By J. Tuomas Harviainen
Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained
and the restrainer or reason usurps its place & governs the unwilling
And being restrain'd, it by degrees becomes passive
till it is only the shadow of desire
This document is intended as a free Internet supplement for the Wraith the Oblivion role-playing game. Wraith the Oblivion, Wraith the Great War and Wraith Players Guide are trademarks of White Wolf, Inc. The mention of or reference to any company or product in these pages is not a challenge to the trademark or copyright concerned.
Juhani Seppälä, for quality control.
Zach Alexander, for the method and the madness.
J. Edward Tremlett, for being the Critic (or was it the Curmudgeon?)
Hans K, for invaluable help with the narrator.
Lin, for providing examples.
and especially to the one bad mutha MacShaft, for the pointers..
Ghost Story: Agreements
Chapter 1: Rotation (The Guild)
Chapter 2: Of Absolute Power (History)
Chapter 3: Tools of the Trade (External Relations)
Chapter 4: Eye Candy (Systems)
Chapter 5: Wheelers and Dealers (Characters)
Appendix 1: Around the Axle (Famous Solicitors)
Appendix 2: The Center Cannot Hold
It all began with the bright light
The bright light and the noise
The chaos of the senses and the scream of desire
I'm sitting in a bar. I'd love to tell you that in walks the biggest damn Mexican you ever saw, but the Centurion is a rather small man. And he's Dutch. It's six minutes past the agreed-upon time, which doesn't surprise me at all. I knew he always wants to arrive fashionably late. Well, at least he had enough common sense to leave his mask home.
In the background, Alex Harvey's less-than-magnificent voice is going through 'Faith Healer'. "Fingertips, a holy fire, ever-lasting sweet desire." Our Guild has always been big on style, and making the DJ suddenly want to play certain songs during a negotiation has become sort of a trademark among us. It's also a measure of experience and age among us. Spot a certain U2 song, and you can be sure there's a recently recruited Solicitor nearby. My boss, on the other hand, claims that all you really need is Chopin. Figures.
The Anacreon takes a seat on the other side of the bar. I hate this part. I already know what he wants, but I have to put up appearances. Otherwise he may begin to suspect why he wanted to contact us in the first place. This way I save myself the trouble of inventing believable excuses. As long as the man believes he came to see me because he absolutely needed to do it, of his own free will, we're on safe territory. At this point there's too much at stake to risk him realizing we need him much more than he needs us. Or even worse, guessing we made him want to contact us.
I hope I don't look too nervous as I approach him. It's not that I fear being recognized as a Solicitor, I'm far too experienced for that. I feel Anton's letter proverbially burn inside my coat. I'm not privy to what's inside, but just knowing who it's going to be delivered to is clue enough.
I politely ask if the chair is free, sitting down before the Ancreon has time to answer. "You wanted to see me", I say. "Yes", he replies. No unnecessary words here, it's not his style. Nor mine. "Please explain what you need done, and I'll tell you the price." We both know the price has been set before this negotiation even started, but I enjoy the pretense.
"My daughter has ended up in circles she shouldn't be. She's doing drugs, and I don't mean the light stuff. She already has severe trouble hiding the needle marks from her customers. She was such a sweet kid." By reading his surface desires, I know he'd like to tell me more. Funny how some people develop a conscience only after they die. "No need to go into details", I say before he has a chance to go on, "I'm a mercenary, not a Pardoner. Take your personal traumas elsewhere."
"Right." He sounds almost disappointed. Missing such good extortion material causes the feeling to be mutual, but in his case it'd be a waste of time. He's not going to be around for long. "What I want you to do is make her want to improve her life. Give up drugs, walk away from prostitution, maybe even study something. Fate knows she's still young enough to do that. I've hired Spooks to beat up her so-called 'friends', but it hasn't worked. As long as she doesn't want a change, she just goes back to them."
"Fine. That's a valid enough reason for us to work with you. Don't look so surprised, even we have some sort of a work ethic. If you had asked me to, for example, make her pimp-pusher kill himself, I would have said no." It's amazing how easily the clients believe your lies. I guess that in this shadow of an afterlife, one has to hang on to trust and other such weaknesses. Some people just can't handle being dead. Like Anton says, Solicitors are born, not made. I'm glad I wasn't born to be one of the sheep, and didn't die as one.
