Keepers of the peace, defenders of the common people
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The Gunslinger Order is perhaps best described as a militant order of holy knights, like Templars or Hospitallers. They train in the use of firearms. Through a combination of dedicated practice from a young age, and supernatural powers, they achieve a skill with those firearms that is truly astounding, and terrifying to their enemies. In the Wyrd West, Gunslingers train with a singular weapon and use blessed bullets that they have forged themselves. They carry that weapon always as a symbol of the duty of protection they have sworn to uphold.
The CallingGunslingers believe they are Called to their path as a way to atone for the sins of past lives. Believing themselves to be the reincarnations of ancient gunslingers of the past, they choose to take on the duties of the Order to absolve themselves of their ancient mistakes. They believe that each Gunslinger is tempted by the powers of darkness to return to their evil ways, and those who succumb to the temptation become Desperadoes.
AuguryGunslingers believe that those who will become Slingers are marked from birth for the path. Augury, the ancient art of foretelling the future by watching the actions of birds, is important in the Gunslinger tradition, and is the primary way in which these Signs are read.
Abbot of the Order
Addressed as "Abbot" or "Your Holiness"The head of the Gunslinger Order. This position is held by the most senior Gunslinger who remains in good standing (or "right with the Lord and Lady") who has not yet retired from active service. The position is less like that of a Pope, and more like a "first among equals." They are called upon to make decisions when a consensus among Judges cannot be reached, and they represent the Order in official diplomatic matters. The Abbot is designated by golden spurs, and wears a completely white outfit from hat to boots on official business or ceremonial occasions, referred to simply as their "whites."
Addressed formally as "Anointed One." May be called simply "the Prophet" in conversation with othersOccasionally, the Lord and Lady mark a Slinger who would otherwise not hold enough rank or seniority as one who speaks for Them and Their divine will. A Gunslinger so recognized holds authority just beneath that of the Abbot, and in matters which are considered to be primarily faith-directed, their authority may even supersede that of the Abbot. This Slinger is known as a Prophet, or simply "The Prophet," since there has never been more than one at any given time. In 300 years of the Order, there have only been a handful of Prophets, so recognizing them often takes some time. Prophets, if any exist at a given point in history, are designated by golden spurs, but not whites.
Addressed as "Your Worship" or "My Lord or Lady Justice"A council of semi-retired Gunslingers who advise the Abbot on matters of justice, especially when broad policy decisions and wide-reaching legal decisions are required. Also the final court of appeal, roughly equivalent to a Supreme Court. Magistrates induct members into their judiciary branch after consultation with the Abbot. Usually they are chosen for a proven record of fair and good litigation, so more often than not, they are Slingers of advanced years. Occasionally they are chosen from the ranks of disabled Slingers no longer capable of active duty. Every now and then, an exception is made for a Gunslinger who is regarded as a particularly wise voice of reason and justice. Magistrates are designated by silver spurs, a cleric's collar, and a black robe and white stole to be worn on ceremonial occasions.
Addressed as "Your Honour" or "My Lord or Lady"Judges are Gunslingers empowered to make broad-reaching legal decisions without having to consult with their superiors. While every initiated Gunslinger has the power to take the life of a Desperado or other proven blackheart as they deem fit, Judges can also set legal precedents, and may also be appealed to in land disputes, feuds, or other matters where a less spur-of-the-moment adjudication may be called for. A Judge is effectively the regional leader of a Gunslinger Chapter. They are appointed by the Magistrates and the Abbot. Judges are designated by silver spurs and a cleric's collar, with a white stole to be worn on ceremonial occasions.
Addressed as "Your Honour" or "My Lord or Lady"Gunslingers can't be everywhere at once, and their small numbers make it difficult for them to bring the arm of the Law to places outside of the Protectorates. Circuit Judges are the compromise to deal with this lack. Wise and respected Gunslingers who are still young enough to handle hard riding over great distances are appointed to serve in this position. They have the power to not only administer and interpret the Law, but to set precedent. These decisions may be set aside by their superiors, but in practice, rarely are. Circuit judges are designated by silver spurs and a cleric's collar.
