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    Postfest V: The Syndicate of Midnight - Part I of II.
    Posted on Tue, July 12, 2005 by Dongul
    Delglath writes "The Syndicate of Midnight is the new incarnation of an insidious assassin's cult that was once known as 'Midnight Darkness'.

    The Syndicate of Midnight - Part I of II.
    By: Delglath
    Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.

    Formed from the shattered remnants of Midnight Darkness, the Syndicate of Midnight has infiltrated some of the most influential and powerful guilds across the Flanaess. With a chilling agenda, the Syndicate’s methods, and their newfound abilities and sponsor, the Syndicate of Midnight is quickly becoming a force of evil that all good people of the Flanaess should fear.

    Overview

    At its height, the organization known as Midnight Darkness could claim around thirty assassins plus numerous priests and hundreds of thugs in its employ. But with the failings of its leader and the pettiness of its members, as quickly as it rose to prominence it just as quickly fell into obscurity.

    But with a new leader and a mysterious new sponsor who have both propelled the organization into new directions, it has risen anew and threatens to become one of the most powerful forces for evil in all of the Flanaess.

    Currently it is little more than an assassin’s cult. However it is well organized and has a strong leader with an equally powerful sponsor. With money flowing into its coffers and with greater discipline and planning, as well as magical influence, it is flourishing at an exponential rate.

    If someone doesn’t act now to destroy the Syndicate before it has firmly taken root, it will become a permanent and powerful entity. But the nations of the Flanaess have many problems to deal with and have already put into place methods to prevent infiltration due to the Brotherhood attacks. Falling back on these has been their only choice.

    And so the Syndicate blossoms even now, unmolested by those who have the power to stop them. As an organization it has one primary goal: to eliminate good.

    History

    The history of the Syndicate starts over forty years ago with the establishment of Midnight Darkness. When the Horned Society was at its height, they sought to expand their operations beyond their own lands. Several top tier members began working in concert to assassinate key targets that opposed the Society’s aims.

    Originally the organization started as simply two members who each used a nom de guerre to hide their true identities. One was called Midnight, the other, Darkness. Midnight was thought to be a priest of Nerull who had great skill in planning missions and gave aid to his companion through his spells and items. Darkness was said to be a skilled assassin who favoured getting to know his victims personally before killing them.

    It was this tactic from which the notion of a ‘dagger in the back’ sprung. The pair became infamous within the underground community. Their identifying trait was their ability to get close to their victims and kill them with ease due to familiarity. It wasn’t until several years later however that it was turned into a literal device meant to represent the cult.

    Due to the success of the pair, the Horned Society decided to sponsor them in order to expand their activities. Given the charisma of both individuals, they quickly managed to recruit many to their cause. They found the most success within the fracturing Great Kingdom, where assassination was an almost legitimate means to gain power.

    But soon after their expansion, the agenda of the Horned Society began to chafe with its members. Being devotees of Nerull, their aims sometimes brought the two organizations into conflict, as the needs of the Society were sometimes in opposition to the desires of the cult. It wasn’t clear what event sparked the separation of Midnight Darkness from the Horned Society, but after a mere four years in existence, they broke all official ties and began enacting their own agenda.

    It was here that they began using the iconic device of a dagger in the back with a poisoned cloth wrapped around the hilt. The cloth was added so that it was clear as to who had done the killing. Daggers in the back, though symbolic, were hardly individual representations of an organization.

    It was also the beginning of the downfall for the organization. Without a strong support base they began to lose their ability to target powerful people. Though assassination was a lucrative business, the inherent greed and evil of the persons involved meant that it was more beneficial for individuals to freelance than to operate as dogs tied to a master.

    Given this lack of resources, and subsequent inability to target powerful individuals, they had to seek other means to support their activities. It was here that Midnight was believed to have come up with his most brilliant plan yet. Instead of supporting their own assassins and priests, they would instead recruit from already established institutions. This took the burden away from them for support, and it gave them access to an array of talent and information that they could never hope to develop themselves.

    In addition, it created the perfect cover and enabled them to compartmentalize their structure. What is more, it meant that the cult could focus their activities purely on the goals that they originally abandoned the Horned Society to enact.

