The Cult of Hashshash

Assassination has a long, if inglorious history, and the assassin (as a profession) dates back many years. The origins of the professional assassin goes back a long way - the first Chinese emperor, Shih huang-ti certainly employed at least one assassin, charged with the task of reducing the number of opponents to his rule. The Greek and Roman rulers certainly used the services of dedicated men for similar reasons (and quite openly, it seems - many important Imperial Roman figures were certainly assassinated), and there is evidence for many ancient civilisations' powerful players having dedicated bodyguard/assassins.

The word "assassin" has come into the English language from the Persian 'hashshashin', often mistakenly linked with hashish use. The precise etymology is uncertain, but is connected with the Persian Hasan-e Sabbah (or Hassan I Sabbah), leader of the Ismailite Islamic sect in the 11th Century. It is most likely to have been drawn from his name, rather than their alleged use of hashish to arouse their killing passion.

The assassins themselves were also members of Hasan's faith, and were trained by him as zealous religious shock troops. The cult arose out of warfare among the Fatimids (heads of the Shiite Ismailites). Following the death of the caliph al-Mustansir in 1094, Hasan-e Sabbah and many others in Iran refused to recognize the new caliph in Cairo. They became followers of his brother and rival, Nizar, and began the sect of the Nizari Ismailites. The Nizaris fought what we would now think of as a terrorist war, seeing the struggle as a religious duty, and their reward, Paradise.

When Hasan-e Sabbah captured Alamut, the reign of Assassins began. The title became attached to any member of his fighting force, and the assassins were highly effective as guerilla fighters as well as being assassins in the modern sense of the word.

By the early 12th Century, their war had spread into Syria, and followed this with their capture of the fortresses in the An-Nusayriyah Mountains, including the strategically important Masyaf. Their reign was a short one, however, as the Mongols gradually pushed them back until they captured Alamut in 1256.

They still have followers to this day, predominantly in Syria, Iran, and Central and South Asia. The largest group is to be found in India and Pakistan, gibing their alliegence to the Aga Khan. They are known as the Khojas.

The Myth of Hashish

As the legend goes, Hasan used hashish to enlist young men into the cult, and also to turn them into the fearsome warriors they became. The story originates with Marco Polo, who visited Iran and Iraq in 1273, almost 150 years after the events.

The Old Man kept at his court such boys of twelve years old as seemed to him destined to become courageous men. When the Old Man sent them into the garden in groups of four, ten or twenty, he gave them hashish to drink. They slept for three days, then they were carried sleeping into the garden where he had them awakened.

When these young men woke, and found themselves in the garden with all these marvelous things, they truly believed themselves to be in paradise. And these damsels were always with them in songs and great entertainments; they received everything they asked for, so that they would never have left that garden of their own will.

This account is unlikely for several reasons. Firstly, Hasan was violently opposed to the use of narcotics, taking the view that the Quran's ban on alcohol should extend into other intoxicants, to the extent that he ordered one of his sons executed for drunkenness. Secondly, hashish is rarely (if ever) taken in liquid form. Certainly, the secret archives at Alamut contained no reference to hashish or other substances being used in this way, and it is likely that Polo romanticised and exaggerated the accounts given by local sources, who may have been opposed to the memory of the conquering hashshashin.
Encyclopædia Britannica

Compiled overview of the 40 ton Assassin 'Mech, from various BattleTech novels and game sourcebooks:

The purchasing agents for the Star League's military branch seem to have overstepped their authority in the case of the Assassin ASN-21 BattleMech.

A new medium 'Mech was not truely required in 2825, but lobbyists for Maltex Corporation managed somehow to gain several key contracts for it's production. Despite all the politics involved, the Assassin turned out to be an almost usable 'Mech. The Assassin ASN-21 was originally marketed to compete against the Wasp and Stinger 'Mechs. Though heavier than these light 'Mechs, it is still a fast vehicle with full jump capabilities and a ever-so-slightly improved weapon payload. A technical success, the Assassin nonetheless failed to replace the Wasps and Stingers. The military felt loyal to the Wasps and Stingers, and both were much less expensive.

