Salt and Sand - The Spy Master
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By HoratioAtTheBridge

The Spy Master

Linna Iselsi has been running the Realm's intelligence activities in Chiarascuro since before the Empress disappeared. After the Realm Garrison was recalled to the Blessed Isle, she has become the primary guarantor of the Realm's interests in the city. She keeps a low profile in the city, living in a small run down apartment in one of the broken crystal towers near a shadowland. She manages her network of spies using dead drops, intermediaries, and midnight visitations. She was idealistic once, but the years of politicking have worn her down. Her manner is now marked by a certain jaded cynicism. The one ideal that she still holds on to is that those who have been given much, especially the Dragon-Blooded, must give much in return. She is fierce in her protection of those under her command.

Linna has been drawn into the plot by Mnemon Cayla. The lack of troops in Chiarascuro make it a prime spot for Anathema to take refuge, so Linna's spy network is key in ferreting them out. Cayla contacted her months ago to ready her people as part of the Wyld Hunt's dragnet, and Linna has been preparing her network for this eventuality ever since. She will not allow her people to confront the Anathema directly, but instead watches from a distance. Mnemon Cayla does expect Linna to join in the ambush, however. Linna will perform this duty without complaint, though she does not relish the idea of combat with Solars even with the advantages of surprise and numbers.

Tracking the Spy Master

Finding Linna in Chiarascuro is difficult as she takes care to leave few traces. The easiest method is to stake out her points of contact with the spy network. Linna has several dead drops in the Market of Flowers, and she arranges clandestine meetings in the White Stallion. They may be found by following her spies or can be deduced with 2 or more successes on a Lore roll (spycraft, politics, or military background required).

Staking these locations out can give a chance to spot Linna, though an interested party must be sure that Linna does not spot them first. The party may roll Perception + Stealth (if hidden), Larceny (if disguised), or Socialize (if acting casual) against a difficulty of 5 to pull off a successful stakeout. If any member of the stakeout fails by 3 or less, then Linna is put on edge and starts any chase sequence with 2 accumulated successes. If any party member succeeds at the stakeout with 3 or more threshold successes, then they are able to get so close to Linna that they gain 2 accumulated successes on subsequent chase sequences. If all party members achieve this level of success, then they may immediately attack Linna and skip the chase sequence altogether.

Another method to find Linna is to comb the streets for information. Wits + Socialize, Wits + Larceny, or Intelligence + Lore (with spycraft, streetwise, or Chiarascuro emphasis) can be used to attempt to find signs of the Realm spy by asking around at bars and markets. Linna has been careful to leave no trace, so her Guile should be used as the difficulty for the roll. Allow one roll per PC for each half day of effort. Success turns up a likely contact point for her spy network, which can be staked out as above. An exceptional success, with 5 more points past the difficulty, gives the PCs either the location of Linna's garret apartment or her current location (ST's preference). The PCs can use this to go after Linna directly, immediately starting the chase. If the PCs are cautious and attempt to scout out her location and/or plan their attack, grant a bonus on the chase roll equal to their successes on a Perception + Awareness check (if scouting out) or on an Intelligence + Lore check (if making a plan). These stack, and it is entirely possible that the PCs would win the chase before it even starts. Such is the reward for good planning.

If all else fails, Linna checks on the party twice during the week to see what she can learn. The first time is two days after they arrive, during the afternoon rest period, and the second on the fifth day after they arrive, during the night when she's visiting Yusuf to give him the specific details for the ambush. Give the player Circle an awareness check, opposed by Linna's full essence-enhanced stealth roll (she's very careful around Solars) to catch a glimpse of Linna as she comes and goes. If any of the party has Intent Tracing Stare, they automatically succeed at this check when Linna attempts a Read Intentions action on them. Success on these rolls leads directly to the chase.

Chasing the Spy Master

If the party attempts to chase Linna, she follows similar tactics to her combat write-up and tries to find a crowded area where she can lose her pursuers. While Linna did start the adventure hiding on top of a roof, her skills do not run toward straight line chases or dashing over rooftops. She'll try to leave such areas as soon as she can. The chase should involve a crowded market or warehouse, where the PCs catch glimpses of Linna and must maneuver through obstacles to close with her.

The chase should be resolved as an extended opposed roll, with the contestant accumulating 10 more successes than their opponent winning the contest. Each PC tracks this separately, though Linna only rolls once per interval to set the difficulty for the entire Circle.

No more than one roll should be made per geographical area, ensuring variety in the chase. There might be one set of rolls as the PCs pursue Linna over the rooftops, for instance, where they are likely to accumulate several more successes than her. The next roll might be in a crowded market where her stealth skills are likely to give her the advantage. She might then duck into a confusing network of alleyways (al-Medina's souq is a good location for inspiration), which again favors her stealth abilities. The chase might climax when she cuts through a building, feeling secure in her lead and planning to drop back into her normal routine, ending either in her escape or in the PCs finally catching her. Warehouses, bars, docks, and palace corridors make other interesting spaces for a pursuit to occur. The Storyteller is encouraged to be creative when narrating this chase, customizing it to the parts of town where the party finally corners the spy.

Physical Evidence

Confrontation with Linna is potentially fatal for the spy, and even if captured alive she will be reluctant to talk. Still, there are several clues that can be gathered even without her cooperation. First, she has wine stains on her cloak from a Yusuf's favorite vintage; a rare wine that indicates that the two have been in close proximity. This can point to talking to Yusuf to see what the two were up to. Stains on the cuffs of Linna's shirt are from a particular cheap ale at the White Mustang and could point players to that bar to locate some of Linna's spy network. Both of these are identifiable with a Perception + Awareness (taste) roll at difficulty 3 for the wine and 4 for the ale. Solars with the sense-enhancing charms are particularly well suited for finding these clues.

