Marty was getting use to his spot in the executive conference room. He awaited the arrival of the host of the meeting - Howard Mentinger, the Chief Risk Officer of MagnaCorp. The CRO had been with the company for many years and had held multiple roles in the business. His analytical mind reduced business problems to pieces and allowed him to pick apart issues to raise visibility of potential risks. It was always entertaining to watch him conduct his reviews. Marty settled quickly with no hesitation this time, kicked back and prepared for the show.
The Advisor entered the King's Council amidst a flurry of activity. His flowing robes cut a path through the crowd as he strode towards the center of the room. Affectionately referred to as 'the Voice of Doom' by the King, the elderly but spry Advisor carried quite an impact in the Kingdom as the voice of experience and reason. From his position on the King's inner circle, he was one of the most influential counselors to the King due to his many years of service and his pragmatic and objective manner.
The Hunter, positioned on the edge of the massive chamber, mingled with the other lieutenants to the council members and surveyed the room. Each council member had an associated second-in-command to provide details as they prepared to review the alliance with their new trade partner. This menagerie was amazingly calm and composed, despite an undercurrent of buzzing excitement, as the King's Council arranged themselves around the Chamber's enormous table. The Hunter nodded at the Mentor sitting in the corner. The Gate Keeper caught his eye. She smiled demurely and winked. The Hunter returned the gesture as clandestinely as he could manage.
The Advisor took his seat in the midst of the Wizard, the Jewel Keeper, the Trade Master and the Eye of the Storm. As he settled, the final three members of the King's Council entered. First, the Governess arrayed in her colorful flowing robe sat down at the table. The Governess was the leader of the governing counsel and not only responsible for getting the Kingdom's rules put on paper - but also ensuring everyone in the Kingdom abided by the law. She was rarely seen without a scroll ready to be signed by the King enacting a new law and the Hunter noted a large parchment digest sitting by her elbow. Next, the Master Craftsman stomped across the room clad in his heavy boots, thick leather apron and clinking tool belt. He stroked his long beard as he sat, a wood chip flitting out of the coarse hair. The Master Craftsman was in charge of all building projects in the Kingdom. His innovative mind had spawned an abundance of technological breakthroughs including the Kingdom's vast aqueduct, its advanced road system and cutting-edge mining and manufacturing machines. Finally, the Inspector entered filling out the entire roster of the King's closest gurus. The Inspector was the King's independent expert who reviewed the other counselor's guidance to consult on major decisions in the Kingdom. He was a valuable sounding board for the entire group to discuss issues and resolutions.
Bang! Bang! The Advisor clanged his gavel on the table calling the meeting to order.
"Greetings, everyone. Thank you for joining me this afternoon. Today's agenda will be a round robin discussion around the table on the new alliance we have entered into. As you all know, the details of our discussion are for this audience only. Anything discussed here is confidential - don't go blabbing about it at your local watering hole." His eyes twinkled under bushy grey eyebrows as he gazed around the room, pausing a bit longer than usual as he spied the Mentor in the corner.
"So," he continued, "Let's begin."
At the back of the tavern, a stout wooden door was guarded by two immense men armed with a dangerous mix of swords and bad attitudes. The crowd socializing at the bar avoided eye contact or any other possible indicator of interest into the meeting being held in the private room in the rear of the building. Despite being an unruly collection of scoundrels, reprobates and mischief-makers, they knew any disruption would be a hazard to their own health. None of them sought to get on the wrong side of the Guild. On the other side of the door, the Maestro held court with Brute and the Siren in the light of a blazing fire.
"I trust your trip was lucrative, Siren." The Maestro said.
"As it is always," the woman responded. "I am not surprised pickings were so easy. A few convincing stories, some dropped names and I walked away with quite a few new friends." She smiled broadly as she extracted a pile of papers from her satchel.
"Ahhhh..." The Maestro exclaimed. "Just what I was hoping you had."
"I am glad to hear you say that," the Siren countered. "Are you ready to talk price?"
"Price?" The Maestro laughed. "Here. How is this for price?" A bag of gold suddenly appeared in his hand from under his cloak. He tossed it at the Siren who whipped out her hand to snatch the sack from the air. Coins clinked as she shook the bag. She laid the papers - all valid Credentials for access to the Kingdom - on the table and peered into the bag, poking with her finger to get an accurate count.
The Brute shifted in his seat, his immense body eliciting a small creak of a complaint from the wooden chair. "What's next boss?"
"Well, based on that wonderful conversation Siren and I had about the new alliance the Kingdom has, I have some great news. It seems our old friends in Natiostatia are very interested in this new arrangement they have. And willing to pay top dollar to get more information."
"How much?" The Siren asked.
"Enough for me to recoup what I have paid for the services of you two." The Maestro replied modestly. "Maybe enough to procure more if necessary."
The Brute grunted approvingly.
The Maestro stood and paced the room. "In fact, they are so interested they have sent one of their own to assist us. And these credentials will be very beneficial."
The door opened as if on cue. A figure in a shimmering gray cloak entered the room, a large hood over his head. He moved if he was floating on air. His footsteps made no sound on the hard wooden planks; his cloak reflected the lights and blended into the backdrop of the gloomy room. As he passed through the flickering light cast by the roaring fire, his shadow danced around the room.
"I would like to introduce Ghost..." The Maestro's devilish grin flashed.