Aurora's Emporium

Headquarters: Waterdeep, the North   During the Wailing Years, it looked like Aurora's Emporium – which relied so heavily on magical transport of goods – might go wholly out of business. Aurora's leadership and creativity helped them to survive those dark days, and by the time she died in the mid 1400s, her business was back on its feet and booming once more. The central warehouse of the business has moved to Waterdeep, and the Emporium has developed an impressive set of cabinets used to transport things around their networks, as well as a variety of other useful, unique magics, such as the Grand Inventory, a set of magically-connected books whose contents copy themselves into one another, allowing each shop to know what is in possession by other nodes in the Emporium network, and in what quantities.   With the modern profusion of broadsheet printing, Aurora's releases seasonal catalogues that highlight what is current, in demand, and discontinued. These catalogues are given away to anyone who comes to the door of the shop and asks for one, and slipped into the parcels purchased by customers as well. In Waterdeep and a few other places, the local shops have even arranged to compile a list of households who want one delivered to them when they are released, with Aurora's Emporium-tabarded messengers coming 'round promptly with them to homes.   Today, Aurora's model of business – a shop where one can stop in, peruse catalogues and a few choice display items, and order things from across Faerûn is still charming and unique enough to guarantee the business model is viable. Of course, Aurora's is still very much considered to be a specialty shop: no one gets regular supplies or provisions from Aurora's. Instead, they are a place to go when looking for something rare and exotic, or for a special gift.  

Aurora's Whole Realms Coster Offices

  Castle Ward. A large building featuring a street-facing showroom with offices above it, and ample storage in the back part of the building on both floors as well as a practically cavernous cellars, these offices are the heart of the empire that is Aurora's Emporium. The back ground floor also features a printing facility for the broadsheets the Emporium prints. Many folk in the Castle Ward enjoy spending an hour or so browing through the most fascinating wonders on display in the showroom. The offices are located in the Manyspells neighborhood of the Castle Ward, near the Tower of the Watchful Order, which is no accident: Aurora's Emporium frequently has need of mages to do certain work for them, and they pay well for it.  

Waterdeep Shops

  All Wards. The Emporium maintains a branch office in each of the main Wards of Waterdeep, excepting only the City of the Dead, Mountainside and the Fields Ward. These are all small single-room offices, each with a small display of goods and access to the goods broadsheets and ordering catalogues. These shops are the South High Road Shop in the South Ward, the Slut Street Shop in the Docks Ward, the Tusk Street Shop in the Trades Ward, the Waterdeep Way Shop in the Castle Ward, the Singing Dolphin Shop in the Sea Ward, and the High Road Shop in the North Ward.  
 

A.K.A. Aurora’s, Aurora's Whole Realms Catalogue, Aurora’s Realms Shop

  Group Mark:Aurora’s employees and shipments made to her shops and warehouses bear a symbol of an attractive woman’s face set in a circle: this face is presumed by many to be Aurora’s own (although few have seen her and reports differ on her appear¬ance). This symbol is pressed into the waxen seals of the packaged items her shops sell, and painted upon its contain¬ers. Persons usually bear the symbol on a brass and silver badge.   Aurora’s Emporium provides luxury and exotic goods to its shops in cities across Faerun; clients custom order items out of a detailed catalogue. The Emporium relies on magic to move their goods to the stores—a practice that keeps these valuable items from becoming targets for thieves. The Empo¬rium gives refunds should the merchandise be unacceptable to the buyer.  

GOALS

The Emporium’s goals are threefold: 1) Acquire quality goods at reasonable prices, 2) Make these goods available to interested parties at a reasonable profit, 3) Uphold the name of Aurora’s Emporium as an honorable business with satisfied customers. These three points are the foundations of Aurora's business, and she dismisses any employee who she thinks does not have all three goals in mind. Buying poor- quality goods, inflating prices, or dealing in illicit materials are all activities for which Aurora has no tolerance.   As long as the Emporium continues to be prosperous, its founder is satisfied. She established this business as a unique way to utilize her talents and keep herself busy after she retired from adventuring. If she should grow tired of the work or find that the Emporium is continually operating at a loss, she would scale back operations, closing down the more remote stores or reducing the number and types of merchan¬dise offered. She does this for fun and not out of capitalist interest.  

