Imperial/Colonial Monastic Orders
During the occupation of Curabel, the most fearsome enforcers of the government’s will were the imperial dervishes belonging to the Order of the Fiery Claw. This small band of troops, an elite core of shock-troops trained in martial skills so highly refined they seemed to border on the mystical, would appear overnight to put down any organized rebellion without mercy. Feared by both colonists and islanders alike, these dervishes were looked upon as nameless killing machines – automatons of flesh and blood perfectly loyal to the Immortal Dragon Emperor and his representatives.
To prevent them from forming any personal attachments to the islands’ populace that might test their loyalties, these dervishes were stationed in an isolated fortress built on the slopes of Lonely Isle’s dormant volcano. The seclusion and central location of this fortress made it an ideal site for housing a force that might one month be tracking down Elven rangers waging guerilla warfare on imperial loggers to the north and the next be delving down to eliminate Dwarf rebels sabotaging mines in the south. Even better, the association of the dervishes with Lonely Isles’ lifeless and bleak landscape further cemented the notion that these warriors were agents of death in the popular imagination.
Although popular history reports that Baldric Evenkeel went directly to Midmark and deposed the imperial governor after declaring his intention to free the islands of Curabel, in reality his first move was sailing to Lonely Isle to neutralize the dervishes. Arriving at the mountainside fortress with his army of soldiers, Baldric first attempted to overwhelm the dervishes with his force’s superior numbers. Three times his men breached the walls of the fortress, but all three times they were driven back with heavy losses and little to show for their efforts.
Concerned at the loss of both manpower and time that the imperial governor could use to prepare defenses, Baldric finally decided to challenge the Grand Master of the Fiery Claw to a one-on-one duel on Lonely Isle’s slopes. Eye witnesses to the clash reported that it was a close match but that Baldric eventually shattered the Grand Master’s weapons and forced him to yield and surrender the fortress. While everyone’s expectation was that the Grand Master and his dervishes would be executed immediately, Baldric instead took them as hostages and continued on to Midmark.
After his triumphant entry into Midmark and the capture of governor’s castle in the heart of the city, Baldric had the Order of the Fiery Claw brought in chains to the former heart of imperial rule to watch as the first prisoners were brought up from the dungeons below. As each broken and tortured man, woman, and child were led blinking into the daylight, the Elven leader of the allied rebel forces read off their often trivial crimes against imperial law so that Baldric could absolve them and apologize for their treatment. Finally, after several hours of this, Baldric turned to the dervishes and asked them to look closely on the works of their so-called god-king and consider both the worthiness of a master who would condone such barbarity and their own complicity in these actions.
Unmoved by the evidence of the imperial governor’s judicial excesses, the Grand Master and many of his men remained stoic in the face of Baldric’s accusations and declared their undying devotion to the Immortal Dragon Emperor. However, the Grand Master’s chief lieutenant and a handful of other dervishes broke down upon seeing the misery they had made possible and recanted their allegiance to the emperor while begging forgiveness. Baldric, for his part, replied that forgiveness was not his to give and that all he could offer was justice. With that, he had the Grand Master and the other dervishes still loyal to the emperor beheaded where they stood and the others taken and imprisoned in the castle’s dungeon where they remained for the next decade.
The Post-Imperial Era
After serving their prison term of ten years in the dungeons beneath Midmark’s castle, now the seat of the city-state’s independent government, those dervishes who had sought forgiveness for their contribution to the imperial occupation’s cruelties were released. Still lacking any real connection to the islands’ peoples and ashamed of their past actions, the dervishes returned to the ruins of the fortress on Lonely Isle. Rechristening themselves as The Order of the Dragon Turtle, the dervishes embarked upon a hermetic life dedicated to spiritual atonement and the honing of those skills necessary to defend their new homeland. While at first viewed with some lingering suspicion, the passage of years and the order’s unwavering commitment to protecting the freedom of Curabel eventually allayed the fears of the islands’ peoples.
In the centuries since the rebellion against the empire, the new monastic order founded by those reformed dervishes has managed to find a role for itself as a specialized warrior sect with a skillset suited to countering imperial espionage. Contemplative and observant of minor details, these monks remain few in number but are often able to anticipate plots and expose agents where larger groups fail; in addition, they have perfected a new fighting style informed by their introspective lifestyle that represents the antithesis and perfect answer to the ferocity of traditional dervishes. In fact, it is widely believed that the empire’s hesitancy to use dervishes in Curabel since the rebellion is directly tied to the past successes of the Order of the Dragon Turtle.
The Monastic Order Today
In the last decade, Lonely Isle has been settled by a mining company from Midland working with a dwarven merchant guild from Zurnost’Khel. Their outpost, named Rockhome, is a rough town and anyone not affiliated with the company is looked upon with suspicion and encouraged to either sign on or move along as quickly as possible. Although still blasted and desolate, the island has slowly become the site of extensive excavation work and the temporary home of thousands of workers.
At first, the Order ignored the new arrivals on their island and continued with their regimented lifestyle of contemplation and physical training. It was not long, however, before they began to feel like strangers in their own home as Rockhome and its mining operations grew and intruded more and more upon their quiet life of asceticism. Eventually, the current Grand Master (Brune Langiston) concluded that the best course of action was to temporarily abandon their stronghold and embrace the sudden necessity of interacting with the wider world. Instead of removing themselves from the company of their fellows to further perfect their discipline of mind and body, the order would disperse across the islands to spread their teachings and put their skills to use helping everyday citizens of Curabel against those forces – imperial, monstrous, or otherwise – that would endanger their lives and freedoms.