Anything anyone could ever desire is up for sale in the Eversink Grand Marketplace: piles of luscious embroidered silks, aromatic spices, glittering well-cut jewels, fragrant woods, rare magic items, forbidden tomes, foreign weaponry… and, most sought after of all, secrets.
Like everything else, information has a price. Deep among the pavilions, beneath the billowing flags and canopies, a smaller, dark tent marked with a squid in a circle, bright white on a field of midnight blue lurks. The sign of the Nautilus. No sign advertises these brokers; no hawkers stand on the street corners beckoning in customers. One must know to look for the symbol on the precisely correct time and day. The tent is never in the same place twice.
Inside, a dark-clad merchant waits to buy and sell for the right price. The information for sale isn’t cheap. This isn’t general street gossip or rumors passed around in bars or salons. Anything for sale in the tent is authentic, verified, and oh so very damaging. The merchants deal with anyone who can pay: the Eversink powerful, the Eversink powerless, diplomats, foreigners powers, thieves, murderers, and the corrupt. People will commit murder — have committed murder — laying hands on the merchandise or getting it pulled from the inventory.
The Nautilus merchants don’t deal only in gold. They’ll ask for land, for businesses, for contracts, or for horrible acts of treason and betrayal in return for their secrets. While cash is good, and they’ll take money, secrets is their trade. The Nautilus merchants broker in misery and pain, the more verifiable, the better. They buy, too: top dollar for damaging secrets with complete documentation.
Sometimes, rarely, very rarely, the Nautilus merchants hold an information auction. The wealthiest and most powerful, wearing masks and robes, come to bid top dollar for each other’s worst secrets. Full Spires have changed hands in exchange for a single, damaging secret in these events. A man can walk into an auction with a single destructive secret for sale and leave a Duke.
Not all the information sold in that tent comes through pure information trade. Much of it comes from a sprawling criminal network of second-story men, assassins, spies, and moles placed all over the city. These spies operate in cells with no knowledge of each other. Information about the Nautilus is also valuable information, and, in keeping with the teachings of Denari, it’s not for free.
These spies and thieves are well-compensated — even better than from their own Guilds. Their only contacts are figures wearing hooded robes sporting a bright white squid in a circle on a field of dark blue. Those who leak the existence of the Nautilus are found dead, floating face down in a canal with the sign of the Nautilus pinned to their shirts. The Nautilus has no patience for those who give away information for free. Cells are compensated very well as long as they play by the rules, dead if they do not.
One could say the Nautilus network is almost a religious ritual if it didn’t end in murder, suicide, and acts of sheer desperation.
The Nautilus network is shadowy, secretive, and hierarchical. One person sits at its peak controlling the whole show. Most people believe the Nautilus is an extension of the Triskadane. But this is not true: the Triskadane has its own state-sponsored intelligence network, often in a pitched shadow war with the Nautilus. They’re deeply entrenched enemies, and when they cross, agents die. Competition is stiff for secrets, especially state secrets.
No one in Eversink suspects the puppetmaster. The Nautilus, Eversink’s most feared information broker, is a frail old lady. She’s there, standing on the Promenade in Alderhall, bending over to give the children sweets.
It doesn’t much matter how Dame Isabetta Fioranati morphed over time into the Nautilus. Perhaps Isabetta was always the Nautilus or inherited the network from her dead husband, her dead eldest son, or her dead parents. Maybe the Nautilus network has existed for generations.
Regardless, Isabella Fioranati, around age 90, is the Nautilus. She puppets her spy network from the comfort of her Spire in Alderhall, surrounded at all times with assassin-stewards. She has no husband, no living children, and a whole mess of scheming and backstabbing grandchildren. It’s unclear if any of the grandchildren are part of the family business. If any are, they aren’t letting on.
Isabetta is very old. Having outlived her husband and her children, she has no clear biological heir. It could be the eldest son of her eldest son. Maybe she selected someone outside the family to inherit and left them in her will. Whoever it is, she’s playing her cards close to her chest.
Her death will set off a massive power struggle.
