Aadipura Mahasaangya Dabha
The River runs from the foothills of the Mountains to the western shores of Stha Lui, passing through or near Aadipura, the Fádech Desert, Genzland, the Hinterlands, the Home Territory, and Śetaig. It provides precious water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and irrigation. It is also the single largest channel for the passage of goods and people from the Mountains to the coast and everywhere in between.
Much of this vast volume of commerce relies on the services Aadipura Mahasaangya Dabha. A consortium of wealthy and powerful traders and shippers, the Dabha operates a huge fleet of massive river barges and charges premium prices to move goods and passengers up and down the River. It also operates small port settlements at strategic locations, ensuring that travelers and merchants, for a price, have access to food and shelter, storage and trade.
The Dabha is ruthless in protecting its monopoly on river transport even outside the lands controlled by Aadipurans. Small vessels ply the River frequently and fairly independently, but boats of any significant size must carry Dabha authorizations or face boarding and confiscation. The Dabha is almost omnipresent, their fleet of ponderous barges augmented by smaller, quicker vessels ideal for chasing down and boarding ships that violate their rules.
The Dabha (and the city of Dekhi, which the Dabha controls) is governed by a council of powerful merchants. Corruption, infighting, and back-room dealing are ubiquitous on the council, as newly-wealthy traders try to crack into its ranks and the old, established powers seek to maintain their positions.
The Aadipura Mahasaangya Dabha and House Llynydh are natural rivals for control of inland trade. At the moment, they exist in an uneasy truce, content to shore up their dominance in their respective domains rather than waste resources competing with each other. This balance is unlikely to last.
House Llynydh (“Lin-edh”)
The rolling prairies, farms, and ranches of the Hinterlands, Stha Lui’s breadbaskets, are connected to the crowded coastal cities by a vast series of dirt roads and overland trade networks. Created more by repeated travel than by anyone’s plan, these networks, traveled by heavily-loaded caravans, have become crucial to Stha Lui’s commerce and transportation.
In order to facilitate these connections (and make a hefty profit in the process), the halflings of House Llynydh operate a vast network of caravanserais. These caravanserais are strategically located approximately one to two day’s travel apart, especially at the outskirts of towns and near the intersections of trading networks. They provide food and lodging for caravans and travelers, forums where merchants can meet and trade, and public spaces for music, conversation, and the exchange of news. Travelers can get a bunk in the common room for a few stone pieces, a private room for a few silver, and a hot meal or a cold drink for a few glass. Merchants can get fodder and stabling for their pack animals and safe storage space for their goods. Bards and traveling entertainment troupes move from caravanserai to caravanserai, entertaining the locals and playing for their suppers.
In addition to the physical infrastructure provided by House Llynydh’s network of caravanserais, the connections between caravanserai managers across the continent facilitate a system of banking and finance. Instead of carrying large quantities of heavy coinage, merchants and travelers can convert their cash into notes of debit and credit, which can be exchanged in the place of coins. This type of system is only possible because of close communication and strong connections between members of House Llynydh.
House Llynydh is not the only group operating inns and caravanserais, though theirs are often the largest and most successful in a given area. In some places, particularly near major cities like Home and Dekhi, the volume of trade demands multiple caravanserais, often operated by several different groups and individuals. In these places, most caravanserai owners cooperate fairly well with each other, knowing that frequent trade and travel provide more than enough customers for all. In other places, House Llynydh has been ruthless in defeating competition from other caravanserais.
The Strangers in the Dark
The secretive organization known as the Strangers in the Dark is a group of assassins, thieves, and criminals that has spread throughout Stha Lui in the years following the Torrent. Almost all of Stha Lui’s major cities are home to a chapter of the Strangers in the Dark. Each chapter operates more-or-less independently to increase its power, prosperity, and security.
The Strangers in the Dark is a relic of pre-Torrent tiefling organized crime syndicates. These in turn grew out of opportunistic alliances for mutual security in societies that spurned and persecuted tieflings for their supposed inherent evil. Powerful members of these syndicates who survived the Torrent brought their culture of organized crime to Stha Lui, establishing small chapters wherever they landed. These chapters grew along with the tiefling population though most tieflings are not involved in the organization. Most chapters expanded to incorporate non-tieflings, who swelled the Strangers in the Dark’s ranks and brought power beyond the scope of Stha Lui’s limited tiefling population (though tieflings remain in control of all chapters).
Despite sharing certain identifiers and methodologies, the various chapters of the Strangers in the Dark do not necessarily follow the same course. Indeed, they often work against each other, particularly in cities like Dekhi, Targaidh, and Home where trade and migration bring the interests of multiple chapters into conflict. These conflicts can lead to bitter battles of subterfuge and assassination for control of key cities. The chapters do, however, recognize that they have certain common interests and have been known to ally against common enemies.
Many of the most powerful members of the Strangers in the Dark, particularly its tiefling members and members capable of spellcasting, learn unique techniques to manipulate magical darkness. These elite members become Knives in the Dark, Screams in the Dark, Swords in the Dark, or Voices in the Dark. Their uncanny skills at infiltration and assassination, combined with their unsettling affinity for impenetrable darkness, are feared throughout Stha Lui. At least, feared by those who know of their existence.