There is no denying that House Cynis has made its own reputation, but it is equally true that the other Dynastic Houses have blown that reputation far out of proportion. Yes, the Cynis throw orgies, and yes those events are engineered to be spectacles. For the most part, though, those affairs are nothing like the unflattering accounts say they are.
MASTER(S) OF THE HOUSE
House Cynis is very loosely ruled by the three daughters of Cynis herself from their verdant Palace of Trees in Pangu Prefecture.
Cynis Wisel, Cynis Belar and Cynis Falen are devout hedonists who all agree that providing relaxation, entertainment and pleasure to the Realm is their House’s true calling. On other matters, however, especially business, the three do not always agree.
Cynis Wisel tends to be nervous and conservative about changes in the House’s course. She’s not against taking action, but she does prefer to mull things over and look at all possible consequences before committing the House’s resources. Her household, while great at throwing spectacular parties, does not share the Cynis propensity for depravity. That said, she has nothing against leveraging the depravity of others into profits for House Cynis.
Cynis Falen is the most optimistic of the three Cynis sisters. She is known for meeting threats and dangers head on and making the most of the resources the House now possesses. She is generally recognized as having the best economic sense of the three sisters, although maintaining that reputation has been known to drive her to some very amoral business decisions. She is prone to decisive action, which is good, but some of her actions are clearly not very well thought out. She believes, for example, that her House could steal the slave trade away from the Guild within only a few years if it really wanted to. Falen’s branch of the family is known for its romantics, its dreamers and its musicians. It is said that the best lovers on the Blessed Isle descend from Cynis Falen, and Falen herself is quite proud of that reputation because she has trained most of her descendants in the arts of love at one point or another.
Cynis Belar is an accomplished Heptagram-trained sorceress. She is a quiet, pragmatic woman, and she often keeps her opinions to herself—only to make sure events unfold the way she wants them to later. Belar has a reputation for being somewhat secretive, but very shrewd in the ways of both business and people. When House Cynis needs information, it is Belar who gets it, either with sorcery or by hiring competent spies. Belar’s household is known for being taciturn and more than a little paranoid, but very effective at anything to which its members turn their attention. Some of Belar’s descendants have a reputation for sadism, and they don’t hesitate to make that reputation work for them, especially when dealing with haughty satraps and self-important bureaucrats. Many of Belar’s offspring appear to share her facility with sorcery as well.
In centuries past, the three sisters’ “rulership” over the House rarely consisted of more than suggesting that one household or another hold another party. Recently, though, they have grown concerned about the state of the Realm, not to mention the more egregious excesses of their House, which they would like to curb in case the next ruler to sit on the throne considers them excessive or a threat to the public good.
Although only one is married at this point, all three sisters have enormous households that account for most of the Cynis Dragon-Blooded in the Realm.
All three Cynis households are aspected toward Wood.
House Cynis has traditionally made a great deal of money off the slave trade. It purchases slaves from the Guild and sells them within the Realm. The Guild smells weakness in the Realm, however, and has raised the price of slaves, causing the profits of House Cynis to plummet. While the House could easily obtain its own slaves, that would come at the risk of alienating the Guild entirely, something Cynis Wisel fears would be unwise, considering how indebted House Cynis is to the Guild at this point. Still, Cynis Belar has quietly and firmly made it known to some of the House’s stingier satraps that any difference between tribute owed and tribute actually paid will be made up in young men and women of good breeding, who will be taken away and placed into slavery.
House Cynis hires out slaves to others who need cheap labor.
Technically, the hiring party pays jade to buy the time of an overseer, who is then free to make use of his (or his family’s) slaves as necessary.
The overseer is generally a mortal or a young Exalt who needs to earn a stipend somehow, and watching others work is a relatively common pastime for Dynasts anyway. Ostensibly, it is the responsibility of the overseer to direct the slaves at whatever task he has assigned for them.
More often, the overseer turns over direction of the slaves to the client household to use as necessary while he graciously accepts the client’s hospitality. The primary responsibility of the overseer is to see to it that all slaves sent out to a client return alive and in good health. Any damage to the slaves or death among their number is charged against the stipend of the overseer. Consequently, a wise overseer is careful not to grow too blind while partaking of his client’s hospitality.
Prostitution is a simple and obvious offshoot of the Cynis slave trade and one from which the House makes a moderate amount of money. Any decent-sized city has at least one pleasure house, and larger cities have more such establishments, some of which specialize based on the tastes and preferences in an area. On the Blessed Isle, all such places are owned by House Cynis, and they are all tied into a tight network that keeps careful records of important fi gures (including all Dragon-Bloods) who visit their establishment.
