Guild of the White Pigeon
By MortepierreI, for one, have always been intrigued by the fact that after the events described in VRGtF, the most infamous Outsiders in RL seem to disappear, and also by the apparent lack of a postal service in CL8+ societies. What follows is my humble attempt to kill these two birds with the same stone. Bear with me, it’s a long text. And, yes, I know it contradicts somewhat what Ryan Naylor wrote (in CotN-D) about the Black Duke. My apologies to him.
Guild of the White Pigeon:
Crest: a white carrier pigeon, with a rolled scroll held in its beak, flying within a golden triangle
Chronology: 749 Robert Sherwood petitions his great-uncle, Lord Jules Weathermay, for the permission to found a guild specialized in delivering messages. Having secured his authorization, Robert buys a building in Blackburn’s Crossing and starts to recruit riders.
750 Robert seeks to expand his operation beyond Mordent to neighboring domains. He travels to Port-a-Lucine and gains the permission of Lord-Governor Guignol after a private meeting with Dominic d’Honaire, one of his advisors. Buildings are bought and converted to post offices in both Port-a-Lucine and Chateaufaux.
Robert continues his journey north to Lamordia but find Baron von Aubrecker completely uninterested in his proposal. Dismayed but not discouraged, he resolves to spend as much time there as necessary to spark his attention.
The Grim Harvest strikes, throwing Darkon into chaos and raising Baron von Aubrecker’s suspicions about anything new in his realm.
751 Riders from the guild operating in Dementlieu are slaughtered as they travel from Port-a-Lucine to Chateaufaux, their bodies dismembered gruesomely. Each time, the head is mysteriously transported to the d’Honaire’s estate and left to rot at the front door. Despite the Council’s outrage at the arrogance of the murderer, the gendarmes fail to catch the culprit. Things get so bad that the guild threatens to shut down its operation in the domain forever. Strangely, the murders then stop as mysteriously as they had begun. Delivery of messages resumes.
Meanwhile, Robert has found a sympathetic audience in the person of Gerta von Aubrecker. By demonstrating how useful his guild can be, both for commoners and noblemen, he manages to convince her to speak to her father on his behalf. The guild is granted permission to operate for a period no longer than 10 years, subject to renewal.
752 Robert spends most of the year training Lamordian riders up to guild’s standards. He toys briefly with the idea of “sea messengers” to the islands of the Sea of Sorrows but finally abandon the idea. It’s too early yet for such venture. Returning to Mordent, he stops at Port-a-Lucine to enjoy a night at the Opera House. There, he escapes death narrowly when a chandelier falls on the crowd. Shaken, he hastens back to Mordent where he remains in seclusion for a long while, presumably to recuperate.
753 New murder in Dementlieu. This time, there is only one victim though (the Port-a-Lucine’s post master) and the head is left on the docks, not at the d’Honaire’s estate. Whoever did it seems satisfied with a single death for none of the riders are attacked. Nevertheless, the guild announces that enough is enough and starts recruiting a private security force to protect its offices throughout the Core. Robert hires Anton Rugieri, a coldblooded Borcan mercenary known as the Scourge, to supervise it.
Robert strikes a deal with his distant cousins, the Weathermay twins, to help deliver the new issues of the Van Richten’s Guides they have printed to those who ordered them. He capitalizes on the occasion to demonstrate to other countries how swift and reliable his riders are.
754 Guild’s emissaries sent to Valachan to negotiate with Baron von Kharkov fail to return. A thorough search of the border between Mordent and Valachan turns up only one body. It has been shredded to pieces and died with an expression of terror on its face.
Robert sends Anton and a group of his best men to look for the culprit. They are confronted by Lady Adelaide and her retinue shortly after entering Valachan. Anton orders his men to back off a mile and wait for him there. Amazingly, he joins them an hour later, unscathed but dragging the bloody pelts of two black panthers. He tells them they were the culprit and that Lady Adelaide helped him track them down.
For the next two weeks, messages are exchanged between Robert and Baron von Kharkov until they settle on a deal. The guild will be allowed to deliver letters in Valachan but is forbidden to set up a permanent office there.
755 With the return of king Azalin to power, things finally settle down in Darkon. Strangely, the guild announces that it has no intention of expanding its business to that country. Not now, and not ever. Falkovnia is considered off limit as well. At the same time, the guild starts to offer a highly expensive “special delivery” service that guarantees a message will be delivered in record time no matter the distance or the weather. A trial run from Ludendorf to Ungrad in less than a day demonstrates Robert wasn’t joking. Still, the price being prohibitive, only a few people are able to afford it.
756 The guild builds new offices in Richemulot’s biggest cities. Whoever stalked them in Dementlieu seems to have followed them there for two post masters are soon found dismembered (one in Ste Ronges and one in Mortigny). Their heads, however, are intact but for one detail: a dead rat has been driven so deep into their throat that only its hind legs can be seen in their mouth. Despite the immediate intervention of Anton, the murderer escapes once again, though no other death takes place. Fearful guild members start nicknaming him the Tormentor.
757 After a nasty incident at the Port-a-Lucine’s office, the guild starts to hire low ranking members of the sect of Ezra to scan messages for signs of magic. Anyone wanting such item delivered must now fill special papers clearing the guild of any possible “unfortunate” consequence to the recipient and is always charged extra.
Based on the rising reputation of his guild, Robert is invited by Ivana Boritsi to open a new office in Borca.. and to attend one of her famed parties. During the ball, he meets and befriends Dmitri Nuiken, a local nobleman, who warns him about getting too close to the “Black Widow”. Wisely, Robert feigns drunkenness and takes his leave before Ivana gets a chance to invite him for a “last drink”. Despite a squad of Ivan’s enforcers riding hard behind him (Ivana isn’t so easy to fool), Robert manages to cross into Richemulot and escapes. The ease with which he did it so astounds Ivana that she extends a permanent invitation to Robert to settle down in Borca and be ennobled. Robert politely declines and feigns health troubles.
