About sixty years after the Long Night ended, Laran Tari – a Human weaponsmith – had to witness his wife and two children being dragged away by creatures he couldn’t believe existed outside of one’s worst nightmares. Full of desperation, he seeked out a nearby outpost of the Order of Power and begged the mages to help him; but while they all showed their honest sympathy for Laran’s pain, their codex prohibited them from leaving their post. The image of elite shock troops, venturing into the most dangerous and deadly territories, was deeply ingrained into the traditions of the Order. Whatever found it’s way beyond the borders and into the civilized realms was for others to take care of.
Laran – unwilling to give up – hired a group of experienced mercenaries and tried to follow the few leads they discovered. Taking heavy losses on their way, the small army eventually managed to track down the creatures that had captured Laran’s family; but what looked like victory at first, quickly turned into the biggest defeat in Laran’s life. Kneeling in front of the mangled bodies, barely recognizable as his wife and children, the once kindhearted husband and father lost a part of himself; revenge became the only thing left on his mind.
Without any real mourning, Laran threw himself at his work and founded an organization he named Essence Hunters; their headquarters, a fortified and secluded fortress on Durania. For almost a decade, Laran desperately searched for ways to get closer to his goal: The total annihilation of any corrupted creature that dared to cross his paths. Without a second thought, he experimented on anything captured – alive or dead – and delved into the mystical arts of alchemy; until one day, he found what he had been looking for.
During his studies, Laran discovered that there were differences in regards to the degree of corruption in individual creatures. While all creatures in existence, vicious or not, were somehow tied to the essences, only some were actually possessed; a stream of power flowing through them. These corrupted specimens he named Spawns, and he categorized them into Lower, Common and Higher Spawns. Laran discovered that it was possible to unlock some kind of sixth sense by consuming the heart of a lower spawn, and if combined with a special elixir that he had developed, it was possible to make the effect permanent.
To this day, this ability allows an Essence Hunter to sense nearby creatures; providing not only an advantage in tracking certain monsters but also in preventing ambushes or other unwanted encounters. Even more so, it becomes possible – at close range – to clearly sense the degree of a creature’s corruption and categorize it accordingly.
The intensity of these abilities is different from person to person, and repeating consumption of hearts corrupted by the same essence has no effect; only the first heart of a new essence provides its affinity, allowing individual essence hunters to expand their abilities to all four rampaging essences: Darkness, Light, Matter and Mind; if the essence hunter survives that is.
In order to bond with an essence in this way, essence hunters have to complete the Ritual of Spawns. Without such a ritual, it is forbidden to consume the heart of any spawn due to the risk of corruption or even instant death. For the first two bonds that an essence hunter strikes, it is enough to consume the heart of a lower spawn, whereas a third affinity – drastically increasing the risks during the ritual – demands the heart of at least a common spawn. Only few in numbers, Master Essence Hunters are individuals who not only survived the deadly dangers of a fourth ritual but also the horrors of trying to find and slay a higher spawn in the first place.
Today, the Essence Hunters are split across four fortresses on Durania, Limera, Khorgram and Manadia; all of them erected before their founder, Laran Tari, died in the year of 99 ALN in the fight against a higher spawn of darkness. Every bastion focuses largely on one particular essence and the Ritual of Spawns has to be performed within the borders of the associated bastion.
Members of the Essence Hunters can be categorized into five groups: Novices, Hunters, Masters, Scholars and Commanders; the latter being reputable Masters that have been entrusted for life with the leadership of a particular bastion. Their opinion is highly regarded by any member of the organization, and it is up to the commander of a bastion to cast the final vote in case of a tie during one of the rare Gatherings of Masters.
Scholars hold a special role in the organization by safeguarding the secrets of Laran Tari himself; only passed down to few individuals at a time. No bastion has ever more than two scholars at a time, and only during a Gathering of Masters can a bastion promote someone new into the ranks of a scholar.
Masters are essence hunters who survived the brutality of undergoing four rituals and as such have acquired an affinity with all four essences. Only these members are allowed to recruit new novices and train them until they are released into the rank of a Hunter.
In the times of Laran Tari, he mainly recruited adults in order to strengthen his following, but nowadays it’s almost always children or youths that are brought in as novices. Not only is it easier to form them in the image of the Essence Hunters, the intensity of the affinity that is acquired during a Ritual of Spawns seems to be more distinct as well at a young age…