- "You seek my counsel? Then I shall give it. You cannot trust your generals, for they crave your rank. You cannot trust your troops, for they are cowards. And you most certainly cannot trust me–I am on your side only until justice is served. Sometimes, my lord, it is better not to know the truth."
- —Algard, Wizard of the Grey College, addressing Elector Count Theodoric Gausser[2a]
The Magisters of the Grey Order are those who have embraced Ulgu, the Grey Wind of deception and obfuscation. A more precise translation of the legal definition of the art as described in the Articles of Imperial Magic, “Cryptoclastic Thaumaturgy,” would be magic and spellcraft whose practices and affects are secret and hide what really is.
Symbols & Appearances
The Sword of Judgement, the Cowl, the Coil of Mist.
The Sword of Judgement is the symbol of the Grey College, and the wielders of the Wind of Ulgu for the Empire. It is equal parts promise and threat, for a sword can be wielded in defence or in judgement, and the Grey Wizards are deep in the prosecution of both. The orientation of the sword, its point directed downwards, is no accident. It serves as a reminder both to noble and peasant that the justice of the Grey Wizards hangs over their heads, ready to descent at a moment's notice.[2a]
There are many further meanings to the Sword, and the Grey Wizards use it prominently to mark meeting places, ritual circles and other places of power. Even the slightest alteration of the symbol's rendering can significantly alter the message it conveys--provided one is privy to the details of the code. However, few men outside the confines of the Grey College can claim to know more than a handful of iterations, and most of those scraps of knowledge are likely mere deceptions carefully set by the Grey Wizards to lead others astray.[2a]
When not disguised, the workday robes of the Grey Order are, unsurprisingly, shades of grey. They often wear voluminous cloaks with deep hoods and scarves to cover their faces. Their bodies beneath their robes are often lean and hard from a life of near-constant travelling and free from all excess.
The symbol of the Lore of Shadow is the Sword, and true to this symbol, the Shadowmancers usually carry swords, often concealed beneath their cloaks. They are competent fighters. Older Magisters of the Grey Order also tend to carry gnarled wooden staffs.
- "This myth is not known to the cults, for it comes from the Asur, whom I have had the fortune of discussing these matters with. When the Great Gates collapsed, and the mutating energies of the Aethyr were released, mourning Verena was approached by Taal to join the defence against the Dark Gods. He had become king after his father, Asuryan, had been struck down by the Blood God, and was rallying those who still lived. After much persuasion, Verena eventually agreed to join the survivors at the Great Pyramid. When she arrived, she was shocked to see how few remained. Knowing they desperately needed an advantage, Verena studied the great tablets of the Old Ones, and uncovered the existence of Tlanxla’s Sword of Judgement, a weapon of incredible power. So, without informing Taal, she travelled to the Southern Gate disguised as a servant of the Dark Gods. After hardships unnumbered, she eventually found it in the hands of a Daemon God. Like many other artefacts of the Old Ones, the Sword was being used to further the schemes of the Dark Gods. The Daemon God in question was called Ulgu, who had been commanded by the Lord of Change to join with seven other Gods to flood the mortal realm with the Aethyr. Verena, using her intelligence and wit, tricked Ulgu into giving her the Sword, then fled back to the Pyramid, to join the last stand against the Dark Gods. When she arrived, the forces of Chaos were already making their attack. She swooped down and joined the defence. Step-by-step the defenders were driven up the pyramid, until there were only a handful of Gods about the Diamond Throne at its top. Just as it seemed all was lost, a great, white fire erupted from the Throne, and Asuryan the Phoenix, wearing a bifurcated mask of white and black, strode forth. With a strength borne of fury, the resurrected King of the Gods drove back the confused forces of Chaos. To this day, Elven servants of Verena, whom they call Hoeth, all bear swords, much like their God. In turn, we, the Wise Magisters of the Grey Order, also favour the weapon, all in memory of a myth that probably isn’t even true."
