Magic can be worse than useless. The young would-be assassin loads herself down with spells of sneaking, spells of protection, spells of detection, and spells of protection from detection. She enters an arms race, an escalation with no clear path to victory. She does not understand the teachings of the Cardinals of Pain.

The Cardinals forsake such petty assistance as the Apple-Yards of Rrerrshbarr might offer, not out of some high-minded desire for self-reliance or self-knowledge, but out of a sense of what is practical. They observe that a man wearing a Ring of the Cloudless Mind is a man with something to hide. Protection from read mind is only valuable if read mind is cast on you, and read mind is only cast on you if you have become an object of suspicion. The best way to prevent discovery is to prevent search. The only sure way to win a fight is not to have it.

The lessons of the Cardinals are better-known than those akashic assassins who make up the membership of the elite and fraternal organization of professional murderers that is the College of the Cardinals of Pain. Their name is doubly ironic, for in addition to forsaking all mortal law, ethic, and moral, the Cardinals espouse painless assassination and quick death. Slow torture may satisfy, but it brings with it increased risk, and only fools enjoy a sense of danger.

While the Cardinals operate throughout the Mother Countries and all admits all races to its memberships (excluding of course the bestial sibeccai) the headquarters of the College of Cardinals is a closely guarded secret, hidden from the akashic memory and the world at large. The cartographer Lazlo Alberdinne claimed the site does not exist, that the leadership of the Cardinals is either highly mobile or nonexistent, but the tragic events of his later life cast into doubt his otherwise indisputable authority on the subject.

Popular rumor calls the Cardinals a purely mercenary organization, selling death door-to-door, but this is untrue. The Cardinals are hired killers, true, but they accept only contracts they believe have at their core the soul of a genuine complaint; they are instruments of vengeance, god-blessed and bloody. Their definition of a legitimate complaint varies widely. The usurptation of the Stormbringer’s citadel was not accepted as an appropriate antecedent to assassination, but the theft of seven golden vases from the Plaza of Aching in Ka-Rone was.

“If I am assassinated by one of the Cardinals,” Archduke Ferdondil Olmannassa told reporters on the eve of the Day of Seven Errors, “at least I will have the satisfaction of knowing it was for a good reason. The Cardinals wouldn’t waste an arrow on an idle thought.”

SEE ALSO: The Apple-Yards of Rrerrshbarr, Day of Seven Errors, Lazlo Alberdinne


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