Tir na n'Og - The Codes of Ohma - The Factions - The tainted - To be chosen - Triads, Ironlords, & Triumphants
It is commonly believed among human society that there are a total of thirteen Factions, though only seven of these are well known -- the seven major Factions referred to in the traditional challenge of the Cavaliers, "By the Seven and by the Three" (the three referring to the Three Powers, who belong to no faction). The lesser Factions do not interact with the human communities as often as the major ones and therefore have fewer adherents.
Over time, the human population in Tir na n'Og has come to accept many of the ways and beliefs of their Fey overlords. Since most humans know the names of any of the Greater Fey only as myths, it is obviously impossible for ordinary humans to be certain of Fey politics. Debates as to which of the Fey actually belong to which factions drive philosophers wild, but for the average person to try to understand these things is entirely pointless. The people align themselves with a color Faction based on what they believe each faction stands for, and leave it at that. Many individual towns and households have added symbols to the colors they have adopted, but these vary wildly with individual taste. The colors remain constant.
It is wise to consider that the basic traits, philosophies, beliefs, and characteristics associated with the colors by humans are not necessarily the same as those held by the Fey. There are many differences between Fey and Man, after all, and sometimes what is said by one loses something in the translation when heard by the other. Some things have been lost along the way, and in some cases, new traits have been added by human sensibilities.
Strictly speaking, there are no truly Good or Evil Factions among the Fey. By the time the traits associated with each color have filtered through human society, however, this is no longer quite true. Some factions have acquired a less-than-savory reputation among human kind, and in the way of humans, these reputations have reflected back upon the way humans perceive the Fey. Whether the Fey care at all is not known.
Ruthless efficiency is the first thing that springs to mind when one mentions the Black Faction. 'It Is Done' is as close to a motto as the Black Faction can be said to have, unless one adds 'So Be It.' This is the Faction most closely associated with death and the underworld, with mystery, fate, the afterlife, and pure, raw power. Many Black Faction adherents seem to go through life preparing for what comes after, seeing themselves either as pawns of an uncaring universe or as terrible instruments of fate.
It would be incorrect to assume that those who belong to the Black Faction fear death less than most. They fear it -- they just don't care. The Black Faction is often associated with strategy and scheming, as if each member saw a greater Plan at work and was personally determined to do whatever it takes to bring about its fruition. Because of this often cold-blooded fatalism, they are ruthless and cunning warriors of great skill and ferocity, whose concept of honor does not include defeat. Though many who wear black are honorable to a fault, it is honor within their own definition, and they will apparently discard all pretense of honor if it gets in the way of the goal to be accomplished, whatever that is at any given time. To the Black Faction, the only true dishonor is failure.
On the positive side, members of the Black Faction may be staunch and unyielding in their adherence to a cause, and there is no more powerful ally one could have when one's cause is in accordance with theirs.
On the negative side, the color also attracts those who revel in death and hold nothing sacred. Assassins, thieves, and other unsavory character are plentiful within the Black Faction. It is generally considered unwise to turn one's back on anyone claiming allegiance to the Black Faction.
The focus of the Blue Faction is less on war than on Trade and Commerce. Of course, since establishing trade routes and progressive economic reforms usually involves many battles and a great deal of fighting, those who belong to the Blue Faction often become formidable warriors. Because they are constantly besieged by those who envy their wealth and prosperity and seek to take it from them by force, the Blue Faction places a strong emphasis on combat and the knowledge of arms. But simple butchery is distasteful to most Blues; honorable dueling is preferable, a well-struck bargain of higher value than a well-struck blow, and peaceful trade is the most desirable outcome of any encounter.
Peace Through Prosperity could well be the motto of the Blue Faction. Merchants, Traders, and other businessfolk are drawn to this color, as are those who simply enjoy traveling and exploring new territory. Voyages and exploration are closely associated with the Blue Faction. However, its most powerful association is with the sea. Those who work in the water-based industries or make their living from the sea are usually solidly in the Blue's domain.
On the positive side, those who value peaceful trade, discovery, order, and solidarity are likely to be drawn to the Blue. The Blue Faction is associated with a strong concept of honor that includes helping the less fortunate and disdains unnecessary killing.
On the negative side, those who value the accumulation of wealth and material goods over everything else, even at the expense of others, are also likely to wear blue. Prosperous endeavors can include the slave trade and other, even less savory businesses.
Overall, however, the Blues are most often seen as just, fair, and honorable.