758 Current year
The guild has offices in the major cities of the following domains: Borca, Dementlieu, Lamordia, Mordent, and Richemulot. In addition, it will deliver items to Valachan but, unless you happen to catch a rider as he goes by, won’t accept items there (since it has no office in that country). Darkon and Falkovnia are both off limit, no matter how much money you’re willing to pay. The guild is currently looking to expand to Invidia but, given the political situation, isn’t likely to do so in the immediate future. Items can be delivered to Barovia but only to Zeidenburg and Teufeldorf. Other countries of the Core aren’t viable destinations (for now) and the guild doesn’t deliver to (real) islands either. Clusters and islands of terror aren’t even discussed at this point.
Items delivered include: letters, books (no more than 2 at a time), and small packages (nothing weighing more than 10 lbs and/or too big to enter a saddlebag).
Each office has enough fresh horses so that riders can be sent to each of the next offices in every direction, plus two (for riders passing through). Each office is held by a post master (and one or two assistants).
Items are collected during the day (8 am to 6 pm) and depart within the next three days, always at dawn. The more items awaiting delivery, the higher the probability that a rider will leave the next day. Items for which “special delivery” was selected always depart within 24 hours and, amazingly, always arrive at destination within that same time period.
If an item isn’t delivered, the guild will systematically refunds you double what you paid, with apologies. Note that this hasn’t happened often as they are quite efficient.
Note that, except in Valachan, the guild doesn’t deliver an item to your doorstep. At least not directly. Riders deliver items to the closest post office and the post master (or one of his assistants) then deliver them to the recipient. If you live outside the city where the office is located, it will usually delay the delivery by a day or two (depending how busy they are). No matter how much you insist, the guild refuses to deliver item to locations “lost in the middle of nowhere”. The only exception is the residence of the local lord (or head of state).
“Special delivery” items are grouped by each post master on a special red table standing apart from other furniture in a small closet in each post office. Post masters are under strict order never to move that table under any circumstance and to always keep the closet under lock, except when putting down items on the table or when the special messenger comes to pick them up.
The prices are only a suggestion as each DM has his own idea when it comes to how much life costs in RL (and how large the Core really is):
2 cp per mile traveled to deliver the item as long as said item weighs 1 lb. or less. Double the price for each lb. beyond the first (i.e. x2 for up to 2 lbs, x4 for up to 3 lbs, etc...) If the item is magical in any way, triple the price.
Special delivery is 1 gp per mile traveled (but the guild refuses to deliver magical items this way), no exception.
A head of state will always get a 50% discount, as a gesture of goodwill.
The guild is completely neutral in regard to different states, making it the ideal instrument to deliver diplomatic messages. Guild’s members have to take an oath never to open a letter or package they carry. The guild prides itself on its reputation of secrecy.
The one thing the guild requests from its clients is the insurance that the item it will carry for them shall in now way endanger the life of its members. That includes the nature of the item itself, as well as its contents. The guild expects to run into its fair share of “random” problems (highwaymen, roaming monsters, etc..) as it’s part of the job (so to speak) but encounters triggered specifically by an item (i.e. people killing a rider to intercept an item in particular) are a different story. Anyone guilty of deceiving the guild in such a way will quickly rue the day it happened.
For starter, the guild will never deal with that individual again. Next, they’ll fine the culprit 500 gp per member injured and/or 5000 gp per member killed; the money goes fully to the victims or their next of kin. Refusing to pay is considered a bad idea. While the guild doesn’t insist on getting paid, the greedy clients soon disappear, no matter how influential or how well protected they were. Officially, the guild denies any involvement. Unofficially.. well, suffice it to say that there are rumors...
Riders are commonly recruited among hard-working, honest citizens. They get
to wear the guild’s uniform (masterwork studded leather with a black tabard
displaying the guild’s crest). In game terms, prospective riders must have
the following skills:
You have to be rider for at least a year before being considered for post
master. A post master must also have: (= stack with a rider’s
It bears to mention that the guild doesn’t discriminate between men and women. All are equally welcomed as long as they are competent and willing to earn their pay. Sexual harassment is frowned upon and members have been expelled for less than that in the past.
Most riders have levels of Commoner or Expert. A few are Ranger or Rogue. They have the best horses (many of them Vaasan) money can buy at their disposal and earn enough money to guarantee their loyalty.
The special rider has quickly become a figure of legend among the other riders. He/she rides a black horse whose hooves trail mist behind. He/she wears a red cloak with a large hood that conceals his/her face and speaks with a rasping voice. Whenever a special delivery awaits, he/she appears less than 24 hours later, picks up the item(s) and then departs at breakneck speed.
No one but Robert (and, possibly, Anton) knows who he/she is and how he/she manages that feat. No spy has ever managed to track him/her down more than a few hundred yards, nor has any “normal” horse been able to catch up with him/her. A popular rumor has it that he/she is a disgraced Anchorite that still knows a trick or two about the mists.
Security at the different offices is handled by Anton’s men which the riders have nicknamed the Rough-riders. They are recruited among the toughest warriors each country has to offer and trained personally by Anton at a secret base somewhere near Tumbledown (in Mordent). When they “graduate”, they wear a uniform made of a combo of chain shirt/studded leather (dyed black) and a white tabard with the crest of the guild (except the triangle is red and the pigeon is black). Absolute loyalty is asked of them and when they sign up it’s always for a 5 years contract.
They aren’t a cheerful bunch but they know their job (some whisper too well even..).
They routinely carry a masterwork cold iron longsword and a silver punching dagger. Half of them are expert marksmen and carry a musket as well (with normal, cold iron, and silver bullets). They aren’t shy about using them either, though they refrain from unnecessary violence unless provoked. They will try to subdue first but if their opponents have shed the blood of a fellow guild member, they’ll offer no quarter. Anyone guilty of killing a guild member won’t make it alive to the next town if they have anything to say about it.
Note that, though merciless, they aren’t stupid. They will never pick up a fight with local authorities and will always defer to them if cooperating to apprehend a criminal. They are all eager to find and deal with the Tormentor as Robert has promised a more-than-substantial reward for his body, dead or alive (but dead with extreme prejudice, preferably)
Five of them are assigned to each of the countries where the guild has offices. They patrol constantly the roads used by the riders and check each post office to make sure nothing is amiss. Anton’s time is divided between training new recruits and touring his men at the different locations where they are posted, though he returns to the guild’s headquarter at least once per quarter to report to Robert.