I promise him that within two weeks his daughter will have left the Red Light district permanently, registered into detoxification and started buying books for a new future. As is standard procedure, I also give him a routine demonstration of our art. Nothing serious, just a sudden urge to trade places with me. After we sit down again, facing one another, I pull out the envelope.
"This is what I want you to do in return: You will take this letter and deliver it, unopened, to the most famous Anacreon in your Necropolis. You know who I mean. After all, you two do share a Legion. That will conclude our business. I know that I can trust you to stay silent about our little transaction."
The Anacreon leaves, still nervous but somewhat relieved. I see it in the way he walks out, without even having to resort to my Art. I didn't tell him all, however. I left a Trigger when I gave him the demonstration. Exactly two weeks after he sees the results of our part of the bargain, he will report to the local Artificers and join the ranks of the Steel Martyrs. Rough, but in this case necessary. Well, at least he'll get a few days of real post-mortem happiness before he ceases to exist as an individual being.
As I rise from my seat, I hear Uriah Heep's 'Salisbury' start to play. Right on time. I know the DJ will lose his job, and I probably should feel sorry for him. I don't. My stylish exit is much more important than a weak-willed mortal's livelihood.
There are no righteous societies;
There are simply different degrees of depravity.
we'd like you to reconsider our offer. Salazaar and his thugs are finally gone. We think they may have given you a very biased view of our Guild, and therefore I've been asked to send you these notes. They're a set of basic instructions given to new recruits, and should help you form a better informed opinion of us. The Center says you were the most talented pupil it ever taught. We want you back. ______________________________________________________________________________________
Welcome, reader. The fact that you're holding this document means that due to other urgent business, no Hub member was able to greet you personally right now. We will get to that eventually, since our Guild is so small that practically every member knows one another. No sense of forming a cabal (as the others describe us) if we don't work together, right?
My name is Anton, and this text is a transcription of one of my speeches. One of these days I’ll write a proper introductory leaflet, but for now this’ll have to do. It will initially lead you through the Guild structure, and introduce you to our history, plans and purposes. After that you'll get a brief description of the major political movements within the cabal. If you have any questions (and you should), keep them in mind until you meet one of us.
As you know, we are the Solicitors' Guild. The masters of needs and wants. The green-eyed monsters that haunt every wraith's Slumber. Ours is the Art of Desire. What we want becomes reality. And you have been chosen as one of us, because you're something very special. There is something in you that sets you apart from the rest. You were born for this. You lived a life which made you prepared for the job. You died a death that eventually lead you to the Guild. You are a Solicitor. We will only teach you how to utilize that to the maximum. You are welcome here, welcome among us, and we want you to know that.
The name of our game is power, pure and simple. We want nothing less than absolute control over the Shadowlands. The formation of what some of us jokingly refer to as 'the New Underworld Order'. Control is all. Control is crucial. The majority of the restless dead cannot be counted on to truly think for themselves. That's where we come in. That is our job, our purpose, our mission. The raison d'etre of our Guild. What we'll do when we reach that point is another discussion, one we've decided to have only after the level of control we want has been gained.
We're probably the smallest Guild of all, with the possible exception of the Mnemoi. Our influence, however, is the largest by far. Every client, every victim, every mark - they are all ours after we've even once softly touched their desires. No one ever truly leaves after dealing with us. Makes you glad you're among those chosen - predestined, to be precise - to lead, doesn't it?
If you open a relic copy of Webster’s, Intimation is stated as ”1. Information communicated indirectly; a hint. 2. A declaration or notification.” It is all that, and much more. As I already said, it is The Art of Desire. It is, simply put, the only Art that in the end matters. Learn it, master it, love it, and it will love you back like no oher, neither mortal nor Quick, ever could.
It’s the moment you see a raven-haired goddess walking toward you in a tight PVC dress. It’s the moment you notice that dress can be made to fall with the flick of a single finger. It’s the moment you understand she wants that to be done. Most of all, it’s the moment you realize she wants you to be the one to make that happen.
On the other hand, it’s also the moment you realize you were wrong. It’s the feel of burned fingers, of a crushed self-esteem. It is a razor-sharp, double-edged sword, and we, my friend, are the master fencers. Just learn how to avoid getting yourself cut, and you are on your way to absolute power.
