Dàn Éceule Vier, The Black Feathers, is the Alorréon name for the "thieves' guild" of Elemontia—the primary . They act completely autonomously from other organizations or institutions in Alorréon society, working entirely to profit from criminal activity of all kinds, including everything from controlling gambling or prostitution, selling illegal drugs, thievery and burglary, assassination and spying, racketeering, and other criminal activities.
What The Public Believes
Tales are told throughout all of Elemontia of a shadow organization of criminals, thieves, spies, assassins, thugs, burglars, pickpockets and mages who lurk in the shadows. Known as The Parliament of Rooks in Arthanos, Ocellen and Iquenya, Dàn Éceule Vier in Alorré (the Black Feathers), Etallios (Egulavar), Escossa (Féro Equilon) and Bercanos (Far Eguila), The Murder of Crows in Baeleros and the Dienten Empire, and The Unkindliness of Ravens in Lemmorae, Evalta, Enalost, and Tiren, this vast criminal conspiracy is said to control Elemontia’s entire underworld, ruled over by a secret council of the greatest organized crime bosses imaginable. It is said that they have spies everywhere, in every court, in every organization, in every corner of the world. Everyone, from peasants to nobility to the clergy, believe these criminals have their fingers in everything.
There are, indeed, these organizations throughout the world, but they’re not remotely as all-powerful as they’ve led people to believe. Dàn Éceule Vier in Alorré, while well-aware of the other similar organizations and, theoretically, “allied” or at least friendly and co-operative with them, is really only concerned with the criminal dealings in Alorré, Etallios, and Bercanos (and to a degree Ocellen and Arthanos). Dàn Éceule Vier consists of Flocks, which are essentially organized crime families. Each Flock is ruled over by the Parliament of Rooks, which consists of the Good Gentlemen, known only by a specific honorific who runs a specific territory. A Good Gentleman receives a cut of every operation taken on by every member of his Flock and is usually chosen by a vote from the Gentlemen of the Flock.
Serving the Good Gentlemen is the Upstanding Gentleman, who is the second in command of the Flock and is usually appointed by the Good Gentleman. The Upstanding Gentleman often runs the day-to-day responsibilities of the Flock or oversees its most lucrative rackets. They usually get a percentage of the Flock’s income from the bosses cut. The Upstanding Gentleman is usually first in line to become acting Good Gentleman if the Good Gentleman is imprisoned, while also frequently seen as a logical successor.
Also serving the Good Gentleman is the Flock Advisor, sometimes seen as the Good Gentleman’s “right-hand man”. They are used as a mediator of disputes, representatives or aides in meetings with other Flocks. In practice the Flock Advisor is normally the third ranking member of the administration of a Flock and was traditionally a senior member familiar with how the organization is run. A Good Gentleman will often appoint someone close to him who they trust as their Flock Advisor.
Each of the Good Gentlemen then have several lesser Gentlemen who control specific cities or smaller territories. A Gentleman is in charge of a Flight—a group of Friends who report directly to him. Each Flight usually contains 10-20 Friends and many more Acquaintances. A Gentleman is appointed by the Good Gentleman and reports to him or the Upstanding Gentleman. A Gentleman gives a percentage of his (and his underlings) earnings to the Good Gentleman and is also responsible for any tasks assigned, including murder. It is usually a Gentleman who controls the infiltration of local organizations like the church or the local noble court. If a Gentleman becomes powerful enough he can sometimes wield more power than some of his superiors.
Serving the Gentlemen in a Flight are his Friends, who are the soldiers of the organization. A Friend is a member of the Flock. Once a member is named a Friend he is untouchable, meaning permission from a Friend’s Good Gentleman must be given before he is murdered. When the Flight is ready to Migrate, meaning that a Flock is accepting new members, a Gentleman (or several Gentlemen) may recommend an up-and-coming Acquaintance to be a new Friend. Friends are the main workers of the Flock, usually committing crimes like assault, murder, extortion, intimidation, etc. In return, they are given profitable rackets to run by their superiors and have full access to their Flock’s connections and power. Friends are usually given code-named based on what purpose they serve in the organization — usually they refer to muscle as Crows, thieves as Ravens, pickpockets as Magpies, burglars as Jackdaws, assassins as Jays, spies as Rooks. Confidence men are sometimes referred to as Cuckoos.
The Feathers also makes use of non-organization members who are referred to as Acquaintances, who make up the bulk of the organization. An Acquaintance is not a member of the Feathers, but works for a Flock none-the-less. An associate can include a wide range of people who work for the Flock. This is where prospective members (“little birds”) start out to prove their worth. Once a Flock is accepting new membership, the best Acquaintances are evaluated and picked to become Friends. An Acquaintance can have a wide range of duties from virtually carrying out the same duties as a Friend to being a simple errand boy. They are usually a go-between or sometimes deal in smaller crimes to keep the heat off the actual members, or they can simply be people the Flock does business with (tavern owners, etc.) or corrupt Guild members, merchants or priests.
Membership guarantees protection from other members. Becoming a Friend does require a code of silence about the organization — you never, ever speak of the Feathers to folks who are not Acquaintances of the Feathers. This especially includes anyone authorized to conduct the King’s Justice.
Note that the Black Feathers do not make use of mages, for there is already another underworld organization that involves magic — The Cunning. While the Feathers and the Cunning often cross paths and occasionally even interact, for the most part they leave each other alone. To date, the Feathers have not had the balls to use this information to try to extort The Cunning for fear of magical reprisal.
Code of Behavior
In order to be invited into the Black Feathers and become a Friend one must perform a series of tasks, such as committing murder for the Flock and not for one’s own personal benefit. When the Good Gentleman decides to let a member into the Flock one will be part of a ceremony, involving the drawing of blood, swearing an oath over a ceremonial dagger and a raven feather, and obeying the rules of the organization. In Arthanos, for example, the Parliament has customs and traditions which the members have to follow. If one breaks any of the rules they can be killed by another member of the Flock and usually the murder is committed by the people closest to that person.
- “Charlegne” - is the oath or “code of silence”. Becoming a Friend means you never, ever speak of the Parliament to folks who are not Acquaintances of the Feathers. This includes anyone authorized to conduct the King’s Justice. Breaking the code of silence is one of the things that will get the organization to kill you.
- “Secrets” - members are not allowed to talk about Flock business to non-members. A member of the Feathers is not supposed to introduce himself to another member he does not personally know, even if both know of each other through reputation. If he wants to establish a relationship, he must ask a third member that they both personally know to introduce them to each other in a face-to-face meeting. This intermediary can vouch that neither of the two is an impostor, thus preventing outsiders from infiltrating the Feathers.
- “Blood” - if a Flock member is killed (by another member) no one can commit murder (in revenge) until the Good Gentleman gives permission. This does not apply to Acquaintances or those outside the organization. When revenge against the death of a Flock member is performed, a number of crow feathers are left on the body to show that vengeance was met.
- “Peace” - from fist fights to knife fights or even formal duels, members of a Flock are expected not to commit acts of violence on one another unless so ordered by the Good Gentleman.
- “Tribute” - every month; member must pay the Good Gentleman (through his local Gentleman); also giving the Good Gentleman a cut on any side deals.
- “Home” - members are not allowed to commit adultery with another Flock member’s spouse, or violate the sanctity of their home. A member’s family is as sacred as the Flock, and therefore their home is also considered sacred. While it is said there is no honor among thieves, members of the Feathers are expected to treat another member’s home as if it were their own.