Robert Sherwood (LN/LE male human Exp 5/War 1/Horizon Walker 2/Manipulator 2)
Robert is known as an energetic man, well-educated for one still relatively young (he’ll be 29 in 758), and a very good judge of character. He handles himself quite well with a rapier though few can remember him ever having had to draw it. He is also an accomplished rider and enjoys riding along his men on the rare occasion he gets the chance. Since his close call in Borca, he hasn’t traveled much - at Anton’s express request, people whisper - and now spends all his days at the guild’s headquarters dealing with paperwork. His assistants are worried that “too much work and no fun” is slowly ruining his health for he has been less than his normal self lately, with uncharacteristic bouts of anger followed by periods of depression.
The only things which seem to cheer him up a little lately are the daily hour he spends horse riding (on Bretzel, a chestnut mare he received as a gift from Gerta von Aubrecker), the occasional visit from his Borcan friend (Dmitri; the two have grown close due to facing similar problems), and his weekly (rapier) practice session with his cousin Laurie Weathermay. Some people have noticed that his fondness for her goes perhaps a wee bit further than simple love for a relative and that, at nearly 30, Robert is still single...
Anton Rugieri (LE, see below)
At 6’5”, Anton is a tower of a man. Tall for a Borcan, with shoulder-length black hair and deep brown eyes, he cuts an imposing figure. He always dresses in full black, even for joyous occasions, and is never seen around without the barbed whip which earned him his nickname. He is darkly handsome in a scary kind of way. The (strangely) silvery scar that goes from his left temple to under his left eye (narrowly missing it) only adds to his rugged charm. Yet, he has never been known to display any interest in women, other than in their fighting skills.
Little is known about him prior to his hiring by Robert to help protect the guild. Some rumors speak of a mercenary looking very much like him which earned a reputation for brutal efficiency all over the Core but since the same rumors sometimes date back a good fifty years, it couldn’t possibly be the same man, now could it?
Anton drives his men like a private army. He brooks no disobedience and has little to no patience for laziness or sloppiness. At the same time, he is a capable (if ruthless) leader always willing to fight alongside his men. He is not the kind who hides at the rear while others do the killing. In battle, he has displayed super-human prowess, shrugging off blows that would have slain lesser men and stunning his opponents with a single blow.
They say that, once, wild wolves from Verbrek dared to attack a lone rider in southern Richemulot. When Anton heard about it, he left alone with the fastest horse he could find. Five days later, when he returned, it was with enough wolf’s pelts to make ten furcoats.. that is, if they hadn’t all been drenched in blood. While not all riders are comfortable with his violent tendencies, they all agree that he does an excellent job at protecting them (or, failing that, at getting even).
In 756, he promoted one of his men (recruited in Richemulot) to serve as his second-in-command: Thibauld Malvoisin, a fanatically-devoted warrior who loves to fight with a big saw-toothed glaive.
And now, the Dread Possibility.. er, actually, make that a Dread Certainty
The Guild of the White Pigeon is nothing but a sham. Oh, it’s real enough but it serves as a front organization for the most evil secret society of the Domains of Dread, a society made up not of mere mortal creatures but of fiends.
Please note that what follows takes into account the modifications to fiends described at the beginning of the Children of the Night – Demons pdf
741 Drigor battles Dr. Van Richten and his friends. He wins easily, slaughtering the doctor’s allies but leaving Van Richten alive.
The same year, Van Richten publishes his Guide to Fiends. While most of his long-time readers hesitate to believe him due to his outlandish claims about nightmarish creatures from beyond space and time, some people do pay great attention to what he wrote, Drigor among them.
The demodand understands then just how perilous his situation has become. There are powerful forces at work in the land where he is trapped, some as – or even more – powerful than he is. Up to now, his best weapon was secrecy. Now, thanks to the good doctor, anyone capable of affording a book has free access to his true name and to the nature of his phylactery. Yet, not all in the book was negative for, by writing about him and other fiends, Van Richten had also given him the key to salvation: knowledge.
Drigor knew, of course, that he wasn’t the only “fiend” trapped in the Dread Realm. But, till that point, he had found precious little info about his companions of misfortune. Not so anymore...
742 - 745 Drigor roams the Core, looking for traces of specific fiends whose identity was revealed by Dr. Van Richten. He succeeds in finding two others, first Inajira and then the Black Duke. Though their initial meeting is fraught with suspicion and barely contained hostility, he manages to convince them of the need to work together. In effect, what he proposes is a truce as long as they are caught inside RL. Each of them, working separately, may someday find a way out. By pooling their resources, their chances augment drastically (not to mention their ability to thwart would-be “demon-hunters”).
The multiverse being based on the Rule of Three (for the Planescape fans out there), their organization will be based on a pyramidal model. Hence, the name “the Triangle”.
Each of them symbolizes both the whole and a part since they all share the same morality (Evil) but each of them has a different ethic (Drigor/Chaos – Inajira/Neutrality – Black Duke/Law). Thus, together, they achieve Balance (albeit a nefarious one).
The Black Duke will be in charge of security, Inajira of securing power, and Drigor of finding an escape route. If other fiends later join the organization, they’ll be assigned to help whoever will most benefit from their specific “gifts”. Each of the three founding members can have up to three “assistants”. Each assistant can have three “helpers”, and so on...
746 The trio settles on Mordent as their base of operation. It’s quiet country and they like the irony of operating right under Van Richten’s nose.
They decide to make their lair in the ruins of Blackburn Manor since natives seem to avoid it instinctively. As a precaution, they also decide to regularly show up at another abandoned manor house of the domain in order to deceive potential troublemakers. They hear rumors about the Gauldamon estate and investigate. They find traces that suggest “Lou’gal the Smiling One” did in fact exist and was, in all probability, a Paeliryon (a Baatezu described in Fiend Folio).
Though adding him to their band would greatly benefit them, they are loath to seek him out for the simple reason that Paeliryons are known for being clever schemers but also for not sharing power. In short, if they recruit him, he’ll want to be in charge and none of them wants to relinquish their position as founding members. Even the Black Duke agrees on this (his kind being naturally suspicious of big fat devils who prefer to hide behind the scene rather than fight in the open).
