The Riflers Organization in Orbius | World Anvil
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The Riflers

Since the earliest settlers moved north to exploit the bounties of this rich area, river trade has been critical to its success. This was true for all areas of the Great River, Golden Lake, Northflood and other waterways. The rivers carried the people north, and with them (and after them) their belongings, supplies, arms and neighbors. Naturally, almost as quickly as there were travelers on the rivers, there were pirates looking for easy targets. The struggle with and against piracy waged continuously down through the years, with many getting rich on the misfortunes of others, and with retribution constantly exacted. By the time of the calamities of the last hundred years which led to massive shifts in population and wealth, the worst of the piracy had been brought under control. There were stretches of the river that were especially vulnerable, but long stretches of the rivers were safe for travel. The waves of disease and natural disaster strained this state. Soon, lawlessness was on the ascendency again. The curb to this growth largely came from a shift in trade focus from Waynesburg and the Great River to Bayport and the Gulf of Lenay. Fewer goods were being transported up and down the river. Most were coming into the port of Bayport and shipped overland to points inland. On the other hand, while the opportunities for exploiting that trade were reduced, the volume that could be targeted was growing exponentially. This led to the creation of a successful organization that was hell bent on controlling and exploiting this volume of trade goods. There is some debate about the actual origins of the Riflers, who seemed to coalesce from the intersection and overlap of several smaller organizations. There seem to be three principal groups that were contending with each other and were most influential in establishing the direction of the organization: the Vagabonds, a loosely scattered collection of highway robbers that cornered the access to horses and durable cross-country wagons that could be used in the still-rough terrain of the coastal plains; Billy Conaghan's Boys, a notorious gang of river pirates that struck hard and fast, with a take no prisoners approach that was destructive and caused great fear along all internal rivers; and lastly, the Night Packers, an elusive organization of workers and freight shifters in the Warehouse District of Bayport and Land's End. Separately, these organizations siphoned off so many goods that the armies of Lenay and the South both took an interest. With the very real danger of an all-out war and military control of Bayport (something no one wanted), the various criminal organizations got together to come up with their own solution. There were many small groups in addition to those mentioned above, but they quickly emerged as the primary movers in the discussion, and pulled the stringers into their reaches. Each of the three sought for ultimate control of the organization, and had different views of how to manage the system. As they each brought control of a major aspect of the trade routes to the table, it was difficult to reach any agreement on what to do. In the end, Billy Conaghan emerged as the de facto leader, largely as a result of his charismatic appeal. This prototype for the Riflers operated for about 5 months before the next big shift in its organization, and this period was marked by acts of extreme violence on the river, not to mention two large warehouse fires that threatened the burgeoning city and its critically important docks. How the changes occured is still shrouded in mystery, but there is no doubt that a major coup began brewing during this time frame. Basically, the leaders of the dock gangs allowed the other groups to take the lead within the organization, and used the time to learn all their secrets and weaknesses, and build their own organization from within the rudimentary workings of the criminal organization. The biggest contribution from the Vagabonds was access to the horses and light wagons needed for working on the land routes. This information was easily gathered, as well as a great deal of information on small caves and buildings from Bayport to Waynesburg that could be used as bases or drop sites. There were a group of five very adept clerks within the group that understood how trade moved from ship to town, and they used their understanding and influence to create a network of information and coercion (and bribery) that would ensure the Riflers' growth and success. The wild card was Billy Conaghan and his Wild Boys. The clerks understood that Billy Conaghan would always attract attention to himself, and that was precisely the opposite of what they needed to succeed. They also knew that Billy's flair for the dramatic would lead to his downfall. Once they had discovered the key ambush sites and getaway routes, they set part 2 of their plan in action. A large shipment was let through the docks with "stand down" order on it. The clerks knew that Billy Conaghan would violate the "stand down" order, and set him up for a very open assault on the shipment. They also used their merchant connections to make it well known that Billy was the mastermind of the criminals, so a contingent of armed guards went with the barge upriver. True to form, Billy attacked, the guards destroyed his band, and wanted posters sprung up everywhere naming him the leader of piracy on the river. Further bounties were put out by the Riflers through their merchant contacts that drew adventurers into Bayport to trace him down and bring him in. When everything went south, Billy came to the Riflers for protection, and they sold out his location to the bounty hunters on the understanding that he wouldn't survive the capture. He didn't, the towns made a huge deal of his defeat and the breaking of the river pirates. The Riflers went into a self-imposed isolation for four weeks to reorganize, and when they emerged, all vestiges of the Wild Boys were gone, the Vagabonds had been ousted or marginalized, and the clerks were in complete control of the organization. They developed a complicated system that used bribes and payoffs to slip unmanifested cargo with manifested cargo. They set up landing sites at crossroads outside of all towns along the river to allow shuffling of legitimate and illegitimate cargo before entering town and paying tariffs. With these and other methods of skimming little amounts from large volumes of trade, they developed a system that kept them all wealthy and allowed them to control all trade on the rivers and roads, legitimate or not. They have become a major shadow influence on trade, that has eluded attempts to curtail their activities.


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