Before the Syndicate was formed around late 1267 or early 1268, Novigrad's underworld was best described as a chaotic battleground between various gangs, agents of foreign intelligences, dwarven banksters, law enforcers and religious militias. Such a chaos used to cause problems for the commercial centre of the North and posed a potential danger of being abused by the Nilfgaardian Empire, whose army was supposed to inevitably attack again.
Being aware of the current situation's drawbacks, Count Sigismund Dijkstra from Redanian Secret Service (under the alias of Sigi Reuven) initiated the birth of the Syndicate at meetings with the city's hierarch, Cyrus Engelkind Hemmelfart, and leaders of the four most influential Novigradian gangs: Carlo Varese, Cyprian Wiley, Francis Bedlam, and Gudrun Bjornsdottir. Although the meetings were originally spent mostly at disputing the spheres of influence withing the city, the final agreement was eventually reached.
First years and the Big Four
Dijkstra/Reuven returned to Novigrad at some point between 1268 and 1272 from his exile, and finished the Syndicate's Code of Conduct. The organization was apparently joined by Azar Javed, leader of the Salamandra, who in turn had links to the Order of the Flaming Rose which itself was another organization that Dijkstra had helped to create. Salamandra and the Order seeked to seize control over Vizima, the capital city of Temeria, with aim to rule the kingdom alongside Adda the White. These plans were ultimately spoiled by witcher Geralt of Rivia, who killed both Azar Javed and the Rose's grandmaster, Jacques de Aldersberg, in 1270.
The relationship between gangs in the formative years of the Syndicate was apparently fluid, as by 1272 the Tidecloaks no longer controlled the city's port. The four most influential leaders, known as the Big Four, plotted against each other and against the hierarch, disagreeing at topics such as the situation of the sorceresses or the exact areas of the city to control. After Cyprian "Whoreson Junior" Wiley accepted Radovid V's money and attempted at assassinating the other three members of the Big Four, his gang was nearly obliterated by Carlo's Crownsplitters and he found himself betrayed by Radovid who gave the information on his hiding to Geralt.
- If Geralt kills Whoreson Junior: Whoreson Junior was killed by the witcher. Taking advantage of the situation, doppler Dudu took his appearance and identity, revealed to his remaining men that he finally converted to the Eternal Fire, sold all his illegal enterprises and acted as a respectable businessman.
- If Geralt spares Whoreson Junior: Due to the details concerning his treason having been leaked, Junior lost all of his power and was forced to live in poverty on the streets.
Structure and activities
The primary purpose Syndicate was created for was mutual aid and profit for its members – or, to be more specific, the most high-ranked ones. Only the organization's founders and a couple of trusted people was even aware of its exact nature. Most of the other knew only of the Syndicate's secret currency and the code of conduct, and the more specific questions were often left unanswered by the leaders.
The Syndicate's Coin is a special currency that bounds the organization together. Made of gold, it depicts a symbol of arms in a praying or swearing gesture surrounded by the text: "SYNDICATE UNBREAKABLE VOW". It is used for any tasks or trade, but exchanging it as payment seals an inviolable pact – a failure in comforting it leads to hunting down the ones who have broken it and forcing them to pay a far greater price, and not even the leaders can protect anyone from these dire consequences.
- Sigi Reuven aka Sigismund Dijkstra from Redanian Secret Service, who introduced the Syndicate's code of conduct
- Cyrus Engelkind Hemmelfart, hierarch of Novigrad
- Cyprian Wiley, leader of the Cutups
- Carlo Varese, leader of the Crownsplitters
- Francis Bedlam, leader of the Blindeyes
- Gudrun Bjornsdottir, leader of the Tidecloaks
- Some fight for honor, others for empire. Some fight for king, others for freedom. The members of the Syndicate fight for but one purpose – wealth. If you've the means to afford their services, they will perform whatever deed you require... No matter how heinous. In the criminal underworld, it is through crime you build your reputation and fill your purse. While the city's economy thrives on the Novigradian Crown, its underbelly revolves around coin of a different sort. When exchanged as payment, an inviolable pact has been sealed. And those foolish enough to break it shall be hunted down and forced to pay a far greater price.
Reward Book entries
- Scroll 1: Ah, Novigrad! Thirty-thousand inhabitants, eight banks, four water mills... And five exceptionally dangerous gangs.
- Scroll 2: Every Novigradian knows the names of the underworld's most powerful leaders: Cleaver, the King of Beggars, Gudrun Bjornsdottir, Whoreson Junior, and Sigi Reuven.
- Scroll 3: They differ from each other in almost every regard – age, race, gender, demeanor. Yet, they all possess one trait that ties them together, a common denominator... Their love for coin.
- Scroll 4: For a purse brimming with gold, they are prepared to do whatever necessary – betray, destroy, slaughter. And they will do so with a smile upon their lips.
- Chest 1: Not only is Novigrad the Continent's most vital port city, but it also serves as the seat of the Church of the Eternal Fire. It is here the cult's hierarch presides, it is here the Sacred Flame burns... It is here mages, herbalists, alchemists, and non-humans are burned alive en masse atop pyres.
- Chest 2: Novigrad remains a free city, yes, but for how much longer? Redanians and Nilfgaardians alike gaze upon the wealthy port city with hungry eyes. Both attempt to curry favor and influence amongst city leaders, clergymen, and the dregs of the underworld. Yet, to earn their loyalty, a handsome sum must be paid...
- Chest 3: Folk from the world over flock to Novigrad with dreams of great riches, fame, and a taste of true luxury and power. For a fortunate few, their dreams indeed become a reality... For all else, what awaits them is a life of begging for coppers, praying to the gods for just one more pouchful of fisstech.
- Lack of Syndicate's presence in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt might suggest that the organization had been dissolved sometime before 1272, perhaps replaced with the Big Four. It is however entirely possible that it simply remained secret to Geralt, because only the highest ranking members of individual gangs were aware of its existence.
- The ritualized usage of a special type of coin seems to be a reference to John Wick movie series, where it serves analogous purpose. A supporting evidence may be the fact that the image of coin and the first page from Walter's Journal were released at E3 2019, the same event where CD Projekt announced John Wick's star Keanu Reeves to appear in Cyberpunk 2077, the studio's new game.