House Deneith

HOUSE DENEITH

“_Golarion lies in ruins, destroyed by its own folly, but our rights and duties cannot be set aside. Our oaths bind us still. Let those who would oppose the law know us, and end their days in fear._” —Endira d’Deneith, Sentinel Marshal of House Deneith

From its beginnings as an order of mercenaries and soldiers to its modern incarnation as the human face of law and battle, House Deneith has maintained its position as the primary force for security and defense in Avistan. Though its fortunes rose during the decline of Taldor and the rise of Cheliax, the services Deneith renders are no less valuable in today’s times of peace. Today, the house is as prosperous as ever, with its position of neutrality firmly established and a host of eager clients ready to use its services. This prosperity tells only half the story, however, and Deneith’s past fortunes might not be enough to guarantee the house’s future.

Neutrality and Law * Throughout the decline of Taldor, Deneith maintained a position of neutrality, serving the whole of Avistan rather than any of its fractured parts. Although this position caused unrest in the house’s home of Ustalav, the Deneith patriarch, Baron Breven d’Deneith (LN male human aristocrat 3/ fighter 3/dragonmark heir 4), saw the need for a balance of idealism and practicality. Although Deneith’s military forces were nearly the equal of any kingdom, joining with one side (likely Ustalav) would have overwhelmed the house’s resources as it was targeted by the other nations. As it happened, its neutral position served Deneith well. After all the wars for independence and the rise of Cheliax over Taldor, the right of House Deneith to maintain a standing military force was recognized once more. Further, it was agreed to allow members of the house to travel unimpeded by national boundaries for the sake of defending Avistan against external threats. Before the war, Deneith bodyguards made up a significant portion of the royal retinues of Avistan, services that remained in demand both during the wars and after. The central philosophy of House Deneith is built upon fulfilling the letter of the law, with contracts and codes governing every action its members take. The Sentinel Marshals serve an ideal of justice, chasing down criminals no matter where they might hide. For the Defenders and Blademarks Guilds, the law of the land is not half as important as the law of their contract, wherein their services are pledged to a nation or individual under specific circumstances and for a specific length of time. No matter what side of the house one falls on, honor, ethics, and an adherence to oaths sworn form the bulk of a Deneith heir’s reputation. One who keeps his word and fulfills expectations is valued highly, whether his heart tends to good or evil. One who is unreliable or capricious, on the other hand, will find few friends within the house.

Dissent Within the Ranks

House Deneith’s position of military strength and influence in Avistan goes largely unchallenged. Though Deneith is not preeminent among the dragonmarked houses, it has never aspired to be. By maintaining its neutrality and refusing ties to any one nation, Deneith has instead become a force that others must rely on. Today, however, this reputation of strength and security means less than at any time in Deneith’s past. In the current time of of relative peace, (setting aside the horror of the Mendevian Crusade) the house is quietly buckling under pressure from within and without, and its resources are strained to a degree that few outside the leadership see.

SUPPLY AND DEMAND* For centuries, House Deneith cornered the market on mercenary forces in Avistan. The Blademarks Guild has done business with every major militia and town watch in Avistan, as well as provided security forces for other dragonmarked houses, private citizens, and expeditions across Avistan and beyond. The Last War changed all this, drastically reducing the available pool of experienced soldiers and mercenaries. It was an unpleasant surprise, then, when House Tharashk entered the mercenary market in the dying days of the war. Deneith had never before encountered competition for its services on any meaningful scale, and for another house to engineer such a challenge with the help of the monstrous races of The Hold of Belkzen was a bitter insult. House Deneith heirs are human, and humans make up the majority of their forces. Though a smattering of warforged, shifters, and half-elves can be found in Deneith ranks, half-orcs usually prefer to work with House Tharashk, and other races are rare. For Deneith’s work within the Five Nations, human troops were once an advantage, but the outlook in Avistan has changed. In urban areas such as Absalom, civilized monsters can walk the streets without fear as long as they obey the laws of the realm. House Tharashk helped to pioneer this change, and its actions have placed the house squarely in Deneith’s sights. Deneith is determined to conquer this new mercenary market, either by wresting control from Tharashk or building its own pool of monstrous talent to draw from. Neither house admits to any open confl ict with the other, but covert clashes occur on a regular basis. If the situation escalates, the rift between the houses might well become irreparable. The dragonmarked houses have traditionally abstained from interfering in intrahouse feuds, but no houses have ever before maintained their own standing armies. Open warfare between Deneith and Tharashk is a prospect few among the dragonmarked care to dwell on.

