Men of the Basilisk

The Men of the Basilisk is a secret organisation also known as the Eyes of Eight or the Company of Jade. It is a reclusive group of wealthy merchants and nobles (all male) with a background in adventuring that use bribery, fear, and even murder to further their own agendas.

History

In 640 DR; the Year of the Fanged Beast, the Sword Heralds constructed a vast labyrinth accessible from a portal in the Great Hall of Battlegate Keep, the seat of power of the now extinct House of Auantiver. When finished in 658 DR; the Year of the Dangerous Game, the labyrinth was stocked with all manner of monstrous creatures and opened up to the nobility to see who was brave enough to beat the Gauntlet of Battlegate Keep.

Running the Auantiver Labyrinth became a popular, if dangerous rite of passage among the young noblemen of Cormyr for several years until in 662 DR; the Years of the Peoples’ Mourning, when the heirs of Houses of Bleth, Crownsilver, and Truesilver all perished in an attempt to run the Gauntlet of Battlegate Keep.

Following the disastrous deaths, the Auantiver Labyrinth was magically sealed, and the Bleth’s Crownsilver’s and Truesilver’s all did their best to ensure the House of Auantiver suffered politically, financially, and physically for their huge lapse of judgement. Within a few decades House Auantiver was almost destitute and a few centuries later the last Auantiver heir died penniless attempting to rob a caravan passing along the Way of the Manticore.

The Auantiver Labyrinth survived in its extra-dimensional space, although all the monsters within feasted on one another until there was only one survivor; a purple basilisk (from black dragon ancestry) that attained enormous size and power and then promptly slept away the centuries in hibernation.

In 1247 DR; the Year of the Purple Basilisk, an adventuring company known as the Company of Jade (inexperienced and over a dozen strong), attempted to clear out a stronghold of the Cult of the Dragon in the catacombs of Battlegate Keep, one of its members accidentally activated the portal after he found an ancient and rusted flagon bearing the blazon of House Auantiver. The magic used to seal the portal centuries earlier had long since corrupted and the original portal key (a specially made shield bearing the symbol of House Auantiver) changed so that anything bearing the symbol of House Auantiver would work.

The Company of the Jade lost 6 members when the basilisk caught the scent of flesh and awoke from its hibernation and stalked the company through the vast chasm filled with labyrinthine passages. Finally the surviving eight members stumbled through the exit portal that now linked to an abandoned warehouse in Teziir.

The survivors met every winter to renew their bonds of fellowship, never forgetting the experience that taught them to trust one another (and only one another) and allowed them all to prosper against their rivals. In 1276 DR; the Year of the Crumbling Keep, the ageing members of the Company of Jade decided to bring in new blood to replace those who had died, but only those that could brave the Crucible of the Basilisk, and so the Men of the Basilisk were born.

Organisation

Headquarters: Teziir, the Basiliskan Chapter House

Members: 146 nobles and merchants of power and wealth

Hierarchy: Strict

Leader: The Octad, a council of 8 senior members

Religion: None

Secrecy: High

Symbol: A reptilian eye with eight symmetric basilisk legs emerging and bending clockwise.

The Men of the Basilisk consider each other equals, as befits a secret society that forges its bonds of loyalty in a lethal test of mind. Everyone in the society are to refer to one another as “Brother” (and nothing else), however, the Octads hold a position of need and power over their Brothers, thus making them superior for a time.

The Men of the Basilisk are split into eight cells that operate in the cities of Daerlun, Iriaebor, Marsember, Saerloon, Selgaunt, Suzail, Urmlaspyr, and Westgate. Each cell elects a leader; known as an Octad, every two years in a unanimous vote (votes are repeated until the decision is unanimous) – Octads cannot serve concurrent terms. 

The Octads gather twice a month to coordinate activities between cells and to organise the annual winter gathering (elections are staggered so that four new Octads are elected at each annual winter gathering). Otherwise the Octads are responsible for ensuring that each cell remains a secret to non-members (usually by eliminating those who become aware of its existence and are unsuitable to join). Lastly all the Octads are responsible for maintaining the Basiliskan Chapter House in Teziir, and making sure that there are no illicit activities in that city (to ensure no attention is drawn to the exit portal).

Dogma / Motivation / Goals

The goal of the Men of the Basilisk is to further enrich its membership by assisting one another against everyone else. The “Brothers” of this organisation have total loyalty to one another, a bond formed by the fact that every single member has entered the Crucible of the Basilisk, seen the monster and survived. Such an ordeal proves bravery, resourcefulness, quick thinking, and a desire to survive, and it is these qualities that a Brother of the Basilisk trusts in his fellow Brother.

