#16: Propaganda: Hashashins

- 12:00 am

Come, join me here in the cool shadow! Yes, the sun is cruel and relentless, isn’t it? That’s Innos’ curse. But Beliar offers his blessing to all who recognize it. Beliar is the one through whom our people can live.  

Do you want to know how Varant used to be? Before Zuben came and brought us the true faith? The life in the desert was scraggy and without joy, except for some few sultans and emirs, who ruled the cities. And what did they do with their power? They suppressed the people. They let the people of Varrant fight one another in everlasting wars so that the sand turned red from their blood. The trading couldn’t prosper in this conditions. And if a caravan was brave enough to travel between the cities it had to fear the raptorial nomads robbing everyone they could find. Or they got caught in one of the sandstorms and got lost perishing from Innos’ curse without water or orientation.  

Just take a look around, what the great Zuben made us become! He united the realms of the desert and ended the wars. He formed us into a great and strong people, so mighty we almost beat the big Myrtana. And as the power of the old realm perishes, ours is growing, and with the power, our wealth grows, too. Yes, you son of the empty pockets, I saw you peering for my gold. I saw your eyes getting bigger as you saw the wealth of my mines. Be my guest, take a look around. But watch your fingers. No, no I wouldn’t cut off the hand of a thief. These dark and barbarian times are over, thanks to Zuben. What good is a one-handed man? As a slave in the mines, you’re of bigger use for me. Yes, the mines are the foundation of the wealth. In your homeland, Beliar is feared as the god of death. But Beliar is also the god of the earth. And he is the god of everything lying in the earth, of the gems and the gold for example. Do you think it’s a coincidence that the gold, lying in the mountains for millennia, was found in the days of Zuben? He brings us Beliar’s blessing and we worship him in return.  

But one of Beliar’s presents is even more valuable than the wealth he’s bringing to us. Are you surprised by me saying this, you son of the few words? Yes, Beliar gave us the gold. But first and foremost he gave us freedom. Beliar is the god of death and destruction, but in reality, he is a god of life because without death and destruction, without chaos and change nothing can be and nothing can evolve. The true death is the lifeless order of Innos. Innos wants every man as a servant. Under Beliar everyone is his own master, as long as he’s accepting the master of masters above him. You don’t believe me? You’re looking upon the slaves and are questioning the freedom ruling in Varant? But behold, Zuben proclaimed that no man should be born into slavery. Everyone is a free man at first. All the slaves you see here, forfeited their freedom on their own. Every man is the architect of his own future. In the old days the sultans and emirs, and after them their sons and their son’s sons, ruled Varant. Today everyone who’s just a father of deceit and who makes good deals can rise up and even become a vice-regent, like me. Of course, Zuben rules us all, but he’s no despot like the king in the north whose noble men are mere handymen and who has his judges and royal officials all over the country. Every city in Varant is free. Every vice-regent rules at his own discretion. Zuben is far away in Ishtar and has higher things in mind than our earthly issues. He protects us from Beliar’s wrath but he leaves us to ourselves as long as we pay the tribute that is lawfully his.  

Well, of course, Beliar is an angry god. He is cruel and unforgiving against his foes! But only against them. Like Zuben he is gracious and generous if you honour him. The regnancy for Beliar, the wealth for us! Just look at the poor life the adepts of the other gods have to live. They demand asceticism and renouncement. Why, I ask you? Isn’t the life for living? Isn’t the wealth for enjoying? You have a craving for a sweet fruit of one of our oases? Take it! You have a craving for the sweet lap of one of our slaves? Enjoy her dance! Gluttony and lust are no sin under a gracious god like Beliar. We know no fasting, no chastity, we don’t condemn the swamp weed. Just make good deals, give Beliar and his prophet what is theirs and you’ll be able to rest on silken cushions and have a life full of delight, just like me.  

You’re still not convinced? You are the father of doubts. Are you touched by the fate of the nomads? Those wildlings, that live in caves, stink like their cattle and dress in brown rags? Isn’t it their own fault? Haven’t they robbed our caravans and oases again and again? Zuben is no cruel lord. Everyone can bend the knee and live. But these bullheaded nomads don’t want to recognize his glory – so for them, there can only be death or chains. And the king? His soldiers came to our land, pillaged our cities, defiled our women, committed cruelty after cruelty. Then they razed the walls and harbours of our cities to the ground. He forbade us the long-distance trading so that only his merchants could profit from Varant’s wealth. We weren’t even allowed to bear arms. But Beliar listened to our pleas and resend us Zuben. He gave us our dignity, our freedom and our wealth back. Now we’re approaching a golden future. 

And you, son of the north? You can be a part of this future. The regnancy for Beliar, the wealth for us, the death for his enemies. 

– Sancho, vice-regent of Ben Erai



Don’t let the assassins tell you anything, boy. Don’t be a fool. They don’t get tired praising themselves for their trickiness. Just listen to them: “An assassin never bets on just one fighter in the arena.” “The first weapon of an assassin is his tongue, the second is his poison and only the third is his sword.” “Where others rule by power, the assassins rule by deceit.” Just ask yourself: Should you trust someone speaking like this?  

