While the Imperial Throne of the Tellian Empire possessed the armed forces necessary to challenge any invaders to the newborn Empire, there were other, more insidious, threats. Rampaging monsters, subversive warlocks and witches and their ilk cannot be met with military might without incurring tremendous expense, both in human life and coin.
The death of more than one Imperial Huntsmaster during ill-conceived Hunts convinced the Throne that a piecemeal approach to this problem would not solve their issues. Their solution was simpler: bounties. Foes dangerous enough to attract the attention of the throne would have Imperial Bounties placed upon their heads. The colossal sums paid for these bounties were in direct relation to the danger involved in the hunt, but still represented only a fraction of the cost compared to a troop mobilization.
As a result, countless brave (or foolish) individuals rushed to their doom in an effort to collect on these bounties. Those that took a more measured and professional approach, forming teams, collecting information on the foe, and acquiring the right tools for the job naturally survived longer. Some even managed to collect more than one bounty and almost overnight the Hunter Cadre were born.
Much like a shadow follows an object, thus were the Hunters part of the Hundred Kingdoms themselves, in their long walk through history. Men and women of usually obscure origin, with impressive equipment and obvious training, sometimes even Gifted in magic, would appear in groups, pairs or even alone, in various instances. Accounts regarding Hunters can be found as early as 287 P.R., when a Hunter called Ishsa Hiemstam brought in chains the infamous Moibus the Mad, to be burned at the stake. In 354 P.R., a group of Hunters are part of the defense against the forces of Svarthgalm, assigned to disrupt the wild shamans of the Wastes and counter the Blooded forces, while an unknown Hunter was fighting side by side with the Order of the Sword against Svarthgalm himself. In 437 P.R., the head of the Beast of Chevaux is brought to the Count of Elysses by one Kelthix, who calls himself a Hunter of the Cadre. The list of such events is long and uninterrupted throughout the history of the Tellian Empire and the conclusion is simple: long before they were recognized as an organized group, these elite bounty hunters had already established their own traditions, training regimes and operating methods.
In 504 P.R., and despite the political unrest of the time, an almost unprecedented agreement was struck, between the Chamberlain representing the Imperial Throne, the Orders and both Theists and Deists. They recognized the Venati Quadris, Hunters Certified by the Four, a mercenary group of specialty agents that would work under the mantle of the Imperial Throne, within the specific mandate of hunting the monstrosities that plagued mankind and any mages, chapter or otherwise, whose use of their Gift did not lie within the established parameters of the Empire’s Charters.
The recognition by all four major institutions of the time proves obvious and rare backing, both in terms of influence and of finances. Even during the days of the Dissolution, when the Noble Houses rushed to maim the corpse of the Empire, the disarmament of the Cadre was never even discussed, forgotten as an Imperial armed force and always perceived as a useful agency instead. Inevitably, this would work in the Cadre’s favor. Many of the members of the Legion of Smoke sought refuge and employment in the ranks of the Cadre, boosting Hunter numbers to an unprecedented level. Soon, the obscure, small group of specialty agents would become, well, still obscure, but now an elite armed force, operating both on bounties but also as a mercenary group for those who could afford them.
Despite the obvious opportunity, the Chamberlain never tried to add the Cadre to his tools of pressure, respecting the independence of operation the Hunters always had. Perhaps he did not have to or, some claim, perhaps this is not entirely true. While the enigmatic Cadre remains politically neutral, true to their original creed of hunting down renegade and rogue mages as well as monstrosities that plague the lands, the sums they require from individual noble households for their services border on the ridiculous. At the same time, their long tradition of cooperating with Imperial troops allows them to coordinate seamlessly in combat and the Cadre itself seems to favor working under the command of those who truly know how to utilize them. Now, as the world descends into chaos, with all manner of enemies challenging the might of the Kingdoms, the Cadre has chosen to heed the call. Equipped with their highly advanced crossbows, any number of poisons and acids, a variety of weapons and lesser magical heirlooms to fit all circumstances, the Hunter Cadre will be found where it is needed and do what needs to be done.