As they are discussing their options, they fail to notice Lord Godefroy observing them from afar. For the first time of his ghostly life, Godefroy is genuinely terrified. These creatures are nothing like he has ever met and their simple existence seem to cause him a headache. Indeed, he has trouble even focusing on them, as if they existed within an invisible void that robbed him of his senses. The darklord tries to creep closer only to discover that his powers seem to fail him! Dreading the end of his miserable existence, Godefroy flees back to Gryphon Manor.
In the end, Inajira suggests not seeking Lou’gal out. If he shows up on their doorstep one day, then they’ll deal with him as required by the situation. The other two agree.
747 - 748 While Drigor and Inajira are both busy with their research, the Black Duke roams the Core, looking for copies of the VRGtF and their owners. He destroys both book and reader whenever he can, arguing that as long as someone remembers what Van Richten wrote, that will be the equivalent of a security leak. He is smart enough, however, to do it discreetly. Slowly, the VRGtF acquires the reputation of being a cursed book. If you own it, you tend to disappear. Some people throw away their copy or even burn it.
749 Drigor recognizes that their initial plan isn’t working. The Black Duke grows more impatient by the day and Inajira seems obsessed with Strahd. Most of his plans to acquire more power (magical items, souls, etc..) for the Triangle revolve around taking it away from the vampiric darklord. The demodand is spending so much time trying to keep his associates focused that he is making no progress with his own projects. Something needs to be done.
That’s when the idea hits him. What they need is a network of loyal servants to administer. Both Baatezu and Yugoloth thrive on organization, so that ought to make them happy. However, if they go for the traditional “cult of evil”, that will only bring heroes to their doorstep sooner or later.
As a scholar, Drigor has always been distressed by the lack of methods to broadcast information in the Dread Realm. While such situation has its advantages, it has also its problems. Why not solve both problems at once?
Investigating the natives, the demodand chooses a distant relative of the Weathermay family as the victim of his scheme. He is aware of the strong link between Van Richten and certain members of that family, so his choice is both cruel and ironic.
Robert Sherwood is an ambitious young man but one that lacks a good idea to leave his mark on the world, something Drigor is only too happy to provide. Disguising himself as an elderly wizard, he strikes a bargain (a demonic bargain, that is) with Robert. They are going to found a guild that will deliver letters (and small items) from one person to another for a fair price. Drigor will supply the means and Robert will reap all the glory by appearing as the head of the guild and handling its day to day operation. In return, Drigor doesn’t ask for much: certain favors to be named afterwards, nothing impossible. The one thing Drigor insists upon is absolute secrecy. He makes it sound as if he is tired of people always barging in to ask for his services. He wants to enjoy what years he has left and just reap the benefits of his “investment”.
Foolishly, Robert signs the pact.
The guild is created.
750 The Triangle celebrates the death of Dr. Van Richten, possibly their greatest enemy.
Drigor suggests expanding the guild to Robert. After the meeting with Dominic d’Honaire, Inajira uses secretly his considerable magical powers to break the mental hold d’Honaire had established over Robert. He follows the man to Lamordia, both to act as an invisible bodyguard and to study the strange drain on magic that realm displays. When the Grim Harvest strikes, Inajira leaves for Darkon to study it more closely. He has to find out how it happened as it could serve as a weapon of mass destruction in the Blood War.
751 Dominic d’Honaire, puzzled that Robert hasn’t put into action his “suggestions” from last year, decides to take matters in his own hands. He dominates several of the local guild’s riders in order to be able to pry into what they carry. When Drigor discovers the problem (through a routine magical scan of their employees), he tasks the Black Duke with solving the problem. Both agree that if the guild is to serve them exclusively, then no one else must be permitted to have any hold whatsoever over its members.
Thanks to their powers, discovering who the culprit is doesn’t prove difficult. They decide to teach him a lesson, fiendish style.
Any employee found to be controlled is slaughtered by the Black Duke, in as violent a way as possible (an easy task for a Cornugon). This continues as long as the darklord continues to dominate new guild members. Faced with the very real possibility of the guild skirting Dementlieu altogether, Dominic decides to leave it be (better a useful organization he doesn’t control that no organization at all). Privately, he wonders if his mysterious rival (the Brain) is behind the string of murders.
752 Inajira discovers Elsepeth in Darkon while investigating strange events in Karg. He manages to convince her to join their little group. He already has several ideas about how to use a master infiltrator to infuriate a certain darklord...
The Black Duke is livid when he finds out about her. As a devoted warrior of the Blood War, having to work with a Tanar’ri is a source of constant frustration to him. Drigor has to remind him (forcefully) of their agreement but, privately, is worried she’ll be nothing but trouble. When he discovers she has been seducing Robert, he has to intervene in person to prevent the premature death of his pawn.
Watching his trade partner and his new lover both change into hideous creatures and exchange blows in front of him proves too much for Robert. He lapses into a catatonic state.
Drigor spares Elsepeth and agrees not to tell the other two but only at the condition that she gives him her phylactery for safekeeping. That will ensure she never tries again to pull that kind of stupid stunt. Elsepeth, having no other choice, agrees.
In utter secret, Drigor hires the services of James Mousel (LotB) to help Robert. It takes 4 months but, finally, the young guildmaster returns to normal. However, unknown to all, he is now schizophrenic (with an alternate LE personality).
Given the proverbial cat is out of the box, Drigor reveals the truth to Robert. Or, at least, as much of the truth as the man needs to know (mainly, that he has entered a demonic pact). He promises the young man he’ll free him from it IF he continues serving him (and his allies) faithfully for the next 20 years. Of course, Drigor has no intention of honoring his pledge but he knows mortals need to be able to cling to hope in order to survive.
753 A routine scan reveals the post master of Port-a-Lucine is controlled, but not by d’Honaire. Investigation by the Black Duke is unable to turn up the culprit other than to reveal “it” lairs in the docks area. The employee is killed as per standard Triangle policy. The Brain gets the message and stop meddling in their affairs.
Knowing the Black Duke is a powder keg waiting to explode, Drigor decides to throw him a bone (so to speak) by allowing him to create his own private army. He’ll just have to make it look like he did it for the guild. Robert has no choice but to go along with the charade.
The Black Duke starts recruiting and training his soldiers. Anyone joining the Rough-riders has to take the Blood Oath (giving the Cornugon total power over his men).
