A member of the Deceiver cult

Stranglers, also known as Deceivers and tooga, were a religious cult who worshiped Kina, the goddess of death. The cult was forbidden by the authorities throughout the southern continent, most notably the government of Taglios, and the penalty for belonging to them was death. The group assisted the Black Company during the Siege of Dejagore in Dreams of Steel. But, true to their name, they deceived Lady and kidnapped her newborn daughter, who was their "Foretold" messiah. They would continue to play major roles in the events of the Books of Glittering Stone.

Introduction[edit | edit source]

History[edit | edit source]

The cult of the Stranglers was established by Kina, who mentally reached out from her subterranean prison beneath the fortress with no name, influencing many followers to seek her liberation. To accomplish this, she had the three Books of the Dead written, which contained knowledge granted to the ancient Stranglers by Kina to be used to free her. Strangler bands developed, waxed, and waned for centuries in the homeworld. Many other cults of Kina existed throughout the 16 worlds linked by glittering plain, including the Kina worshipers of Khatovar who created the Free Companies, but these were not Stranglers.

In ancient past of the southern continent of the homeworld, the Stranglers there were persecuted vigorously by Rhaydreynak, the powerful emperor of the areas now known as Taglios and the Shadowlands. These Stranglers had possession of all three of the Books of the Dead. To preserve the books from Rhaydreynak's rampage, they escaped onto the plain by using the golden pickax to cross the Shadowgate. They entered the nameless fortress and hid the Books in one of the caverns above where Kina herself was trapped. Rhaydreynak's crusade against the Stranglers was so effective that the Books of the Dead were lost by the cultists and their golden pickax was forgotten in the Vinh Gao Ghang Temple of Ghanghesha. However, the most prominent Strangler, Mahtnahan dan Jakel, assassinated Rhaydreynak with his silver rumel and even lived another 40 years after the murder. Mahtnahan dan Jakel was the only silver rumel man in the Strangler's entire history: he had personally slain more than 1000 victims.

The Stranglers continued in the southern continent for generations, surviving many more attempts to exterminate them. To hide in plain sight, they maintained identities as either Gunni, Shadar, or Vehdna in public. But when they traveled together to commit their periodic murders, a man of the lowest Gunni caste could be the jamadar of his Strangler band who would command the unwavering respect and submission of the most arrogant Shadar aristocrat.

Characteristics and doctrine[edit | edit source]

For the glory of Kina, and to protect their brotherhood, the Stranglers would, true to their name, kill by strangling their victims with a weapon called a rumel. Murder was their primary method of worshiping Kina. Their goal was to murder enough people to bring on the Year of the Skulls and set Kina free from her prison. They would rob every victim, accumulating significant hidden wealth. They also had a secret language called the Deceiver's Cant, a breathy language that was used to communicate in darkness and during hostile conditions.

The Stranglers believed their faith predated all others. But at least three key parts of their doctrine included syncretic aspects:

  • They believed in the Wheel of Life, which is from Gunni doctrine.
  • Their priests and jamadars celebrated the Festival of Lights, which shared many attributes of a Shadar ceremony of the same name.
  • They believed in a paradise in the afterlife, which corresponded closely to the same concept from the Vehdna faith.

Organization[edit | edit source]

Stranglers are organized into decentralized, regional bands, each reporting to a local jamadar (captain). They do not have a defined command structure outside of their individual bands. However, when a significant portion of them gathers at the Grove of Doom for the Festival of Lights – to torture and sacrifice prisoners to their goddess – they defer to a group of educated Strangler priests. Also, some jamadars prove to be more influential than others.

The newest members begin as grave-diggers and bone-breakers. Many never advance beyond that level, for they develop no skill with the rumel. The yellow rumel men are the lowest ranked Stranglers. Apprentices. They seldom have a chance to kill, being mostly assigned as arm-holders for red rumel men and as scouts and victim-finders. Red rumel men do most of the strangling. Few win the black rumel. Those almost always become jamadars or priests. The priests do the divining and take omens, intercede with Kina, and keep the chronicles and accounts of the company. When it becomes necessary they act as judges.