AMBITION’S THRALL Security and ambition are uneasy companions at the best of times. One requires safety, while the other demands risk. Though Deneith’s position in Avistan is largely secure, some within the house are convinced that security is simply another word for stagnation. They see the house’s position and wealth as resources to be spent in a larger plan, not treasures to be hoarded. With its martial strength and established presence across Avistan, Deneith could be the equal of any of the Five Nations and the master of all the houses. It could be Galifar reborn. Those agitating for change within the house believe that the time for a Deneith dynasty is at hand. The house provides security for the crowned heads of the Five Nations and a substantial portion of the nobility, as well as important members of the Twelve and the dragonmarked houses. Deneith forces guard Thronehold, with the house holding the throne in stewardship until a new king or queen is crowned. How better to ensure that happens than to seize the crown for themselves? Baron Breven d’Deneith is aware of this movement, but calls it madness. Taking the throne and setting House Deneith to rule Avistan would necessitate throwing away everything the house has built and stands for. Such action would pit the house against not just the Five Nations and the other dragonmarked houses, but potentially against the Chamber if the draconic Prophecy were thought to be imperiled. Deneith would be irrevocably ruined—possibly even destroying the Mark of Sentinel as a result.

Other members of his house do not share Breven’s perspective. In particular, Shirin d’Deneith (LE male human rogue 3/fi ghter 4/dragonmark heir 2), a minister within the house, keeps the dark dream of conquest foremost in the thoughts of house members. Though Shirin holds little power from his position alone, he is a charismatic individual. Well spoken and articulate, he has used these gifts to draw like-minded individuals to him. He has also joined the Blood of Vol, using the cult to grant him access to the Order of the Emerald Claw. In doing so, he takes a great risk, since opinion within the house might turn against him if his actions were known. If Shirin has his way, his association with the order will not be discovered until Breven is dead or deposed, and he has seized control of the house.

House Deneith AS AN ORGANIZATION “The nature of humankind should never be violence, and yet the presence of the Mark of Sentinel makes an argument for this core part of our nature. We should rejoice in the law and its controlling effect on these forces. For without it, who knows what House Deneith might yet become?” —Kester Shirl, professor of history at Morgrave University

House Deneith is a dragonmarked house of humans who carry the Mark of Sentinel—the oldest of the human dragonmarks—in their bloodlines. House Deneith’s Blademarks and Defenders Guilds provide security and mercenaries for clients throughout Avistan, while the house’s Sentinel Marshals have special dispensation to mete out justice in all nations signatory to the Thronehold Accords.

JOINING HOUSE DENEITH The number of characters Deneith hires without house affiliation is at least equal to the number of true heirs in the house. Although differences in status and benefits divide hirelings from full members, Deneith respects its hirelings and treats them well. Those who stay with the house through long years of service are often granted honorary house membership in the end. Honorary membership gives an individual the same rights as a regular member of the house, but does not confer that status to the individual’s spouse or children. However, an honorary member who is single and well respected has a greater chance of marrying into the house than a common hireling. Nonhumans can achieve honorary status, but almost never successfully marry into the family line.

Members of House Deneith serve in one of its guilds at some point in their lives, almost without exception. This obligation ensures that every member of the house is familiar with the day-to-day life of a soldier or bodyguard, and makes it unusual for a house member to not have levels in rogue, fi ghter, or paladin. Even Deneith spellcasters learn martial skills and tactics during their time in the house.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS Race: Human. Special: Must be related to a member of House Deneith by blood or marriage, or must be granted honorary status by the house patriarch.

