Alignment: Any evil.
Symbol: A feather quill piercing a pair of lips, as if to hold them shut.
Discipline: Cursed Razor.
Oath: Potential Quills swear their oaths of service alone and in darkness, whispering into the silence. When their oath is accepted a small brand marks their cheeks—tears burned into the flesh, as though they shall weep forever.
“Obedience is demanded, it shall be given. When Whisper speaks, I shall listen. When She demands, I shall comply, though it brings misery to myself and others. I shall keep Her secrets, guard Her treasures, and do Her will, until the day that She releases me from my grim task, and even in the absence of Her voice I shall seek knowledge both beneficent and baneful and preserve it against the day when it is needed. If I fail in this oath, let Her wings beat for me, and take me away forever more.”
Allegiance Benefit: A Quill gains a +2 profane bonus on Knowledge checks and a +2 profane bonus on Will saves.
A Quill that violates her oath loses her profane bonus on Will saves, but does not lose her access to the Cursed Razor discipline and her bonus on Knowledge checks. However, Whisper is instantly aware of their faithlessness and sends agents to ‘correct’ the problem in a final manner. A Quill may atone back into Whisper’s good graces by taking on a mission from Her, or may attempt to change organizations and pray that whoever shelters her can protect her from Whisper’s wrath. Unlike most martial traditions, a Quill who ceases to be evil-aligned is not considered to be violation of her oath.
Description: Little is known about the enigmatic Quills, even to their own membership; information is tightly controlled within the organization, and the Quills do their best to cover their tracks outside of it as well. Despite this, some information inevitably leaks out because of insufficient secrecy, operational necessity, or the sadly frequent insanity of the Quills themselves.
The Quills serve an entity calling herself Whisper, and in Her name they gather and protect knowledge of all kinds. The Quills gather in places of mystery to prevent others from destroying the foundations of secrecy, in hidden temples where they keep vast libraries of blasphemous texts, and in other, darker places hidden inside the cracks of society. Secrets are their charge, and the Quills hoard them against the day when they will be needed.
A Quill’s chief duty is to discover knowledge (from the mundane to the blasphemous) and record it so that it may be protected, and only slightly secondary to them is to preserve the powers of mystery and secrecy wherever they can. Quills hide knowledge from others, sharing them only with their fellows or in accordance to Whisper’s desires. They spirit their writings or findings away to library-fortresses hidden in pocket dimensions or in the wilderness when they are not otherwise engaged, and enjoy the full use of any knowledge that is not forbidden to them by Whisper—a benefit that grants many Quills surprising personal, political, or mystical power.
Unfortunately, it also drives the majority of them completely insane.
Part of it is the environment in which they operate. Whisper’s motives are horribly unclear and obeying her for too long inevitably damages her servants, who begin losing their minds almost in self-defense; they cut themselves off from empathy to forget the horrors they’ve seen or done, develop multiple personalities in an effort to disassociate themselves from their deeds, practice strange ritualistic superstitions, or simply go stark raving mad as their minds finally crack and crumble. Advancement within the organization is as dangerous as it is desirable as well; Whisper’s agents assassinate those who ask the wrong questions, and no one seems to know which questions those are. Ambitious underlings sometimes attempt to murder their superiors only to find, after the deed is done, that the reaction is entirely inconsistent—sometimes they are showered with dark knowledge and praise, and other times they wake up in the middle of a circle of long knives and solemn faces. Fear and uncertainty are part of a Quill’s life from the moment he begins his training until well after he dies (Whisper does not consider death or insanity to be sufficient excuses for Her servants to be freed) and the stress destroys many minds too weak to handle it.
The knowledge itself is also a factor. The Quills collect and guard blasphemous secrets that, perhaps, should never have existed. Far from locking this knowledge away, Quills are encouraged to learn from it and use it to gain power for themselves. Some of the books they keep are dark, hungry things that devour sapience the way a starving wolf tears the meat from a fawn, and many more simply contain secrets that are horrific to contemplate. The Quills as a whole have a comprehensive and terrible knowledge of the role of evil in the multiverse and how it might be used to further one’s own goals, but with every inch they reach into the darkness a little more hope dies inside. Truly old Quills have thousand-mile stares that don’t seem to truly see whatever it is they’re looking at, their souls have long been lost in contemplating truths too vile for mortality.
Those few Quills that manage to survive with their minds and convictions intact are rare and legendary beings possessed of a chill and awful sanity; their rationalizations are quiet, logical, and utterly devoid of pity, and they pursue the mission of their order with an efficient zeal. They are also the ones most likely to have truly altruistic goals, even if their methods remain evil; it is for this reason that they are often chosen to interface with the outside world and with Whisper’s greater body of servants. In their absence, those who are merely going mad, rather than those that have already arrived, tend to be preferred.
Common Tasks: In the absence of orders from Whisper, Quills self-organize to steal and hoard knowledge (especially forbidden knowledge), and to protect places of mystery from those that would ‘discover’ them and reveal their secrets to the world. Some Quills do so out of a genuine concern for what such knowledge will do to the unsuspecting innocent, but the majority of them are seeking to translate knowledge directly into power and are indeed encouraged to do so.
Beyond this it’s difficult to talk about the common quests assigned to Quills, because the only commonality is this: Whisper has ordered a thing to be done. A representative of Whisper, or Her own voice murmuring into the Quill’s mind, appears to demand a task that will not be explained or justified. A request is made, information is given, and a timeframe established, and that’s all. The Quill might be asked to guard a lich whose mind contains valuable knowledge, to rescue a peasant from an onrushing army (and deposit him safely with millions in gold somewhere, never to see him again), or to steal a book that he must soak in the blood of murdered virgins before eating it one page at a time. If the Quill refuses the task, their life is their own—they will be hunted by Whisper’s agents either until they die, or until Whisper decides that they are no longer worth hunting. There is no visible rhyme or reason to Her will, and She does not consider mere mortals to have the authority to question it.
Available Services: As the holders of truly occult knowledge, the Quills have a broad and dark range of services available to their members and allies in good standing. First and foremost is the knowledge itself—to those with the patience and scholarly acumen access to the libraries maintained by the Quills is a gold mine of information that can be used for personal ends. The Quills also provide the chance for their members to transcend mortality as a member of the undead, and can furnish opportunities to contact and traffic with demons, devils, and other esoteric beings of evil.
On the more mundane end of things, the Quills have a large network of contacts kept loyal through blackmail; if an individual can gain access to some or all of this list of names they can find healing, discounts on magical goods, and other services facilitated by their order’s habitual trade in terror and madness.
Path of War – Expanded, © 2016, Dreamscarred Press.