Stiletti of Vendici
Today, it has been thirty years since the last absolute rulers of Vendici – a merchant prince and his catamite – were deposed in a disastrous coup attempt at the hands of their bodyguards. In the ensuing chaos, no single party was able to seize control, despite the best efforts of noble houses, guilds, banking clans, religious organisations, rump civil authorities, and soldiers of fortune. An uneasy peace developed, but if only because few parties had the power to act publicly. Wary of overextending themselves or rousing the populace at large, their furious struggles are still conducted just out of sight of the populace, only occasionally erupting into overt armed conflict.
Instead, the games of the senate – now convened in the old Imperial Palace – gave rise to the danza palazzo, with acts of theft, sabotage, assassination, espionage, and the like performed in the alleys and on the terracotta rooftops of the city, generally under the cover of darkness. Rather than risking their own people – and their own reputations – the parties involved in the danza palazzo employ disposable mercenaries for these deniable skirmishes, recruiting from the constant throng of new arrivals in the city’s burgeoning underworld through mediators known, euphemistically, as ‘bladesmiths’. These ‘stiletti’ have a frighteningly high mortality rate, but those that survive their dangerous work – and their equally dangerous employers – can earn huge sums for just a few nights’ work, so there is never any shortage of new recruits willing to work sub rosa.
This unlikely system of covert conflict has resulted in an uneasy peace – with only the occasional outbreak of open warfare in the streets – reigning in Vendici for nearly three decade. The city has swollen, glutted on its own success, becoming both the largest metropolis on the continent and the home to a furious melting pot of races and cultures. Now Vendici’s native humans and elves have been joined by communities of dwarves and even, recently, a steady trickle of savage orcs from lands in the east… and many of these new arrivals ¬– looking for a quick payday, a chance to rise swiftly in their new home, excitement not to be found serving in a regular mercenary company, or the chance to use skills not appreciated in more law-abiding sections of society ¬– find themselves recruited as a fresh stiletto by an indifferent bladesmith and thrust, head first, into the danza palazzo.