What is an Argent?
Argents are a sort of Cleric-Paladin hybrid. Their purpose is to travel the world and use their Gifts for the betterment of mankind.
How to Become an Argent
Only those who are born with Gifts can become Argents, and those Gifts have to be active (working). Children born with Gifts that never awaken or manifest will not become Argents, unfortunately.
Most Gifts manifest themselves sometime around puberty. Each child is different, with some Gifts manifesting as early as age seven, and others taking as long as age eighteen before they awaken. Because of this, children in every village are gathered at their local Church every May Day, where they will be examined by an Argent for signs of a Gift. Those who show evidence of an active Gift are collected and taken back to the Monastery to live and be trained in the use of their abilities. Those who do not show evidence of a Gift are free to return home.
Argent Ranking in Society
Becoming an Argent is a high honor. Argents themselves are valued among both the followers of Antistia and Atheists alike. No one can doubt that these men and women have mystical abilities, nor their usefulness.
Should an Argent agree to attach him or herself to a Nobleman's house as a permanent retainer, it is considered the highest honor outside of being made Royalty that a Noble family can receive.
Commoners tend to regard the Argents as a sort of Nobility themselves. An Argent will sometimes find himself being showered with gifts, given the best bed in the Inn, bowed to or plied with flattery in the hopes that the Argent will use his or her Gift to aid them.
Argents in the World
Sometimes, rather than attaching himself to a Noble House, an Argent can decide to take up residence in a small village or city. These Argents dedicate themselves to all of the citizens as a group, rather than only one House or one Person. The most common jobs held by these kinds of Argents are: judge, Healer, priest, or counselor. Usually, these positions are filled by Argents with abilities suited to the task, such as telepathy, empathy, Aural reading, and Healing.
A third sort of Argent prefers to travel the continent in search of people in need. These Argents are not tied to any one place, but they tend to prefer out-of-the-way villages and habitations that are off the beaten path, which may be in need of an Argent's particular skill sets. These sort are most likely to have a combination of offensive and defensive abilities, since their lives become very difficult when they are forced to live off of the land.
Lastly, some Argents take to lives of solitude. In most cases, this is because of a telepathic or empathic Gift that is so powerful, living within a day's ride of any sort of civilization causes them extreme discomfort. Imagine a hundred minds pressing on you day and night, without a way to shut them out for peace and quiet. That's the reason some Argents choose to wander the wilderness, tracking and killing creatures who have gone mad.
Training an Argent
Aside from training in the use of their Gifts, Argents receive a broad education in other areas, including Government, History, Wilderness Survival, Mathematics, repairing Armor and Equipment, Equestrianism, Herbcraft, First Aid, and more. This education takes years, and varies widely depending upon what skills a child already possesses when it arrives at the Monastery. The children of Nobility hardly ever need to learn to read and write, for example, while the children of the peasantry always start with that most basic fundamental.
Ranks Among Argents
There are ranks among Argents as well, but they have nothing to do with a trainee's former life. All trainees are considered to be the same rank, whether they are children of farmers or the heir to large fortunes. Once they enter the Monastery, their former ranks are discarded in favor of their new ones.
Trainee Argents are just that: trainees. Their official title is "Acolyte". They do not become fully-fledged Argents until they have been deemed ready to leave the Monastery by the Argent Mother (or Father, as the case may be) who is in charge of the Monastery at the time. Aside from these two ranks, the only other titles an Argent can earn are Instructor or Weapons Master. As a whole, the Argents do not put much stock in titles or ranks, even when it comes to the Weakly Gifted compared to the Strongly Gifted.
Day to Day Monastery Life
From the beginning, Acolytes are encouraged to be self sufficient. They are expected to do their fair share of cooking and cleaning, with assignment rosters to ensure that all students spend equal amounts of time at each task. They are taught to mend clothes and clean up after their mounts, to haul water and scrub floors. Any servants that might have accompanied the Acolyte to the monastery are given the option to remain at the monastery as paid staff, or to leave the compound the following spring.
Acolytes wear uniforms of plain, undyed wool in the form of loose-fitting trousers, a shirt, and a cloak for inclement weather. Because the average temperatures in the mountains rarely top 55°F, the heavy wool clothing is hardly a burden. All students, whether nobility or lowborn, wear the same uniforms. Full Argents can choose to wear whatever they like, with the exception that some part of their daily garb must bear the mark of their Order: the alchemical symbol for Silver.
The Argent's Familiar
Believing that an Argent's best chance for success in the world is a partner whose loyalty is unwavering, Argents of centuries past determined that what their Acolytes needed was a Familiar. But not just any Familiar - one that could assist them in battle, travel with them across vast distances, obey commands without question, and love the Argent with all its heart. Many creatures were considered for this job, but only one fit the bill: the horse.
Once this was decided, a few Argents with particular skill sets gathered together to form a plan. One, a Healer with a background in horse breeding, offered his skills to aid in the healthy conception and births of their animals. One, a telepath with Animal Affinity, used his skills to locate the most intelligent animals for breeding. A third, Empathic Argent used his skills to determine which of their animals was the most emotionally and mentally sound for their project. Together, they started a project which would span centuries: breeding the specialized beasts the Argents would need for success.
Today, the animals granted to new Acolytes are sturdy, highly intelligent animals. They are sure-footed, stout, and immensely loyal. When it comes to intelligence and companionship, they best some of the most intelligent dog breeds in the world. When it comes to hardiness and the ability to survive on poor fodder, they are supreme. There is only one way in which these mounts often fail, and that's looks. The horses might not win any beauty pageants, with their thick necks, blocky heads and sometimes shaggy fur, but the Argents don't love them any less for all that.
An equine Familiar is granted to an Acolyte at some point during his education, usually once he has been deemed fit to work with the animal, and the two train together until they reach full Argent rank, at which point they are released into the world as a pair. The horse is taught a variety of skills: defense of a fallen Argent, offensive maneuvers while the Argent is mounted, or on the ground. Verbal commands as well as commands given by rein, knee and whistle are important as well. Additionally, horse and rider are taught to leap hurdles, cross rocky terrain, swim and even how to cut cattle from a herd - though that last skill can be used for more than just cattle. They learn how to move and operate as both a whole and as two separate entities. And, most importantly, the horse will never accept another human being as its master for as long as it lives.
In conclusion, the Argents are an Order of individuals who are educated, capable members of society who are well-received in almost any household. They put their skills to use for the betterment of mankind, and their histories are as varied as those of the people they serve.