From the filth-choked alleys of Ursk to the opium-wreathed parlours of Muir one can hear, if one has the keen ears to notice or the coin to purchase it, an ancient story told since before the Doom of Sybarra. A myth among cutpurses and throatcutters, the Three and Twenty Seven have moved through history like the spectre of death itself, noticeable only by the devastation they leave in their wake. Kings have been slain by their loyal subjects and unstoppable Sorcerers have leaped from their spires and all point towards a single source.
A secret fraternity of assassin-mathematicians capable of such numerological feats as to be able to predict the future itself. With the Three and Twenty-Seven, few things are known, not even their true numbers. The following are but rumours, fragments, glimpses in the ether or gibbering testimony from madmen who were found murdered in their cells.
These facts are considered known, though they may be wrong:
- The Three and Twenty Seven may be hired, but the fee is so steep it would beggar a kingdom. Knowledge, not gold, is said to be the thing they value most.
- No member of the Three and Twenty Seven ever wielded the dagger that murdered their target. So knowledgeable are they in the art of prediction that either a disaster is engineered beforehand (e.g a bridge is sabotaged, a chunk of masonry dislodged, a horse subtly crippled) or by bribery, manipulation and whispered words are those most trusted turned against the target.
- The Three and Twenty Seven are said to have existed since before the fall of Sybarra.
These facts are known only to a few, and are certainly distorted by time or deliberate deception:
- The Three and Twenty Seven are said to lair within a hollowed out mountain, attended by deaf-mute slaves bred for obedience.
- The Three and Twenty Seven do not kill merely for coin. Their targets are selected via a massive mathematical formula known as the Grand Equation, carved in imperishable metal of Pre-Sybarran origin. For years they will ponder, running calculations through a vast palace-sized computational device of cogs, driven by blinded slaves until they reach a conclusion.
- The Library of the Three and Twenty Seven is said to contain a copy of each work since before Sybarra, including the legendary Codex Cineres, the complete sixty eight treatises of Tarakan the Blind King, the Treatise of Iron and Night of the Harrow King of Ythmogh and the lost poetry of the Tso.
- The Three and Twenty Seven slay kingdoms as well as men. By manipulation of coin, trade, iron and marriage, they can bring about the Doom of empires.
- Attempts at consulting the higher heavens as to the nature of the Three and Twenty Seven always give contradictory answers. No one knows why.
These things are only hinted at in crumbling tomes kept in dust-choked vaults, buried under the sand.
- The Three and Twenty Seven are long dead, and their orders come purely from the computational device. Driven by slaves, it delivers unthinking algorythmic death to the realms of men without feeling or cognition.
- The Three and Twenty Seven are no magicians, but are possessed of a secret alchemical drug that can slow the vital functions to an almost deathlike state. A single day each year they awake, interpret the calculations and make their decisions, leaving their servants to carry out their will.
- The Three and Twenty Seven are servants of Final Night, abominations that have abandoned all pretence of humanity. Abasing themselves before empty plinths and faceless, formless idols, they work ceaselessly to ensure that the predicted Final Night may come about as soon as possible.
- The Three and Twenty Seven are said to groom their replacements by carefully managing different bloodlines, and by engineered calamity, ensuring that the recruit will be mentally suitable for induction before he is even collected. Afterwards, the kingdom or city from which he was recruited is inevitably destroyed.
Members of the Three and Twenty Seven function, broadly, as Assasins, though their death attack always takes days if not months of preparation. At higher levels, they gain the ability of numerological prediction, not unlike various divination related spells albeit it more time consuming. Further secrets are revealed as the Operative increases in level.