The Sisterhood of Devna: A Secret Society for Shadow, Sword & Spell
The Sisterhood is based in the city of Devna since its creation some two centuries ago. Devna is a client state of Neum, the former imperial capital now one of the city states of Döãrn. Back then the empire was still united but unstable and weakening rapidly. The Sisterhood was founded by members of the Empress Theadda’s all-women retinue, more specifically her private diviner, astrologer, spiritual guide and her half-sister.
In the years prior to the sack of Neum, this cabal of four managed to hide tomes of ancient lore from the archived as well as divert some of the imperial treasure to a secret base in Devna. The four would eventually cause the sack by offering to open the gates of Neum to the rebelling general who became Lord Velmeri I. Upon seizing the city, Velmeri used it as the capital of his own domain; the sack had erased all traces of the Sisterhood’s crimes.
The price asked for opening the gates was for Velmeri to take Theadda’s half-sister in marriage and arrange to have their eventual offspring promised to the highest figures of his court. The offsprings of Theadda’s diviner, astrologer and spiritual guide were also to be promised to other members of the court. Because marrying Theadda’s half-sister legitimized his claim, Velmeri simply could not refuse the offer.
The Sisterhood’s motive behind their founding and obsession over their breeding program can be explained by their unusual power. Every mother of the Sisterhood can see their daughter’s life about ten years from the present when they dream. By ensuring their daughters are born close to power they are able to predict the future events that will affect the people in high places. This allows the Sisterhood to prepare for future opportunities and avoid threats.
Two centuries of mingling with the bloodlines of the rich and powerful of the City States of Döãrn has brought the Sisterhood well beyond the simple consolidation of power. In fact, the Sisterhood is ready to expand to the courts and power centers of other states in an attempt to broaden and diversify its visions of the future. The Sisterhood has already sent several delegations to The League of Merchants, The League of Cantons and The Republic of Bregzia to plan for possibilities of marriage among their high society. The importance and apparent urgency placed on the success of these delegations has raised some doubts from the youngest among the Sisterhood.
Current Leadership & Structure
The Sisterhood is led by only five from among the eldest, gathering formation and arranging marriages. Only these five, called the Grandsisters, have access to the written reports of the dreams of their sisters, the finances and knowledge passed from the four founders. Each can occupy the office for a maximum of 15 years,
The second level of authority in the Sisterhood consists of the mothers who have given birth to at least one daughter. They operate in small groups divided by regions and level of society; typically high nobility, low nobility and merchant class. These groups are required to meet at random intervals to produce secret reports sent to the Grandsisters. These meetings are often concealed by other public events such as weddings, festivals and large banquets. The sisters use these pretext to gather among women while their husband celebrate, go hunting, wage war, etc.
These gatherings pass for simple sessions of gossiping.
The youngest are separated in two categories as early in their life as possible; those whose future life can be dreamed up by their mothers and the ones with a blank, unseen future. Daughters belonging to the first group are educated in a way in accordance to their social standing. They are encouraged to cultivate friendships with the other daughters who will likely form the next generation of the local group. More emphasis is placed on certain aspects of their education. Meditation, literary arts, attention to details and memory recollection techniques are part of this enhanced curriculum.
Daughters from the second group are sent to Devna as soon as possible under false pretenses (as political hostage or for special tutelage). If the rest of their family resists the suggestion to send the girl away, then the Sisterhood resorts to more drastic measures such as fake kidnappings, fabricated accidents, etc.
In Devna, the second group of young daughters is trained to become spies, assassins and messengers. They are called “Cloaks” by the rest of the Sisterhood. Upon turning their early twenties, the Cloaks are tasked to carry the messages of local groups to Devna and seek the renegade members who may break away from the Sisterhood or betray their secrets.
Assets Power Bases
The Sisterhood most important asset is obviously its power to see the future through dreams. The Grandsisters take great care in piecing together these visions as dreams tend to be imprecise, hazy and distorted by the daughter’s own future perception of her surroundings. Still, useful predictions are cast by the Grandsisters every week.
