Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Golden Cricket - A Thieves Guild

Huzzah! Secret Santicore volume 2 has hit the interwebs, and that's where my entry ended up. The request was the following:

Dear Santicore, I would like...
Five to nine (or more?!) paragraphs detailing the infrastructure and operation of a Thieves’ Guild that is controlled by a trio of women at least one of which is a widow with children whose family knows nothing of her job outside of the home. You are encouraged to explore all of the details and devise details to your heart’s content, but it is important that the women leading the Thieves’ Guild be regarded in their daily lives as unassuming and nonthreatening women whom nobody would ever suspect of being the masterminds of a nefarious underground organization.

I had so much fun writing this. Hopefully you have a lot of fun reading it and maybe even using it.

The Golden Cricket

Backstory Flavor

Once upon a time there was a thief named Marceline. She was young, beautiful and quick of mind, body and tongue. Her exploits are many, and best told another time, but never forget that it was Marceline the thief who stole the Holy Brand of Malthus from Redwater Monastery, recovered the Stones of Kismet from the belly of the gorgon Josira, broke the Florian Cartel's Stranglehold of Greenport, and was rumored to be the actual founder the Half-Moon Bread bakeries.

After retiring from a life of crawling through dark places in the world she set up shop somewhere in the mountains outside the capitol city, and with the aid of her gang The Quick Thirty, made the highways and byways pricy and uncomfortable for people with coin. Over time people started calling her Queen Marceline of the King's road. But this was all more than 200 years ago and probably not what you've paid me for. Or so you'd think. You see, at some point ole Marceline got her hands on a wish. Some say it were a fairy that did it, others say it were the ghost of old Malthus himself what blessed her, but any way you cut it, she got that wish and used it to wish for eternal life.

Shame of it though was that she forgot to ask for eternal youth too. Even though her grip on the gold of the wealthy stayed tight, her body went the way all ours go eventually, sagging' 'n wrinkling 'n withering to frailty, but Queen Marceline couldn't die. Over time she grew so small and so frail that she turned into a cricket. But that didn't stop her, or even slow her down. It's said she struck a deal with Fate herself 'cause there are objects on this world Fate wants but can't get at. Objects that need to be stolen. So Queen Marceline started up an organization that could help Fate get what she wanted and it runs, in the shadows, to this day.

Fate's Demand

Yes, Marceline is really a cricket. And yes, Fate promised her her youth if she could acquire a number of items, but the goddess had one demand: Marceline must be assisted in running her guild by three women in different stages of their life. The Virgin, The Mother, and The Crone. Only the best are selected to fill each role and as a woman transitions from one life phase to the next, she is not guaranteed the next position of leadership regardless of how well she did previously. If the stars align and the three positions are held by a blood line (mother (Crone), daughter (Mother) and granddaughter (Virgin)), Fate smiles upon the guild and their heists never fail, but this has only happened twice in the guild's history.

Of the Virgin, Fate requires the candidate is a virgin and can menstruate. Of the Mother, Fate requires the candidate has at least one child in her care, of her blood, that has not yet "come of age". Of the Crone, Fate requires the candidate to be older than 70. When a woman no longer meets these requirements Fate notifies both Marceline and the woman. Most of the leaders transition out of their roles willingly and with celebration, remaining respected members of the organization and hopeful they will be called to serve again.

Marceline has her own requirements of aptitude for each leadership candidate that change with the times and current needs of the guild, but one always remains the same: The Files.

The Files

To be considered for one of the three leadership roles in the guild each woman must commit at least twelve crimes of sufficient notoriety that remain unsolved or unsolvable. They must then provide Marceline with proof and a signed confession for each. These crimes are conducted outside the guild's normal pursuits and each woman knows they will be given to the authorities if it becomes necessary to protect the guild and brand them as an unaffiliated thief. When a woman transitions out of a leadership role, her file is publicly burned before all the guild and her full member protections are restored. Thus, to be considered for another role, fresh crimes will need to be committed.