Dame Isabetta Fioranati, the Nautilus
Calculating, Cunning, Painfully Noble
Defense – Health: Health Threshold 3, Health 14
Defense – Morale: Morale Threshold 4, Grit 2 (accurate sense of own self-importance), Morale 10 per Hero
Offense – Sway: +2; Damage Modifier +2 (she knows your blackest secrets)
Abilities: Malus 35
Special Abilities: Mastermind, Flashback (cost – 5), Allies (cost – 3), Summoning (cost – 3, assassin stewards), Persuasive (cost – 3), Warded (cost – 6)
Refresh Tokens: 5
Description: Dame Isabetta Fioranati presents like a frail, shriveled old woman of High Eversink Nobility who cannot walk down the Promenade without leaning on her steward’s arm. She’s yet another matriarch past her prime, waiting to die. Swathed from head to toe in silks and glittering jewels, the Dame looks like she’s only a danger to the Grand Salons of Alderhall. Her only weapon is a still-sharp cutting wit. She will stop strolling to hand candy to the children. She also has the reputation of being very religious, and she’s often at the local Temple.
This is a ruse. The Dame is the Nautilus. Dame Fioranati doesn’t get up in the morning or go to sleep at night without a bloody plot or scheme on her lips. The assassin-steward she leans on is well-armed with sharp knives. The Dame can call upon her allies with the wave of a hand, and they will come when she beckons because they are bound to her in contracts of secrets.
The Nautilus has tentacles in every corner of Eversink. Anyone Dame Isabetta needs to know, she knows. Anyone she can get a hook into, she has hooks. She has her hands on all the political blackmail. She is the Triskadane’s enemy, but uprooting her is a nearly impossible task.
No PC will get even near the Dame Isabetta Fioranati without her already knowing the PC’s background, family history, current occupation, top-10 acquaintances, and the last thing they ate. The PCs are tools until they are enemies. Most PCs will not deal with Dame Isabetta but will instead deal with the sprawling tentacles of her Nautilus network.
Silent, Precise, Unswerving Loyalty
Defense – Health: Health Threshold 4, Armor 1, Health 20
Defense – Morale: Morale Threshold 4, Morale 20
Defense – Warfare: +2, Damage Modifier +2 (very long and nasty knives)
Abilities: Malus 15
Special Abilities: Armor-Piercing (cost – 3), Disguise (cost – 1), Defense Boost (cost – 6), Extra Action (cost – 3), Extra Damage (cost – 3), Lightning Fast (cost – 3), Seize Initiative (cost – 3)
Misc: Alertness Modifier +1, Stealth Modifier +3
Refresh Tokens: 5
Description: Dame Isabetta Fioranati’s assassin-stewards are brutal and precise. They escape hard fights fast to stab another day. And, they are polite in Eversink assassin fashion and often well-educated. Some say they’re the sons and daughters of Ancient Noble houses fallen on hard times.
Dame Isabetta also uses assassin-stewards as messengers, managers, and the central nodes in the Nautilus network. They’re the ones who appear in dark robes to pay cells for work and hand out assignments.
Villainous Plot Seeds
- A Job: A shadowy figure in a midnight blue robe with a Nautilus sign appears to the party and offers them a job. The figure will pay in a sack of gold if they break into Judge Farnese’s bedroom (on the second floor) and retrieve papers hidden within. No one needs to get hurt in the job. — not themselves, not the Judge, not the Judge’s house staff. In fact, quieter is better. The PCs must do this work to preserve the future of Eversink. Should the PCs return in three days with the papers, this contact will offer future work. Interested?
- The War in Darkness: More bodies are floating face down in the canals than usual when the Triskadane approach the PCs with a job. The Nautilus network has stolen the ultimate state secret: the identity of a member of the 13. If that information is sold at auction to a foreign power, it could jeopardize the safety of the entire City, depending on what (and who) it is. The Triskadane needs the PCs to help track down the Nautilus cell with the information and eliminate them. Their leads are all the identities of the bodies floating in the canal. Can the PCs track down the thieves and retrieve the secret before it’s dramatically sold at auction in the Grand Marketplace?
- Who will be the heir to the Fioranati? As powerful and cunning as Dame Isabetta Fioranati is, she is not immortal. She sits at the head of her family, yet she is without an heir. Her direct children are all dead — she outlived them all. Could it be grandson Feo Fioranati, the rake, and lazy noble gadfly? He is the eldest grandson, after all. Or Feo’s younger brother, Puccino Fioranati, who is diligent with numbers and money? Or not yet married Great Granddaughter Adrianna Fioranati, Feo’s odd daughter interested in powders and books and brews of all sorts? Or a different grand or great-grandchild? Or will it be trusted associates of the Nautilus Network who will murder for power? Her death will send them setting them upon each other in an orgy of murder that will… cull the herd.
Disclaimer: These posts are unaffiliated with official canonical posts or printed materials about Sword of the Serpentine. “Swords of the Serpentine” is (TM) Pelgrane Press. For more information on Eversink, visit the Pelgrane website.