The Velvet Alliance

The hands that influence the Dance

It is much more profitable to share information. To share targets. If you disagree, well... let's just say you wouldn't be missed.
— Bastian Teo to a questioning recruit
  In Caillah, the game of politics is called the Dance. Whilst many members of the nobility enjoy the intricate interplay of wit, relationships and carefully-crafted letters, some prefer to rely on other, more illicit tactics in their journey to the top.   The Velvet Alliance is a group of organisations that rely on the desire for wealth and power of the nobility to thrive. Mainly consisting of assassins and spies, they have found that working together yields much more profitable and successful results than working against each other.   The existence of the alliance between these groups is a closely guarded secret. If discovered, the knowledge could destroy the Dance.  

History

 

Founding

  Before the formation of the Velvet Alliance, numerous guilds of assassins and orders of spies existed in Caillah. They were tight-lipped about their methods and competed for clients. Scholars estimate that, at one point in its history, Caillah had at least thirty of these groups all vying for power.   In 3889 EA, an assassin from the Crescent Shadows entered the bedchamber of Lord Mikhail Wen through an open window. Upon entry, he saw another figure standing over his target's bed - a fox-masked assassin from the Vulpine Blades. The ensuing confusion awoke Lord Wen's wife, who cried out and alerted the family's guards. Both assassins were captured and publicly executed.   For several years, the Crescent Shadows and the Vulpine Blades fell out of favour with the nobility - they simply could not be trusted to complete a contract.   In 3893 EA, Danson Rei, the leader of the Crescent Shadows, and Sandor Kir, an emissary from the Vulpine Blades, met to discuss a way forward. They reached an agreement with each other that they would share both targets and information so that such a disaster could never happen again. If they worked together on a contract, they would simply split the payment. This became known as the Knot.   Due to their collaboration, the two groups began to see more success. Assassinations were performed more quickly and more discreetly, and both groups began to recover from the stain on their reputation. It was highly important, however, that the clients never figured out that the groups were working together, or the whole façade would crumble.   Over the years, several more groups joined their coalition, either through an extended hand of friendship or a whispered word in the wrong - or, indeed, right - ear. Eventually, the majority of groups not in the alliance fell out of favour or fell apart, as they could not compete with the sheer resources of the now-named Velvet Alliance.  

The Rebellion of The Order of the Dragonfly

  In 4234 EA, the Velvet Alliance was almost destroyed from within.   For several years prior, there had been dissension amongst the members of the Alliance. Some thought that they were sharing too much with each other, and some believed that they were owed more money than they were getting. Whilst there were dissenters across the groups, the highest number belonged to the Order of the Dragonfly. This was spurred on by their leader, Ariel Ged, who believed that his Dragonflies could be much more profitable and successful on their own.   The Order of the Dragonfly began to secretly take clients fon their own, without the knowledge of the other groups. After several high profile assassinations were thwarted, it became clear that the Order of the Dragonfly were actively working against the interests of the alliance.   With the reputations of the other groups at stake, a meeting was called between the leaders of the organisations. After several hours of arguments and discussions, Ariel Ged was killed. Over his corpse, the rest of the Velvet Alliance reaffirmed their desire to work together for their continued success.   Following the death of their leader, the rest of The Order of the Dragonfly were forcefully disbanded.  

Modern Day

  Though a few organisations still exist outside of the authority of the coalition, the Velvet Alliance is the backbone of Caillah's Dance. They have a large influence on the ebb and flow of power in Caillan politics, and were almost solely responsible for the fall of the Fen Dynasty in 5287 EA and the subsequent rise of the Beo Dynasty.   Despite this power, the fact the Velvet Alliance exists is a well-kept secret. Any rumours that posit the groups of assassins and spies that feed off the Dance are working together are dismissed as farfetched conspiracy theories.  

Member Organisations

 
Crescent Shadows.png

Crescent Shadows

Currently led by a man called Bastian Teo, the Crescent Shadows are one of the central pillars of the Velvet Alliance. They are a secretive group of assassins who rely on poisons and garottes as their primary tools.   They can be identified by a tattoo of their emblem (left) somewhere on their person.
 

Vulpine Blades

Alongside the Crescent Shadows, the Vulpine Blades are one of the central pillars of the Velvet Alliance. They are led by an enigmatic figure known only as The Fox, who conducts all his business through intermediaries.   They are assassins who rely on the sharpness of their blades. When they are on the job, they wear metal fox head masks inlaid with silver and copper.
Vulpine Blades.png
 
The Sons.png

The Sons

An ancient order of spies, the Sons are an extremely religious group that follow the Mother, the goddess of the Caillan Faith.   Many members of the Sons work as priests in churches across Caillah. Two members in the same church are unlikely to know of each other, as the identities of individual members of the Sons are secret to all but the leadership.
 

The Court of Bronze

The Court of Bronze are a group of spies who operate under the cover of elaborate, decadent masquerade parties. Members of the Court wear intricate bronze masks, hiding their identities but also setting them apart from the other masked party-goers.   Their role as spies is concealed from Caillah at large. They have a reputation for revelry and debauchery, which is highly encouraged.
Court of Bronze.png
 
Pact of the Grave.png

Pact of the Grave

Though they started out as assassins, the Pact's main role in the Velvet Alliance is currently intimidation. They are most often hired to send a message if, for example, a noble owes another noble money.   Recently, a favoured tactic has been leaving chunks of raw meat or dead snakes in the beds of the target's children. A visit from the Pact is rather feared.
 

