Some of the fire returns to Lady Natalia's eyes, but she wills herself to remain calm. "It doesn't quite matter if it's true or not, and do you know why? I don't think you do, but allow me to enlighten you..."
Natalia gets up from her seat and walks over to one of the windows, she continues to look out while speaking. "If our negations go badly, if we walk away from the table, or if either of us becomes aggressive, the Blood Knives will lose their early opportunity to expand their influence in Nidal, and it won't even be a minor set back. We are expanding our organization and Nidal is just one of thousands of options. However, if you don't join us, then your opportunity to expand in Absalom closes shut."
She turns around to look at them. "I know that we can't strong arm you into joining us, I'm sure if we attacked you, you could kill all three of us in about twelve seconds. And yet... we hold all the cards, so I don't need to convince you to join us, you need to convince me as to why we should let you join. So far treating me like a spoiled child hasn't exactly convinced me just yet."
She sits back down and crosses her arms. "I made a deal, and yet you haven't exactly jumped at it. So now it's your turn, convince me why I shouldn't get up from this table and go back to Absalom"
As your negotiating, you suddenly remember something. While The Triune are the true power in Nidal, the Circle of Shadows is a serious one as well. Also, no one group has ever had four members sit on the Circle.
"Yes, you have made us an offer. One that is basically be subsumed, and that's it. We may not be as powerful or numerous as the Knives, but we can block their spread both here in the capitol as well as the rest of the country. So why don't we try to find some sort of agreement that benefits both sides more?"
We get it. Your codpiece is bigger than ours. You could easily kill us right now. The point is the ones who sent us are who you are really dealing with. They sent us for a reason though. We are just the messengers. You asked us to back off the positioning. Now I ask you the same. Please just answer the lady's question so we can go about our business.
Sweet is not much of a diplomat and would prefer killing these guys. Unfortunately, they are too powerful.
Finding himself alone at last with his dinner, Rupert grins. This is not his usual, cocky half-grin, accompanied by his usual charm and bluster, but a true smile, splitting his face in half as he inhales the pork. There is a time for all things, be they good or bad. There is time to be happy, sad, angry, and even lonesome, but this is not that time. This is the time to take deep pleasure in one of the simplest, yet finest things in life. The sturdy chair beneath him is the only company he needs, the pig his only mark. His knife and fork are all the weapons he needs, his hunger the only client. For that rare moment, it didn't matter what his name was, or his job. It didn't matter that he'd somehow fallen into the ranks of what might one day be the most powerful, most notorious, and most well-paying criminal organization on Golarion or beyond. For that moment, it didn't matter what gods he prayed to or in which realm his soul might rest once his miserable mortal existence had run its course. In that moment, the only important thing was that pig, steam still rising from its roasted flesh, juices still pooling in the meat.
It was a glorious moment, perhaps the last moment of true joy that the man calling himself Rupert Saint would get to enjoy for a long time. And he savored every last bit of it, until it was nothing but bones on a plate and a memory still warm in his belly. Rupert leaned back in his chair, tipping it onto its back legs, resting it against the wall. Propping his boots on the table, he begins to consider his pressing mission, and part of him died a little, knowing that the moment had passed. But if part of his soul died, it died happy, leaving behind only the cold calculation of a man used to considering the impending death of a great many men. And when that man walked out of the tavern, leaving generous payment and an untouched goblet of wine, it was a very different man than the one who had done the eating.
Natalia looks to the three, "So you want four members sitting on the Council of Shadows instead of three. Although no one group has ever had more then three. So if I am to understand you, we put a member of the Blood Knives on the Council, and as their will be an alliance with your group, it would essentially mean that you would have four, correct? But you can't actually have four members as that would draw to much attention to your group."
Natalia sits back, "So then the question remains, how do we secure a spot for the Blood Knives?"