The guild itself has no official name, but a small cricket made of gold is left at the site of any major heists causing many among the authorities to call them "The Golden Cricket". Rank and file members of the guild collectively refer to one another as "The Rabble", have no fixed hierarchy and focus exclusively on the skills and results a person brings and not their skin, creed or the parts between their legs. The fixed nature of the leadership roles and other initiatives skews female membership higher than other thieves guilds (making it a rough 50/50), but this is only a side effect and has never been a goal.

For low level jobs, individuals or small groups of people (1-4) from the Rabble are tapped on a job by job basis. For mid and high level jobs the leaders create gangs of 12, trusted, members that last only as long as the job. Marceline, with connections developed over hundreds of years, keeps the guild flush with work and at any given time each leader will be overseeing 1 to 3 gangs of 12.

While it would be avoided at all costs, the guild has the coin and connections to field a small army of 400-600 thieves and mercenaries in as little as three days. Because a reveal of this scope would necessitate the guild going dark for at least a generation (and probably relocating) it has never been attempted.

Services and Specialties
·         Acquisitions - Specifically goods and information. Kidnappings for ransom are avoided and human or humanoid slave trafficking is expressly forbidden.
·         Poison - Specifically those dealing with sleep and paralysis.
·         Setups - When they're done with the target the city guards will have thought they did all the work and pat themselves on the back for catching such a criminal.
·         Neutral Ground - The guild operates a number of safe houses and havens where the rival parties of other guilds and groups that operate outside of society can meet to discuss their differences, come to terms or deliver ultimatums. By remaining neutral and providing top notch locations and security, Marceline's guild has made quite a bit of their coin and connections this way.
·         Half-Moon Bread - Before aging to the point of becoming a cricket, Marceline set up a number of bakeries called "Half-Moon Bread" in every medium and large city in the land. She had always thought it would be fun to run a legitimate business and greatly enjoyed baking herself, favoring cinnamon rolls and turnovers. Although the bakeries were started with "ill-gotten gains" they operate completely on the up-n-up (no money laundering or funny business!). The bakeries actively feed the hungry and forgotten for free, and their open charity with the poor has created inroads into a number of religious organizations. Upper class citizens shun the bakeries because of how welcomed the unwashed are, but good, hardworking, salt-of-the-earth type lower and middle class families love them. Over the centuries, most of the bakeries have changed their name away from Half-Moon Bread, but the bakeries, mill and transport services that support them are all still owned by Marceline and provide many of the guild members with a legitimate occupation.
·         Forgeries and False Identities - The guild's primary service is a sort of witness protection program for society's outcasts, usually young women in bad situations. They take these women, clean them up, spend time polishing them up, and depending on their aptitudes and willingness, fabricate back stories and connections for them. That prostitute who killed her pimp is now a simple farmer's or merchant's daughter with witnesses and documents that attest to that fact. Many of the women (and men too) end up marrying relatively well-to-do individuals (shopkeepers, up and coming councilmen, rising stars in the city guard, etc). While many of the early "chance meetings" between the future couples are arranged by the guild (and kept secret from both parties) Marceline has found that the relationships are stronger and more... useful, if the eventual marriages are never forced. This helps keep eyes and ears throughout all levels of society and should favors ever be needed, the individuals who received a new identity and new life are happy to do most anything for their old sponsor.

The Crone

The guild's current Crone is Lady Isadora Dargetos. She is the widow of a ranking ambassador and in her younger days served as The Virgin. She is a renowned patron of the arts, thrower of phenomenal parties, and considered by many in upper class to be THE arch-maven of taste, style and polite sensibility. Her handwriting is exceptional and her forgeries are divine. She knows absolutely everybody (and most of their secrets) and delights in using her intimate knowledge of the social calendars to plan targeted heists. If you need something or access to someone in a city, Lady Isadora can provide.

The Mother

The guild's current Mother is Angelika Huxton. She is recently widowed (her husband having been kicked in the head by a horse) and owns and runs a 750 acre ranch outside of town with about 200 head of cattle and 100 head of sheep. She has six children, the youngest of which is 2 and the oldest is 17. Coming of age ceremonies take place at the age of 15 in these lands, so assuming her youngest child doesn't die, she will be the guild's Mother for the next 13 years. The ranch is mostly self sufficient, with ample acreage dedicated to farming and vegetable gardens and plenty of heavily wooded areas where a person could get lost for weeks. 30 to 50 ranch and farm hands work the land and livestock and guard the house. Of those ~1d10 are actual guild associates.