    But Midnight Darkness never managed to fully implement this plan. Part way through, Iuz had his vengeance on the Horned Society. At this same time, both Midnight and Darkness disappeared. Though not solid proof, this is the primary evidence put forward for the argument that both were, in fact, Heirarchs. The fact that this flies in the face of several other factors seems not to peturb the proponents of this theory. Given that most Heirarchs were destroyed in Iuz’s hostile take-over, however, there is some credence to the notion.

    And so the cult floundered, limping along in a sort of half-life. The scattered members kept it alive. Without the focus of the original pair, and with the petty infighting and bickering for the title of Hidden Sickle, it never amounted to much more than a cult of killers and thieves and minor priests hiding their affiliations whilst leading other lives.

    Eventually they managed to regain a semblance of order and, through a process of elimination, a means of succession. But the damage was done. Midnight Darkness, though a fearful force of evil, would never accomplish the goal its originators hoped it would.

    By the time Karnquiza had become the Hidden Sickle, the cult had been reduced to a mere collection of thugs, lay worshipers, and a few insane priests. Some highly skilled members were amongst its ranks, but they were primarily the preceptors themselves. And, due to the lack of focus, they tended to do their own thing more than work towards any particular agenda.

    With Karnquiza beginning to break under the strain of keeping up appearances as Inquisitor, Hidden Sickle and Scarlet Brotherhood double-agent, not to mention being infected with a rotting disease by Nerull for his lack of faith, the organization was at its lowest point ever. Karnquiza became more concerned with maintaining his façade than with furthering any agenda. And so orders became sporadic, funds dried up, and the preceptors focused on other things.

    Circa 587 C.Y., however, there came an offer of aid from a mysterious source. Somehow, someone had not only discovered Karnquiza was the Hidden Sickle, but they had also learned all of the identities of all the preceptors.

    Each preceptor received a letter with a simple question phrased on it, “Do you still hear the call of the harvester?” Attached to the letter was a simple platinum coin. It was the design of the coin that made it relevant. It was a platinum coin minted in the now occupied city of Molag. Not even Iuz had ever found the rumoured piles of coins that the Horned Society had minted years ago as an exercise in pre-emptive domination of the Flanaess.

    Only someone very powerful and very knowledgeable, with connections to the remnants of the Horned Society, could have ever gained these coins. Combined with them having found out who the preceptors were, the message was clear: someone wanted Midnight Darkness to rise again.

    In his already manic, paranoid state, Karnquiza pulled all his remaining resources into play to find out who this mysterious benefactor was. None of his agents or informants could learn anything. The Scarlet Brotherhood were equally perplexed and wished to learn who this new player was and how they could use the situation to their advantage.

    Instead of taking up the offer, Karnquiza was feeling a noose tightening around his neck, and so become further ensconced in his jail fortress. He posted triple the amount of guards at every entrance and exit and surrounded himself with magical protections.

    It only took a month after the letters were sent, and no response had been given, for the consequences to begin. Heroes from all over the Flanaess began unerringly honing in on low-level agents. A miniature crusade against Midnight Darkness had begun. It was inevitable that the food chain would expose the preceptors and Karnquiza.

    Of course, Karnquiza never knew of the connection between the letter and the crusade. He simply saw this as yet another threat. By this stage the necrotic tissue, the result of his lack of faith in Nerull, stunk so badly that no amount of perfume could cover the stench. In addition he had ceased to bathe and rarely ate. He was slowly going mad. The Brotherhood kept pressuring him, Reydrich harassed him through Erkann, and neither realized or cared that they were only exacerbating his unbalanced state.

    So when the invitation to Rinloru came, inviting him to discuss matters of state and his possible appointment as spymaster, Karnquiza latched on to it like a drowning man to a rope. And thus Delglath reeled in his new worker-bee.

    During the months that Karnquiza spent at the Sand Castle, he was transformed by magic and manipulation. By devoting himself anew to Nerull, he walked out of the shadow of Rinloru a new and powerful force of evil.

