The Order of the Talon, in one form or another, has existed for over 800 years. Over the many centuries of its existence, it has gone from a relatively innocuous order of knights to the powerful, secretive conspiracy it has become today, and over that time, it has evolved a highly complex organisational structure that governs the various orders, chambers, sub-orders and other denominations of the Order of the Talon, and guides the entire organisation in its unending crusade against the Cult of the Black Hand.
Chambers of the OrderEdit
Although united under one coat of arms, the Order of the Talon is divided into several Chambers: separate organisations within the Order with specific responsibilities and duties, collectively unified by the special Chamber Paramount: the Triumvirate, Grand Council, and the associated bureaucracy. The average member of a given Chamber is largely or completely unaware of the existence of other Chambers, with some obvious exceptions such as the smiths and shipwrights. The Order of the Talon thus consists of the Chambers Militant, Auxiliary, Vigilant, Epistolary, and Paramount.
The Chamber Militant Edit
"Where there is chaos, there is iron. Where there is corruption, there is fire. Where there is despair, there is faith. Where there is evil, there is the Chamber Militant."
- - Lady Maria, address to the Grand Council
Leader: Lady Maria
Traditionally the one of the largest Chambers in population but least in political significance is the Chamber Militant, the actual combat arm of the Talon. Here are the people and equipment representing the Talon on the field of battle against the Cult and any other force the Triumvirate deems necessary, most notably the Crawler Cells and their Crusader leaders. Until recently, the Chamber Militant has played little role in Talon politics, with direct combat playing second fiddle to the manipulation and conspiracy favoured by the Chambers Epistolary and Unseen. However, with the rise of Lady Maria and a growing fire in the Talon's youngest generation of recruits to take the fight directly to the enemy and leave behind the Talon's traditional secrecy, the Chamber Militant has begun to flex a great deal of political muscle and ambition, to the displeasure of the other sects. The Chamber Militant skews towards the younger members of the Order, and the most fanatical. Only time will tell how this brewing storm will fare.
The Chamber Auxiliary Edit
"The righteous need not cower before the drumbeat of human progress. Though the song of yesterday fades into the challenge of tomorrow, God still watches and judges us. Evil lurks in the etheric waves as it lurked in the streets of yesteryear. But it was never the streets that were evil."
- - Sister Miriam Godwinson, graduation address to 1968 class of Alchemists
Role: Support, Logistics
Leader: Erik Svensgaard, Master of the Forges
If the Chamber Militant is the mailed fist of the Talon, then the Chamber Auxiliary is the arm and body behind that fist. The Auxiliaries consist of the men (and women - the Chamber Auxiliary includes more of the Order's female recruits than any other chamber) who man the Order's secret bases, forge the Order's weapons and vehicles, tend to the wounded, maintain the archives, and virtually every other task not handled by a specific other chamber. As a result, the Chamber Auxiliary is both the largest chamber in the entire Order and the most diverse - within this chamber's ranks can be found the famed smiths and forgemasters of the Order, as well as doctors, librarians, computing specialists, secretaries, engineers, and even the yeomen of the Order, who fill menial positions not considered worthy of full Order members to devote their time to but necessary all the same, such as the chefs for the Talon base mess halls and janitors. The Chamber Auxiliary has a great deal of political power within the Order when it chooses to exercise it, but prefers to avoid doing so and is currently neutral in the Talon's internal controversy.
The Chamber Vigilant Edit
"Ask not for whom they seek, lest it be thyself."
- - Proverb in the Order, regarding the Inquisition
Role: The Inquisition
Leader: Grand Inquisitor Guiseppe Margottini
The Inquisition. The name alone is an apt description of the Chamber Vigilant's function, and the names are used interchangeably within the Order. As one might expect, the Inquisition not only wields tremendous influence within the Order, it is the most straight-laced and conservative faction as well. Its duties are, theoretically, simple: they are the Talon's internal police force, investigating wrongdoings within the Order and punishing the offenders if such wrongdoings are true, and interrogating prisoners that the Order captures. In practice, the Inquisition are also highly influential in determining when a given member is ready to be initiated into the next Circle, and evaluating what individuals are ready to move on to important positions, especially those granting a degree of independence like becoming a Crusader in command of a Crawler cell. The Inquisition is stiff-necked to an extreme, and is the only chamber of the Order that has yet to admit any female recruits - the Inquisition is unhappy with the admission of women in general to the Order, unabashedly sexist and openly concerned that admitting women to the Order places the Talon's future in jeopardy. They grudgingly tolerate Lady Maria, but even then tend to oppose her initiatives and the Chamber Militant's moves for more direct courses of action.