Narayan Singh, Dreams of Steel

The color of the rumel indicates the owner's ranking in the cult, and often indicates the number of murders they had committed in Kina's name. All Stranglers begin with the yellow rumel. The lowest-ranked members, they are the grave-diggers and the bone-breakers, who expertly pulverize their band's strangling victims, without shedding a drop of blood, and ritually bury the remains in tiny graves. Yellow rumel men rarely get to use the weapon, instead, most commonly functioning as arm-holders for the red rumel man, to hold the victim in place. The red rumel man commits most of the killings. The black rumel is restricted to their elite members. A black rumel typically indicates that its possessor has strangled at least one hundred people, or, less commonly, had strangled an established black rumel, earning him the right to take possession of that black rumel. There was only one rank above black rumel, the silver rumel, which was possessed by only one man: the ancient Strangler saint Mahtnahan dan Jakel.

Ranks and leaders[edit | edit source]

Dreams of Steel[edit | edit source]

Narayan Singh and Ram the first stranglers that Lady met. At first they helped her eliminate several of her political enemies in Taglios. Narayan Singh even seemed to believe that she was a reincarnation of their goddess. Lady was tested by Kina and survived. Eventually the stranglers revealed their true objective: their plan all along was to kidnap Lady's newborn, whom they would revere as the "Foretold" prophet. Although Ram defied his fellow cult members and killed 4 of them heroically in defense of Lady, he was slain and the baby was abducted. Narayan and the Stranglers would call the child the Daughter of Night and raise her in the ways of their cult.

Bleak Seasons[edit | edit source]

Murgen led a Black Company ambush on the Stranglers' temple in the Grove of Doom during Bleak Seasons. By chance, the attack happened to take place during a gathering of the Strangler leadership and six of Longshadow's shadowweavers. Narayan Singh fled with the Daughter of Night before Goblin's sleep spell could disorient him, and he escaped the area entirely with the help of the Howler and his flying carpet.

She Is the Darkness[edit | edit source]

Now allied with Longshadow, the Stranglers experienced a resurgence, with a noteworthy increase in their numbers. They carried out the murders of several members of the Black Company, inspiring fear and necessitating constant vigilance. During the Battle of Charandaprash, almost a whole encampment of Stranglers was wiped out by Uncle Doj, who used Ash Wand to hack his enemies to pieces. Doj was accompanied by Ky Gota, who was elderly but spry, dangerous, and no stranger to violence herself.

Soldiers Live[edit | edit source]

During the Battle at the Shadowlander cemetery, the visiting Stranger pilgrims who were present in the Grove were ambushed, executed, and beheaded by Aridatha Singh and his men from the Taglian City Battalions. Aridatha was the biological son of Narayan Singh, the recently-deceased Strangler saint, but Aridatha was an avowed enemy of the Stranglers. The Daughter of Night and her guardian, the Khadidas, were immediately subdued and carted off to Taglios.

One of the last bands of Stranglers secretly supplied the captive Daughter of Night with a rumel, which she used to attack her biological mother Lady. This final band was hunted down and mercilessly wiped out by the Company. After Kina, the Khadidas, and the Daughter of Night were killed, the Stranglers were reduced to apparently insignificant numbers. With Kina gone, her notorious mental influence over the minds of men and the Grove of Doom was finally erased. Whatever remained of the Strangler cult may have dwindled and died out afterward.

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • The Stranglers are based on the real-world Thuggee cult / gang which originated in India, and who's members loosely worshiped Kali, the Goddess of Destruction. They formed during the early 14th Century, and continued to operate until they were eradicated at the beginning of the 20th Century by the British Empire. It has been speculated they killed anywhere between 50,000 and 1,000,000 people during their existence making them the most destructive 'terrorist group' in human history.
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