Ander stared at the four adventurers sitting at the other side of the table, sizing them up. A human, two elves, and a half-orc. He sighed. His last Seeker team was six-strong. Of course, the last time he saw his former team was when half of them were discovered thirty miles away from their objective. Their upper halves, to be specific.
He laid some papers on the table. “You’re almost finished with the paperwork,” he said with the dull tone of a man who had gone through this process a hundred times. “Just sign these and you’ll be ready for your first assignment.”
Confirmation of Syndicate Employment
Crimson Hand Division
___ I accept that by viewing this form, I have seen classified information and must either accept this position or willfully subject myself to immediate termination.
___ I have been informed of the dangers presented by assignment to the Crimson Hand, including (but not limited to) death by impalement, flame, drowning, acid, devouring, plague, poison, falling, crushing, decapitation, arcane powers, explosion, psionics, possession, electrocution, Syndicate termination, and/or cancer.
___ I understand that certain clandestine operations of the Syndicate, which may directly involve me, are of the utmost secrecy and must not be spread to public knowledge. I accept that the leaking of any information regarding the Syndicate and its existence will result in my immediate termination.
___ I understand that many Crimson Hand duties involve paranormal or supernatural artifacts. I will not interact with any such artifacts outside of specific mission parameters. Any unauthorized use of artifacts is grounds for immediate termination.
The mercenaries silently read through the document, each signing their name at the bottom. The half-orc watched the others uncomfortably, shifting in his seat. When he noticed them signing the papers, he drew some crude squiggles on his own sheet and handed it in. Ander looked at the brutish, lumbering barbarian for a moment. He decided not to question it.
“Very well then,” he said when they were finished. “You may now consider yourselves Initiates of the Crimson Hand. I have your first assignment here, but there are some things to go over first.” He cleared his throat to prepare for the speech. “The Crimson Hand is a branch of the Syndicate, which officially doesn’t exist. Because of this, you must be somewhat discrete in your actions.” He paused, staring at the half-orc for a moment. The human chuckled.
“You will act as a Seeker team. Seekers are tasked with securing anomalies that the Hand has deemed…problematic. You will be briefed with whatever intelligence our field agents have dug up on the target before we send you out. If the objective is an artifact, you are to retrieve it and bring it back here. In the case of other anomalous entities, you may be asked to neutralize it. Whatever the assignment, follow your orders.
“My name is Ander, and I will be your team’s handler. I’m your connection to the higher-ups in the Syndicate. I’ll give you your assignments, as well as any special equipment the Hand thinks you’ll need. Speaking of which…” He reached into his coat and took out three identical scrolls, setting them on the table. “These are your link back to me. Each one will establish a two-way telepathic connection from you to me for sixty seconds, no matter where you are. Use them to check in throughout your mission, and I’ll give you updated objectives and any other information that might help. You have to initiate the link, though, so don’t forget about them.”
The human raised his hand half-mockingly. “What’s the pay?”
“There is no pay. You’re doing the world a service!” Ander waited for a moment, looking at the group’s scowling faces. “Yeah, no one ever buys that. Well there’s no real pay. We don’t deal in gold. What you will get is a handful of reward vouchers. When you’re here at the stronghold, you can redeem those with the quartermaster. He’s got a pretty typical armory at his disposal, but he also keeps a stock of magic items, and sometimes we even get anomalous artifacts that the Hand says are okay to use. But none of that applies to you yet. You’re just Initiates. Once you complete your first assignment to prove yourselves, then you can see the armory.”
One of the elves spoke up. “Alright then,” he said. “Let’s get started.”
Ander drew a small stack of papers from his coat and smiled. “Let’s.”