Reaper Syndicate

A bitter yield

There is no honor amongst thieves. But you think that there's virtue amongst Reapers?
Abram Camano, Nganian saltfoot, 2254 AoR
T
he Reaper Syndicate is a global criminal network, loosely organized, that operates in small semi-autonomous cells. They are most prominent in the Elladoran and Tallonai lands of Islegantuan, although they can be found across nearly the entire planet - with the exception of Inqoan territories. Their primary focus is the wyndleroot trade - as they were one of the first organizations to harvest, package, transport, and sell the narcotic substance on a mass scale. As is common for any criminal order of their size and scope, they have certainly dabbled in a great number of illicit disciplines. But they have always concentrated the bulk of their efforts on the wyndleroot trade - even going so far as to pass on other lucrative opportunities and cede other criminal markets to rival gangs. Almost from their earliest operation, the Syndicate found themselves in mortal opposition with the Scarlet Bottonfly Company - a blood feud that has not subsided to this day.

Structure

T
he Syndicate's organizational "structure" (or lack thereof) is one of their greatest strengths, and one of their critical weaknesses. In many respects, they are the antithesis of their chief rival - the Scarlet Bottonfly Company. They have no formal command structure. They maintain no public face. They adhere to no rigid hierarchy. This makes their order incredibly resilient because there is no central power base to attack. They have wide reach across most of the planet and the prospect of stamping out the Syndicate would be akin to eradicating dracons or eliminating bottonflies. They are more entrenched than the rivers that spider over every major landmass.
 
Disorganized
But this dynamic nature also brings disadvantages. They are poorly organized and can rarely manage to coordinated activities between more than a dozen-or-so of their guild. Against the Scarlets, who operate openly and boldly, the Reapers have no means by which to sway public opinion. The Syndicate has no staff, no budget, and no efficient way to enlist allies when their interests are threatened.

Public Agenda

R
eapers want the same thing that most underworld operatives want: Privacy. Quiet. Public indifference. Their broad scope and shadowy practices have led some to compare them to the Unknown. And there is little doubt that, in certain places, and at certain times, the two organizations have certainly found opportunities for cooperation. But there are also key differences that set them apart. The Unknown, while being connected to criminal activity from time-to-time, are not known to openly embrace criminal enterprise (for that matter, they're not known to openly embrace anything). Any of the Unknown's underworld associations seem to be more happenstance for any organization that specializes in confidential information passed between clandestine figures. The Syndicate, on the other hand, makes little qualms about who or what they are. Although they place a great premium on discretion (as do all criminals looking to avoid the noose), when cornered they do not typically try to sugarcoat their activities. They're wyndleroot traders. They know what they are. Everyone else knows what they are. And they see no reason to maintain elaborate fronts.

History

We can't save them. We can't treat them. The only mercy we can provide is to send the Reapers out to slay them.
Kirpa Sandho, Phonaecian physician, 2953 AoR
I
n a roundabout way, the country of Ucarania is responsible for the formation of the Reaper Syndicate. While the name may seem to carry purposely-sinister undertones, the first iterations of the Syndicate were formulated by the Ucaranian government and it was that government that formally christened them as the Reaper Syndicate.
 
Root Bois
People have been trekking into Ucarania's dense jungles in search of wyndleroot since long before there was an official queendom formally known as Ucarania. After the nation was established, it didn't take long before a certain segment of the population began asking what could be done about the "armies" of ragged souls who kept wandering into the wyndlecain forests to get their high, nestle into the wyndlecain roots, and die in a narcotic stupor. While some people saw this as no problem at all ("Just let them crawl out there and die.") others found great distress in the idea that so many of their own citizens (and foreigners alike) were marching into the wyndlecain forests with the express intention of finding their untimely demise.
 
Plague of Addicts
The rulers and cognoscenti of the day were clueless as to any way they could halt the epidemic (and to some extent, they still are), so the first half-measure to be taken was to deputize a force that would put these poor souls out of their misery. There was no reliable way to cure wyndleroot addiction, and once someone had gone so far as to burrow into the wyndlecain roots, there was basically nothing at all that could be done to save them from their mania. It was already well-documented that trying to forcefully extract root bois from their beloved wyndlecain was a recipe for disaster - often leading to grave bodily injury for those being removed and those doing the removing. But public opinion held that it was cruel and irresponsible to simply allow these hopeless addicts to wither away when everyone could clearly see they were dying. So the Ucaranian royal court established a new force known as the Reaper Syndicate.
 
Euthanasia
The Reaper Syndicate was not tasked with doing anything to save the root bois. Everyone agreed that such an endeavor was utterly pointless. Rather, it was the job of the Syndicate to patrol the wyndlecain forests, find the latest root bois who had taken residence in the root bases, and... put them out of their misery. The Reapers' sole task was to quickly and humanely dispatch the addicts before they could spend many days - or even months - wasting away in the wyndlecain's roots. If this sounds like a desperate endeavor, it is only reflective of the scant solutions that have ever been forwarded to deal with wyndleroot addiction.
 
Opportunists
It didn't take some of the Reapers long to surmise that, while they were performing mercy killings of the addicts clinging to the wyndlecain roots, they were also in an ideal position to harvest some of those roots and sell them later at a sizable profit. Predictably, this led to some of the Reapers becoming addicted themselves - even to the extent that some of them were eventually dispatched by their own colleagues once they became hopelessly ensnared by the drug. But others went on to establish a thriving network of wyndleroot dealers. Within a century of the Syndicate's founding, they were known far more as wyndleroot dealers than as agents of mercy. But their original mission has not been completely abandoned. For millennia, the Reapers have still been known to patrol the wyndlecain forests, searching for delirious addicts burrowed into the roots - and ending their lives.

