- Lord of the lodge - Havelock, from founding to dissolving
- The Left hand
- The Right hand
- Master of X (eg: master of the hunt; master of the aviary, etc)
Advancement in the Black Bough came in the form of practical skill assessment, and consideration by the master of the relevant field, who has the power to elevate someone in the ranks from Applicant, to Adept. To be considered to be a master, the process becomes more involved with the upper hierarchy. A master may choose someone to nominate for the position of master (often, this comes with said master extending a position of 'apprenticeship' to the potential master-to-be) then passes their recommendation to the left and right hand, who then, if they are satisfied pass it to the lord for final arbitration. Success generally results in direct promotion to master, or assignment to another master to prepare them for their new role. Failure naturally, results in nothing. That is not to say that there was only one chance at advancement, one may be recommended many times if potential is seen in them, and failed applicants are often given constructive advice on how to improve themselves to overcome the problems that denied them this time.
The divisions are:
- The Aviary
- The Huntsmen
- The Trainers
The Black Bough takes on people with practical skills (via assessment), or by recommendation of another member of at least Journeyman status (with higher rank lending more credence to the recommendation). Anyone is free to apply, but many do not succeed.
Applicants are taken in groups in the spring months, where they are signed in to the guild roster and given a cloak with the guilds symbol embroidered on to it. They are presented as a group to the Lord and the Hands, with one of the masters giving them their induction speech and assigning their first duties. It is usually during this time that the Lord and the Hands will spot and make note of anyone with potential.
Applicants are generally assigned to a group, shadowing journeymen to learn their allotted trade, with all the being assigned busy work that is implied by being at the bottom of the figurative ladder.
Life in the Guild
The Black Bough expects much from its members, so life can be challenging and to outsiders, seem somewhat merciless. While it is true to a degree, the guild takes care of its own - members with sickly family can expect to find a huntsman appearing at their door with just the right medicinal herbs fetched from the wilds. Bereavements are taken care of with sensitivity and respect, and woe betide those who would harm a member of the Black Bough. The guild holds many celebrations and festivals (and being hunters and trackers, often have some of the best food available), and encourages respect and camaraderie, along with encouraging sharing and expanding of skills - everyone should excel at their main trade, but more skills means more opportunities, and a better name for the guild overall. The trade-off for the opportunities and care of the guild is that you are expected to work hard, and aspire to excellence in upholding the name of the guild.
- Represent the Lord, and the guild responsibly - you are the means by which people will measure, and consider asking for our service
- Show loyalty to your fellow guildsmen, we triumph or fall together
- Aspire to excellence in your craft
The Black Bough was a guild of hunters, trackers, trainers of beasts great and small. Their jobs primarily came from hunting, but many other professions were represented beyond simple hunters and trackers - messenger birds were raised and trained by them, a popular means of communication at the time, to give one example. Dog trainers, horse breakers, and handlers of much more exotic animals besides, the expertise of the black bough made them to go-to name if one had an animal (especially an exotic or particularly intelligent and difficult specimen) that needed training. Havelock was a shrewd man, and not necessarily heart-warming or friendly, but he was respected, and fair in his judgment. The Black Bough came to exist as much because Havelock saw an opportunity for a business not being utilised, as the indulgence of a personal interest. Being the man he was, it was not difficult to draw people of like mind to him, in short time creating a lodge where all manner of hunters and those who worked with animals. The guild's base of operations is somewhat removed from society, closer to woods than to anything else, so many people felt ill at ease visiting such a curiously isolated place, many of them choosing to deal with the guild's satellite station in the nearby settlement than go to the woods.
The following information should be treated as information for the curious, from an out of character context. Those wishing to know about Havelock and the fate of him and his people should contact the staff.
There was no great cataclysm as Havelock became a virtuoso, no terrible tearing of society, pulled up by its roots and destroyed. The change was slower, more insidious and creeping than that, signs of ill omen stealthily appearing in the lives of people until it was too late to push them back. Crops failed; animals turned on their owners and became feral and demented as a sickly red moon hung in the sky, its shape akin to a half-lidded eye as the malignant light glinted on the populace at night. As the signs worsened, so too did the people, neighbor turning against neighbor as the paranoid and the maddened alike crumpled and they killed each other in the streets, outsiders burned on pyres, or ran down by dogs and men astride crazed horses. These mounted men and their hounds, once the subjects of Havelock the Maestro, finally lost their minds and souls and became the agents of Havelock the virtuoso, racing forth from the darkest places of the world at the turning from autumn to winter, riding down whichever poor soul is unfortunate enough to be out at night, and semblance of the people they had been now vanished, ravenous specters and little more.
Traditions and Relevant Lore
The tradition of the hunt is, exactly as it sounds, a tradition of going out in the waning months of the year to hunt animals as they migrate away, or start to prepare for winter. The cold, harsh months require a good stock of food, so the guild sends out its hunters and their hounds to bring back whatever they can find, to add to the supplies stocked over the year. Food is harder to find at this time of year, so it is both a survival exercise, and an opportunity for hunters to show off their skill and cunning by coming back with a large volume of food, or an especially exotic or good quality yield. Post-hunt, there a meal for the guild, and drinking and songs as they welcome in the harsher months. This tradition still exists today, although virtually no one realises it, given the fate of the guild and the lack of information about it...