Brotherhood of Acquisition
The Brotherhood of Acquisition? Rumor has it the Brotherhood is an organized cartel of merchants and bandits covering most of the continent of Nomura. Supposedly the groups of bandits coordinate with the merchant organizations to maximize their profits. And eliminate their competition, you understand. That's how the rumor goes, anyway. I wouldn't waste too much time speculating on those old stories though if I were you. People disappear if they put too much credence in the tales. Wouldn't want you to go missing, fine upstanding folks such as yourselves.
The Brotherhood consists of various merchant groups and bands of bandits, working together to maximize their own profits. There are no official leaders within the organization, but each subgroup is constantly jockeying for a more favorable position of power within the group. Alliances are forged, betrayals are carefully orchestrated, and power is the most valued currency.
Publicly the bandits are known as a serious threat to the safety of travelers, while the merchants appear as helpful shopkeepers work useful wares including those for self defense. The two groups do not appear to be working together, although some individuals in law enforcement suspect a connection does to the patterns of merchandise for sale. The Brotherhood of Acquisition itself is a phantom, a rumor among the general populace, hushed whispers in the dark. No need to appear to know too much, no sense speculating openly, bad things tend to happen to those who chase the rumors to far.
Rumors claim the Brotherhood of Acquisition began initially as an organization dedicated to the redistribution of wealth to the poor from the wealthy until a crafty merchant convinced the organization that working with the merchants would allow for greater profits for their cause. Over time their original intentions were lost, leading to a criminal organization which steals indiscriminately from rich and poor alike to maximize their own joint profits. Seemingly helpful merchants now serve to identify targets and launder goods and funding while roving bandits and their sticky fingers acquire the goods and boost sales of weaponry.
While the cartel does not appear to consider any act taboo they do support the needs of other members. Frequent customers of member merchants are typically left to their travels, while stingy travelers with fat purses tend to fall prey to bandits fairly frequently. The highway bandits seem extremely well-equipped. Merchandise may be sold, resold, and sold again as former owners disappear and recent purchases reappear. Merchant members are also known to suddenly obtain coveted items whose initial sales to the merchants were originally rejected, or gain fortune with the disappearance of a rival or their anticipated shipment. The cartel's members are clearly well coordinated.