Brotherhood of Lest
The Brotherhood of Lest is an organised gang of professional robbers and murderers active within the bounds of the Ancient Midlands and the Old East. The Brotherhood is reputed to comprise of masters of lies and deception who offer up their crimes and deceits as a sacrifice to the God Lest in return for his blessings. For this reason, members of the Brotherhood are normally referred to as Deceivers.
In an example of a typical operation. the Brotherhood would join travellers and gain their confidence; this would allow them to surprise and strangle the travellers with a handkerchief or noose. They would then rob and bury their victims.
Membership sometimes passes from father to son, as part of a criminal underclass. The leadership of established Deceiver groups tend to be hereditary, as the group has evolved into a criminal tribe - hence the term brotherhood. Other men would become acquainted with a Deceiver band and hope to be recruited as the Brotherhood is respected and feared by the criminal community and has a camaraderie of numbers and shared experience. Robbery for the Brotherhood is less the choice born of desperation than a vocation.
Originally from Alalehzamin, the Brotherhood is believed to have begun after the 1490s when demobilised Babkhan mercenaries were left to fend for themselves, which they did by resorting to brigandage. When the Emir of Lesser Zjandaria despaired of their continued lawlessness he responded by hanging the worst offenders and expelling their families northwards into Utasia.
When the Great Famine of Elwynn struck, these communities were once again uprooted and forced onto the road in search of money and food with which to survive. It was in these hunger years that the ancestors of what became the brotherhood resorted to cannibalism. The consumption of human flesh would, in later years, become their most secret and powerful sacrament.
Although originally Babki, the murderous itinerants gradually began to recruit from amongst the Elw and in so doing began to assimilate elements of their culture, albeit in a distorted and perverted sense. For instance the veneration of the God Lest, considered by most religions worshipped by the Twelve Peoples of Elwynn to be a demonic entity.
It was during the reign of Duke Harald that the Brotherhood first learned its taste for subterfuge. The Duke had unleashed his force of Huskarls to impose his peace upon the highways of the realm and after a series of gruesome defeats and stinging ambushes, those brigands who had survived were the ones who had learned to disseminate and to conceal their acts.
The usual tactic of the Deceivers in earlier times was to join a party as fellow travellers, pilgrims and trade caravans being an especial favourite, delaying their attack until the other travellers lost their initial wariness of the newcomers. Depending on the size of the target group, it might take hundreds of miles to reach a suitable place and time. There were variations on this method. When tackling a large group, a Deceivers might string themselves out along a route and join in stages as the target party passed along their way, concealing their acquaintanceship and eventually outnumbering their intended victims in small, non-threatening increments. If the travellers doubted any one party, they might confide their worries to another group of deceivers; the trusted band would be best placed to deal with the cautious members of the party at the appropriate time, or advise their colleagues to modify their behaviour to allay suspicion.
More recently the Deceivers have come to specialise in the infiltration of organisations and the running of confidence scams aimed at defrauding the unwary and credulous. Murder in the traditional manner is no-longer the most lucrative source of revenue for the Brotherhood but many Deceivers continue to indulge for the sake of tradition and in order to keep their skills sharp.