Under light of waning moon
There comes a light now through the gloom
A-masked the clever flashing eye
A grasp of steel upon his thigh
A noose about his jagged throat
Hung loose about his ragged coat
His boots allayed with rain and mud
And fingers flayed with pain and blood
So small the sound – one ring no more
To mark the crown filled purse he wore
A belly filled but never sate
That sends him out on hours late.
And yonder comes the rogue to tread
Into the village all a-bed
So in we stay to dodge his sight
And whisper, “Someone dies tonight”
Jacks-of-all-trades, the rogues of Artanna fill many roles and are known by many names. Scoundrels, footpads, and cutpurses. Brigands, swashbucklers, and highwaymen. The rogue is the master of a diverse array of skills. Whether wielding daggers or their signature darts, rogues excel at confronting their enemies with the unexpected. While not as hardy as Armsmen, a rogue is capable of delivering crippling damage to his foe through the use of innate skills and the application of various poisons. A rogue is also able to create and disarm traps, and is the only profession with the ability to circumnavigate them altogether.
But the most dynamic ability of the rogue is her mastery over what is known as the Thieves Cant. The Cant allows a rogue to cast magical spells. To use the Cant, a rogue must first learn it from a fellow rogue. Then she must learn the first circle spell that she wishes to use. Using the Cant, a rogue can even learn to cast first circle prayers, though she must first be baptized to the appropriate pantheon. The Cant gives the rogue’s an edge in combat that allows her to survive where others would certainly fail.
The Shadow and the Rose
The continent of Artanna is soundly controlled by two great underworld families; the shadowy T’Kirr and the machiavellian Vedish. The power and influence of both families is so great that the existence of smaller, private guilds is a short lived rarity. The only notable exception is a band of Nari Freebooters who run trade out of Devyn in Valan-Tir. Other than this small band of independents, the stranglehold of the Twin Dynasties is uncontested.
The history of the Vadish family begins during the final years of the Age of Might. It was during this time that Ridalgo Erego Vadish, the Balladeer patriarch of the Vedicene, came to power in the ancient city of Celembor. While little is known about his early life, Ridalgo’s later years represent a turning point in the history of modern thievery. For it was Ridalgo who – through means that are still hotly debated – devised the infamous Thieves Cant. The ire of the Academy, and the bane of all churches, the Cant is the means by which rogues are able to utilize spells both holy and arcane. How or why it works is not known – and any attempt to unravel this mystery seems to end only with frustration. For decades beyond counting, scholars and Lorekeepers have bent their collective wills upon the riddle of the Thieves Cant – all to no avail. Its mystery keeps, and its power endures.
Whatever its origins, Ridalgo was able to use the Cant to grant himself powers such as had never before been wielded by a rogue. He kept the Cant to himself, and used its power to amass incredible wealth and political power. In time, his influence grew so vast that he unseated the monarchy of Celembor and crowned himself King. As an honor to the gods of Wine and Fortune, Ridalgo renamed the city Merilon, City of a Thousand Pleasures.
Merilon became a grand tribute to the fine arts of merrymaking and debauchery. It was the rich and dangerous fascination of a hundred bard stories and songs, and the irritating thorn in the sides of many an overzealous clergyman. Despite is renowned licentiousness, Ridalgo’s city became a haven for free thinking, and universities flourished amid the perpetual carnival-like atmosphere that was Merilon.
But the Age of Might was ending, and not even the City of a Thousand Pleasures could merry away the reality of the Demon Hoarde. Trapped on the wrong side of the world, Merilon was doomed to fall to Ixiel. Ridalgo ordered his city emptied of all of its riches. These were taken to an endless number of vaults hidden throughout the world. It is a testament to Ridalgo’s ingenuity that only one Vault has ever been found in Artanna over the past five hundred years. The legends surrounding the lost Vaults of Merilon have inspired treasure hunters and lore seekers for generations.
In addition to his riches, Ridalgo also ordered all of his people out of the City. He passed the Cant to his daughter, Lucianna, who brought it into the Sanctuary of Artanna. Ridalgo’s fate remains a mystery. It is said that he remained in his City of a Thousand Pleasures until the very end, and some believe that he outsmarted the demon and survives somewhere out in the wild hinter land.