Now, on to Guild structure. Our union is lead by one being, a wraith called the Center of the Wheel. Theoretically the Imperator himself is above it in rank, but now that Charon’s gone, the leadership issue is quite clear. The Center, presumably one of our Guild’s founders, takes the form of a small child. A common rumor, one which I subscribe to, states that it’s because in a child all mankind’s desires are plainly visible. Children are openly selfish, greedy and cruel, and so are we, whether we care to admit it or not. 16670’s faction naturally claims that the Center wishes to portray a child-like, if questioning, innocence before a supreme power, which in his case means Jehovah. But that’s just him, and not the rest of us.
When it cares to give a verbal command instead of just passing on a few sudden urges, the Center has the voice of a very old man. I have to admit I’ve grown to like the little tyke, even if it does occasionally call me the “Second Wickedest Man”. Anyway, back to our main subject.
All day-to-day leadership issues are handled by the Hub. While the Center creates policy, we both implement it and make the necessary changes to it so that it can actually be made to work. The “child” is brilliant, there’s no denying that, but it’s also somewhat stuck to ancient concerns and views. Making reality conform to Charon’s desires is all fine and good, but without us that just wouldn’t be possible.
The Hub always has five members, but they change frequently. I’ll tell you later why, and how. The current membership is: myself, a catholic priest called 16670, a Czechoslovakian revolutionary named Jakub, Nina, a German madam and the South-African, Karl. You’ll definitely notice Karl if you see him, he looks like a white man-shaped cloud of vapor, with the green light of our Art shining from within his equivalent of a face.
Each Hub member is in charge of one of the Spokes, groups that represent the different facets of our Guild’s agenda. The great majority of us work as Initiators, led by Jakub. They are the ones who make the first arrangements with our future clients. They, however, are never seen to do so. Initiators are the ones that plant the idea to seek us out into the minds of suitable marks. Suitable, in this case, means a person we can actually help and with whom we’d actually like to do business. Rarely is one of these elements enough to raise our attention, but there are necessary exceptions. Initiators are masters of Trigger use, thus making sure the client doesn’t realize he’s been manipulated.
Their most important skill, however, is perceiving suitanble additions to the Wheel. Any Solicitor worth his oboli can install a few desires here and there, but it takes special talent to notice whom we can actually use to further the Guild’s ends.
After initial contact has been made, our Therapists enter the picture. They are the Guild’s ‘public face’, so to speak. Therapists take care of the visible, brute work. They provide the actual services, usually set up in advance, so that all is in place before the negotiations start. Let me further explain this procedure to you: When a prospective client is located and prepared by an Initiator, the Therapist does the required work beforehand, and sets a very specific Trigger in place. Only then do we allow the client to approach us. When the final deal is struck, all we need to do is provide the triggering event to complete the job. We made this a strict policy after a few unpleasant cases where the negotiations were compromised by an outside party.
The most common Trigger is our famous ‘relic wheel rolling by’. We have carefully cultivated its reputation as an advance warning so that the target/victim/mark concentrates on avoiding the attack that never comes, instead of seeking help to resist the effect we have already placed inside his mind. While our Guild is sometimes called in to help with what people consider “bad desires”, our most common contract is assassination of either the physical or the character kind, and this is how it’s done.
Removing a wraith completely from the picture is easy. Usually we just Quash someone so thoroughly that he falls into a Harrowing, or deal a “Free Death”, where we make a Nihil look irresistible to him. Ruining a reputation is much harder, and thus it's both more challenging and more rewarding. Therapists use this as a form of competition, dealing out status amongst themselves for new, innovative ideas. A trick is usually named after its inventor, and thus we have old favorites like the ‘Alexander’ (“You don’t want to leave this room. Ever.”), ‘Mickey’ (“You feel a constant urge to insult everyone around you.”) and ‘Sarah’ (“You have an irresistible need to gain more information, but do not want to share what you learn with anyone.”) Contrary to popular belief, we rarely issue desires like ‘attack the Anacreon’ or ‘you want to get soulforged’. Both have their places, but are surprisingly hard to pull off without the fingers pointing straight at us.
