offer: The Order was dabbling in the powers of darkness, the very power wielded by Bael’Zharon and the Shadows. Many who had been recruited by the Raven Hand found themselves slaves to the cult, their wills stripped away, while others were transformed by arcane means into Shadows.

From that incident, the Order spread out across the rest of Dereth. If there was a site steeped in the power or history of Shadow, they would appear to exploit it, even going so far as to infiltrate and interfere with the feared Shagar Zharala during an expedition into an ancient, decrepit tower. The Raven Hand eventually even established a base of operations upon perhaps the most Shadow-tainted terrain on all of Auberean, the Singularity Caul. There they plumbed the depths of that corrupted island, searching for any new dark power with which to arm themselves, and within one of the oldest chambers, they came upon the mention of a long-forgotten horror of ancient Empyrean times: Grael.

Some within the Order, including a Pontifex named Maegris, believed that by awakening Grael, they could harness the eldritch being’s rage and ferocity. To that end, they established a fragile alliance with Count Dardante, a mage in the service of King Varicci II of New Viamont and leader of the Ordina Rossu Morta. However, as individuals of their natures are wont to do, Maegris and Dardante betrayed one another. Maegris hoped to use information obtained from the Count to awaken Grael on his own, while Dardante left out important details regarding the rituals the Maegris would perform. Maegris and his cadre did awaken the Heart-Render, but in return, their forms were perverted and warped into that of Shadows, leaving Dardante to attempt to harness Grael’s power unimpeded and unhindered. Of course, in the end, the Count didn’t fare much better than his former associates.

Despite such setbacks, the Order of the Raven Hand endures to this day, though they have yet to regain their full stature and influence in the wake of Maegris’… departure. Having seemingly learned nothing from Dardante’s betrayal and the horrors unleashed in the wake of Grael’s return, they continue to seek out new sources of arcane power in the hopes of strengthening their hold within Dereth. As part of an old Sho proverb once said, “when faced with the Abyss, a man cannot help but gaze down into its depths.” However, it would do the Order of the Raven Hand well to remember the rest of that proverb: “That man should yet remain wary, for when one gazes into the heart of the Abyss, the Abyss will undoubtedly gaze back.”

For more on the Raven Hand, check out the writeups for the Refulgent Bracelet, Decrepit Tower, Black Spear Temple, Awakening Grael, and Black Spear Summoning Chamber quests.

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