The Sentinel, also known as the "Order of the Balance", "Minstrum" or the "Fathers", are an old religious movement who are the watchers over the Balance between magic and science in the Longest Journey and Dreamfall.
The Sentinel were originally founded by one of the Draic Kin: given the Red's ongoing involvement with them, he was most likely responsible. The Sentinel were instrumental in dividing Earth into two "worlds": Stark and Arcadia; science and magic. They set up a Guardian in charge of controlling and channeling the Balance of science and magic between the two worlds; a Guardian of the Balance who lives in a tower in the Guardian's Realm, and who is replaced every one thousand years by a new Guardian. The founding Kin gave them a Stone Disk that essentially functioned as a 'spare key' to the Guardian's Realm, to be used in the event of an emergency.
After many generations of Guardians, most of the Sentinel priests of Stark broke away from their brethren in Arcadia to form the Vanguard. For thousands of years the Stone Disk was kept on display at the Sentinel Enclave in Marcuria, until Tyren agents of the Vanguard attmepted to steal it. They were thwarted by the White Dragon, even though she was forbidden from interfering in such matters.
At the time of the events in TLJ the Sentinel are few in Stark, represented in the game only by Father Raul. They are more of a power in Arcadia, but no-one knows what their position is after the Tyren invasion of Marcuria.
The Sentinel have a temple in the central square of Marcuria, and the Enclave on the outside of the town, containing one of the greatest libraries in the world.
In Dreamfall the Sentinel are being persecuted by the Azadi,and their temple has been demolished. April calls it as the Temple of the Balance, and refers to it as their "holiest shrine". The term "Fathers" also appears to have been dropped altogether, however, and suddenly we are presented with the problem of the very female Minstrum Magda in their ranks.
Their canonical books are known as The Scriptures of the Balance, which number 13. Of these, the 2nd is known as 'The Scripture of Song' and the 8th is known as 'The Scripture of Breaking' (of which the 16th chapter 'Regarding the Disc of the Balance and the events that came about when the disc was broken' is readable in TLJ).
There appear to be 3 ranks of the Sentinel hierarchy:
Istrum: A novice of the Sentinel. Lowest of three ranks, followed by the Minstrum and Vestrum. Cortez tells April that he met Vestrum Tobias when he was just an Istrum.
Minstrum: A Minstrum is an initiate of the Sentinel. The middle of three ranks, it comes after the Istrum, and is followed by the Vestrum, the highest degree. This title is held by both Father Raul and Minstrum Yerin in The Longest Journey, and a Minstrum Elyak is attested as the author of Secrets of the Draic Kin. Minstrums appear to be the 'active' arm of the Sentinel who carry out day-to-day duties.
Vestrum: A master of the Sentinel. The highest of three ranks, it comes after the Istrum and Minstrum respectively. It is uncertain if this is simply the highest of three ranks attainable by all (v. a Christian Bishop), or if it is to be understood as the sole leader of the Sentinel at any one time (v. Christian Pope).
