We sing of Artemis Khryselakatos, warrior-huntress armed with shafts of gold. She is our fiercely-voiced, revered virgin, who relishes the hunt and delights in her arrows. Over the shadowy valleys and windy mountain tops she pursues her prey. When she draws back her golden bow, thrilling to the chase, the sky fills with a storm of grievous shafts. Her passage causes the highest peaks to tremble; the tangled woods echo with the cries of beasts, the earth quakes, and the sea storms when she thunders by!
— Homeric Hymn 27 to Artemis, as related by the Oracle
Like a diamond-bladed sword, the Knives of Artemis are incomparably beautiful and deadly. Bewitching tales of the Knives of Artemis are told by military pundits and war journalists in awed tones around the world.
Heroes speak of them with equal parts enthrallment and dread, because they are renowned for their charms as much as for their mercilessness.
The Knives of Artemis is an all-female mercenary group, and has a reputation as one of the deadliest paramilitary groups in the world. The Knives are often seen as an extension of the Malta Group, and are enlisted for high-level security functions, or to engage in surgical strike operations. They are also rumored to act as elite assassins.
Although they most often work as the hardcore assassin wing of the Malta Group, they are an independent organization.
The Knives of Artemis – often called “Knives” by outsiders, or “Sisters” by those within the sorority – are all highly trained operatives.
They are masters of stealth and reconnaissance, and trained to be experts with both firearms and melee weapons, however their signature weapons are the wrist-crossbow, caltrops, and their eponymous knives.
The ceremonial knives of Artemis that each carries are large, serrated blades that are truly more like a functional sword than a simple ornate symbol — as deadly as the women that carry them.
Each woman recruited into the sisterhood is given rigorous training that lasts years. Their fearsome natural skills are enhanced with advanced military technology, such as cloaking devices and powerful night-vision goggles.
Some reports suggest veteran Knives may be augmented through high-tech and illegal technologies, but these are unconfirmed by the FBSA. Their arsenal is extensive, and in addition to their standard knives, crossbows, and caltrops, may include: sleep, or poisoned darts; shuriken; and web grenades.
Their officers sometimes carry darts filled with a paralyzing nerve agent, and exploding shuriken.
When the Knives of Artemis were first encountered, it was suspected that they were a small group of only 70, or perhaps 100 individuals. Obviously their ranks have expanded since the Rikti War as more broken or disillusioned women were adopted into their ranks and hardened.
Recruits are selected based on their raw intelligence and inner willpower. While it is always favorable to recruit a girl with fluency in several languages or expert computer hacking skills, much of those abilities can be taught if the raw resources are there.
Occasionally a girl will be hand-picked for a particularly desirable trait, although it is extremely rare for a Knife not to be an excellent physical combatant.
Training begins with standard tests of push-ups, sit-ups, a one-mile swim and a three mile sprint. Trainees are then pushed to complete a 3 mile swim, and an 18-mile all-terrain land navigation course, while carrying 35 lbs. of gear (known as “the chariot race,” because it’s like being ridden over by a chariot).
Once completed, the distance is increased until recruits can complete a 5 mile swim, and a 50 mile forced march over hellish terrain with 45 lbs. of gear. The Hands of Artemis review these tests as well as the results of a battery of psychological exams and decide on each individual. If accepted into the sisterhood of the Knives there is no going back. And the real training begins.
There are three known ranks to the Knives – the core group of sisters; the lieutenants or Blades of Artemis; and the officers, also known as the Hands of Artemis. Their true numbers remain a closely-guarded secret, as does much of their inner workings.
It is said that promotion through the ranks comes not just with field performance but also involves secret combat rituals. Whether or not this is true, the story that a Sister who is involved in a challenge either moves up … or perishes … makes for a great war story.