The Assassin's weapon mix consists of three systems that are each fine examples of weaponsmithing on their own, but have little strategical value when grouped together on this 'Mech. The Assassin's weapons are, one Holly LRM-5 Missile Rack, one Holly SRM-2 Missile Rack, and an arm-mounted Martell medium laser. The good point of this mix being that the LRM missile system has a plentiful amount of ammo. Great for hunting down light 'Mechs and bombarding them from long range.

Now, the problems...

The Assassin also has one of the most cramped cockpits in use in the Inner Sphere. In the past two hundred years, the cockpit's cooling system has been overhauled several times, but none of these efforts have been totally successful. The net result is an uncomfortable, sometimes deadly place to sit for any amount of time.

The Holly short-range missile rack has also been problematic. The loading mechanism has a tendency to jam, and this problem has worsened with age. To correct the problem the whole mechanism must be disassembled, a nearly impossible feat in a battlefield situation.

Rather than write off the Assassin entirely the newly re-designed Assassin ASN-23 model uses rediscovered Star League-era technology to give the 'Mech a slightly different role. The pesky SRM rack is removed, creating room for an upgrade to the medium laser to the readily available Magna 400P pulse laser. In addition, these 'Mechs mount the Artemis IV fire-control system to enhance the accuracy and efficiency of the Holly long-range missiles. So configured, the Assassin is once again an asset on some missions.

The Assassin 'Mech made its first battlefield appearance while Houses Marik and Steiner were battling for Rochelle in 2980. The fighting on Rochelle was slow, muddy, and bloody. Tacticians on both sides agreed that the Assassin fared well where other 'Mechs failed due to its seven 100AFVTA model jump jets keeping it flying above obstacles.

After the Assassin's impressive display on Rochelle, House Marik reassigned many of these 'Mechs to garrison duty along their borders. Several Marik lances of crack recon troops consist of nothing but Assassins, though these units are only used in rear area raiding parties.

The mercenary unit called the Amphigean Light Assault Group encountered some difficulties with their Assassins at the battle for Sevren while fighting for House Kurita. In 2990, Assassins from the mercenary unit ducked behind Steiner lines and raided enemy supply bases and rear-area cities for several weeks. Eventually, however, they ran low on ammunition. This left them with only their medium lasers to face the fury of Steiner's Fifteenth Lyran Guard. The Assassins tried to sneak back to Kurita lines, but only two of them made it.

In battles on Saffell, Cylene and Wheel, there are records of Assassins running low on ammunition and falling prey to rear-guard units. In 3021, realizing that the 'Mech needed more laser-based defenses, House Davion began production of the ASN-101 variant. The Assassin ASN-101 is based on the original ASN-21 chassis but it trades off half a ton of armor and two of its seven jump jets in exchange for three Small Lasers.

Note: Information used here was the domain of FASA before they split the rights between Wizkids LLC and Microsoft (table-top gaming and video games respectively). Copyright of the fluff text is in limbo, but names of persons, places, & things are without any doubt the property of Wizkids LLC. Use of any terms here related to the BattleTech trademark are not meant as a challenge to Wizkids LLC's rights.
Today's Arab assassins are the spiritual inheritors, if not lineal descendents, of a group of terrorists who called themselves the Order of Assassins ( = Arabic Al-Hashashun = user of hashish). It was a secret organization of the Ismaili sect, which in turn is part of Shi'i Islam. You may remember that the high-living Aga Khan, who is leader of the Ismaili sect. Many Iranians believed that the Ayatollah Khomeini was the hidden 12th Imam or leader of Shi'i.

The Assassins were famous for their mindless obedience to the chief and for their use of murder and assassination as a political tool. It has been rumored that the leader used hashish and possibly other drugs to obliterate personal willpower and to imbue the would-be murders with unlimited bravery. Count Henry of Champagne in 1194 visited the fortress Alamut and told the story that, to demonstrate that obedience, the chief of the Assassins merely gestured to two young followers who immediately leapt off a tower to their death.

The founder of the sect was Hasan ibn al-Sabbah (c.1090) who established the Order from the mountain fortress of Alamut, located south of the Caspian Sea. As the Order gained power through intimidation and terrorism, it extended its influence through Persia and Syria until no one of political importance was safe from their devious methods of eliminating their enemies.