Marshals & Sheriffs
Addressed as "Marshal" or "Lord or Lady" -- May be addressed as "my lord or lady" by folks within their ProtectorateMarshals are the senior Gunslinger authority in most regions; the difference between them and a Judge is the size of their Protectorate. While technically, Judges rank higher in the chain of command than Marshals do, individual Marshals may or may not answer to an individual Judge. Marshals adjudicate matters of Law within their Protectorates, and mostly "ride the range" to look after their folk. Sheriffs hold the same equivalent rank as Marshals, but they serve the Magistrate, either individually or collectively, as the arm of their authority and will. Marshals are designated by silver spurs and a silver star badge, which is worn on the breast pocket over the heart, or on one's hat. Sheriffs use a gold star badge instead.
Addressed as "Slinger" or "Sir or Dame"The majority of the Gunslinger Order will be made up of Slingers. They bring the protection of the Law to the common folk. Like a combination of a paramilitary police force and a knightly order, they have hands-on authority to deal with the problems they encounter as they see fit, so long as a settlement gives its allegiance to the Order, unless directed otherwise by their superiors. Like Knights Errant, Slingers may occasionally venture into regions that are outside of their jurisdiction, and choose to act as conscience dictates anyway. Gunslingers are initiated into the Order by other Gunslingers in a Gunslinger's Vigil after a long and rigorous training process. Gunslingers are designated by silver spurs.
Addressed as "Squire"Only those who are Called to service as a Gunslinger are accepted as Apprentices. Signs and omens are read, usually in the form of Augury (divination by watching the flight of birds) to determine whether or not it's a person's destiny to be part of the Order. Since membership in the Order is viewed as a karmic debt, if the omens are inconclusive, they will be refused. Otherwise, the decision to accept a particular Apprentice is at the individual discretion of a given Slinger, who will often try to discourage the would-be Gunslinger nonetheless. Apprentice Slingers are designated by bronze spurs.
The Gunslinger Order exists to protect the common people, whether those threats come from supernatural beings, Desperadoes and other villains, or corrupt governments. In areas that officially accept their protection, including most of The Dominion, they are most often encountered as sheriffs or circuit judges. In areas that don't, they are knights errant; or, in the view of corrupt officials, shit-disturbers.
The Gunslingers maintain a variety of Outposts, strongholds and safehouses that span the breadth of the Dominion. Over the years, they have stockpiled significant caches of supplies and ammunition, even a small arsenal of well-maintained Old World weaponry. The primary stronghold of the Slingers is Fort Whistler. This high mountain community, the centre of training and organization for the Order, features The Sacred Armoury, where the Gunslingers keep their sacred weapons, and which is an essential pilgrimage site. It also features a massive library that is one of the best collections of occult, mythological, and religious lore, as well as practical skills, that remains from before the Cataclysm. The Slingers also have a handful of Gunslinger Horse ranches scattered throughout the Dominion. Since many Gunslingers have a feudal relationship with the peoples of their Protectorates, along with income from bounties, the Order is quite wealthy, and can often afford to finance large projects that are in their interests, or to front loans to the needy, or charitable efforts; which they often do.
The Gunslinger Order was founded by a dedicated group of survivors in the third year After the Fall. Their names have been lost to history, but what is known is that they included a Canadian Army Reservist who was a Norse Pagan, a disabled ex-Canadian Navy sailor and his Evangelical family members, and a Wiccan High Priestess. Having survived the Cataclysm due to good planning, they suddenly found that the various forms of prayer and magic they had believed in for most of their lives had immediate real-world effects. They quickly realized that if their powers existed, then dark counterparts logically would as well. They made their way to the mountains on the coast of what used to be British Columbia to build a stronghold against these forces. Aided by the Reservist's wife, a librarian, they selected a cache of useful books, some of which are believed to have been part of the Wiccan Priestess' collection originally. It is said that during this time, The Founders had a vision of the Lady in the form of the Norse goddess Freya. She told them that She had been making plans for this day, and they were the reincarnations of noted gunslingers of history. She said that She would send them other reincarnated gunslingers, who would be given the opportunity to redeem themselves by working with the new order of protectors that they would form. She charged them to collect the weapons that belonged to those gunslingers, because each of those weapons would have special powers, borne out of the force of their legend, especially when wielded by the reincarnated Slinger who originally carried it. The three spent the rest of their lives questing for those weapons, and they recovered hundreds of them. Those tales are collected in a book called The Saga of the Founders, presented in the manner of fairytales or parables that are probably more myth than history. In these tales, they are referred to simply as the Soldier, the Sailor, the Witch, and the Archivist. When the Dominion began to gather together the fragmented remains of what was once Canada, the Gunslingers offered their assistance, and they took the early role of police force. When the Mounties reformed, they concentrated their efforts in frontier and outlying areas instead of urban ones.
