The Blackbirds are a conglomeration of prison wardens, working together to overthrow a corrupt king. They were first started by Slyven Sallind, a petty noble of questionable heritage. A very bright young man, Slyven recognized the corruption in the government. He eventually, through the fortuitous death of his father, achieved the hereditary position of tax collector for a few outlying villages. Over the course of twelve years, through hard work and perseverance in his duties, Slyven quickly worked his way up the ranks, until he was the kingdom's treasurer. All that time, Slyven had kept a weather eye out for the telltale signs of corruption. Whenever he discovered it in a clerk or scribe, he always looked up in the ranks. Eventually, he would find a superior with, most likely, worse corruption. When he finally got to the position of power that has already been related, he was in close counsel with the king, Trisentrius III.
After a while of gaining the king's trust, he approached him with a list. The list was a compendium of debauchery in the ranks of government. Slyven thought, quite justifiably, that once this file of bribery, vice, and even murder was shown to the king, he would take quick action to put a stop to it. As Slyven informed him of the contents of the list, the king looked more and more grave. When Slyven finished, the king told him that all this would be looked into, and warned him not to tell others of his discoveries, you don't know who might be in this ring of lies. Slyven left for home happy, nearly whistling a happy tune, in fact. After a few days, during which he was almost nauseatingly cheery, Slyven was summoned before the king. He entered the throne room with a thin layer of decorum barely managing to hide a delighted grin. Surely he was about to be witness to the great uprooting of corruption. Standing before the throne were two shady looking characters. Slyven was a little confused, but still confident. That confidence fled at the first words from the kings mouth. It seems that these two 'gentlemen' had evidence that proved that Slyven had murdered his father to inherit the position of tax collector. Slyven started spluttering protests, but it was too late. Two guards moved up behind him and clapped him in irons. Dejectedly, Slyven allowed himself to be led away quietly. But, as he turned to take one last look at his liege who he had served so faithfully, he saw something that put ice coursing through his veins. As the prisoner, Slyven, was being led out, the king was handing a heavy-looking bag to the two men who had accused him.
Slyven spent the next three years in a dark, dank, prison cell, brooding over that memory. He realized what happened, of course. The king, that dearest king that he had served so faithfully, had been at the bottom of this. Always before he had known to look to the top for corruption, but he had not imagined that it went that far up in the ranks of government. He saw what must be done. Gradually, by working in the prison kitchens, and by doing odd jobs for the guards, he gathered together a fine bit of gold, which he kept well hidden, of course. Once his stash had reached a large enough amount, Slyven put his plan into practice. Using that corruption which he had so long fought against to his advantage. Slowly, through large cash payments, Slyven worked his way out of the cells, and in to the position of a guard. He didn't just escape, as he well could have, becuase he knew he would most likely be killed. He was lucky enough to just get tossed into prison, instead of getting his head chopped off. This continued for some time, until, eventually, he became prison warden, of all things. The exact way that this was accomplished is a mystery. Some guards hint at dark things, murder and theft, but that is just the mumblings of the jealous. More likely, Slyven simply worked as he had always done once he became a guard.
Slyven has been a warden in one prison or another for over twenty years. He is no longer a young man, his body is beginning to fail, but his mind is as sharp as ever. He has recruited several others, all in the same line of work as he, to his cause, and together they have formed the Blackbirds. Omens of doom to the debauched king, and his vile entourage. They now work secretly in the cities and villages, trying to instill in the people a sense that the king is using them, and that he needs to be deposed. Needless to say, these men are running a great risk. If word of their activities should reach the king's ear, they would doubtless be hung as traitors, and their land and wealth seized by the state. Of course, they do take some precautions. For instance, no one is allowed into the meetings that are held monthly, unless they have the correct password. It is always the children's rhyme that graces the beginning of this narrative, with just one variable. The number of blackbirds sung. At each meeting, the number will be reset for the next one. So, one day it could be 'four and twenty', the next month 'two and fifty', and so forth.
The Blackbirds goals are quite simple to relate, and much harder to accomplish. They are to, one, depose the king, and either replace him with a just and fair successor, or to establish another type of government, such as a democracy. Secondly, all those who accepted bribes, or committed murder while in government employ, must be removed, and replaced with suitable candidates.
The Blackbirds welcome any help that they can get, but only after assuring themselves that it is not a government plant to expose them. The king, for his part, knows little of their activities, but if he was informed, he might just ask for a volunteer to go and root out this den of treason.
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? Responses (12)-12
Updated: Finished, and now being added as a Normal Submission.
I like it, another good idea from you.
Intriguing. The background holds little surprise, but the current situation has potential. Let me throw one question that seems to be unanswered: Why is it prison wardens?
One thing may be his job, but I'd like to think that it was a choice on his part. After all, if a prison warden is corrupt, it will sooner or later show. Also, they can learn much from the best sources on the crimes and immoralities of those in power, and sometimes can nudge their prisoners on a useful path...
You could have real fun with them.
Not bad. I agree with manfred's take, but this is certainly usable. An intriguing idea, prison wardens out to screw the king. Hmm, I may play around with this concept for my campaign.
I would be remiss if I didnt add that I like the name Blackbirds, for a secretive group, and the rhyme starter is one of my favorites because it reminds me of Agatha Christie :)
In some ways, this should of been two submissions - one with Slyven Sallind and one with the Blackbirds.
So why prison wardens? What special power do they have other than they have some mutual contact with each other? And how many prisons does this land have?
Why not military nobles, or clergy, or ???
Well you get the idea.
Above the comments on why, its pretty good, apart from the main character's survival. Why did the king simply not do away with him?
I have asked myself the same question concerning the Pharoah and Moses...
Maybe he thought prison would be a better and longer lasting, more drawn out punishment then an execution would be.
Why would a prisoner (accused of murder) become a guard? Why not just escape? What kind of "odd jobs" can a prisoner do to earn money from guards? Alot of this doesn't make much sense. I could see him bribing the guards to leave a gate or two open, but that is about it.
It's not unknown in real life for prisoners to become guards. It happened in the Nazi system (the "kapos") and in the Soviet Gulag system as well. And there used to be US prisons that used "trusties" as guards until they were shut down because of gross abuse.