- The info on here is old and may not always be compatible with the Darkfriend Progression System, in these cases the DF raising system takes precedence over the info bellow
An assassin begins his journey as an apprentice, no matter what age or how skilled. Many members of the assassin circle have previous experience in the fields of battle and stealth when they swear over their souls, but are commanded to forget every word of it at the beginning of their training. The Shadow deals with things differently than the cursed Creator and his minions, and so their methods are a contrast.
Apprentices can be trained either at Tar Machien Rahien, the Tower of the Black Dawn, the citadel of the Shar Mahdi, or they can learn the ways of an assassin among the Lightfools, in the world of mortal men. Some assassins and Shar Mahdi reside in the Tower, training new weapons for the Shadow, while some travel the land, doing the work of the Great Lord of the Dark, with a blade. Others move from place to place, extinguishing life and training others to do the same. There are virtues and disadvantages to both courses, as the students in the Tower learn things others do not, and vice versa. The debate for which method is best has existed for many a generation, but a conclusion has never been reached. Apprenticeship can last years. The transformation from a simple commoner to a minister of death cannot occur overnight. Students will be trained with weapons of their choice, whether it is sword, spear, or axe. Proficiency with knives is also required, and skill with bow or crossbow is encouraged. An apprentice is instructed in the ways of stealth and mercilessness, as well as learning the names, looks, and effects of various herbs and poisons, as well as their antidotes. Rigorous and sometimes deadly training regimes are introduced, and levels of fitness surpassing the average soldier are the bare minimum. If an apprentice can’t shatter a brick with a single punch, he isn’t good enough. If he can’t keep up with the training, he isn’t good enough. If he dies, another takes his place. There is no mercy in the Shadow, and if you can’t cope, you’re not wanted. The Great Lord of the Dark requires strong servants, not like the Creator.
Not all training is physical, however. As well as being guided through various toxins and venoms, apprentices are lectured in the glories of the Great Lord. He is the Lord of the Grave, and if an apprentice hesitates for a single heartbeat when commanded to kill, he does not have enough confidence in his one true master, and deserves a swift death.
An important aspect of an apprentice’s training is his education in being what he is not. He must know how to seize their shock, sorrow, joy or feeling before it shows on his face. He will be taught how to fit into ordinary life, in a city, as a noble, as a beggar, as a drunk, as any number of things. Often an apprentice will be taught a craft that can sustain them if forced to live a normal, pointless life for some time, for any reason. An apprentice can take on studies of his own choice, of different fighting styles, acting, acrobatics, extra studies in the ways of stealth, in music, in philosophy or hypnosis or torture or manipulation or any number of a thousand things. There is a great library regarding almost anything an apprentice or indeed, an assassin or Shar Mahdi might ever wish to learn at the Tower of the Black Dawn, as well as a growing resource of literature, history and various publications at the Dwelling, to the south of Tar Valon. While most Lightfool libraries are far inferior to the knowledge hidden in the darkness, there are some that shouldn’t be dismissed so easily. A Warder-turned-Darkfriend, for example, an occurrence not too commonplace, is a store easily exploited, as any respectable White Tower-trained fighter will have vast reserves of memory regarding its library and the teachings there. Even for Shar Mahdi, the White Tower is not an easy place to infiltrate as thoroughly as one might wish.
The first test of an apprentice, indeed, the test for acceptance as an apprentice, is long and hard. They are chained to a stone floor in a stone chamber deep underground, and forgotten for a week. There is no light, no movement, no food, and no escape. They will be given a drink of water once, when they call out for it, if they can call out for it. If they are dead when they come out, they will not be trained. Retaining sanity is optional. . In the pitch darkness, deprived of movement, a man’s body and mind turn in on themselves. During the week, a fierce battle within the apprentice’s own head can take place. This mental struggle could be a re-examination of whether they still want to become an assassin or not, or some memory could come back to haunt them. Anything is possible in the shadow of the Great Lord of the Dark.
Towards the end of an apprentice’s training they will know ways to kill that most people wouldn’t even dream of actually using. They will know how to kill without causing a single break in the skin of their victim, and how to paralyse without killing. They will have killed innocent people and taken back a token to show their master, usually a body part, like an ear, and they will have fought the demon inside themselves and mastered it. Things are gained during apprenticeship, skill with weapons, knowledge of forbidden truths, sometimes even a promise of everlasting life and power. But at the same time, things must be lost to reach the rank of assassin. Any aversion to hurting, maiming or killing anyone, mentally or physically, is destroyed. An assassin has no time for a conscience.