House Deneith’s focus is the safety and security of Avistan and its citizens. It employs its members to that end, making use of their skills to protect and serve as needed. Rogues act as scouts, diplomats, and tactical experts in the field. They are especially welcome in the Defenders Guild, though they are common among the Blademarks as well. Experienced rogues often go on to positions of leadership within the house, thanks to their quick wits. Fighters are the core of the house, and are common in the Sentinel Marshals and both guilds. Paladins frequently serve in the Sentinel Marshals, where a passion for law and justice is an absolute requirement.

HOUSE DENEITH BENEFITS House Deneith’s power is obvious to anyone who has ever seen its mercenaries on the march. Its operations are spread across Avistan, and the house has major enclaves in each nation.

Economics: House Deneith manages contracts and certifi cations for the members of its guilds, including the negotiation of bonus pay for hazardous assignments. Deneith also undertakes the collection of debts from former clients on behalf of its hirelings.

Gear: Members of the house furnish their own gear, but both regular and masterwork weapons and armor can be purchased through the house for 75% of the standard cost. House Deneith also covers the costs of travel associated with important contracts.

Services: Members of House Deneith can request the services of house guild members for 25% of the regular cost.

Access: House Deneith has arranged for Sentinel Marshals to have free transport on elemental airships, the lightning rail, and Orien caravans during commission of their duties. House Deneith members also have access to all house enclaves and to training at Rekkenmark Academy.

Favored in House Benefits Members of House Deneith have access to a wide range of martial benefi ts. The following table indicates the types of favors a Deneith character with the Favored in House feat might request.

GUILDS IN HOUSE DENEITH House Deneith is more than just the sum of its parts, but how much more is open to interpretation. The house administers two guilds—the Defenders Guild and the Blademarks Guild—as well as the order of the Sentinel Marshals. Active participation in one guild over the course of an individual’s career is mandatory; serving in both is commonplace. Deneith views the guilds as the cornerstone of its mission to protect Avistan from its enemies, both within and without.

BLADEMARKS GUILD The Blademarks Guild is a mercenary branch of House Deneith. It employs mercenaries from across Avistan (some associated with House Deneith; some independent contractors), and guarantees both a high level of professionalism and steady work for its hirelings. Deneith’s leadership often arises from within the guild, and the Blademarks are considered the core of the house’s fi nancial success. The cost to hire a Deneith mercenary depends on the experience of the soldier. Hiring fees may be lower in places where there is more competition, such as Absalom. DEFENDERS GUILD The Defenders Guild is a mercenary branch of House Deneith. It consists of veterans of the Blademarks Guild, most of whom have at least one year of successful service behind them. The Defenders Guild contains a far greater percentage of dragonmarked heirs than either the Blademarks or the Sentinel Marshals. Its members are well respected within the house, and considered to be a vital part of Deneith’s mission to defend Avistan. The daily cost of hiring a Deneith bodyguard depends on the dragonmark the character possesses.

FAVORED IN HOUSE DENEITH

DC1 Benefit

10 One free use of the least Mark of Sentinel; loan of a +1 weapon for 1 week; free use of 1d4 black blade Blademarks for 1 day; a loan of 100 gp at 10% per month2

15 One free use of the lesser Mark of Sentinel; free use of 1d4 gray blade Blademarks for 1 week; one week’s training at the Rekkenmark Academy3; loan of a +1 weapon for 1 month

20 One free use of the greater Mark of Sentinel; free use of a 3rd-level member of the Defenders Guild (least dragonmark) for 1 week; free use of 1d4 white blade Blademarks for 1 week; one month’s training at the Rekkenmark Academy3; loan of a +2 weapon for 1 month; gift of a masterwork weapon (DM’s choice); a public border crossing for four characters without proper papers4

25 Free use of a 5th-level member of the Defenders Guild (lesser dragonmark) for 1 week; free use of 1d4 gold blade Blademarks for 1 week; free use of a +3 weapon for 1 month; a secret border crossing for four characters4

