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The Flame Judiciary – formerly the Flame Guard – are a militant religious order who follow The Phoenix, the god of knowledge and judgement. The Phoenix teaches that justice must be swift and hot, that sins are cleansed by flame, burned away to leave people cleansed and born anew.
Their past is chequered, marred by centuries of fighting – overthrowing so-called leaders who sought to oppress the people they oversaw, or else being targeted by those who resented and feared the power that the Judiciary wielded so close to their own borders.
During the War of Ascension some two hundred years ago, the leaders of the Lake Towns and the lands surrounding them called upon the Flame Guard to defend the mountain pass known as The Rise, preventing invaders sweeping down from the northern desert from looping around and taking the Lake forces on the flank as they battled the main force to the east. The Guard built fortifications across the north and south mouths of the pass and constructed a fortification within the stone of the mountains themselves, holding the pass for months unaided.
In the centuries since the Ascension the Guard – now the Flame Judiciary – remained in their fortress in the Rise. The pass has become a valuable trade route linking southern cities to the sub-desert settlements immediately north of the mountains. The Judiciary allow travelers passage on their own recognizance, demanding only that peace is maintained inside the threshold of their fortifications. A small number of entrepreneurial merchants built semi-permanent settlements inside the pass, providing supplies to travelers and providing provisions to the fortress itself.
On any given day, those passing through are likely to find an ever-shifting town of tents and wagons milling around the few permanent structures, while wealthier travelers take rest in the ramshackle inn in the center of the pass and stable their horses behind it. A small mound of earth towards the south-west of the clearing holds a public well, and a small noticeboard where merchants can advertise their services or attempt to recruit jobbing mercenaries as guards.