Taking the name of the garrison established after the Grrrlf War to keep the peace with the Grrrlf, the Shepherds are a widespread movement of humans throughout the Antaran Empire whose ultimate goal is to extract all Grrrlf from human-held lands, by force if necessary. They recruit among the young and idealistic and spread misinformation to advance their goals.
While some Shepherds wear gaudy Shepherd Armor and tabards, the main symbol of the cult is the Shepherd Medallion, described as follows: The face was cast with an image of a rolling pasture. A cloaked shepherd watched a flock of sheep, his crook held loosely at his side. ... The back of the disk [was] bare except for a triangular indentation in the center and the letters "R, L, R" hastily scratched into the bronze. It takes up one inventory space.
The medallion serves two purposes: identification among group members and a key to their secret headquarters, used by fitting the medallion to the hideout's stone door and turning it right, left, and right again to the three symbols scratched on the shepherd crook. The party starts the game with a medallion, but must obtain a second one to access the caves.
As the cult has grown, emboldened groups of Shepherds have begun to attack traveling Grrrlf, wounding or killing them when possible. These practices sometimes disillusioned members who had joined for other purposes, though Shepherd threats and attacks directed at "deserters" tended to deter individuals from leaving the group. Lord Caverton has been especially inconvenienced by the Shepherds' activities, and suspects them to be agents of House Escobar.
This article contains plot or ending spoilers.
Gar Warren, the leader of the Shepherds, approached the Emperor to request formal recognition and troops to carry out their goal of forcibly removing all Grrrlf from Imperial lands. The Emperor refused, making it clear that he considered the Shepherds a marginal group antethical to the welfare and values of the Empire.
At the instigation of a man from outside the cult, the Shepherds successfully plotted to kidnap the Imperial Consort, spiriting him out of Ticoro and hiding him in a cell in their headquarters. Warren's intent was to ransom him back to the Emperor, both as a show of might and as leverage to obtain Imperial concessions and support; at least one other Shepherd preferred to ransom him back to Chail, where such transactions are a time-honored practice. A joyman attempting to warn the Consort was murdered on the way from Januli to Ticoro, but passed the incriminating medallion and a cryptic message to William Escobar before dying.
However, a traitor to the group magically transports the Consort out of the province. She is killed by William Escobar and Aren Cordelaine during their investigation of the kidnapping, but Gar Warren escapes just as the Headquarters is raided by Imperial soldiers.