Mythology & Lore
Gunslingers believe in dualistic divine powers that they call the Lord and the Lady, Who are understood as the creators of the Universe. Gunslinger dogma is subject to a lot of personal interpretation, but generally, sunlight is associated with the Lord and moonlight and starlight with the Lady. One thing remains constant; the Lord is seen as the death-principle and the Lady as the life-principle. Simultaneously the Hunter and the Hunted of Neo-Paganism, and the willing sacrifice given to save the world from sin, the Lord is thought to constantly die and rise again in the cycle of the seasons. The Lady waxes and wanes with the moon and with the energy of creation, but is in Herself eternal. She is simultaneously the Queen of Heaven, Creatrix of Neo-Pagan faiths, and the Theotokos, the Mother of God, as we understand Him in physical space/time. In practice, the Lord is thought to teach the ethics of death, and the Gunslingers call upon Him to bless their bullets and their shot. The Lady is called upon to aid and heal, and to bless the passage of the dead through eternity.
The Gunslinger Faith likely emerged from a strange mixture of Neo-Paganism and Evangelical traditions of Christianity. Most of its day-to-day practice would be familiar to Southern Baptists, but its mythology has more in common with Wicca and related Neo-Pagan faiths. Its dogma is an obvious blend of both traditions. Like the First Nations, Neo-Pagans and Evangelical Christian groups had an additional advantage in the new world of the Wyrd West; a belief in magic. While practices and names, and the deities prayed to, were different, both proved to be equally effective. Perhaps it was only to be expected that some would seek to find a way to reconcile the beliefs of both groups.
In the beginning, there was nothing. Then came the Lady and the Lord. Through Their love and the dance of Their union, the rest of the universe was created, which people understand as a series of alchemical reactions. In some versions of the faith, They were both formed from nothing at the same infinite and eternal moment of space/time, and went on to create the universe from there. In others, the Lady represents the Void, the "darkness upon the face of the deep," and the Lord was the first flash of Light created in the Void (from the womb of the Lady.) They have also been described as the physical principle (the Lord) and the spiritual principle (the Lady,) or the Microcosm (the Lord) and the Macrocosm (the Lady). Some ancient tomes also describe Them as matter and anti-matter, but no one in the modern era understands what the earliest writers of the Faith meant by this.
Tenets of Faith
In general, the Gunslingers believe in a variation of the Ten Commandments and Ecclesiastes 3:3, which they call Laws of the Lord, and they also believe in a version of the Wiccan Charge of the Goddess, the Wiccan Rede and the Threefold Law, which they call the Laws of the Lady. These combined ethics are interpreted as instructing the Slingers never to do harm unless they have to. When Gunslingers are forced to take a life, they engage in a ritual called the Mark of Cain, and record the name of the deceased into their Dead Book, for which they will have to make accounting when they stand before the Almighty at the end of their days.
Gunslingers believe their Calling has innately tainted them with the sin of their killings, but they believe they must kill so that others don't have to. They choose to take the burden upon themselves, though they will not take a life unless they believe it's necessary. Killing for any other reason is a sin that corrupts a Slinger's soul; as is using their powers or position for selfish or evil purposes.
Gunslingers, and many of the people under their protection, gather at the Solstices, the Equinoxes, and the cross-quarter days (February 2nd, May 1st, August 1st, and October 31st) to observe the Sabbats. These are seasonal cycles that honour the lifecycle of the Lord and the Lady, usually involving feasting, joyous celebration, and gratitude. They also try, when possible, to observe the Sabbath (Saturday or Sunday, depending on interpretation). Gunslingers themselves also observe a daily ritual which they call their Devotionals. They try to do it at about the same time each day.
