Trade Consortiums of the Heartlands

Individual merchants and small partnerships rarely have much time to think and act beyond the day-to-day drudgeries of running their own businesses. Although they compete with one another, such conflicts are largely confined to the arenas of efficiency and quality. On the other hand, rival trade consortiums often devote as much time and energy to undermining their rivals as they do to competing against them.

Most trade consortiums benefit to some extent from the rule of law; thus, they tend to battle within the general confines of the law and eschew open warfare. Moreover, most trade consortiums view rivals more as targets to be acquired than targets to be destroyed, limiting the amount of direct damage they tend to inflict on one another. Common tactics include hiring bandits or monsters to attack a rival's caravans or to interfere with the shipment of critical resources or finished goods, striking deals with suppliers to "freeze out" a rival, bribing corrupt officials to harass a rival with petty applications of the law, causing incidental damage to stored goods to increase a rival's costs, hiring away key personnel, and spreading rumors about inferior goods and services.

Costers and Priakos of the Heartlands

Most trade travels in caravans for safety, and the great majority of caravans are run by independent caravan masters who often display no badge or colors at all. Some caravans are sponsored or directly manned by a city or alliance, and they usually bear the sigil of that place. The caravans of Amn, Sembia, and the Zhentarim are so marked, while caravans and ships backed by the Rundeen are not.

In addition to the major lines detailed below, a number of other trading organizations are active in the Heartlands, ranging from one-shot operators, to seasonal family operations, to independent merchants, to specialists in small package trade (smuggling). All are regularly looking for strong sword arms and wise wand-wielders to enhance their chances of making it to market.

Dragoneye Dealing Coster: Originally based in the Vilhon Reach area, the Dragoneye now operates more often out of Irieabor and Elturel. This oldest of the costers was begun by two merchant brothers, Iltraven and Chethar, who were tired of shipping things overland to avoid the Inner Sea pirates only to lose them to bands on the long land routes west of Westgate, and also reluctant to pay incredibly stiff fees to the merchant houses of Westgate to have their cargoes accompany the well-guarded caravans of that city. The brothers still run the coster, but they have taken on two lesser partners: the Mhalogh of Mordulkin (a minor noble) and Bezenttar of Suzail.

Firehands Group: Founded in the Year Prince (1357 DR.) out of Daerlun, the Firehands had a rough go of it in its early years trying to establish itself in a market with many other trading operations, but it is now an established concern catering fully to the Waterdeep to Sembia run. Its representative is Dhellart the Night Blade (LN male Chondathan human Ftr12). The Firehands Group has competitive rates, but raids and sabotage are common, often launched by its longstanding rival, the Iron Throne.

Highmoon Trading Coster: Headed by Guldelph Maremmon (N male Tethyrian War9), this flourishing concern dominates the Sword Coast overland routes from its bases in Scornubel and Waterdeep (surprisingly, it does not reach the Dalelands). The coster carries everything but has exclusive rights to kaorph (blue wine) and certain spices - arispeg, marka, and delph - that originate somewhere far to the south and east. Its colors are a white crescent on a black, star-studded oval.

Iron Throne: The Iron Throne is a secretive merchant company with the publicly stated aim of controlling trade of transportation and commerce-related equipment and weapons in the Heartlands, from Hillsfar to Baldur's Gate. The Iron Throne's founder, a tiefling named Sfena, vanished three years ago, and her remaining lieutenants have struggled to maintain the company's commanding position in the weapons trade.

Merchant's League: Based in Baldur's Gate, the League promotes merchant safety through good roads, regular patrols, defensive way stations, as well as strong, well-run, and well-guarded caravans. Prominent members of the League are Irlentree, Zorl Miyar, and Dabron Sashenstar (see page 81). All are successful merchant's who reside in Baldur's Gate. For nearly two decades, the League has been an organization in decline as the rise of the various costers has largely replaced its functions and sapped its traditional support. However, Dabron Sashenstar - who recently succeeded his late uncle, Aldeth Sashenstar - has brought new life to the Merchant's League, reinventing it as a priakos. With the backing of the ruling dukes of Baldur's Gate, the Merchant's League has begun challenging the Iron Throne for control of weapons shipments throughout the Heartlands.

Red Shields: Bronthar Helmbrind (N male Tethyrian human Ftr7) has transformed the Red Shields from a mercenary company into a well-armed merchant company that runs its caravan operations out of Scornubel, making regular trading runs between Neverwinter, Waterdeep, Amn, and Scornubel. The Red Shields also serve as Scornubel's official army and police force, performing the former job professionally under the leadership of Vuldan (LN male Tethyrian fighter 5) and the latter job to the company's benefit under the leadership of Miftat (CN male Chondathan human Ftr6).