    Delglath and his one true confidante, the necromancer Mortellan of Reaperkeep, had developed a plan to gain control of Midnight Darkness. Their plan was to fashion it into a Flanaess-wide organization that would further their aims and desires. Having had numerous former Horned Society priests of Nerull flock to him after Iuz’s strike, he had learned of this fledgling assassin’s cult and formed the idea to gain control of it.

    Though official ties between Midnight Darkness and the Horned Society had been cut, unofficial ties had always remained. Friendships, partnerships, associations, etc., were unbroken. This meant that many of the Horned Society priests of Nerull were privy to some of the inner workings of the cult. In fact, some of them were even members themselves, keeping their associations and duties separate.

    Through these ties, Delglath had gained enough information to divine the identities of the remaining members. Despite magical protections, Delglath seemed able to find even the preceptors locations and identities. It is thus thought that Nerull perhaps played a hand in helping his Chosen on Oerth, a risky maneuver given the general consensus of the gods not to interfere directly in the affairs of mortals.

    Delglath then selected from this pool of talent those who he thought would be most loyal to Nerull. The rest needed to be eliminated. By passing on information of the locales of these faithless members, he killed two birds with one stone. It was both a method of separating the wheat from the chaff, and made Karnquiza desperate enough to come out of hiding.

    With the blessing of Nerull, Delglath and Mortellan combined their talents to create a new form of undead assassin, which they dubbed the ‘Death Touch’. This form of undead was unique in that you could not create one, they had to create themselves. By a combination of sacrifice, ritual, and devotion, a person can transform themselves into an undead creature with only one purpose: to kill.

    Karnquiza was the first to become a Death Touch. In this new form, with new powers, he hunted down all remaining members of Midnight Darkness and gave them a very simple choice. Worship Nerull or serve him in death. Those that tried to flee, or didn’t convince Karnquiza of their loyalty to the god of murder, were slain and rose as undead. Those who succeeded in convincing Karnquiza of their genuine affection for Nerull, were shown the path of the Death Touch or initiated as a low-level member and infected with a necrotic cyst.

    Now, as the Syndicate of Midnight, they arose as a new force of darkness in the Flanaess. Gathering their resources, they enacted a plan of culling across the Flanaess. Killing 111 people during the Festival of the Blood Moon, a sacred day of Nerull, they made sure that the message was clear: the dagger and poisoned cloth were back. Since then, they have continued to recruit and grow. Now with a single agenda, a powerful leader, and an even more powerful sponsor, the Syndicate is flourishing like a disease amongst a swarm of rats.

    It took the various spy networks across the Flanaess almost six months to connect the dots. Lack of communication and trust meant that two murders here, three murders there, and couple of more murders over there, were all considered isolated incidents. Once information began flowing through the underground community, people began to realize the extent of the problem. It was a clear and powerful message to tell of the resurfacing of Midnight Darkness as the Syndicate of Midnight. It was here that they also realized the horror of the situation.

    Every target had been someone of small influence or power. The Syndicate was not targeting major heroes, major organizations, or kings or leaders. They were targeting ordinary people of good heart and mind. How could the leaders of nations come out and warn the populace from doing good deeds, let alone protect everyone? Already the Syndicate had won a small victory for evil.

    Agenda

    The agenda of the Syndicate is nothing short of terrifying. They do not kill for money. They do not kill for power. They do not even kill for infamy. They kill, simply to kill.

    There is however reason to their rhyme. Nerull, would he to have his way, wishes the destruction of all life on oerth. Unlike Tharizdun, who seeks oblivion, Nerull wants things simply to die. Undeath is satisfactory. Combined with Delglath’s lust for power and the agenda starts to become clear.

    By targeting the minor heroes of today they make sure that there are no major heroes of tomorrow. By killing all that is good in the world they assure the eventual victory of evil. And so they strike fear into the common man. For as the saying goes, “All that is needed for evil to succeed, is for good men to do nothing.” If the Syndicate can make people fear doing the right thing, then they have realized their goal.

