The Formation and structure of the Black Market
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In the minds of people, existence and time is relative. Some things seem to have been around forever. Towns, castles, forests, and sometimes even people all seem so permanent and steady. Yet they are very temporary and short-lived. They eventually grow old and decay. The opposite can be true in people's minds as well. If something appears that they have not heard of, they consider it new. Consider the Grimlok. They had been in existence for quite some time, hiding in caves and trying to find peace with their lives in the stone. When they were revealed to us aislings, though, how many of ye thought of them as a “new” race? Simply because we have not heard of them until later does not make them any more new than some town that has stood for ages.
It is thus that I will tell ye that the perception of the Black Market is equally skewed as well. People seem to think because Braz decided to confiscate a building in Rucesion in Deoch 9 that that is when the Market was formed, yet the origins of the Market go much deeper. The history of the Black Market almost begins with the coming of the first rogue.
Coming of the Rogue
The appearance of the first rogue was far from spectacular. In fact, it would be something only scholars and historians would notice. Rogues was truly just a name for an opportunist back then. The laymen did not notice the cunning as he toiled to build traps to his satisfaction. Though crude by today's standards, they were set to pierce any gaps in the armours of the day. However, what was truly important was the trick of hiding in the shadows. When he found he could move unheard and unseen, Derakin (for that was the rogue's family name) had an idea.
Many others were trained. Remember the time we are talking about. The year is 2243, 13 years after Temuair split into rival factions. Petty wars covered the landscape over small bits of land. The Great War of Danaan and Chadul had taught them nothing. As I said, the rogues were opportunist. Derakin gathered all other like-minded lads and lasses and formed what could be crudely called the Black Market. These wars were a great chance for rogue-kind to profit. Derakin and his followers played both sides, selling weaponry secretly to one rival section and selling protective armours against those weapons to the other. Derakin also tried his best to keep skirmishes going as long as possible. As the masses grew more and more barbaric, Derakin and his followers grew in wealth and power. No one knew the faces of those in the first Black Market, and as long as goods were provided, no one cared. The faceless, the loners, the stragglers, and the outcasts were the only ones who knew the true nature of Derakin's market and those are who Derakin employed. Under the misery of others, the Market prospered. One unknown member of the market turned away and was rumoured to have screamed in Derakin's face that “his heart was black as pitch” to take advantage of the people as he did. It is from this immorality that the term “Black Market” was formed.
With Tenes's rise to power, however, the Market suffered. People were leery to supply weapons under sheer terror. Any who forged weapons not for the cause of Tenes were ferociously and brutally tortured then slaughtered. With no items to sell, the Market, now controlled by an unfortunate rogue named Henate, collapsed and dissolved. Henate's fate was unknown, and many speculate that other members of the market had him disemboweled and buried. His body was never found however.
Rebellion and Rebirth
Although no longer in use, those who were involved in the Market continued to teach the secrets of supply and demand to their descendants, as well as ways to get supplies seemingly out of thin air. The silent Rebellion of Undine sparked the perfect opportunity for the Market's rebirth.
Norean, a descendant of Fisk in Suomi, remembered the old underground routes that materials passed through in the days of Derakin's Black Market. Though derelict and decrepit, they still held and provided a way to send items unseen throughout the land. Most do not realize just how extensive the Black Market's reach was. The rogue who lead the supplies down their route was called a “conductor” and those who sent the orders to the conductors were called “runners.” A good runner and conductor team might have procured goods from Rucesion and brought them to Suomi within 3 days. Quite a feat considering how much caution was needed to avoid Loures sea and land patrols. Small boats were used on the sea, with a athar wizard to obscure the air if the conductor was high enough. The wizards in the Market were in very short supply and only given to the highest ranking. Others relied on what alchemists called “clean smoke” which, when burned, produced an effect similar to fog. Market ports were laid in small alcoves, unseen to all but the most skilled pathfinder. On land, underground paths were used whenever possible, as well as roads through thick woodlands and canyons. The Black Market also had an unknown hub at or near each of the major cities, as well as some along the coasts for wandering buyers or safe havens for conductors from troops. Usually they were rarely used as a safe haven however. Poor conductors who were caught once too many usually found themselves quickly disposed of.
The Market was a major reason why Undine was not reduced to rubble. Norean was praised highly for his accomplishment at the time but today we do not hear his name spoken. How he funded the revival of the Black Market remains a mystery, since he asked no payment to help those in Undine. Any theories given have been mere speculation. Most agree that Norean was not a rich man by any means and that suppliers would not give him much of a break. However, somehow Norean had connections and the Market flourished again.
Purchasing of the Market
No one knew where it came from. The Market was doing splendidly and began making a steady profit from the Shadows War. None were caught, supposedly because Empress Ealagad was in on the market's supplies. None have been able to prove nor disprove this rumour, however Loursian guards looked the other way as conductors continued their shipments. Some weapons of the Steel Swan's army may have been Market-supplied.
