Scarlet Bottonfly Company
Business as usual
I can't even take a proper shit without being accosted by some kind of Scarlet Bottonfly product.
Waira Arona, Ignian dracon tamer, 3313 AoG
he Scarlet Bottonfly Company is a sprawling commercial operation with deep (and sometimes, overt) connections to the criminal underworld. Although the organization is not exclusively an Inqoan institution, it was established by Inqoans in Inqoan territories and the group's power structure has always been dominated by those of Inqoan descent. The public face of the Company is that of a global merchant involved in the harvesting, processing, and sale of a wide array of products derived from the bottonfly. Behind the scenes, the Company built its financial empire through the processing and sale of the addictive wyndleroot, although it long ago branched out into a plethora of other illicit markets to bolster its power and receipts. Across most of Islegantuan in particular, the Company has conducted a longstanding campaign of aggression against its primary adversary - the Reaper Syndicate.
onsistent with their public front as a global merchant, the Company maintains a rigid management structure that provides some degree of control over its sprawling empire. Nearly every country in the world has a Scarlet headquarters. If the country's market is large enough, it may also have smaller headquarters in major cities. Each headquarters is run by a single administrator holding the title of Coin Collector (or simply Collector, for short). This individual ultimately oversees all aspects of the business, including production, distribution, marketing, sales, staffing, and accounting. But as the title implies, their first order of business is always to ensure the proper flow of revenue up the chain, ultimately ending in the coffers of the world headquarters in Carca. City offices flow up to countries. Countries flow up to regions. Regions flow up to continents. And continents report directly to Carca.
It's generally believed that these Coin Collectors are tasked with coordinating all Scarlet activities - legal and illicit. This does not necessarily mean that the Collector is personally involved in the illicit enterprises. But they are most likely aware of them, will handle the money generated from these streams, and will be held accountable by headquarters for the relative success (or failure) of these endeavors. In Islegantuan facilities, the Collectors are always Inqoan. It's always been this way and it's doubtful that anyone not of Inqoan descent would ever be given the trust necessary to rise this high in the organization and handle such sensitive affairs. Also, they are almost always women. Outside of Islegantuan, the Collectors typically are not Inqoan (out of practical necessity), and in Isleprimoton they are almost always men (in keeping with the gender norms of the continent). In these more-foreign outlets, the Collector still has a great degree of responsibility, but their duties are more rote, with any critical decisions needing to be passed down from headquarters. Conversely, the Inqoan Collectors of Islegantuan are afforded more trust and authority to make decisions, on the fly, that are in the best interests of the Company, without having to constantly get approval from their superiors.
he Company's public face is fastidiously maintained as that of a powerful, yet magnanimous, merchant. As their name implies, most laypersons immediately associate the Company with all-things-bottonfly. In Inqoan territories, the Company has a tacit monopoly on any-and-all bottonfly commerce. There are small "mom-and-pop" vendors in far-flung rural areas who make a living selling bottonflies and bottonfly byproducts on a modest scale. But if their operation grows anywhere beyond that level, they can expect to receive a very uncomfortable visit from Company operatives who are long on muscle and short on temper.
In Tallonai and Elladoran territories, the Company does not enjoy the same ironclad monopoly. In fact, given the general bad blood that exists between Inqoans and most Tallonai/Elladorans, it's assumed the average citizen of Tallonai/Elladoran countries would prefer that the Company was not present at all. However, the Company has worked long and hard to ensure deep competitive advantages in all nations of Islemanoton and Islegantuan. This includes signing their own quasi-governmental treaties with the rulers of foreign countries, ensuring their charter to conduct business in those countries for many years to come. For those who wonder why foreign governments would agree to such terms with the Company (especially when those governments may have open hostilities with Inqoan nations), one need only look as far as the Company's seemingly-bottomless coffers.
Across Isleprimoton, the Company's presence is wide... but shallow. While they maintain offices, and conduct business, in nearly all of Isleprimoton's nations, their influence on that continent is much more subdued. This is partly attributable to the fact that bottonfly products are in much less demand across Isleprimoton - because the citizens of those countries don't typically care to eat bottonfly. This strips the sheen of respectability from the Company when they can't attribute their massive power to a constant flow of bottonfly revenue. That being said, the Company does offer a range of perfectly-legal products that have nothing to do with the bottonfly, but they have no other legal markets that are nearly as lucrative. In Islemanoton and Islegantuan, there are some years when the bottonfly business alone actually outperforms their illicit activities. But this is never the case in Isleprimoton, where bottonfly revenues are comparatively meager.
ales of the Company's assets are legendary - and even the most exaggerated of those legends aren't that far from the truth. Once the Company established a stranglehold over all of Islegantuan, they embarked upon a campaign of asset accumulation as a means of projecting their power and protecting their wealth. The thinking was that stores of currency or other (relatively small) valuables are more-easily appropriated by jealous monarchs or greedy neighbors. But fortresses, and fleets, and epic statuary, and grand architecture, and militias can only be stolen if the aggressor has the physical might (and the political will) to overpower the owner. And when it comes to the Scarlet Bottonfly Company, there are a good many countries that don't have the military wherewithal to take them on.
