This is an order of fighting priests, 'religious knights', consisting of masters in the Guild of Anshen. The main objective of the Order is to protect anyone who needs it against attacks of the Nameless and his servants. It is the official religious body associated with Anshen and maintains a temple in each of its strongholds, where most services are open to all.
The Order of the Sworn has a lot of leeway in 'occult law enforcement'. The misuse of semsin (any case in which psychic force is used to do harm to someone) is not punishable by civil justice, so whenever it's suspected the Order of the Sworn is told so they can investigate the case themselves or have a runner (who may or may not be a member) investigate it and deal with the consequences. The Commander of the Order has the authority of a bailiff in matters of semsin, including the right to punish or even, if necessary, execute proven criminals.
In Ildis the same authority used to rest with the Royal Guards, the equivalent order of the Guild of the Nameless. Queen Alyse always resented this, but was unable to take any measures against it; after an abortive attempt by Rhanion, a grand master in the Guild of the Nameless, to seize the throne, and a battle at Glan near Ildis (late 525), the Royal Guards (who were mixed up in the uprising) were crippled so much that it almost amounted to being disbanded. The commander of the Order was killed in that battle and succeeded by Lyse, a grand master but only in her late teens.
In 549, the Keep in Valdis, the main seat of the Order of the Sworn, has about 30 masters and about a dozen journeymen. Lyse has grown into her role admirably. At the Keep and the other houses there are classes in swordfighting and archery that anyone can join. Since the time of King Vegelin the Great, the weapons master at court has always been one of the Sworn.
The Order was founded in its present form in 322 by the weapons-master of King Meruvin I, Lochan; it is likely that the organization existed long before that.
The original stronghold was built on a strategic spot south of Valdis, later incorporated in the city's second wall. The Keep of Anshen is an eight-sided walled mound surrounded by a moat, now part of the moat around the town. In the centre is an eight-sided temple where daily services and major rituals (such as the swearing-in of new members) are held, surrounded by living quarters, a training hall, utility buildings and a smaller, round temple for occasional workings.
As the Order grew out of the original fort a plot of land was acquired just outside the city walls. Here are the stables, and it's used for anything involving horses and for archery training.
In the fourth century (under Vegelin the Great) a second house was founded in Essle: at first a small number of Sworn in an ordinary house, later a smaller version of the Keep, with a single eight-sided temple, was built on an island of its own near the market quarter. In the middle of the sixth century about 20 masters and 10 journeymen live there.
In the fifth century the Order founded a second daughter-house in Rychie Veray where the Nameless was strong, and in the early sixth century one in Ildis as well. Houses in Rizenay and Lenay, other strongholds of the enemy, are under consideration.
The commander is the head of a Keep or Order house. This should ideally be a grand master, and according to strict rules the commander of Valdis must be a grand master because he or she is the head of the whole Order, but if there's no grand master available a strong and capable master is chosen "to hold the fort" rather than coping with a vacancy. Within the Keep there is a nominal hierarchy of seniority, but in practice relations are generally informal, unless the commander is rigid in outlook.
Additionally, when the Order house is large enough, a council of five masters is chosen to assist and advise the commander, and the commander should have four rhesin ('trusted ones') of his/her own, ideally a grand master outside the Order, the oldest (in years or seniority) member of the Order, the commander's most likely successor (who may still be a journeyman) and someone inside or outside the Order of the commander's own choosing, whose only requirement is to be semte. Obviously, it's sometimes impossible for all of these criteria to be met, and the commander's choice is usually adhered to. Rhesin from the Order can be council members, and in fact usually are if they're masters.
A commander is chosen by all masters of his/her Keep and stays in office until he/she dies, resigns because of illness or old age, or is deposed. The commander in Valdis can only be deposed by the council unanimously; in one of the other Houses also by the Valdis commander. In Valdis this has never happened yet. In Essle it happened once, within ten years of the founding of the house there, when the commander refused to swear in a journeyman on the grounds that she was too unstable; on investigation it turned out that he was afraid of her potential, which was much greater than his. A deposed commander has the choice of leaving the Order or staying as an ordinary member, losing the right to be elected on the council, but not the right to vote at meetings.
The Sworn of Anshen hold to a very strict code:
Recruits usually join the Order as journeymen, in their mid- to late teens. Journeymen are subservient to masters and have no right to vote at council meetings; however, they can sit in and speak their mind.
The youngest person ever admitted to the Order as a journeyman was not quite thirteen: Arnei Vauri, a silversmith's daughter from Ildis. She was Queen Mialle's children's sword instructor even before she was a master, was sworn in at 17, and became the Order's youngest-ever commander at 29.
New recruits present themselves to the commander. They can be brought in by established members or apply of their own accord, usually after taking weapons training or semsin lessons at the Keep. If the commander agrees to take the applicant on, a small semi-formal ceremony is held on the next Day of Anshen.
When a journeyman completes his training he is sworn in as a full member of the Order. This is usually timed to coincide with the master's trial. In fact the master's trial is supposed to be elicited by the swearing-in ritual, though it's not always possible to 'hold back' a journeyman if a trial is imminent before his training is complete.
The swearing-in ceremony takes place on the Day of Anshen, and only people who have been through it know what exactly happens. The journeymen guard the outside of the temple while the swearing-in is in progress and the masters seal it from the inside. At the end of the ceremony the new master opens the seal and comes out exhausted and triumphant, newly invested with uniform, weapons and armor, and with the sign of Anshen (a winged flame) tattooed on the sword arm, just below the shoulder.
Some people don't join the Order until they're masters, mostly in their twenties, and get a 'crash course' before they're sworn in. It is very unusual, but not completely unheard of, for established (older) masters to join the Order. Vauri offered it to King Vegelin the Great at his abdication after the duel with his sister-in-law Lyase (to fulfill his boyhood ambition: he had just joined the Order as a journeyman when he unexpectedly came in line for the throne) but he declined on the grounds that the duel had probably weakened his anie so much that the swearing-in would kill him. He became the Order's sword-master in Essle and spent the rest of his life there.