Hands of Death
The Black Sun's faithful are varied and dynamic in what they can offer in spreading Corath's corruption across Layonara. This is one of the greatest strengths of Corath's followers: their diversity. Everyone knows the Corathite priesthood that spreads their foul influence through the establishment of dark temples and sinister pilgrimages. Some also know the Ravens, who excel in the arts of war and cast their vigilant watch over the Mad God's temples. But there exists another, smaller group called the Hands of Death.
This secret splinter faction of Corathite priests consider themselves the spark that begins wild fires and the fly that ends up in every ointment. The Hands of Death, also known as just 'The Hands' were formed rather recently within the clergy of Corath around the year 1378.
This Corathite organization was designed to assassinate threats to the church, stir insurrection where peace thrives, steal artifacts or other magics as needed or simply infiltrate a population in missions of espionage. They are trained in the arts of combat, stealth, deception and specifically self-reliance. It was the intent that they could be placed into any situation alone with nothing but their wits and cunning to accomplish any task given to them. Outsiders might call them spies, assassins, thieves, insurrectionists and saboteurs...so would those on the inside.
Being an assassin before becoming one of Corath's High Priests, Jidus Himlark was granted additional knowledge of these arts through dreams and visions from the Mad God, however, it was not until the arrival of Corath's avatar that he actually did anything with it. When he faced Corath's avatar for the first time, the Black Sun took his hands and squeezed them briefly.
Rumor has it that for a brief moment, his hands were infused with the cold touch of death. This was the sign he had been waiting for, giving him insight on how to train and forge people into deadly weapons.
It is whispered that High Priest Himlark and other High Priests of Corath are able to see the "Scar of Blackness" on those with the most potential for mayhem that exists in any potential servant of the Mad God. Himlark identified several children bearing this Scar, and either obtained them as slaves or stole them away from their parents and proceeded to train them.
They received instruction in the ways of Corathite priests like any other, but are taught less in the ways of rites, history and procedure. They are instead taught and developed more with mental fortitude and physical prowess which serves as their preliminary training as a candidate for the Hands of Death.
It is a mystery to most what is required of a candidate to become a member of the Hands of Death. Many whisper that they undergo a series of dark, strenuous trials that tests them mentally, physically and spiritually to see if they have truly mastered themselves. These trials teach them that a Hand of Death should never depend on a weapon to live--such would be weakness. They are taught that their divine gifts in the form of ranged destructive magics are also for the cowardly. No, what the Hands of Death teach is that when an enemy is to be slain, the destroyer must be there to meet his eyes and watch the life extinguish from their bodies to strengthen the resolve of the murderer. They prefer everything up close and personal, the bloodier, the better...
If they succeed in their trials, the Hand of Death member is assigned to different Temples of Corath to aid in the ways they are best suited for. They are never sitting in a temple long, being sent to the far reaches of Layonara carrying out their duties to the Black Sun's church. Though they are given a great deal of autonomy in regards to traditions and rites, the Hands of Death are among the most loyal and respectful priests to those in the clergy ranked above them. As their skills develop, they are able to call upon great power: quickness of mind and body, maneuvering in darkness like it was daylight, Corath still granting access to his magics though not as frequent as a true priest and of course hands of fire and shadow, which is where the group gets the name Hands of Death.
If they fail in their trials, the candidate will be dead, if not physically then at least in the eyes of the church. Corath does not like failures and the candidate will excommunicated from the Church, losing any powers he might still have.
Members rarely work together except in very difficult undertakings. However, it is quite common for them to work with other Corathite Priests and High Priests. Because they are usually on their own on missions they undertake, they commonly work with whatever allies are at their disposal at the time.
As there are barely more than a handful, the Hands of Death have not yet become an force to be reckoned with inside the Corathite clergy, however, as he has been touched by the Black Sun himself, and was already a High Priest to start with, Himlark has quite the big authority inside the Church.
As for the Hands themselves, they are not recognized as true priests, but they are given accord because of their own unique path and gifts from Corath. Ultimately, policy decision-making remains firmly in the hands of the Corathite High Priests, regardless of how accomplished the Hand of Death member may be.
For the time being, the individual Hands serve as advisors, nothing more. What their position will be when Himlark passes away will remain to be seen, but for the time being, they know their place and are very adept at sticking to it.
Notes: This order is intended for Sacred Fists. It can be joined via CDQ and the intent is that upon successful completion of the CDQ, the character takes the first Sacred Fist level. As this is a fairly recent order, they are hardly known, if at all, outside of the Church of Corath.