The Guardian is a person in charge of controlling and channeling the Balance of science and magic between the two worlds. A Guardian of the Balance lives in a tower in the Guardian's Realm, and is replaced every one thousand years by a new Guardian. The Guardian was set up by the Sentinel at the time the Earth was separated into the twin worlds of Arcadia and Stark, one world of magic and one of science. Here the Guardian watches over the balance of magic and science between the Two Worlds, apportioning the two principles between the worlds where necessary. The Guardian spends a thousand years in the tower separated from his/her soul so that this apportioning may be done dispassionately, and is reunited with it when the guardianship is at an end - leaving the tower to enter a world changed almost beyond comprehension in the years that have passed. It is not known how many potential Guardians are in the worlds. April writes in her diary after speaking to Cortez that the Vanguard have been experimenting on 'potential Guardians' and essentially destroying their candidacy, though she may have been referring just to Gordon Halloway. Otherwise, it sounds as if Gordon was the only candidate to survive this experimental process, the exact nature of which is (thankfully) never revealed. The criteria for being a Guardian are never spelled out, but they would likely involve having a personality with a reasonable balance of logic and chaos, courage to face the prospect of being essentially held in stasis for a thousand years, and a strong sense of compassion and justice. There are indications that Guardian candidates are also Shifters. Given the Three Trials a Guardian must face, he or she must also be physically strong and fit, able to use powerful magic, and psychologically stable enough to face their own personal demons. While there seems to be no discrimination of candidates on the basis of gender, it seems that only humans are eligible to be Guardian. If being a Shifter is indeed a criterion of candidature, this may support such a claim - given that it is unlikely that a magical race (who require Arcadia to exist) would develop the ability to go to Stark. In Dreamfall, we learn a little more about an enthroned Guardian. Despite the fact the soul of the Guardian is removed, Gordon is still able to recognise and speak to April. However, his consciousness has been expanded, and he seems to be coexisting with the Balance. He also claims to be a part of, but apart from, the Guardian's Realm itself, allowing him to have control of it. While Gordon is aware of a change in the flow of dreams between the worlds, he says it does not concern the Balance, "so it does not concern me."
A Shifter is, as described by Vestrum Tobias Grensret, "Someone capable of opening doors between worlds, a Shift, a portal between the realms of Stark and Arcadia. Only a Shifter's own power can allow her to travel. No one else can do this for her." Shifters often start to demonstrate their powers while they're dreaming. However they can get help from a powerful being, such as one of the Draic Kin, to channel their talent and open a Shift while awake. Lady Alvane has also demonstrated this ability to help, to a slightly lesser degree, though she appears well-informed about Shifting too. While it is never said, it seems unlikely that non-humans would be able to Shift, given that Vestrum Tobias told April that the magical races required Arcadia to exist. (There is, however, the exception of the Banda who mistakenly falls through the Divide into the Fringe Cafe. If we are to accept him, however, we must also accept Fiona and Mickey as Shifters, as they seem to fall through the Divide while watching the Screen the same night!)
The Stone Disk is one of the most holy objects in the two worlds. Set with four 'Dragon's Eye' jewels (blue, green, red and white), the Disk was brought to Earth by the Draic Kin. When complete and with the jewels in place, the Disk acts as the key to the Guardian's Tower; a replacement for the original disk used in the creation of the Divide. The Disk was kept at the Enclave for thousands of years, but after an attempt was made to steal the Disk long ago - an attempt conducted by Tyren soldiers and Sentinel traitors, chronicled in The Scriptures of the Balance (VIII, 16), and foiled by the Mother breaking the rule against Kin intervening - it was divided for safekeeping. Each of the Kin took one of the jewels, and the Disk itself was separated into four pieces. Four of the Magical Races of Arcadia - the Banda, the common Maerum and Alatien ancestor, the Dark People and the Venar - were entrusted with the pieces to await the coming of one who would reconstruct the Disk. This turned out to be April Ryan, though in some cases she had to go through several trials to prove herself. According to Abnaxus, the Stone Disk had recently been mentioned at the Ayrede High Council. Apparently, the Tyren ambassador wanted to know where it was kept. No one at the Council admitted to knowing where it was. The Tyren ambassador was told to speak to the Sentinel about it, but Abnaxus thought it was as unlikely he would condescend to do so as it was that the Sentinel would respond. As the Tyren often act as the martial arm of the Vanguard in Arcadia, it seems likely the Tyren were trying to track the Disk down on their masters' behalf. The Disk had to be reassembled before the jewels could be added. In order to reconstitute the Disk, April returned to the Enclave and placed each piece at points around the edge of a diagram inscribed below the dome. After Crow reluctantly removed the pigeon guano clogging the mouth of the stone dragon overhead, it blasted blue fire - presumably magical - that melted the fragments into a single piece. It was then dropped into the pool in the centre of the Library beneath. Although she had already collected the blue and white in Arcadia, the red and green jewels were not added until April was in Jacob McAllen's laboratory. When April arrived at the Tower, she placed the Disk into the Well of Making at its base, which caused the imprint of a hand to form out of the water. It did not react to April's touch, but responded to that of former Guardian Adrian. It is unlikely that the Disk will ever be retrieved, as its use has now been fulfilled, and the office of Guardian - along with the Tower - will not exist for much longer.