- —Markus Fischer, Magister of the Grey Order[4a]
Of all the Orders, the Magisters of the Grey Order are the most deliberately secretive, and the least easily recognised. They are not trusted or liked by common folk, who believe them to be sinister and scheming–even more so than other Magisters (with the possible exception of the Order of Shyish). For this reason, they are sometimes referred to as ‘Trickster Wizards’, though they actually call themselves Grey Guardians. Their powers, though considerable, do not lend themselves well to the favour of common folk, being bound as they are in spells of concealment, illusion, confusion, and occasionally, unseen death.
Duties & Contracts
Though Shadowmancers are required to serve in the state and provincial militaries of the Empire, just like Magisters of every other College, being mobile force-multipliers for the army is not their prime or even most suited role.
Looking at the dilapidated property the Order calls its College, few would realise its owners are one of the most far-reaching (and in some ways among the most powerful) organisations in the Empire. Yet the building’s shabby exterior is a front for secret and sometimes sinister purposes. Behind the dilapidated facade that surrounds the Grey Order lies an efficient and ruthless spy network. But the Order of Shadows does not work for the nobles of any particular province, and neither do they work for the Emperor himself — at least, not in a direct or political way, though they often serve as advisors.
Shadowmancers, like Hierophants, are tasked primarily with the persecution of the enemies within Imperial society and the protection of the ideals of the Empire. But where the Hierophants are predominantly exorcists, seeking out and aiding only those who are possessed by Daemons or the very darkest magic, the Shadowmancers serve as diplomats, spies, and even assassins, tasked with finding and eliminating the networks of illicit organisations that work away in the shadows undermining the acceptable civil, military, political, and religious structures of the Empire. In this work their spells of persuasion, distraction, concealment, and deception are of considerable worth.
Yet this means that they often risk coming into conflict with the Witch Hunters who view all “licensed witches” as untrustworthy and too involved in the Witch Hunters’ own affairs. Little do the witch hunters or any other great authority in the Empire realise seeking out corruption within organisations that often appear (or are in fact) above the law is just one of the Order’s many self-appointed jobs.
With their mastery of shadows and illusion, and with their ability to divert attention, they can easily infiltrate organizations, get into and out of buildings without being seen, kill people and make it look like someone else did it, and generally confuse and perplex the public at large. The Shadowmancers are relatively few but they are effective.
It is almost impossible to identify a Magister of the Grey Order if he specifically does not want you to. That harmless old man with the travelling theatre company; the young woman who performs hackneyed illusions in the town square for money; the travel-stained Magister with the group of rowdy adventurers in the corner of the inn; the new initiate to some daemonic cult; the beggar, priest, merchant, noble, diplomat, or that battle-weary soldier — the Shadowmancers can appear as almost anyone.
The only non-Collegiate authority the Grey Order is theoretically answerable to is the Emperor himself, but in effect this is not as clear cut as it would seem. The Shadowmancers serve in war as is their duty as stipulated in the Articles of Imperial Magic. However, Volans, the first Patriarch, and the subsequent Lord Magisters of the Grey Order (led currently by Magister Patriarch Reiner Starke), forbade that the Grey Order should ever sell their skills to aid the various political manoeuvrings of the Elector Counts and other governing bodies. Their goal was to oppose Chaos in all its forms, not to unduly influence the internal political struggles of the Empire. An Emperor could be forced to abdicate, or worse, may fall to the seductions of Chaos and would then stop being an ally and become a potential enemy to the Empire. It was deemed unwise to let the full truth of the Order’s abilities and activities get into the hands of a potential enemy; so the Emperor, the Electors, the religious authorities, the Merchants’ Guilds, and burgomeisters of the Empire know little or nothing of the clandestine activities undertaken by the Shadowmancers right beneath their noses.
But the Shadowmancers’ work is never done. There are many powerful people within the great organisations of the Empire who are Chaos cultists themselves with considerable resources to hamper and block the Shadowmancers’ otherwise secret activities. This is partly why the Order is so diffused around the Empire — the more centralised they are, the easier it is to restrict them and follow their movements.
Shadowmancers can be found in service of important officials, merchants, and nobles, whether these groups realise it or not. The Lords of the Grey Order assure all Magisters of their Order are bound very tightly by the Articles of Magic and by the Order’s own very strict rules. Shadowmancers may only practice their spellcraft for the benefit of Imperial society and are expressly forbidden from using their magic for their own profit or solely for the political or financial profit of their patrons. All Shadowmancers must take vows of poverty and are not permitted to accumulate property or wealth not of direct and practical use to their cause. Any breaches of the many strict rules laid down by the Order are prosecuted very harshly and vigorously.