    They also do not target powerful individuals or groups because they fear retribution. The Syndicate is by no means infallible or all-powerful. They have a few key agents in key positions, and numerous supporting agents, but they are in no position to anger powerful people.

    And so for now they keep their goals small. They choose someone who has gained small amount of fame from doing a good deed or two. They learn all they can about his family and friends and associates. Then, they kill everybody. Therefore no one is left to enact retribution.

    A secondary agenda, and one that has sparked speculation that Delglath may be a sponsor of the Syndicate, is one that took much longer to come to light. Many of the 111, and subsequent targets, have been scholars or wizards or priests who were avid researchers into holy artifacts. Due to Delglath’s well known obsession with the Mace and Talisman of Krevell, and the cult’s association with Nerull, it was deduced that he must be involved in some way.

    As for why 111 people were targeted, nobody knows. There seems to be no significance to the number. Perhaps it is just a coincidence, however the Syndicate’s leaning towards symbolism leads one to conclude that it must mean something. Only time will tell what that meaning is, if any.

    Organization

    The restructuring of Midnight Darkness into the Syndicate of Midnight was bloody, ruthless and cunning. Following the example set down by Midnight, Karnquiza has recruited silent members from organizations throughout the Flanaess. These members do not advertise their affiliation, and in truth, are only called upon rarely. This limits the exposure of the Syndicate and allows the Syndicate to operate with a low profile, whilst enabling them to gather significant amounts of information in a very short amount of time.

    Only those willing to commit to Nerull are given entry. A thing called a necrotic cyst is grown in the new agent, and each agent is subsequently dominated through the spell, Necrotic Domination. This ensures loyalty of low-level members but it also allows for telepathic communication of missions, through the domination spell. This further limits the exposure of the Syndicate.

    In a coup of cooperative diplomacy, Delglath has also managed to convince many churches of Nerull across the Flanaess to give aid to Syndicate members. They do so through a magical tattoo which is only visible to worshipers of Nerull. Although such churches are rarely more than a shrine in someone’s secret basement, it is still a powerful connective device that gives agents in an area a safe haven and ready resources.

    Each agent or church in a city is considered a cell. Each cell has very limited information as to who or where other operatives are. Recruiters, always priests of Nerull, are given their task to approach certain potential candidates specifically. No candidate is chosen by chance. The recruiter is always more powerful than the candidate. So if the candidate refuses to join, the priest eliminates them so as to leave no clues behind.

    The Syndicate essentially has four tiers of power. The cells are the first tier, which make up the bulk of the membership, and consist of lay worshipers, individual operatives, or small church groups. Above the cells are the Heirarchs, of which there are seven. Each Heirarch is in control of a certain region and uses Necrotic Domination to keep tabs on all their minions. They take care of local Syndicate business and are usually assassins, rogues or the like who already hold positions within other guilds or associations.

    Karnquiza is the leader of the Syndicate. He is their father and mother, judge and jury and is considered the third tier.

    The fourth tier is Delglath the Undying. Delglath does not involve himself beyond aiding the group with magical items, spell support and money. He prefers to leave most Syndicate activity to Karnquiza but at the same time, ensures Karnquiza knows who is boss. It is only rarely, when Delglath discovers a target that has important information, that he uses the Syndicate to gain it.

    Leader

    Karnquiza is still the leader of the organization however he is a radically different person to who he was just six years ago. His devotion to Nerull is absolute. In his new undead form he has far more power than he did previously. This is something he both loves and loathes. On the one hand he hates that he cannot feel love, taste wine or meat, or enjoy the touch of a woman. But bathing in the blood of his victims is an adequate compromise for him.

    He is now utterly ruthless and completely evil. If there was ever a shred of humanity in Karnquiza before his transformation, it has been annihilated. Several instances of incredible violence and callousness have been attributed to him. Two instances in particular have earned him the nickname, Nerull’s Scythe.

    In one of these instances, he hung five victims upside down from the rafters, all facing inwards, in a circle. Standing in the middle, he slit their throats in quick succession, and literally showered in their blood whilst screaming out in a religious fervour a devotion to Nerull.