The Chamber Epistolary Edit
"In umbrum, lux"
- - "In shadows, light" - graffiti on many buildings in the Vatican City
Role: Sabotage, Covert Operations, Evangelism
Leader: High Apostle Bronislaw Kaczmarek
The most euphemistically named faction of the Order is also the most divergent from its original inception. Originally created as a branch of the Talon dedicated to converting heathens in the Order's path and covertly spreading the Catholic faith wherever the Order operated, the Chamber Epistolary quickly evolved into an altogether more sinister organisation. In short, the Chamber Epistolary, while on the surface claiming to be precisely what it was founded to be - and indeed the Chamber Epistolary has enjoyed remarkable successes inspiring religious revivals and reawakening of faith in Australia and South America - is also the hidden knife of the Talon. Put simply, the main activities of the Chamber Epistolary are assassination and sabotage. Operatives of the Chamber Epistolary have worked within the Allied military-industrial complex in general and FutureTech Corporation in particular to name only one area of the Talon's covert interest, and it is to the Chamber Epistolary that the Rogues report. What the Epistolary has done over the centuries is a closely guarded secret among the highest echelons of the Order, but one might suspect that they have enjoyed a decent rate of success, as it is primarily on their shoulders that the Talon's shadowy work rests. This may be shifting to the Chamber Militant now, but what will come of this shift remains to be seen.
The Chamber Unseen Edit
"The dagger unseen. The eye unsleeping."
- - Inscription of unknown origin on the United States Capitol Building
Leader: Karl Fischer, Master of Shadows
The Talon's influence reaches far beyond its covert bases across the world, and much of this influence is the result and responsibility of the Chamber Unseen. Except for the very highest levels of the faction's leadership, the Unseen are true to their name and won't be found in Talon bases, wearing Talon insignia, or otherwise seem unusual to the wider world at all. Plainly speaking, the Chamber Unseen are the Order's spies, living anonymous civilian lives in the Allied Nations, the Soviet Union, the Empire of the Rising Sun, and a few even survive in the Atomic Kingdom of China and inside the hellish Sprawls. Many of these spies never learn the true scope or nature of their covert employer, and more than a few Initiates of the First Circle earned their status by unwittingly sharing useful information with an Unseen priest at confession. Like the Chamber Auxiliary, the Unseen have, potentially, a great deal of political capital, but seldom use it and are currently neutral in the brewing internal conflict.
The Chamber ParamountEdit
Leader: The Holy Triumvirate
After the Talon's break with Rome, there was a period of uncertainty and infighting within the Order. All wanted to destroy the Cult, and put a stop to their inscrutable plans, but there was disagreement as to how to proceed. Some thought the Order should lay low, and bide their time, others suggested an all out effort, and an open crusade against their unholy foe. Eventually, a new power structure stabilised, one that has proven reasonably effective at keeping the Order's wheels turning. The highest level of this structure is the Chamber Paramount. Out of all the Chambers, the Chamber Paramount is the smallest in terms of population, but the strongest in terms of influence. It is composed of only eighteen members; the enigmatic Triumvirate, the highest authority in the entire Order, save the Pope (if only in theory), and the Grand Council, a group of fifteen men (and more recently, women) whose ranks are drawn from the other five Chambers, and which handles the day-to-day decision making within the Order.
Other Denominations of the Order Edit
Over the centuries, the Order of the Talon has integrated a number of other groups that have accepted the Order's mission and operate as part of the organisation.
