The Dark Country is a land embattled with itself. Even in the face of numerous, inhuman threats that stalk the dark woods and wander in the high mountains, the Seven Cities constantly scheme against each other and wage terrible wars against the scattered remnants of the Hundred Kingdoms. Men like Arnawald the Black Eagle and Notker the Unshaven wish to unite the Dark Country into a single kingdom, but it would seem that human avarice will dash their desires against the rocks.
And yet, the strife does not end here. Holy orders, mercenary companies, criminal rackets, mystic cabals, and resistance movements compete with one another for resources and for rights in the Seven Cities. These are usually not tied to a single city and will often play both sides of the more overtly political conflicts in an attempt to improve their own place in this fog-shrouded land.
There are far too many of these organizations for a single post, and I generally want to take a “make it up as I go” approach to worldbuilding. As such, the organizations listed below represent only those that intersected with or were created by player action in the initial Dark Country campaign. In the even that I’m able to get another campaign going with a semi-regular roster of players,* this list will hopefully be greatly expanded. At some point I would like to assign mechanical benefits to joining each of these factions, but I imagine that is best done on a case-by-case basis.
The Sword Brothers (defunct)
Symbol: red cross over a sword pointing upwards on a white field
While not currently active, no discussion of the various factions of the Dark Country would be complete without at least a mention of the ignominious Sword Brothers. Originally founded to protect pilgrims and merchants on their way to the Desert Lands, this Holy Order included a large number of Clerics,** Fighting Men, and even some Magicians. At some point, the Brothers became interested in bringing the Rule of Law to the people of the Dark Country, and thus they began the first of many holy wars the region would see over the next few centuries. At some point they fell into darkness and began worshiping a mysterious, diabolic entity whose exact nature is unknown. Another crusade wiped them from the face of the Dark Country, but their scars still remain.
Symbol: a skull with a coin in each eye on a black field
The Brotherhood (of Thieves and Assassins) is a nefarious organization of smugglers, lowlifes, and thugs that has somehow achieved an air of mystery and mysticism. To outsiders they are not unlike the mafia of the roaring 20s, possessing their own twisted code of ethics and being primarily concerned with the smuggling of goods and the flesh trade; however, rumors persist that they in reality a cult dedicated to a long forgotten Old God or a diabolic parody of a more venerable saint, depending on the teller. By rights the Brotherhood should have been extinguished long ago in the fires of inquisition, but their usefulness to men possessing more legitimate modes of power has made them a permanent fixture in the Dark Country.
Symbol: a badger ringed with gold on a red field -- often coupled with the cross of Lychegate
This mercenary company can be found in small numbers throughout the Dark Country, but they are by far the strongest in the city of Lychegate. Their founder, the eponymous Bader the Badger, currently serves Bishop Notker the Unshaven of Lychegate as a military advisor – much to the chagrin of Lord Eckhard, governor of Nightwick. They are infamous for their brutality and for their loyalty to the Bishop. Their recent founding means that they did not fight in any of the famous battles in the history of the Dark Country, but they have proved to be excellent at the more monotonous daily oppression of the pagan population in the south east.
The Pagan Liberation Front (PLF)
Symbol: an elk's head
The Pagan Liberation Front was originally founded within the Bishopric of Lychegate. It's mysterious leader, Yim Yimsley, has become a folk hero among the pagans living in that region, and his exploits form the basis of many tales. Notker the Unshaven is convinced that he and his band are a cult of devil worshipers bent on the destruction of the cosmos. He has offered an extremely high prices for Yim's head. The PLF operates as a number of separate cells, many of which predate the actual formation of the PLF. In a way, the PLF is not one organization, but a network of smaller groups dedicated to the removal of Western influence from the Dark Country. There are rumors that this organization has ties with the Brotherhood.
The Order of the Elk
Symbol: an elk's head
The Order of the Elk is a military order founded to defend the weak from the forces of darkness. Its founder, Paladin Lord Fitzgerald, is a controversial figure within the Church. He and those of his order advocate for a peaceful method of converting the Dark Country. The Church of Law should lead by example, Fitzgerald and his ilk argue. If they hold back the tide of darkness, then even the pagans will flock to the Law. Many are skeptical of these ideas, and the fact that many of the PLF's symbols (such as the elk's head) match the Order of the Elk's has led some to consider that an inquisition might be necessary to keep the order to falling as the Sword Brothers did.
The Cult of the Ever Watchful Eye
Symbol: a flaming eye
Sometimes simply called the Watchers, this cult is one of the few diabolist organizations that is known to the common people of the Dark Country. If rumor is to be believed, the Watchers seek to give the demons trapped in the Infernal Pit more purchase in this reality. Many of their members work in secret, but in some remote locations they have been known to wear surcoats and robes bearing their sinister insignia. A number of adventurers who have recently entered Nightwick Abbey have reported seeing cultists who match the description of the Watchers.
*Whether this will be on G+ or in person has yet to be seen, but I'm leaning towards G+.
**A relatively high number of clerics. The way I'm currently handling clerics is that the class represents those who are on the fast track to saint-hood. Your average churchman can only do the few spells necessary to perform the mass or make holy water.