The Flower in the Sepulcher
“A Thieves’ Guild? No, friend, we aren’t the thieves’ guild. By a quirk of language, thieves in Treff style themselves “merchants” and hold court in manors and marketplaces up Port Willow way, while us truly free creatures stay here in the Jakes. No, we’re smugglers. Learn to distinguish." —Tjaden “Otter” Sorenson, Lieutenant to No-Collar Jack
The Collective Friend. Such a peculiar euphemism, and no one really seems to get the joke except No-Collar Jack himself, who finds it endlessly amusing. But the smugglers’ guild of Treff is more than just a running joke. It’s the natural evolution of the underclass in a city defined by trade and shipping.
Smuggling, by its nature, is a more organized sport than pickpocketing or burglary (although some of Jack’s men are trained in such arts, as the needs arise), and so the Collective Friend operates by some loose but traditionally highly honored rules. Only full inductees know the full list, but here are a few that a generally well-informed Treffman of the more adventurous persuasion would know.
1. Only kill in self-defense or to preserve the Guild. We aren’t assassins, we aren’t thugs. We’re smugglers, Liberty keep us. Have some self respect. (Otter Sorenson)
2. Trade goods are more valuable than coins or jewelry, and take priority in the Guild’s operations. If faced with a priceless sapphire necklace or a load of saffron, take the saffron and don’t be a fool. The damned thing’s probably cursed anyway (Quarak Talonblack)
3. Steal from the wealthy, the merchants who grow fat off the toil of others or the bandits who take by force what others have earned. Robbing an artisan is a coward’s meal. We are craftsmen, and craftsmen respect one another. Leave exploitative parasitism to merchants and bandits (No-Collar Jack)
4. The City is your home, treat its people well and they’ll treat you well in return. The Friend that has a few spare coins for a beggar one night has a trustworthy lookout for one year. (Rat)
5. You are free. Never, ever, ever, kneel to the authorities. If some stuffed-shirt tells you to do something, and you don’t want to, don’t do it. That goes double for the guild, Jack included. This isn’t an army. These are friends and craftsmen bound together by amity and skill. Pride is your only collar, and you hold the lead. (No-Collar Jack)
Smuggling goods into the city that are heavily taxed, legally proscribed, politically sensitive or socially explosive is a good way to become very rich, to be sure. And a lot of Jack’s circle are in the business for exactly that reason; to get rich. But no one’s really sure what Jack’s objectives are with the Guild. He gives away the greater part of his money, or at least it seems like it. Those few who know who Jack is (or even what Jack is) say he lives in comparative modesty in South Fen, while some of his most trusted lieutenants rent out permanent rooms at the Water Clock or the Bathing Succubus. He’s made fortunes smuggling drugs, weapons, spices, exotic animals, furs, artifacts, silks, and a dozen dozen other items past the careful eyes of the aquatic elven taxmen, the Order’s justicars and the “concerned citizens” of the merchant guilds. So where is his share of the money going? And what is he planning with it?