The Curved Daggers
Welcome back, students. We have recently completed our review of the castes of Demons. Before that, we discussed Elhal’s ancient history, the rise of the Empire, and its Fall to the Demons. Before we get into the next major era, The Reign and Fall of the Demon King, I want to spend the next few lectures discussing the major groups and institutions which will play a pivotal role during the Reign of the Demon King and his eventual Fall. Once we have discussed all of the major groups, we will return the discussion to history, and see how these institutions contributed to the eventual Fall of the Demon King.
Today we will start with the Curved Daggers, the organization of Imperial Assassins commanded by the Emperor to help keep the peace of the Empire. We will discuss their formation, the rules that bound them, their tragic fall, and how they existed during the reign of the Demon King.
To understand the Curved Daggers, we have to look at Emperor Telhon. Telhon was the 9th Emperor in the Imperial line. His reign started earlier than expected, when his Mother, the Empress Kaliana, died of the three-fevers. Kaliana coddled Telhon, some suspect because of her difficulties in bearing children.
As a ruler, Telhon was terrible. His concerns were on his creature comforts, and not in service to the Empire. He spent vast sums of money building new palaces, adorning himself in jewelry, and throwing large parties. To fund this extravagant lifestyle, Telhon increased taxes throughout the Empire. The Kingdoms as well as the people of Arelean were growing dissatisfied with his rule.
Telhon was aware of his declining popularity, but continued to squander the Empire. He built a palace known as the Divine Sanctuary, which was a fortress designed to protect the Emperor from a large assault or a single assassin. He hid behind its walls and continued to throw his parties and stopped appearing before the people.
The Kings of the Kingdoms and the people of the Empire grew tired of the Emperor’s actions, but were at a loss of what to do with Telhon. There were talks of revolts among the royalty, and rioting of the general populace had begun in the larger cities. Despite that, no one could reach Telhon in his fortress.
What comes next is more legend than fact, and it has never been refuted nor corroborated. I have included it to explain the Curved Daggers. It is said that Telhon went to bed one night after over indulging, and during his sleep a Kiv’uli [LINK] slipped into the fortress and into the Emperor’s sleeping chamber. The Kiv’uli was ready to kill the Emperor, as per the will of the All-Father. Telhon spoke to the Kiv’uli, though no one knows the actual dialog. What we know is what comes next.
The next morning, Telhon emerged from the Divine Sanctuary and made a full apology. Over the next few months, he reversed the taxes placed on the people, melted down his jewels and other ornate fixtures, and returned the money to the people. He spent the rest of his rule focused on service to the people.
Telhon learned an important lesson; that those in power could become above reproach, and left unchecked could ruin lives and even the Empire. He reasoned that every level of the Empire required accountability, even the Emperor. His solution was to create the Curved Daggers.
The Formation of the Daggers
Telhon met quietly with the best generals in the Imperial Army. He commanded the generals to assemble their finest warriors, instructors, and scouts. He then met with the Imperial colleges and requested they provide scholars of anatomy, herbalism,and architecture.
Telhon met with this assembly of 50 warriors and 10 scholars, and by decree formed them into a secret part of the Imperial Army, the Curved Daggers. The Emperor instructed them to create an elite group of assassins, who could go anywhere, and kill when needed.
The group formed The College of Night. There the warriors were schooled in anatomy, to better hurt and kill their enemies; herbalism, to understand poisons; architecture, to learn how to enter and escape from any building; and wildness survival, to learn to survive anywhere in the kingdom. In addition, the College of Night would bring in scholars to teach court etiquette, religion, and various trades, to help the Daggers blend in.
There are various rumors of the rigorous physical training that the Daggers went through: being able to stand for days, remain contorted in small spaces for hours, free climbing dangerous heights, etc. While their methods were not well-known, we do know that the Daggers were physically strong, agile, and possessed great endurance.
The Daggers trained constantly. While the Daggers were versed in all weapons, they were all experts in the Curved Dagger, their signature weapon. Constructed in secret, each Dagger carried numerous blades, hidden about their body.
Curved Daggers call themselves Daggers, acknowledging that they, themselves, are a weapon to be wielded. The senior-most member is the Head Dagger, who commands the organization. Daggers of lesser authority, such as instructors and field commanders, have the title of Senior Daggers. Daggers often work alone, but when they work together the highest ranking member will take the role of Senior Dagger, commanding the group.