Once, the time spent as an apprentice was not as long or as educational as it is now. Long ago, an apprentice’s training was finished with his first kill, whether it was a queen or his teacher. Now, however, many apprentices have killed even before they swear their souls over to the True Cause, and more deaths will follow throughout the training. Various reforms made over the past century or two, and some even as recent as the last decade, have made an apprentice in his last days at that rank a force to be reckoned with. Anyone who makes it through such training as an Apprentice of Tar Machin Rahien should be marked as a warrior, and a good one too. Most soldiers would fall to one, in battle. Apprentice Weapon Scores are given within the range: 6-10.
Assassins are the ones who survive the training of an Apprentice, and are strengthened by it. Deemed worthy by the tests of the Shar Mahdi are those who can kill indiscriminately and with speed and grace and efficiency. Many Assassins are Blademasters, as well as competent at blending seamlessly into everyday ignorant commoner life. They no longer require a teacher, and often leave their former master to sell their swords to the highest bidder, train others as they were trained, or serve their one True Master as they see fit.
Some Assassins do that by joining a strike group, which is a team of Assassins and Apprentices banded together with the backing of the Tower, under a leader, usually a Shar Mahdi (While Tar Machin Rahien supports these strike groups, it is in no way compulsory to join one, and exceptions will only be made in exceptional circumstances). The only active PC strike group is Dark Torrent, founded and led by Dias Flac, Shar Mahdi and Master of Information.
An Assassin can take a contract from anyone, Lightfool or Friend of the Dark, beggar or king, Chosen or child, as long as he exacts his price. The skills of the Shadow’s Teeth do not come cheap. Often they roam alone, taking good advantage of the extensive network of Darkfriend eyes-and-ears the Tower of the Black Dawn has set up, managed by the Master of Information, to find word of jobs and contracts. There isn’t, in a way, too much to say in describing the rank of Assassin, after the facts set down by the description of Apprentice. An Assassin must know all the things an Apprentice is taught, as well as several other areas of interest most of them will choose to delve into. A certain authority comes with the freedom from the chains of apprenticeship, and most new Assassins can be found to be arrogant, bitter, overconfident and spiteful after their promotion. It is these who overestimate their abilities who die quickly, while the quieter, more cautious ones live on and improve their skills. Of course, it can only be expected that victims, students, of such a terrible regime of self-improvement will adopt such a stance on life when they find themselves finally above the clouds, with no one to serve but themselves and Shai’tan, no one to give them orders and punish them for the slightest mistake.
Some Assassins do remain with their mentor, to learn more, especially if the latter is one of the exalted Shar Mahdi. Sometimes they are chosen for different reasons to remain at the Tower, commanded to stay, or sometimes they choose to keep on studying and teaching others. Assassins of all those sorts are needed for the Circle to function the way it does. Some join forces with Dreadlords, Darkfriends, even Chosen. Assassin Weapon Scores are given out in the range: 11-15.
Shar Mahdi Edit
The best Assassins are called back to Tar Machien Rahien, or if they are already there, are summoned to the Masters, to be tested once more. Those who pass these tests are raised above the others, hailed as the elite, the model for Apprentices and Assassins to imitate, and they are called Shar Mahdi. In the Old Tongue, Shar Mahdi means “Blood Seeker”, and the name is as accurate and as frightening to behold as those who carry it.
Shar Mahdi are truly the best of the best. They are whirlwinds of death, masters of the blade and battle, and nothing but shadows when they wish it. Dark intelligence lurks inside their dark minds, and these disciples of silence have honed their bodies to a state of perfect combat readiness. Their reflexes are so fast they border on premonition, and years of living on the edge of shadow, life, death and overall danger has bred a deep-rooted ability to assess situations and make decisions in the blink of an eye.
A Shar Mahdi can fight with any weapon he (or she, in a few cases) is presented with, and can shoot a bow or crossbow well enough to fire at moving targets from a distance with a reasonable expectation of hitting their mark. These people can move with a grace and precision rarely achieved by man, and every one of them a Blademaster. The skill of a Shar Mahdi is the embodiment of physical perfection. The only living fighters who can even hope to defeat a Shar Mahdi in single combat reside among the Aiel warriors to the east and the Warders in their own corrupt Tower.