Regardless of how, the Market was prospering so it came as a surprise that Darien, grandson of Norean, suddenly sold the Market. The owner was Delvin, ancestor of Braz who currently runs the Black Market. Another shock came as Delvin was the first female owner of the Market. As well, Delvin was not a rogue, but a merchant, member of Gilded Pouches, a Merchant's guild in Rucesion. Later one mystery was explained when Darien produced a will from Norean stating that after two generations have passed, the market was to be sold to the Gilded Pouches, but few know why Norean wrote such a comment in his will. Speculations say that this guild is where Norean funded the Market's revival and this was his retribution. Others say Norean was simply a daft old man. Still others believe that Norean was sleeping with the leader of the Gilded Pouches when he controlled the Market.
Yet regardless, the Market was under new management. Though people were chauvinistic and skeptical, Delvin lead the Market to its greatest boon ever. The Market, once just a shamble of like-minded rogues, was now organized and making a better profit than ever. While most of the Markets of old specialized only in weaponry, Delvin saw a golden opportunity to transport rations and medicines to the front. It is also under Delvin that gems were first sold at the Black Market. No one knew how she came about them, and no one asked. The Market again seemed to be going well for all.
Of course, Delvin was not perfect and made one fatal mistake: exposing the Market. The rogues relied on secrecy and stealth to run the Market, but Delvin, being a merchant, thought that making the Market available to everyone would expand the profits. This it did for a time, but as Loures found out about it, disaster struck. Ealagad decided, whether she had paid for them earlier or not, that the Market held an easy stash of supplies. Most of the city hubs were overtaken and stripped of all their goods. The main hub in Rucesion survived, since Delvin did not want any to know where she ran the operation from. Some on the coast, long forgotten by many and hidden to the soldiers, also survived, but their stockpile was sparse. The Market survived, but barely. However, they never surfaced in a mass scale for quite some time. Some nobles or merchants would suddenly obtain goods that everyone thought was unavailable, but that was the only sign of Market activity. Even when the Market became known again in Deoch 9, it was only after they could afford enough to guard their storage. Now the Market has appeared again, hopefully to stay. Yet, knowing the unstable history of the Market, who's to tell?
Secrets of the Black Market
In addition to the history, Braz has allowed me to share some secrets of how the Black Market runs today. Some of the less scrupulous methods of procurement have been left out under threat of death, but I will tell all I can.
The basic structure of the runner and conductor is still held, though there are some more jobs in place to make the whole thing run more smoothly. Of course, now there are guards, but they not only stand at the entrance to the Market building, but with the shipments as well. Those conducting the shipments can fight but have specialized more with higgling and moving unseen. Guards usually know neither where the shipment has come from, nor where the shipment is headed, and are perfectly content that way as long as they are paid. They are usually dismissed readily and switched every so often to ensure that no one of them knows too much. “Suppliers” are also major contributors to the Black Market, although the term “supplier” is used very loosely. A “supplier” is simply anything that provides something for sale. They need not be human, or even alive. Some of the more legitimate “suppliers” include:
1) Bulk weapon and armoursmiths- the least likely supplier because of low profit, yet the most constant. While other “suppliers” may run out or be short, weaponsmiths are glad to sell in bulk at a reduced cost. The conductor's skill at higgling can reduce it even further. Still, custom or human-forged weapons can be expensive.
2) Non-human suppliers- Though we are slowly learning of other races in Temuair, we have yet to really notice them. Many simply see them as another threat and attack away and believe that brute force is all they understand. Some marketers have known of the races for some time and seen their intelligence. They deal with them on a regular basis. Kobolds, goblins, grimloks, orcs, mukuls, and dwarves all make excellent craftsmanship and some rogues have specialized in finding ways to deal with them without force. While some of these races, goblins and kobolds in particular, see the value of coinage, other races see value in other things. The Mukul for instance enjoy viper glands, fly wings, and other things of the swamp. Dwarves and Grimloks tend to prefer raw gems to any solid currency, although gold coins are often accepted. By dealing with these races, supplies untapped by other, more legitimate merchants come to play.
3) Chests and Corpses- Though less than noble, some like to be buried with their last remains. Some rogues of the Market have become tomb raiders, swiping what they can find from the dead. Although some may cringe at the thought of taking a ring off of a decaying skeletal hand, many feel that the dead have no need of the material possession and others may benefit from what was left behind. Others still believe it is selfish of people to try and hold onto things after being pulled into Chadul’s Realm. It is all a matter of perspective.
4) Fencing for other Rogues- Of course a common practice in the Black Market is to let other rogues in to deal their wares. The Market always takes a percentage of the deal (called a “finder's fee” in some circles) for their own benefit.
Although there are many other sources for the Black Market's supply, Braz was reluctant to speak of them and I was hesitant to push it. Many supplies are given “no questions asked” and that is what's expected. Normally, ye would not wish to know the answer.
Scouts have also become an important member in the Market, though not the type of scouts most people think of. These scouts, instead of searching for potential hazards, find potential buyers in the Market. Braz is not actually the owner of the Black Market, but merely a high-ranking scout. The current owner has not made his or her identity known and plans on keeping it that way. When a scout finds a potential buyer, he makes contact, through encoded letters or personal meeting, with a conductor who might know where to obtain the item.
Each and every member of the Market is vital to its smooth running and are paid a certain percent of the Market's profits every year. Security in the Market is strictly enforced to make sure that as few names as possible are known. If things go awry, the most vocal are those that are scapegoats and thrown to the wolves. Those who are smart remain in the shadows.
-Written by Dartanian Lestor, Deoch 13