The King of Kindness, Criminal Mastermind

Background

The Pearl is a quiet and peaceful place. This is a region short on bandits and murderers. However, it still has its criminal element. Most of them are petty thieves – purse-snatchers, cat burglars, con artists, and the like. What no one suspects is that so many of them are part of one man’s criminal empire.

The King of Kindness is a name whispered among the criminal underworld of the Pearl. Most have never met him. They assume that he’s some minor bandit king, living in the woods or hills beyond the Pearl, pouncing on caravans and travelers. Some newcomers assume he’s just a myth, or a name used by a whole collection of miscreants. Those who stay long enough end up meeting his servants and his messengers, and they find out that the King is very real indeed.

They say that he knows every secret and underhanded thing that happens in the Pearl. Not a purse gets stolen but that an obol from it makes its way back to him. And the frightening thing is, it seems to be true. When someone fails to pass on a tithe to the King’s messengers, that felon is in for a rough time. None of them get left out for the patricians’ guard to find, though. That would be telling. Instead, people end up tortured in the most inventive ways. The term “King of Kindness” is entirely a euphemism. They all keep quiet about what happened and how, but the marks are visible for days.

The Pearl has a very orderly spirit court, a very orderly set of minor nobles, and a very orderly underworld. The King makes it so. Anyone who might cause trouble – especially trouble that would drag out the secret criminal networks beneath its surface – ends up either working for him or sleeping at the bottom of the lake.

Appearance

King of Kindness 500

They say all kinds of things about the King of Kindness. That he’s clearly from the Blessed Isle. That he’s a Fair Folk noble and you can see it in his eyes and the tiny wings behind his ears. That he’s a ghost, or a powerful demon, or some fell creature from before humanity’s time on Creation. His messengers say that he can look like whatever he wants – whomever he wants – and no one could ever find him.

The last part is fairly accurate. The King is a master of disguise. However, he spends a fair amount of time in his native form: that of an aged snake-charmer. He sits in the marketplace in Redleaf most days, playing his instrument, with a basket of snakes before him. His orange turban, dark brown skin, and near-white hair would be striking in any other setting. In the bazaar’s, riot of color, he blends in quite well.

Other days? Well, he might be anyone. When he meets people in dark rooms and back alleys, he wears a different face each time. He often chooses someone famous. Everyone tries to guess what he might really look like underneath. No one imagines that there’s more than one layer of disguise.

Demeanor

The King is always ready with a friendly smile for anyone who happens to meet him. This puts his opponents off-balance. He then proceeds to be helpful, considerate, or sympathetic, as appropriate to the situation. Anyone who has heard of him is likely shaking in their boots at that point. They know that it’s only a matter of time until he calls for their head. When he offers a way out of their predicament, everyone takes it, gladly, without bargaining.

Those who don’t? The strong-willed ones who think they can overthrow this empire with the death of a single man? Well, that’s what one builds a reputation on, isn’t it. The King of Kindness is indeed kind to nearly everyone he meets, but those who decide not to show him respect and obedience are made into object lessons in how badly someone can hurt before they die.

One of the King’s recent acquaintances is Kotala Fesho. Thanks to having her followed for a few weeks, he knows that she has been Chosen by the moon. She certainly knows who he is, but he’s uncertain as to whether she knows his full capabilities. He finds himself fascinated by the fact that she continues to associate with him, even knowing who he is and what he does. He’s not sure whether she’s trying to build up a blackmail case against him (in which case he’ll frame her for crimes against House V’neef) or whether she’s actually bizarrely curious about him and his life. It’s disconcerting, and he finds himself revealing more than he wanted to in the process of vetting her.

Intimacies: “My position in the Pearl” (Defining), “Stay beneath notice” (Defining), “Those in power” (Major, Negative) “V’neef Kharavi must be watched” (Major), “Kotala Fesho is an odd duck”

Capabilities

The King is, the entry says, a criminal mastermind. He can pick pockets and run cons himself, but what he really excels at is convincing others that they want to put their illicit talents to use for him. Thousands of crooks and con artists, thieves and assassins across the Pearl, all give a tithe of their earnings to his operation. In return, he keeps them all quiet and makes sure everything runs smoothly. If the surface of the Pearl is a lake, his operations are the currents beneath. They don’t break the surface. He clears up misunderstandings before they become feuds. He keeps people in their place, and makes it clear how that place might change. It’s an impressive operation, legitimate or not. He’s also a fairly good Gateway player, whether he’s cheating or not, and animals of all sorts instinctively love him.

Despite his age, the King is still spry and sharp-witted. This is because he’s one of the Chosen: specifically, an Eclipse-caste Solar. His supernal ability is Larceny. He uses his oathmaking powers rarely, and only when disguised as one of the Fair Folk. Instead, he relies on subtler magics. He can slip through a building unnoticed and bring his allies with him. He can steal a change purse from across a table. He knows when he is being investigated, and roughly how much his investigators know. He can sharpen his ears and his nose to hear people coming for him. His servants can send messages quickly and securely across surprising distances. He concocts plans within plans. He has contingencies for every event.

If forced into a fight, the King has instinctive knowledge of Snake Style martial arts, lingering in his mind from a past incarnation. He is not afraid to strike quickly with poisonous essence, and then retreat to let it take its course as his bodyguards come to his aid. He knows this style only up to the form. He’s also not above reaching into his basket and throwing a cobra at someone if they bother him in the marketplace.

The one thing his Exaltation did not fix was his eyes. The King is nearly blind. He can tell when there is light and darkness, see the blue of the sky or the brown earth beneath him, but not much more. Even those who meet him often do not realize – they may even assume that his cover as a blind snake-charmer is an act, and that he must be able to see.

Supporting Characters

  • Rhiltak Tekcha, messenger for the King’s operation. Fearless, petty, flippant.
  • Rhiltak Azakta, an assassin who kills on the King’s orders. Perfectionist, addicted, unforgiving.
  • Kofo Itlaxa, the King’s torturer. Formal, predictable, penitent.
  • Otlo Pikotko, a mole from the All-Seeing Eye who watches the King’s operation. Abrasive, generous, apologetic.

Questions

  • How long has it been since the King of Kindness was Chosen? Has he moved to the Pearl in the last few years, or has he been hiding out here for decades?
  • What is the King’s true name?
  • How was the King Chosen? Why?
  • The King must know something about the missing tribute. How is he involved? How will he keep it quiet – or is this his bid for a behind-the-scenes rulership of the Pearl?
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6 thoughts on “The King of Kindness, Criminal Mastermind

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