Tir na n'Og - The Codes of Ohma - The factions - The tainted - To be chosen - Triads, Ironlords, & Triumphants
Triads, Ironlords, and Triumphants
When each of us made that pilgrimage to the Temple of Ohma in Tir that began on our sixteenth birthday, most of us, in our hearts, dreamed of being told, "one day, you will become a great Ranger," or, "you have the second sight. Seek out those who can instruct you in the Mystic arts," or even, "yours is the high and lonely road of the Cavalier." The pilgrimage was a pivotal point in all our lives; most of us lost our entire families forever, since few can ever come home again. Many of us were robbed, beaten, wounded, and otherwise traumatized on our way to Tir (robbing young pilgrims is big business for a lot of brigands). And most of us had our dream of being told we had Triad potential shattered once we actually reached the Temple and spoke with the clerics there.
Time and experience tempered that dream for many of us, let us go on and make lives in other walks of life, but the child within, who longs for heroes and adventure, still remembers.
What is a Triad?
Simply put, a Triad is a team of three people who are hand-picked to serve a specific Fey Faction. The creation of a Triad is the province
of the Greater Fey. There are many Factions among the Fey, but there can be only one active Triad per Faction at a time. These agents serve their
Often, the quests of a Triad will benefit all, but this is not always the case. We cannot know the deeper purposes of the Fey, and while it is true that many of the Greater Fey care deeply for their human charges and use their Triads for the mutual benefit of Mankind and Fey, it is equally true that there are Fey who will use their Triads solely for their own amusement or to further their own hidden agenda. At other times, Patrons will send their Triad to interfere with the quests of Triads that serve rival Factions, sometimes resulting in the destruction of members of one, both – and, in extreme cases, all -- of the Triad members. In a sense, the members of a Triad are the patron Fey’s own private gladiators. They live and die at a whim. And the act of having been Chosen renders them sterile, barren, insuring that their loyalty remains forever undivided.
To be chosen
Once Chosen, a Triad member’s life belongs to his or her patron Fey. Triad service is almost always brief and fatal, but since the Fey only
choose those already "as good as dead" -- whether from wounds or because they are in a situation where death is the certain outcome -- it is considered
the greatest honor, a desperately hoped-for chance to die gloriously and have one’s name remembered in song and story for all time. To be chosen for a
Triad means you are about to become a legendary figure, if you live long enough. Ordinary people are not chosen for Triads.
This theme pervades our art and culture. For instance, there is a famous painting in the Triumphant's hall in Drachenfel that depicts a mysterious figure roaming a battlefield, searching among the dying for three people worthy of saving in order to serve. It’s based on an old, historically inaccurate but very popular poem about an early Red Triad (which also spawned several popular songs, but we won’t go into that). Phrases like, "chasing the pipes" or "following the music," which are now used to mean pursuing your dreams or goals, originated from one of the legendary ways in which Triads are chosen.
The Fey may make their selections from among all appropriate humans and their derivative races, but they will always choose only one each of the available Cavaliers, Rangers, and Mystics.
The Cavalier is the heavily armored warrior/knight. Usually the leader of a Triad, he or she is, ideally, the embodiment of chivalry. The
Cavalier’s honor rests in his or her sword, and the loss of that sword is a grave affront. To the Cavalier, honor is all that is important, to the point
that life without honor is not worth living. It is the Cavalier who makes the most sincere and committed effort to live up to, and by, the Code of Ohma.
To a Cavalier, it is much the same as a religious calling, the seeking of individual perfection. Cavaliers are neither monks nor hermits, but they have
much the same dedication to their calling.
To best understand the Cavalier, try to imagine the Codes of Chivalry, the Code of Bushido, and the mores of Victorian gentlemen all combined with the ways and honorable beliefs of the Sioux warrior. If that boggles the imagination, combine it with the fact that not all Cavaliers are men and not all armored men and women are Cavaliers, and you can understand why following the Code of Ohma can be a tricky and uncertain endeavor, and why the life of a Cavalier is a difficult one. To the Cavalier, however, it is all part of the challenge.
The Cavalier is usually well-armed and armored, and generally is either from a well-to-do family or came to Tir na n’Og as a knight errant. This is because only the wealthy can afford to provide their offspring with the quality of weapons, armor, and training that meet the impossibly high standards to which all Cavaliers aspire.