More often than not, the best profi t to be made by such places is in the knowledge of who was where, when, on what business and, of course, doing what with whom. Add to that the fact that some young clients have shown a convenient tendency to babble during sex, and House Cynis controls one of the key information networks on the Blessed Isle. In many instances, the best money to be had in prostitution is not in the fee paid for sexual release, but in leveraging information gleaned during the liaison for profit later.
GOALS AND ALLIANCES
While renowned for the spectacles and exotic delights of its lavish parties, the hard fact of the matter is that, while others like to experience Cynis hospitality—and might even pay for many of the services provided by House Cynis—none of the other Houses especially wants to be associated with House Cynis enough to ally with it. One House, Sesus, regularly marries into Cynis, but even that has its political disadvantages at times. There’s an appearance of dissolute weakness to the House, which runs contrary to the self-discipline and battle-ready ideals of the Dynasty. Even though those ideals aren’t upheld the way they once were, no other House represents their antithesis the way House Cynis does. This makes the House vulnerable, especially if the next ruler to sit on the Scarlet Throne doesn’t appreciate its business or reputation.
Obviously, the House would like to claim the throne, but Cynis has tapped into its own information network well enough to know that it doesn’t have any viable candidates for the position. The best the House can do at this point is to use its connections and intelligence to glean advance notice of who the next Empress or Emperor might be and maybe cash in some favors or information to help roll with the coming changes.
ILLUSTRIOUS DYNASTS OF THE HOUSE
CYNIS BELAR ROKUJAI
A brilliant but aimless youth, Rokujai first attended the Cloister of Wisdom (much to his family’s amazement and chagrin), then the Heptagram as soon as he finished his studies there. Once he finished his education, his focus turned to being a prostitute.
The disdain of the Realm and its power brokers was palpable. His behavior was scandalous even for a Cynis, and even within the House, pressure mounted to disown young Rokujai. Belar herself interviewed him to find out what was going on in his head, and the two of them talked for over four hours before he left. His answers obviously satisfied her, because she refused to hear any criticism of him afterward.
After being a very well remunerated prostitute for several years, Rokujai retired from that profession and instead opened several popular brothels in major cities across the Realm, seven of which were in the Scarlet Prefecture. These brothels were places of pleasure, of course, but they were also ready-made intelligence-gathering venues.
With a profound understanding of martial arts, sorcery and the hard realities of the street, Rokujai then combined his disparate fields of knowledge to become the closest House Cynis has to a spymaster. Through means both mundane and sorcerous, Rokujai would gather information on the patrons of his establishments and find out who might need that information. Rokujai doesn’t care for competition and has surreptitiously done away with key intelligence figures in other Houses, especially those who took too keen an interest in House Cynis. While other spies are more established than he, Rokujai’s understanding of multiple disciplines makes him a subtle and terrifying opponent.
CYNIS MOND, WINDTAMER
Among the most prolific artificers in the Dynasty, Cynis Mond is a living legend among the Dragon-Blooded. No one expected this. He spent his early life as a man obsessed with the wind, both as a physical force and as a magical concept. He spent months building oddly shaped sails and studying flight patterns of immense kites. His family thought him useless and mad.
Toward what should have been the end of his natural life span, Mond unveiled a series of never-before-seen artifacts and Charms all predicated on his life’s study of the flow of wind and Essence.
In the span of a few short years, Mond, now called Windtamer, went from being a marginalized crackpot to one of the Realm’s most respected and best-known sorcerers, rivaled only by the likes of the Empress herself and her daughter Mnemon. The First Age windslave terminals and their more specialized variants, popularized and reproduced by Mond, are in use by geomancers, architects and the legions in every corner of the Threshold. Hundreds of Terrestrial Exalts learn Charms created by Mond for use in endeavors from sailing and combat to music and communication.
Though famous and highly respected, Mond is no less the eccentric visionary than he ever was. He remains flighty and rarely stays in one place for long. He occasionally teaches at the Heptagram as a celebrity senior savant. He maintains homes and workshops throughout Creation. Anywhere the wind blows, Mond can travel without difficulty.
Mond’s command of Essence is said to have reached the pinnacle of Terrestrial potential, though those who have had any real interaction with him hint that he is more wind than man now, occasionally fading to transparency for minutes on end when he forgets to maintain his corporeal form. His blue-gray hair and beard have grown to a prodigious length, and they and his flimsy wrap constantly blow around him in the ceaseless winds that attend him. He no longer touches the ground for longer than a moment at a time, instead hovering and flitting above it.