1 If a requested favor involves an illegal or dangerous act, increase the DC by 5. Favors with DCs of 20 or higher always require additional service to the house. 2 A character can have no more than one loan at a time. 3 Individual benefi t to be determined by the DM. See Five Nations for more information on Rekkenmark Academy. 4 Characters cannot be fl eeing prosecution or criminal charges that would make them the purview of the Sentinel Marshals. PLAYING A MEMBER OF HOUSE DENEITH

As a member of House Deneith, you understand the importance of duty and honor, and of the laws used to govern and maintain those concepts. Deneith prizes tactical skill and an analytical mind, but also the importance of knowing what your word is worth—and it treats that word as though it was written in blood. Order and strategy govern all. Your house has taught you from a young age which rules can be bent and which cannot.

Combat Combat training is a staple of life in House Deneith. Every heir, barring infi rmity or other disability, is schooled in martial training from a young age. You are trained not to seek out combat, but you do not shy away from it. You won’t break the rules of honorable combat if your opponent requests them, but you won’t fi nd yourself hampered by them if he doesn’t.

Advancement Whether born into the house or not, no one is considered a true heir of Deneith until he has spent at least one year serving as a Blademark. If you are hired by the house, the fi rst year of your initial two-year contract is probationary. Following that year, you are considered to have “tested your blood” and are treated as a valued member of the guild. Though Deneith can help defer training costs or arrange specialized training for its members, house heirs consider it a mark of self-reliance to seek out training on their own. Hirelings are expected to provide their own gear and fi nd their own mentors, while heirs of the house can seek training from within. In a sense, the Blademarks Guild is the training branch of the house, and even experienced heirs who are no longer members of the guild occasionally return for a few months to sharpen their skills.

Missions Members of House Deneith are expected to risk their lives for their clients. Whether working as a mercenary for a minor merchant, protecting an Aundairian noble, or hunting a fugitive from justice across three nations, you are paid to put yourself in danger.

HOUSE DENEITH IN THE WORLD

“They came from nowhere. We were riding home in the carriage, and suddenly a score of cloaked men were upon us. Had Endira d’Deneith not appeared just as suddenly, I would not be speaking to you now.” —Lady Miral ir’Wynarn, noble of Moonwatch

House Deneith is a natural presence in almost any campaign. It hires adventurers to protect the nobility and royalty of the Five Nations, to work as mercenaries for private interests, or to track down criminals when the local law lacks the resources (or the inclination) to do so. It provides a built-in series of adventure hooks to keep characters busy and players involved.

House Deneith was founded centuries ago from a family of warlords in the area that would later become Ustalav. They were the fi rst humans to manifest dragonmarks, and the Mark of Sentinel was only the fourth dragonmark to appear in mainland Avistan. The skill of Deneith warlords in battle was already well known, and when the mark appeared in their bloodline, it only added to their fearsome reputation. For over four hundred years, they ruled over the area near modern-day Karrlakton. Then war and a cycle of famine weakened the Deneith leadership and allowed rival factions to challenge it. For nearly two hundred years, war and strife ravaged the land until the rise of its greatest ruler: Karrn the Conqueror.

Karrn was born and grew to manhood in the lands nominally held by the Deneith warlords. More than one scholar has hypothesized that Karrn might, in fact, have been a member of the Deneith bloodline, though the lack of dragonmarks in his descendants makes that unlikely. Legends tell of how the leaders of House Deneith pledged themselves to Karrn even before he began his quest for power, though their reasons for doing so have been lost to time. Deneith heirs fought at Karrn’s side from the beginning, and this ancient link of service helped shape Deneith into the house it is today.

From the founding of Ustalav, House Deneith served as both defender of the realm and enforcer of laws. When Galifar grew to adulthood and set out to create his empire, Deneith served him as well. After his kingdom was forged, Galifar I gave House Deneith the duty of defending the entire realm, increasing its jurisdiction fivefold. This new service made considerable use of the Blademarks Guild, for special assignments both in and outside the nation’s borders, and the Defenders Guild, to protect members of the nobility and dignitaries. The Sentinel Marshals were also formed during Galifar’s reign, standing as the king’s right arm against enemies of the realm.