The Banda are a small, mild-mannered people who live below the ground in Riverwood. Standing about half the height of a human, with a small snout and large eyes, they are sometimes disparagingly called 'mole-people', because of their affinity with the earth. Although they are equipped with strong arms and hands for digging, the Banda actually use magic to create their tunnels; they sing to the earth to shape it. The Banda are a social people with a strong tribal family structure, and extraordinarily long names. They are led by an Elder who also seems to be their spiritual leader; he has the last word in matters that concern the tribe, and decides who can sleep in the Spirit Dig. This honour is extended to April Ryan, who experiences a Bak-Baar during the night. Generally, the Banda seem to be quite timid, but friendly. The first Banda April meets is Ben-Bandu, who is looking for his brother, Bandu-Uta. April promises to help, and saves Bandu-Uta from being eaten by the Gribbler. This earns her the respect of the tribe and, after her Bak-Baar, a new name bestowed by the Banda Spirits: 'April Bandu-Embata', meaning 'the little one who seeks and finds'. If April chooses to work overtime at the Fringe Cafe in the early chapters, a Banda playing a pipe appears from the jukebox during the evening.
The Dark People are the most mysterious race April encounters. Clad in long black robes, they are described in the Scriptures of the Balance as 'keepers of the dark flame, the eternally dark, the mariners', as they travel the seas in Shadow Ships. They also serve the Old God or Blue of the Kin, preparing a Star Map for April on his orders. Very little is known about the Dark People. They travel on strange ships that are shrouded in fog and clearly possess powerful magic, often replete with extensive libraries (which are said to rival the library at the Sentinel Enclave in Marcuria). They tend to be brusque and to the point, simply giving April their piece of the Stone Disk and the star map. However, they do make April admit that she is not just an ordinary girl; that she is April Bandu-Embata, the Windbringer, the Waterstiller, and the Kan-ang-la. To the Dark People, April is a 'Wave' that moves forward into the future, changing everything in her path: this is also how Benrime Salmin of the Journeyman Inn describes April. This may be the 'ordeal' she needs to undergo to prove herself, as it is clearly hard for her to finally admit she is not just an ordinary girl.Though they help April readily enough, the Dark People are not a 'safe' race like the Banda. The one who speaks to April warns her not to approach the others. This suggests that outside of serving the Old God, the Dark People often work to their own agenda.
The Maerum are ocean-dwelling folk ruled by the Maerum Queen. They are a matriarchal society, where the females protect the males. The Maerum April visits live in the Sea of Songs in a magnificent undersea city which they call the "Third City". At the time April arrived, the Maerum were suffering because the luminescent Tanyenn algae that grew around the city was dying out: the light from the Tanyenn attracted fish for the Maerum to catch and kept large predators like the Snapjaw away, so the loss of the Tanyenn was causing them great difficulties. The Maerum were also at war with the Alatien, with the two races calling each other "Wettails" and "Wingdemons" respectively. The Maerum have a strange reputation in Marcuria as 'bloodthirsty cannibal mermen' according to the sailor Umber Ianos, but they don't actually eat people (or each other). Instead, they seem to 'rescue' shipwrecked sailors by bringing them down to their city, as April experienced firsthand. Once there, she was put inside the "Landwalker's Bubble" which was full of air, and decorated with diagrams showing her how to use a polyp in the wall to breathe underwater, and how to use the Tanyenn to communicate with the Maerum. The Maerum Queen told April she would eventually become a "Gatherer" in the city. This suggests the Maerum have a class of slaves, possibly composed entirely of shipwrecked humans and Dolmari, giving rise to the legend of salvation by a "Landwalker". The Maerum worship the Old God, who is actually the gigantic Blue of the Kin who dwells in the deeper oceans. They also venerate the prophecy of the Waterstiller, whose identity will be confirmed by the completion of four tasks: bringing proof of her mission to the Balance, killing a Snapjaw with her own spear, finding the piece of the Stone Disk the Maerum hold, and 'reuniting their people'. The Queen points out that April cannot be the Waterstiller, because the Maerum are at peace amongst themselves, but April finds an abandoned shrine with proof that the Maerum and the Alatien are descended from the Old God, and therefore this 'reunion' means bringing peace to the two races. Once this is accomplished, Tanyenn will become plentiful again and both races will flourish. Interestingly, at VAVA in Venice, April comments on Emma's 'absolutely beautiful' holosculpture that, for an instant, comes to life when her back is turned. The sculpture closely resembles the Maerum Queen. Also, Fiona tells April she had seen an "underwater city" when looking into the canals of Venice.