Let me tell you the truth, as a man that has lived long enough to know it. I remember the old days, boy, before Zuben appeared. I saw him rising and falling and rising again. It wasn’t all good in the old days, but it wasn’t as bad as they are telling nowadays.  

The emirs and sultans weren’t always fair leaders. But they controlled the acquisitiveness of the merchants. Just take a look around. Now the merchants are ruling the cities. Do you think their power is based on their ability to rule? They bought those positions! And they are not thinking about the well-being of their cities for one second. Each and every one of them squeezes his city and his subjects for a little bit of wealth. Also, they’re getting rich through the trading and the mines. And everyone competes with everyone That is what the faith of these sinners is teaching them. Greed and egoism. Every man for himself. They don’t begrudge anyone the shirt on his back. And their great Zuben? He’s watching from afar as these vultures fight one another. And these fools praise him for granting them the freedom to do so. A nice freedom that is, the freedom to pillage one another. So you really think that Zuben gives them this freedom because he is a good man? He’s cunning like an old snake. He knows, if he was ruling with an iron fist, uprisings would occur. But now, all with a little bit of power are fighting amongst themselves and no one can become powerful enough to threaten him. 

I’ve told you once and I’ll tell you again: Sinners are those assassins. In the old times, most of the people here in Varant praised to Adanos. Adanos is a gracious God. He teaches us temperance and effort. He teaches us the value of balance. That we should enjoy our life as well as doing our duties. He teaches us the value of every life and that you shall help your neighbour. And he brings us life through his water. The assassins praise Beliar’s cool shadow, but it is the water that brings us the life here in the desert, and even they have to drink. Did you ask them once, what the big doctrine is, their prophet brought them instead of the old faith? Those assassins only praise two things in Beliar: The freedom and the enjoyment of life. Yes, they are free. Free of scruple. Free of morality. Morality and decency are just prejudices of old people to them. They are preaching that only strength and cunningness are important and that there is no right except the one you take for yourself. And enjoyment is everything they are living for. They don’t know any higher ideals, only the earthly sweets. They’re fornicating with their slaves, they’re betting all their gold in the arena, they’re smoking the swamp weed – well boy just go to Lago, it isn’t far from here, and look for yourself what this village has become. They’re all just lying in the shadow smoking and babbling. Then you’ll see what Zuben’s wrong faith is doing to people.  

And don’t get confused by all their talking about freedom. Yes, Zuben is slackening the leashes for his vice-regents. But believe me, he’ll pull them tight very quickly if he has to. He doesn’t care about their little fights. Why should he? But no one has been really free here in Varant for a long time. The real lord is always Zuben and not the vice-regents. Everywhere are his henchmen. Just look at all these young assassins. Trained in Ishtar, that no one may enter who isn’t one of them. Only the gods may know, what Zuben is doing to them there. And then he sends them to every corner of the realm. To serve the vice-regents? Ha! To be his eyes and ears and hands. Here in Ben Erai I still can speak freely. But just go to Bakaresh or Mora Sul. No one will dare to speak freely there. No one knows if the neighbour or the own brother is a hidden assassin. And treason is a well-payed virtue to those sinners. I tell you, Zuben transformed us into a people of snitches and informers. And following the snitches and informers come the assassinators. And if they tell you, that every man is the architect of his own future, they only mean every man belonging to them. Do you doubt what I’m telling? Just take a look at the merchants with the biggest profits and ask them, if they are assassins. Only assassins are allowed to bring goods to Ishtar. Only assassins are allowed to operate the wells. Only assassins can buy a vice-regency. Only assassins are chosen to be arena leaders. The common folk can’t change much about their fate. The truth is, they’re getting poorer and poorer. The streets of Mora Sul are full of beggars. But that’s little wonder. There is no more work. Look at me, for decades I’ve been working in the mines. And today? Only slaves are working there anymore. Of corse there have always been slaves, but today it seems like half of Varant is bound in chains while the other half is starving.  

And in the end, none of it, not the wealth, not the freedom, really matters. The war mongerer Zuben only has one goal. The strengthening of his power. Most of his followers are young, raised under Rhobar’s occupation. Yes, your people committed quite some cruelties and there is much ill feeling, Northman. But what these young lads are forgetting is that it was us who attacked Myrtana. They and their families had to pay the price for Zuben’s megalomania, and now they’re celebrating him as their saviour. But they will all be surprised. The nomads have been peacefully for years, now they‘re attacking our caravans once again. Did these fools really think the nomads would quietly accept being hunted? And that is just the beginning. I’m betting you, boy, that Zuben already casts his eye on the north. Whether the king or the orcs are in power there, doesn’t matter to him. He’s already arming for the next war. And when this war is lost again, and we’ll be cast into ruin once more, they shouldn’t dare to be surprised!

No, don’t let the assassins tell you anything, boy. 

– Fatih former miner in Ben Erai