Brothers of the Basilisk use their local contacts and contacts in other cells (through their Octad) to gather information on trade opportunities and potential issues, as well as to gain an advantage over their rivals (or to disadvantage them). This allows Brothers to gain supplies at cheaper prices, or to effect the supplies or staff of a rival.

Men of the Basilisk never personally support their fellow Brothers or disadvantage rivals themselves, they always operate through agents, criminals, mercenaries, even adventurers to guard or attack people and property, to cut a supply chain, bribe an official, inform the authorities about illegal activity, threaten and even (when necessary) murder individuals. For illegal activities, it is never the beneficiary Brother that organises it, instead another Brother with no connection to the events will contact and pay for the criminals or assassin, thus making it almost impossible to trace.

It has been discovered that attacking rival and their businesses directly is a most inefficient use of resources, instead they prefer to use intelligence and identify key members within an organisation (or household). Resources are then used to target those key individuals (inflicting accidents, disease, poisoning, targeting them with criminal activities, etc).

Those who cross the Men of the Basilisk are to be dealt with severely, those who betray their Brothers are to be destroyed.

Membership / Recruiting

New members are carefully vetted (exhaustively investigating their character and background) before being secretly invited to join the organisation. Those that meet the strict criteria are approached by a runner that delivers a dagger; bearing the symbol of three heads of the chimera carved from white marble on a sable shield (the symbol of House Auantiver), and a scroll containing instructions to meet at the ruins of Battlegate Keep at midnight in a tendays time.

Those that attend the meeting pass are stripped of all weapons (including spell components) and armour, except for the dagger, and invited to walk through two carved columns in the remains of the Great Hall of Battlegate Keep and enter the Auantiver Labyrinth which contains the Crucible of the Basilisk. Those that intend not to attend, or who do not wish to enter the Auantiver Labyrinth, are slain (often arranged as an accident) and the dagger and scroll recovered.

Those that run the Crucible of the Basilisk are almost certainly unable to injure (let alone slay) the enormous creature armed while only with a dagger, their only hope is to find the exit portal leading to the Basiliskan Chapter House. The survivors are automatically made Brothers of the Men of the Basilisk, with all the privileges and responsibilities that come from being a member.

Allies

The Men of the Basilisk are sworn to one another, and trust no-one else. They are not above financially supporting other independent groups and societies if it helps their goals (for instance bankrolling criminal organisations or adventuring groups that are in conflict with their enemies like the Cult of the Dragon), but such “alliances” are short lived and will end as soon as the usefulness of these groups ceases.

Enemies

To the Men of the Basilisk, every successful merchant group is a potential enemy to be absorbed or destroyed. Groups of note that earn a special ire among the Brothers of the Basilisk are; the Cult of the Dragon, the Iron Throne, and the Knights of the Shield.

Despite the Cult of the Dragon being a non-trade organisation (although they make a large profit from drugs, poisons, and criminal activities), they have earned the ire of the Men of the Basilisk for their repeated occupation of the catacombs of Battlegate Keep as they search for the fabled Auantiver Basilisk (among other things) in the Vast Swamp.

The Men of the Basilisk have used numerous adventuring bands to clear out the catacombs, but the cultists always return. Currently the Men of the Basilisk have managed to place one of their number among the Wearers of Purple and are using him to keep tabs on the cultists and steer them away from the means to access the Auantiver Labyrinth.

Important NPCs

Denlarych Wainwalker (Evil, Human – Tethyrian, Expert 5): Denlarych is an amoral man blessed with youthful good looks and some skill at playing the harp.

Denlarych leads the Gentleknaves; a band of noble-born rogues that specialise in abducting the young daughters of powerful merchant and noble families. These daughters are returned unharmed after a ransom in prized family heirlooms is paid, and so far the ransom is always paid. 

Denlarych is using his contacts in the Men of the Basilisk and his Gentleknaves to secretly aid his father (the patriarch of House Wainwalker) in gaining a position as one of the Lords of Iriaebor (gathering intelligence and exposing the secrets of existing Lords). Once his father has served and gained enough respect, Denlarych intends to replace him.

Harlyn Grimmerhand (Neutral, Human – Chondathan, Warrior 8): Harlyn is an able warrior that earned his fortune adventuring in Myth Drannor and the Vast Swamp. Nowadays he is a successful money lender and merchant investor who indulges his hobbies of tutoring adventurers, training warriors as well as breeding fine horses. It is rumoured that a number of golems (retrieved from Myth Drannor) and worse magical creatures guard his estates.

Harlyn is a secret double agent with the Cult of the Dragon, and is a rising power among the Wearers of Purple. Harlyn was chosen to infiltrate the Cult of the Dragon so as to help combat the more powerful rival, his membership within the cultists is a secret known only to the Octad of Daerlun (although the other Octads know of at least 5 members hidden among the Wearers of Purple).

