There may come a time in one's life that it is necessary to seal a pact. Be it for overwhelming passion, foolish greed, bitter envy, or any other vice that might claim any man, these pacts are often disadvantageous to one party, yet will bind all mentioned until their contracts have been fulfilled. This is the simple matter of contracts: no matter the circumstances, or other law to the contrary, a contract (also known as a pact, agreement, bargain, bond, or any other synonym of these) must be fulfilled. Whilst the denizens of Axis and their fellows usually maintain the essence of Law itself, it is not uncommon for mortals and deities alike to seek out ways to break or twist their contracts. If left unchecked, this might force the hand of Law into potentially breaking its neutrality, or otherwise causing strife among the Outer Planes. This is an alluring prospect to the creatures of the Maelstrom, and as such, Axis has formed its own defences. But not all of their agents can act upon the mortal plane, and their travel between planes can catch unwanted attention from the agents of chaos, or from the very beings they intend on convening with. Those few mortals who dedicate themselves to serving law may thus be offered a life-changing chance to join the Arbiters. This elite position provides them the ability to act (as their name suggests) as arbiters in contracts, forming a neutral third-party that may be called upon to determine possible inequality - or to tip the scales, if need be. If any seek to break a contract, they may choose to plead their case to the Arbiters in hopes of finding some sort of loophole, or they may choose to attempt to break it in secret and pray that no Arbiter is called upon to find them. The cost of becoming an Arbiter is not low, however. In giving their life into the service, they must divest themselves of all bias. This process is encompassed in a ritual known as the Final Pact, of which no Arbiter is willing to speak - if they even can. It is known to be painful and risky, and those that emerge as Arbiters often seem vastly different. Little amuses them, and any vague sense of chaos - be it compassion, curiosity, or deviousness - has disappeared. Those who fail the ritual are usually given quiet funerals in chaotic-aligned churches.
To become an Arbiter, one must be both highly educated and well-practised in areas of Law. Even then, the process of being selected can take decades - the life of an Arbiter is extended by the magics which bind them, and open positions are swiftly filled with prospects that have been watched since they began their path of lawfulness. Judges, lawyers, inquisitors and lawful mages may all be welcomed into the ranks of the Arbiters. It is very uncommon that someone uneducated might be chosen. These oddities are usually caused by the rare droplets of prophecy Pharasma, or another deity with similar future-seeing power, might bestow upon the Arbiters (or the Axis), and result in particularly powerful Arbiters raised entirely on their path.
As with all lawful organisations, the Arbiters have a rigid structure that each Arbiter will progress through. Whilst their exact duties are unknown, 'newborn' Arbiters must learn the ancient rites before moving onto lesser tasks. The Final Arbiter, usually the oldest and most wise, is the highest position any Arbiter may attain whilst remaining mortal. There is only ever one Final Arbiter, and it is said they are granted the power to intervene in even a deity's contract if need be. Career progression may resume after their death, as many Arbiter souls flow to the Axis, where they are reforged into Axiomites or other Lawful beings. Those retaining lighter morality may return to Heaven, and those with more evil tendencies will find themselves welcome in Hell. Pharasma's courts are also open to former Arbiters. These souls, if incarnated into extraplanar forms, will usually receive a higher level of respect in recognition of their service.
Payment & Reimbursement
Arbiters need no traditional payment. Traditionally, those who call upon an Arbiter will repay them with a small gift related to the terms of their contract - mortal coin, something precious to them, or smaller magical artefacts. There is no requirement to pay an Arbiter, but owing to their mortal nature, some do see it as a slight to not repay them and will refuse to lend aid in future endeavours. This is, after all, legal.
Ensuring that the word of each contract is kept is an arduous task, but the work itself is a benefit for each Arbiter. Knowing that the world has been pushed closer to lawful stability is inherently pleasing to them. In addition, whilst they have little use for the trinkets they collect, and few have any attachments remaining in the mortal world, their former friends and families are not abandoned - the kin of any Arbiter is given extensive care throughout the Arbiter's lifespan, a level of care that persists for three generations after one's death. The peace-of-mind this brings both kin and Arbiter is immeasurable. In addition, there is a significant amount of social respect gained across the planes for their status as an Arbiter. They will be sought out by kings and emperors, by demons and powerful adventurers, and potentially even by stronger forces. Their word is final, and very few would ever dare question it. To those who have lived their lives wishing for a way to bring order, this is almost magical.
An Arbiter must serve. If called upon by a mortal, or another being dealing with a mortal, an Arbiter has a few avenues available to them:
- Contract Review
- Contract Breach
- Contract Twister
- Other Issues
The position of Arbiter is not one many seek to become, but is one all respect. Even those who embody chaos will hold some level of appreciation for their lawful opposition.
Far less than 1% of the world has the ability to become an Arbiter. Even fewer have succeeded at becoming one; their current total number is not known, but is estimated to be around 20.
As with much of the Arbiters, their history is not entirely known. Many hypothesise that the greatest Law-aligned deities - entities such as Torag, Abadar and Asmodeus - spoke with one another after the first War. Due to the serious changes it brought about on the Material Plane, particularly the limitation on deific magic, their previous weight over mortal affairs had been greatly lightened, and they saw risk in allowing the mortal realm to go without true enforcement. Whilst their own servitors could have dealt with the issues, it would have been far riskier - a demon would rarely appreciate a devil intruding on a deal, for instance - and thus the Arbiters were born as the solution. A mortal solution for a mortal pantheon. Truly, this was order.
Supposedly, Arbiters have access to a stream of power that grants them abilities needed for their duties. They are formless, shrouded in black, so that none may touch them. Inks and papers can be summoned at will. Chains of pure Order can be called upon to restrain agents of chaos, and if any seek to carry out acts severely against their contracts, even their souls may be at risk. In addition to their divine powers, each retains the skillset they carried in life, and they are able to continue growing and learning in any mortal field they wish. Due to the infirmity of their being, many choose to become clerics or other mages, using their lengthened lifespan to become extremely proficient with what they study. Clever beings will take advantage of these skills to pay the Arbiter serving their call with something they might appreciate in an attempt to win favour. (The attempts never succeed.)
Arbiters walk the Material Plane, with small bases located in demiplanes or upon the Ethereal Plane. Their mortal headquarters is located somewhere above the Sunari Wilderness, where none will ever find it, and where few would ever think to look. They are granted access to the plane of Axis at any time, and receive much of their legal education from the other plane.
Dangers & Hazards
As with all dealings with extraplanar beings, being an Arbiter is incredibly risky. Whilst few would dare, the impetuous agents of chaos occasionally feel brave enough to attempt to murder their Arbiter. They must deal with physical, mental and spiritual attacks from all sorts of being, and must not resolve the conflict in a manner that directly contravenes an agreement - this usually involves the Arbiter fleeing through a teleportation spell and contacting those higher than them. If creatures are directly opposed to receiving Arbiter aid, it may simply be refused them, at which point more powerful entities of Law would be called in to maintain it.
the Timeless, the Watchers, the Unforgiving, the Relentless
Necessary - required when dealing with chaotic entities to prevent breaches of contract.
There is next to nothing MORE legal than the Arbiters. Places that attempt to outlaw them find themselves swamped in broken contracts and legal challenges, and usually end up collapsing within the next few decades. Such is the fate of choosing a lawless society.