The Silver Strike Guild
by Christopher Campbell, Dragon #307
Palav hunched low in the saddle, urging his mount into a dive. The pegasus folded its wings and dropped like a stone; the two plummeted toward the ground. "Now!" Palav cried, and he began chanting, arcane energy crackling between his fingertips. The pegasus unfurled her wings and reared back, slowing her descent. Palav pointed, his lightning bolt flying true. "Gotcha!"
Palav chuckled as he watched the rider fall. "Well, at least for once his mount will feast well." He tugged lightly on the pegasus' reins as his opponent's griffon swooped down toward its former master's remains.
Dedicated to the principle of species equality, the Silver Strike Guild specializes in the liberation of oppressed mounts, specifically those with the ability to fly. Members and guildhalls of the Silver Strike Guild are scattered throughout the multiverse and on several Material Plane worlds. With intelligent winged creatures of all types as members, as well as specialized magic for use in mounted combat, Silver Strikers (as members are called) are tenacious opponents, but also valued comrades, guards, and guides.
The origins of the Silver Strike Guild lie in the past of its guildfather, Hasken Maeke. Shielded from human society by his mother, his natural curiosity and a desire to fit in moved Hasken to seek society out. Met only by prejudice and distrust toward his unusual origins, he retreated from civilization, losing himself in the untamed wilderness. For years he wandered the world, pursuing adventure and improving his skills, but always feeling disconnected from his surroundings.
And then, a chance encounter with a mysterious creature changed Hasken's life. One morning, as he lay looking up at the clouds drifting across the endless expanse of blue, a streak of silver caught his eye. Darting, dipping, and spinning through the air, the silver creature performed an aerial ballet that was beautiful and intriguing. Hasken followed the creature until it came to rest on a riverbank, and it was there Hasken took a good, long look.
As silver as the underbelly of a high-flying cloud, with the body of a powerful horse and the feathery wings of a noble eagle, Hasken immediately recognized the creature as a pegasus. However, the pegasus's coloring and the speed and grace with which it soared through the air were more dazzling than he imagined. Carefully, he crept closer to better observe the beast as it drank from the river. When he was about thirty yards away, the pegasus raised its head and spoke.
That conversation marked the beginning of the Silver Strike Guild. The language the pegasus spoke was the same tongue Hasken's mother had used to sing him to sleep at night when he was young . . . a breathy, lilting language like a whispering breeze on a summer night. Hasken understood the creature's language - the language of air elementals. The creature's name was Bolt, and the two talked into the night and well into the next morning about the past, the present, and the future.
That conversation opened up the multiverse to Hasken, as Bolt told him about the Elemental Plane of Air, about air elementals (from whom Hasken must be descended, since he understood the language), air element pegasi (of which Bolt was one), and about the wondrous freedom and exhilaration of soaring through the open sky. Confused but excited by all he heard, Hasken invited Bolt to return with him to his mother's home, where he hoped to confirm Bolt's suspicions about his origin. Hasken's adventures and wanderings had taken him far from his mother's home, and so his return home would be a long one. The journey cemented the two beings' friendship, and by the time Hasken and Bolt reached the village where Hasken's mother lived, the two were a formidable adventuring group.
Unfortunately, Hasken found his mother dying. Wishing to free herself from a secret long kept from her son, she told Hasken of her past. She was born in Blurophil, a city on the Elemental Plane of Air. She fled that city with several others to a world on the Material Plane, both to escape the strange disease known as the Iron Shadow and to conceal the shame of her unplanned pregnancy. When Bolt spoke with her in Auran, the language of air elementals, about the eradication of the Iron Shadow and the wonders of the Plane of Air that she had abandoned, a great peace came over her, and she died with a smile on her lips. Armed with the truth of his nature, a loyal companion and guide, and no more ties to the material world, Hasken set out for the Inner Planes and more adventure.