When Drigor hears the Twins are printing new editions of all the Van Richten’s Guides, he sends Robert to offer an advantageous deal. The catch is that, while the new guides will indeed be delivered, those dealing with fiends will be exchanged for forgeries printed in the basement of the guild’s headquarters. By changing one word here and a letter there, Drigor ensures that whoever reads the “new” version won’t know the true name of any of the fiends described and would-be demon-hunters won’t be as knowledgeable as the good doctor had hoped.
754 During his Valachan expedition, the Black Duke meets and confronts Lady Adelaide and her Black Panther enforcers. After watching him kill two of them easily, the elven vampire wisely withdraws to report to her master.
Baron von Kharkov isn’t happy about what happened but isn’t stupid either. If creatures such as the one who killed his best men start showing up frequently in his domain, it will end up in disaster. Not to mention that he closed the border immediately after Adelaide reported her encounter but the foreigners still managed to escape! (the Black Duke used his reality wrinkle to pass the border with his men)
So, when Robert contacts him to suggest a truce and a mutual agreement, von Kharkov is all ears. In the end, they strike a deal that guarantees guild members won’t spend more time in Valachan than absolutely necessary. Plus, as long as the Baron guarantees their safety within his domain, guild enforcers won’t show up at his doorstep.
755 With the return of Azalin to power, the Triangle deems it more cautious not to show up in Darkon for the time being. Falkovnia is also out of question. For one thing, simple brute force won’t convince Vlad Drakov to back down in the event of a problem. For another, the infamous dictator would never stand for an organization he didn’t control operating on his territory.
Inajira suggests taking advantage of the nature of their reality wrinkle to do what no other guild can do: passing through closed borders. Of course, they have to keep it infrequent and helping fugitives is out of the question. Angering too many darklords would prove problematic. So, they create the “special delivery” option. Each day, Inajira scries on the tables where such packages are left. If he sees something, he sends Elsepeth to fetch and deliver them. To pose as a mysterious rider, she uses the ghostly saddle, a magical item Inajira “procured” that can conjure a phantom steed (1/day, CL 14) if you sacrifice a live horse to it first.
756 The Black Duke discovers that two of their post masters in Richemulot have been infected with lycanthropy (wererat). He kills them and leaves them “stuffed with rat” in order to send a clear message to whoever thought they could infiltrate the guild.
Louise Renier isn’t pleased...
As he is on the way back to Mordent, the Black Duke comes upon two other Baatezu (Melano and Tisiphanes). Only too happy to increase his power base in the guild, he recruits them. Tisiphanes will help him with security while Melano is assigned to help Drigor (and spy on him). Together, the three of them start plotting the elimination of Elsepeth.
757 Robert manages to escape Borca only due to the timely intervention of Inajira, who uses his reality wrinkle to allow him to cross the closed border. The Black Duke orders Robert to stay in Mordent from now on. He doesn’t want to have to assign someone to protect him 24/7 from foolishly endangering himself. Neither Drigor nor Inajira are happy about it (since they know Robert is key to their plans to expand further) but decide not to confront their colleague over this matter.. for now. Privately, they begin discussing ways of making the Black Duke more.. ah.. “amenable”.
758 The stress of maintaining the guild as an honest organization while knowing full well that he is only serving the interests of creatures of unremitting evil takes its toll on Robert. Slowly, his alternate personality starts emerging.
The three leaders of the Triangle are:
- Elsepeth (CE Succubus Tanar’ri), works under Inajira
Comments? Questions? Would some like me to post more about the Triangle?
Thank you all for your kind words. For your questions too. I’ll attempt to answer them.
A) Yes, Invidian merchants are keenly aware of how much profit they could derive from the guild operating in their country too. They have attempted to bribe Robert (and his assistants) three times already but, so far, to no avail.
It’s not that Robert won’t hear of it. After all, he has been considering expanding in that domain for some time now. Officially, his excuse is that the current political situation would put the life of guild members at risk. The guild doesn’t operate in Falkovnia for the same reason. As soon as Madame Aderre and her son “resolve their differences” (to put it mildly), the guild will be more than happy to move in.
Unofficially, the Triangle has ordered Robert to stall as long as possible. The fiends are currently debating whether to offer their support to Malocchio or not.
B) The problem of transporting money has quickly given Robert headaches. On one hand, the guild wasn’t founded to act as a kind of Ravenloftian Western Union. Plus, money = danger and that’s against guild policy. On the other hand, being able to send money in a secure way to a friend (or a relative) living in another country is something many people are interested in.
So, in 756, Robert decided to try out a new system. Allowing riders to transport money was out of the question as it would put their life in jeopardy, but there was a way around that problem. Someone can bring money to a guild office and specify to whom (and where) it should be delivered. That money doesn’t leave the office. Instead, the next rider leaving for the target destination will carry a message from the local post master to his colleague stating how much money was deposited and who the beneficiary is. The other post master will then withdraw an equal amount from his office’s strongbox and deliver it.
In effect, Robert has created a rough banking system. However, it’s not problem-free. The guildmaster quickly realized that the bigger the sums of money transferred, the greater the likelihood that his offices would be seen as a juicy target by robbers. The obvious solution is to increase security but that would not be cost-effective. Thus, until a way to solve that conundrum could be found, money transfers were limited to a maximum of 50 gp/week/client.
In 758, given the experiment was showing good results, that sum was doubled. Maybe guild offices will double as banks someday but not right now.
Each office has three strongboxes, all made of steel-reinforced wood, heavily trapped, and equipped with good locks (DC 30). The post master is the only one able to open them (though the guildmaster has a skeleton key that can open them all). Generally, one is devoted to letters, one to packages, and one to guild funds and registers.
C) No, it’s against guild policy to open a package to check its content. That said, remember that people bringing letters or packages are required to certify that those items – whether due to their nature or their content – won’t bring harm to a guild member. The guild keeps extensive records of every single delivery it ever made. If a rider is attacked and what he transported stolen, the guild will investigate. Obviously, it will be more difficult if everything was taken rather than a single item, but guild enforcers are nothing if not persistent. Eventually, they will find out what motivated the attack and if it was something the rider carried, then whoever sent the item in the first place will be paid a visit by the Rough-riders. Few survive the experience unscathed...
