Symbol: A laughing mask, crying tears of blood.
Disciplines: Tempest Gale.
Oath: A potential recruit of the Cirque de la Fumée is given many tests over the course of their training, sorting out their loyalty to the Cirque, their strengths, weaknesses, and ethics. Once the Cirque deems them either ready or unsuitable (unsuitable candidates are usually given high references to other shows, which are eager to snap up the Cirque de la Fumée’s rejects), the training ends. Those candidates offered a position are asked to swear their troth in the center of the big top at the witching hour, with their new family in attendance:
“I join a family that provides a service. I don’t have to agree; just support. I keep the secrets of my family, I protect them from outsiders, and I speak up when it is right to do so. Just as a magician never reveals his methods, neither will I, and may my faithless tongue shrivel and rot if I break faith.”
Allegiance Benefit: A Harlequin of the Cirque de la Fumée gains a +2 insight bonus on Perform (comedy), Sense Motive, and Sleight of Hand checks. In addition, she does not provoke attacks of opportunity for making ranged attacks with thrown weapons as part of a martial strike. She provokes attacks of opportunity as normal with other ranged weapons, or when not using a strike.
A Harlequin who violates her oath (such as by telling the secrets of the Cirque de la Fumée to outsiders without approval) loses these benefits (but not access to the Tempest Gale discipline) until she atones by spending a week in contrition and meditation or by persuading the Cirque de la Fumée to forgive her. In either case, she likely gets the beating of her life from her offended compatriots.
Description: The Cirque de la Fumée is a two-faced mercenary organization—literally. Operating as a small paramilitary force unto itself, the Cirque travels in the guise of traveling entertainment of the highest caliber. And that guise is true, in its own way; the Harlequins of the Cirque take pride in their performances, their feats of daring acrobatics, unexpected comedy, and storytelling. But its members are also warriors, assassins, and thieves, hired to solve problems with two promises to everyone who uses their services: the client will never be revealed, and the difficulty will be solved with grace and panache.
Two kinds of individual serve the Cirque de la Fumée. The main body—the performers—travel with the Cirque itself, put on shows, and move in the direction of employment. These members take pains to preserve the secrecy of the Cirque’s mercenary identity, shrouding its paramilitary dealings from outsiders even as they are hired out as soldiers, spies, and more. The other members, known as talent scouts, travel far and wide; these members handle recruitment, make contact with potential clients (always ensuring the anonymity of the Cirque itself), and are entrusted to handle difficult and dangerous jobs that require a lighter touch, or for which the Cirque is willing to cooperate with outsiders.
On the whole, the Cirque de la Fumée is fairly honorable. They don’t go back on their contracts, refund clients for failed jobs, and refuse jobs that require atrocities— which isn’t to say that they don’t have their darker side. When money is tight, or the story is intriguing enough, the Cirque is willing to assassinate, kidnap, and ruin lives. Individual members are expected to object and recuse themselves if they cannot stomach a job, and a passionate enough objection (assuming the Harlequin can rally her fellows) may lead to refusing the work. The Cirque de la Fumée always brings a personal touch to its duties, treating even war as performance art, and leaves a stunning variety of calling cards: posed bodies, fresh flowers, poetry, and more are all common. Others are sometimes unnerved by this ritualistic behavior, which is just how the Cirque likes it.
Common Tasks: Harlequins do the jobs they’re given; theft, war, recon, assassination, performances, and more are all on the list. Adventuring Harlequins tend to be talent scouts, which also makes them responsible for recruitment, diplomacy, and negotiating fees with potential clients—as well as revenge against those who go back on their word. Cheating the Cirque de la Fumée is not recommended.
Available Services: Training, equipment, and the ability to lay low for an indefinite period of time are the most consistent services provided by the Cirque de la Fumée, but access to former clients, exotic goods, and backup come in a close second. Because Harlequins are also performers, the Cirque is talented at providing distractions (for a small fee) for its members, especially for high-profile crimes or jobs that can be used to add to their mystique.
Path of War – Expanded, © 2016, Dreamscarred Press.