The Gold or Saffron Faction is the faction of the aesthete. This is the faction that most celebrates the arts and sciences; poets, musicians, Mystics, sculptors, sages, painters, alchemists, astronomers, apothecaries, those who dedicate their lives to the pursuit of knowledge and perfection in its many forms, the expression of the intellect in all its grandeur.
Since virtually all adherents to the Gold Faction are dedicated to beauty, it is rare to find a truly dishonorable or evil follower of that color, since disorder and disharmony are usually counter-productive, unreasonable, and therefore ugly.
Unfortunately, it is also rare to find a warrior who wears that color, since most Gold-aligned households place little value on physical pursuits such as the arts of warfare. The Gold Faction has developed a not-always-deserved reputation for producing unremarkable fighters, and the young Cavaliers are often targets for Cavaliers of other colors seeking to build their reputations, or other warriors who are looking for an easy win. Be assured, if one were to see an older warrior wearing that color, it would be wise not to cross swords or purposes with that one -- for to have survived to such an age, that warrior would have to have become very, very good.
No one, however, looks askance on any Mystic trained within the Gold tradition. Gold is the color of science and Gold Mystics often possess an unparalleled knowledge of chemistry and alchemy, as well as an understanding of anatomy and all facets of healing. Of all the Mystic arts, only the Green Faction equals the Gold in knowledge of herbology and other healing arts, and no one at all has achieved a similar status in other branches of Mystic knowledge.
It is safe to say that no other faction stands so clearly as a force for Good in the eyes of human society in Tir na n'Og as the Gold.
The Green Faction is by far the most difficult to categorize, simply because it has no set philosophy. This is the faction that belongs to the rugged individualists, the anarchists, the outcasts, the ragtag leftovers who belong nowhere else. Because of this, they have great difficulty in accomplishing any goal that must be achieved by a group. Organization is usually a weak point for the Green Faction.
'Live and Let Live' might be a good motto for the Green Faction, if they ever became organized enough to agree on one. There is usually more tolerance between Fey and Human -- and in fact, more tolerance in general -- within this faction than in any other. This is the color of Nature and those who love it and live in it. Most tainted swear allegiance to the Green, since human settlements aligned with that color are almost the only ones where tainted are accepted -- or at least not persecuted.
On the positive side, adherents to the Green Faction tend to be more open-minded than in many other factions. Often protectors of the forests and wilderness, they have little interest in what goes on in the cities and the people who live there. Even those who do live in cities and towns prefer to putter in their gardens and mind their own business. The Green Faction produces the best woodland Rangers of all the Factions, and any Mystic trained under the Green tradition is certain to have an understanding of herbology and the arts of healing that is second to none -- for though it is strongly associated with the forests and far, wild places, Green is also the color of healing.
On the negative side, there is mystery in the deep green woods, and wild magic, which makes the Green Faction seem not always trustworthy. If Green attracts the gentle nature-lover, it also attracts the wild and feral who see killing as part of nature's plan, an extension of the law of survival of the fittest. This is the color associated with the Hunt; in the days before Ohma, that included the Great Hunt, in which the Fey rode under night's cloak, laughing in all their terrible glory, to hunt Mankind. Followers of the various 'nature magics,' Human and Fey, often utilize human sacrifice in their ceremonies.
When considering the Green Faction, it is wise to remember that Nature can be as deadly as she is beautiful.
The Orange Faction has a large and powerful following among both humankind and Fey, but few warriors, for it is the color associated with the Forge, and honors the Smith and the Craftsman above all other walks of life. Throughout the human city-states, almost all the greatest armorers, blacksmiths, metalworkers, shipwrights, carpenters, and the men and women of other crafts are staunch members of the Orange Faction. Among the Fey, virtually the entire race of dwarves is aligned with the Orange.
When battle becomes necessary, however, the Orange Faction can summon a terrible force indeed, as the smiths put aside more delicate tools and take up the war hammer, the axe, and the scythe. Cavaliers trained under the Orange tradition tend to use impact weapons more than other Cavaliers do. Even the Rangers and Mystics are more prone to carry large, heavy objects they can smash things with than the weapons more traditional to their callings.
Those aligned with the Orange Faction usually take little interest in politics. Even the Fey version of this Faction seems to play the Great Game less than the other Factions, judging from how often an Orange Triad has appeared in Tir na n'Og's long and checkered history. The Orange are more likely to throw their considerable weight behind some other Faction's cause than to champion their own. After all, they value efficiency, and strife is inefficient. They generally meddle only until an immediate crisis is resolved, then go back to work.
