Of Sickles and Such

Women have perhaps always been the most effective assassins. This is largely due to them being constantly underestimated by men and overlooked as potential threats due to the fact that they are, well, not manly enough. This opens up a variety of avenues by which a clever woman skilled in disguise and possessing rogue abilities can overcome defenses and insinuate herself with ease into situations she can take full advantage of. Out comes the stiletto, or flask of poison, and down goes the target. And just like that she is free to escape in the guise of yet another harmless damsel while the guards and detectives seek out the man involved in this nefarious act of violence.

One such persona is a woman that is known almost exclusively by the nickname “Sickle”. She has gone to great lengths to make a lucrative career for herself as a hired killer and in the process has created a vast criminal organization to facilitate her activities. She runs a number of illicit enterprises in larger cities throughout Fanolania and allegedly beyond that include the acquiring and selling of stolen goods, smuggling people and products across the continent, and of course dabbling in useful information that can be sold to the highest bidder. It is her ability to blend in though that makes the Sickle dangerous. It is unlikely that even her top lieutenants know what she really looks like or even have a clue as to her real name. As much infamy as she has acquired and gold she has stashed away there is a great deal to be learned about what her goals are from one job to the next or who her most trusted henchmen are.

There are two things that are known for sure about the Sickle. First of all, she carried with her an amulet at all times and in all guises. This isn’t merely a good luck totem, though. It is inhabited by a spirit that is somehow bound to the Sickle and will go to tremendous lengths to keep the Sickle safe from harm or to further the Sickle’s interests. The ghostly presence when witnessed by others has a distinctly feminine form but who or what it was in life is more of a mystery than the Sickle herself.

The second thing that is known about the Sickle is that she has a penchant for using men as patsies and fall-guys for her schemes. This has given rise to a little rhyme among the criminal underworld about Sickle and Scythe. In common parlance a sickle is a small, easily concealed implement for harvesting, whereas a scythe is a cumbersome and unwieldy tool that is both slow and easily avoided. In practical terms the Sickle has made herself the true assassin while the Scythe, a doomed fellow from the get-go unaware of his eventual fate, is made to seem like the main threat to whoever the target is. By means of this ruse the Sickle goes in for the kill and the Scythe ends up being killed by guards, hanged by authorities, or meets some even more gruesome fate. There have been literally dozens of Scythes over the years and not once has the Sickle even come close to being caught.

*Note: This isn’t even remotely a “Game of Thrones” thing, either. Players in my game back in 1993 will remember a potent NPC character that fits this description running amok in the city-state of Kugahloo. That was a full three years before George R.R. Martin published his first book in the series, and he wasn’t feeding me ideas. By the same token he wasn’t stealing mine either, because I would have remembered him if he was at our game. He would have been the guy with guacamole in his pockets for later.