Some call it the Monastery: the city center, the last guard of life against all the evil that has corrupted the world. I don’t know why it was named the Monastery – it’s certainly more than a religious place, and the inhabitants are far from saints. But in the end, I don’t much care. I didn’t come here for its name. I came here for its knowledge.
There have been rumors flying through the land for years: rumors of death, of murder and torture and a shadowy killer who lurks behind every story. I know fear, and how quickly it can grow from even the tiniest seed, but even my skeptic mind is not satisfied. I desire answers; I desire the truth. Since the deaths have been real, the killer must also be real. And since all the rumors seem to point back to the Monastery, this is where I have come.
The tavern is busy tonight. I suspect it usually is, and by many of the same people. There are no loudmouth drunks here – the warriors and scholars who call this town home would never allow it. The atmosphere is pleasant. I am welcomed, even though I am a stranger. Of course, they can tell I am no threat to them, either. I show them my papers (to prove I am the scholar I claim to be) and they gladly accept both my company and my coin.
I chat with them, trying to learn what I seek without a direct question, but either they do not pick up on my hints or else they carefully avoid them. I suspect it is the latter – these people seem acutely aware of their surroundings.
So then, I must be blunt. Draining the last of my ale, I place my mug back on the table and ask the question I had been hoping to avoid, but desperately yearning to have answered…
Are these murders the work of the Shadowknives?
The noise dies instantly. All eyes are on me. They hold a mix of fear and anger.
“What have you done? Have you no sense? You’ll call the devil down upon us!” shouts one man furiously. “If you have a deathwish, so be it, but don’t bring us down with you!”
More rapidly join in. “That demon is responsible for more than just murder.” “If you knew the power of the Shadowknives, you would not ask such a question.”
“But no one has even seen him?” I press, ignoring their anger. “How can we know that this is all the work of just one person?”
“He is not human!” a woman retorts. “No one can do such foul deeds, who still has a beating heart in his chest.”
Theft. Haunting. Mutilation. Torture. Slaughter. Murder. The heinous list is longer than I knew. It seems there is no one not harmed by this assassin’s actions.
The Shadowknives. I have searched and searched for a description, a glance, even a guess of this man, but no one who has seen him has lived long enough to speak of him. Nameless and faceless, the Shadowknives was so called because he seems to slip out of and into the shadows before you can realize there is a knife between your ribs.
It is entirely likely that this Shadowknives is not, in fact, human. This town is plagued by such an array of vile creatures and evil beings that the High Demon itself might even call it home. Demons, restless spirits, zombies, wraiths, skeletal undead, vampires, werewolves, sorcerers, and countless other creatures have come here, drawn by the rupture of demonic power: the Dark Magick.