    In another episode, he was thought to have used his deadly touch as he walked through a crowded market square, killing indiscriminately across three hundred yards of open ground. People simply fell in silence to his touch. Nobody saw who was responsible, despite the murders occurring in full sight of hundreds of people.

    He tolerates no question of his rule and has become a perfectionist in his methods. Having lost his position as Inquisitor, after being missing for several months, and having no need to eat or sleep, and with essentially unlimited funds from Rinloru, he has become a wandering nomad. He is committed to nothing else but the expansion of the Syndicate and its goals. And in this task, he has become exceedingly talented.

    One of the first things he did after leaving Rinloru was to track down Erkann, a cousin of Reydrich’s. Erkann had been a thorn in his side when Karnquiza was Inquisitor of Zelradton. And so he slew Erkann and hung the head, with the entrails still attached, to Reydrich’s gate.

    Nobody saw him come or go. Reydrich has since put up a bounty of 1,000 gold for anyone who can find out who killed his cousin. Bringing the killer in alive will net them a further 5,000 gold. Dead will only net the bounty hunter a further 3,000 gold, but is a satisfactory outcome in Reydrich’s eyes.

    Soon after this deed, Karnquiza tracked down his Scarlet Brotherhood overseers, slew them, and raised them as undead under his command. They now serve him as his loyal lieutenants; an irony not lost on Karnquiza.

    Though Karnquiza tows the line with Delglath, he has no love for the Undying one. He would betray Delglath in an instant if it furthered his aims. He also envies and covets Delglath’s position as Chosen of Nerull. But he is no fool and given Delglath’s mastery over undead, would have to have considerable power before ever thinking of going against him.

    One thing that would possibly give him this power, is the Talisman of Krevell. It would also put Delglath off his guard, perhaps granting Karnquiza the opening he needs to bring the Undying one undone. This is a tempting thought for Karnquiza, but Lakaster is just as deadly, perhaps even deadlier, than Delglath. And so for now he concentrates on the Syndicate, biding his time until he can strike.

    Notable Personages

    Of note there are three particular individuals that serve the Syndicate and need mentioning. Two are former agents of Midnight Darkness who were both Preceptors and are now both Heirarchs. The other is an intriguing personality who works as a clerk in Greyhawk City.

    The first Heirarch to be named is Mersheval. Already a very skilled assassin, and a favourite of Nerull, Mersheval saw the opportunity to serve in a greater capacity as a blessing. He has maintained his previous occupation in Rel Mord and continues much as he did before, however now he oversees and organizes assassinations for the greater eastern portion of the former Great Kingdom.

    The second Heirarch is Plandarn Releshefar. Though fairly talented at planning assassinations, particularly of large groups of people, his lack of discipline and careless nature let him down. The leader of Edge Field, the animus Hastern, became increasingly aware of Plandarn’s activities. Plandarn has since moved and taken up duties as an entertainer and organizer of events at Xavener’s court. This is a relatively minor role, in which he is but one of many appointed officials. He languishes in this role and performs neither greatly or badly enough to get noticed. This gives him relative freedom to do as he pleases outside of his duties but gives him ready access to one of the most powerful information networks in all of the Flanaess: Xavener’s court.

    The third, one Hagon Rondremen, follows in Plandarn’s footsteps in the sense that he fulfills a relatively minor role that gives him access to vast amounts of information. He is the head clerk of the office of the mayor of Greyhawk City. His duties mean that he has little time for actual assassination, however he has access to an incredible amount of information, and more importantly, access to people with information. He can forge practically any document with the seal of any member of the Oligarchy, or any other prominent member of Greyhawk City. It would not be a surprise if he is the next to become a Heirarch, though he perhaps lacks the assassin skills or priestly devotion to ever take Karnquiza’s place.

    Sponsors

    The obvious sponsor is Delglath the Undying. Ruler of the necropolis Rinloru and the surrounding land. The populace of Rinloru is almost entirely converted to undead. The ranks of the priesthood of Nerull are growing daily as the undead mecca grows in reputation. And he has managed to sack the city of every available resource. He has no need to feed his minions or provide heat or any other mortal necessities. In addition, he can set his undead hordes to work on mindless tasks like mining. This means few expenses and a growing income. Add to this that he has somehow gained the reputed horde of platinum coins that were minted by the Horned Society ages ago. And so, Delglath has money to throw around.