On the day preceding the departure of a rider, a post master will hire a low level cleric of Ezra (the guild has made a deal with that church) to scan all items marked for delivery for traces of magic (and that includes “special delivery” items, if there are any). The cleric will take all the time he needs, identifying clearly each item radiating magic and giving additional information if possible (nature & strength of the aura).
The post master will then match that information against what the client declared. If the item was registered as “magical but harmless” and the proper forms were filled, then all will be well. If the item was not registered as such but was identified as magical by the cleric, then the client is in serious trouble. For starter, the guild will not deliver the item. Next, the guild will never do business with that client again. Finally, the client will be fined 100 gp for trying to deceive the guild.
I'll post the second part of my draft on the Triangle tomorrow. You'll see all is not well in the land of oppression and opportunities
And now, for the second part of the article (yes, there is more).
Robert Sherwood: Male Human Exp5/War1/HoWlk2/Mpl2
At nearly 30, Robert is a lean and extremely agile man with shoulder-length black hair (worn in a ponytail) and sparkling green eyes. His keen mind is quick to grasp new concepts and to analyze situations so that he can turn them to his advantage. Quite handsome, he also projects an aura of cool confidence that puts his friends at ease and unnerves his opponents.
Despite being only a distant relative of the Weathermay family, his aristocratic bearing is ample proof that the proverbial apple didn’t fall far from the tree in his case. That is not to say that he is a snob, far from it. He judges people based on their actions, not their name or gender. One look at him, though, is enough to see he has “blue blood”.
He is an accomplished rider, a dazzling dancer (he confesses a preference for the minuet), and a skilled orator. Simply put, when he speaks people listen. To cover up the Triangle’s sham, he had to become an expert liar but, at the same time, it enabled him to uncover other people’s lies more easily too.
The one thing he lacks is common sense. Oh, the situation has improved somewhat compared to what it was when he first met Drigor (when you get burnt often enough, you catch on eventually..) but he is still too quick to believe that when something is too good to be true, then it must be true. He is learning though...
Though perfectly willing to wear ceremonial clothes if the occasion calls for it, he prefers to spend his day in a slightly used but comfy explorer’s outfit. He routinely wears his armor since he can made it look like regular clothing. His ring (a gift from Grandma Prudence) was quite useful to him earlier when he used to spend days at a time on the roads with no decent inn in sight. He has worn it for so long that he tends not to remember he is supposed to get some food on a daily schedule (which is one of the reasons his assistants are so worried about his health).
The circlet was a gift from Drigor (to improve his already-formidable negotiating skills) while the rapier was Inajira’s idea. The arcanaloth knew they couldn’t always be around to protect Robert and that countries to the West of the Core tend to be filled with hot-blooded young men keen to show their valor in a duel. Since Robert represents a significant “investment” for the Triangle, he didn’t want to lose their puppet just because he couldn’t defend himself effectively. Knowing the young man wouldn’t stomach a weapon designed specifically to kill other human beings, he cursed the rapier so that Robert would have no choice but to use it.
In game terms, the rapier has the same drawback as the -2 cursed sword described in the DMG, except it inflicts no penalty on its wielder.
The silversheen was a gift from Dmitri, Robert’s Borcan friend. The latter has told him in private about the real nature of Richemulot’s aristocracy and warned him never to go there without some sort of silver weapon close at hand.
The guild, though Drigor’s idea, was Robert’s life. He had put all his hopes in it and devoted himself completely to its success. When he discovered he had been duped, his future came crashing down. For years, he had been the unknowing pawn of creatures such as his worst nightmares had never conjured. Worst, he foolishly signed a pact with one of them that puts his soul at risk. For a while, he thought madness would be his only refuge but they denied him even that. No, he will have to live with what he has done.
Listening to his cousins’ tales about the courageous Dr. Van Richten slowly convinced Robert that, while quite possibly damned, he could still do something to insure others wouldn’t have to pay for his stupidity. In short, redeem himself. If not in life, then at least in death.
Robert may sometimes act like a fool but he is not an idiot. He knows that, while the guild generates profits and gives him some social leverage, this isn’t enough to explain his employers’ interest. He has spent a lot of time trying to imagine ways in which his “baby” could be used for evil and, especially, how to prevent it.
Insisting on recruiting all post masters himself, limiting the amount of money transferred, etc.. were all disguised attempts to deny the fiends the means to turn something that was meant to help people into a tool of corruption. He is fighting a shadow war here, having to come up with logical arguments to convince the Triangle that his choices are sound while working behind the scene to curtail the guild’s powers as much as can be without hurting its operation. Reluctantly, he has recently begun charming certain of his assistants to insure their loyalty. Since Robert only has a very limited magical education (courtesy of Inajira), he doesn’t understand the limitations of the spell well enough to realize it’s a futile attempt.
Meanwhile, he is looking for other means to defeat the fiends. Using his contacts in neighboring domains, he has been desperately looking for magical items that could protect his body and/or mind from them. If he is to pull this off, then he needs to be sure nobody is listening on his thoughts and that, when the time comes, he won’t be killed instantly. Anyone bringing him such an item (or rumors about its location) will be handsomely rewarded.
Also, under the pretense of learning more about the late Dr. Van Richten, Robert has been spending a lot of time listening to his cousins for tales of his exploits. Occasionally, he even borrows texts written by the good doctor. Officially, it’s to get to know their “uncle” better. Unofficially, it’s to find as much info as possible on the creatures he works for. Since he can’t ask specific questions (as that would arouse the Twins’ suspicions), he has made slow progress. Plus, he can’t afford to spend too much time in their company for fear of drawing his unseen masters’ ire upon his cousins.
Still, he finds himself drawn to Laurie far more often than would be reasonable. As a kid, he had a crush on her. Now, she has turned into a beautiful woman and he is totally smitten. The only thing that has prevented Robert from confessing his love for her is the certainty that it would seal her fate. That, he will never allow. So, he contents himself with riding and sparring with her regularly. Deep down inside, though, the situation gnaws at him. Thanks to the guild, he has achieved a social rank that would allow him to court her without shame. The irony that the very thing that made this possible has also become the only obstacle in his way isn’t lost on him...