The Order of Shadows has killed or Pacified more of its own members than any other of the Orders of Magic, and this is more of a reflection of the zero-tolerance of rule breaking and corruption within the Order rather than a demonstration of their Magisters’ untrustworthiness.
The Grey College
The Grey Order is a worn and shabby stone building, seemingly ill positioned in the back alleys of Altdorf's poorest and most disreputable district, which is scattered generously with dubious bordellos and violent taverns. Even the Watch prefers to keep away unless in considerable force, and no honest citizen would ordinarily risk entering such a den of rogues and cutthroats. But the Shadowmancers are no ordinary citizens.[1c]
The College is not a large building, neither is it strikingly dissimilar to those that neighbour it. Its members come and go by any number of secret entrances situated in surrounding streets, and legend has it that there are myriad hidden routes connected to the College, both above and below ground, that stretch right across the city, protected by powerful spells of misdirection. Perhaps unsurprisingly, no outsider has ever found such routes.[1c]
The building itself is a modest-sized stone building, ancient and crumbling. It is not an impressive sight, but there is something distinctly eerie about the walls, with their missing stones and stained and moss-covered windows. The roof has noticeable holes in it and seems to let the rain in. Birds nest in the eaves and the single ruinous tower is home to a family of white owls.[1c]
The inside of the College is almost as decrepit as the outside, with erratically spaced gargoyles on the walls. The rooms appear as unused chambers that echo to the sound of a footfall. There is one laboratory with some ancient-looking alchemical equipment. Spider webs stretch from the alembics to retorts, and there are old bird nests in fractured old bell jars. The place seems long abandoned.[1c]
Some say that there is a great library somewhere on the premises containing many rare and curious volumes of lore, and secrets of members of many of the dark cults in the Empire. However, unless a Shadowmancer, no one entering the College could ever hope to find this library, if it exists at all. Rumour has it that no one who has entered the College uninvited has ever emerged again, hence the reason the building is left alone by the criminal element of this rather seedy district.[1c]
Sometimes faint, eerie lights can be seen moving behind its darkened windows at night. These are probably just scare away curious citizens and give the place an air of eccentric mystery; but then, who knows for sure?[1c]
Shadowmancers are itinerant wanderers and there are few in residence in the College at any time. What actually takes place within the building’s crumbling halls is anybody’s guess.[1d]
Due to the nature of their activities, Shadowmancers almost never take on Apprentices who are out of their teens. The longer a person has been free to wander the world, the more hooks the world can sink into them–or so believe the Grey Order's Magisters. Also, being a very suspicious lot, they almost never accept applicants to their College, each Magister preferring instead to travel the Empire and find apprentices for themselves; preferably young people who have absolutely no expectation of it.
Since Shadowmancers have to move around quite a lot, they often take their Apprentices with them as they wander across the Empire. This means that apprentices to the Grey Order tend to have more experience of the world as their master would like them to see it, thus predisposing them to follow in their master’s footsteps when the time is right.
- Algard -- Magister and creator of a legendary trove of eldritch tomes.
- Cristoph Engel -- Master Wizard based in Ubersreik.
- Gavius Klugge -- Suspected member and officer of The Cloak.
- Giovanni Mezzo -- Master Chef and owner of Mezzo's, a famous wizard's restaurant and meeting ground.
- Kurtis Krammovitch -- Wizard Lord and mentor of Markus Fischer.
- Markus Fischer -- Lord Magister and secret double agent of the Hedgefolk.
- Olorin -- Member of the Comradeship.
- Ptolos -- Archmage who won the Grey Wand at the Battle of Blood Keep.
- Reiner Starke -- Magister Patriarch of the Order of Shadows.
- 1: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Realms of Sorcery
- 2: Warhammer Fantasy: Storm of Magic
- 2a: pg. 40
- 3 Warhammer End Times: Vermintide
- 4: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Tome of Salvation
- 4a: pg. 20