The Shadowhawks

"My master is the shadow, its silence the company I keep."
  What little is known of this elusive guild of spies and assassins is shrouded in doubts and speculation. Though they number several dozen, they take great pains to remain anonymous. Only members of the group actually know the name "shadowhawks"; all others attribute their actions to a near-mythical figure called the Spymaster, who, rumor has it, takes his orders from Elbrith's King.

PURPOSE

Contrary to stories of assassins and their ilk, the Shadowhawks are not simply a band of mercenaries. Though they do get paid to kill, their services are not available to anyone besides Elbrith's King, and then only with the mission to destroy the Chaotists, a cult of anarchy-driven madmen responsible for the deaths of King Linoxos' family. The Spymaster and Nighthawk alone assign missions, and only orders stamped with their seal are approved. Any kills outside of official orders must be sufficiently justified or the Shadowhawk in question is expelled.

ORGANIZATION

The Shadowhawks led by two men: the Spymaster and the Nighthawk. Other members are split into two distinct groups: Eyes and Talons.
EYES
TALONS
The Eyes are the group's spies and couriers, responsible for gathering information and passing it along to the Nighthawk, as well as ensuring any Hawk Roosts in their area remain supplied for the Talons' use. Few Eyes visit the Shadow Den; unless specifically summoned or convinced their information needs to be given in person, they keep to their assigned locations and roles as stablehands, dockworkers, servants, and other unobtrusive characters. Eyes are selected from the most observant of new members, and every Eye is required to learn how to read and write.
Talons are the group's assassins, chosen and trained to take life efficiently and silently. Every Talon is trained in the art of small hidden weapons, as well as use of poisons and methods of infiltration. New members seeking to become a Talon much prove that they are versatile and well-fit, able to complete an assignment without alerting others to their presence. Talons are expected to take orders without question and follow them explicitly.
 
THE SPYMASTER AND THE NIGHTHAWK

Even the Shadowhawks themselves know little about the one who leads them. The Spymaster rarely appears, and when he does it's always in a deeply hooded cloak over a nondescript yet well-made outfit of black leather. What small portion of his face isn't shadowed by the hood of his cloak is hidden behind a mask of black leather tooled to resembled a hawk's visage. The Spymaster's "name" is the only one known to outsiders, due mostly in part to a few mistakes early on. As the group grew, the Spymaster became a figure of frightening legend, one who's name was spoken aloud only in hushed, hurried whispers. His name has been attributed to dozens of murders and attacks. In Elbrith, peasants and nobility alike go to bed fearing a visit from him. Even the neighboring kingdoms of Etherea and Kilgroth have heard his name and reputation, though his actions have not yet crossed their borders.

Directly below the Spymaster is the Nighthawk. Like the group's name, the Nighthawk is known only to its members. He is second-in-command to the Spymaster, and is in charge of collecting information from the Eyes and handing out assignments to the Talons. Like his superior, no one knows the Nighthawk's true identity, save the Spymaster himself. Those who delve too deeply into the matter are "dismissed" from the Shadowhawks.


MEMBERSHIP

No one asks to joins the Shadowhawks. If an Eye or Talon notices someone with the potential to join their number, their bring them to the attention of the Nighthawk. An Eye is then specially assigned to that person to observe and report based on a very specific list of conditions. Once the Nighthawk has deemed the target sufficiently observed, he gives the information to the Spymaster, who decides based on the information whether the target truly is worthy. If so, the Spymaster himself observes the target for a time, and if they still meet expectations, he approaches them with an invitation.

Leaving the Shadowhawks is both easier and harder than joining. A Shadowhawk may "retire" if age or injury prevent them from continuing to perform their duties. On an extremely rare occasion, a Shadowhawk may decide they want to pursue a different career. Such cases fall under special scrutiny from the Spymaster, and only with his approval is the Shadowhawk allowed to leave. In either of those cases, an elite Eye is assigned to watch the former member to make sure they maintain their oaths to never reveal their past as a Shadowhawk.

The third method of leaving the Shadowhawks is expulsion. In the early days of the group, some members were deemed too coldblooded. They reveled in killing, and usually ended up taking that love beyond their assignments. Such blatant disregard for life was in complete violation of what the Shadowhawks stood for, and those members were put to death. As the group grew, the Nighthawk and Spymaster became much more selective about inviting new members, and expulsions now are quite rare. But every member knows what will happen if they violate the Spymaster's - and by extension, the Kings' - laws. No one who has ever thought to defy the Spymaster has lived to speak of it.


HEADQUARTERS

The Shadowhawks make use of an old, rundown tavern in the slums of Nuelga, which they called the Shadow Den. Though a wreck on the outside, the tavern is well equipped on the inside, with a hidden stairway leading down to a substantial basement, where the Shadowhawks gather and train. The main room of the tavern is always occupied by four to six Shadowhawks disguised as downtrodden peasants whose job it is to make sure whatever other customers the tavern attracts stay well away from the secrets it houses.

Scattered throughout the kingdom are also a number of hideouts. Called Hawk Roosts, they range from little more than holes in the ground with just enough room for a bedroll and a case of supplies, to sturdy cabins with room and supplies for several days of rest. Some Roosts act as "homes" for the Eye assigned to the area, going so far as to have small areas of farmland attached to maintain the ruse.


COMMUNICATION

Shadowhawks' primary method of communication is by message hawk. A select group of Eyes are in charge of the breeding and training of the hawks their group utilizes, and their identities and methods are a closely-guarded secret. When sending a message by hawk, a ribbon is tied around the message. The ribbons used are colored to indicate the sender and the importance of the message, and the hawk trainers add scents to each ribbon that tell the hawk who the recipient is. Other methods of communication include direct word of mouth between members and message drops. The latter is rarely used, usually only as a last resort, as there's always the risk that someone unintended will find what's left there.

 

THE MASTERS BEHIND THE PUPPETS

The Spymaster's true name is Naeru Azhari. He's a minor nobleman who lives in Nuelga under the guise of a simple man of scholarly interests. He and his brother Darshan - who takes on the role of the Nighthawk - are close friends of King Linoxos Nuelgaryn, a relationship which allows them to maintain close ties to the court while remaining in the background.
Type
Guild, Assassins
Leader Title
Parent Organization
Location

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