Founding of the Bazaar
The Bazaar was formalized in 492 by Duke Symonar. His title was not granted by a king, but instead by his mercenary band. As a rebel contending for the throne during those troubled times, he found it useful to have a way for his rebels to move, connect with each other, and gain access to guarded locations.
After a decade as a fugitive, he had learned the importance of the informal spy network formed by traveling fairs, minstrels, buskers, and other footloose entertainers. He recruited from these networks, turning the intelligence they normally gathered to find good patrons, spread word of heroic deeds and heinous crimes, and warnings through their own ranks. Where the Traveling People used this news for survival, he turned it to a more sinister purpose, undermining the regime with spies worked into innocent bands of entertainers.
After Symonar’s messy execution in 501, the Bazaar survived the furious High King’s purge of known members, but had no great need for political power; its forging purpose was set aside, and another needed to take its place if it was to continue. The new purpose was smuggling, trade in information, and crime.
The Bazaar became a troubling mirror image of the Tracer Guild. The Tracer Guild did not focus on any one specialty besides finding the root of the problem so others could address it; exploring for the purpose of increasing the safety of those that relied on their loose membership network. They diagnosed the source of the problem, and as needed, applied very specific pressure. The Bazaar organized to find opportunities to give to other malcontents to exploit, to create profit where there was none before, and to undermine the general rule of law.
Connection to the Traveling People
The Traveling People intimately know the tension that defines their lives. The authorities do not want them there, because petty theft, minor violence, and general upheaval generally follow in their wake. However, they do provide entertainment, and the common people enjoy a fair (that can distract them from the woes of their subjugation) so they do have a place in brightening the dreary lives of commoners and noble courts alike.
As the Traveling People became experts in navigating that tension, the Bazaar slipped seamlessly into their ranks and took advantage of the same—but now, an element of professional danger shadowed the more petty larceny of the Traveling People. There was no way to target the Bazaar without also targeting the Traveling People, and in targeting those marginalized individuals, a local ruler could expect an increasing share of mischief as elements within that community found revenge as seemed best to them. News travels fast indeed among the travelers.
Ironically, the Bazaar paid its way among the Traveling People by punishing those who cracked down on them in part because of the threat the Bazaar adds to their presence. The increased capacity for organized crime and violence that the Bazaar accessed allowed for much more severe reactions to the cruelty of forces of law than the marginalized Traveling People could ever manage. So, many in the Traveling People support the Bazaar even if they are not members, and in exchange the Bazaar may be persuaded to take brutal revenge on the worst of their oppressors.
Any malcontent wishing to operate on a scale encompassing the whole of the Freeholds would do well to make connections in the Bazaar and secure their cooperation. They are professionals and artists at making things happen; dangerous people to cross, difficult people to find. They have at their disposal the networks of others, so they can offer prostitution, drugs, paid killing, gambling, fight clubs, mercenaries—they are experts at connecting buyers and sellers even if they don’t have the required goods.
Their somewhat loose structure is practically unknown, in part because there are so many rumors about it. As difficult as it is to verify information about a secret organization skilled in counterintelligence, there are some basics that are generally trusted by those that hunt them.
The sign of the Bazaar is a black rectangle with a white sideways 8 inside it.
Commander. There is a single leader, generally believed to operate under the alias Rapp Freehaven. It is unknown how many “Rapp Freehavens” there have been, but they are assassinated as often as they are found—unless the target turns out to be a double, an actor, the wrong man altogether… Freehaven operates out of Ulbor, if current intelligence is reliable.
• The Commander wears a black silk mask that covers the whole face.
Force Lieutenant. Force Lieutenants are organized around the primary current interests of the Bazaar. They may be assigned by project, by geography, by type of crime, or by other criteria; generally turnover is fairly rapid for most as eager underlings scheme against them, a demanding commander orders them executed for failure, or they are apprehended by law.
• Force Lieutenants wear black silk masks that cover the eyes, nose, and mouth.
Den Leader. Assigned to a single operation, these leaders are considered worthy of overseeing operations of up to a hundred agents. Sometimes a den leader may manage a single smuggling outpost, other times a network of spies in a city. They are the primary point for recruiting new agents, testing agents, investigating backgrounds looking for moles and spies, and finding creative solutions to their own problems to minimize their complaints to the overseeing Force Lieutenant.
• Den Leaders wear black silk masks that cover the eyes and nose.
Agent. The Bazaar has many members, many friends, and few agents. The agents are those trusted to know what the Bazaar needs in an area, to look for those who can be turned, to navigate the tricky and sensitive gaps between buyers and sellers, to identify and remove barriers, and to distract or destroy obstacles to the success of the Bazaar in a context.
• Agents wear black silk masks that cover their eyes.
Skyva provide most recruits, but anyone from the marginalized fringe can be used. This gives the Bazaar the appearance of freedom and acceptance, almost anarchy in the rigid confines of surrounding society. Only once inside do recruits encounter the deadly limits that surround membership. To offer danger to the Bazaar, to share information inappropriately, or even to be in the wrong place, position, or state of mind could lead to swift death or imprisonment. No one retires from the Bazaar.
The benefits of membership include greater protection (sometimes), obligation to carry out orders without question, the satisfaction of a great secret, and the opportunity to be part of the subtle machinery that damages the forces of law. For those the Bazaar wants, that’s enough reward in itself.