Although intelligence services as such do not exist on Nova, every House keeps, or is rumored to keep, people on its payroll to inform it of the movements of its enemies and rivals.
Origin and Political Need
The Age of Steel is the age of the House, when neither church nor crown can restrain a lord within his own territory. In such times, each House must be viewed as a potential enemy. Even the loyalty of a lesser House to its great House cannot be taken for granted. A lord may rebel as part of a naked grab for power, but it may also be an inevitable consequence of time and distance. Long-distance communication on Nova is slow, and a lord has a responsibility to his tenants that may compel him to act contrary to the interests of his own overlord.
These factors make it only natural that each House would be interested in the doings of other Houses, particularly its neighbors or strategic allies. It is popularly assumed that nobles are continually spying on each other and the church. The exact character of this supposed orgy of intelligence, however, varies from rumor to rumor – perhaps encouraged by the alleged spies themselves.
The more sensationalist rumors surrounding House spy networks attribute to them all manner of elaborate infrastructure, including hidden temple-academies where elite operatives are trained from birth in the arts of stealth, misdirection, infiltration, sabotage, and assassination. These rumors perceive the spy networks to be highly structured professional organizations, a shadow world of pseudo-feudal “lords” and “knights” who can uncover any secret and silence any target. As a general rule, these rumors are scoffed at in the light of day – but they gain credence every time a town house conveniently burns down or somebody’s political rival dies mysteriously.
Less sensationalist rumors imagine the the House spy networks to be primarily involved in intelligence gathering, with none of the super-assassins invented in the more elaborate conspiracy theories. Who these operatives are, however, is a mystery. Some believe that Houses maintain a force of professional intelligence agents, who are variously supposed to infiltrate rival Houses or range throughout the areas between castles, reporting their findings to their masters. Others think it more likely that spying is essentially a part-time occupation, a way for servants and other vassals to earn extra coin by informing on their employers and overlords.
Lord Darry‘s spies are often referred to as his “Gray Knights,” a name that can reflect both derision (as the spies are not – or probably are not – literal knights) and respect, often at the same time. Who the Gray Knights are, or if they even exist, is a mystery. One popular theory holds that the Gray Knights are actually rangers, used by the Greenslayer to spy upon the orks as much as his vassals. There is a distinct dearth of evidence to support this theory, but it is consistent with Lord Hugh’s character.
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