Promotion within Deneith is based on service to the house, drawing on merit and seniority rather than bloodlines or personal favoritism.

NPC Reactions Members of House Deneith are respected by the nobility of the Five Nations, who typically have an initial attitude of friendly toward a Deneith heir and her acquaintances. At the same time, the criminal elements of Avistan despise and fear the Sentinel Marshals, and thus House Deneith as a whole. Criminals who recognize characters as being from House Deneith have an attitude of unfriendly.

HOUSE DENEITH LORE Characters with ranks in Knowledge (history) or Knowledge (nobility and royalty) can research House Deneith to learn more about it. When a character succeeds on a skill check, the following lore is revealed, including the information from lower DCs.

DC 10: House Deneith is the most martial of the dragonmarked houses, and has its own army, members of which are hired as mercenaries.

DC 15: House Deneith heirs with the Mark of Sentinel are most desirable for mercenary and bodyguard work, but the house’s unmarked heirs and associates are highly trained as well.

DC 20: The elite of House Deneith become Sentinel Marshals, members of the group that enforced the law in old Galifar. Today, the Marshals serve the Five Nations, and they are the only force that can cross borders in pursuit of those who break the law.

DC 30: Characters who achieve this level of success can learn important details about House Deneith in your campaign, including history, notable members, the areas where it operates, and the kinds of activities it undertakes. SENTINEL MARSHALS The Sentinel Marshals are an elite law enforcement order administered by House Deneith since the rule of Galifar I and upheld as a multinational force under the Treaty of Thronehold. Only the most trusted heirs of the house are honored with a position in the Sentinel Marshals, either after serving in both the Blademarks and the Defenders Guild, or by special dispensation of the house (see the Deneith warden prestige class on page 105). The Sentinel Marshals are elite agents authorized to enforce the law across Avistan according to the needs of regional authorities, and they have permission to ignore borders in pursuit of fugitives. They are never authorized to break the law, but are held accountable only to the Five Nations as a whole.

HOUSE DENEITH’S HOLDINGS Although House Deneith has enclaves across Avistan, its seat of power is in Karrlakton, just across the river from the World Wound. Sentinel Tower is Deneith’s ancestral home, named in honor of the mark its members bear.

Deneith families often send young heirs to be fostered here as children, creating a connection that lasts the rest of their lives. The Tower is the headquarters for all Sentinel Marshals, who return whenever their assignments permit.

Sentinel Tower is an ancient keep, reputedly older than Ustalav itself. It has undergone extensive expansion over the years, both for defensive purposes and to accommodate growth within the house. Even at its current size, Sentinel Tower cannot contain Deneith’s entire complement of house members and hirelings. As a result, Karrlakton is fi lled with training areas, barracks, weaponsmiths, armorers, and taverns to serve the needs of the tower.

In addition to Sentinel Tower, House Deneith holds large enclaves in Absalom and Korth (where the impressive fortress sprawls over an entire hilltop), as well as estates in Flamekeep, Newthrone, Pylas Talaear, Stormreach, Taer Valaestas, Trolanport, and Varna. More outposts can be found in locations throughout Avistan, including Rhukaan Draal in Darguun and Graywall in Droaam (where Deneith keeps a low profi le in the shadow of the prominent Tharashk enclave). Members of House Deneith are also the protectors of Thronehold, and make up the elite unit of Throne Wardens charged with protecting the Galifaran throne.

MEMBERS OF HOUSE DENEITH IN THE GAME House Deneith is an excellent fi t for dragonmarked and unmarked characters alike. Because it hires so extensively from outside the house in the Blademarks and Defenders Guild, PCs can contract for mercenary work through Deneith without becoming involved in house politics. DMs can take advantage of the types of contracts Deneith has available to motivate players and give them direction. House Deneith can also provide solid reasons to move characters around Avistan at a whim, following their clients from the jungles of Q’barra to the cogs of Absalom, all within a single campaign.

House Deneith

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