This was an uneasy gathering to say the least. The men and women that had been invited to attend this exclusive meeting had arrived on edge and their moods had only deteriorated. But their host had insisted upon this location and that everyone invited be here. There was a deal afoot.
The host was none other than Prince Bortimer, the youngest offspring of the Queen of Slothjemia and one of the most highly regarded and widely respected thieves in the empire. Bortimer was a man who dreamed big and had managed to pull off some remarkable heists. These were the capers that themselves spawned legends. If you were on the wrong side of the law and you caught the attention of Prince Bortimer then there were only two possible outcomes. You had either upset the worst society had to offer and were in danger of vanishing without a trace, or else you had proven your worth and could expect to find yourself ascending the ranks of the criminal underworld with great rapidity. Bortimer had extended this particular invitation to a fair number of people for this occasion, so there was a large amount of confidence that this was more about being recognized for skill in a positive way than it was a culling of the herd.
The location was one well known to most everyone in the sprawling city of Slothenburg. It was “The Fen Majestic“, one of the largest stone buildings to be found in Slothenburg. Here in the grand ballroom, there had been set up six large round tables, one for each of the groups that had been invited. They were set well apart from each other to prevent anyone being jostled by their neighbors and afforded each of them a defensive position if need be. This was crucial, because the people invited were among the most dangerous and sought-after ruffians, thugs, and hired killers in the realm. each of them had some influence over criminal activities in this, the largest city of Slothjemia. It was unusual indeed for these groups to be sharing the same space without there being an alarming amount of bloodshed resulting.
There were three so-called “crime families” that had been invited, and they were the jorish clans of Torkezahn and Jordecayne as well as the shadow elven Shadefiend family. The jorish families had built their criminal empires on the strength of their huntsmen, the terrifying goblinoid assassins that specialized in backstabbing. The Shadefiends had similarly built upon the strength of their archer lords who could rain down death with supernatural archery skills. The other three groups were commonly referenced as cartels, more tightly bound groups of diverse people who might or might not share a familial link. The three cartels that were invited were the Black Marbles, Blood Moon, and the Roshicairns. The Black Marbles were a group of criminal lords that were Forkanzan expatriates that had settled in the coreland soon after Slothjemia had become an independent nation. The Blood Moon were almost exclusively sundered dark elves with a smattering of other nocturnal races who excelled at smuggling and dealing in stolen goods. The Roshicairns were the unruliest group in this gathering, a wild mix of thieves and cutthroats who roamed about Slothenburg and other large cities in Slothjemia. Any outsider could see that bringing these people together in one place was asking for trouble.
After the suspicious and high-strung members of these families and cartels settled in the waitstaff of the hotel began serving alcohol and appetizers. Prince Bortimer arrived as well and clapped his hands to get the attention of his guests. His charisma among these roughest elements of society was undeniable. The assassins and rogues hushed their conversations and turned their attention mostly to Bortimer while keeping a wary eye on the people at other tables.
Clearing his throat, Prince Bortimer said, “Thank you all for coming today. While we all know each other, or at least know of each other, I am privileged to lay claim to knowing all of you quite well. At one point or another I have done each of you a service. Some of you I have helped out on a number of occasions. More than a couple seated here owe me their lives. It is not without a great deal of consideration that I have brought you all here today. I have a favor to ask, and a deal to make.”
There was quite a lot of murmuring at the six tables as Bortimer waited for them to calm down. Once the murmuring has settled somewhat, he continued speaking, “I find myself in need of certain precious stones, and rather a large quantity. I am looking to acquire as many opals of as many varieties as I can, and I am in a hurry to get it done. That’s where you all come in. Some of you are thieves and have stolen opals or jewelry with opals in them. Others of you are assassins and have taken opals in payment for services rendered. I need all of those opals. I’ll pay fairly for them, make no mistake. But I know for a fact that there are five opals in particular that are considered to be owned by people in this room, and they are to be included in this transaction. The fire opal known as the God Stone, held by the Torkezahn family. The black opal known as the Heart of the King, held by the Jordecayne family. The collection of blue opals known together as the Sea of Peace or the Keys of Heaven that are held by the Shadefiend family. The orange opal known as the Fire of Betapsi that is held by the Black Marbles. And finally, the pink opals often called the Tears of Ages that are held by the Blood Moon. I’ll happily negotiate with each of you to get the best price for these unique stones, but they must be made available to me.”
This caused quite the stir among the rogues present. One of them, the patriarch of the Shadefiend family, a shadow elf named Lexicon, stood and by doing so silenced the room. In a soft, vaguely threatening voice the eldest shadow elf in the room asked, “And what if we do not wish to part with these jewels? What if we do not wish to sell that which has become a part of our heritage?”
Bortimer smiled warmly and said, “Then I will take them from you and pay you nothing. You see, we are all on the same page here. None of us play by the rules except for the rules we agree to play by. And I have made no promises to you or anyone else that I wouldn’t steal from you. Nor, I might add, have any of you made that promise to me. So, in the spirit of camaraderie for these delightfully despicable professions we are engaged in, I am offering now to buy these stones. If you refuse and they go missing, then you missed your chance to profit.”
Lexicon sat down but was clearly not happy. More people began to express their unhappiness and Bortimer held up his hands and continued smiling. He knew more than anyone else that he couldn’t afford to let this spiral out of hand. “Ladies and Gentelmen, please! Allow me to add the final detail to my offer before you turn it down completely.”
The talking ceased and all attention was mostly turned again to Bortimer. He grinned and continued, “As an added incentive for these considerations, I have one other important aspect of my offer that you should consider carefully. You are doubtlessly acquainted with my good friend Shr Grogdahl. You all know him, right?”
Everyone present nodded their heads in agreement and they exchanged puzzled glances at one another.
Bortimer chuckled and asked, “Can anyone here tell me where he is at this moment?”
More muttering erupted as the people looked about the room.
Bortimer clasped his hands in front of him and said gleefully, “You can’t, can you. None of you can say with any certainty where he is right now. Nor do you know where he will be tomorrow, or later tonight, or in three weeks’ time. One moment you are enjoying a moment of peace in your private little getaway and then all of a sudden, right there behind you, is Shr Grogdahl. One slash, one stab, one snap of the neck and your worries grind to a halt.” Bortimer’s smile vanished, and a coldness took hold of his voice. “And I get my opals. That’s the deal. You sell, or I take. If you want to quarrel about it, then you’ll die. No matter how this falls I get those opals.”
Complete silence fell upon the room. Bortimer smiled again and said in a somewhat quieter voice that was still ice cold, “I’ll begin buying in the morning at The First Decree. I’ll give all opals a good looking over and will pay for all I wish to keep. Those special opals as named will be given priority if they are provided.” Clapping his hands together, this signaled the waitstaff to enter the room with platters of food. “In the meantime, enjoy your meal! I’ll see you all, or most of you anyway, tomorrow!”
With that Prince Bortimer took his leave and made his way to The First Decree to have himself a meal away from this ordeal. He also had to think of a way to tell Shr Grogdahl that he had been used to threaten a room full of assassins and thieves. But then again, why bother telling him? Chances are good that it wouldn’t even come to that, right?