The Singing Mercenaries
Final Sleep Ki Focus +3
A Small, Black Book
This small manual’s plain, black leather covers contain illustrations of the vulnerable points on a variety of creatures. The contents change each time you open the book, and as you flip from page to page you never seem to reach the book’s end.
Price: 17,000 gp
Implement (Ki Focus)
Enhancement: +3 attack rolls and damage rolls
Critical: +3d12 damage
Property: Whenever you reduce an enemy to 0 hit points or fewer, you can shift 1 square as a free action.
There is an art to death. While some of the mortal races find killing distasteful, they forget the great skill it takes for the butcher to do his work, or the angler to make edible his catch. Indeed, death surrounds all beings—even the seemingly immortal can be threatened with the Final Sleep, the True Death, the Great Darkness; all are names for one reality, and that is the end of living. Like all arts, there are artists of varying degrees of skill. In the case of death, even the crudest methods are worth noting, for in killing, it is the result, rather than the form, that matters.
For those skilled masters in the art, years of study have grown to entire manuals covering several effective ways of snuffing out the wick. Now, there are those that would deny this mastery, especially those who can heal others, those who would protect others, those who claim to be in the service of peace. But they are all part of the cycle—the physic can kill as well as cure, with the proper adjustment, short-sightedness can lead to the downfall of a sheltered party, and rage can drive even the most peaceable of souls to a murderous frenzy. Death surrounds all.
From Assassin’s Guild to Sorcerer’s Tower, and now for time immemorial, mortals, and even the gods and goddesses of death have kept track of death; not only who died, but how they died. To that end, each has kept a hidden source of knowledge, carefully tracking, describing, and illustrating just how easily, beautifully, and frighteningly life can come to an end. In the end, it serves them, as they can use this knowledge to avoid the attacks known to mortals, and even gods. It is the novel death, the unknown method of an unrealized killer that is the greatest threat to their existence. And so they write, and track, and imagine death, for fear of their own.
But it is said that there is a perfect repository of all this knowledge, a perfect manual of death; one that not only records the killing techniques of all time past, but records the echoes of a dark future not yet born. It is not so much written as manifested, being born of fear itself. The fear of death, emanating from countless mortals and divine beings, caught in realms of chaos, the highest planes of pleasure, and the most sacred of places, swirls and pulses in the realm of all that is.
This amalgamation of terrors real and imagined, of concerns and worries, of hatred and love, insanity and rational logic coalesced into the most unlikely of forms: a small, black book. It is non-descript, as befits the uncountable, innumerable imaginings of death. It does not emanate power, or radiate wondrous light. No, like death, it simply exists as it is, but as such As such, its pages are boundless. It is a small, black book, plain, undeniably present and already filled with more knowledge than all the wisdom of those who have or will experience death. And it has a purpose, beyond the plans of mortals and gods alike.
While many assume it belongs to the greatest servant of the Raven Queen, and is manifested by her powers over death itself, the book manifests itself out of its own necessity. Death must be, for all to be. It guides the universe through its will, secretly, silently. It is known, however, to be primarily available to the one who arises as a Perfect Slayer, but has been known to manifest itself to other worthies as well. Those with great skill in the art of killing are always its willing servitors, though often they do not understand its power, only that it divulges its secrets in endless pages, focusing them on the Art of Killing.
It will always find its way to the person most desired by its will. Sometimes, it will be purchased, having manifested in an inventory, other times it is passed down from master to student. Worthiness alone does not dictate its changing of hands, rather there is ineffable quality about the individual that seems to give rise to its appearance. It is a combination of imagination, respect, and vitality, but none of these specifically.
Ultimately, this is because it has a secret: eventually, the little black book will become one with its most perfect pupil, and being so understood by this individual, it will manifest in reality as the perfect idea of Death, greater than that controlled by the gods, immutable, unstoppable, neither mortal nor immortal. Perfect Death, arising from Perfect Being. And at that moment, all will be balanced, and Death will have its day. But for now, this is only a whisper, echoes not come to pass on ages of shifting, empty pages…