Alignment: Any neutral.
Symbol: A wheel depicting the four seasons, each in the grip of violent weather.
Discipline: Riven Hourglass.
Oath: The Lords of the Wheel educate their students extensively in the philosophy of balance they espouse, offering constant tests, riddles, and questions meant to help guide a recruit or student’s ideals. Very important to the Lords is a new member’s ability to accept working with opposing ideologies and look at ‘big picture’ problems instead of focusing on individual circumstances. Once the Lords are confident in their new recruit, four of them gather for the ceremony formally inducting them into the secretive organization—one Lord each from Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. Each marks the new member with their blade, and then the student makes her oath:
“I am not an assassin, to kill for mere money. I am not a murderer, to kill for convenience, or a thug, to kill for respect. I am a Lord, who kills to bring harmony, to ensure balance, and preserve the world against the forces which would destroy it. All things have their season to flourish and their season to die, and to this principle I dedicate my blade, my heart, and my soul. The Wheel is both beautiful and inevitable, and should I turn from it, let it crush my faithless heart.”
Allegiance Benefit: A Lord of the Wheel gains a +2 insight bonus on Bluff, Sense Motive, and Stealth checks. In addition, a Lord of the Wheel of 3rd level or higher gains Lurker in Darkness as a bonus feat, even if he does not meet the prerequisites.
A Lord of the Wheel who violates his oath loses these bonuses and the benefit of the Lurker in Darkness feat (but not access to the Riven Hourglass discipline) until he atones for his transgression through one week of isolated meditation, without contact with other sapient beings. Alternatively, a Lord of the Wheel can atone with a sacrifice of his own blood, dealing 1d4 points of Constitution damage to himself. Once this damage has healed naturally, his atonement is complete.
Description and Common Tasks: The Lords of the Wheel claim a singular purpose; they serve universal harmony, seeking to retain a sort of balance in the world to the end of preventing catastrophe. The Lords are a somewhat open secret; the existence of the organization is known, but its members conceal their identity, and the Lords of the Wheel keep their operations, safehouses, and desires secret from the world. Partly this is so that their mission is better effected, for the Lords value subtlety and utilize assassination and bribery as some of their chief tools when dealing in politics. Much of this secrecy, however, is to protect their power structure and the artifact at its heart, the Wheel of Years.
The Wheel of Years lets the Lords of the Wheel track sources of disharmony and destruction in the world. The heads of the four Seasons observe the Wheel and consult with one another before dispatching their agents to various problems, ensuring that the Lords are on hand to deal with the problem and guide events towards a harmonious resolution (as well as ensuring that they don’t accidentally send conflicting Seasons to the same issue). These heads are also responsible for assigning members to their appropriate Season, each focused on solving a different sort of problem.
Spring is responsible for promoting growth in places that have been gripped by despair and suffering, and claims good-aligned Lords as its soldiers. Spring’s servants normally solve the immediate problem first, murdering gang lords, corrupt politicians, diabolic cults, and other sources of evil, and then back up the removal of evil by bolstering the area’s hope. It is not uncommon to find Spring soldiers (covertly, of course) bolstering local economies by introducing fresh money, volunteering at hospitals, providing magical items or services at cost, or training militia.
Summer spreads chaos in places that resist change, and claims chaotic-aligned Lords as its soldiers. Summer is perhaps the most blunt of the four Seasons; Summer’s soldiers identify the people holding local order together and target them, displaying the bodies in public to incite the populace to anarchy. Summer then remains to observe the chaos that unfolds and, if necessary, cut it short before it grows too destructive. Sometimes a particular Summer soldier proves to be an exceptional leader and manages to temporarily encourage more subtlety within the Season, but more often than not these hatchet-man tactics are Summer’s trademark.
Autumn claims the evil-aligned Lords and is tasked with protecting the assets and secrecy of the Lords of the Wheel. They silence those who discover too much about the Lords, guard and maintain safehouses and armories, bribe or blackmail politicians, and discreetly maintain various under-the-table alliances with certain temples sympathetic to the cause the Lords espouse. Perhaps the most watched of the four Seasons, Autumn’s soldiers are selected for pragmatism and a certain moral indifference, not malevolence; the goal, after all, is to avoid disharmony and destruction.
Winter soldiers are dispatched to places in the grip of chaos in order to establish order; Winter claims the lawful-aligned Lords as its members. Winter favors elegant solutions and is one of the most informed of the Seasons—they observe an area for weeks, months, or years before making a move, solving the problem of chaos in a blur of motion. What normally happens is the death of the destabilizing influences (usually in a single night), followed by the rapid rise to power of a leader that Winter props up and arranges alliances and soldiers for. Once Winter is sure that the leader they’ve selected won’t be murdered the minute their back is turned, it leaves the area so as not to over-correct for the problem and accidentally create too much order in the region.
Finally, the extremely secretive Solstice Lords are hidden even from the rest of the organization. Recruiting only neutral Lords who have been proven trustworthy, dedicated, and puissant, the Solstice Lords police the organization from within, murdering Lords who betray the organization’s secrets and deciding internally if a member still technically in good standing has become a threat to harmony. The head of the Solstice Lords occupies a ‘first among equals’ position with the heads of the four Seasons, possessing a tiebreaker vote in issues that affect the organization as a whole.
Available Services: The Lords of the Wheel expect much in terms of service and loyalty from their members, and they give much in exchange. Lords can expect support from temples and cults allied with their organization, access to magical goods (including the option to borrow weapons and tools from the organization’s armories), secret bolt-holes, libraries of knowledge on all manner of enemies, the dirty secrets of dozens of political figures, and much more. A Lord is expected to use these resources responsibly; getting informants caught or wasting items and wealth not only makes the organization’s mission that much harder, it displays a lack of foresight and seriousness that speaks ill of the Lord in question.
Path of War – Expanded, © 2016, Dreamscarred Press.