HISTORY AND MOTIVATION

    Aurora was once an adventuring sorceress and part of a well- traveled group of explorers. She traveled through most of Faerun, from Icewind Dale to the jungles of Chult, from the Sword Coast to the fringes of Kara-Tur. Everywhere she went, she marveled at the differences in food, culture, and luxuries enjoyed by the people she met, and was intrigued by the fascination her bard companion engendered in a Faerun- ian audience when he spun tales of such things. After the group parted and she settled down years later, she sought a way to keep herself busy, yet still entertain her sense of exploration. So Aurora’s Emporium was founded. Once little more than a small shop in Waterdeep that was open a few days every month when she returned from her travels with strange goods, it grew into a multilegged inter¬national business with agents in more remote and strange parts of the world than even she had ever visited. Pleased with her company's success, Aurora is always looking for new and interesting items that can be brought to her warehouses for distribution across the world.  

ORGANIZATION

  Because of the ease of magical transport, Aurora still runs the Emporium like a small business. In addition to herself, she has an assistant to handle the routine matters and an accountant-wizard who runs the central warehouse. The remote scouts, store clerks, and service mages report to her or her assistant, who also receives any updates along with goods shipped to the stores. The clerks hire the guards who protect the stores: warehouse workers report to the master of the warehouse. All employees receive their payments monthly via the same distribution network used for the gtxxls, except the more remote scouts who are usually well stocked in local currency and file monthly reports on their expenditures for reimbursement.  

Aurora of Waterdeep

  LG female human W16; Int 18   Owner of the business, she is a friendly woman of medium build who bears a resemblance to the image on the group’s seal, although she now appears to be in her early forties. She has several magic items from her adventuring days, but rarely uses them, focusing more on things that are useful in running her business (such as eyes of minute seeing, which allow careful scrutiny of potential catalog items, and a mirror of mental Imnvess, which lets her stay in contact with her agents without using her own spells).  

Jhegaan the Maestro

  NG male half-elf B11; Cha 18   Jhegaan is a member of Aurora’s old adventuring group. When Aurora chose her unique form of retirement, thishandsome half-elf decided to stay with her, and in the process found that he had surprisingly good business sense. He and Aurora were once lovers but now share a deep, platonic friendship. He occasionally makes teleport trips to some of the more interesting places Emporium agents are visiting and usually finds women willing to hear his stories of far lands and other things of a more intimate nature. His musical instrument is a lute, and he has a magical staffspear +2 that can be used once per day in the same manner as a javelin of piercing.  

Thane of Westgate

LN male human M7   The Emporium’s master of the central warehouse, he is a stuffy young fel¬low who pays meticulous attention to detail; this makes him extremely suited for a life of accounting and studious magecraft. He prefers Divination and Conjuration spells, as well as movement magic such as teleport. He has been running the Emporium’s central warehouse for five years, and the only time his workers see him agitated is the year¬ly relocation of operations to a new city. He has become quite wealthy, and it is possible that in a few years he will leave the Emporium and use his wealth to purchase a large library and spend the rest of his days researching obscure spells.    

Methods and Actiuities

  Aurora has a network of employees working in most parts of Faerun and in exotic locations such as Maztica and Kara-Tur. These agents find local goods of interest to the Emporium (checking to make sure they were not acquired from the black market or other illegal means), purchase them, and arrange to have them shipped (normally by trusted agents, many of whom are also Emporium employees and used to Aurora’s strict standards) to the Emporium’s central ware¬house. A staff of scribes, accountants, and laborers inventory the items there to produce daily lists of incoming goods. They update the total inventory once every three months.   Meanwhile, the various Aurora’s Whole Realms Shops across Faerun receive daily requests for items listed in Aurora’s Whole Realms Catalogue. While certain items are kept within the regional shops themselves, most need to be ordered from the main warehouse. Customers place orders at a store (requiring a twenty-five percent deposit, although some items require payment in full when the order is made), and at the end of the day the stack of orders is sent magically (commonly by a teleport spell cast by the service-mage kept on staff at each outlet) to the warehouse.   The warehouse staff records the items needed by the stores, compares them to the current totals in the warehouse, and arranges shipments for each store, consisting of items labeled with the price and the name of the purchaser. Magi¬cal teleport platforms are used to send the ordered goods to the stores; especially bulky shipments are reduced, returning to their normal size a few minutes after their arrival at the destination store. Turnaround time is usually two to three days barring unforeseen circumstances, and same-day deliv¬ery can often be accommodated for an extra fifteen percent surcharge. Certain circumstances may delay a shipment, such as major holidays, political or military strife in the region from the item’s point of origin, or a need tor disaster relief. (For example, an outlet in an area ravaged by fire or flood shows priority for items such as food, blankets, and clothing).   The remainder of the payment is due upon claiming the item, and Aurora’s Emporium gives a full refund if the cus¬tomer decides the item is unsatisfactory before leaving the store. Once the item leaves the store, all sales are final. Items are stored at the outlet for two tendays, after which they are returned to the warehouse by the service-mage (and the cus¬tomer’s deposit is forfeited). In addition to the direct mercantile aspects, the Empo¬rium occasionally has other needs, from the mundane to the extraordinary. Their caravans need guards, adventurers are hired to locate the rare lost or stolen shipments (or unusual items), investigators are procured to determine the origin of suspicious merchandise, and young mages and priests are called upon to handle routine pellcasting. The Emporium only hires trustworthy folk of good reputation, and having the favor of an Emporium employee is often a ticket to later lucrative employment involving merchants, traders, and explorers.  

