The King's Ravenkeepers, or the "Unkindlies" as they would later be known, can trace their roots back to Albion, before the Osterbijan takeover. They were originally the keepers of special ravens, but were eventually expanded into rangers, forest wardens, and archers who kept the roads and forests safe, kept the king's peace, and also (when the need arose) hunted and killed the Horrors that were left behind after the monthly eclipse.
Their membership was famous for accepting all comers from all lands and (almost) all races. Ohanedin, Humans, Dwarves, Zells, anyone looking for a place to run where their past crimes could be forgotten and they could live well and in good company were welcome. The job was so dangerous that they could not afford to turn anyone away – except Goblins, who they were honor-bound by their oaths to the King to kill on sight.
The group maintained lodges, blockhouses along the road where passers-by could stay the night in safety, and for a time the country was safer for their presence.
Then the succession war came to Albion. The dubious claims of the Nemecek family to the throne of Albion were supported by the Clachmen and by many Albish nobles as well, and the country erupted into civil war. The Unkindlies were seen as confederates of the King, and many lodges were besieged and destroyed. The King was sorely outmatched, and could not offer aid to them.
The war did not last long, but the damage done was immense, the Unkindlies were broken, their power was reduced to less than a hundred men where it had once numbered over a thousand. The lodges were burned, and the roads and forests were empty of their old wardens. The new rulers of Albion, now styled the Krajina, were exultant in their victory.
Until the next eclipse.
The country was ravaged, a great many churches had been destroyed, and a great number of people were rendered homeless, destitute, and wandering in search of shelter from the war's devastation. With the Unkindlies gone, bandits (many made up of deserters from both armies) ravaged the countryside, preying on the displaced, the weak, and the defenseless.
When the Eclipse came, some towns managed to organize the appropriate ceremonies. Many didn't. And many more were out in the fields in great numbers, slowly trudging towards shelter when the sun refused to rise.
Perhaps the suffering of the people had drawn extra attention from the Dark Watchers. Perhaps the Unkindlies had simply been better at their jobs than anyone had ever guessed.
The devastation wrought was unspeakable. To this day, one can still find fields of bleached bones where the refugees were caught in the open, hundreds or thousands of people killed where they stood. Whole villages simply vanished, in some cases the ground literally being scooped away, a crater remaining where once there was a pleasant hamlet. Horrors screamed and howled within sight of the safe cities, and the forests were alive with the sounds of slaughter and ethereal fire.
In the aftermath of the catastrophic night, the new King of Krajina sent forth his armies to retake the country. His men were numerous and battle-hardened, but they were also war-weary, and no expert at fighting monsters... And they didn't know the forests. Casualties were high, there was too much ground to cover, and the chaos continued.
It was when it became clear that no progress was being made that the new King granted amnesty to the remaining Unkindlies, and reinstated their order, with the full support of the new regime. Though they numbered a tenth of their original number, these were the finest monster hunters in the country, and they set about their work with grim dedication.
They won, though it was a close thing.
In the aftermath of the greatest Eclipse-related disaster of the century, the Unkindlies were made a permanent institution, and were given certain rights, including the right to recruit any who came to their doors, even those condemned to death as criminals, and for them to receive full pardon for their crimes... And the right to continue using the bow, despite being made up mostly of Albishmen.
They're also allowed to hunt on any land they please. And they do, though it is not always deer that they pursue.
Their symbol is a raven standing over a billhook, a symbol of their guardianship of the countryside, but the people fear them as much as they love them. It is said that in order to defeat the monsters of the Eclipse, the Unkindlies' leader had to resort to dark measures. Unholy measures. They have a dark reputation, and their membership, largely made up of scum and mysterious foreigners, only reinforces it.
The current master of the order is Arcturus the Crow (the irony is not lost upon him, or anyone else) a former mercenary from the northern Reich who came to Albion for unknown reasons, and swore his life to the Order. He flew up the ranks, and now leads the order more aggressively than ever before in the safekeeping of the country.
-An "Unkindness" is a unit of measurement for Ravens, much as a "Murder" is for Crows. This may be the root of the Unkindlies' title.
-In British folklore, it is believed that if the ravens ever leave the Tower of London, misfortune will befall the country. For this reason a supply of ravens are kept handy in case some disaster should drive the current stock away. The Unkindlies may also be a reference to this legend.