The order operated much like some of the esoteric groups in Europe. Advancement through the grades was marked by an initiation more deeply into the secrets of the order. There are reports that the one secret of a degree was that the truths of the previous degree were untrue. Hasan's philosophy was summed up in the motto "nothing is real and everything is permissible." The highest degree contained those devotees eager for martyrdom in the open assassination of an enemy.

The Mongol Hulagu Khan in 1256 destroyed their fortresses and eradicated most of the sect in Persia. The armies of the Mamluk sultan of Egypt delivered a similar blow to the Syrian groups, which had come into contact with the Crusaders. Small assemblies of Assassins exist today, particularly in north Syria.

Stories brought back by the Crusaders and descriptions written by Marco Polo introduced the Assassins into European folklore. The term assassin came into English and is used today to mean murderer and particularly one who kills for political motives. A few modern groups, both occult and political, claim at least a spiritual connection to the Order.


Assassin is a Cosmic Encounter power from the Mayfair and Eon editions. Considered to be a classic power. Assassin gives the player the power to execute which “Removes Others’ Tokens”. What follows is the Mayfair text.

You have the power to execute. Whenever any other player's color comes up in the destiny pile, you must send one token of that color from any base to the warp. You select which token to execute. You assassinate a token of the player whose color was turned up, even if that player does not end up being challenged because of the Will or some other effect. On a Wild Destiny card, you may assassinate any token of your choice regardless of whom the offensive player chooses to attack.

History: After being subjected to colonial domination for thousands of years, a hive of Assassins rose up on an outpost planet in a forgotten empire. Devoted to terrorism and adept at choosing the most isolated and vulnerable as their victims, they mercilessly cleansed their sector of it overlords. Having become imperialists themselves, however, they learn new uses for their old talents.

Like any craftsman, he knew his tools better than almost anything else. Whatever the nature of the task at hand, he could always find the right instrument at a moment's consideration. Pausing, he slipped his lithe, gloved fingers into one of the many concealed pockets of his black coat and withdrew the wafer-thin knife.

It had taken him weeks to get to this point. One week in the library familiarising himself with his target's movements in the newspaper reports, making notes of details discovered in biographies, obtaining maps and plans of the buildings the target would visit. Another week had been spent tracking – stalking, but from a distance - discovering the regular routines that made up the man's life. Once he knew the routines, he would be ready to begin the penultimate stage – the plan. Everything had to be perfect, a mistake could cost him his career, his freedom, and in this country, his life.

He had taken up a brief residence in the city, you could always find somewhere if you looked, an abandoned office or storeroom usually. The only condition was it had to be close to the railway line that lead to the airport. He could be out of the country at a moment's notice, just another businessman on an unexpected trip. That was important. If anything went wrong, he had to be able to escape before anyone realised. Of course, even if things went to plan, a swift departure was vitally necessary. Preferably before they started watching the airports. His passport was a good one, so good that it would take a microscope to prove it was a forgery. A customs official on a busy flight would never notice, not with the cursory glance they gave them. He'd never use it again. Someone might notice a pattern.

Poisoning was impracticable, from his biographies; the target protected himself with food-testers; an archaic technique, and one that would be ineffective with certain slow-acting toxins. However, there was no money in killing an innocent guard and even injected poisons had been known to fail. Some preferred silenced firearms, guns were easy to come by in this country, but the fact they left a bullet on the scene was potentially a fatal imperfection. He liked to leave no trace at all if possible, although a wound was usually a necessity. He had never favoured garrotting; it felt uncivilised and caused the target to suffer far more than was necessary. Knives were the real tools of his trade. Swift, efficient and clean, a well-placed blade would kill in moments, the victim feeling almost nothing. He could take the weapon with him when he left.

A knife of course could only be utilized at short range, and that had meant infiltration. This exercise was always easier in the day, the guards were busy watching the main entrance, and the sides were left almost unobserved. There were security cameras, but even they could not see through the high walls surrounding the mansion. An old pine tree growing just inside the grounds had given him enough cover once he was over, and since the fifteen feet of concrete was topped with barbed wire, it had been the work of half a minute to sling a thin rope around it and climb up. Once inside the grounds, his main tasks were securing an entrance, and more importantly, a getaway.

