Known as the Lost Sixth House, the Dead House, and the House of Shadows, the House of Blackguards was originally the sixth Noble House and the first house to Fall after the murder of Anthony Flynn. The House of Blackguards is a dark stain on the history of Aperion.
The Blackguards and the Blood House
The House of Blackguards was originally developed by King Amadeus Flynn, one of the first Noble Houses outside of the Upper Court. Flynn's original intention was to develop the house as a counterpart to the Second House and the SDF.
The House's duties were to act as a network of information and espionage. Flynn wanted to be able to avoid direct conflict in his eventual unification under the flag of Aperion, and to that end the Blackguards would allow the Blood Kings to negotiate treaties. Their information would also allow the King to keep up on regions he could not visit directly, as well as keep an eye on the farther-reaching sects of the growing nation.
Historians often blame the fall of the Blood Kings on this questionable decision. They also question the King's intention in setting up an information network that would potentially allow him to monitor citizens personally. However, personal logs of Amadeus Flynn himself have been researched that claim that the King was aware of the dangers of such an undertaking. According to the texts, Flynn wanted to keep such a dangerous tool close to him without placing it in the Upper Court, thus its placement as the Sixth House.
Though there were misgivings, the House of Blackguards proved its usefulness and loyalty during the reigns of the first three Blood Kings. Things began to go downhill, however, when King Mordecai Flynn, the fourth Blood King, came into possession of information from a Dragon relating to his offspring. Mordecai somehow received prescient knowledge from a dragon that told him his son would be executed by the Blackguards. In his paranoia, Mordecai ordered the Manor razed and its Lord put to death in front of his people.
This action inflamed the remaining members of the House of Blackguards. The trespass and execution of their leader was completely unexpected, which, for a House completely dependent on information for its livelihood, was a viewed as a slap in the face on top of an act of treachery. They remained underground for years, using the network of tunnels they had built below the Manor Grounds as residences, plotting their revenge.
Less than a month into King Anthony Flynn's reign, the Blackguard's remaining forces struck. Their broke past the King's personal guard in the heart of Vysania, dragging him into the center of Manor's courtyard. There, Anthony Flynn was executed as the Blackguards forced his father, Mordecai Flynn to watch. The father followed the son shortly after.
Afterwards, the Blackguards disappeared completely. The Manor grounds were revisited, the tunnels collapsed, the ground salted. It was one of the first acts of Briar King Travers Macguiness to officially dissolve the House, thereby making it the first Fallen House. For all intents and purposes, the House has disappeared from the history of Aperion.
The Modern Day Blackguards
But of course, the story of an order so full of secrets could not end there. Over the years, the Blackguards slowly reformed, forming a new base in and underneath the old Manor grounds.
The Blackguards are considered rumors for most citizens of Aperion in the modern day. They're considered bogeymen, used to scare children into obedience ("If you don't behave, the Blackguards will steal you away!"). Ask the right questions and pay off the right people, however, and you'll find the truth to be much more sinister.
The Blackguards now work as assassins and secret-keepers, working from the shadows to retain the same power they once held in the Blood Era. Without any other power than the current Lord or Lady to keep them in check, though, the Blackguards have spread their influence far and wide across Aperion.
The Blackguards and the Informant's Guild
It's considered an open secret that the Informant's Guild, which performs many of the same duties as the House, but in the public sector, was founded by former Blackguards. This is, of course, something the Guild has done its best to distance itself from, but they have never directly denied it.
Blackguards have information that no Informant can legally and safely access, though, and some under the table contacts have been made between the two groups. An Informant who is found to have been working in such an arrangement is blacklisted from the Guild and stripped of any privileges and contacts they have. Depending on the severity of secrets shared, they may also be imprisoned. A Blackguard who is found working with an Informant is frowned upon and considered to be too weak or foolish to find their own information, but aside from their reputation they are not otherwise punished.
The Lord of Shadows
The Blackguards retain a semblance of House structure, chief of which is their adherence to a singular leader, known as the Lord or Lady of the Fallen House. They deviate from the norm, however, in that there is no concern for blood relations. House Lords are considered the ones most fit to lead, often the strongest or the most cunning.
House Lords are determined by an open challenge of the current Lord or Lady. The challenger must defeat the Lord in several tasks, such as a duel and a battle of wits, observed by their fellow Blackguards. If the challenger is victorious, they are granted the right to take the life of the previous Lord and assume their throne. New Lords and Ladies are granted a period of three years wherein their life is considered safe. After the grace period passes, they may be challenged for the throne. This is considered the most honorable of all Blackguard practices. Any who attempt to usurp the throne without going through the proper procedures are frowned upon, but cases exist wherein they have been allowed to hold what they have stolen.
Killers and Cleaners
A full-fledged Blackguard is sent out into the field as a unit of two, casually designated "Killers and Cleaners." The Killer is the one who most often commits the act they are sent to accomplish. Cleaners make sure no trace is left after they are finished.