Friday Lore Post: The Empty Moon

The Empty Moon Guild of Assassins is one of the most shrouded groups of people on Menechit, and with good reason. Though rumours of their existence are widespread, very few people know for sure that they exist, and those who do don’t generally make a point of talking about them in public.

Unlike their main competitor, the Jerang Assassins’ Guild, the Empty Moon doesn’t take every job offered, and they don’t announce when they’re responsible for someone’s death. Where the Jerang usually make a violence spectacle out of killing someone, the Empty Moon usually just leave a corpse and if it can appear to have died of natural causes, the better. The Empty Moon’s fees are exorbitant and paid upfront, but will be refunded in the extremely rare occurrence that an assassination fails or cannot be carried out. The process by which they choose to accept jobs is unclear, because they have been known to turn down work that would otherwise earn them a great deal of money, but their ways are not to be questioned by anyone who values their life. Though everyone knows that assassins only kill for money and wouldn’t kill someone for a slight, knowing and believing are two different things when nobody knows who the Empty Moon employs and where they are.

Their headquarters is in the northern city of Merket, which is all anyone from outside the guild knows. They can be contacted in Merket through a cobbler’s shop, and indeed run fronts in many other places in similar out of the way shops as well. But any jobs must be approved by the guild’s leadership in Merket, after which an assassin will be deployed, perform the required assassination, and then return. The guild wants their assassins to stay in one place to be more easily found in case of an emergency (or a betrayal).

The headquarters itself is a series of subterranean caves and tunnels that have existed under Merket for as long as Merket has existed. The guild was founded in those caves over a thousand years ago and has never left them, and nor have they ever been found—at least, not by anyone who lived to tell anyone.

Typically, the guild begins training new members just after they are old enough to walk. The vast majority of trainees don’t survive training, generally because they stop using training weapons very early. Between the combat training, the scholastic learning, the psychological conditioning and the other various forms of knowledge that are required, Empty Moon assassins are some of the most highly trained and educated people in Menechit.

The Empty Moon draws its trainees from all around Menechit and the rest of the world as well, to better blend in with wherever they’re sent. Though they primarily operate in Dolovai and Kyaine, they have been known to take jobs overseas, and want to be prepared for that occasion. Their operatives are primarily orphans who won’t be missed, and the Moon has been known to take in the children of those killed by the Jerang Guild for training on more than one occasion. The Moon doesn’t recognize slavery or any other social distinctions; all their members are considered equal no matter what their life is like outside of the guild. Many but not all members of the guild have lives in the public eye as cover stories. These are generally lives that give them a lot of freedom to disappear for days on end.

There is an assumption that professional assassins are emotionless automatons, but this is not true, for of course that would make them harder to blend into regular society. In fact, though nobody can argue that their training leaves them healthy, members of the guild are, by and large, functioning and ordinary members of society. For some of them this is a persona that they shed when it is time to work, but for most of them it is not.

Secrecy is the guild’s primary rule, and there is only one punishment for those who cannot maintain it. Anyone who leaks the guild’s secrets to anyone not in the guild, or who cannot maintain their cover as an ordinary person, will often end up dead or will disappear quite soon. As these people are also highly trained assassins, this has led to no few dramatic chases and fights, but the guild’s secrets are always maintained in the end, no matter the cost. If a person’s cover is blown and there were extenuating circumstances not under the control of the guild member, they can and often will be relocated, but anyone to whom the information was leaked will be silenced if they are deemed a threat. The guild does not kill wantonly, so if someone is deemed trustworthy enough to remain alive with the knowledge, depending on what that knowledge is, they will be left alive.

This is, however, a last resort, and the guild rarely kills its own if it can be at all avoided. Many members consider the guild to be their family, and the other members to be their brothers and sisters. Though they live a life that they know can end at any time, by and large the guild members do not live in fear, but rather in comfort of knowing that there is a group of people who have their backs at all times.

Nobody knows who the leaders of the guild are. There is an informal hierarchy within the guild in which certain members are clearly in command of others, but the actual decisions regarding what jobs will be taken and to whom they will be assigned are made my a person or persons who do not reveal their identity to the rest of the guild. Much speculation runs rampant in the guild regarding whether this is a secret person who none of them know, or if the leader or leaders are members of the guild who merely don’t tell others their identities. All anyone knows (or is willing to admit) is that the guild has run smoothly for most of its history, so something must be working.

A notable endeavour of the Moon that is slightly more of an open secret than their other secrets is that they operate as a curtailing force on the Jerang Guild. Because Jerang operates with great violence and aplomb, they tend to hire former soldiers or mercenaries, and it is not uncommon for violence to break out because of their members in a non-professional capacity. They also hire very widely, and occasionally their numbers reach the point where there isn’t enough demand for their services, leading to boredom and more violence. At times like this, the Moon will send out a few operatives with lists, and the next morning a number of Jerang members will simply be dead. The Merket city guard looks the other way when this happens, as the Moon’s actions in this case are deemed a public service. The Jerang Guild has also never complained or attempted to retaliate, despite some of their members chafing under the obvious stewardship of the Empty Moon. Attempts to break this stewardship in the past have never ended well. Some speculate that the Jerang Guild’s leaders are actually operatives of the Empty Moon, but this has never been confirmed.

The Moon employs many operatives who are not assassins, such as supply people, blacksmiths, auditors and accountants, and servants. Though these are not expected to kill people, they do undergo some of the same training and the requirement of secrecy is just as strong for them, if not stronger. Some have speculated that the guild has non-assassin operatives in most major political arenas in Menechit, but this is also unconfirmed.

To those outside it, the Empty Moon Guild of Assassins is an enigma. To those within it, it is a home and a family—if also an enigma at times. Their ways are mysterious, their members are unknown, what they do with their money is unclear, and their criteria for accepting jobs are at best uncertain. All attempts to learn more about them formally, or to shut them down, have failed. The Dolovin and Kyainese crowns are both uncomfortable with an independent force that simply does what it wants living in Merket, but they’ve learned to live with it, because at present, at least, there is nothing else to be done. Most people who know about the Empty Moon rest at night knowing that at the very least, if the guild wanted to do something like take over the kingdoms, they would have done so long ago.

From “The Definitive Atlas of the World, Vol. 3: Institutions and Organizations,” by Pascal Tiberius Naoton Quimbell Haeverine anNatalie, published in White Cape in DN 1997.

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