The Alatien are a winged people who live on the island of Alais. They are famous for their love of stories and apparently have a rich oral history. When April arrived on Alais, the Alatien lived in a small village called Tama'a at the top of the mountain and were having trouble with their wings; the bones were becoming brittle and the Alatien could not fly for great distances. They were also at war with the Maerum, with the two races calling each other 'Wettails' and 'Wingdemons'. The Alatien make pottery to trade, but their great love is storytelling, and their leader is known simply as the Teller. They pass stories on to each other, telling them in their own words - this means that the stories change, but as the Teller explains to April, all stories must necessarily change, lest they cease to have meaning to those who tell them. Some examples of Alatien stories include the Tale of Winds, the Tale of Sea, the Tale of Stars and the Tale of Homecoming; they are simple but powerful folk stories which actually form part of a test before April can meet the Teller. They also have a prophecy about the coming of the Windbringer. Her meeting with the Alatien also allowed April to complete her work as the Maerum's Waterstiller when she negotiated a reconciliation between the two races. This was helped by April's discovery of an ancient city beneath Alais where the Maerum and Alatien had once lived in harmony. From the murals in the Ancient Shrine near the Maerum city, it is suggested that the luminescent Tanyenn algae flourishes when the Maerum and the Alatien live in close proximity, and that it would also help the Alatien recover the strength in their wings.
The Venar's consciousness exists completely outside of time in order to be able to see all events simultaneously, although they have not always possessed this power. They see possible pasts and futures as well as the actual events, although their vision is obscured by a "veil" beyond which they cannot see. This "veil" is caused by the Vanguard's tampering with the Balance and created by Chaos, and is presumably removed when Gordon Halloway takes his place as the 13th Guardian. Although rare, the Venar can be found in a variety of places. While at the time of TLJ Abnaxus makes his home in the Marcurian City Green, he tells April that he is from north of the Border Mountains, and his wife is from the Bay of Fire. Vestrum Tobias also mentions rumor of a Venar Ring of Trees (the name of a Venar settlement) in Riverwood. It is never clearly spelled out, but the Venar obviously have a close kinship with trees. Abnaxus' home, though made of stone, is shaped like a tree, and his hands bear a resemblance to tree branches; as well as this the Venar Stone is in the image of a tree. The Scriptures of the Balance call them 'the watchers of the woods; the ones who are outside'; the Venar may feel akin to trees because of their similar longevity and unchanging nature once fully grown. It is almost reminiscent of the Ents from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings books, whose long lives give them a rather relaxed view of time. The Venar are represented on the Ayrede Council by Abnaxus who, alone among his people, can focus his attention on a single linear thread of time, and can thus converse with humans and Dolmari. They rarely associate with other races, because their perception of time gives them knowledge which can be dangerous in the wrong hands. The Venar have a prophecy that a saviour will come, "One who will bring order to Chaos, only to release Chaos on the innocent. One who will restore the Balance, only to finally break it." They call this being the Kan-ang-la, or "the small seed who grew to a tall tree". The Venar have their own language, of which only the word Kan-ang-la is given. Abnaxus is able to speak Na'ven. While it is never specified, it can be assumed that a tense-less language would make much more sense for them. Another speculation we can make is that all of their proper names begin with the prefix Ab-, although it could just be a family prefix.