Over the next several years, Hasken and Bolt hired themselves out as guides, bodyguards, and messengers to those with need of such services on the Elemental Plane of Air. Occasional jobs took them to other planes of existence or back to the Material Plane, and they made contacts and forged many friendships throughout the multiverse. Wherever the two traveled, however, Bolt was always the subject of prejudice and callous disregard. Because he looked like a horse with wings, that is how others treated him; most people assumed he belonged to Hasken instead of the two being partners, and even though the pegasus could speak, he was summarily ignored. This arrogance on the part of bipeds irked both comrades, and they made it a point in their business dealings to stress the equality of their relationship, even going so far as to let Bolt do all the talking.
The diplomatic approach fell on deaf ears. To be sure, a few rangers, druids, and other creatures sided with the companions, agreeing that all sentient beings - regardless of appearance - should be treated equally, but scattered individuals could not affect real change. Hasken and Bolt recruited those with a like mindset, settled down in Blurophil, and officially began the Silver Strike Guild.
The first goal of the fledgling organization was the dismantling of the aerial mount industry. Both Hasken and Bolt were horrified by the trade in giant eagle and giant owl eggs and young, which boiled down to slavery in the companions' eyes. Both avian species were sentient and able to speak - many could speak Common - yet they were bought and sold on an open market as beasts of burden. The Silver Strike Guild used a combination of money, strong-arm tactics, and political leverage to eliminate the trade in Blurophil altogether, earning creatures with the ability to communicate a voice in the local government. Bolstered by its success, the Silver Strike Guild extended its influence into neighboring communities, garnered more members, and continued promoting its agenda of species equality.
To generate income for the pursuit of its goals, the Silver Strike Guild offers a number of services, from simple deliverymen to bodyguards to bounty hunters. Fees start at 10 gp per member per day (mounts count as members). Magical or mundane aerial transportation for the client costs extra, ranging from 50 gp per day for a transport mount to 1,800 gp per day for the use of a carpet of flying. The client is responsible for all guild members' room and board. Supplies and equipment can be purchased directly from the guild, packed and ready to go. If planar travel is involved, the client is expected to provide a route and all necessary portal keys. While the guild offices have various means of transport between their locations, use of that network is not available to clients.
Size And Resources
The Silver Strike's main guildhall is located in Blurophil, on the Elemental Plane of Air, and 130 members are present at any one time. While Blurophil cannot be considered a metropolis by any means, the regular use of planar portals allows more goods and people to pass through the community than normal for its size, and that is reflected in available resources. At any given time, the Silver Strike Guild can afford to spend 50,000 gp per week in the pursuit of its goals.
Alignment And Leadership
Official policies of the Silver Strike Guild reflect a lawful neutral outlook, but members of any alignment are welcome, provided they follow the Code of Conduct (see Joining the Silver Strike Guild) and obey the various guild masters. While all guild offices are officially subject to policy dictated by the guildhall in Blurophil, most are free to operate independently as their individual guild masters see fit. Once a year, guild masters are expected to journey to Blurophil for an annual review of expenses, dues, and other guild business. All guild members are expected to obey the orders of the guild master under whose jurisdiction they are operating.
Hasken Maeke (see below) is the official head of the Silver Strike, despite his advanced age. An imposing seventy-year-old with a shock of white hair and blue-within-blue eyes, he is content to dabble in local politics and officiate at guild functions, leaving the actual management of the guild to his sons. His word is law, however, and the organization obeys his wishes.
Bolt, Hasken's loyal comrade and mount, is husband, father, grandfather, or great-grandfather to most of the air element pegasi of the Blurophil branch, although new pegasi are joining to help strengthen the bloodline. Nearing the end of his days much like his good friend, Hasken, Bolt is preparing to pass the mantle of leadership to his son, Streak. Bolt represents the interests of the non-biped members of the guild, both locally and abroad.
Hasken Maeke, male half-air elemental/half-human Rgr17: CR 19; Medium-size outsider (5 ft. 7 in. tall); HD 17d10; hp 98; Init +4; Spd 30 ft.; AC 14 (+2 spell resistance (15) leather armor), touch 10, flat-footed 14; Atk +15/+10/+5/+0 melee (1d8/19-20 and 2d6 chaotic damage to lawful creatures, +7 chaotic longsword) and +15 melee (1d6/19-20 and +2d6 lawful damage to chaotic creatures, +7 lawful short sword), or +17/+17/+12/+7/+2 ranged (1d6+1/x3 and +1d6 cold, +1 icy burst composite shortbow and +1 arrows); SA favored enemy (orcs +4, dragons +3, aberrations +2, undead +1), spell-like abilities; SQ fight with two weapons, immunities, +4 bonus to saves against poison; AL N; SV Fort +10, Ref +5, Will +8; Str 9, Dex 11, Con 11, Int 17, Wis 16, Cha 17.
