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Stormwind Assassins are a neutral guild of elite assassins dedicated wholly to the Alliance’s goals, but willing to do the dirtier jobs.
The Stormwind Assassins are one of the oldest surviving organizations on Azeroth. Long before any of the wars, the Alliance faction of Stormwind felt it was unable to do everything it wanted to within the law.
One of the leaders, Erwill Youngton, secretly approached a thief in their prisons. Pathonia Shaw had been imprisoned by the Alliance repeatedly for theft. Caught perhaps three times, she was notorious for scores of high profile crimes. Youngton offered her clemency if she agreed to form a society to take care of the Alliance’s dirty work quickly and cleanly. She agreed at once — and added that she would find a way to do it with a sense of style as well. The Stormwind Assassins began that day, with the agreement of Erwill Youngton, she combed the prisons for her fellow thieves to bring into the family, as they were called, and soon built a small force to serve the Alliance.
The Assassins were there when the orcs poured from the Dark Portal, taking out stray scouts; yet they found it difficult to make a true dent in the enemy forces because of the Horde’s sheer numbers and the Assassins’ lack of military training. The Assassins work best one-on-one, they quickly discovered, and concentrated more on aiming for the Horde’s leaders.
Shaw had been a thief for the thrills and was not necessarily evil. Once she was allowed to do her favorite thing in the world and still get paid for it, she became a loyal Alliance fighter. She made sure to hammer this home in her recruits: one does not steal from the hand that feeds. If the thrill of the stolen goods and the secret kill, along with a steady salary, was not good enough for her thieves, they were not initiated into the Assassins. The message was clear: only commit the crimes sanctioned by the Alliance. Shaw had one other requirement when she built the society: secrecy was a must. The thieves did not normally walk around claiming to be thieves, and they had no reason to do so once they were legitimate assassins either.
The leader of Stormwind is the only one with a full list of the Stormwind Assassins, and when one was assigned to be part of a larger operation, as happened in the three wars, her true purpose was not revealed to the other troops. They passed as fighters or scouts, even wizards from time to time, but still did their primary jobs of stealing and killing when needed. Their commanders would know of their secret when needed, but often only the assassin knew of her true reason for being in the field.
The population of Stormwind knows the Assassins exist, and the public relations machine has taken their reputation to the extreme: these are glamorous fighters, too talented to serve with the mere warriors in the army; they are stealthy people who work by the night, shrouded in mystery and barroom tales. Some children — even wealthy types — become thieves in the hope that someday they can be Stormwind Assassins too. No one knows who they are, but almost everyone claims to have seen them at work, although this is highly unlikely.
Shaw retired 10 years ago and put her grandson Mathias in charge. She had groomed him for the job from when he was an infant, testing his speed and dexterity on a physical level and making sure he understood the difference between doing what was right and doing what was necessary, and how those two do not always mix. The Cathedral of Light understands that the Stormwind Assassins must exist for the good of Stormwind and the Alliance, but the priests do not condone assassination. They choose simply to look the other way.
The Stormwind Assassins are based in Stormwind, but often travel to other Alliance-held lands in Azeroth. They have influence in Elwynn, Redridge, and Westfall. They have done jobs in other areas, such as Duskwood and Deadwind Pass, but they almost never go further south.
The Stormwind Assassins view themselves as a hand grasped around a knife, forming the organization into five branches. Mathias Shaw and his group of leaders make the thumb, dealing with the management and leadership. The leadership consists of about 30 older rogues, many of whom knew Pathonia, some of whom were appointed by her. They are familiar with how she wished the organization to be run, and often steer the young Mathias on the correct path. The other leaders are in charge of the other four Fingers, leading, training, taking reports, and even running the books and making sure salaries are distributed.
The next two Fingers of the hand are made up of the highest-level members and consist of about 500 rogues each. The First Finger, the highest level an assassin can reach before leaving the life behind to become a leader in the Thumb, is dedicated to assassination, targets being anyone from rival military leaders to corrupt priests. The Second Finger is dedicated to “acquisitions” of material, either taking already stolen material to give to its rightful owner, or taking a particularly powerful item from a person it would be politically uncomfortable to kill outright.
The 500 or so rogues who make up the Third Finger excel in espionage, often working with rogues from the First and Second Finger to gather information, read and remember scrolls without stealing them, and serve as lookouts and diversions while the others do their jobs. The Fourth Finger rogues make up the largest and lowest level. These 1,000 rogues are the jacks-of-all-trades: they commonly handle burial of victims (and Stormwind Assassins), body-hiding, and alibi-establishing. It is their job to make sure the Stormwind Assassins’ identities do not get discovered. They are also in charge of recruitment.
Every rogue and thief in Stormwind wants to be part of the Stormwind Assassins. The entire city views their work as necessary and admirable. It is a difficult organization to join, however, as the leaders of Stormwind do not want to endorse the Assassins’ way of life. The organization began by a judicious picking through of the prison for “trustworthy” rogues, and word spread. Some thieves attempted to get caught just for the chance of getting picked (and the pardon didn’t hurt either). When Stormwind found the Stockade filling with hapless, eager-faced thieves, King Anduin Wrynn approached Mathias and demanded he do something about it.
Mathias assigned the Fourth Finger of the Stormwind Assassins to recruit others, training a handful of rogues to recognize talent and discreetness (something the rogues in the city had left behind in their eagerness to join the Assassins). A rogue from the Fourth Finger will follow a rogue and leave him a note card with a place and a drawing of an open hand on it. If the rogue arrives alone at the meeting place, he meets with the Fourth Finger rogue. If the meeting goes well, the rogue will then receive another note card with another meeting place and a closed fist on it, indicating his acceptance.
Some of the rogues under Pathonia wanted to show their pride with tattoos of the fist that is the organization’s symbol, but she did away with that thought, warning that they should make no permanent indication on their bodies that they belong to the Stormwind Assassins. They instead took to wearing one piece of white clothing with a single red thread carefully sewn in, looking like a stray piece of lint. Stormwind Assassins know what to look for, while others would not notice. Initiation is difficult. The rogue is tested in everything from skills to morals. Many of the tests are subtle: the rogue must be entirely trustworthy, for without trust among the rogues, the entire organization of the Assassins will fail.
Morality and a desire to serve the city of Stormwind are two of the most important aspects in an Assassin, and these qualities are understandably difficult to find. When prospects are rejected, they leave with only the face of their recruiter in their minds — if even that. The society doesn't feel the unveiling of a Fourth Finger’s identity will hurt them too much, so this is an acceptable risk.
Upon full acceptance, the new Fourth Finger is given dirty work to do, all the while training, buffing his skills, working to become a Third Finger. Even accomplished rogues, thieves and assassins must start at the bottom and work their way up.