In the new world of Artanna, the Vadish rallied around Lucianna who endeavored to recreate her father’s legacy. Her immediate success, however, was impeded by the elusive T’Kirr dynasty.
The T’Kirr are a Drow family that originated in Cirith Valledor. Records of their deeds date back to the Age of Legends making them the oldest rogues “guild” in the world. Over the course of their long, turbulent history, the T’Kirr developed an intricate Underworld that by the time of the Age of Chaos stretched throughout Artanna and beyond. The arrival of a rag-tag group of Balladeer refugees playing at racketeering should have been a minor chapter in the long, shadowy history of the T’Kirr, except that their leader possessed a secret more valuable than gold; the Thieves Cant. The leader of the T’Kirr at this time was Shadowlord Tarkannon T’Kirr and he made it his personal goal to strangle the Cant out of the Balladeer throat if it was his last act on Aeryn.
Numerous assassination attempts were made (even corpses could be made to talk), but always Lucianna eluded the Shadowlord. Numerous Vadish were slaughtered and the family was threatened with extinction. And yet, over the many years a kind of protective mystique began to form around Lucianna and her beleaguered family. Peasants and landowners, Innkeeps and monasteries, bards and kings – all gave safe harbor to the Vadish during their long, harrowing flight. All laid just claim to the infamous brag that the “Dark Lady” had “roomed in my stable and broke bread at my table.”
The Flight of the Vadish has been recounted many times in story and song and the absolute truth about those times will most likely never be fully known. History proves, however, that Lucianna was able to make inroads all over Lower Artanna and that those alliances would prove vital in her bid to reclaim power for the Vadish.
As the beachhead for refugees fleeing the Scourge, Lower Artanna was becoming harder and harder for the T’Kirr to control. Human interests seemed to favor the Balladeer bid for power, and their resistance to T’Kirr control was growing with every ship.
Finally, after years of running, the Vadish made an unexpected move. A courier from the Balladeer was dispatched to the Shadowlord with an offer of truce.
The offer outlined Lucianna’s desire to give the Cant to the Shadowlord if he were willing to withdraw his interests north of the Sanavaar Mountains, leaving the South in the hands of the Vadish. By this point, the Shadowlord was suffering from the onset of mortality. A foreign affliction for an elf, Tarkannon was faced with the inescapable end of his suddenly mortal life. He had led the T’Kirr for almost two millennia – a solid foundation that had never once faltered. On the cusp of his mortal death, the Shadowlord worried not for himself, but for the future of the T’Kirr. He took Lucianna’s offer, knowing that he must have the Cant before he died, and confident that his son, Cyril T’Kirr would be able to retake the South when things had “appeared” to pass.
Lucianna’s courier returned to her council with great news. The Shadowlord had accepted the Balladeer proposal. In a month the T’Kirr had withdrawn controlling interest of everything south of the Sanavaar. All that remained was that Lucianna make good on her promise to teach the Cant to the Shadowlord. What Lucianna did was immediately summon her small council. It is said that it was in the cellars of some forgotten chapel that she taught the Thieves Cant to all six of her closest friends and advisors.
A week later, Tarkannon T’Kirr, Shadowlord for almost two thousand years, died of extreme old age; one week before his spy on the Balladeer council delivered the Cant to his son.
And within a month it had been learned by every rogue in Artanna.
In the year 512 an unimaginable deal has been struck between the Vadish and the T’Kirr. They will share territory within the confines of Iargail and its Merchants Guild. Never in their history have they ever worked together. Some say it is because of a rising power on the water. The pirates, the Free Booters, the privateers, stand loyal together under their own code and rule the coast of Artanna. No one can match the skills, ships, and knowledge that they have dealing with treacherous ocean teeming with sea changer beasts. They have control of the harbors and port cities now to the dismay of the ruling Guilds. They reached out to Iargail through the famed port City of Daventry, and to the Merchant’s Guild. They want open channels on land and have struck an accord with all of the Guilds.
Perhaps, after long years of negotiations the Merchants Guild of Iargail can finally stand on its own.