Skills and Feats: Animal Empathy +23, Concentration +7, Handle Animal +25, Knowledge (nature) +23, Knowledge (the planes) +13. Ride (pegasus) +22, Wilderness Lore +23; Far Shot, Improved Initiative, Mounted Archery, Mounted Combat, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Rapid Shot, Track.
Fight with Two Weapons: Has the Ambidexterity and Two-Weapon Fighting feats when wearing light armor or no armor.
Immunities: Immune to cold effects and disease.
Spell-like Abilities (Sp): 1/day - air walk, chain lightning, control weather, control winds, elemental swarm*, gaseous form, obscuring mist, whirlwind, and wind wall. These abilities are as the spells cast by a 17th-level sorcerer (save DC 13 + spell level).
*Cast as a cold spell only.
Spells Prepared (3/3/3/1; base DC = 13 + spell level): 1st - pass without trace, read magic, return to the saddle. 2nd - cure light wounds, protection from elements (fire), snare; 3rd - neutralize poison, remove disease, water walk; 4th - freedom of movement.
Languages: Auran, Common, Draconic, Orc.
Possessions: +2 spell resistance (15) leather armor, +1 chaotic longsword, +1 lawful short sword, quiver of Ehlonna containing fifty +1 arrows and a +1 icy burst composite shortbow, iridescent spindle ioun stone, potion of cure light wounds, potion of fly, potion of jump.
Bolt, male air element pegasus Ftr2: CR 6; Large elemental (air); HD 4d8+12 (air element pegasus) and 2d10+6 (fighter); hp 42; Init +3, Spd 60 ft., fly 120 ft. (perfect); AC 20 (-1 size. +3 Dex, +5, +1 chain shirt barding, +3 natural), touch 12, flat-footed 17; Atk +10 melee (1d6+4, 2 hooves) and +5 melee (1d3+2, bite); Face/Reach 5 ft./10 ft.; SA air mastery; SQ scent, spell-like abilities, elemental, darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; AL N; SV Fort +10, Ref +7, Will +4; Str 18, Dex 17, Con 16, Int 10, Wis 13, Cha 13.
Skills and Feats: Listen +12, Sense Motive +7, Spot +12, Wilderness Lore +7; Combat Reflexes, Flyby Attack, Iron Will, Weapon Focus (bite, hoof).
Air Mastery (Ex): Airborne creatures suffer a -1 penalty on attack and damage rolls against an air element creature.
Elemental: Immune to poison, sleep, paralysis, and stunning. Not subject to critical hits.
Scent (Ex): An air element pegasus can detect approaching enemies, sniff out hidden foes, and track by sense of smell.
Spell-like Abilities (Sp): Air element pegasi can detect good and detect evil at will within a 60-yard radius, as the spells cast by a 5th-level sorcerer.
Possessions: +1 chain shirt barding.
Membership And Demographics
Rangers form the bulk of the Silver Strike Guild's members, as Hasken recruits those individuals with a kindred spirit. Effie Suresaddle (female halfling Bbn2/Clr3/Rgr5) is one such example; hailing from Waterdeep, on the planet Toril, she spends much of her time working with hippogriffs on the Elemental Plane of Air. Tolden Maeke (male air genasi Rgr12), the oldest son of Hasken and Vellia, oversees the training of new recruits in aerial combat, riding skills, and general guild practices; his four lieutenants (male human Rgr6) each command a group of ten 1st-level rangers of assorted races.
