The ASPECT Enigma
Nearing two decades ago, a mercenary organization called The BlackThorn Project was operating in Telflamm and the surrounding area. Early in its existence, the group began experimenting with a concept they coined ‘Scratching’ which involved kidnapping suitable children at a very young age (in many cases, birth) and raising them to be loyal and highly effective soldiers and agents within the organization.
A brilliant, but power-crazed and morally corrupt human tactician named Alarond Kelven inherited control of the group when his predecessor was
assassinated. He began making power plays into the city governments and also into criminal organizations such as the Shadowmasters and the Yakuza. At the same time he ramped up the use of the Scratching technique bringing in many new children, sometimes utilizing techniques even more heinous than kidnapping.
Kelven’s equally bright but much less morally corrupt lieutenant Akim Barrett, who at one point held the job of training and preparing the youths, began to question BlackThorn’s principles when Kelven ordered four scratch soldiers into a known ambush at the insistence of Yakuza power-player Ymju Ku-tan. Soldiers Barrett had come to care for. The situation amounted to almost certain death for the agents, but would solidify an ally among the Yakuza in Telflamm’s Shou-town for BlackThorn.
Barrett was unable to convince Kelven to change his mind and the soldiers met their wasteful fate. Soon after, he organized a split from BlackThorn with Zax Stormbow, the group’s weapon-master and senior agent; Brynne Shaughnessy, a young half-elf, who was a Scratch herself, and had been helping him with the raising of the orphans; and a number of other members who were likewise appalled when told of the incident. The group were also able to liberate a number of the young scratch candidates, probably saving them from lives wasted serving the malicious Kelven.
With a small group of uniquely skilled adventurers and a group of young children to raise, financially, the splinter group felt they had no choice but to continue working for a living doing the only things they really knew how.
A hundred miles to the east in the city of Phent, Barrett, Stormbow and Shaughnessy formed ASPECT, a similar underground organization, but with higher moral character and the added purpose of ridding the world of the evil Alarond Kelven and his BlackThorn minions.