On the positive side, those aligned with the Orange Faction are often solid, reliable, honest, and hardworking. Honor is something earned, not given, and to be accorded as honorable in the eyes of the Orange Faction is an honor indeed. Few of those drawn to Orange are dishonest or untrustworthy, for neither of those traits are compatible with the legendary precision and efficiency for which the Orange is known.
On the negative side, the color can also attract those who are cold and uncaring, those who value machines more than the living, those blind to everything around them but their immediate self-interest, and those who see other people only as tools to be used up and discarded. The drudge, those unfit for anything but manual labor, and those too lazy or stupid to rise to anything else, often drift to the Orange when left to themselves, where they spend their lives lending their muscle and sweat to tasks set them by the more capable. The slave trade does thriving business with the Orange Faction.
There is a legend among the human cultures in Tir na n'Og that the Purple Faction originated when a disaffected group of Fey from the Red, Blue, and Black Factions joined forces to form their own. Eventually, this "new" faction rose to such power that it replaced the White Faction as one of the Seven major Factions.
This is almost entirely false, and perhaps explains why there is such an echoing gap between the Fey version of the Purple Faction and the Human.
Though most humans know that the Purple Faction is somehow associated with Wisdom and the creations of the art of writing and mathematics, and there are tales of various Purple Faction Fey being the historians or chroniclers for the Fey, this is not always evident among those who seek allegiance with the human version of the Purple Faction.
Though there are honorable and virtuous people who cleave to it, the Purple Faction at its worst is the faction of schemers and manipulators, most usually associated with the acquisition of wealth by force of arms, as if combining the darkest elements of its three supposed-founding Factions. Those who value material wealth for its own sake and will stop at nothing to get it, those who believe hedonistic luxury the be-all and end-all of existence, those who enjoy acquiring knowledge only if it is useful in accomplishing the defeat of an enemy, those who love conquest, are too often clad in this color or riding to war under a purple banner. Pirates often fly a Purple flag, and brigands and others who prey on the caravans frequently wear Purple with misplaced pride.
There are positive aspects to the Purple, however. Second best is never good enough for most of them, and there are many Purples who strive to achieve real greatness as a result of this driving desire. Since they value luxury, those who attain great wealth are often magnanimous patrons of the arts and surround their domains with beauty, encouraging and generously rewarding those who create it. Literacy is held in high esteem, and the Purple Faction does not hesitate to use its wealth to promote it. This Faction is responsible for the creation and preservation of more books and libraries than any other except the Gold.
All in all, however, the Purple Faction is one that is looked upon with mixed feelings and no little suspicion, and this mistrust is not undeserved.
The Red Faction is popularly thought of as being the faction of Warriors. Might Makes Right is the unspoken motto, and Order Over All is the approved mindset. People who understand that armies are usually more effective than lone warriors, those who work best as part of a team, those who are strongly disciplined and have a militaristic mindset -- these are the people who are drawn to the Red Faction.
Reds tend to keep their armor in perfect repair, and their clothing, even when not of the best quality, is likely to have every button in place and every seam snug. Reds care about perfection. Rare is the Red Faction follower who does anything in a sloppy or haphazard fashion.
On the positive side, many Reds value honor above all other virtues and are often among the most ardent followers of the Codes of Ohma, even if they have trouble understanding concepts like mercy for the weak, kindness for its own sake, and dueling merely to first blood or until one's opponent yields. Honor for the average Red Faction adherent is closely tied to things like personal glory, being on the winning side, spilling lots of blood (that of others, usually), and pounding one's foes into gristly little bits.
Warlike they may be, but they prefer war in a just cause, and they are never so effective or so ruthlessly unstoppable as when they believe they are fighting on the side of Right.
On the negative side, bullies, warmongers, berserkers, and homicidal maniacs are often drawn to the Red Faction. Those who love causing pain, enjoy killing for its own sake, and think Codes of Honor are for sissies delight in the fearsome reputation and the sheer aura of ferocity that surrounds the Red Faction. For all its emphasis on order, the Red Faction at its worst has sometimes been associated with Chaos.
Warriors of the Red Faction are generally considered to be the strongest, toughest, most vicious, and overall the most bad-ass opponents one can be unfortunate enough to encounter.
The Lesser Factions
Though the colors of the Seven are well known, the lesser Factions that complete the thirteen are often a matter of debate. Colors come and go, flickering around the edges of human society, and the only way humans can be certain another Faction has entered the game is by the appearance of a Triad bearing the mark of that color. Of these "alternative" Triads that have made their mark in history, the colors have generally been recorded as Brown, Gray, Turquoise, Aqua or Teal, Burgundy, and White. Among Humankind in general, only the latter two have developed any significant following.