Druids, with their affinity for all creatures, support the goal of the Silver Strike Guild. Shimmer (female air element pegasus Drd5) is the most outspoken of the lot, protesting the subjugation of familiars by wizards and sorcerers. She claims the bonding process is often performed against the creature's will. Liata (female air genasi Drd2) serves as Shimmer's hands, and together they offer instruction to no less than twenty-four 1st-level druids, mostly half-elves and halflings from the Material Plane.
Sorcerers are drawn to the Silver Strike Guild much more than wizards, perhaps because the inherent magic within their veins earns sorcerers prejudice similar to that suffered by non-bipeds. One such sorcerer is Sitheag McBane (female fiendish harpy Sorg), who hails from the planar city of Rigus, on the Concordant Domain of the Outlands. While nominally loyal to the guild as a whole, she long ago paid to have her mark of Justice removed (see Joining the Silver Strike); a silver lightning bolt tattoo on her left ankle serves to make fellow guild members none the wiser. Strangely enough, Sitheag's closest friend is Riiaw (male giant eagle Sor6), whom Hasken rescued from the auction block in the guild's fledgling days. A 3rd-level air genasi sorcerer assists each, and together these strange feathered friends guide the arcane development of a mixed group of nineteen 1st-level sorcerers.
Tierlane Pasquale (male half-elf Brd13), a planar bard of some note, is an ardent supporter of the Silver Strike Guild and crafts wondrous ballads about the guild's deeds, advertising the group's cause and attracting customers. Bolderan the Bugler (male dwarf Brd6) serves as the Silver Strike's official herald in Blurophil, and two sisters (female human Brd3) accompany him on drums at special ceremonies. Nine 1st-level bards round out the Silver Strike's messenger system - three human, three half-elf, and three halfling.
Of course, covert operations are necessary from time to time, especially if a mount needs to be liberated from its "owner." Enter the self-styled Silent Stalker (male half-black dragon/half-human Rog9). He heads up an elite team of five 1st-level rogues (three human and two halfling) and two 2nd-level rogues (both giant eagles), assisted by the beautiful and deadly White Orchid (female air genasi Rog4).
Spiritual guidance for the Silver Strikers comes from a variety of sources. Vellia Maeke (female air genasi Clr15) is Hasken's wife and the mother of Tolden and Parthen. A powerful cleric and her husband's junior by twenty years, she expects to take his place as head of the guild when Hasken finally passes. Justin au'Lock (male human Pal3) serves as her bodyguard and attendant. Luntr Hraldsson (male cloud giant Adp9) journeys to Blurophil regularly from Himinborg, a planar city on the Heroic Domains of Ysgard, with his message of equality and tolerance. Occasionally, he journeys to the Material Plane as well and assists in establishing remote waystations. A 4th-level adept and two 2nd-level adepts (all air genasi) minister to members as well, and a pair of giant eagles newly invested with divine ability (Adp1) hold themselves as proof that the gods support equality of the species.
Rounding out the Silver Strikers of Blurophil are Parthen Maeke (male air genasi Wiz14), Garrison Mardor (male human Ftr12), and Pontius Fileates (male human Ari7). Parthen is Tolden's younger brother, and he spends much of his time in research, both mundane and magical. He shaves his head bald and wears his mark of justice proudly on his forehead. Parthen has a contingency spell in effect at all times that triggers a minor globe of invulnerability if he is ever caught within the boundaries of an area effect spell not cast by himself. Garrison calls the Free City of Greyhawk home and has a special bond with griffons. He and Effie Suresaddle do not get along, although they remain civil to each other. Pontius is the Silver Strike's "ace in the hole," as it were; he sits on the city council and works diligently to promote the guild's cause. Completely smitten with Vellia, Pontius hopes the beautiful air genasi will accept his hand in marriage when Hasken meets his maker.
Silver Strike Guild Statistics
Silver Strike Guild (medium): AL LN; 50,000 gp resource limit; Membership 130; Integrated (human 37, half-elf 20, air genasi 18, halfling 10, giant eagle 7, air element pegasus 5, other 3).
Authority Figures: Hasken Maeke, male half-air elemental/half-human Rgr17; Bolt, male air element pegasus Ftr2.