The Therapists are lead by Nina, who so far has declined to have a trick named after her. She claims she already has designed the stunt she wants to be called ‘the Nina’, but hasn’t so far had a chance to use it in a suitably flashy way.
My own pet group, the Caretakers handle the day-to-day operation of the Guild.
- Caretakers (värväys + peittely + shadows) [Anton, oma shadow!!!!] - Crowd Control  - Disposables [Karl]
-Hubbard-Usurers -journeyman rank -rising in rank
-Anton -16670 -Jakub
It indeed appear'd to Reason as if Desire was cast out,
but the Devil's account is, that the Messiah fell &
formed a Heaven of what he stole from the Abyss.
In the beginning we were thirteen. An auspicious number, yes? One that appears throughout conspiratorial history. Supernatural history, to be exact. It’s easy to think that this means there was one member from each Guild, but that’s utter nonsense. In fact, at that point there already were 15 Guilds. We’re the youngest of them all by far, the stereotypical last child who has the freedom to do what needs to be done while the older siblings follow the father’s wishes.
According to the Center, the first wheel was composed of six Chanteurs, three Puppeteers, one member each from the Usurers, the Pardoners and the Sandmen, and a Penitent Legion Anacreon. They all shared a deep disappointment with the limits of both their Arts and their Guilds. What was needed was a new tool, a new way to do things. A way to do them right. After days of pondering, the Usurer suddenly said: “We’ve now spent exactly 127 hours talking about what we need, while the answer has been in front of us the whole time. Need. Want. Desire.“ They formed a new guild, a cabal, and set out to rule the Underworld.
Naturally, none of this naïve, childish tale is true. The simple fact is that after the formation of the so-called Greater Guilds, a few innovative wraiths, the Center among them, invented the ultimate Art. After they, and several new recruits, experimented with it for a while, they realized how dangerous it was. Not only did some of them burn out, but the inherent dangers possessed by the Arcanos’ possibilities made the rest very frightened. Think for a moment what Intimation could do in the hands (or more properly, eyes) of Spectres.
To avoid destruction, the first Solicitors made two key choices. The first thing they did was attack the Void itself! The Center claims to be the only one of the original circle who survived. They did, however, achieve their purpose: they took away Oblivion’s desire to learn Intimation. It didn’t work out exactly like a normal Quashing, but worked nevertheless. The Hive-Mind no longer wanted Spectres to learn our art. Oblivion did unfortunately get back at us, spreading knowledge of Intimation to other Dark Kingdoms through the Shadows of key wraiths there.
The other, even more brilliant, move of our founders was to sell out. In one swift move, we turned into a crucial part of the establishment. We became Charon’s pet, his secret police. Not the Hierarchy’s, mind you. Just Charon’s. Our purpose was twofold: all the worst intrigues would probably involve us, and thus we could report back to him about threats to the realm. We would also instigate key incidents, and grant the Imperator a plausible deniability: He could always disavow all knowledge of our actions even if our influence behind an event would be detected. That is why we take credit also for things that happen without our participation. So as I now tell you the official history of the Kingdom of Iron according to the Solicitors, take it with a grain of salt. At least one of these tales is an outright lie. If you can spot which one, you’ll win a free Harrowing.
Seriously, when it comes to history, what is true and what isn’t doesn’t matter. The question is “which ones do you want to be the truth?”. Desire, with a capital ‘D’, is everything.
Our first major operation was the banishment of the Heretics. The Fisher movement had steadily been gaining in power since the beginning of the Quick’s foolish crusades, and were now the largest military force in the entire Stygian empire. This was not acceptable,
-Guilds -BILAAC (We never left!) -Beachhead
-Vallankaappaus (Oct 10, 1982?)
And when we think we lead we most are led -Lord Byron, The Two Foscari
-Mnemoi -Artificers -Chanteurs -Usurers -Masquers -Puppeteers -Proctors -Alchemists -Pardoners -Oracles -Sandmen -Spooks -Harbingers -Haunters -Monitors
There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.
In addition to causing the development of severe hubris and a chronic case of god-complex, Intimation is actually dangerous to the user. The implemented desires must first be formed in the Solicitor’s own mind, and a careless use of Intimation leaves traces of that emotion within the user’s head, or throws away too much.