Again, rumor among Humankind would have us believe that the Burgundy Faction began as an offshoot from cast-off members of the Red and Blue Factions. In this case, there may be some truth to those rumors. It has been said by detractors that the Burgundy Faction exists in human society because the Purples wouldn't have them. Of course, the reverse is said just as frequently by detractors of the Purple Faction, but the point remains that the Burgundy, like the Purple, is held in questionable esteem.
The Burgundy Faction stands for wealth and influence, and the strength to support these virtues. A strong and prosperous people living in safety and abundance is the supposed Burgundy ideal, for poverty is considered to be as destructive to the warrior spirit as is softening luxury. Those who cleave to the Burgundy shudder in distaste at the self-denial practiced by many Whites, Golds, and even some Reds, and they see the Greens as virtual savages, but they sneer at the Purples for what they see as decadent weakness.
On the positive side, the Burgundy encourages the work ethic of the Blue Faction, backed by the warrior discipline of the Red. Though they love wealth and consider seeking riches a virtue, they see luxury as a sign of weakness and those who seek it as soft. Those who are drawn to this color are often tough-minded and determined. More likely to be bankers than traveling merchants, they value strategy and tactics above berserker rages and raw savagery.
On the negative side, the Burgundy also attracts those who possess the greed of the Blues without the balancing virtues of justice, fairness, and hard work, and the violence of the Reds without the self-discipline. In this there are some similarities between the Burgundy and the Purple. But Burgundy gives no special value to scholarship, and followers are more likely to squander their ill-gotten gains than to surround themselves with beautiful possessions or encourage the artistry of others. It is rare indeed for a Burgundy to use any of his money to benefit someone else.
Rangers trained in the Burgundy traditions are among the most skilled and crafty thieves, scavengers, and spies, though often lacking in woodcraft. Mystics who wear Burgundy are not often as skilled as those of other colors, for they are more likely to have acquired their training in a piecemeal fashion that owes more to charging for their services than to seeking to polish their skills.
Those Burgundians who achieve the status of Cavalier are among the best, however, for they are usually those who dream of better things and hunger to raise themselves above their beginnings.
It is popularly believed that the White Faction was once one of the major Seven until it was supplanted by the Purple. Whether this is true or not is a matter of debate. Certainly the White Faction is a powerful one in both Fey and Human society on those occasions when it makes itself known. It is entirely probable that the White Faction is not one of the major Seven because it chooses not to be.
This is the Faction most often associated with purity, the quest for spiritual perfection, and the concept of God and the Great Unknown. Humans often add the symbol of the many-pointed star or the white flame to their white banners, to symbolize the Soul. Many religious orders belong to this Faction.
Since perfection in all things is important, warriors trained in the White tradition tend to be highly skilled. White Cavaliers are the most adamant adherents to the Codes of Ohma, even with all its romantic contradictions and absurdities. In fact, the contradictions are actively welcomed and encouraged as supreme tests of wit, empathy, and understanding. To seek perfection, the proper balance between What Is and What Seems To Be, is considered a Cavalier's most arduous task, and certainly the Codes are an exercise in this spiritual endeavor. White Mystics also are among the best at their craft, especially at the disciplines that call for astral control and the ability to separate body and spirit, such as dreamwalk and astral projection.
The White Faction is the one most often asked to arbitrate in disagreements between rival factions and city-states, for the White is justifiably seen as being, not only honorable, but fair and impartial when dealing with matters of the material world. After all, to the White Faction, such things are unimportant in the over-all scheme of things.
On the positive side, those who are drawn to the White Faction often value compassion, mercy, kindness, and love above the arts of violence and war. Truth is a virtue to be sought more ardently than wealth, and those who value the grandeur of the human spirit, the soul in all its splendor, are held in the highest esteem. Scholarship of all kinds is valued, for wisdom is always the highest virtue. There are close ties between the White Faction and the Gold, and many people see one as an extension of the other.
On the negative side, the White Faction has spawned its share of zealots, even religious mania. Those who see themselves as Holy Instruments are as likely to be drawn to the White as the Black, as are those who have a stark and uncompromising view of Good and Evil. If the Spanish Inquisition were to rise in Tir na n'Og, it would begin with the White Faction, as a justifiable means to an end.
Fortunately, the Triumphants are unlikely to ever condone such a thing.