The Inqoans insist on calling this city Carca. Near as I can tell, it's the Sovereign Metropolis of the Scarlet Bottonfly Company.
Thorda Win, Torholmaan ambassador, 3832 AoG
The Company's compound in Carca is an epic feat of city building that dwarfs the rest of the "regular" capital. The Company's headquarters stretches skyward, constructed of massive blocks of ochre marble and plum granite, and encircled in huge walls that shine of brilliant alabaster. It can be seen many kilometers across the Aequin Ocean and first-time visitors often assume that the Company's headquarters are the Collian capital. They maintain similar structures in most large cities of Islemanoton and Islegantuan. These regional headquarters can't come close to Carca for sheer audacity, but they still catch the eye of all who tread those streets.
They maintain three separate merchant fleets. Although these vessels are all classified for commerce, insiders have reported that they can easily be repurposed for military objectives. Featuring the latest in naval technologies that have been stolen/bribed from Elladoran officials, the Company is known to make some of the swiftest journeys to Isleprimoton and back.
In ports or trading centers that receive heavy Company traffic, they prefer to own as much of the infrastructure as is possible. This means that they almost always own their own warehouses (or other buildings), their own carts and shipping vehicles, their own beasts of burden, and even their own docks. In several regions, the Company has gone so far as to build their own roads and then charge tolls to any non-Company travellers who wish to use them. The Company's extensive commitment to broad ownership makes them nearly intractable in many of their base communities. It also provides them with numerous revenue streams, most of which have no connection to illicit activities. In places of strong Company influence, foreigners have often remarked that it seems as though the Company owns everything within their sight.
he Company coalesced slowly, over many centuries, before assuming anything resembling its current form. The earliest incarnations of the shadowy organization were known simply as the Scarlet Trust and they're believed to have operated as far back as 1000 AoE in the midst of the Inqoan Expansion.
This early version of the Company had no veneer of legitimacy and made no attempt to conduct "normal" business. The Scarlet Trust was founded almost solely for the purpose of capturing the profits of the wyndleroot trade. As the burgeoning population of Islegantuan expanded, so too did the discrete desire of early addicts for a wyndleroot fix - and the Trust was all too happy to facilitate that transaction.
For the next 1200-or-so years, the Scarlet Trust grew in power and influence, even as they were prosecuting a series of bloody underworld wars against the Reaper Syndicate (and various smaller outfits) to establish their dominance in the market. They branched into nearly every other type of illegal endeavor, but the wyndleroot was always (and still is) their central source of income.
That crazy bitch wants to sell bottonflies and build corporate offices. We'll all be in chains - or dead - in ten years.
Vorpal Dharka, Chuitian Scarlet, 2202 AoR
They had proven themselves adapt at growing, flourishing, and surviving deadly challenges from criminal competitors. And they may have continued for millennia as "just" an underworld organization. But in 2202 AoR, an internal power struggle paved the way for Chey Chan as the unquestioned leader of the Scarlet Trust. Those who supported her initially thought she would simply continue the profitable, underworld enterprise that had been cultivated by the Trust for many centuries. But she had a much more... revolutionary vision. She had every intention of continuing the wyndleroot trade (and every other illicit activity that benefited the Trust), but she had grand ideas of making the organization "legitimate". She fostered an absolutely megalomaniacal goal of the Scarlet Trust as controlling all criminal activity, and all legal trade, and, eventually, all political initiatives.
She had a well-earned reputation as a violent and bloodthirsty criminal despot who would stop at absolutely nothing to achieve her goals. Indeed, most who questioned her motives did not live to see the second or third year of her reign. Many of her colleagues deemed her insane. And to be certain, the reborn Scarlet Bottonfly Company has never achieved the ridiculous heights of her fever dreams. But her skeptics from that time would almost certainly be shocked to see the extent to which her rebranded "Company" did achieve so much of her original intent.