Granted Divine Powers
Gunslingers can use their weapons to deadly and frightening efficiency that terrifies anyone who has witnessed it. They have been known to do impossible things, such as reload immediately after firing, shoot around corners, and even more impressive feats. Their blessed silver bullets will kill supernatural creatures that are unphased by normal weaponry, including (but not limited to) the undead, cursed shapechangers, demons, and such creatures as wendigoes. Gunslingers can discern when people are lying to them. The lie rings falsely on their hearts and sounds discordant, although each Slinger perceives the manifestations of their powers in a different way. Slingers can sense evil and corruption. To many it's a foul smell; to others, an unpleasant metallic taste in the mouth; to still others, it appears like a fog across the vision. Perhaps the most impressive of their powers is that Slingers can heal with a touch by laying on hands. They get better at it as they progress in their faith. Their hands, and the wounded area, will glow faintly when they use this power. Gunslingers also use Augury with apparent success, and according to legend, there have been some who could ward a person or an area, or even drive away evil, by the sheer force of their holy presence.
Political Influence & Intrigue
The influence that the Order has upon The Dominion's legal and political structures does, in fact, benefit the common people quite a bit. People who are accused of serious crimes are never convicted unless they are actually guilty, and they are convicted quickly if they are, since Gunslingers have some judicial authority. They are by no means naive about politics, and thus, their influence on political leaders, both local and Dominion-wide, makes for a more just and compassionate government that is truly concerned with the well-being of the common people.
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The Wyrd West Chronicles
Generic article | Jun 7, 2021
Check out all the published books in the Wyrd West Chronicles so far!
#3 The Vigil
#5 The Reaping
Once Upon a Time in the Wyrd West (Wyrd West Chronicles #1-6)
Gunsmoke & Dragonfire (featuring The Teeth of Winter (Wyrd West Chronicles #7)
Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition
The Gunslinger and the Desperado drew. Their hands were smears of colour flashing as they streaked towards their targets. The crash of shots rang out. The scent of brimstone filled the air. Graeme Walsh watched from his horse with narrowed gunmetal eyes, knowing at once that the Gunslinger had drawn her last. The Gunslinger’s shoulder splattered blood. Her arm jerked and her shot went wild, shattering the window of Joss Smith’s alchemy shop. The Desperado’s second bullet found the Slinger’s square chin and tore it off. Blood and bone sprayed into the air. The Gunslinger’s second shot ripped a hole in the sleeve of the Desperado’s duster. The other three flashed past like silver lightning. One of them sang past Graeme’s ear. The Gunslinger fell, the pistol flying from her flailing hands. The man in the black hat marched forward, fanning his pistol’s hammer back until the chamber was empty. The Gunslinger was struck three times before she hit the ground. Her body twisted and jerked as the bullets ripped into her in a horrible, bucking dance. Graeme had never seen anybody shot before. His father had warned him that it was nothing like they described in the stories. His stomach twisted like a coiled lariat. The stallion beneath him tossed his head in challenge. Blood was already pooling on the broken pavement around the fallen body by the time the Desperado reached her. The air reeked of it. The dandelions and plantain growing between the cracks were splashed in red. He studied the dying Slinger and her dead Apprentice with his coal-black eyes and nodded just once. His blond mustachios twisted up into an easy smile that came nowhere near his eyes. For a moment, the silence was so loud that it rang in Graeme’s ears. The Desperado stepped over the groaning, broken shells of what had once been living people and made his way towards the saloon. There are law-abiding town-folk in that saloon. That thought galvanized him. Before he knew he was going to speak, he heard himself say, “I reckon that’s far enough.” Some small part of him wondered at how calm and flat his own voice sounded in his ears. His hunting rifle was leveled and braced against his shoulder. The ozone hum and crackling blue light of the magazine indicated it was charged and ready. No Gunslinger’s weapon, this. It was a newfangled voltaic rifle, powered by technomancy. An inferior weapon to the holy guns of the Slingers maybe, but then, Graeme was not a Gunslinger; not yet.
February 2nd, Year 3 AtF
Religious, Monastic Order