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The Man from The Guild

I met him first when I went for a drink in the Purple Dragon, as I often did.

He was sitting in the corner, a dark figure wearing the shadows like a cloak. When I looked in his direction he beckoned for me to approach. I did.

"I've been expecting you." He said.
"Who are you?"
"You will never know, but I know you. You are Rane, former adventurer, now a merchant. You are unhappy with the council, you think it is corrupt and self-interested."
"How do you know that?"
"I know many things."
"What do you want?"
"I want to know what you want."

I looked at the man, encloaked in shadow and mystery. So far he had said nothing about himself, but knew much about me. I wasn't sure that I could trust him, but I wasn't sure that it mattered. If he knew all that he did, then he would have his way regardless of trust.

So I told him what I thought I wanted.

"I want a place on the council."
"That's not what you really want."
"What do I really want?"
"You want the council to do the right thing."

Of course he was right. Getting a place on the council was no way to get it to do what you wanted. You had to buy out the elected members, something that only the guilds could afford to do regularly.

"I also want the council to do the right thing. So our ambitions are the same. Perhaps we can co-operate."
"Do you want money?"
"I have money. You however have people who you know, and who I do not. You know other dissatisfied adventurers, other merchants. But more importantly, the people you know, know people with power. It is these people we want to pursuade."

Still the man in the shadows said nothing about himself. He claimed he had money, yet the only real money lay with the guilds. He said he wanted to influence the people with power, as if he was capable of affecting them. He seemed to have resources available that were not apparent.

Perhaps he was a mage, or a priest. He didn't look like he was, but you could never be sure these days.

He looked more like an assassin in his black cloak with the hood enshrouding his face.

Perhaps he was an assassin, a representative of the assassins' guild. They could certainly influence anyone they wanted, simply by threatening them.

Of course, the officials claimed that the assassins' guild didn't exist, but he didn't believed that for a moment. They claimed the same thing about the thieves' guild, but nobody believed that.

Perhaps he represented the thieves' guild. The rumours about them were quite varied. Some said they controlled almost all the politics in Keese, and had influence in Rasath, Paralyth and beyond.

"Who do you represent." I didn't expect an answer.
"I represent The Guild."

That was as good as no answer.

"What are your intentions."
"The same as any guild. We seek power. If you accept Guild membership, you will receive a share of that power."
"How big a share."
"The more you help us achieve, the more there is for you to share in."
"How does The Guild work?"
"We will contact you if there is anything you can do for us. If there is anything we can do for you, you need only ask."

It sounded so reasonable. I knew that it was supicious, but I also somehow knew that I would never be linked with it, and that The Guild would never be proven to exist.

It might have been the thieves' guild, or the assassins' guild. Perhaps it was some other guild, larger and more powerful, but content to live in the shadows of Keese's covert politics.

As long as they never asked me to do anything I was opposed to, I saw no reason to refuse.

"I accept."

The man in the shadows smiled, and I knew I had sold him my soul.

"Good." He said. "The first thing I ask you to do is simple, yet effective."

He produced from his cloak of shadows a small object. It was a porcelain horse, well made, probably very valuable.

"You know the council member Denraly."

It was not a question.

"Yes. He comes to my shop quite often."
"Good. You will sell him this horse."
"Why?"
"It will further our aims."
"How? If I know, it will make me more effective."

I doubted this was true, but I had to get the man to say something about himself.

The man of shadows remained silent for a moment, apparently considering my argument.

"I will tell you this; not because it will help you, or us, but because it will demonstrate the scale of our operations.
"He will buy the horse. The horse is stolen, and will be spotted at a party he will be holding in a week's time. He will claim that he bought it in good faith, which will be true. Ultimately he will be believed, but questions will be asked.
"People will ask why the horse came into his possession. People will conclude that he was being set up, that someone was trying to discredit him. They will ask who, and they will ask why.
"Once these questions are asked, he will have been discredited, and we will have achieved our aim."
"The aim being to discredit him?"
"No. The aim being to discredit Keese politics. If one council member, a respected and genuinely noble member can be suspected, then anyone can.
"All this will be achieved, because of a simple act that you will carry out."

And so I did what he asked. I took the horse, I sold it to Denraly. I didn't see the effects he predicted, but Denraly never reached the political heights that were expected of him.

Somehow, politics never seemed the same again.

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