|Leader||Warden Rogard Hammerfell|
|Headquarters||Duskwarden Guildhouse, Kaer Maga, Varisia|
|Goals||Defend Kaer Maga from underground horrors|
|Images of Duskwardens|
Source: City of Strangers, pg(s). 44
The Duskwardens are a group of urban rangers and warriors charged with keeping the Varisian city of Kaer Maga safe from the subterranean menaces beneath its surface. They also guide travelers along the Halflight Path, one of the few routes into the city.
Beneath the streets of Kaer Maga lies the Undercity, a huge complex of natural and artificial tunnels extending deep into the Storval Rise (and perhaps further), and although the locals may use a few levels nearest the surface for storage or shelter, most of it has never been charted. Everyone in Kaer Maga maintains a healthy fear of the deeper levels, for they know that those who travel too often or too far beneath the surface return with tales of unspeakable horror—if they return at all.
From the earliest days of the city, its residents were under continual threat from the incursions of subterranean creatures that would occasionally make their way to the surface, and inadequately protected by volunteer militia. Eventually, the city's residents decided that a small, specialized group could protect the city more effectively, and the first Duskwardens were commissioned. In the first years after their formation, the Duskwardens aggressively sought out and sealed as many entrances to the deeper levels as they could find, although they left a few select, easily-patrolled entrances accessible.
Over the centuries that followed, the Duskwardens have patrolled the highest levels of the Undercity, maintaining the seals that prevent further attack from below and dispatching any creatures that manage to break through. So successful have they been in their mission that most residents of Kaer Maga are able to live their entire lives without ever encountering the denizens of the deeper Undercity.
Duties and responsibilities
The Duskwardens' primary mission is the defense of the city from what lies beneath its streets; all other duties are secondary. However, the Duskwardens have also taken on the mission of exploring and mapping the Undercity, in furtherance of its mission to prevent further incursion from below. The extensive collection of maps, charts, and diagrams created by generations of exploring Duskwardens is kept in the famous Map Room of the Duskwarden Guildhouse in Bis. Yet while these accumulated records offer the most complete guide to the Undercity available anywhere, even the Duskwardens must admit that they have explored only a tiny fraction of the subterranean complex.
The Duskwardens are also authorized to execute those caught committing serious crimes—no one is imprisoned for crime in Kaer Maga.
The Halflight Path
The Duskwardens' mission to protect Kaer Maga extends also to the Halflight Path, a complex of tunnels and dungeons leading up from the Twisted Door at the foot of the Storval Rise to the city at the top. While it is not the most frequently-used method of reaching the city, it is for several reasons the most cost-efficient, and therefore vital to the city's trade. The Duskwardens serve as both guides and guardians to travelers using the Halflight Path.
Travelers and traders seeking to ascend the Path gather at the Twisted Door to await their escorts. At dawn each morning, the door opens and a contingent of about a dozen Duskwardens take charge of the accumulated travelers. Once travelers have paid the Duskwardens the fee for passage, they are organized into small groups, each group entering the Path with its escort at staggered intervals, so as to provide the Duskwardens with easier control of the group (and room to fight if attacked) and to prevent a large group from becoming a tempting target.
The trip up the Path ordinarily takes a caravan about eight hours. While most of the Path is subterranean, occasionally the Path emerges onto goatpaths along the cliff face. The Duskwardens also provide travelers with pendants that provide light in the darkness of the tunnel complex, collecting these again when the caravans reach the stone-walled corral at the top of the Path, only a few yards from the city walls.
Duskwardens are easily recognizable by their distinctive brown and gray uniforms, the right breast of which bears a badge with a golden arch (representing the Twisted Door) on a midnight blue background.
Because they are charged with defending the entire city, rather than one of the city's de facto governing factions, the Duskwardens are one of a very few city functions that receive financial support from the city as a whole. Yet, Kaer Maga's lack of central government—and the fierce independence of its residents—makes traditional taxation for the support of the Duskwardens impractical. Therefore, the custom has evolved in Kaer Maga that no reasonable request by a Duskwarden is ever refused. The Duskwardens are therefore treated as honored guests in virtually any business establishment in the city, and any tradesman, tavern, grocer, or escort risks ostracism and reputational harm should it become known they have turned away a Duskwarden for lack of payment. While this treatment in no way allows a Duskwarden to become wealthy, their basic needs are guaranteed; in return, every Duskwarden puts his duty to the guild and the city above any other interest, even to his own family.
The Duskwardens' only real source of monetary income is the fees the guild collects for guiding travelers and traders up the Halflight Path. While accounts differ on the reasonableness of the passage fees they charge—from "modest" to "hefty", depending on the opinion of the person so charged—the business of guiding and guarding travelers up the Path allows the Duskwardens to provide for their families and to purchase any equipment or armament not provided gratis by the merchants of the city.
The current leader of the Duskwardens is a grizzled old dwarf called Rogard Hammerfell, with a well-deserved reputation as a demanding but selfless leader, and who serves as a hands-on instructor for recruits, passing along his vast knowledge and experience despite his age.
Recruiting and training
Although the Duskwardens' numbers are small, the rigors of their duties mean that the guild is usually recruiting. Most members are urban rangers, who possess the combat and survival skills most desirable in a potential Duskwarden.
Applicants' abilities and strength of body and mind are rigorously tested in a variety of situations. In the final test, applicants who have endured each of the prior ordeals are subjected to a simulated cave-in and forced to free themselves without light or tools. Only those who succeed while retaining their composure are accepted into membership—and into the guild's extensive training program, every bit as rigorous as the testing that came before.
The headquarters of the organization is the Duskwarden Guildhouse, in Bis, including its famous Map Room.
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