Hand Of Shadow

Soldiering is dangerous business indeed. Putting life and limb on the line is hardly a way to make a living. But at least sellswords get paid well for it. Your average guardsman or footsoldier is paid a pittance compared to even the greenest merc. They'll claim they do it for loyalty and security. In my experience, the best path to loyalty and security is a boatload of cash.

On top of that, there's the politics. Sellswords have naught to worry about except that the contract is paid in full and on time. But in my time serving Lady Brisband, I quickly learned that sworn service is much more likely to get you killed than even the most dangerous hired job. You never know who's going to try to kill you. The most dangerous are sercret societies like the Hand of Shadow. Most people know them as the secret police of the Atari theocracy, The Directorate of the Meticulous, but such a designation barely skins the surface of their purpose. The Hand of Shadow undertakes all covert operations for the Directorate, ranging from kidnappings to espionage to assassinations. I myself had a brush with them some fifteen years ago and was lucky to escape with nothing more than a nasty scar and a limp.

Though the Hand of Shadow undertakes a variety of missions, they act with a single goal in mind; to crush any religion that does not preach the tenets of the Meticulous. It is by their actions that the Directorate has been able to remain in power for the last three centuries, ruling through fear and disinformation. All Atari citizens know that they must pay at least a cursory homage to the Meticulous, or else the Hand will swiftly find them and punish them stiffly. The Hand of Shadow has a particular loathing for The Way of the Piper which, despite its relatively small number of followers, has proven to be very resilient cult. Their various rebellions, as well as their actions in the War of the Broken Succession, are know for their brutality. Because of this, the Directorate and the Hand of Shadow view Piper's Children (as they're called) as particularly dangerous and hunt them mercilessly, but with little real success. Any hired sword can tell you that religious wars are the worst of all. Zealots rarely know the meaning of the words "defeat" or "surrender". More often than not, they'd rather die in service to their God than live on for another pint or a doxy. Idiots.

- Marcello Josse

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