Troupe of Shadows
The Troupe of Shadows is a wandering group of Athesian Minstrels who have forged an unbreakable bond with the Gray. They have used the power bestowed on them through shadow to become the most influential and deadly group of assassins in Athas.
They are renowned performers, entertainers and courtesans. Their fame is amplified by a preference for wearing black despite the unbearable heat of the crowded city. However, their ability to entertain and seduce disguises their true profession – bringing death to unfortunate nobles, merchants and state officials who have lost in the ruthless game of politics which exist in every city-state.
The Troupe at any one time is around 40 strong consisting of a variety of minstrels and entertainers i.e. acrobats, storytellers, singers, musicians, belly dancers and courtesans (male and female). It is a mixture of humans, elves, half-elves, and even some shades and revenants although the latter would conceal their true nature.
The membership is fluid – once indoctrinated a new member who has opened their heart to shadow can leave or return to the Troupe providing they have paid their due. New members are recruited from the talented amongst the street entertainers found during the Troupe’s travels to various city-states. Those who are found wanting or refuse to part with a shard of their soul will disappear without trace.
When performing members of the Troupe wear black, which stands them apart from other entertainers (who normally wear colourful and cheerful costumes). The male members will often wear loose desert clothing of fine material and ornate turbans. The females often dress in beautiful black dancing costumes, which displays fully their seductive form. They wear full-face veils, which enhances the desire of men and serves to increase their seductive power. They will often remove the veil to the most privileged of guests or the most unfortunate of victims.
An exceptionally beautiful, seductive and deadly half-elf courtesan called Jezebel leads the Troupe. Jezebel is one of the most sought after courtesans in Athas. Jezebel is an assassin of legendary ability has given her soul to the Grey in pursuit of power. She is desired by the most powerful of merchants, nobles and even Sorcerer-Kings. She rarely uses her murderous skills and instead chooses to influence the designs of those at the very pinnacle of power.
The lower members of the Troupe learn their trade from mid-level members who tutor them in both the arts of entertainment and the darker arts of assassination. The middle and lower tier carry out much of the dark deeds determined by their mistress and influence of the Gray. There are also a few members of the Troupe who perform more mundane functions such as human/elf servants and mul/half giant guards.
Methods and motives
A beautiful belly dancer exchanges a longing glance with the bodyguard of a high-ranking Templar. The belly dancer in the days following the performance seduces the bodyguard who falls completely in love with her. Overtime, she using her beautiful and seductive charm to sows the seeds of jealously and doubt in the mind of the bodyguard towards his charge. On day of a private audience with the Templar, the belly dancer runs to the bodyguard telling him of evil intent – the bodyguard in a fit of rage murders the Templar.
The Troupe of Shadows practices the dark art of assassination, enhanced through the power of shadow magic, in order to further their ambitions for power and wealth. The Troupe roams from city-state to city-state often staying for years in one area. They travel in a convoy of desert caravans and upon reaching their destination will make permanent camp within the city limits. The reputation of the Troupe will soon attract invitations from noble families, merchant houses and regime officials keen to sample the delights of their entertainment. Members of the Troupe thus become familiar with and begin to integrate into the politics played out in the particular city-state.
The presence of the Troupe in a city often coincides with a series of mysterious deaths or disappearances. The Troupe is often the first to be blamed but their methods are such that no evidence is ever left that can link them to the crime. They are careful not to linger for too long lest undue attention is drawn to their objectives and they are discovered. Countless times the Templar guard have stormed a supposed ‘camp’ to find it deserted and all evidence of the troupe having been there is gone as if wiped from existence.