Territories

We gotta get outta here. This place is crawling with Inqoans. And if they get wise to us we'll be dead by dawn.
Kieran Ako, Diasporan Reaper, 2008 AoE
T
he Syndicate was founded in Ucarania - in the far northeastern region of Islegantuan. As such, their influence has always been strongest there. But they are also common throughout all non-Inqoan lands of Islegantuan and, to some extent, Islemanoton. They absolutely have a presence across Isleprimoton as well. But like their rivals, the Scarlet Bottonfly Company, their footprint on the western continent is much smaller.

Foreign Relations

R
eapers generally go out of their way to avoid any contact with Scarlets. They will absolutely bring violence against a Scarlet if they feel they have no choice - but they almost always have a choice. And although they hate the Scarlets to their core, they also understand that the Company is far richer and has far more resources. So the best way to survive an encounter with the Scarlets is to avoid any encounter with the Scarlets altogether.
 
Tyrans
Many Reapers will go out of their way to slay tyrans. They consider it a public service and they talk about it as though they absolutely enjoy it. This is bolstered by the fact that tyrans typically have no more resources or organization than the Reapers - thus, the Reapers see these as fights that they can win. It's tempting to think that if the Reapers hate tyrans, then the Reapers must be aligned with the tyrans' enemy - the Sylvan Guard. But nothing could be further from the truth. As acknowledged criminals, the Reapers are despised by the Sylvans and they don't gain Sylvan favor just because they enjoy killing tyrans.
 
Agnoscio & Unknown
At various times, the Syndicate has been connected to the Agnoscio and/or the Unknown. There's little doubt that these connections have existed during certain periods and in certain regions. But there's no reason to tie them together as long-term allies. Any alliances that the Reapers have enjoyed with either the Agnoscio or the Unknown seem mostly attributable to temporary marriages of convenience. There is no empirical evidence to indicate any deep, permanent connections between the groups.

Ethics

R
eaper ethics are a complex and layered subject. They have been openly identified as a criminal coalition for millennia. They are widely acknowledged as specialists in the wyndleroot trade. As with any large-scale criminal organization, they have at times found numerous other corrupt disciplines to supplement their revenues. And given the loose-knit structure of their order, there are always at least some in their ranks who are violent and ruthless - even by criminal standards.
 
Standards
Yet those who have spent significant time in-or-around their membership swear by the idea that the Syndicate definitely has a code. The "code" may not be a formally-defined document, and there is no doubt that it has shifted over time, or by region, or even by the makeup of local gangs. But many report that the Syndicate has their own flavor of "morality" and they are not shy about bringing aggression upon those who violate this standard. With regard to their signature source of revenue - the wyndleroot trade - they generally take a fatalistic viewpoint. In their way of thinking, those destined to become rooted would fulfill this destiny whether the Syndicate facilitates their addiction or not - so they might as well be profiting from the transaction. But they have strict standards as to where they will sell or who they will sell to.
They have their share of faults. No denying that. But I've watched the Reapers defend travellers from tyrans. I've seen them strike down their own for endangering children. They turn down deplorable gigs that would make them rich. And the Scarlets...? They'd sell their mother into a whorehouse if it'd put a shiny coin in their pocket.
Din Mau, Golian escort, 1294 AoE
Limits
Ucarania has not formally sponsored the Syndicate for many centuries, but Reapers still take it as their sacred duty to perform their original charter - the mercy killing of those who have become hopelessly entangled (literally and figuratively) in the wyndlecain roots. Some of the most gruesome Syndicate murders have happened when one Reaper catches one of their own colleagues selling to children or the mentally ill. The Syndicate has a longstanding reputation of refusing to participate in certain criminal activities. They dabble only sparingly in dethane trafficking. They avoid any engagements that would put them in league with the tyrans - for they consider tyrans to be scum.
 
Scarlet Targets
To the casual observer, the most confusing aspect of Reaper activity comes with regard to the Scarlet Bottonfly Company. Scarlets, having an obscene wealth of resources behind them, go to great lengths not just to snuff out any Reapers they can get their hands on, but to stage the activities in such a way that the Syndicate always looks more violent, more craven, and just downright scarier to the general public. Through their extensive public relations channels, the Scarlets have done an incredible job of painting nearly all Reapers as Public Enemy #1. The irony is that the truth of the matter is almost exactly the opposite. Outside the public gaze, Scarlets are widely known to torment all who align with the Reapers. They are not content to simply kill Reapers. They will maim and disfigure Syndicate members who fall into their traps. They have no qualms about poisoning an entire village if they suspect that it harbors Reapers (or even sympathizes with them). They make no distinctions about who they target in their criminal enterprises. By all available accounts, the Scarlets can be wantonly dishonorable when their activities have escaped the public glare. The Reapers, on the other hand, seem to operate by a much clearer moral code - even if they are still beholden to their own corrupt goals and values.

Reap or be sown.

Pronunciation REEP-err SINN-dikk-ett
Founding Date
1790
Type
Illicit, Syndicate
Alternative Names
The Syndicate
Demonym
Reaper

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