The Demonhunter Order was created in the late fifteenth century by Jacob Zalkarov, who would later ascend to the pantheon and become Zalkar the Unyielding. In the long years since, the Demonhunter Order has grown from a close-knit group of several dozen soldiers into a near-global network of law enforcement and hunters of evil.
Though their primary mission has always been thwarting “demons” – whether serilian, of any of the underworld varieties, or those from unknown sources – demons are hardly the only problems that the Order looks into. Their hunters can typically be found in a range of different roles, from city watch to military commanders to local problem solvers.
Joining the Demonhunter Order requires enrolling at their academy in the city of DarkWind, where recruits are put through vigorous training of both the physical and academic types. An athletic physique and skill with weapons will only take a demonhunter so far. They are also given an expansive education that includes basics such as linguistics, math, and social studies, as well as the more practical biological and anatomical lessons that allow them to fight their enemies most effectively.
Most recruits are not graduated from the academy before their twenty-first birthday, at least, though there are always rare exceptions. Upon graduation, they are granted the rank of “Initiate, Tier 1” and, generally, serve with local law enforcement. During this probationary period, their ability to follow orders and respect authority is closely monitored. In the first couple of years after graduating, demonhunters are either weeded out, or they will find they are promoted through the lower ranks quickly. There are four tiers for initiates, and reaching the fifth rank of the Order – Enforcer – means they have completed their probationary period.
Enforcers are typically paired up with another demonhunter between the eighth rank (called Demonhunters) and the tenth rank (Devilhunters). During this time, they are expected to bond with their fellow hunters, and eventually find a partner they are most comfortable working with. Loners are fairly rare among the Order, though not unheard of; two of its greatest hunters – Karian Vanador and Turik Jalar – typically worked with those outside the Order rather than have a full-time partner.
If their higher-ranked partner is satisfied with their first few missions for the Order, an Enforcer will be promoted to the rank of Justiciar. Reaching this rank gives a demonhunter an important new distinction: worldwide jurisdiction and a limited authority over local law enforcement. Demonhunters are still expected to abide by the local customs and laws of whatever place they are working, but a hunter of the rank of Justiciar or higher can overrule law enforcement, requesting direct intervention by the local ruler. If the local ruler or other judiciary shows no interest in events, a Justiciar or higher-ranked hunter can act as the final authority on matters until such time as they are superseded locally.
Continued distinguished service will lead to a hunter being promoted to the rank of Marshal. This rank brings further authority, as the hunter is now deemed worthy of carrying a military rank, if they are conscripted or otherwise requested to serve in one of the armies. Their actual, temporary military rank will be based on experience and other factors, though, so the rank of Marshal does not equate to being a Marshal in the military.
The eighth rank is when a hunter is officially referred to as a Demonhunter. Reaching this rank is a milestone, as it demonstrates that the hunter has reached the halfway point to the position of Avatar of Vengeance, the highest rank of the Order. Once a hunter reaches the rank of Demonhunter, they can no longer be promoted in the field or by a superior officer, but they must be recognized and promoted directly by the priesthood of Zalkar, the Grand Commander of the Order, or by the Lieutenant Commander of the Order. At this point in their careers, hunters are expected to find their own way and act as a direct arm of the Order, wherever they make their abode. Gone are the days of waiting for orders and missions; they are now expected to be giving them.
Demon Slayers generally reach their rank through volume of kills. A Demonhunter is expected to be protecting the people from any and all threats, but especially serilian demons or underworld problems. While they are not “punished” for times of calm and peace, there are always problems to be solved – either with the blade or one’s mind – and Demonhunters are expected to rarely be idle. As they amass a career of successes against evil and threats of a demonic nature, they will ascend to the ranks of Demon Slayer, Devilhunter, and then Devil Slayer.
The twelfth rank of the Order is another milestone. Once a hunter reaches this rank, their career begins being monitored directly by the Council of the Order, comprised of many of Zalkar’s highest-ranking priests. All promotions from this point forward are given solely at the discretion of the Council, until the hunter is tested to become Avatar of Vengeance. To become a Shield of the Heavens, one usually has to accomplish a feat of strength. It is a loosely-kept “secret,” for instance, that Karian Vanador attained the rank by defeating an erestram in single combat, considered a nearly impossible task.
When a hunter reaches the rank of Sword of the Heavens, their focus shifts. While they are still expected to protect the people and honor their deity’s tenet of Love Justice, but Do Mercy, a Sword of the Heavens now seeks to destroy evil on its own terms. Where the Shield of the Heavens defends, the Sword of the Heavens strikes preemptively, becoming a crusader that roots out evil before it has a chance to show itself. This rank can be a tricky one for hunters to advance beyond, as it generally represents a point where the tenet of Love Justice, but Do Mercy becomes much harder to apply to their work.
Those that can balance justice and mercy while striking at the very heart of Zalkar’s foes are promoted to the rank of Hand of Zalkar. Though it doesn’t confer any additional authority or overt benefits, the very name of this rank instills reverence in most people. Now, the hunter is not just a hunter, but a very agent of the deity himself, or a manifestation of his intervention. More than ever, the central tenet of Zalkar’s church becomes the building block of the hunter’s career and motivations, and determines whether they will advance any further in the Order. At this rank, a hunter begins to undergo special “testing” directly from their deity to determine whether they will ever rise to the position of Avatar.
At the fifteenth rank, a hunter becomes known as a Fist of Retribution. Here, the hunter is essentially “unleashed” upon Zalkar’s foes. It is a little-known fact that this rank is for those who fail the special testing during their tenure as a Hand of Zalkar. While it is possible for a Fist of Retribution to eventually rise to the position of Avatar, generally, there is some minor character flaw that keeps the deity from granting this final promotion. They remain at this rank for the duration of their careers, being sent out to face some of the greatest threats to the world of Citaria and beyond.
The ultimate goal of every demonhunter is to reach the sixteenth and final rank: Avatar of Vengeance. This promotion can only be granted directly by Zalkar the Unyielding. With this promotion, the demonhunter becomes infused with a small portion of the deity’s power, which grants them numerous protections from their enemies. The Avatar of Vengeance is further automatically given the position of Grand Commander of the Order. The rank of Avatar presents new challenges, as in addition to balancing Justice and Mercy, they must now balance paperwork and crusading. At this rank, the symbol of Zalkar is permanently emblazoned on the chest of the Avatar.
Demonhunters are identified by their dog tags, which are given a divine enchantment by their deity to show their authenticity. Early in the Order’s history, ranks were shown with chevrons and medals, but this was discontinued to distinguish them from the military. The dog tags remained, however, and Zalkar chose to use them to identify his servants. While it is possible for a demonhunter to hold a military rank at the same time, it’s uncommon. The two branches of service, while they mutually admire each other, prefer to remain differentiated.
“The strength of a demonhunter lies not in their sword arm, but in their allies.” — Turik Jalar, Avatar of Vengeance from 2876-2905