The Black Hand is an assassin's guild operating in Timiro and Land of the South Winds, though they have recently begun to expand their operations thanks to help from a, virtually unknown, force in the Land of the Damned. The Black Hand is a very secretive organization and the fact that an individual has sought them out and offered to fund their activities, with no apparent ulterior motives, troubles the guildmasters immensely.
|Guild Size:||International Guild. Approximately 1500 assassins operate under the Black Hand's guildmasters in the Timiro Kingdom and the Land of the South Winds.|
|Monthly Budget:||100,000 gold pieces per month|
The Black Hand is, as assassin's guilds go, quite young and has only been in existence for approaching 250 years. Its roots are in the city of Credia where an ambitious lieutenant plotted to control all the Kingdom's guilds. The lieutenant, known only as Gareth, worked quietly behind the scenes for years, forging alliances and quietly directing actions that would enable him to lead a secret coup against the other guildmasters. He continued in this fashion, quickly rising through the ranks and overthrowing guild after guild and bringing its members into his fold.
Gareth was quick to place trusted individuals (as much as one can trust in an assassin's guild, anyway) as his lieutenants who oversee the operations in each guild house. Though Gareth overtook a great many guilds in a very short amount of time, the guildmaster has succeeded in keeping the operations hidden from nobility in the Timiro Kingdom and the Lands of the South Winds. So far, no one has been able to prove the guild even exists and the Timiro Royal Family has a standing reward of 5,000 gold pieces for evidence leading to the capture of any member of the Black Hands (alive, 500 gold pieces for a dead assassin).
Recently, the Black Hand has noted activity by an unknown guild. Though uncertain which guild is trying to move in on their territory, Gareth is not happy about it. He has offered a 1,000 gold piece bonus to any guild member who interferes with and foils a competing guild's operation (2,000 if the interference leads to the arrest of the offending assassin). The new guild is remaining hidden and anonymous, apparently marshalling their forces. If the interloping continues, a full-scale turf war may begin within a few months and certainly within a year.
The fact that Gareth is still alive and is one of the original guild members leads many to speculate he is an elf. However, since no one has seen his face and lived, this cannot be confirmed (more information on Gareth will be forthcoming - still trying to work out some background).
The Black Hand is involved in nearly every assassination in the Timiro Kingdom and Land of the South Winds (only recently has a new guild has also been operating in Timiro on the Black Hand's turf), though their steep fees tend to reserve their services for wealthy merchants and nobility. The guild also retains the services of street gangs in a number of cities. The street gangs are used to strong-arm some minor merchants and enforce their own interests. Finally, a large smuggling ring is used to transport supplies between guild-held cities. The operation is also used frequently to move one of the guild's assassins into a city and escape the notice of the local Watch.
In addition to their criminal operations, the guild also employs an extensive intelligence network. Through several corrupt officials, the guild has gained control over a several military scouting units in the Timiro Kingdom and Land of the South Winds. They use these scouts to watch for military action in the area of their stronghold and to determine the opposition on some assassinations that target a high-ranking military officer. The guild also employs an extensive spy network that it uses to eavesdrop on the noble courts and merchant operations. The spy network is supported by several psychics that utilize astral projection and remote viewing.
The Black Hand's stronghold is a fortified keep west of the Ogre Pass in the crook of the Old Kingdom Mountains. Dozens of hidden passageways provide an escape route in the event the stronghold is compromised. Many of these passages and caverns (some artificial, some natural) are now populated with Kobolds, with which the guild has forged an alliance to create arms and armor for the guild in exchange for protection and a percentage of the profits from any of the equipment the guild sells on the Black Market.
In addition to the hidden passages, entrances are protected against intrusion with mystic wards, protection circles, and mundane locks. No business is ever conducted at the stronghold, but any visitors, including rival guildmasters, are psychically scanned and escorted (though most visitors don't even know their escorts are present). In addition, a powerful Sanctuary enchantment has been cast over the entire stronghold to protect against divining psychics and mages.
Every acre of countryside within a 15-mile radius is patrolled regularly to prevent sneak attacks. Many groups of adventurers have fallen prey to a quick death during the night after stumbling into the guild's territory investigating rumors of a treasure-filled keep.
A Growing Darkness
The guild has recently been contacted by a powerful wizard, claiming to have originated in the Land of the Damned. While the guildmasters initially dismissed his claim, they remain wary of his actions and motives. For the moment, this wizard has only contracted the guild for several assassinations, but Gareth believes that he may have others the wizard keeps hidden, perhaps even a connection to the rumors of non-humans amassing an army that come from the southern end of the Timiro Kingdom. They care not for his unscrupulous motives, only that they get paid and that "business" remains lucrative. Should the wizard ever be discovered trying to oust the Timiro Royal Family, the guild is sure to act against him (they can't have some of their best clients deposed, after all).