The Golden Wastes
The Brethren of the Black Shrine of Herusa, commonly known as the Sable Brotherhood, was founded centuries ago in order to protect the pilgrimage routes to the shrine of the noted arhat, St Herusa. Nowadays, it is best known for their great wealth. Although the Brotherhood retains its monastic heritage and military prowess, it is in actuality a powerful banking combine with many business interests.
Herusa was the most famous of the hermit monks who dwelled in the Golden Wastes in the early days of the First Dynasty. Herusa believed the solitude, austerity, and sacrifice of the desert was the best model for an ascetic life in order to duplicate the enlightenment of Cyrin the Great. Small groups went out into the desert in emulation of home, and later he was revealed to have been an arhat, and his tomb became a local shrine that attracted many pilgrims. As the First Dynasty collapsed and pilgrimage routes became endangered, groups of monks began patrolling the desert and escorting pilgrims. These groups became the founders of the Sable Brotherhood.
After forming a central military order, the Brotherhood realized that pilgrims carrying offerings to the shrine attracted bandits. So in lieu of them actually carrying their treasure, the Brotherhood offered to hold it for them while they visited the shrine. In return, the Brothers would provide provisions, shelter, and medical care. It was not long before similar services were offered to the many caravans heading to and from Velos. The next logical step was to provide actual banking services to merchants all across the Golden Wastes.
The peak of the Brotherhood was in the Third Dynasty when they had chapterhouses all across the Golden Wastes uniting the Askari Freeholds with the Empire, and having monks ever farther afield such as the cities of Shanta and Narnheim. However, as time went on and the Brotherhood became more corrupt, their presence shrank to Velos and the surrounding area.
Although fallen from their peak, the Sable Brotherhood remains one of the most powerful factions in the city of Velos, and thus the Golden Wastes. The Overlord can rely on their non-involvement in politics, and their forces are a vital keystone in the defense of the city. Relatively few brothers now maintain monastic vows. The majority are either businessmen or mercenaries.
The center of power of the Brotherhood is the Sable Citadel, a fortress of black stone that forms part of the outer wall of the city and the inner wall that separates the Overlord’s palace from the rest of the city. While Grandmaster Oresus leads the Brotherhood, its most famous member is the monk Tempus who still adheres to the original teachings and purpose of the Brotherhood.