Another asset of the Sisterhood is their pedigree. Because they belong to the high society of several City-States, it is easy for them to call in favors from influent people. Their immense wealth, though spread thin, cannot be neglected.
As their full name implies, the Sisterhood’s main base is located in Devna. There they keep everything taken from the imperial libraries of Neum as well as accounts of their past and future marriage plans. Everything is concealed under the guise of a covent of nuns dedicated to Azatoth. Many sisters are currently hard at work making copies of everything so that eventual bases in the League of Merchants, The League of Cantons and The Republic of Bregzia will have their own.
Secrecy & Influence
The existence of the Sisterhood has been suspected among the nobles of the city-states for some time now. Messages relaying information about dreamed up futures have been intercepted but initially given little credence. They were again examined a decade later when some of the tales they spelled became real events.
While the noble bloodlines are often the object of intense scrutiny, especially before accepting a marriage proposal, no one has yet announced the discovery of a link between the old imperial lineage and the rumored Sisterhood. The Sisterhood is aware of the risk and is careful with its missives. For now the organization is still indiscernible from any other group of interest seeking marriage in the highest spheres of society.
The main reason behind the Sisterhood’s recent attempt to spread to other regions lies in the growing concerns over certain dreams of its members. The number of daughters who are to die assassinated in ten years increases at an alarming rate. This effectively cuts all visions coming from certain bloodlines and the Sisterhood grows progressively blind of the future.
Because these assassinations are to occur during the daughter’s sleep, nothing is known about the perpetrator. Furthermore, certain dreams seem to indicate a schism between the five next Grandsisters. The current Grandsisters now second guess the potential candidates meant succeed them and may attempt hold onto the leadership past their term.
The Sisterhood now takes certain steps to arrange for assassinated daughters to be watched over in the future. This, they hope, will reveal their unknown enemy as the later makes its move. As to the possibility of a schism, the Sisterhood has decided to spread to other regions. This way, even if their activities in Devna are interrupted, the order with live on elsewhere and may eventually return.
The Sisterhood is its own worst enemy. The recent attempts to build a foothold in new courts and circles of influence will not remain unnoticed forever. When considering the rumors of their existence among the nobles of the various City States, many sisters believe their elders lack the caution that has served the organization so well thus far. Should these rumors become the object of more scrutiny, it would be possible for someone willing enough to investigate to uncover their activities. Unknown to all, the aged Lorekeeper of the royal archives of Frezto is already on the case as a personal project. He is looking at the recurring patterns in the various noble family trees.
The organization also has another enemy that it cannot yet define. Someone or some force is at work to make the sisters systematically blind to dreamed visions of the future. The Grandsisters don’t know if the possible schism will be the cause of this or a consequence.
The playing characters can come across the Sisterhood of Devna in various ways depending on their current location and their proximity to its high society. Here are a few possibilities:
One of the Sisterhood’s delegations has to be escorted to a court and is looking to hire protection for their journey there. The player characters could have been recommended by someone and the Sisterhood is seeking them out for the job. While camping or resting at an inn on the way, a player characters hears one of the sisters talking in her sleep, revealing something about the future.
The player characters find a dead woman while on the road. She has apparently bled to death from a knife wound and fell in the shrubs next to the road. The woman, who is actually a Cloak, carries several messages describing what seems like lists of marriage projections featuring the names of many prominent lords. More curiously is the indication of yet unborn princes and princesses. These lords would certainly like to know about this while the Sisterhood will keep an eye out for anyone trying to sell their lost information.
If the player characters are lords of their own or gravitate around the high society, they may be introduced to members of the Sisterhood seeking a marriage arrangement. Then, before any agreement is made, the chosen Sister secretly comes to a player character and explains that she belongs to a secret order that manipulates bloodlines. By revealing this, the Sister hopes the character will help her to escape the Sisterhood and escape a life of scheming. Unfortunately, it is possible that her mother has dreamt about her daughter’s betrayal and the sisterhood was just waiting to verify it.