"The Witch speaks correctly. The problem is that members on the Circle are not allowed to move directly against others, which also extends to whichever group they represent. Thus, any conflicts are resolved using outside parties, should it come to that." The middle speaker pauses, which causes the one on the right to continue "No one group has ever had the power or influence to gain a fourth spot. It is not forbidden, just nigh impossible. Thus, what Natalia says is indeed what we propose, though it is not so much a condition of us joining as it is an extremly strong first step in solidifying our alliance"
I'll try to get to Ky later today, but wanted to post this before I head in to work
Tabby, as you comb the streets, you pick up a few pieces of information that you decide might be useful the Blood Knives. The most intriguing tidbit is that there seems to be a small, yet growing group of Aasmiars calling themselves the Angels of Hell. They sound like an intimidating gang of toughs. Perhaps they could use some direction?
The tavern you stop in, the Sour Grapes, is quite the nice establishment. Its not opulent, but it comes close. The tangy, sourish wine that gives the place its name is renowned the city and region over and it shows.
The barkeep archs a questioning eyebrow at you when you ask about Mathius "Many have heard for him, few know him and they say you can count on one hand the number of people who've met him and lived to tell about it. What's a pretty young thing like you doing looking for one of the most notorious and dangers spies in all Golarion?"
The man on the left answers Natalia's question "We have a few targets, however, there is one important thing you must keep in mind. You can not actually kill whoever it is you go after. Each one who sits on the Circle is an important member of the city's infrastructure, so to kill one off would most likely throw Pangolais into chaos, and not the kind that is at all beneficial."
Looking to Lady Natalia as the leader, I propose we kidnap someone who is extremely important to him and control him that way or I would be willing to infiltrate his life as a mistress to gain intelligence? What are you thinking m' lady?
Natalia laughs, "Well kidnapping is one thing, but blackmail and extortion is another. I intend for us to collect as much information as we can on one of the council members and force them to step down, either through blackmail or threats against family members."
Natalia turns to the three, "This will take longer then I was anticipating, so we will need a base of operations as well as access to lowlies who sell information. We will also need to communicate with Absalom for more resources."
"As we said, there are a few who could be replaced. We will provide you with their names and you can decide which one you would like to go after."
In response to Natalia the man sitting in the middle says "You can have rooms here, free of charge, as well as meals on the house. We will assist you as we can as well as provide you with whatever resources we are able to."
As soon as we get the list, we should start gathering information. See which one of the council members is the weakest. I am going to claim a room. Holler at me when you guys are ready to start planning.
Sweet grabs her bag and starts heading up the stairs. Are you guys sure there isn't one that sticks out? One that you would really like to see brought down? Maybe let us get some revenge for you?
Natalia nods with satisfaction, "Excellent, then I'm sure we have time to refresh ourselves before we are needed again."
Natalia turns to Sweet and Ragar, "Stay close, once we have the intel, we move again. Make sure to get some rest if you can." She looks back to the three men. "Please let me know once you get that intel"
The man leaves the tavern with an altogether different plan than the one he first had. Mathius didn't matter. The mysterious beans market mattered even less. True, the unscrupulous mercenary and information broker might be able to tell them something or two, about beans or about the orphanage, but the Blood Knives hadn't picked him because he got others to do his dirty work for him.
He walks through the city, down streets and back alleys. Somewhere along the way the handsome, clean-shaven face becomes scruffy and dirt-covered. His long, purpose-driven strides become a hobbling gait, and his clothes turn patchwork and ragged. His hair, once golden, is now matted and gray. Long, stringy tendrils of grease-laden hair fall down his back like a mane. He is, to even the most careful observer, a dirty bum, and as he approaches the Littlest Hero Orphanage, nobody pays him any mind.
Approaching the orphanage to watch and observe from the alleys. I don't expect to see too much in the less than 3 hours I have to watch, but it should be more than enough to case the outside, the surrounding streets, and observe dome behavior. I feel that I should apologize for ignoring the dangling hook, but when I thought about it, it didn't seem immediately relevant. You being the omnipotent GM, that's likely not the case, but it doesn't make much sense IC. Also, it's becoming strangely difficult to keep my tenses in line. I keep slipping into past-tense.
The man in the middle replies to Natalia "Gives us till nightfall, and we will have what you need. I would suggest you rest till then. Ours is a city that is much more alive after your sun sets, which is about six hours from now." With that, the men get up, and suddenly the rooms shimmers and shifts. Gone is the barely furnished common room, replaced by a much larger, and far more ornate one. Weirdest of all, there's about a dozen patrons sitting around several of the tables, eating, drinking and talking. None of them seem to have any idea about the conversation just held as several of them appear startled when they see you.
