The day after the senior officers successfully completed the Underdark Job, Angel returns with a stack of notes about the Great City, underestimating how complex the city is.
Ok here’s what’s going on in this crazy fucking city.
This city is big. Unless you pay for a tap, uhh tapestry, flying carpet thing, you can’t cross the whole city in a day, it’s just too big. You can hire a coach and get around a district, but as soon as you try and leave a district, unless you’re a VIP, you’re talking maybe a couple hours standing in line at a city gate. Getting around is for rich people, basically.
I don’t really know where to start, uh…
Ok, so you know how you guys had that bust up with the Balance a couple days ago? Cops saw it, no one got arrested? You know why? Anyone have a guess?
It’s because everyone here thinks we’re working with House Vorona. Yeah, the guys who run the navy. The guys who stopped us on the way in. You ever wonder why they just let us walk in? Mercenary company with an interdimensional squid ship? It’s because they WANT everyone to think we’re working for them. They’re waiting to see who comes to hire us. They figure that way they know who their allies are.
But I don’t know if that’s working, I think some of these houses sort of guessed House Vorona was bluffing. And I don’t think Vorona are the most sophisticated politically.
Anyway, House Vorona, those guys run the navy, the “Imperial Navy”. And they run this big military academy. Most of the high ranking officers in the city went there. So they’re like...it’s crazy how things work, since Vorona runs the academy, they can sort of...they have this network of everyone in the city who ever went there. Even officers working for other houses. Their enemies. They can get crazy intel from officers, like LOYAL officers working for other houses just by...just by asking them. There’s all these unwritten rules about what kind of intel you should be sharing but it doesn’t seem to occur to anyone to just keep their mouths shut. It would be considered ungentlemanly not to, ah...accommodate a reasonable request.
Everyone who goes there gets a class ring, so they call it the Old Class Ring, it’s sort of like slang for this network. No one really runs it, information goes both ways, but Vorona run the Academy. So they get way more out of it than anyone else. That’s not, like...secret or anything a lot of this stuff, anyone can tell you. You just gotta know which questions to ask.
And like...that’s just how Vorona gets intel. Everyone in this city runs some kind of spy network, and a lot of them have their own cops. Like private armies. Soon as I started asking around I could tell I was brushing up against a lot of heavy infrastructure. I gotta be real careful what I ask because if they get any sense that I’m digging? You’ll never see me again.
Anyway so House Vorona runs the Navy and that gives them a lotta power, but they don’t run the trade. Trade is all done privately, ships like the Rosso Cielo. The Navy just guards them. Guarantees safe passage. Until they decide they don’t wanna. Which everyone’s sort of waiting for because sooner or later, House Vorona and the Fulcrum are gonna go at it and then…
Listen, everyone in town, ah, the city, everyone’s waiting for war to break out. They all know its gonna, and they sort of assume it’ll start here in the Stays. It’s weird, how everyone knows the whole city’s gonna explode and no one seems to...they all think it’s gonna be a great adventure. Half of ‘em are looking to make money off it, the other half are hoping there’s like some great opera comes out of the whole thing. City’s full of fucking actors and writers.
Anyway, Vorona is run by Duke Marco, he’s the Lord of the Admiralty. Everyone says he’s a pretty straight dude. They act like, he doesn’t really have any ambition, he’s not trying to be the next Prince, but I wouldn’t trust that. Dude runs a Great House in Capital, he’s got an entire Navy, the Marines. They’re all loyal to him, he’s in his seventies or something, that dude survived a war of assassins thirty years ago. He’s like a generation older than everyone else. He already fucking manipulated everyone in the city into thinking we work for him and all he did was tell his nephew to let us pass inspection.
So Vorona’s main rival is Shirome. The Fulcrum. She runs the Stays, she runs trade in and out of the city, she sets prices, currency exchange. She’s sort of the head of the Guilds. And she’s a noble now, bought her way in. She and Marco are always fighting, you can see it happen in the streets, sometimes. She’s got this big Varingarian bodyguard, Olava. She wants to make a point about something, she sends Olava.
Remember that dude who showed up and watched us get processed on the way in? Just stood there, didn’t say anything? That was Shriome’s nephew, Oshi. Everyone here’s someone’s nephew or niece or daughter in law. Oshi runs the OEI, the Office of Exchange Integrity. Spies. Intelligence. He’s her spymaster. He was watching us, they’ve probably had someone on us non-stop the entire time we’re in the city.
So Shirome runs the docks, she runs the Bank, I mean there are a lotta banks in the city but this is the main one. She runs the exchange. She runs the money. She’s one of the most powerful people in the city and she doesn’t really seem interested in anything except getting more money. But...you know, like Marco, don’t trust that. This lady came here from the other side of the world and fought her way to the top of the most powerful guild in the city and then manipulated the Prince into letting her buy her way into the great noble houses. She don’t impress me as someone who’s just saving for retirement, she wants something, just no one knows what.
So, ok, here’s something. No one knows what happened to Duke Maximo. The dude who’s crown you got. Like, how did he die? Why can’t they resurrect him? But I think...I think Shirome had something to do with it. I don’t know what, it’s just a guess, but she’s the one came out on top of all that. When Maximo died, all the taxes stopped flowing, city needs money and she just dances her way in.
Ok so the crown. It’s the Crown of House Valetta, you knew that. But guess what. That undead dude? He don’t work for who we think he works for. Yeah he’s not House Valetta’s lawyer. He’s House Alvaro's. That was easy to find out, that ain’t a secret.
We’re working for House Alvaro, man.
House Alvaro is sort of...everyone thinks Duke Prospero's gonna be the next Prince. I mean maybe he will be, someone’s gonna be. But he wants House Valetta on his side. Everyone wants House Valetta on their side. But the Lady, the Dead...the Duchess. Lenore. She’s just sitting there, in her manor house, like a spider in a web waiting. She never leaves her district.