The Daggers have always been a small organization, never growing beyond one hundred individuals. Daggers were dispatched throughout the Empire, but their main base was located in Arelean in a secret location near the Imperial palace. The Daggers would fill their ranks by recruiting promising young soldiers from the Imperial Academy.
The Daggers report only to the Emperor, and receive their orders only from the Emperor. Telhon recognized the inherent danger of this arrangement, and created the Pact of Shadows to help govern the Daggers as well as to protect the citizens of the empire from this secret army.
Pact of Shadows
Telhon was all too aware of the abuse of power, and the concept of an elite group of assassins reporting only to the Emperor was a danger in itself. Telhon met with his best sages and advisers to create a set of rules to govern the Daggers and their use; known as Pact of Shadows.
The pact is deserving of its own lecture but I will summarize the main points:
- The Aegis of Aristocracy – The Daggers are to monitor all those who hold power to ensure they do not abuse their power.
- The Aegis of Arcana – The Daggers monitor the Mages of the Arcane Guild to insure no mage abuses their power or becomes corrupted by their power.
- The Aegis of Imperial Authority – The Daggers monitor the Emperor and ensure the Emperor is not breaking any laws.
- The Council of the Church – Discusses the role of the First Father as a third party and arbiter for disputes. Establishes a triumvirate of the Emperor, First Father, and Head Dagger.
- The Request for Execution – Details how the Emperor can request that the Daggers assassinate a threat to the Empire. The Daggers weigh the request and are not obliged to carry it out, doing so only if a there is a compelling case.
- The Dominion of Justice – Daggers may carry out justice in the name of the Empire if a clear threat exists and there is a formal petition to the Emperor.
- The Council of Shadows – Defines how the Daggers can investigate themselves to address any possible abuse or corruption.
- The Final Authority – Defines how two members of the triumvirate can act against the third, if they suspect corruption.
The pact existed through the Fall of the Empire, and during its time it is believed (Because who would know) to have prevented any abuse of the Daggers.
The Daggers are part spy and part assassin. For the most part, like the Kiv’uli, the Daggers hide either in shadows or in plain sight, and observe. If they observe corruption, they bring this information back to the organization and a course of action is decided, which includes the assassination of an individual. In other cases, the Emperor would request that the Daggers assassinate an enemy of the Empire. Often these were criminals, or warlords who were leading rebellions.
When the Daggers struck it was always in secret. A Dagger would wait until the target was either alone or with just a few others. The Dagger would gain entry by any method, though stealth was preferred, and then assassinate the target using the best method possible for the situation. They would leave no witnesses. After killing the target, a curved dagger would be left in the body; a signature and a warning.
The Curved Daggers were so efficient that the general populace of the Empire believed them to be a myth, but the enemies of the Empire and their allies knew better. They lived in constant fear that one night, alone in their bedchamber, they would be visited by a Dagger.
During The Empire
The Curved Daggers operated throughout the time of the Empire. During that time, they performed various assassinations at the behest of the Emperor and for the defense of the Empire. Most of their work was never documented, nor discussed. They remained in the shadows much like the Kiv’uli who inspired them.
Fall of the Empire
As we discussed during our talk of the Fall of the Empire [LINK] the Daggers were attacked from within, by those who were supportive to Ebnus. This caused the Curved Daggers to split. Those loyal to the Empire remained Curved Daggers and fled from Arelean to wage a shadow war against the Demons. Those that were loyal to Ebnus turned in their curved daggers, underwent Demonization, and became Ebon Blades, assassins in service to the Demon King.
Normally, I share my personal thoughts in these final words of the lesson. For this lesson, I would like to share with you a speech that was passed down from one Head Dagger to another, and was spoken to newly initiated Curved Daggers:
“There are men who the people love, because they represent hope and a future. The people need those men, because people need hope. And while people hope, there are those who stand in the shadows and insure there is a future to hope for. We shoulder the darkest side of the Empire, order and justice, the things that the common man does not want to know about. We must know those things. We must see the horror that man can inflict on man, and we must be the shield for the rest.
While the masses like to dream and hope, there are others who look to exploit them, bringing misery and casting doubt. While Emperors and The Fathers reassure the people that the bad things today will not be tomorrow, we are the ones who carry out that edict. We ensure that those who exploit meet a natural justice, and do it in a way that lets the common man continue to dream and hope. Because an Empire is not built on soldiers, nor gold – it is built on hope. And we, the Curved Daggers, defend man’s hope so that all else can exist.”
In our next lecture we will look at another important organization, The Brotherhood of Steel.