Adventure Under the Sun
Closely associated with the warrior culture of Urik, Stel is without question the most aggressive and militaristic of the merchant houses. Stel specializes in the spoils of war -slaves, stolen cargo, weapons and, on occasion, hostages for ransom. While Stel also maintains regular trade routes (albeit heavily guarded ones) and engages in ordinary trade, the house is best known for its violent side.
House Stel’s symbol is a pair of crossed black scimitars on a white field.
No one who lives in Urik for any amount of time remains unaffected by the city’s omnipresent militarism; House Stel is no exception. Founded by a small group of warriors and gladiators nearly 300 years ago, and led by a soldier of fortune named Korvo Stel, the house would not have lasted long without the assistance and good will of the sorcererking.
This meant acting in good faith and cooperating with the king’s militaristic ambitions. While the
sorcerer-king did not demand that the new house violate the Merchants’ Code by directly involving itself in his plans for conquest, he certainly intended
to use Stel as a broker for captured wealth. He strongly encouraged the house to develop a powerful military arm.
Experienced in the ways of war, but somewhat naive in the world of business, Korvo cooperated. He
built up an impressive trade house whose bases, outposts, and caravans were organized along strict military lines. House Stel’s operations thus suffered far fewer losses to raiders than other houses. Unfortunately, safety from raiders did not make up for the fact that Stel’s masters had little talent for selecting profitable cargoes or for managing the money the caravans brought in. Extra money was made by hiring out caravans and guards to other merchant
Within a few years, it became apparent that the house needed professional help. Several outsiders, each considered a specialist in running a business, were hired to help Korvo make sense of the mess he had created. After discovering a horrid welter of waste and bad business practices, Korvo was advised to severely reduce his operations and return all profits back into the business. After several lean years, House Stel was finally profitable. Korvo Stel gratefully paid the specialists their money and sent them on their way.
Unfortunately for the warrior, this was not the end of the matter. The leader of the advisors, Iol, a talented psionicist, demanded a far dearer price than Korvo was willing to pay. He wanted to be made a full partner in House Stel, and his fellows to be made part owners as well. Korvo refused at first, but soon realized that without help, the house was doomed. Acknowledging that Iol held all the cards (not to mention the books), Korvo at last agreed.
Within a decade, following Korvo’s mysterious death (it was said that he literally exploded while on a hunting trip ‘a death later blamed on the rich meal he had eaten the night before), Iol had taken the name Stel and was head of the household. Of course, many claimed that Iol himself was responsible for Korvo’s death, utilizing his deadly psionic powers. Nothing was ever proven, and such allegations were always said in private, preferably late at night.
Recognizing a niche when he saw one, Iol maintained Stel’s specializations, dealing in slaves, plunder, and weapons, while hiring out house guards and agents as mercenaries for other houses and even, on occasion, for sorcerer-kings. Iol put a new spin on Stel’s practices, ordering the house’s troops to engage in raids for slaves and booty.
Today, the descendants of Iol and Korvo continue to control the house. Any bad blood that might
once have existed has been swept away by the affection and brotherhood engendered by a far greater force prosperity. Many competitors consider House Stel to be little more than a nest of bandits masquerading under the guise of a legitimate trading house, but the good will between the house and most sorcerer-kings keeps Stel in business.
Relations with Others
Stels aggressive policies and militaristic nature have made more than a few enemies among their
fellow merchants. House Tsalaxa, with its long memory for slights, is a particularly vehement enemy, as is House Inika, whose caravans have been raided and trade routes plundered far too often.
Inikas methods of revenge are far subtler than those of Tsalaxa; although nothing overt has come
of the conflict, observers are certain that it will emerge into the open soon.
Neutral relations are maintained with House Wavir, with a tacit agreement that the two powerful houses will not interfere with each other, lest disaster befall them both. As most of Wavir‘s routes and interests lie well to the south of Urik, Stel is content to maintain this agreement for the time being.
Stels attitude toward the elven houses and small traders is nothing short of murderous. Stels leaders are known to harbor a deep dislike of nonhumans in general and elves in particular. Conflict between Stel and the elven merchants (particularly the troublesome Swiftwing tribe) is open and without quarter.
Stels hatred of elves is returned in full-few elves will allow caravans flying Stels crossed scimitars to go unmolested. Recent battles along the caravan route between Urik and Silver Spring have cost both sides hundreds of casualties.
In contrast, Stel maintains good relations with all of the sorcerer-kings, particularly those of Urik, Raam, and Draj, which lie along Stels major trade routes. City law is obeyed to the letter, and Stel never engages in smuggling or trade in illegal items.
Stels influence reaches well into the Crescent Forest, where the house maintains an uneasy balance between the hostile regimes of Nibenay and Gulg, maintaining friendly relations with both.
Farther south, where House Wavir’s influence is stronger, Stel voluntarily limits itself to a few caravans every year that bring in extra profit and help keep an eye on potential rivals in the area.