Friday, May 2, 2008

Neverwinter Nights 2: Mysteries of Westgate Lore #9

You underestimate us, just as the Night Masks did before we uprooted them from the Harbor Loop. We may not be as strong as they, but we are many - and we have powerful allies that they do not know of. Yes, yes, very powerful and very well-placed allies.

- Altama, Ebon Claw Guild Member

With only the briefest moments of exception, the Night Masks have dominated the underworld of Westgate for the past twenty years. Recently, however, a new group has arisen: The Ebon Claws, and while such rivals are usually quickly and brutally dispatched by the followers of the Faceless, the Claws, unusually tenacious, have not only survived the Night Masks' assault, but have thrived and prospered. So confident are they now in their position that they have begun to openly war with the Night Masks, many times as the aggressors. Shockingly enough, it is often the bodies of known Night Mask operatives found in the morning streets, their domino masks mockingly stuffed in their own mouths and four dark, gangrenous, filthy lines - the eponymous "ebon claw" of the new guild - dug like trenches into their pale cheeks.

The origins and hierarchy of the Ebon Claws are obscure; they are still too new for much solid information to yet be widely known, but it is obvious that even the Night Masks are unsure. Their agents, normally discreet in their pursuit of information, have become ever more insistent in their interrogations, and large amounts of reward money are offered to any with solid information. The rumors circulating the local beer halls are mostly fantastic, for it is argued that only a fantastic origin could have taken the Masks - masters of stealth, spying, and intrigue - so completely by surprise.

There is, however, one persistent rumor circulating regarding the Ebon Claws. There have been enough sightings of their deformed agents to suggest that it is a guild heavily - if not completely - plagued by the disease of lycanthropy, though the specific variety of the infection is not that of the more legendary werewolf, but is instead that of the more common - in cities, at least - wererat. If true, it would explain their success against the Night Masks. Extremely agile and aided by preternatural strength, a squadron of wererats would make tenacious foes dangerous even for the hardened rogues and thugs employed by the Masks. However, such stories, as yet, are still just rumors, though one concrete fact lends credence to them. Recently, the Night Masks have begun spending an enormous amount of coin with the local merchants on the acquisition of silvered swords, daggers, and rapiers, weapons known to have an uncanny ability to harm lycanthropes of all kinds. It is therefore obvious that the Night Masks, at least, believe the stories to be true.

The honorable citizens of Westgate have learned to duck and seek cover when the two groups begin warring in the streets, and the prevailing wisdom seems to be that when two evil groups are in the process of killing each other, get out of the way and let them. Still, those with a keen sense of perception would probably discern that the average citizens, tired of the abuses of the Night Masks, are quietly rooting for the Ebon Claws. After all, they might argue, the Claws can't be any worse than the Masks, but it is a short-sighted view, for once the Masks are dispatched, only the truly naïve would expect the Claws to just fade into the sunset. To the contrary, they would almost certainly set up shop in the resulting power vacuum, and any group cunning and brutal enough to dispatch the Night Masks would make a truly horrifying successor indeed.

Source : WarCry

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