Harlyn’s primary role is to manage the Cult of the Dragon’s occupation of the catacombs of Battlegate Keep, informing his contact when their presence is light so that new members can explore the Auantiver Labyrinth. The Cult of the Dragon is being used by the Men of the Basilisk to ensure that no-one else approaches the portal that leads to the Labyrinth while  they search for the key to the labyrinth, retrieving many hundreds of carefully hidden false keys bearing a more modern and therefore incorrect symbol of House Auantiver (three chimera heads on a basilisk body on a field of black (top half) and white (bottom half).

Rhiindaerth Emmarask (Neutral, Human – Chondathan, Magic User 8): Rhiindaerh Emmarask is a rising star among the War Wizards, very skilled with a natural aptitude for charm related magics. Rhiindaerth was very useful in uncovering the Fire Knives activities over a decade ago, and has since rooted out a dozen other conspiracies.

Rhiindaerth is currently posted to Marsember to monitor the activities of the Drenched Elders, but he is really using his time to study the secret Sword Heralds hideaways, believing one exists amid the canals of that city. In truth Rhiindaerth is an important member of another secret society; the Men of the Basilisk, he is using contacts among that group to further his Sword Heralds research and in turn is deflecting the War Wizards attentions away from its members and activities.

Rhiindaerth believes he will soon be able to gain a position as one of the senior Octads of the Men of the Basilisk if he can help the group’s clandestine activities achieve a major goal without War Wizard attention.

Tandarsyn Mhorhune “The Sorcelisk” (Evil, Human – Chondathan, Magic User 10): The Sorcelisk is a mysterious wizard that dwells in a supposedly ruined tower on the eastern edge of the Vast Swamp.

Tandarsyn is widely believed to have cheated the Crucible of the Basilisk by using his inherent abilities to shield himself from the gaze of the basilisk (he has draconic heritage). These rumours lead many among the brotherhood to question his loyalty, and if they knew about his secret dual membership with the Cult of the Dragon (he is the secret contact of Harlyn Grimmerhand, although neither knows of the others dual membership).

The Sorcelisk is a master at breeding unusual and magical creatures which he uses to guard his seemingly ruined tower, and to help the Cult of the Dragon in their draconic breeding programs. His main job for the Men of the Basilisk is to ensure the basilisk survives for many more years, he is only able to perform this task because he is immune to the gaze of the basilisk.

Tandarsyn has been in secret correspondence with Asgetrion the Learned (a noted sage of Arabel) regarding the success and failures of his breeding programs.

Thessar “The Warrior” (Neutral, Human – Chondathan, Warrior 7): Thessar is a mercenary operating in and around the Dragon Coast that has trained many mercenaries that remain loyal to him and maintain contact regularly, even performing the occasional favour or joint operation (Thessar’s Swords is the name given to the short-term band that he gathers about himself for juicy contracts).

Thessar is a member of the Mercenaries’ Guild of Westgate, but is getting slow and pained in his advancing years, and so is considering retirement. In preparation for his elder years, he has recently accepted an offer to join the Men of the Basilisk (although he intended to fight the basilisk, he ran for the exit portal like everyone else), and is learning to use his new contacts.

Tenshorn Hawklin (Evil, Human – Chondathan, Warrior 5): Tenshorn Hawklin is the younger brother of the more famous Barandos Hawklin and has accompanied his brother on many adventuring forays into the Hullack Forest and the Stonelands.

More recently his brother has become a firm favourite at the Royal Court (despite his lack of court position), and Tenshorn has been ordered to stay and oversee the family investments. Tenshorn hates being kept away from the Royal Court and feels he could do much better than his brother if given the chance, he is sure Barandos is jealous and keeps him away deliberately (although rumours are that Tenshorn’s cruel nature is much disliked by the King and the Royal Magician).

Tenshorn was invited to join the Men of the Basilisk, who are eager to use Tenshorn’s access to Hawklin businesses, investments, and money. Tenshorn is considering using his Brothers of the Basilisk to assassinate Barandos so he can take his place at the Royal Court, but his fellow brothers have urged caution and suggested that Barandos could be a useful contact and source of information at the Royal Court.

The Basilisk (Evil, Greater Dracolisk): The Basilisk (whose name is Sscartaunissk, but no one has ever bothered to ask) has remained imprisoned within the Auantiver Labyrinth since 658 DR, hovering between starvation and insanity, forced to feed on rocks for nutrition, and left with only the remains of petrified monsters for company.