Anyone who has been gifted with this ultimate honour from the Masters can be expected to have studied many different schools of combat, and maybe even created their own, fusing together the best parts of any martial arts available. Their ability to be something they aren’t, a blacksmith or a servant or a noble, is uncanny in its believability. Remorse, guilt, and sorrow for causing pain or death are things unheard of by Blood Seekers, and their dexterity in causing pain when they wish to is nauseatingly good. They are artisans of agony, as silent and unseen as a breath in the darkness, with exceptionally refined senses. There is no one better, not this side of the Dark, than a Shar Mahdi. Shar Mahdi Weapon Scores are given out from within this range: 16-20.
History of the Shar Mahdi Edit
In the Old Tongue of the Ten Nations, the phrase "Shar Mahdi" is literally translated to mean "Blood Seeker". The history of the Shar Mahdi began over 2000 years ago, shortly before the Trolloc Wars began. In a time of peace, there were those who still believed the Great Lord of the Dark would break free of his prison some day. A man called Daghain was one of these men. As a high ranking Friend of the Dark, Daghain had set off east along the Blightborder, to the land called Shara. Although the details of his journey have not been released, he came back several years later with knowledge of both their culture and their form of martial arts. Already a man of the sword, he combined all of his knowledge of combat and tracking and survival into a form he called Donya'fu, loosely translated from the Old Ogyan Tongue to "Master of Silence", or maybe "Silent Master".
With his new found art, Daghain began his search for disciples amongst other Friends of the Dark. He chose them based on merit and physical capabilities, as only the strongest of men could survive the rigorous training involved. By the start of the Trolloc Wars, Daghain and his disciples had trained perhaps 60-70 worthy men. As a group they were named the Shar Mahdi. They were used as assassins by first the Myrddraal, then by the Dreadlords. They were all highly skilled swordsmen, most reaching the title of Blademaster. They were used until the very end of the war to assassinate kings, lords, and generals.
As their numbers grew, and the war lingered on, the Masters decided to bring them all together in one place, so their small detachments in cities and towns would not be destroyed. They made their home in the Blight. Once the War ended, they turned a ramshackle camp into a fortress. The centerpiece of the Fortress was a tower, shorter only than the White Tower in Tar Valon. The Tower was built for them by the Chosen, Demandred, and was hidden by a ter?angreal so that only those who were meant to find it would ever do so. They named the place Tar Machin Rahein, "Tower of the Black Dawn", after what they called the day of the Great Lord's release, the Black Dawn.
In the centuries following the Trolloc Wars, the Shar Mahdi remained relatively silent. They stayed in the Tower mostly, training. Most work was done according to the list that was kept by the Master, as targets that the higher powers of the Shadow had marked. Other than that, swords were lent to the highest bidder, whether of the Shadow or not.
It wasn't until the War of a Hundred Years that they returned shortly to prominence. It was widely known by all who these men were, and what they did. Most people merely refused to believe they were hiring Darkfriend because they were so good at what they did, and were invaluable assets. The Master saw this as a bad thing and brought all the Shar Mahdi back to the Tower and to secrecy. They formed the Council of Masters, the five top Blood Seekers now collectively ran the Order, and do so to this very day.
Since the War of a Hundred Years, the Shar Mahdi have become more and more secretive. Only recently have they been actively recruiting, by order of Murandumus, as ordered by the Chosen Demandred. Since then, the Shar Mahdi have doubled in numbers. Among their ranks were quite possibly the two greatest Blood Seekers in history, Efan Orm Radashe and Peaten al'Kar. Both Radashe and al'Kar had entered the Tower at the same time, trained under the same Master (Mattar 'Silence' Nasheida, Master of the Order these past thirty-five years) and both had reached the highest level of Donya'fu. Four years ago, Master al'Kar was killed by who some said was the greatest swordsman of this Age, Ben Gaidin. Master Radashe still lives today, serving as Master of Missions to the Order. In place of al'Kar, the Illianer sword-dancer Xander do'Rain took over as Master of Combat. Current Master of Information, Dias Flac, was trained by the previous Master, Kalen. The Master of Stealth, Kiserai Doon, was trained by Dias himself.