The Honorable Order of the Shrouds

Fiore is surrounded by high mountain peaks, and beyond these peaks, the edges of the nation are ringed by the Barrowlands. Each night, death rises, and unliving hordes prowl the night, seeking living flesh. Deep in the bowls of the earth, the foul spawn of Madragat, the Mother of Monsters, spawn their broods and likewise threaten Fiore.

The Shrouds changed all of this. At the High King's command, they erected the 15 great Shieldwalls  and the isolated Watchtowers that block off the passes into Fiore. They took up arms to drive the evil back, aided by those commoners of uncommon courage and any others willing to give their life for the realm.

Since those days, the Shrouds have remained a respected group, and have passed down the traditions of the original members of the Order. They train in strength of arms yet also learn the ways of the mountains where the horrors of the Beneath and Madragat gather in numbers to assault the Shieldwall. Some divine might also aids them in their battle against these forces, and they learn to channel this power to great effect against their unholy foes.

Though the Shrouds man the Shieldwalls and fend off barrow-horrors and mountain spawn, they sometimes are called upon to destroy these creatures when they find ways through the mountains, or arrive by other means.

A few curious traditions follow the Shrouds. One is their badge of office. Each man wears around his neck or over his shoulder a sash of white muslin or cotton. This is their shroud, a symbol that they have already accepted their death upon the wall, facing the evils that plague Fiore.

Another is the Shieldwall itself, so named for the shield hanging from it, some bolted, some merely strapped to other shields. These shields represent the fallen dead, and so numerous are they that they the side of the Wall facing the Barrowlands seem like the scaled flank of a dragon. Some of the shields are trapped with razor edges, or are set upon the wall so that those who seek to use the shields to climb will tumble to their death as the shield detaches.

The Clans Trueblood, Gwyren, and Caerdamon offer gold to those who will take up arms as shieldmen and man the Shieldwalls. Grants of land or payment of debts are given to those who die upon the Shieldwalls or the Watchtowers. It is also common for a wyrrdinman to earn their knighthood serving with the Order of the Shield.

Not all Shrouds fight upon the Shieldwall, however. The horrors and bloodshed often demand that even the hardened warriors of the Shroud travel Fioré, to remember what it is they fight for. Some are sent abroad to speak of the nobility of life on the Shieldwall, and recruit new Shieldmen. Such new recruits are sent back to the Order with a token from their recruiter. Still other Shrouds travel to other shards, seeking new knowledge and new weapons to add to the Order’s arsenal in their fight with the Barrowlands; more than one Shroud has journeyed to the far-off library of Veshanda, hoping to find an edge in the Shroud's battle against the Beneath.

Other duties that demand a Shroud’s attentions are regular venturing into the wilderness to gauge the strength of the enemies of the Shieldwall, lest a massive host suddenly appear without warning. Shrouds are also called upon when undead or aberrations somehow find their way past the Shieldwall and threaten citizens of Fioré. Lastly, a Shroud, regardless of how far they flee, mercilessly hunts down and gives final justice to those who forsake their oath and abandon the Shieldwall.

Prerequisites: BAB:+4, Alertness, At least one Martial Weapon Proficiency, Base Fortitude, Will saves: +2 each, Alignment: Any non-Evil.
Requirements: Blood Oath to serve against the foes of Fiore; Patronage of a god who will provide the divine power for turning (usually Avashek, Avasha, though sometimes Chaltis, Oemag or Thyrang – the Shrouds aren’t too picky about who their member’s worship, unlike most of Fioré) – acting against the tenets of the deity in question will result in the Shroud losing their turning ability.

Hit Dice: d8
Skill Points: 4 + Int Bonus/Level
Skills: Climb, Heal, Hide, Jump, Listen, Move Silently, Ride, Spot, Search, Wilderness Lore

LVL    BAB    Fort    Ref    Will    Special Abilities
1    +1    +0    +0    +2    Track, Toughness
2    +2    +0    +0    +3    Endurance, Run
3    +3    +1    +1    +3    Sense Evil, Sealed From Evil
4    +4    +1    +1    +4    Turn Undead
5    +5    +1    +1    +4    Iron Will
6    +6    +2    +2    +5    Turning Feat
7    +7    +2    +2    +5    Turn Aberration
8    +8    +2    +2    +6    Remain Conscious
9    +9    +3    +3    +6    Turning Feat
10    +10    +3    +3    +7    Holy Aura 1/week

Track: The new Shroud is taught how to follow a trail through the wilds of Fioré. If the new Shroud already has the Track feat, he gains Skill Focus: Wilderness Lore, and a +2 competence bonus if tracking in Fioré.

Toughness: The Shroud’s training regimen and initial combat with the enemies of the Order serves to toughen up the new recruit. They gain the Toughness feat.

Sense Evil (Sp): (As Paladin) The Shroud slowly learns to identify the taint of evil after much exposure to it. He may Detect Evil at will, as a spell-like ability. This ability duplicates the effects of the Detect Evil spell, and is identical to the Detect Evil ability of Paladins.

Sealed from Evil (Ex): The Shroud's connection to his patron deity is so strong that he cannot be animated as an undead.

Turning: The Shroud learns how to channel positive energy, and may turn as a cleric. If the Shroud already knows how to turn, his levels of Shroud add to his Clerical ability.

Turn Aberration (Ex): The Shroud can now turn Aberrations as if they were undead, due to their connection to Madragat, Goddess of Lust and Womb of Monsters. Other creatures with a strong connection to Madragat may also be affected (doppelgangers, certain oozes, certain Outsiders, etc.) subject to DM approval. Look for coverage of Madragat Spawn in future articles.

Turning Feat: The Shroud may take any of the following Turning related feats if he meets the prerequisites (all from DoF, except for Extra Turning): Divine Cleansing, Divine Might, Divine Shield, Divine Vengeance, Divine Vigor, Empower Turning, Extra Turning, Heighten Turning, Quicken Turning.

Remain Conscious: The Shroud gains the Remain Conscious feat (Sword and Fist, page 9). [Benefit: When your hit points are reduced to 0 or lower you may make one partial action every round until you reach –10 hit points, at which point you die.]

Holy Aura (Sp): Once per week, the Shroud can channel holy energy through his body, effectively creating the effect of the Holy Aura spell as if cast by a (8th level Clerical spell). The DC for evil creatures possibly blinded by the Aura is 18. The Holy Aura lasts for 20 rounds.