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.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.
FoundingBefore 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 DragonflyIn 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 DayThough 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.
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 BladesAlongside 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.
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 BronzeThe 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.
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.
NocturneThis 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.
Past Member Organisations
Order of the DragonflyIn 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.
Sun's BaneIn 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.
WhispersIn 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.
Children of the LostThe 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.