Sscartaunissk is enormous for a basilisk, with scales of deep purple (almost black), and possessed of strength and abilities that far exceeds all others of its kind, the reason for this is that Sscartaunissk has black dragon ancestry which gives it near limitless growth and age potential.

In 1247 DR a number of foolish humanoids stumbled into the Basilisk’s prison canyon and she was able to feast upon flesh once again. Every year new, stupid, defenceless humanoids would blindly stumble into her home and run around in a panic before she ate them, petrified them, or they ran into a narrow passageway accessible behind her main sleeping chamber, and escaped.

Once the insanity of hunger left her, and she gained focus from the game of stalking those walking meals that entered her lair, then her wits returned to her and she began to notice several details. First was that all of the humans carried a dagger bearing a symbol she remembered from when she was first hatched (the symbol of House Auantiver), second is that all the humans that escape her teeth flee down the same passageway.

Sscartaunissk has formulated a plan to escape, she has been gradually consuming the sides of the rocky canyon in which she is imprisoned, widening it so that eventually she will be able to fit through it, she has lined the passage floor with statues in various poses of escape (making sure that they are looking back towards her), and is moving them apart gradually to cover her excavations. Whenever she has fallen ill (she has an allergy to dwarves), a man arrives to nurse her back to health, he is capable of magic and is immune to her gaze, he also wears a ring bearing the symbol (of House Auantiver).

Sscartaunissk’s plan is to widen the passageway enough to fit through and then attempt to devour a witless meatbag and its dagger, then she should be able to pass on to where-ever they disappear to at the end of the passage. If that fails then she will feign illness and wait for the man to come and cure her, and then attack him with her full fury (or at the very least bite off his hand) and again escape her prison. Once free she will gratefully devour beings until she is sated and then flee towards the nearest mountain.

Resources

The Men of the Basilisk have no special patron of incredible power, have inherited no magical artefacts, have no inherent magical abilities or rituals developed in ages long past. Instead the Men of the Basilisk have money, contacts, businesses, a desire to achieve, and a ruthless streak. In short, the Men of the Basilisk only have available to them whatever resources their individual members have been able to amass during their lifetime, thankfully for the Brothers the list of resources is not inconsiderable.

Auantiver Labyrinth: This extra-dimensional hold was created in 640 DR by the group known as the Sword Heralds for the noble House of Auantiver (now extinct). It took 18 years to complete the magical construction, gradually expand the borders of the demi-plane, fill it with rock to make it appear like a constructed labyrinth, and lastly populate it with monsters of all varieties.

The finishing touch was to magically create two portals at either end of the labyrinth and keyed them to a magical shield and heirloom of House Auantiver that bore the symbol of House Auantiver. The idea was that those who survived the Auantiver Labyrinth got to keep the shield (it was a lesser copy of the original created specifically as a prize for the winner, in total 7 Auantiver Shields were given away during the 4 years the labyrinth was open).

After the deaths of the heirs to three powerful Cormyrean noble houses in 662 DR, the Auantiver Labyrinth was closed when the Mage Royal Thanderahast magically sealed the portals. Over time the magic used to seal the portals has eroded and they function once again to anyone carrying any item (not just the Auantiver Shield) bearing the symbol of House Auantiver. The Exit Portal has also changed its original link back to the Entrance Portal and is instead linked to an ancient and disused portal in the cellar of an abandoned warehouse in Teziir.

The Men of the Basilisk have been careful to collect anything bearing the symbol of House Auantiver, and these are locked in vaults in Suzail on the orders of the War Wizards (thanks to one Rhiindaerth Emmarask). The only other items bearing the symbol are a score of specially crafted daggers with ebony handles inlaid with the white marble symbol of the three heads of the chimera. The Men of the Basilisk have been very careful to keep track of all these daggers and recover them from candidates that have failed or refused the initiation (only 3 daggers have ever escaped retrieval, one of those lies at the bottom of the Dragonmere, another in the sewers beneath Westgate).

Basiliskan Chapter House: The “headquarters” of the Men of the Basilisk is a secret cellar carefully hidden beneath a warehouse in Teziir that is believed to date from before that city was reconstructed, it has numerous secure and secret means of entry that can be accessed from many places throughout the city (allowing its members to attend the annual meeting without arousing suspicion).

No expense has been spared to secure it from intrusion and detection (employing both magical and non-magical means), and it is further augmented using golems provided by Harlyn Grimmerhand, and creatures (in stasis) provided by the Sorcelisk, as well as other defences owing to the talents of its members. 

The Basiliskan Chapter House is used only once a year during the annual meeting of the Men of the Basilisk. At all other times it is guarded by mercenaries employed by Thessar the Warrior.

The exit portal for the Auantiver Labyrinth deposits those passing through it into an ancient passageway at the bottom of the Chapter House.

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