Demascus Slade, a real mountain of a man, and Angelika's husband's "first cousin" (i.e., forged and sent by the guild), came to live on the ranch and help Angelika keep things running after her husband passed. Demascus is scary good with knives (throwing, stabbing and whittling) and an absolute master of making and detecting poisons.

Cooper Tinsides is an old prospector who lives up in the mountains, coming down every so often to trade some of the metal he digs up for fresh supplies. He stays at the ranch for 3 to 5 days before heading back up to his claims. Some of the ranch hands don't like him too much, but it's only on account of how bad he smells whenever he first arrives. He can tell a hell of a story and Angelika insists he be well treated because of how much raw gold and silver he trades for the supplies and services. The truth of the matter is that Cooper lives up in Marceline's old bandit lair and acts as her current proxy. He collects news and information and delivers orders and assignments from Marceline. Cooper really does prospect, but only enough to know all the ins and outs of the mining and panning trade. Most of the ore is melted down booty and this facade launders a hell of a lot of gold. His requests for secrecy are well respected on all fronts because of his loud and frequently proclaimed fear of claim jumpers. So far, no one that's tried to tail Cooper has made it past the foothills of the mountains without a red smile across their throat.

Each weekend Angelika goes into the city to run a number of stalls in a farmer's market where she sells meats, grains, vegetables, honey and soap. The quality of the goods she sells is quite high, but she keeps her prices low and is well liked and respected throughout the capitol. The captain of the town guard himself went so far as to offer her a few men to help keep the ranch running after her husband passed on, but as Demascus was "on his way", Angelika politely declined the offer. When in town, Angelika takes up lodging in Black Dragon Inn and Tavern.

The Virgin

The guild's current Virgin, Fiona Sinclair has eyes of fire and a heart of steel. She was a swashbuckler in the company of Suulo the Blade who traveled through the ruins in Witchfire Mire and slew a black dragon. Fiona came away from the adventure with the dragon's head and a quarter of its hoard, three weeks before her 22nd birthday. She came back to the capitol city and opened up the Black Dragon Inn and Tavern because she had always wanted to run a tavern with her mother.

Fiona's mother Maple, was a brewer's daughter and spent much of her early life as a waitress in a small inn at a crossroads in the middle of nowhere. After being beaten and raped by the owner one night, she killed him and proudly confessed to the deed when questioned the next day. Before she could be hanged, Marceline's guild disappeared her and set her up with a new name and life in the capitol. She never married and worked the counter at the Half-Moon Bread bakery and raised her daughter from that terrible night, in the thick of the guild. Maple makes delicious apple cider and always told Fiona it was her dream to one day run a tavern, so when adventuring paid off Fiona made that dream a reality.

Fiona enjoys being "shocking" to the members of high society. She uses her money and fame to get into places of wealth and refinement and then does something lewd or disruptive for a laugh, paying off any consequences with her "dragon gold". She dresses in a masculine fashion, wearing trousers but keeping her long hair in an unkempt ponytail with foolishly expensive ribbons. She enjoys swearing and arm wrestling and recently created a number of artistic works by covering her naked body in paint and rolling across some canvas. Lady Isadora Dargetos found the paintings mesmerizing and held a gala opening for them called "Colors of Adventure", and commissioned several more. On the opening night of the show a number of important documents were stolen during a break in at the mayor's house while he was in attendance. No connection has been suspected of course.

The Black Dragon Inn and Tavern feels cozy in a rough and tumble sort of way. Everything is on the up-n-up with it and no illegal activities take place within its walls. The food is good, the beds are clean, and the cider is beyond compare. The town guard and adventuring types frequent the location to drink and talk and gawk at the black dragon head above the central fire place. The tavern pulls in great bards and loud festive crowds every weekend and Saturday nights are a real blow out. The place is packed, shoulder to shoulder, and the rooms are always booked solid. Recently, the captain of the Night Watch, a strong, good looking guy with olive skin and grey eyes, has decided he's in love with Fiona and has been coming around much more frequently... exactly like she planned.


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