Just as the sword symbolizes the Cavalier, so the bow symbolizes the Ranger. Though not all Rangers are archers, most are skilled in the
use of distance weapons of some sort. They are the woodsmen, the hunters, or the street-wise infighters who have learned to survive by their wits. It
generally falls upon the Ranger to provide for his or her Triad as they travel on their quests. Those who seek to become Rangers spend long hours
practicing a wide range of skills.
The Ranger is a bit more pragmatic than the Cavalier, and is more likely to be from a lower station in life. Though they are sometimes nearly as dedicated to the Codes and the quest for personal perfection as any Cavalier, they are unlikely to have had the benefits of upbringing and education to assist them, and have learned to adapt to a different mode of life. This doesn’t mean that every Ranger is automatically a liar, thief, and sneak, either, but one should not dismiss the possibility.
These hardy souls come from many walks of life, and often have an actual trade as well as their skills with bow or sling. Some Rangers have even been raised on the streets, where they developed certain abilities useful in acquiring items for their Triads. The smart ones quickly learn to take care that these extra talents are not noticed by the honorable Cavaliers.
The Mystic’s symbol is the staff. It is also the Mystic’s usual choice of weapon. There are several reasons for this, but the best reason
is that most of a Mystic’s powers are channeled through their hands, which makes picking up a weapon that takes a lot of attention or manipulation a
foolish thing to do. Staves are effective where magic is inappropriate, easy to discard, and easily replaced. And most Mystics can channel Ki through
wood quite easily.
The Mystic is one of the most powerful of all humans. At some point in the Mystic’s life, he or she must have become aware of the strange abilities that would manifest in their lives, and in attempting to understand these, discovered that there was much more to learn. Natural talent and an intrinsic insight into the workings of the universe are a lot more important than the number of years one has lived. The abilities of the Mystic are not truly "magic" in the same sense we use the word when referring to Fey abilities, but a combination of psychic abilities and alchemy. While an education in herbology and alchemy is usually acquired through apprenticing to another Mystic, the ability to channel the energy of the world is born within.
The average citizen has only the sketchiest idea of what Mystics are capable of; for this reason, Mystics are often treated with as much wariness as respect. Though their ability to heal is highly valued, their other abilities are often looked upon with a great deal of suspicion – particularly their telepathic abilities, such as the power of suggestion, or the ability to influence and even control the minds of others. Rumors of strange and frightening powers abound, and many of these have at least a kernel of truth. Most people believe that a Mystic can tell when someone is lying to them, and that Mystics can enter the dreams of ordinary men and women and possess them. And anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of a Ki-bolt knows how effective and unpleasant a weapon that is.
Mystics come from all walks of life and all levels of society. They may have been born to wealth and influence, or in the gutter. It matters little; the talent born inside them drives them to develop along certain paths. While not everyone with the "second sight" can become a true Mystic, no amount of desire or study will make up for the lack of it. Many Mystics have tried to guide their own studies in harmony with the Code of Ohma, and take the Code as seriously as any Cavalier. Others have taken the more pragmatic approach adopted by the Ranger, and as a result, have learned some of the same skills.
The mark of the Triad is created by the touch of the first Fey who chooses you; three fingertips set against your brow, resulting in three dots in
the shape of a triangle. This mark changes over time, depending on the length of service and number of Triads in which you’ve served. It has happened
that a Triad member is chosen by one Faction, then given to another before he or she has had a chance to serve, or has even met the rest of their Triad.
In this case, the three dots mysteriously change color to indicate the new alignment.
If you survive to be Chosen for a second Triad, lines appear, connecting the three dots, in the color of your second patron Faction. Next, the resulting triangle is filled with a color. Then a circle forms around the triangle. Lastly, the circle is filled in to become a mark of one solid color. In some cases, the mark is then replaced by a stone of power (when in doubt, this is how you may recognize many of the Ironlords).
Astute observers of Fey lore may wonder why there seem to be only five steps in the evolution of a Triad member. There is some evidence that would lead us to believe that there are, in fact, other steps, but that they leave no visible mark. These "invisible" or "alternate" steps seem to be quite arbitrary; that is, they vary from case to case and are entirely up to the patron Fey. There is, therefore, no point in attempting to document them.
A Broken Triad
You can imagine the wonderful tragic themes that go along with Triad stories; how brief, yet bright the flame of those chosen, saved to
soar, like the phoenix, for one last, glorious flight, etc. Much is also made of the heightened camaraderie of a Triad, how the members form a bond more
powerful than blood between them. Triads who have served together for many years not only learn one another’s skills, they can develop telepathic links,
take on one another’s knowledge, even memories. The longer a Triad works together, the more bonded to each other they become.