Important Characters: Bolderan the Bugler, male mountain dwarf Brd6; Effie Suresaddle, female halfling Bbn2/Clr3/Rgr5; Garrison Mardor, male human Ftr12; Justin au'Lock, male human Pal3; Liata, female air genasi Drd2; Luntr Hraldsson, male cloud giant Adp9 Ming, female human Brd3 Farthen Maeke, male air genasi Wiz4 Pontius Fileates, male human Ari7; Riiaw, male giant eagle Sor6; Shimmer, female air element pegasus Drd5; Silent Stalker, male half-black dragon/half-human Rog9; Sitheag McBane, female fiendish harpy Sor9; Tierlane Pasquale, male half-elf Brd13; Tolden Maeke, male air genasi Rgrl2; Vas, female human Brd3; Vellia Maeke, female air genasi Clr15; White Orchid, female air genasi Rog4.
Others: Integrated; Rgr6 (4), Rgr1 (40), Drd1 (24), Sor3 (2), Sor1(19), Brd1 (9), Rog2 (2), Rog1 (5), Adp4 (1), Adp2 (2), Adp1 (2).
Code Of Conduct
- 1. Do not assume that appearance dictates intelligence; all creatures have rights.
- 2. Do not suffer injustice to thrive for any creature, whether scaled, furred, or feathered.
- 3. Duty before all else; the needs of the organization outweigh the needs of the individual.
- 4. Respect your equals and superiors; show courtesy to your lessers.
- 5. Loyalty and devotion are gifts that keep on giving; support your fellow members, and they will support you.
Joining The Silver Strike Guild
The first step in joining the Silver Strike Guild is making an appearance at the guild office. Prospective recruits are evaluated on riding ability, combat prowess, the ability to work as part of a team, and general compatibility with those mounts that are available. Applicants with their own mounts are given first consideration for membership, but both the rider and mount are evaluated separately - it is not unknown for a mount to be accepted and its rider denied entrance to the guild membership. In such a case, the guild "purchases" the mount from its owner; while Silver Strike Guild does not believe in the legitimacy of the ownership, they realize many people simply do not know any better.
Despite this preference for members who already have mounts, plenty of new recruits include individuals who believe in the ideas of the Silver Strike Guild but who have not yet had a chance to befriend a flying creature. The same is true of those flying creatures who have not yet bonded closely enough with a member of another species to accept them as a rider. In both cases, promising members are accepted, and the guild works diligently on their behalf to pair rider and mount together.
If accepted, a one-time entrance fee of 5,000 gp and yearly dues of 500 gp must be paid. This ensures that a new recruit is not taking advantage of the specialized training with no intention of serving the guild. If an applicant cannot afford the entrance fee or dues, she may work toward paying them by performing small guild jobs without the benefit of official guild status. Typical assignments are message delivery, caravan guard duty, the hunting down of a member who has turned against the guild, or a simple trip to fetch exotic feed or spell components.
All Silver Strikers are expected to follow the Code of Conduct to the best of their ability, and to obey their superiors. Any that cannot or will not do so are stripped of their benefits and declared an enemy of the guild. If the former member's mount is not of a like mind, the guild makes an effort to liberate the "hostage," using extreme force if necessary.
The last tenet of the Code of Conduct is enforced through a variant mark of justice. The silver lightning bolt that represents the spell identifies all members. The tenet of the mark is simple - do not knowingly harm another member of the Silver Strike Guild. Since mounts are classified as guild members, abuse or neglect of one's mount will trigger the mark of justice.
Training is provided for members in all areas relating to riding and mounted combat. While mounts cooperate for training sessions, they have an equal voice when it comes to choosing a rider for assignments; if it cannot otherwise communicate its opinion, a speak with animals or tongues spell is used to ensure the mount and rider accept each other.
All members have salvage rights for any job, and they can expect free room and board from the nearest guild office, if such is available. Cure, raise dead, or resurrection spells are likewise provided to those members injured or killed while on a job, but again, only where there is someone to provide such services. If a member can no longer perform his or her duties due to a permanent injury, that member is retired and receives a monthly stipend of 100 gp. Irrecoverable members have their retirement stipend sent to kinfolk or put back into the guild fund.