Demography and Population
s a global organization, the Company's payrolls certainly reflect nearly every demographic group on Excilior (with the possible exception of Nocterns) and they employ both men and women. But the public perception of the Company is that it is, at its heart, an Inqoan organization that is specifically controlled by Inqoan women. While this assumption may be hard to quantify for someone encountering the Company in, say, Isleprimoton, where the Collectors are non-Inqoan men (as are nearly all of the employees), the assessment makes much more sense when examining the full hierarchy of the Company's management. In the Tallonai and Elladoran countries of Islemanoton and Islegantuan, the Collectors are almost always women. Within Inqoan countries, the Collectors are always Inqoan women.
The Company's implicit policy of female Inqoan hegemony occasionally causes friction in the non-Inqoan countries in which they operate. They typically find that such friction can be limited or eliminated altogether by paying a sufficient amount of money to a sufficient number of local officials. Most Scarlets would prefer for this whole obstacle of public perception to just go away. But if such acceptance would require allowing men - and especially non-Inqoan men - into the highest reaches of the Company's leadership, well, then... that's simply not going to happen any time soon.
ithin Inqoan territory, the Company enjoys stellar relations with the local rulers of each nation. In fact, a casual observer may have a hard time distinguishing between the political leaders of an Inqoan nation and the Company leaders operating in that same nation. If pressed to sort them out, the safe bet would be to assume that the more powerful commandants are the Company operatives and the less powerful ones are the official heads of state. Within Tallonai or Elladoran countries, the Company's influence is not nearly so overt. But they still enjoy favored status - mostly because they keep delivering large cartloads of lucre.
This trade agreement is a tougher negotiation than we anticipated. I can't talk to the queen for more than 30 minutes before she excuses herself to consult with someone from the Company.The Company's alliance with the countries of Isleprimoton is much more muted. On that continent, the Scarlets' presence is essentially... tolerated. Most nations in Isleprimoton don't aspire to have any kind of formal connection to the Company. From their perspective, the Company is just a merchant organization, not entirely unlike all of the other merchant organizations - large and small - that operate across all of Isleprimoton's ports and nations. Of course, the people of Isleprimoton understand that, far off in the Company's homeland, they are an outsized force of commerce (and... other things). But amongst the ports of Isleprimoton, the Company's epic clout is more a matter of foreign legend and less a matter of everyday reality.
Filaretis Milas, Nilaslian negotiator, 3693 AoG
Amongst non-governmental organizations, the Company has a much more daunting reputation that looms over any "relations" they may wish to establish. Their outsized power and cutthroat nature means that any underworld syndicate views them with absolute caution. There is little doubt that the Company has and does partner with various criminal collectives in the pursuit of their illicit profits, but none of those groups are dumb enough to believe that they're partnered with the Company because the Company is idealistically aligned with them as a true ally. Many underworld figures would prefer to avoid the Company, in any dealings whatsoever. But in those cases where rogue organizations have chosen to cooperate with the Company, they've understood that the arrangement is only valid until the day that the Company no longer cares to honor it. And if they haven't understood this reality, they've probably already been wiped out.
The one group that would never qualify to partner with the Company, and would never enjoy any positive relations with them, is the Reaper Syndicate. From the earliest days of the Company's formation, they have always been in polar opposition to the Syndicate. Even when a neutral observer might believe that it would be in both parties' best interest to call a truce - or to even cooperate - history has shown that this prospect is nearly impossible. The Company will go out of its way to harm the Syndicate, even when it brings no benefit to the Company. Even when it brings harm upon the Company. Any chance the two organizations had to peacefully coexist expired long ago. At this point, the bad blood between the two groups isn't simply practical - it's personal.
Trade & Transport
here are two distinct sides to the Company's trade interests - and both of those sides are expansive. The first side, the public side, handles a sprawling empire of commercial interests that reaches into nearly every corner of casterway financial and retail markets. The obvious centerpiece of this public trade is the wholesale exchange of all products derived from the bottonfly. But while it's true that the bottonfly has always been at the center of the Company's (legal) profits, the broader reality is that they have been diversifying their product line for centuries. The bottonfly is a reliable staple - especially in the east - and this reliability, coupled with the Company's monopolistic power, ensures that they can still wring hearty profits from bottonfly products. But in some countries, the bottonfly only accounts for a minority of the Company's profits. Although their business lines vary by region, the Company has been known to dabble in banking, weapon manufacturing, fishing, construction, logging, mining, and even clothing.
Mark my words. And take them back to all of your snivelling thugs. The wyndle trade is ours. And if we ever catch one of your kind in our territory again, we'll paint the Gotten Road with your entrails.