Order of the Temple Edit
The Order of the Temple, more commonly known as the Knights Templar, is an order of knights which has existed for nearly the same time as Order of the Talon. The Order of the Talon was founded right before the First Crusade, and Templars were founded after the crusade, just around twenty years later. Two French knights, Hugues de Payens and Godfrey de Saint-Omer, along with seven other knights, founded the Order of the Temple in order to defend the pilgrims against bandit raids. The headquarters of the Templars became the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and its emblem was of two knights riding on a single horse, in order to emphasize the Templar's poverty. As time went on, the Templars gained power and members, calling this period the "Rise of the Order". With the failure of the Second Crusade, the Templars left the Holy Land, moving to Europe. With this, the original goal of the Templars, protection of the pilgrims, totally disappeared and Templars became a multi-national army, answering only to the Pope. During the subsequent crusades, the Templars became so-called "bankers", trading with the Holy Land, which contributed vastly to their treasury.
In 14th century the tension against the Templars increased greatly and the greatest adversary of the Templars, Philip IV the Fair, wanted the Templar's immense wealth. He persuaded Pope Clement V to stop the Templars once and for all. In Friday, October 13, 1307, thousands of Templars all around the Europe were arrested and burned, along with the Grand Master of the Templars, Jacques de Molay. The wealth of the Templars was stripped away by Philip IV and other monarchs. From this event, the world received the term "Friday the 13th". Unbeknownst to the world, however, the Templar had in fact survived, assisted by the Order of the Talon, who had helped them to fake their apparent destruction, and take subsequent revenge on King Philip and Pope Clement. Following this, the Templars joined the Talon and their cause, the Templars' manpower and what they could recover of their treasury added to the Talon's own.
In the Order, the Templars again started growing in size and power, still serving the Order. By the 20th century, they provided a good portion of the Order's military, making up the majority of the Crusaders.
With the prophecy of Lord Marshall Eli Constantine, the Templars set their sights on yet another goal, and it was to find and protect the reincarnation of Joan of Arc. And it was a Templar who found the girl who would become Lady Maria and brought her back to the Order. The Templars became her personal guardians, and when Maria started gathering sympathizers, half of the Templars, along with Grand Master Jean-Paul Boudreau, joined her. The Templars still serve the Order, but to them Lady Maria’s authority overrides that of the Grand Circle or even the Triumvirate.
The Templars are led by the Grand Master, who is considered to be the strongest and the wisest of the Templars. Under the Grand Master, there are a number of High Templars, commanders of the various divisions of the Templars. Only the Grand Master knows the true strength of the Templars. The training to become a Templar is harsh, and the process takes years. During their training, these Templars-to-be are called Squires, and each Squire is put under the care of a Templar, who is to mentor and guide him.
The Fellowship of Saint Thomas Edit
Role: Research, Technological Analysis
Leader: Dr. William G. Pollard
Originally a monastic order founded in the Holy Land during the Third Crusade, the Fellowship of Saint Thomas was absorbed by the Order of the Talon sometime between the Third and Fourth Crusades at the end of the twelfth century AD. At the time, the Fellowship of Saint Thomas was regarded as an extreme oddity in the Catholic Church - named after the Apostle famed for doubting the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Fellowship made a series of extensive studies on the Islamic and Judaic faiths, comparing them to the Catholic Church and vice versa in pursuit of ways by which the Church could more easily convert the other faiths. Although the Fellowship failed in their purpose, the order lives on as part of the Order of the Talon, albeit with a dramatically different purpose.
In the modern age, the Fellowship of Saint Thomas remains an anomaly, for it consists of some of the most highly educated men and women in the Order of the Talon, and more than one true scientific genius can be found within the Fellowship. Their mission is a unique one within the Order: where the Forgemasters continue to perfect age-old technology and anything more recent than the steam engine is regarded with automatic suspicion by the Order's leaders, the Fellowship of Saint Thomas studies the most advanced scientific and technological innovations of the Allied Nations, Soviet Union, Empire of the Rising Sun, Atomic Kingdom of China, and Mediterranean Syndicate. While many among the Fellowship do so out of genuine love of science and technology, their purpose is altogether more pragmatic: simply put, the Fellowship of Saint Thomas studies the most advanced technological developments to learn how to beat them.