Linna also has a coded message on her person that she'd picked up just before she was chased down; it has details of where the players are staying and what they've been up to lately, and points to a member of Linna's spy network among the servant staff. Decoding the message requires a difficulty 3 Intelligence + Linguistics roll. Additional samples of the code are available at Linna's apartment, and securing them would reduce the difficulty to decode the messages to 1.

In addition to this, Linna has materials in her apartment that are necessary for an Infallible Messenger spell keyed to Peleps Deled (the personal items include several prayer strips written in his hand; they convey particularly martial portions of the Immaculate Text). A sorcerer could use these materials to learn the spell and contact the shikari, potentially gathering much useful information. STs should allow the Sorcerer to learn the spell on credit if they lack the XP. In addition, anyone who has seen a sample of Deled's handwriting should be able to recognize it with a difficulty 1 Intelligence + Linguistics check. It is possible that members of the party have encountered Deled's handwriting before: perhaps they saw missives from him when he was investigating the underground cult of the Bull God in Harborhead, or have run across various wanted posters penned by the Immaculate Monk.

Linna practices impeccable operational security, so there are no notes lying around to detail the upcoming ambush or personal items that might incriminate her spy network. However, an Intelligence + Lore or Investigation roll, difficulty 5, might piece together enough information to deduce that a small strike force is on the way and to figure out about how many days are left before they arrive. This can be found from the state of Linna's room and how much she's done to prepare for this arrival.

Interrogating the Spy Master

Linna knows quite a lot more than the information that can be gleaned from her person and effects, but is highly resistant to giving it up. She can boost her resolves to very high levels using intimacies and her excellency, and has a plethora of intimacies to use as decision points to reject influence from the players. She will spend willpower liberally to reject intimidation and torture. However, the spy is not without honor, and any PC with Intimacies that are similar to her sense of Noblesse Oblige might gain her respect. She also enjoys the game, and would drip out information mixed with half-truths and lies to a skilled player (such as one who displayed skill in cornering her in the chase). Note that she will develop a Minor Tie of respect to any PC that demonstrates skill at the Great Game. The information she has to share is gated depending on the strength of the intimacy used to request that she turn it over.

Defining: The names of her contacts and spy networks in Chiarascuro. The names of her her handlers in House Iselsi (would use Loyalty to House Iselsi to reject this the first time asked). Her methods of contacting her contacts and handlers. At this level, she might also be persuaded to aid the players in escaping the trap if doing so does not bring danger to House Iselsi or her people. She might feed false information to the hunters, or even enter combat on the side of the players if she can do so safely and bring some benefit to her house. Joining the players more permanently requires a Defining intimacy as well as eroding her loyalty to her house.

Major: The precise time and place at which Peleps and Mnemon intend to attack the players. The names of her contacts and spy networks in Chiarascuro (but would use her Tie to Her Network of Spies to reject this influence the first time she was asked). The Tri-Kahn's involvement - namely that he's allowing the hit, but doesn't plan to help.

Minor: Details of Yusuf's orders from the Tri-Kahn to aid in the player's capture to prove that he's a traitor. The nature of her mission (to track the players and lead the Hunt to their location if they move). The day that Peleps and Mnemon are expected to arrive.

Free: This information is offered to rattle the players and try to get them to do something foolish, as well as to serve as the truth around which Linna can build her lies. This information includes - the fact that Peleps and Mnemon have already been informed of the player's location and are on their way, the fact that Yusuf has betrayed them, the fact that the Tri-Kahn's court has elements that wish to turn the players over to the Realm.

Lies: Linna includes in her initial spate of information the lie that the Tri-Kahn is contributing troops to the ambush later. She resists giving further information, but after attempted intimidation or torture, or as part of the game, she will give a false account of troops gathered with the Tri-Kahn to attack the players, as well as a mobilization of the nomadic tribes to try to catch them if they leave the city. If part of the game, include the evidence of Yusuf's orders from the Tri-Kahn to delay the players (this backs up her story). After a second round of intimidation, torture, or the game, she'll give a false time and place for the ambush, several days after the real ambush in order to lull the players into a false sense of security. If part of the game, she'll give up some less important members of her organization (expecting that they'll provide contradictory testimony, letting the players know that they've been fooled). If the players suspect she's lying, she'll back off and admit that they caught her, giving the real day that Peleps and Mnemon are expected to arrive.

It is important to note that it is possible to determine that Linna is lying if the player overcomes her Guile score with a Read Intentions action, which she is sure to improve with her excellency. This is also part of why she mixes lies with truths, so any player trying to figure out if she's lying will at best get "some of it is true and some not." The storyteller is encouraged to let the players catch at least one unequivocal lie, such as the Tri-Kahn's involvement or the false ambush date, as a reward for the players thinking to check, but make Linna more cautious after being caught in her first lie.


Linna has enough information to reveal the entire plot, but even if she doesn't talk her removal is still a big blow against the Wyld Hunt. She is relatively easy to defeat on her own, but her stealth attacks can be devastating if she has an army to hide behind. If Linna stops communicating, Cayla will realize that the operation has been compromised and move to Plan B. Sara Almas or al-Malik can provide another way for Cayla to get her forces into position, but she's more than capable of moving them in under cover of darkness on her own if necessary.

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