A) The stress of playing hide-and-seek with the fiends combined with the frustration of not being able to tell the truth to the woman he loves are proving too much for Robert’s fragile sanity. Lately, he has been suffering from occasional lapses of memory. Unknown to him, they are caused by his evil personality (he is schizophrenic, remember?) finally asserting itself.
The “evil” Robert is far more ruthless than the original. He has no qualms about using his influence and skills to obtain anything he wants, and doesn’t care about the plans of the fiends. He longs for the sweet but forbidden embrace of Elsepeth again (though it nearly killed him last time) and, since he can’t have her, is showing an unhealthy interest in Laurie. Nothing has come out of it yet but it’s only a question of time...
B) Gennifer and Laurie are both very happy to see Robert finally developing an interest for their “hobby”. Since he is a long-time friend and a relative, they are discussing bringing him into the confidence about the Van Richten Society. Robert and his guild would make powerful allies in their war against the forces of darkness.
On a side note, Laurie is totally unaware of Robert’s love for her. She knew he had a crush on her when they were young but that was so long ago that she has forgotten about it. Her interest in him arises from the fact that they have many things in common and that he doesn’t treat her condescendingly just because she happens to be a woman. Gennifer, on the other hand, suspects something. She has caught Robert looking intently at her sister quite a few times and, twice, caught something in that look that made her shudder. She hesitates to warn her sister only because she doesn’t want to accuse an upright man without proof. At the same time, she can’t help but worry whenever Laurie and Robert are alone together.
C) Robert may think his cleverness will save him but, in fact, he can thank his lucky star for being still in control of his actions. Drigor was fully aware that their puppet wasn’t happy with the situation and was working to thwart them. Weirdly, the last three mental scans he performed on him revealed a much different man, no longer concerned by the fiends’ hidden goal but only by his lust for his cousin. What Drigor doesn’t know is that he happened to scan Robert’s evil personality each time! Thanks to that coincidence, the demodand hasn’t implemented his plan of controlling Robert via a combo of charm, domination, and possession.
In fact, Drigor was quite happy to discover Robert’s interest in Laurie. The young maiden could very well become the next lord of Mordent someday. If she was married to Robert, it would give him even more influence! He just has to make sure that the young man doesn’t harm her till after the wedding, and that Gennifer isn’t there anymore to “share the throne” (so to speak).
Thus, ironically, Drigor may well end up saving Laurie from the “attentions” of Robert’s evil personality. At the same time, the demodand is now committed to the elimination of Gennifer one way or another.
vipera aspis wrote: How do you personaly think PC's could get involved with is group? Keep up the good work!
Well, there are many ways for PC to get involved. Personally, here is how I did it.
When my (latest) campaign began, the PC had a few adventures in the northwestern part of the Core. So, they were directly exposed to high CL society. I made a point to show them how difficult life could be without a postal service.
Want to send a letter to a sage or a university? Got a package to deliver to a friend? Too bad. You'll have to do it yourself or find a good soul to do it for you.
Later, they left for the southeastern part and kind of "lost contact" with civilization, if you see what I mean.
As they were passing through Teufeldorf, I described a rider entering the city. Since the crest on his tabard was unknown to them, their curiosity was aroused and they tried to learn more about him. They didn't manage to talk to him but some locals told them he belonged to some sort of new organization that "deliver stuff". That got them intrigued.
Finally, as they returned to "civilized country", they were surprised to encounter many other riders wearing the same tabard.
At that point, they learned more about the guild and the services it offered. Frankly, they were amazed (and very happy).
During their stay in the south, they had become (for a while) pawns in Inajira's latest plot to anger Strahd. When one of his agents described their team to him, he decided to use them again, this time against the Black Duke (you'll see what I mean in the next part I'll post here).
That's one way to do it. Other ways include:
Basically, the list is endless.
My favorite involves the PC getting blamed for the death of a rider (or post master) and being tracked by Anton afterwards. If they can't find the real culprit in time, they're in for a rough ride. If they do find the culprit, they may impress Anton/Black Duke strongly enough that the latter would try to recruit (or use) them.
The Guild and the Domains
Borca: Ivana Boritsi is completely mystified about Robert’s miraculous escape through a closed border. She felt a kind of void briefly manifest itself at the edge of her consciousness and then nothing. The fact that somebody may have developed a method to counter her powers fills her with dread. Without it, she feels defenseless.
She thus ordered one of her ermordenung retainers to track down Robert and end his existence. When her minion failed to return or even send news (the Black Duke intercepted and killed her before she got to Robert), she concluded that the guildmaster was truly immune to poison and thus must have had no trouble at all getting rid of his attacker.
Normally, this would have sent her into a rage but, instead, she suddenly realized that if it was true, then it meant he could survive her touch too. In other terms, she might finally have found a man who could love her without fatal results! And a cute man at that, given what she recalls of him. Almost giddy with excitement, she is now determined to have him come back to Borca for a “personal” meeting with her. And she won’t take no for an answer!
Robert is stalling but he is going to run out of excuses pretty soon. Since there are guild members in Borca, he can’t afford to put their life at risk by angering Ivana. In short, he is in a tight spot.
The Triangle agrees something has to be done but they disagree on the method. The Black Duke wants to get rid of Ivana (“simple, direct, and efficient!”) while Drigor and Inajira favor a more devious approach (such as sending a shapechanged Inajira since he is immune to poison). Both methods have their disadvantages. Killing Ivana could have drastic consequences for Borca (which not even Drigor can predict) while sending one of them disguised as Robert is near-impossible if darklords can truly sense fiends as Van Richten described in his guide.
Dementlieu: If one domain has profited from the guild, it’s this one. Being able to send (and receive) letters regularly has become the latest fad among the jaded bourgeoisie, in no small part because Councillor d’Honaire enjoys it tremendously. Dominic just loves writing to foreign people. Manipulating persons you’re talking to is easy but manipulating them through written words alone.. that’s the true challenge!