Syndicate battlesuits, Imperial nanotechnology, Soviet magnetics, and Allied space flight... the science behind all these and much more besides is utterly lost on most in the Order. However, thanks to the scientists and engineers of the Fellowship of Saint Thomas, the soldiers of the Talon nevertheless know where to aim at a battlesuit, how to avoid a roving Soviet magnetic satellite, and most recently, how to call in orbital strikes from an Athena satellite overridden by the Fellowship. The Brothers and Sisters of Saint Thomas are, as one might expect, very few in number, but they are an elite - these men and women have tested captured Allied experimental vehicles firsthand, carefully studied the interactions between Soviet magnetics and Talon Steel, and have even quietly begun to launch a Talon space program. On a more practical note, it is mainly thanks to the Fellowship that Talon Craftsmen can capture and successfully control the advanced buildings of foreign powers - your average Talon technician would have trouble figuring out how to get a captured Imperial Construction Yard to produce a Nanocore, much less get that Nanocore to unpack into a desired structure and link it into the Talon command grid, if not for the Fellowship.
As a result, the Fellowship is held in generally high regard within the Order. By the nature of its personnel, the Fellowship is a consistent voice for modernization and efficiency within the Order but is typically - and loudly - overriden by the traditional Forgemasters of the Order.
Notable members of the Fellowship of Saint Thomas:
William G. Pollard - The current abbot of the Fellowship, William Pollard is an American-born theoretical physicist best known for his involvement in the ill-fated Manhattan Project and subsequent Allied experiments in atomic energy. While never as widely known as, say, Robert Oppenheimer, Pollard nevertheless commands considerable respect from the Allied scientific community... and from the Order of the Talon. Pollard is a true oddity within the Order - both an ordained priest and an expert scientist, as adept discussing theoretical particle physics and he is discussing theology. Pollard has been extremely active since the rise of the Atomic Kingdom of China, and coupled with the Order's intelligence network inside the Atomic Kingdom, he is thought to have a better understanding of atomic energy and the capabilities of China than any other man alive outside China.
Freeman Dyson - Widely considered to be the single greatest scientific mind in the Order and considered the most likely candidate to head the Fellowship when Pollard steps down, Dyson is a scientist of low profile outside the Fellowship of Saint Thomas despite a genuine gift for unraveling the mysteries of how the universe works. Within the Order, he is most notable as the Order's strongest proponent for developing a true space program - for the purposes of countering enemy orbital technologies and weapons if nothing else. Unlike many within the Fellowship, Dyson lives outside the Order proper as a knowledgeable but extremely obscure scientist in the Allied Nations. Incidentally, Dyson also keeps the Fellowship regularly updated with the latest news in Allied science.
John Eccles - An Australian neurophysiologist, John Eccles is highly respected in the Allied scientific community for his research into how the brain functions. He would be less respected if the more practical side of his research was widely known: Eccles' research has included detailed examination of Syndicate battlesuits and how Syndicate technology interacts with the brain, but contrary to what he has publicly stated, he began those lines of inquiry at the behest of the Fellowship of Saint Thomas, looking for ways to counter and perhaps "deprogram" Syndicate battlesuits. Eccles is not a particularly active member of the Fellowship, but that is with good reason - Eccles is perhaps the highest-profile scientist in the world who is secretly affiliated with the Talon.
Masoko Okamura - A junior member of the Fellowship, Okamura is one of the dedicated engineers (as opposed to the scientists) who has taken up the Fellowship's mantle. A naturally gifted and highly trained naval engineer from the Empire of the Rising Sun, Okamura holds the rank of Master Shipwright, focusing her efforts on improving Talon naval technology and dragging that aspect of the Order kicking and screaming into the twentieth century. Given her particular background, Okamura is also one of the first members of the Fellowship consulted when a new Imperial war machine is observed - one of her ongoing side projects is attempting to figure out how in God's name the Aerial Battleship Musashi can stay airborne without scorching the earth for miles around.