    He is still sensible with how he administers funds, but on the surface of things, he has access to the equivalent resources of a king rather than a petty noble in a rural centre. Despite this, the resources he can give to the Syndicate are limited simply due to its structure. Throwing money or powerful items at minor members will only attract unwanted attention and could feasibly be traced back to him. He is not arrogant enough to think himself omnipotent, and the last thing he needs is a bunch of do-gooders knocking on his door.

    Therefore the most significant sponsors of the Syndicate are essentially the churches of Nerull that provide support. These churches are rarely more than shrines in basements, or other out of the way, hidden places. Anywhere that Nerull can have open worship, the Syndicate doesn’t really need or want to have a powerful or very active presence. The people who run these churches are rarely more than lay worshipers. Occasionally a priest or perhaps a rogue will be in the flock. So even though this is a significant resource, it rarely amounts to more than a safe-haven.

    Members

    There are actually only about thirty real assassins of any power in league with the organization. The rest of the cells are made up of minor priests or worshipers. Some of the cells operate individually, but the majority of the classed assassins are actually operatives within other assassin or rogue guilds. They keep their allegiance to the Syndicate secret even from their own masters. These people are considered to be ‘cells’ within themselves.

    When approached by Karnquiza, it was often not a hard sell to convince these singular operatives to align themselves with the Syndicate. Doing so required little more than worshiping Nerull, many of whom already did solely due to their profession. The most significant drawback was the fact that they had to submit to being infected by a necrotic cyst. In return, however, they were promised vast gifts of power and immortality. For the types of people involved, this kind of offer, though viewed with appropriate skepticism, was very much to their liking. And the promises were always kept.

    Other cells rarely consist of more than two operatives; usually both have legitimate businesses or interests that allow them to meet without raising suspicion. In secret, they conduct their rituals to Nerull and only act when called upon to do so. In return they have always gotten far more reward than would be normal for their tasks. It is this fact that has kept all members particularly loyal. That and the fact that those who express dissatisfaction tend to end up as undead in Rinloru.

    In fact it is these members who are possibly the most deadly. They are the unknown element. They are perfectly ‘normal’ citizens, who hide a dark secret. Their targets are never too powerful to overcome. A simple invitation to sit down and have tea, an innocuous event given the context, can turn into an assassination. Most victims of these members never see their killer, or even realize who it was that killed them. After all, Bob the Merchant had always been a good friend…

    Locations

    The Syndicate has at least one operative in every major city in the Flanaess. As far as actual bases of operation go there simply are none. Each of the seven Hierarchs (a term curiously adopted by the Syndicate despite being an ancient term used by the Horned Society) communicates only through magical scrying devices. These have significant magical protections on them to avoid detection and location or any spying. Delglath and Mortellan created these devices specifically for this task.

    The only member who knows all of the other members names and locations, is Karnquiza. He will never divulge this information. He is so utterly devoted to Nerull, that he would prefer oblivion to betraying his dark master. This devotion is something that is beyond mortal magic to break, as it is a sacred bond between the god of death and his minion. Even a wish or miracle spell can only force Karnquiza to answer truthfully if posed a question, and even then, he is not compelled to actually say anything.

    Miscellaneous

    The Syndicate is much more than a simple network of assassins. There are complexities and subtleties to explore beyond being hired mercenaries. Members kill out of belief and a desire to do evil. They seek power and glory and there is no greater mortal power than having another person's life in ones hands. Proving they can take that life away, is something that these people crave. That kind of devotion and need is not something that makes sense to an ordinary person. And so there is immediately a complexity and depth to this organization that separates it from regular assassin guilds.

    Traits

    Aside from the dagger in the back with the poisoned cloth attached, one trait stands out about the current incarnation of the organization. They tend to be able to strike and fade away with little to no fear of repercussion. They are somehow getting to their targets and hiding afterwards, without raising any suspicions as to their identities. This is either due to the assassin's skills or the obscurity of the killer in question. They are either powerful assassins in their own right, or they’re innocuous citizens, usually of good standing in the community. Such people can vanish either literally or figuratively, with relative ease.