Aarinae Godhania, Hineian Scarlet, 2292 AoR
Of course, public lines of business have never accounted for all of the Company's profits. They are widely acknowledged as the global leader in the harvesting, transport, and sale of wyndleroot. This dangerous and highly-addictive substance fueled the early years of the Company (when it was known merely as the Scarlet Trust) and even with the vast diversification of their interests, they have never shown any signs of retreating from this market. In fact, they are notorious for bringing violent rage upon anyone who deigns to interject themselves into this lucrative business that the Company's management has jealously come to think of as their own.
While the wyndleroot trade sustained their underworld activities for many decades, they have long since expanded into nearly every other corner of illegal, or quasi-legal, activity. Those who dabble in such markets have come to think of the Company as a one-stop-shop for all of their forbidden wares. For those seeking to attain such wares, this can often make life much easier, because they don't have to worry about finding the proper underworld contact for every different type of underworld product. For those seeking to peddle such wares, the Company can become a constant and unrelenting pain in their backside, because the Company operates from the basic position that every underworld transaction should have at least some connection to the Company, and that the Company should in turn be paid some kind of commission for that connection. Failure to acknowledge the Company's dominance in these matters has led to the untimely death of many underworld traders.
uplicity is the hallmark of the Company's ethics. On the public side, they are known as a stern trading partner who drives a hard bargain - but they are not generally viewed as unethical. Most complaints about the Company's public business practices focus on their blatant willingness to leverage positions of monopolistic advantage, and their unabashed tendency to buy out any local political opponents with their seemingly-bottomless pockets. But this behavior actually puts them on par with nearly any other merchant organization in nearly any other region of Excilior. There are no countries that have antitrust regulations on the books and most merchants automatically assume that bribery is an ongoing cost of doing business. Where the Company draws the ire of many competitors is the sheer scale with which they can fortify their monopolies and purchase even the costliest of public figures. The audacity with which they pursue their objectives means that anyone can be considered a target for a bribe - cognoscenti, religious leaders, monarchs... anyone.
But aside from the tensions that are stoked with local merchants, the general public often views the Company in an adoring light. This is largely due to the fact that they carefully coordinate regular acts of public largesse that make them look like champions of the people. They have been known to fund festival feasts for entire cities. They purchase homes for random peasants. They build awe-inspiring public parks. They sponsor public spectacles of bloodsport that are wildly popular with the commonfolk. Skeptical observers point out that the Company's ostentatious displays of charity are often coordinated in such a way that a minimal outlay of money will result in a maximum return of positive publicity. The Company will rarely make any ongoing financial commitment that would leave them on the hook for the continued support of the poor. But if they have a chance to make a big splash by showering their largesse upon the downtrodden in a short, concentrated manner, they can be counted on to jump in. This savvy approach to "charity" has often left the locals with more love for (and trust in) the Company than they have in their local governments.
Me and my crew were living large for quite a while. We had the money. We had the power. And the Scarlets didn't even seem to know we were here... I don't have a crew anymore.
Ignarzio Giancora, Cervian smuggler, 3247 AoG
In more discrete matters, the Company is rumored to be downright brutal while conducting their daily affairs. With respect to the wyndleroot trade, the Company's underworld operatives have no qualms about killing anyone and everyone who stands in their way. They're believed to have wiped out entire villages that were fostering rival wyndleroot traffickers. This has been especially dire for the Reaper Syndicate, which competes with them directly for wynderoot sales. Reapers simply assume that, if they are exposed and captured by the Company, they will be tormented for days or weeks before they are finally killed at the hands of Company operatives. Opposing criminals frequently claim that Company henchmen will gladly resort to torture whenever they manage to capture a rival trader. Those in other criminal disciplines report that the Company's ruthless tactics extend to all their endeavors. For those who operate outside the law, the Company is a feared and ominous presence that constantly threatens their livelihoods - and their lives.
Political Influence & Intrigue
s upstanding merchants (ostensibly), the Company affects a public posture of being apolitical. Their official stance is that they have no political views whatsoever. They support no particular politicians. They campaign for no particular regime. They just want to be left alone to conduct their business free from government interference. But those who have carefully tracked the Company's activities over time would scoff at such claims. Given the massive scope of bribes that regularly flow from Company coffers, along with their vicelike control of local markets, and their implicit desire to be ignored when engaging in "private" activities, it is (at best) naive or (at worst) outright ignorant to believe that the Company has not and does not exert their influence in matters of politics. While there has never been a war or a coup that could be directly tied to Company involvement, it's amazing just how often the victors in such dramas just so happen to be aligned with the Company's stated (or private) objectives.