Red Spades Social Club
The power-wagon ride to the West Ward was quiet - the cobblestones rattled as usual, but none of the occupants of the wagon were in a talking mood. Alistair's crossbow weighed heavily on his back. It was rare that he had to bring out this old thing, but Lily had requested he bring it along for this trip. Lily herself kept her eyes on the road, and Kyris was watching their passenger, wrapped in an heavy wool cloak and hooded. The bustle of the commercial districts was soon behind them, out here past the old city and into the sprawling housing blocks. This section of the Capital had been open plains in the original planning, but the growth of the city had required more construction, so the roads out here were laid out in a haphazard and confusing fashion. Lily paid it no mind, however, and soon they pulled up in front of a small, run-down apartment block. She de-clutched the wagon and stepped off, motioning for the others to follow. Their destination was on the second floor of the building. The passenger walked with an unsteady gait, and Kyris had an arm in support as they ascended the stairs slowly. Alistair pulled off his glasses to clean them. The common area in the apartment was dusty to an alarming degree, and it seemed as though more than one of the apartments were vacant. They stopped at the door, marked with a small plate that had the names "Horvald and Liann Nell" inscribed on it. Lily rapped on the door smartly, her plated gauntlet echoing in the hallways. A woman opened the door, her face pale and blotchy, holding a small cup with a noticable tremor. "Yes, who is it?" Lily pulled her insignia from her cuirass, a radiant sun of Etoile in yellow painted steel, behind a dull iron shield. "My name is Lily Durand, and I am a Etoile Capital Guard." She stepped aside and motioned; Kyris pulled the hood back of their escort. He was a man, beaten and bloodied, with several parts of his scalp burned off and a gauze patch over an eye. "Is this your husband, Horvald Nell?" The woman dropped the cup at the sight. "Horvald.....yes, yes, that's him. Horvald, what happened? Talk to me..." She raised a hand to her husband's chin, but as her hand approached, Horvald flinched violently, and would have fallen over if Kyris and Alistair were not there to catch him. Lily had a grim expression. "An explanation is in order. May we come in? Best we discuss this in private." The apartment was small and ordinary but quite tidy; Alistair leaned against the wall of the small kitchen. A beautiful glass rosepin was in a vase on a shelf, underneath a small oil portrait of Horvald and Liann in happier times. Horvald sat on the chaise facing the corner, his back to the others. "What's happened to him? Why won't he talk?" Liann seemed frantic and tearful. Kyris shook her head. "He's been severely traumatized. Multiple head injuries, major burn to his left eye, and marks across his body consistent with the lash, the iron rod, and, most disturbingly, bites." The ranger lowered her voice. "We patched him up the best we could, but we couldn't take him to the healer's covenant." "Because there are people looking for him." Lily held a clipped tone in her voice, one that Alistair had heard many times before, when she was keeping her anger in check. "And they'll be looking for you, as well. I'm here to get you and your husband out of the city, somewhere safer." "What? Who's looking for us?" Liann gave a furtive glance out the window. "What's going on?" "What I've put together, based on my own investigation? You and your husband were seen together on the grand promenade some time earlier this season. A noblewoman who saw the happy couple, a member of the Red Spades, decided to spirit your husband away on a lark and have her way with him, resulting in what you see now." The guardswoman had a disgusted tone. "Apparently, her proclivities tend towards destroying marriages, more than any merely physical needs." A hard edge came into the woman's voice. "This is a crime, isn't it? You're a guard! Why can't you just report this noblewoman to a magistrate?" Lily and Kyris exchanged a look. "Believe me, if that was a viable way forward right now, we'd take it. As it stands it was difficult enough to secret your husband away once we found him." Alistair shook his head and unslung his crossbow. "I could go get Vance tomorrow and we could exhaust Lady Bellise's brain out of her skull, but killing one person won't fix the rot that's at the center of this mess. There's more to be done." He put the crossbow down and gave the man in the corner an aside glance; Horvald was rocking himself slowly. "I know it is a difficult request, but know that there are people in the Capital working against this. We have to ask that you trust us to get the job done, so that your husband is the last victim of this type."
The Red Spades are a seniority based social club based out of the Etoile Capital City. Membership is exclusive to the wealthiest and powerful families of Capital nobility, with members of the club referred to by ordinal, the 'First Spade' being the club's leader. Senior members have the ability to command any member junior to themselves, and must obey the commands of those senior to them in turn. New inductees to the Red Spades are recruited by referral, and their membership requires both a secrecy and loyalty oath in a daylong induction ritual.
The Red Spades are, at their core, a celebration of hedonism. Spades are recruited from the ranks of the nobility, those disillusioned with the world around them and tired of their sedate day to day lives. The promise of the Spades is, fundamentally, the idea that a person only lives once, and that they therefore owe it to themselves to witness and participate in the widest array of experiences possible, regardless of morality or legality. Members of ordinary society, subject to the morality and mores of the Principality, are thus willingly blinding themselves to the 'maximum potential' of the human experience.
The Red Spades do not comment publicly; they are formally merely a social gathering club. The membership list is private, as well.
The Red Spades social club itself has had several assets devolved to it, from individuals who did not wish to risk public association of the asset with themselves. The majority of these are private dens of iniquity in and around the Scarlet Block, as well as 'vacation clubhouses' scattered in major cities across Saibh. They also maintain an inventory of objects of an untoward nature (or simply illegal to possess). Naturally, none of these properties say "Red Spades Social Club" on their deed registries; a number of shell organizations have been assembled for legal obfuscation and misdirection.
Elite social clubs have a long history within Etoile, but the Red Spades represent a new development. Founded in 695, its original purpose was explicitly to facilitate certain deviances of its founder, one Lord Ulvisier. Ulvisier fancied himself a warrior, and wished to take the role of conqueror in his private affairs, in a way that would ordinarily draw the attention of Magistrates had events not occurred in entirely private settings. Other nobles quickly caught on to the idea of using a private club to indulge their own proclivities, and they banded together in order to create a socializing atmosphere, free of judgment and the potential for judicial intervention. The club is intensely private, and its membership is a secret, the better to avoid attracting attention. Many suspected Spades are wealthy patrons of the most popular journals published in the Capital, and there are no official reports or articles about the Spades on the record. The rumors, from those willing to repeat them, paint a portrait of absolute debauchery, far beyond the activities tolerated by the madams of the Scarlet Block. Attempts to act on the rumors (or even at a minimum, fact-find) are stymied by legal pressure; it can be assumed that the Etoilean Capital Guard and members of the Magistrates are in some way influenced or manipulated by the backers of the Red Spades to head off attempts to pry.