|This article is about the paladin order. For the paladin subclass in Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, see Subclasses - Bleak Walkers.|
The Bleak Walkers is a paladin order infamous for their approach to warfare.
The ranks of the Bleak Walkers consist of soldiers dedicated to conducting warfare mercilessly and with extreme brutality in order to bring a swift end to conflicts. Because they are renowned for their terrible and unyielding nature, most nobles will only call on them as a last resort. The Bleak Walkers' behavior reinforces cruelty because the quickest resolution to a battle is one in which the Bleak Walkers' arrival is announced and a surrender immediately follows. To ensure that people understand that no mercy will be given by Bleak Walkers, they avoid any dealings where they could be seen as merciful and never give quarter under any circumstances. Bleak Walkers won't call off an attack even if their "employer" asks them to or turns forces on them.
Bleak Walkers aren't sadists (at least, not as a rule), and while they are effectively mercenaries, the control that they allow their employers to exert is fairly limited. Much like guns, Bleak Walkers should only be pointed at things you don't mind being completely destroyed.
The founder of the Bleak Walkers was the Ixamitl philosopher-general Mantloc, who believed that moral and ethical considerations in war were antithetical to the purpose of war, the imposition of control through violence. It was his belief that military codes of conduct and the consideration of civilian social mores in the pursuance of war prolonged suffering rather than abbreviating it. He proposed an alternate military philosophy called bleak war, which maximized the brutality and cruelty of war at both strategic and tactical levels. Though he was rebuked for his opinions, Mantloc practiced bleak war with his armies during the Huruko Peninsula War from 2574 to 2575. What started as the rapid conquest of Ixamitl territory by Rauataian armies eventually turned into horrific massacres and the eventual rout of the civilian support staff that Rauatai had settled on the peninsula. Mantloc focused heavily on attacking Rauataian food stores, supply ships, farms, and civilian settlements, including all children they came across. Mantloc's armies also made a point of slaughtering every Rauataian that surrendered to them and fighting to the death in hopeless conflicts.
This brutality impressed upon the Rauataians that Mantloc's way of waging war was not like theirs and certainly not like the other Ixamitl armies they had faced. Within six months, the tide of the war had changed, as had opinion on bleak war in Ixamitl. Despite this, Mantloc came to believe that his philosophy could not be the method of operation for an entire nation's armies. This was, in part, because he came to see how bleak war transformed the individuals that perpetrated it, setting them apart from civilized society and unable to reintegrate. Instead, he came to believe in the idea of an independent military force that embodied bleak war as a way of life and death, continually traveling from conflict to conflict until battle claimed them.
This was the true foundation of the Bleak Walkers as a distinct military order. Over the following centuries, Mantloc's philosophers of bleak war have reached every corner of the known world, where they are hired as mercenaries, assassins, and elite bodyguards. Although Bleak Walkers are not sadists as a rule, the order often attracts malcontents or those who have effectively given up on society. Veteran Bleak Walkers are often deeply traumatized by their actions and use a variety of coping mechanisms to deal with that trauma. Of all the well-known paladin orders, the Bleak Walkers have a grim reputation for taking their own lives in times of peace or seeking death on the battlefield. Bleak Walkers who die in battle or by their own hand are venerated as Black Saints, their names chiseled into slabs of black marble enshrined at the motherhouse in Chuixha (Ixamitl).
Although the order's individual chapters enjoy a fair amount of autonomy, the motherhouse maintains authority over the branches and their individual members. Notable chapterhouses stand in Pincenze (Old Vailia), Yarma (Aedyr), New Heomar (Dyrwood), and Ozia (Vailian Republics).
Bleak Walker mission and philosophy can be summarized as follows:
- To be a living embodiment of bleak war, purposeful violence without concern for morality or ethics.
- To be loyal to the philosophy of bleak war before any king, tribe, or nation.
- To be a wolf of war, once loosed, neither requesting nor giving quarter under any circumstances, even when commanded to do so.
- To terrify, by appearance, word and deed, and in so doing, to make the Bleak Walkers synonymous with bleak war.
- To give your life to the cause of bleak war and, in death, to become a Black Saint.
- To remember the acts of the Black Saints and invoke them in battle.
- Through all of the above, to stop battles before they begin, to stop wars before they claim more lives.
- Battle of the Rakhan Moor: The mercenary paladins infamously put down a fledgling peasant revolt on behalf of the local lords. The dissidents had taken refuge in the moor in hopes the unstable ground and acidic peat bogs would discourage pursuit. Undeterred, the Bleak Walkers marched on the peasants’ camp shoulder-to-shoulder, shields locked. Many of them sank into the fuming fen, dying with little protest. The terrified rebels watched in horror as the grim paladins who survived the deadly march accelerated into a final charge, breaking through the upstarts’ thin ranks before butchering them all.