-Botch & Too Many Successes -Feel, then project
-Trigger -Instill Guilt -Excise -Empower Drone -Intensify -Eradicate -Passioncraft -Satisfy -Numb
I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies;
for the hardest victory is the victory over self.
Quote: What do you want?
Prelude: You always wanted to be someone special. Someone who would make a difference. That never happened. A mundane car crash took you away before you had a chance to become something other than a common insurance salesman. Concept:
Quote: Farewell, Mr. Anacreon.
Quote: I was born to murder the World.
Prelude: You’ve hated absolutely everyone ever since you were born. You were too intelligent to fit in anywhere, yet stupid enough not to fake it. You never had any friends, only a few occasional followers, weak-willed souls who though you were a rebel, just like them. Unlike those losers, you had a dream. If the world didn’t fit you’re view, it had to go.
So you studied hard. Nuclear physics, biochemistry and weapons design. Unfortunately, people around you sensed there was something wrong with you. Neither a government agency nor a multinational corporation would employ a psychopath like you, even if you had credentials no other applicant could compete with. Eventually you decided to hit out on your own.
You invented a few suitable tricks and dabbled in some pop-culture satanism. Then you put your skills to good use, and recruited a cult to serve your needs. Your plan:
Quote: I’m not a Solicitor!
Prelude: You were born to become a politician. You were so good at it that nothing, absolutely nothing, could stand in your way. In due time, you reached the apex: absolute executive power. For an all too brief moment, you were the world’s most powerful man. And oh, how it suited you.
In the end, you were brought down by a scandal. Your career was far from over, however, and you spent the rest of your life around the world solving conflicts and disputes, all for the greater glory of your nation. When you finally died, the world leaders grieved for you, even if your countrymen didn’t.
You were immediately recruited by the Iron Legion and the Solicitors’ Guild. Your natural talents were put to work in BILAAC, and you quickly rose to a position of authority. Now you’re an Anacreon, and one of the best peace negotiators the Iron Legion has ever seen. When not in Stygia proper, you can be found making deals with both other Legions and various Renegade cells.
Concept: A genius in the arts of necessary compromise and underhand grabs for power, you are on your way to a new field of glory. Nothing less than absolute control is acceptable. Even Guildsmen and legionnaires around you seem to accept that as a fact, and many of them flock to your banner even now.
Roleplaying Notes: You’re charming as hell, when you want to be, and use it to your full advantage. Always keep your haughty image, even to the point of proudly showing the color of your eyes. Anyone standing in your way deserves what they get, and you’re more than willing to make sure it’s a one-way ticket to the Soulforges. Relics: Perfectly tailored suit, clipboard, dirt on absolutely everybody important.
Quote: Once my light did shine from the Nile to the Rhine, until the guns did blow through me. Now I shall never fall.
We desire most what we ought not to have
-Salazar -16670 -Jakub (Jakub is also well known for his vast collection of soul-forged serial killers, including the complete "British Prostitute Slashers" dinner set by Duncan Bessemer. He occasionally allows members of the Grim Legion a quick look of their killers for a small fee - and a well hidden Trigger.) -Karl (qudpl.)
Solicitor (n.) … 2. The legal advisor to certain branches of the public service. -Webster’s Dictionary of the English language
The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers. -William Shakespeare, Henry VI
The Labyrinthine explosion that starts of the Sixth Great Maelstrom happens far too close to Beachhead. The Solicitors are the first one hit by the expanding Maelstrom winds, with horrendous results. While most of the Guildsmen find enough cover, the Center itself does not, and is turned into a mindless Shade. Within seconds, it goes Hekatonkhire, calling hundreds of Spectres towards it and devouring them. The other Solicitors present finally manage to bring it down, but most perish in the attempt, or are soon after cut down by the Maelstrom itself. A handful escape to bring the news to the remaining Hub members.
Now, only a few dozen Solicitors remain. The survivors quickly regrouped into small, paranoid cells, and avoid contact with one another. Two larger cells exist, formed around Anton and 16670, and roughly follow the political agendas their leaders had before the catastrophe. Naturally, bot groups fanatically claim to represent the true esoteric heritage of the Solicitors’ Guild.
-Solicitors are the "Others", who will push the pendulum in the direction it needs to go to reset the balance - depending on circumstances, this could be toward fascism or in the opposite direction.