Our story starts in the city of Tengou, a city largely dominated by merchant houses seeking to secure their routes. While not the largest, House Bronzeflame is one of the more respected of these houses, due to the honor it has traditionally displayed.
Like most merchant houses, Bronzeflame maintains a standing body of guards, both traditional and elite. Also, like most houses, it has occasional needs that are not appropriately addressed by the skills and availability of these guards, which it supplements with temporary agents, usually drawn from the ranks of skilled mercenaries in the area. Those who prove trustworthy, loyal, and competent may find themselves with regular employment. Some even become closely enough associated with the House that it becomes difficult to tell where the interests of the House end and those of its retainers end. While this group is officially recognized by House Bronzeflame, it is informally organized and individuals are rarely publicly acknowledged. Indeed, most members are not even informed, privately, that they are considered to be part of this trusted circle. It is simply apparent to those who pay attention.
This paramilitary group is traditionally known as the Pearl Blades and the current leader is the eldest scion of House Bronzeflame, Ryota Bronzeflame, who displays all the honorable and duty-bound nature one would expect from such a position of authority. In recent years, however, people of taken to calling it the Pearl Court because Ryota's brother, Ryko, a dynamic individual and potent sorcerer, has been called on by his sister to help out with some functions that require his abilities. Ryko's love of life prompted many more… social… gatherings at the Laughing Dragon. Even though those included could not all be part of the Pearl Blades, the appellation stuck and Ryko is occasionally referred to as the Minister of the Pearl Court, much to Ryota's consternation.
During a solo outing that she thought would be relatively safe, Ryota was ambushed by a pack of goblins. Fortunately for her, Karina, a young tracker, had been following the goblins. Before anyone else could react, Karina had fired arrows into the two goblins closest to Ryota, killing them and scaring off the rest. Karina then helped Ryota to finish her task and returned to Tengou with her. When she was younger, Karina's clan had come from the northern steppes on business unknown to her, but she became separated from them and left behind. Being a foreigner, she was not readily accepted by the locals and she learned to fend for herself and live off the land, rather than turn to less savory trades. Despite her youth, Karina quickly won Ryota's trust and has become one of her preferred agents.
Dorn was the eldest son of a renowned weapon and armor smith in a distant city, but Dorn saw too many men who relied on these possessions in lieu of skill go to their deaths. He resolved to learn a better way and eventually found a master who taught him skill without relying on outside instruments. When his training came to the point where empty forms no longer suffice and he set out to test his mettle. He wandered, taking what work he could until he found a job being offered by a woman who carried one of the last great blades he had worked on with his father, when his father's craft was at its height. This woman, Ryota, appears to be honorable and possess a keen mind, but it remains to be seen whether she trusts the blade or hones her own skill. So far, she has found regular and interesting work for Dorn and the two have started to develop a mutual respect.
In preparation for a particularly difficult, deep trek into the wilderness, Karina made contact with Fox, a reclusive man of the wilds, to enlist his aid. Fox found the companions of that day to be more tolerable — and tolerant — than expected. He began to visit Tengou with ever increasing frequency to get news on happenings beyond his "territory" that may impact him. He also found it wise to have allies on which he could call. Truth be told, both Dorn and, especially, Ryko are willing to engage in pleasant metaphysical conversations after a couple glasses of wine.