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Holy Slayers of al-Kalim

by Aleksei Andrievski

This is a letter and a package of documents sent by Hajisa Mabharat, a Glantrian spy in the Emirates of Ylaruam, to Prince Urmahid Krinagar of Bramyra. Hajisa has not been heard from again.

"To my noble lord Krinagar, I, his most humble servant, send greetings. I have progressed well with your last assignment, infiltrating deep into Ylari society and discovering secrets untold. One such secret I present onto you now, my lord. It is a collection of writings set on parchment, which detail a society so secret, so sinister, that even most Ylari wise men are unaware of its existence. My lord shall, of course, judge for himself the usefulness of such knowledge. The author of these documents is one Mahmud al-Nusri, a sage who mysteriously disappeared a few years ago. The information herein should be perused with caution, my lord, for al-Nusri was known to supply fiction where he could not explain the facts."

On the nature of the Khinjar al-Sahraa

In my researches I have discovered a society by the name of Khinjar al-Sahraa, or the Desert Dagger Brotherhood. The Brotherhood is a highly secretive society of men and women who fanatically follow the teachings of holy al-Kalim. These hashishin strike from the shadows to slay those who would speak or act against the will of al-Kalim or his clerics. It is important to note that these slayers are not the same as assassins of infidel lands, for they do not work for money, nor do they necessarily strike quietly. Indeed, these people work motivated only by their religious beliefs, and they oft perform their deeds in broad daylight, before a crowd of people. As they slay only those daring to oppose the Eternal Truth, their wrath is most often targeted at foreigners who somehow offend al-Kalim. However, they are extremely fanatical, and it is often enough to utter a wrong word to earn the hashishin's anger.

On the Brotherhood's methods and techniques

The Desert Dagger is ever watchful for blasphemers all over the Emirates, and once such a one is detected, their punishment is swift and merciless. From the lowly beggar, to the mightiest emir, none are safe from their far-reaching hands.

The hashishin, as said above, often perform their slayings in public, as this not only dissuades others from repeating the target's mistakes, but also ensures the slayer's place in Paradise through martyrdom (for the slayer is most likely captured and kills himself). The slayers often wear white caftans, sometimes also a red sash and turban (this attire is common enough so that a person wearing those clothes doesn't necessarily belong to the Brotherhood). Female slayers (and even some males) often wear veils, out of devoutness and for concealing their features.

Some more skilful and high-ranking hashishin can also slay in secret, for they are judged too valuable to the Brotherhood to be captured. Of course, the most skilful ones can slay in public and still get away. Sometimes it is also necessary to slay covertly if the target is otherwise well guarded.

Slayers' preferred assassination weapon is the jambiya, a curving dagger. If they intend to challenge a foe to honourable combat, they carry a scimitar (yes, they sometimes challenge an enemy openly, if he is a native Ylari who has demonstrated honour in the past). The Brotherhood generally frowns on the use of poison, as it is considered cowardly and dishonourable. The slayers also use some unique magical items, especially those aiding in disguise and stealth.

The slayers greatly rely on achieving surprise in performing the slaying. This is another reason why they often kill in public, for it is easier to creep up on a victim in a throng of people than on an empty street. The hashishin are quite skilful in concealing their weapons, so the target has no clue of anything until the dagger is in his guts.

As has been said before, the holy slayers are fanatical in their pursuit of their target, and they never give up until either they or their target is dead. If the need arises, the slayer may infiltrate the target's organisation or circle of friends, sometimes spending months or even years trying to get into the victim's confidence. It may come as a great surprise to the target when a long-time friend plunges a dagger into his heart. The slayer will relentlessly pursue his victim into foreign lands, if need be.

The slayers' targets are quite varied. They are the people who for some reason have spoken or acted against the teachings of al-Kalim. This most often means foreigners, especially clerics of other Immortals who come to Ylaruam as missionaries seeking to spread the word of their faith. The slayers do not usually kill insignificant offenders such as lowly peasants who merely utter a subconscious curse. However, should such a peasant start bad-mouthing al-Kalim at every turn, he is sure to be marked for death. The Brotherhood also reserves a particular hatred for mages, whom they consider greatest infidels, and will sometimes try to slay them even without any offence. Magian Fire Worshippers are the Brotherhood's mortal enemies.

On the organisation of the Desert Dagger

The leader of the Desert Dagger is a mysterious figure known as the Grandfather and the Shadow Sultan. Little is known about him, except that his power over the hashishin is absolute.

Below the Grandfather are the da'is, who are among the most powerful slayers. They seldom kill, for their job is to control and coordinate the actions of lesser Brothers.

The next layer are the rafiqs, who are skilful slayers overseeing a particular city. They may take a job if success is vital.

The fedayeen (sing. fidai) are the active members, who actually perform most slayings. The lowest members are the lasiqs, or novices, who have just joined and are still "on probation".

All slayers are required to take a vow of secrecy upon joining the Brotherhood. They never reveal anything about their organisation, which adds to the terror of their targets since there is little information available. After taking the vow, the slayer is magically marked by the Grandfather's efreeti to signify his membership. Every slayer wears a special ring which further ensures the silence: should any slayer try to reveal any information about the Brotherhood, or attempt to remove the ring (even under magical influence), it will teleport the wearer into the dungeons of the Brotherhood's fortress, where the efreeti will be waiting to torture the traitor (the ring works only for marked members).

The Brotherhood's fortress is located somewhere in a secluded valley in Altan Tepes (on Ylaruam's side). It is heavily protected by magic and illusions (cast by the efreeti), and many slayers guard it. There are also some allied clerics of al-Kalim, but no mages, of course. The Grandfather lives here and never leaves. His da'is are also found here for the most part.

When time comes to slay, the Grandfather passes on the command to the appropriate rafiq through his da'is. The rafiq then either does the job himself or selects a lesser slayer who is fit for it. For less important slayings, the Grandfather's command is not required, and it may originate with a da'is or a rafiq. Fedayeen may even act on their own if they are absolutely sure of their cause.

When a slayer receives "the call", it comes from his rafiq, usually at night. The rafiq speaks a code phrase and tells the time and place for a meeting (the phrase is different in different cities and at different times, but the slayer always knows it beforehand). At the meeting, when he is sure of privacy, the rafiq explains the assignment to the slayer, and usually changes the code phrase for the next assignment. The slayer is then free to plan and execute the assassination however he sees fit.

As it is, the holy slayers are disliked in Ylaruam, since most normal people consider murder in the name of al-Kalim to be contrary to the Immortal's teachings. Should the Kin Faction come into power, I fear for the Emirates, as surely the hashishin would be praised as heroes.

Game notes

1.Jambiya's stats are the same as a daggers, except it does 1d4+1 damage, weighs 20 cn and cannot be thrown. A scimitar's stats are the same as a normal sword's.

2.The DM should penalise the target's surprise roll depending on how well the slayer has concealed himself and his weapon.

3.A slayer has the same chance to conceal a small weapon as the Pick Pockets skill of a thief of the same level. Normal men have the same chance as a 1st-level thief.

4.The Grandfather's name is Hasan i-Sabbah, though this and his appearance are known only to a circle of most trusted lieutenants. Hasan is a level 36 thief of Lawful (LE) alignment. He is about 60 years old, and is so far the first Grandfather (since the Brotherhood existed only since about year 995 AC). Hasan's pet efreeti, Mahraban, is a cruel being who enjoys bullying and torture. He is fanatically loyal to the Brotherhood.

I have based this on the Everlasting, a holy slayer group in Al-Qadim campaign. For more information on the slayers, see Assassin Mountain, a wonderful supplement to that campaign.