    To date only one of their number has been caught, and this was put down to simple coincidence. The fact that those who caught him were also powerful enough to overcome him was a fluke. Those in the know have pointed out that one of the people who caught the assassin was a priest of Trithereon, a god denied his vocation by the Syndicate’s methods. Another was a paladin of Pelor, a god obviously opposed to the Syndicate’s activities. The third was a ranger, whose specialty was the tracking and destruction of undead. Whether a coincidence or divine intervention is up for debate. Given that Nerull possibly overstepped his bounds in aiding Delglath, it would make sense that other gods would step in to balance the situation.

    Regardless, the loyalty of the assassin was so profound that he managed to choke himself to death whilst bound and gagged. Attempts to divine information from the body all failed, as there seemed to be some dark force protecting the spirit of the deceased. Further, two days after the event, the body simply up and vanished. The ranger who had helped capture the assassin determined that the body had risen as a ghoul, dug itself from the grave, and fled.

    Nobody has yet uncovered the magical tattoos that adorn the members of this assassin’s cult. Only those who worship Nerull can see the mark. It appears as a scythe-like dagger, wrapped in a ragged strip of cloth that drips with poison.

    Another trait is their almost exclusive use of poison as a means of assassination. The dagger in the back is merely a symbol, and in the case of some of the members who are called on to kill friends or acquaintances, a very appropriate one. The Syndicate manufactures several of their own magical as well as mundane poisons.

    Strengths

    The most powerful aspect of the Syndicate is the relative anonymity of its members. They have no real base of operations, aside from perhaps Rinloru. Even then, they do not meet there, or anywhere in particular. Most communication between the upper members is done through magical means. Communication between the ranks tends to rely on the innate telepathic connection developed by using the spell ‘Necrotic Domination’.

    The use of necrotic cysts is another strength of the organization. It is a requirement of membership. Eventually the cyst can be turned into a mother cyst, if the appropriate feat is taken. This negates the effect of necrotic spells and allows the person to cast necrotic spells on lesser members. It is also a form of advancement within the organization. Domination of lesser members means that loyalty is maintained without the need to worry about constant supervision.

    One other aspect of the organization is the fact that each assassin is on a path of Nerull that requires utter devotion to the god. This path eventually turns the person into an undead creature that can kill with a touch. As they progress on this path, the person becomes more and more fanatically devoted to Nerull. Thus the more power they gain, the less of a need there is to maintain loyalty through threats or other coercive means.

    Also, the nature of the Syndicate’s organization is compartmentalization to the extreme. Therefore chopping off a digit, or even a whole arm of the organization, means virtually nothing to the overall strength of the whole. Much like an undead creature.

    Weaknesses

    As cells, the Syndicate’s power is severely limited. They can only ever enact small-time crimes of violence and simply don’t have the resources to target bigger enemies. They also need to stay under the radar as much as possible and in most instances must even hide their affiliation from their peers, friends and family.

    Significant operations are therefore mostly beyond the Syndicate’s ability at this point in time. Even the announcement of their resurrection required Karnquiza’s personal involvement and over a year of planning.

    The use of necrotic cysts also means that the low to mid-level members can be detected. If this fact were ever revealed about the Syndicate then the use of a low-level spell, Necrotic Awareness, could be used to root out every member.

    Of course this comes with its own limitations. Not all of those who are infected with a cyst may be a member. However it is still a significant weakness that could be easily exploited.

    Also, anyone with the ability to cast Necrotic Awareness could also possibly cast Necrotic Domination. This would turn a Syndicate member into a willing ally in an instant.

    Tactics

    The Syndicate uses all the tactics of an assassin in everything they do. Their strikes are intricately planned and enacted, with a bent towards perfection. Mistakes are not tolerated. Karnquiza deals with any errors, personally. A task he rather enjoys.

