The Seven Cities
Most important of the Mokiiran Trade Guilds is the deceptively named Shepherds’ Guild. Since each of the Seven Cities is autonomous and prideful, armed skirmishes are common. Because the Mokiir region tends towards the harsh and dangerous, trade is extremely important. For the Cities to flourish, trade must continue in spite of intercity conflicts, not to mention the frequent raiders and monsters. This has given rise to an unusually robust merchant guard tradition, exemplified by the Shepherds.
The Shepherds are not a merchant guild, nor are they teamsters. They do two things: guard and arbitrate trade. They are ostensibly neutral, and will kill anyone who attacks a Shepherded sanctioned caravan, cart, horse, or man-with-a-sack. They also guard all open-air-markets, and are called to settle any trade dispute from the purchase of a bolt of cheese cloth to the purchase of land. Everyone from peasant to king is bound by their decisions, and more than one monarch has been deposed by the others for defying a Master Shepherd’s ruling. Needless to say, it is prestigious to be a sworn Shepherd.
Beyond their duties in and around Mokiir, the Shepherds Guild also holds the secrets of travel across the Smoking Wastes. For merchants that seek to bring trade between the Blessed Lands and the lands east of the Throkkan Mountains, the Bleak Passage is the safest and surest route. The Bleak Passage is, however, a rugged and very dangerous path. Traveling the Wastes without at least one Shepherd is considered a fool’s choice.
Trading under Shepherd sanction is expensive, as is hiring Shepherd’s to guard one’s caravan. It is not illegal in any of the Seven Cities to conduct trade without Shepherds’ Guild authorization. However, as Shepherds are the only one’s authorized to settle trade disputes, merchants without a Shepherd’s Charter find themselves the targets of extortion, vandalism, and theft far more often than do Shepherded one’s. Worse, the guards of many cities enjoy harassing merchants outside the Shepherds’ aegis. More, as there are no protections available to customers who purchase from non-sanctioned sellers, most people go to pains to buy from Chartered merchants.
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