The Dim Wastes
The Grand Council of Alhena is a complex organization. It has many faces- some of them very public, and some of them very secret. One aspect the Council rarely addresses in public is what happens when a mage goes rogue, and starts using his Council-taught craft against the citizens of Alhena. Eager to avoid the wrath of the Emperor and the bad turn of public opinion, the Council acts quickly to deal with such individuals itself, as quietly as possible.
An utterly clandestine organization exists within the Council called the Operatives’ Guild. Here, you will find some of the deadliest assassins in the world. The guild’s existence is widely known within the Council, but the identities of the operatives are so secret they are actually destroyed upon initiation. The guild also houses a network of spies, with contacts all across the Empire. This network, using magical means of communication, is how the Council tracks and intercepts targets when they come of interest.
The Operatives’ Guild is one of only two organizations within the Council that trains non-mages in magical arts. The other is the Marshals’ Guild, which trains the warriors who guard the various Council facilities around the Empire. The Operatives’ Guild differs from the Marshals’ Guild in one key aspect, though. While the Marshals’ Guild trains to protect mages, the Operatives’ Guild trains to kill them.
Operatives work in teams known as “cells”. A standard cell will include two actual mages and two assassins. Assassins often have a small amount of magical training. The mages, in turn, have often received training in stealth and surprise tactics from the assassins. They train tirelessly as a unit, and only deploy into the field with a year or more of training with no turnover in the group. Currently, there are a dozen cells active throughout the Empire, with another 6 in training to become deployable again.
Aside from the operational cells, there is one command cell which handles administrative tasking for the guild and oversees team selection for assigned missions. Although the details of that cell are a closely guarded secret, it is known that the leader of the command cell (and the entire guild) goes by the code name “Sparrow”.
In combat, an Operative cell is a truly impressive and terrifying thing to behold. The standard tactic is to use a variant of ‘message’ to keep the team in constant communication. One or both assassins locate and surveil the target, feeding environmental information to the mages. The cell has a single assigned leader who will make the final decision about how to proceed once reconnaissance is established. The initial action will take the form of area spells that alter the conditions in favour of the assassins, followed by a swift strike from heavily buffed assassins that are specially trained to close with and kill mages. Close support is provided by one mage on offensive duty, while the other maintains overwatch with readied counterspells. They move very, very quickly, and a textbook assault will go from opening spell cast to extraction teleport cast in less than 30 seconds. The extraction removes the team, their target, and any known items of interest in the assault area, often leaving behind only a few confused witnesses and a dissipating cloud of cover.
Occasionally, Operative cells are assigned to special tasks that carry high levels of sensitivity. These are normally assigned at the highest level of the Council, but can be requested by nearly anyone in the organization that knows the proper channels.