    All missions are given the exact resources they require. Due to the limited nature of the connections between the cells and higher ups, such support is limited. Thus targets are never beyond the means of the individual cell or the resources that can be given them. If a deed requires further effort, then one of the Heirarchs steps in.

    When selecting a target, careful attention is paid to who would have a vested interest in avenging the death of the victim. These people are then also targeted. If any of these people prove beyond the abilities of the Syndicate to eliminate with relative ease, they mark that target for a future time when they can be dealt with without repercussion.

    Due to the favoured method of assassination being poisoning through ingestion, family gatherings are a particularly effective time to target the victims as a group. Gifts of food, invitations to have the gathering at a prestigious place, strange new friends attending the gatherings, etc. are all hallmarks of the methodology of the Syndicates' attacks. In several instances, the assassin has also ingested the poison, having the antidote on him, in order to be above suspicion.

    In the case of multiple victims from one target, there is only ever one dagger left in the back of one victim, and that is the primary target of the assassination. This leaves a clear indicator as to who was initially targeted. It also sends a chilling reminder that the rest of the dead are nothing more than collateral damage from the victim’s involvement in good deeds.

    Resources

    Despite having Delglath as a sponsor, the resources of the Syndicate are very sparse. Few temples to Nerull are erected in the open and fewer still have any real income from worshipers. Most shrines are in basements, or hidden behind secret doors, down dark and dusty passageways. These ceremonies are usually attended by a few dark-hearted individuals, who very rarely have enough money to fund significant enterprises.

    When a member is given a particular mission they are also given the tools to enable them on it. And even then this usually consists simply of information, a plan, poison, and the dagger with the poisoned cloth. No member carries one of these daggers for very long, and they are only ever given one just before being required to fulfill a task.

    The most powerful resource of the Syndicate are the Death Touch assassins. Passing as normal, these undead creatures can kill with no more than a touch. Some are even powerful enough to simple walk into and out of shadows, literally, or hide in plain sight.

    Also, the anonymity of its low-level members is a powerful resource that although not tangible, is something that should not be overlooked. Striking suddenly and swiftly and then blending in or fading away, is a power unto itself. And the shear obscurity of the majority of members means that the Syndicate can reach where others would be thwarted. Where a powerful rogue would have to fall back on magical disguises and talents of persuasion, one of the Syndicate’s lesser members could simply walk in, without anyone thinking them to be a threat. And just as easily, they could walk back into their obscure little lives, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. "
     
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    Re: The Syndicate of Midnight - Part I of II. (Score: 1)
    by Delglath on Tue, July 12, 2005
    (User Info | Send a Message | Journal)
    I apologize for the spelling and grammar errors. This piece has been re-written seven times. In the end, I chose bits and pieces from each of the first six incarnations and threw them together to make the seventh!

    Unfortunately, this meant I rushed things and so forgot to check spelling and grammar before posting.

    Oh, and Hastor is meant to be Hastern. D'oh!

    I also forgot to change the name 'Mortellan' to 'Mortillion', as I hadn't asked permission from our Mort to use his nick. Sorry dude. If it's a problem, feel free to change it!



    Re: The Syndicate of Midnight - Part I of II. (Score: 1)
    by mortellan on Fri, July 15, 2005
    (User Info | Send a Message)
    Looks good to me. Let the Darkness reign!


    ]


    Re: The Syndicate of Midnight - Part I of II. (Score: 1)
    by Delglath on Fri, July 15, 2005
    (User Info | Send a Message | Journal)
    It has now been edited and updated.



    Re: The Syndicate of Midnight - Part I of II. (Score: 1)
    by Duicarthan on Sat, July 16, 2005
    (User Info | Send a Message) http://www.greyhawkonline.com/duicarthan
    Good work man. I really liked how you linked all this together and made it stand out.


    ]


    Re: The Syndicate of Midnight - Part I of II. (Score: 1)
    by Argon on Tue, July 19, 2005
    (User Info | Send a Message)
    We know you can't spell but you can write nice article good submission. This organization is quite usefulI also like the fact that different cells exist and they really don't cooperate much as a group themselves. However I like their philosphy. Evil B@$t@rds !




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