Did I mention everyone there is dead? Whole city, I mean it’s a district but it’s as big as Blackbottom, might as well be a city, whole place is LITERALLY a mausoleum. There’s this grey mist over the whole place, nothing grows anymore. But people...people still work there! Business goes on! Crazy fucking city!
She says she’s waiting for her dead husband to return. No one believes that, they all think she wants to become the next Prince, or Princess, or whatever, I dunno. Emperor basically.
But I dunno, way everyone talks about it, like it’s OBVIOUS she’s holding out, waiting for a war to start, a war she thinks she can win. That’s what everyone says so I think...maybe she really is just waiting for her dead husband.
She’s rich, and she has what amounts to an army of undead. She decides she wants something? She comes out of the Dead City, it’s gonna change everything.
So House Alvaro, the guy we’re WORKING for, as it turns out. This guy’s house runs the University which is like a couple dozen different schools, colleges. Including the War College, including the College of Sorcery. The dude graduated with honors from the War College and then signed up as a freshman in the College of Sorcery. And that was like 30 years ago, dude is like one of the most powerful mages in the city.
That’s why the dead lawyer asshole is gonna let us into a magic shop. They got lots of them!
Anyway Alvaro has his fingers in lots of pies. He’s the Chancellor of the Imperial University and guess what? Remember when I said everyone in this city runs their own spy network? He runs the PRINCE’S spy network. The War College? It’s called the Actian School, the prince’s spies are a bureau INSIDE the college! These guys are a GLOBAL spy network, the biggest in the world and they’re...everyone says they’re independent, they report to the Prince’s privy council, but I dunno, they’re inside this school Alvaro runs. I don’t imagine they do anything without that dude knowing about it.
So Alvaro is sort of chief noble. Hey did I mention he went to school with Ajax? Did we know that? Yeah they both graduated the same year from the War College. It’s one of the reasons he’s banging the drum about Ajax, he thinks Ajax can win.
So Duke Prospero, everyone knows what that dude wants, he doesn’t make a secret about it. He wants to be Prince, he wants the bring the Guilds to heel, although I think that ship has sailed, and he wants to stop Ajax.
His main rival but also sorta his main ally is the Archbishop. Duke Orsino. There’s like a thousand different churches in this city, I don’t mean like different buildings, I mean different organizations, churches to saints from all over Orden. Orsino runs House Navarr and they’re basically the main church. Like, all the other Riojan churches, they’re independent and they fight sometimes, and different houses are each allied with different churches, but they all basically do what House Navarr says. So the dude has crazy power, because he’s seen as like the religious leader of the whole city.
Like, if that dude says the Duchess, the Dead Lady is a problem? Like...she’s undead, maybe we should do something about her, pretty soon everyone in the city is gonna start thinking maybe we should do something about her.
So the guy wants to run the show, probably, and that means he doesn’t want to help out House Alvaro, but they’re both nobles. They both HATE the guilds, so they’re both sorta also allies. I dunno, this place is a mess.
I sorta think this Orsino guy...he’s another one like the Dead Lady, he’s #2 right? So he’s gonna wait for some shit to go down, and then swoop in and clean up. Come out on top. It’s what I’d do.
There’s two more guilds that are also Great Houses, but neither of them...they both bought into the nobility, but they borrowed a lot of that money from Shirome. So they’re powerful, but I don’t think they’re major players really.
There’s the Font, the Broadsheet Guild. Everyone in the city reads the broadsheets so what they print...I mean no one believes EVERYTHING they read, but they believe a lot! So they have a lot of power, but I don’t think they know what to do with it. Broadsheets are only like three years old, they’re still seen as new but at the same time it seems like no one can remember a time before everyone was reading these things.
They’re run by a Khoursarian Inan-something. She was a noble in Khoursir so she’s like the most...she understands Alvaro and Navarr and Vorona better than any of the other guildmasters but she’s not...she doesn’t seem to care. She’s an engineer. She invented the press. Just seems to want to make it better. She’s a tinkerer.
Her editor basically runs the paper. He’s a crystal dragonman, Halisaar. THAT GUY has a lot of power. He works for Inan but they’re basically partners. She make the papers, he decides what goes in them. Used to be a playwright.
Then there’s the Rasp. Guild of farriers. They run all transport. They were always powerful, I think, but ever since this dude from Alloy took over, Lord Kashmir, it’s like the broadsheet; city’s never gonna be the same. This guy has the exclusive license to import flying tapestries from Alloy. So now the city has this ultrafast transport, but only the rich can afford it.
This guy is rich, he’s powerful, but I dunno what he wants. Seems like he just wants to enjoy being a newly minted Riojan noble. Spends a lot of money on the arts apparently.
Then there’s like a million other organizations, I can’t keep track of ‘em all. There’s the Order of the Dragon Cross, and the High Tower and they seem to have a lot of power but they don’t seem interested in city business. There’s this organization...no that’s not the right word for it, I dunno what it is. They’re called The Lords of Capital. I don’t know who all they are, maybe no one does, but they’re the most powerful PEOPLE in the city. Alvaro definitely is one, but not because he runs a great house. Because he’s probably the strongest mage in the city.
So I don’t know who these people are, maybe there’s no real...it might just be something people say, like it’s a big city someone must secretly be pulling the strings, so they call them The Lords of Capital and it might just be that folks assume someone must be in charge.
Anyway that’s three days digging.
You want my advice? We gotta keep taking jobs for a little while at least, but that’s just gonna...it’s gonna get our name out there. Sooner or later we gotta stop taking jobs and start making moves.