Curse of the Crimson Throne
By charter amendment, Korvosa does not allow merchants, laborers, or tradesmen to form guilds, but it does allow for a thieves’ guild. This causes legitimate workers no end of frustration and anger.
Many of the poorer noble houses bristle at the blatant extortion engineered by the Cerulean Society, Korvosa’s only thieves’ guild. The Cerulean Society runs a fairly typical protection racket with excruciatingly smug satisfaction, as Guildmaster Boule provides his Cerulean Society with actual blue uniforms to wear when they come to collect, giving the guild the look of authority. The price a “client” pays for the Cerulean Society’s “service” varies, depending not on wealth but on a complicated formula known only to the guildmaster. Indeed, the wealthy House Jeggare pays less than a gold sail per year for its protection, while impoverished House Peltherianon cannot hope to afford to pay the hundred sails the Cerulean Society demands each month. The Cerulean Society offers its protective service to every noble house, as well as to wealthy merchants, the temple of Abadar, and others who cross it.
When a potential client fails to pay, it goes on a list provided to the gangs of cat burglars and second-story men legitimized by the guild, who then have the goahead to act on that information as they see fit. Those who cannot or do not pay open themselves to theft and muggings. Failure to pay does not automatically guarantee thefts, however, as doing so would make it too easy for the Korvosan Guard to capture the guild’s allies. The guild works together with legitimate gangs to ensure they don’t overwork an area or cause too much suffering to any particular non-client (including beleaguered House Peltherianon). The threat of theft and robbery at knifepoint is enough to make most potential clients pay up, so the guild is careful to not always extend the offer of this service to every potential target.
In addition to blatant extortion, the Cerulean Society also generates income by regulating the other gangs in the city. Twice per year, the Cerulean Society sends members and trusted agents throughout the city, again wearing its distinctive blue uniform, collecting dues from other gangs. A gang that pays its dues to the thieves’ guild gains a level of legitimacy that allows the guild to tap the gang’s members for the purpose of showing why the Cerulean Society’s protection is a valuable service. Those gangs that can’t or won’t pay the dues don’t last long. The swift eradication of such gangs by the thieves’ guild strikes fear in all who witness or hear about such events, further ensuring that gangs pay up.
Cerulean Society members do actually perform illicit acts of their own, although for the most part they leave thieving to the other gangs. The thieves’ guild operates several secret gambling dens within the city, whose whereabouts remain carefully concealed and change at random times. These gambling dens pop up suddenly and disappear even more quickly, so the Cerulean Society must use a large stable of information dealers and rumormongers to swiftly spread the word of their locations before they move on.
The Cerulean Society maintains a monopoly on smuggling into and out of the city, which ties in well with its extensive drug empire. In addition to drugs, the society also oversees the importation of weapons, necromantic and demonic goods, and unusual creatures. It exports homegrown pesh, slaves, and infernal goods. Of course, because it so tightly controls the smuggling trade, anything illicit that comes into or goes out of the city passes through one of its warehouses, barges, or ships. Those who try to bypass the Cerulean Society in a smuggling operation can expect to go jigsaw shark fishing—as the bait.
For reasons unclear to outsiders, the thieves’ guild only operates on the mainland and in East Shore. It never seeks out protection clients in Old Korvosa and only sends members there to collect dues from gangs in the district.
Rumors abound that House Arkona supports the Cerulean Society in some way, but no investigation has ever found a connection. Any link between the two remains a carefully guarded secret.