EmpoHium Staff Abilities

  The clerks (usually 0-level characters) who work in the shops across Faerun all have the Etiquette and Appraising nonweapon proficiencies. (They need to know how to inter¬act with customers and identify inferior goods upon arrival.) They also work in the presence of a wizard and cannot be fearful or mistrustful of magic.   The guards in the shops know how to pacify belligerent or violent people in a nonlethal manner, preferring to turn troublemakers over to local authorities. The remote buyers for the Emporium are skilled in Appraising and Local His¬tory. They usually have several local contacts who watch the markets for interesting items, as well as to overhear street conversation for interesting rumors and opinions of ship¬ments of goods. The scouts who track down exotic goods in remote places are usually rangers or thieves skilled in ingra¬tiating themselves into strange cultures. Universally, the employees of Aurora’s Emporium know how to spot a good deal.  

Resources

  Aurora’s employees tend to have the best equipment for a sit¬uation—usually items available from her catalog. Those who buy or sell goods have high-quality scales and a signet ring to I signify approval by a member of the Emporium. While all of them carry Emporium badges, the higher-ranked employees have badges with minor magical powers (a trick Aurora learned from some Harpers she knows), such as detect magic, message, and clairvoyance once per day. In addition, Emporium wiz¬ards are skilled in locating missing employees via their badges, so employees who get lost count on their badges as their best chance of being found. Likewise, a larger version of the symbol is used to help the wizards at the main ware¬house locate the shops to receive shipments. The Empo¬rium’s service-mages are of levels sufficient to know and cast teleport, or possess an item that duplicates that ability.  

Areas of Operation

  Aurora’s Emporium has most of its outlets in the Heartlands. Every major city in Cormyr, Sembia, and westward to the Sword Coast boasts a shop. Large cities such as Waterdeep have an outlet in each major district. Most countries along the Sea of Fallen Stars have at least one Emporium shop, with the more remote regions in Faerùn having smaller out¬lets or often just a representative capable of placing orders from the nearest outlet. The major trade centers in more remote regions (Calimport, Helmsport and New Waterdeep in Maztica, Doyju, Kozakura and Karatin, Shou Lung in Kara-Tur) each have one outlet which acts both as a store and a convenient stop for traders wishing to send their goods on to the Emporium warehouse. Even Evermeet has an agent (elven, of course) of the Empo¬rium, although her main responsibility is procuring elven goods for sale on the mainland rather than bringing in out¬side goods. In addition to the fixed storefronts, the Empo¬rium has a wide dispersion of mobile agents in similar proportions to its places of business. Aurora’s central warehouse moves approximately once a year to ensure its privacy and security. It usually moves between locations in Waterdeep, Marsember, Westgate, and Saerloon, although it has been in more remote and less-trafficked locations. Préparations for the move involve a slow transfer of staff to the new site to familiarize faces, followed by a mass transfer via teleport spells during an expected post¬holiday lull. Note that while the central warehouse moves, the shops do not have to readjust their teleport targets. The destinations in the warehouse are identified by specific con¬figurations of magical fields inherent in the teleport targets (the service-mages are trained to hone in on these fields, rather than on geographic locations).   The Emporium gets along with other merchants and caravaneers, probably because the group often hires merchant contacts or groups of caravan traders to help carry or distrib¬ute goods. That the Emporium specializes in rarities and small luxury items (things regular merchants do not carry often) also contributes to the goodwill. Outlet clerks are trained to refer customers to other merchants should they receive requests for items the Emporium does not carry or cannot get in a timely manner, such as weapons, armor, magic items, or animals. These referrals require the clerks to be familiar with the other businesses in their town and know which ones have the best deals; this honest practice pleases potential financial rivals. Often Emporium teamsters work with caravans bearing weapons, armor, or other non-Emporium goods.

 
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