Nocturne

This group focuses on both espionage and assassination. They operate under the cover of entertainment - be it musicians, dancers, or acrobats.   The other members of the Velvet Alliance tend to underestimate Nocturne, which suits them just fine.
Nocturne.png
 

Past Member Organisations

 
Order of the Dragonfly
  In 4234 EA, the Order of the Dragonfly rebelled against the other members of the Velvet Alliance, sabotaging several high-profile assassinations.   Their leader was executed by the other leaders and the group was forcefully disbanded.
Order of the Dragonfly.png
 
Sun's Bane
  In the late 4600s, the focus of Sun's Bane began to shift away from the information-gathering that had earned them a place in the Velvet Alliance. Their new leader, Reynard Jen, was extremely anti-Koushan Mai and the group to work rooting out pockets of Koushan Mai across Caillah.   The extremes Sun's Bane started to go to in hunting Koushan Mai began to put the rest of the Velvet Alliance at risk. They were shut out from the Alliance, but are still currently operational. Some nobles use them to capture Koushan Mai that they can then hunt for sport.
Sun's Bane.png
 
Whispers
In 5145 EA, Bensin Kol, the leader of the Whispers passed away without naming his successor. This led to bloody in-fighting, and the Whispers splitting into several disparate factions.   The Crescent Shadows stepped in and dealt with the mess, absorbing most of the Whispers into other members of the Velvet Alliance and disposing of those who did not agree.
Whispers.png
 
Children of the Lost
The Children of the Lost were a group of spies that relied on children to do a lot of their information gathering. No one in the Velvet Alliance can pinpoint exactly when the Children disappeared, only that they did.
Children of the Lost.png
 


Cover image: by Danny G

Comments

Author's Notes

This article was originally written for the September 2020 Alliance Challenge. This is my first community challenge on World Anvil and I'm really excited to be participating. :)


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27 Sep, 2020 19:52

and...add this article to my inspiration list. You do not know the pure happiness I got when I saw you posted this!

Grandmaster Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
27 Sep, 2020 20:12

Aww, thank you! Hopefully I'll get all the art in place soon! :)

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!
29 Sep, 2020 15:38

The Velvet Alliance sounds really interesting and well-thought-out, and regarding the different groups that are part of it, I would love to hear more about them. I also enjoy the history bits.   I do not really have any real criticism, as the article is pretty damn solid. ^-^

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Grandmaster Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
29 Sep, 2020 20:30

Aww, thank you so much! :) I'm definitely going to be writing articles for all the different groups in the next few months.

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!
Master Brinsmead
Caitlin Phillips
29 Sep, 2020 21:48

I can't stop laughing about the confusion at the bedside of Lord Wen. There must be a few hilarious ballads being sung about that incident. XD

Cait x
Grandmaster Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
29 Sep, 2020 22:01

Definitely a short story for later! ;)

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!
8 Oct, 2020 12:13

This article is really amazing! Both in terms of organisation and content, it was really fun reading about all the different members. And a spy organisation is really interesting too, it really helps spice up the tensions within the members of the alliance.   I thought the inclusion of past members was really interesting, and I really love how all the sigils for the different factions look like! Awesome article, and very inspiring too ^^   The organisation symbols also all look awesome

<3 sur toi

I wrote something for the Alliance Challenge, it would mean the world to me if you checked it out!
Grandmaster Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
8 Oct, 2020 16:20

Thank you so much! :D I was worried about the emblems, so I'm glad you like them. I'm looking forward to going into more detail about the different factions at some point in the future. :)

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!
9 Oct, 2020 18:48

I love that you add previous members, and the whole article is easy to read and pleasing to the eye. Well done!

Grandmaster Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
9 Oct, 2020 22:30

Thank you so much! :)

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!
Yarik
Rafael Martin
14 Oct, 2020 21:06

Added to my read list for future reference too. Such a great article! I love the simplicity of the faction explanation. It tells everything important without diving into tiny details. And dang I love your layout and color choices!!

Grandmaster Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
14 Oct, 2020 22:15

Aww thank you so much! <3

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!
Sage Dylonishere123
R. Dylon Elder
22 Oct, 2020 00:11

Sorry it took so long. I've had to read it in chunks. Lol equating political maneuvering and espionage to a dance is lovely. In fact, there are many themes here I love. It makes so much sense for spies and assassins to band together. I mean, you can potentially alter the balance of power with a contract. I could easily see this organization maintaining control oof everything. I do wonder how the facade would crumble. I'm going back and double checking, but I could see it working in their favor. Through noteriety, they could extort from those who REALLY don't want to be assassinated, or hold auctions. They could easily direct the progression of the world where they wanted it to go. Oof. Idk, maybe I'm not all that in tuned with this worlds politics? I shall read further on the dance and see. There may be something I'm missing. xD. Either way it's an awesome article and an awesome idea. Love the vulpine blades the most. I love foxes ...

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Grandmaster Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
22 Oct, 2020 09:56

I foresee the facade crumbling in the future and them discovering, like you said, that it actually does work in their favour. The current leaders assume that it would go poorly for them, so they don't want to change the status quo. Tradition is powerful and all that.   I need to write a lot more about the Dance for sure. :)   Thank you! <3

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!
22 Oct, 2020 00:56

That founding story with the two assassins having a spider man pointing at spiderman confrontation in front of their mark is friggen hilarious.   But seriously this is a very awesome tale of groups of assassins coming together to make an extremely powerful alliance. I really enjoyed the styling of your article, and the content of it.   Some questions I have for you, How do you think the wealth of the contracts would be split? Is there perhaps a gathering of leaders where jobs are assigned? Are there commissions given to other groups who perhaps share information?   Keep being amazing!

Grandmaster Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
22 Oct, 2020 10:00

Thank you so much! <3   For wealth splitting, it depends on the contract. Most of the payment would go to the group who carry out the contract, with some going to the groups that help by providing information. Also something like 5% goes into a communal fund which is split up equally every year. Keeps everyone sweet and on side.

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!