The three of you head up to your rooms, which are richly decorated. A big, comfortable bed dominates the center. On one side is a large solid desk and on the other a dresser with a mirror. Each room also has a small closet and a chest with a sturdy looking lock. The key on the desk is most likely for it.
As Natalia 'rests' she finds herself more tired than she thought and soon falls asleep. Her dreams are normal at first, nothing out of the ordinary, but then she sees herself in front of those who wronged her in her past, yet they grovel and kneel and beg at her feet.
The dream then shifts, and a woman wrapped in shadows steps into her vision. When she speaks, Natalia realizes its Cassandra "That last dream can easily be your future. We wish to help make it so. Tell us, what has transpired so far?"
The barkeep smiles faintly "He's a hard man to find, to be sure. Nobody knows what he really looks like, nor where he lives. He is very much the stereotypical 'ghost'. And that is why its said nothing happens in this city that he doesn't know about."
As you watch the orphanage, you note a few odd things. First, there appears to be just bit too many people coming and going. You're not sure why you feel this is true, but you've learned to trust your instincts. Secondly, the windows on the second floor are barred.
After about an hour and a half, a man walks up to you. He rolls up his sleeve and shows you a tattoo of a blood red knife. "A word with you, Mr Saint"
Each of you is asked to come to the Shadowed Dragon. Once there, you're told that you're going to join the investigation into this suspicious orphanage in the city.
Male Human (Tian-Dan) Monk 3 (Ki Mystic of the Four WInds)
The Shadowed Dragon it is, then.
Knowledge: Local1d20 + 7 ⇒ (20) + 7 = 27
Phi easily finds his way to the Shadowed Dragon without having to advertise where he's heading. Once he's there, a mysterious stranger informs him that he will be joining an investigation into a suspicious orphanage. "Very well. Do you have any additional information for me? Whom I will be helping? How I will know them when I meet them? The name and location of the orphanage? Or am I supposed to resolve those questions myself as part of a test?"
Sweet wakes up and walks over to the window. She spends several minutes watching as people pass by on the sidewalk. A group of school age girls dressed in expensive clothes stop underneath the window giggling and discussing boys. Sweet watches and thinks back to her childhood. Jealousy wells up inside of her as she thinks about their innocence and the ease of their lives.
You do not know how lucky you are. I would give everything to have had a normal family who loved me.
She spends several minutes deep in thought until she snaps out of it and returns to her bed. She meticulously checks her gear in preparation for the evening. She spends the time she has left waiting on word from Natalia sharpening her bastard sword and preparing herself mentally.
Natalia smiles slightly to herself. "The only real question is when the dream will come true..." She looks up at Cassandra. "You will have to teach me how to communicate within dreams... as for our progress... we have stipulated the terms of an alliance, but in order to solidify our relationship, we are moving on to Phase 2. Replacing a member of the Council of Shadows with one of the Blood Knives. As direct violence is not recommended, we intend to use blackmail or extortion."
The barkeep smiles "Those are just the rumors about him. Personally, I highly doubt he knows everything, though I am sure he knows enough. If you're serious about finding him, try the Glass Wren glassworks shop down the street. Rumors say that's the best way to find him, though I have no idea why."
Cassandra nods "Excellent, things proceed nicely then. We were wise to place you in charge of these negotiations. I will check on your progress in a few days. If anything significant happens, burn a candle in your room and make sure there are plenty of shadows."
Ragar wakes and shields his eyes against the sun streaming through his room's window. He wonders if either of the women are awake yet. After rinsing his face in the basin, he gathers his belongings and strolls to the rooms occupied by both women and bangs on the doors.
Ragar stands just inside the door, awaiting Sweet to finish packing. he shrugs and says,
Should be interesting, but I am a little discouraged about the approach of bribery and blackmail instead of outright brutal intimidation or even assassination. I am not so well-versed in these alternative methods, but I could have delighgted in making someone disappear.