Seven Suns Trading Coster: The name of this group refers to the widely separated partners who formed the group, converting their own small merchant companies into regional bases and providing horses, draft oxen, and wagons, and hiring local guards. The seven partners are Jhasso of Baldur's Gate, Shield of Everlund, Pomphur of Almraiven, Chond of Calaunt, Alvund of Ormpetarr, Dzunn of Sheirtalar, and Nammna of Milvarune. This coster usually provides the leanest guards and the worst wagons, and is inclined to be slow and often bandit-struck as a result; however, it also undercuts competitors on most routes.

Six Coffers Market Priakos: Named for the six wealthy merchants who sponsored it, this priakos is run by Thelve Baruinheld of Berdusk and has bases in that city as well as Waterdeep, Silverymoon, Priapurl, and Selgaunt. It is large, efficient, and prosperous, but only four of the original six partners still live (the survivors are Ultramm of Selgaunt, Syntel of Irieabor, Maftan of Waterdeep, and Szwentil of Marsember).

Stags Caravan Company: This is an older, somewhat-fallen-from-former-greatness outfit of rugged adventurers (now mostly dead or gone on to other adventures elsewhere) now taken over by merchants who are constantly dealing in large and small matters everywhere. The company's aging trail general, Black Tomm Bharhinn, has lost effective control of day-to-day operations to Scorm, Hlevell, and Dindar Pel, all young merchants of Amn who despair of making their fortunes within that kingdom of mighty merchants but are determined to make money with the company.

Surefeet Trademasters: Headed by a council (the merchants Pheng Thelombur, Aramma Dulve, and Prist Thelmip) and based in Scornubel, the Surefeet specialize in providing expert guides, escorts, guards for all concerns, not only their own caravans but also those of any overland travelers. Their rates are high, their employees good. It is rumored that the Surefeet have gained much wealth through several rich tomb and temple ruin finds made by guide members.

Thousandheads Trading Coster: Run by the former adventurer Bharavan Bhaerkantos (N male Tethyrian human Rog9) from his stronghold east of Riatavin, this coster operates only along a single route: from Waterdeep to Hillsfar via Scornubel, Berdusk, Irieabor, Proskur, Arabel, and Essembra. Its name refers to the "thousands" of small one- to twelve-wagon outfits that benefit from this coster - Bharavan recruits retired adventurers to guard his caravans, and he offers cut rates to small merchants. His guards are tough, hard-nosed, and tireless. They have instructions to go after and kill any caravan raider, so few casual raiders tangle with Thousandheads caravans twice.

Trail Lords: A mysterious, pompous outfit recently revealed to be backed by the Red Wizards of Thay, the Trail Lords have the exclusive contract for goods shipped between enclaves that cannot be sent by magic (due to cost, volume, or magical restriction). The group also ships nonmagical cargo between cities home to Red Wizard enclaves. The Trail Lords have been known to hire half-ores (or worse) as guards, but they have deep pockets and can muster a small army or two to guard especially valuable clients and cargo in a very short time. Mhereg Ssar (N male Thayan human illusionist7/Red Wizard 1) directs the group's operations. Trueshield Trading Priakos: Based ill Telpir on the Dragon Coast, this professional organization builds its own wagons and also equips and trains its own guards - and it does both of these things very well. Few bandits tangle with 'its caravans. Even ores leave them alone on most trips. The group's rates are expensive, but its agents almost always deliver; thus, money has been pouring into the priakos's coffers since its founding in the Year of the Serpent (1359 DR). The master merchant of the Trueshields, Dzentraven Thiomtul, is credited with the idea of sealed destination wagons into which the goods of many small shippers intended for a common destination are packed together, rather than the traditional "peddler" packing method where goods are packed by assorted weight and bulk considerations.

Windriders Trading Coster: The Windriders are young merchants with a wild reputation for fierce competition, but they have learned the hard way about how to run a coster in the past few years. All wear shields adorned with a white Pegasus, wings outstretched, and they are much used for swift, discreet carrier service around the North. The sixty or so members of this coster prefer to remain anonymous and are represented through their office and leader, Torshilm Firetel (CN male Chondathan human Ftr7), formerly of Westgate.

Organizations of Faerûn
Lands of Faerûn