Dark Hand of Lapatra

THE DARK HAND OF LAPATRA

AKA “The Dark Hand”

A BRIEF AND SECRETIVE HISTORY:
The exact age of the Dark Hand is unknown; some believe that they were founded at the dawn of history from the first mortals to worship Lapatra. Others contend that there have been many different orders of ‘the Dark Hand’ throughout history, as the organization fractured, disbanded or were rooted out by other powerful factions. Only the most elite amongst the modern Dark Hand could possibly know the truth.

They first enter modern history/mythology during the Vile War, in Quonar. Legends tell of shadowy warriors, skilled in the arts of ambush and deception, who taught the Quonari the art of guerilla warfare in the swamps and jungles of their inhospitable home. If these tales are true, that would make the current Dark Hand at least 2000 years old at this point.

After the war ended the Dark Hand disappear from history books, but they didn’t actually disband. The truth, known only to very few people in the highest halls of international power, is that the Dark Hand moved west following the pilgrimage of displaced elves seeking new lands to call their own. As these refugees put down roots the Dark Hand was with them, installing agents and bloodlines loyal to the Dark Hand in positions of nobility and authority in these newly-founded nations.

Their most sizable foothold was the lands which would come to be known as the Wyvern Islands. In order to insure the long-term prosperity of their organization and to make certain their information networks would always be well-maintained, the Dark Hand installed itself throughout this nations government. Their influence became deeply rooted there, to the point that in the modern government of that nation, everything of substance is overseen and manipulated by the Dark Hand’s Conclave of Grandmasters.

WHO ARE THE DARK HAND?
First and foremost the Dark Hand exists for the purpose of gathering and controlling information. Lapatra is the Patron of Keeping Secrets, and the Dark Hand have always made it their business to know as much as they can about everyone else’s business. “Information is power” has been the mantra of the Dark Hand throughout history, and there are few groups more powerful or more well-informed.

Obviously, a significant part of the power that comes from information depends on how one wields it. Where the Dark Hand of old was motivated by vaguely altruistic (though self-serving) motives, the current Dark Hand seems more like a machine collecting and controlling information for power’s sake alone. And as in any environment where power is at stake, the Dark Hand has a strict hierarchy.

The rulers of the Dark Hand are the Conclave of Grandmasters. Their identities are known only to the handful of Masters who answer directly to them, and only a Grandmaster knows the identity of the other Grandmasters. The Conclave rules the Dark Hand absolutely – their word and their policy are law. After all, only they are permitted to know all of the secrets the Dark Hand holds, and so they are the only ones fit to lead.

The Masters of the Dark Hand are the elite agents who answer directly to the Grandmasters, or whose duties place them in positions of great power or authority. Not all Masters are famous or well-known, and in fact some of the Masters are people of very little significance in the eyes of the general public. Masters are the decision-makers of the Dark Hand; as the title suggests, they need not ask permission before taking actions that cause significant political, economic or social upheaval.

The title of Master is also sometimes bestowed on an agent of such surpassing excellence or expertise that the title of ‘Agent’ is no longer deemed adequate.

Agent is a term used to describe the lower echelon of the Dark Hand. Agents are people who answer directly to the Masters. They are usually specialists – spies, courtiers, assassins, bodyguards, and other people necessary to the day-to-day operation of the Dark Hand. They are people who can be trusted with certain secrets, but who cannot yet be trusted to make important decisions. Agents who prove skilled are sometimes promoted, but those who prove untrustworthy are always purged – they are killed, along with anyone who associated with them who might know too much. The Dark Hand does not allow half-measures when it comes to security – either they trust you, or they exterminate you.

Despite their variety and specialization, there are no specific rankings amongst Agents. It is generally accepted that the more missions an Agent has completed, the most seniority they are considered to have, and the more respect they are given by their peers. Their seniority shows they have been trusted with more secrets by the higher-ups, but also that they have the skills and the cunning to survive all the assignments they have been given – a mark of worth unto itself. In a world where a single mistake usually means death, longevity is to be admired.

Below the rank of Agent is the rank and file of the Dark Hand – pawns. Pawns are people that Agents employ, leverage, blackmail or otherwise make use of in gathering or making use of the Dark Hand’s information. They are usually unaware of the Dark Hand’s existence, and if they become aware they are always quickly silenced. Pawns are considered expendable, because nothing they know can be used to harm the Dark Hand. This is justified to most Agents – if these people had any real value they would have been recruited, not simply used up and discarded. The overwhelming majority of the Dark Hand’s network is pawns – the whole of the Dark Hand numbers fewer than 10,000 people in the all world, but their influence reaches through the hands of millions.

THE HIDDEN ADGENDA OF THE MODERN DARK HAND
A truth known only to the Grandmasters and a select few Masters (and now also to the party) is the true motives of the modern Dark Hand. The Dark Hand came to the Wyvern Islands not only to secretly seize power, but because hidden deep beneath a dormant Volcano there the Dark Hand has captured and hidden one of the ancient Eldricharum – The Gratchenprok, a Vile creature of sickly living flame.

At first they simply kept it because they lacked the means to destroy it – only a God-Spirit had the power to unmake such a monster, and the God-Spirits had departed the world. After centuries of attempts to weaken it, their scholarship began to take a risky turn as they began seeking an understanding of how the Vile actually worked in an effort to better combat it in the future.

The fruits of this research led the current Grandmasters to an even more ominous way of thinking – a belief that it may be possible for the powers of the Vile to be harnessed for use by the Dark Hand. Tyndolion Lanothar became aware of this information when he was charged with establishing the Dark Hand’s base on the newly-discovered Lost Continent – the colony of Halftown.

Lanothar had deep reservations about the judgement of the Grandmasters, and in order to keep them from completing their research or forwarding their Vile-positive adgenda, he founded the Halftown Splinter Group.

THE HALFTOWN SPLINTER GROUP

Current Roster:
Tyndolion “The Prince” Lanothar
Serina “Lady Seraphine” Van Katthe (Semi-Retired.)
Cattiua Windgrace
Baern Auchtenfell (Missing, assumed dead.)
Azriel Xyrthana
Cinder (Currently residing with Garada.)
Alawynnan Ivybrook (Currently Incapacitated in Roshnash.)
Jarn Viselli
Lark Fellduar

The Splinter Group is made up of a small handful of Dark Hand operatives who were loyal to Tyndolion. He founded the group for one purpose – to prevent the Dark Hand from obtaining any useful information about the Lost Continent through Halftown. To that end the Splinter Group have spent the last 30 years on a constant campaign of misinformation, espionage and occasionally assassination.

The end goal of this operation is unclear. Possibly the Prince had hoped that if he delayed long enough the mandate of the Grandmasters would change. Perhaps he hoped to find enough allies to mount a genuine resistance to their machinations. Perhaps he had no plan, and simply doing what he could with the skills he had to keep from being party to something he saw as a massive and dangerous mistake by the Dark Hand’s leadership.

After the incidents in Oxalathiel, the party at that time were also brought into the Splinter Group. Though not actually Agents of the Dark Hand, Tyndolion recruited the party because he needed more people he could trust to serve as Agents for Halftown. How that is working out for him has yet to be seen.

Dark Hand of Lapatra

The Forgotten Throne Starhunter