A Triad that has lost a member is referred to as a Broken Triad. The Fey may sometimes create a Broken Triad themselves, either by releasing the Triad from service, or by deciding to place the members in other Triads. The most common cause of a Broken Triad, however, is death. It may be argued with some legitimacy that those born Outside of Tir na n’Og have a better chance of surviving Triads, not only because they are more likely to possess steel, but because they did not grow up with a tradition of the certainty of death in Triad service.
Needless to say, the death of a member is more devastating than most of us can imagine. If a Triad member dies, his or her comrades may be chosen to serve in another Triad, sometimes of another color. Or only one may be chosen, the other discarded and left to fade into obscurity. How shattering, to be alone after sharing such a bond! How shaming, after such splendor! Better by far to die wrapped in a shining mantle of fame and glory!
Replacements & Survivors
Sometimes the Triad’s patron Fey hastily supplies a replacement for the lost member. At other times, the survivors may be joined to the
remains of a second Triad under a new Patron. A common theme in popular mythology is that of the Triad who has lost a member, been sent an immediate
replacement, and has a difficult time adjusting to the change. The closer the Triad was before being broken, the harder it is for the surviving members
to tolerate having a stranger thrust into their midst. The new member faces his or her own problems; it is a heart-breaking task to try and live up to
the legacy left by the departed, well-loved member one is replacing.
More tragic still is the Triad member who is the lone survivor of his or her Triad. These people, unless they are again Chosen and placed in a new Triad, often behave as though they have lost their reason for living. Many throw their lives away in suicidal quests or turn to drink, or other distractions, until a welcome death frees them. Though still bearing the mark of the Chosen, and therefore still revered by the rest of humanity, they are often apathetic or even dangerously unstable, living only for the hope of being called once again to serve the Fey in some capacity or another. Others lose their sanity and may become so dangerous to society that a Triad may be sent to hunt them down and kill them.
Of course, every once in a while, a Triad member actually survives service and achieves all levels of his or her evolution. Of these, the merest handful – those strong enough, clever enough, valiant enough – are spirited away into the Mists, to the homes of the greatest of the Greater Fey – some say to the realm of the Powers Themselves. There they are tutored in the great mysteries, given secrets, knowledge, and abilities that no other human ever learns. When they emerge, they are no longer quite human. Although the marks on their foreheads retain the color of the last Triad in which they served (most often replaced by a colored, oval stone of power), no longer do they serve any one Fey Faction, but the Land as a whole. They have been forged into weapons of great power with but one purpose. It is a purpose we ordinary folk can’t guess, and couldn’t really understand even if we knew. They have become Ironlords.
Ironlords & Triumphants
An Ironlord is a legendary, almost mythic, hero. Wherever they go, they are given the respect due their status (think "avatar" and you’re getting close). There is no higher honor to be accorded a human, and there are no humans more worthy of the honor than those who achieve it.
Whole Triads who survive service (they are rare, but it does happen) and achieve the status of Ironlord are called a Triumphant. The Triumphants are given stewardship of the city-states, sitting on a triune throne at the heart of each city proper. Though they usually assign underlings to take care of the day-to-day politics of a city and its management, they can and do enforce the Codes of Ohma and make other decisions that affect the way their human subjects interact with the land and the other city-states.
How the Powers decide which Triumphant will govern which city-state is not known, and the Triumphants do not discuss it. One would assume, for instance, that a Red Triumphant would be chosen to sit on the triune throne of Yasenovo, while a Blue Triumphant would rule Anagni – but this is not always the case. Some of the choices may seem peculiar to us, but over all it seems to have worked out for the best. The Triumphants rarely leave their capitals, and are no longer considered an active Triad. But the powers of an Ironlord are theirs to command, and this must not be forgotten.
Most Ironlords, however, are solitary wanderers, appearing unexpectedly and moving on when their mysterious tasks are complete. It is a rare thing to have met an Ironlord, a memory to be treasured by those of us who do.
And yet, there are Ironlords who are as feared as they are respected. After all, they serve the Land, and the interests of the Land may not always coincide with that of mere mortals. Some Ironlords take a less benign view of this service than others, and over time, their reputations have grown and darkened. We are, of course, not naming names. That would be very bad luck.