The Order of The Cloak
Established in 350 b.E.R. as a means of protecting Coria from hidden threats associated with the second Khordaldrum-Sylvari War and to act as Coria's spy network, the Order of the Cloak has grown to be a powerful organization bent on enforcing, and sometimes even policing, Corian politics. Their fingers knead the dough of Corian court, wind their way into the neighboring countries, and even reach as far away as Sendria in order to stymie any threat against the Crown. Since their inception they have only failed in their duties on a couple of occasions and as of late, not at all. This has led the crown to rely heavily on the Order of the Cloak's services, and a Cloak advisor is never very far from the monarch's side in case such an occasion arises as to require their advice.
Requirements - Since the majority of the Order's operations are handled in secrecy, the order tends to lean towards the employment of those with a skill in secrecy. Thus, the majority of the Order's staff includes rogues, bards, rangers, and wizards. The prestige classes of Spymaster and Shadowdancer are extremely popular. The Order also insists on competence, and as such active members of the Order are usually at least 4th level. The Order does offer a training program for would-be members that consists of practical and academic studies as well as an apprenticeship, but membership requires sponsorship so this is not well-known.
Hierarchy - The head of the Order is referred to by the title of Captain. Despite its appearance to outsiders, the Order is quite militant and takes its ranks very seriously. Second in command is the Lieutenant, followed by Sergeants (who are generally in charge of particular areas of interest to the Order) and then Corporals (who operate small units of membership in order to facilitate the orders passed down from the sergeants). A non-ranking member of the Order is called a Cloakman.
Emblem - A half moon on a dark green field with half the Tree of Life visible within the light portion of the moon as a silhouette.
Motto - From Within the Shadows We Destroy the Shadows.
Protect Coria at all costs.
Protect the Crown at all costs.
The secrets of the Cloak before any life.
Responsibilities/Jurisdictions - Quite simply put, the responsibilities of the Order of the Cloak (as defined by King Toban Nieph) are to aid in protecting Corian interests from outside influences. Mainly, King Toban was concerned that the Khordaldrum or the Sylvari might take the opportunity to expand their borders while under the guise of dealing with wartime issues. The best way to deal with this, was to employ a few highly trained and stealthy individuals to keep an eye on the warring nation's movement. This single responsibility has grown over the centuries since its inception to include spying upon the noble caste, commoners, neighbors and even within the Order itself. It also includes offering protection from behind the curtains to the nobility and the crown, sending agents into the field to deter actions against Corian interests, and putting smooth-talking ambassadors into the courts of neighboring countries in order to facilitate Corian policy. The one fault with this expansion is that if the Order of the Cloak finds that something might interest it, that thing immediately falls under its jurisdiction. The only thing keeping the true power of the Order of the Cloak as subordinate to the Crown is the loyalty of its members to Coria, and the honorable nature in which they follow their trio of edicts.
Oaths & Loyalties - The loyalties of the Order are defined as easily within their edicts as they are within any oath. Firstly, their loyalty is given over to their kingdom. This means that if anything threatens the security of their kingdom, the members of the Order will stop at nothing to put that effort down... even if that effort comes from the crown itself. Second is loyalty to the crown, and third is loyalty to the Order. However, as the third edict is to protect the Order, should the crown demand information concerning the Order the members know that such an order best not be followed - after all, it is often in the best interest of Coria that the crown doesn't always know what the Order is up to.
There are two major oaths taken within the order. The first is taken upon admittance into the program, and details the signing away of one's soul to the good of the Order. Once a member, always a member. The second is when the member actually becomes a Cloaksman. In this oath (similar to the admittance oath) the member edifies his or her loyalties once more and declares their life as property of the Order. There is a third oath, but this one is taken only once in a great while, as it imposes upon the individual ultimate power of the Order and is a declaration of continued service in the capacity as Captain - ending only upon death. In this oath the individual pronounces everything they have already agreed to in the previous oaths, but also guarantees that they will do everything in their power to direct the Order in the proper fashion, one that will make the previous Captains of the Order proud.
Ceremonies - The admittance ceremony is a short one, consisting of a little bloodletting (a slight cut of the palm, dripping a few drops of blood into a particular magical bowl that basically seals the individual in a similar hold to that of Geas), the citing of the admittance oath, and a quick instruction by the Captain. This is usually done in the presence of the Captain, the Lieutenant, the immediate Sergeant and Corporal, and the Cloaksman who invited the initiate.
The second ceremony is that of the Inclusion. This ceremony consists of another bloodletting into the bowl (with the same affects in case the previous one had been removed), the Inclusion Oath being recited, and a knighting from the Captain. This is attended by as many of the Order as can currently be spared, and within minutes after the completion the new Cloaksman is given his or her first assignment.
There are also ceremonies to raise a Cloaksman in rank and these are similar in appearance to the Inclusion ceremony except without the Inclusion Oath.
Benefits - Being a member of the Order grants a person virtual immunity to the laws as the common rule. All they have to do is flash their symbol and a smart guardsman will retire any urge to question their behavior. However, most Cloaksmen are loathe to perform this sanctimonious act as it indicates Cloak involvement, and secrecy is prized. Also, the death of a Cloaksman is investigated with as much skill and determination as the Order goes about defending Coria. The body is retrieved for proper burial where possible, and sometimes are great risk to additional Cloaksmen, and all burial rights are taken care of as well as immediate family.
Dismissal - Dismissal from the Order means death. No Cloaksman and certainly no officer of the Order can be allowed to simply leave as they contain too much valuable information concerning the operation of the Order. As such the only way out of the Order is through death.
Thanks to Bromern Sal for this contribution!