Of course, if Dominic controlled the guild, things would be even better. To this day, he doesn’t understand how Robert managed to break free of his control so easily. More confounding by far is the fact that the guild members he turned into Obedient were all brutally murdered. Evidently, someone discovered his “tampering” and acted to prevent his sly takeover. The Brain, his archrival, is still the prime suspect at this point (if only because Dominic tends to blame him for anything going wrong these days). Still, the way those men died was a little too extreme. His nemesis is generally more subtle than that. Could it be there is a third party involved? The possibility has him worried...
Amusingly, the Brain had initially come to the same conclusion. However, given he is a newcomer himself (itself?), he was far more willing to consider other options. When he dominated the post master, it wasn’t to imitate Dominic. It was an experiment, and it worked exactly as planned.
The man was slaughtered and his head was left near the Brain’s hideout, though not near enough to indicate someone had located his lair with precision.
His minions saw Anton leave the head, so now the Brain knows the guild itself was responsible for the killing. That’s an intriguing piece of information and, quite possibly, one good enough to blackmail the organization into helping him fight d’Honaire for supremacy.
Lamordia: Adam knows about the guild, but only because he has spotted riders from time to time. He asked his most recent “guest” about it and wasn’t particularly interested by what he heard. For the time being, the guild has nothing to fear from him.
Inajira, on the other hand, is very much interested by this domain. For starter, there is the fact that – rarely – magic doesn’t work at all (cfr. The Smothering of Reason, Gaz.II). To creatures endowed with a great many innate abilities, this could prove a significant problem. For another, there is the local legend about Baltoi. Its description has convinced the arcanaloth it is a Marilith, a very powerful demon. Could she possibly help him (and Drigor) get rid of the Black Duke?
As for the natives, they have come to like the guild. They appreciate the fact that it discriminates against magic (somewhat) and that it tries to provide a public service by relying only on scientific (read: natural) means. The “special rider” is the obvious exception but since it is rarely used, they are willing to overlook that detail.
Mordent: This domain was the first where the guild operated. Guild members are well known and, generally, well liked. Robert, the guildmaster, has acquired a good reputation thanks to the success of his organization and quite a few middle class fathers are thinking about providing him with a suitable wife from among their daughters. The fact that he is related to the ruling family has, of course, nothing to do with it...
Lord Godefroy knows about the guild. In fact, he may know more about it than Robert himself. When he first spied on the Triangle, the darklord was almost scared to death (if that was possible for a ghost..). Retreating to his lair, he resolved to learn as much as he could about those fearsome creatures but without risking his own ghostly hide.
Luckily for him, Gryphon Manor is filled to the brim with spirits of all types and sizes. Given they all live in fear of him, it was no trouble at all to “convince” some of them to spy on the fiends. He has thus been monitoring all their movements and actions ever since they decided to settle down in his demesne. His ethereal spies haven’t been able to listen to everything they say (both because they sometimes speak in planar languages they don’t understand and because Inajira sometimes protect their meetings with his private sanctum spell) but they succeeded often enough to give the darklord a good idea of what he is up against.
Godefroy hates the fiends but he also knows he can’t fight them, at least not directly. He could send wave after wave of undeads after them but it could end up in a big battle that would devastate his entire domain. He can’t risk anything happening to his house, so that’s not an option at the present time.
He could also arrange for key guild members to be possessed by his minions and then turn them against their fiendish masters but he will consider it only as a last resort.
No, he has a much better plan. He is going to let the fiends destroy each others.
He is aware that, though nominally allies, they aren’t the best of friends. He is equally aware (thanks to his spies) that some members of the triangle are planning the “removal” (to put it mildly) of other members. So, all he has to do is to add fuel to the fire and watch from a safe distance.
His target to implement this plan is Elsepeth. On the day she tried to drain Robert and Drigor confiscated her phylactery as punishment, one of Godefroy’s spies was around. He saw where Drigor hid the item.
Godefroy will soon have a private meeting with the succubus. His deal will be a simple one.. at first sight. He’ll offer to tell her where her phylactery is kept in exchange for her help in getting rid of a troublesome man named George Weathermay. He’ll add casually that, to prove his good faith, he’ll also tell her about the plot some of her colleagues have prepared to “remove” her. Finally, he’ll suggest that killing Robert would be a great way to get back at them without risking much.
If that doesn’t throw the Triangle into chaos, nothing will...
Richemulot: Jacqueline Renier is very much aware of the guild and of the clumsy attempt by her sister to infiltrate it. While she is pleased that Louise’s latest scheme failed, she felt insulted by the way her sister’s minions were killed. No one should be allowed to kill wererats and expect to walk away unscathed. At least not without her explicit approval.
She is currently conducting an investigation to uncover the identity of the person (or creature) responsible. Luckily, she doesn’t suspect the Tormentor is also the guild’s chief security officer.. yet.
For now, she sees no reason to infiltrate the guild as long as its local representatives display proper.. ah.. “deference” to her. On the other hand, she plans to include it in her Becoming Plague scheme. She reasons that the guild riders could help her spread the disease to all the neighboring domains very quickly. Since people are used to seeing them around and, usually, try not to restrict their movements, the victims won’t know what hit them before it is too late.
The only thing which disappoints her is that the guild doesn’t have any office in Falkovnia, the bread basket of the Core. Thus, she has been suggesting to the local post masters that they “talk some sense” into their guildmaster and make it happen. The poor men are terrified to have to tell her the guild won’t do it and have been sending frantic requests for help to Robert. No wonder the poor man is stressed!
Valachan: Natives rarely receive a visit from a guild rider and even more rarely get to catch one in time to send something out. Still, they have noticed that the Baron’s enforcers seem to give them a wide berth. Anything that can scare those brutes away is surely worth befriending! (though not too openly, of course..)
There are rumors that the guild is soon going to set up shop in Invidia. If that happens, riders will be passing through Valachan much more frequently. To the locals, that would be like a breath of fresh air.
Baron von Kharkov doesn’t like the guild and likes even less the fact that he was practically forced to conclude a deal with them to avoid problems. Thanks to Lady Adeline, he knows there is a lot more to their chief enforcer than meets the eye. He just doesn’t know what he is dealing with, though he is aware of the “void” he experiences when Anton enters his domain. That worries him.
The Baron has been toying with the idea of allowing the guild a single office. That would mean a permanent presence but, on the other hand, the local post master would taste local food sooner or later, turning him into a thrall. And then he would have a spy inside the guild...
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