Although it was easier to get into the grounds by day, actually entering the building was far easier by night. Night, was when the work would be done. With any luck, the body would not be discovered until the morning, by which time he could have left the country. Years of daily training had brought him to the peak of physical fitness, lean and powerful, he had moved silently through the grounds, each step calculated to minimise the disturbance. The grass barely bent under his feet. Selecting a hiding place where a shrub grew up the side of the mansion he crouched down and waited.

This was always the hardest part of the operation. Although there was almost no risk of being seen, as time slowly ticked by, the paranoia could begin to grow. The trick was not to think. The plan was in place and was proceeding perfectly, the contingencies were there if he needed them. All that was necessary was to wait. To avoid getting cramp he moved through a careful routine of position changes calculated for minimum disturbance; he would not be seen even if his hiding place was being watched. At first his mind would be active, buzzing with the adrenaline that came with the job, but gradually, as the hours passed and the sun sank towards the horizon, he would become calm; moving silently from one stance, to another, to another, until his complete focus was on waiting for the time to move.

The waiting was a kind of meditation, as his mind calmed he would become aware of all the sounds around him. The rustle of leaves as a bird took off from a nearby tree, the gentle knock of a door closing somewhere inside the house. If a guard approached, he would know well in advance. Eventually, the shadows would lengthen and the light would dim, soon it would be time.

The most important discovery of his research was the target's sleeping habits. A man of political importance tends to get very little sleep, but that which he does achieve is extremely deep. This particular figure could be relied upon to be sufficiently unconscious within half an hour of retiring to bed, a careful watch of the lights in the target's bedroom ascertained when this had occurred. The bedroom was on the east side of the building, its light projecting a rough square onto the grass in front of his hiding place. At seven minutes past two it had become dark.

Before he moved, he had checked his escape. Nothing noticeable had been prepared, if someone found a rope on the wall or noticed a nearby vehicle, they would become suspicious. He kept the tools he needed on him and there was a bicycle a ten minute run away. The only obstacle was the wall and with his rope, that would be easy enough to climb back over. The moon was on the other side of the house, he had checked; the drama of being silhouetted for a moment was a ridiculous notion, unnecessary theatre was to be avoided. He was not even tempted.

His entrance had been by a window, he had not been happy about this, but the mansion doors were well guarded and locked with an intricate mechanism he would have trouble breaking. It was far easier to quietly cut the glass of his target's window, slip a hand in and open it. The real problem was the alarm. Crouched on the sill, he had unscrewed the box – mostly there as a deterrent – and carefully disabled the trigger mechanism, a reasonably easy task to accomplish if you had a light. He could do it blindfold. So that was it, now he was inside, crouched in the darkness as his target slept.

He was never bothered by killing people. That had surprised him at first, but he found himself unconcerned by it. He had no illusions about what he was doing, he was not simply the weapon, he was not simply someone else's will. He chose his actions and they resulted in death. And yet, he never felt a thing. He supposed it might get to him eventually, he might one day wake up in the night and feel the weight of all those souls, but for now, he was simply impassive.

The knife in his left hand, he looked around the room. On the chair by the dresser was a shirt. He picked it up and, lay the centre of it on his palm. Carefully, he laid his weapon across it and grasped the handle. The pillow case was for the blood, he preferred to be tidy. Slowly, he bent down and drew the covers back from the target's chest. Very gently he ran his fingers down the sleeping man's ribcage and found his heart. Covering the unfortunate person's mouth with his left hand, he surgically slid the knife between the fourth and fifth rib. And it was done.

Six hours later, somewhere over the Atlantic, the captain of the aeroplane announced the sad news.

As*sas"sin (#), n. [F. (cf. It. assassino), fr. Ar. hashishin one who has drunk of the hashish. Under its influence the Assassins of the East, followers of the Shaikh al-Jabal (Old Man of the Mountain), were said to commit the murders required by their chief.]

One who kills, or attempts to kill, by surprise or secret assault; one who treacherously murders any one unprepared for defense.


© Webster 1913.

As*sas"sin, v. t.

To assassinate.




© Webster 1913.

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