THE SANTHARIAN THIEVES UNDERGROUND

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - HISTORY - IMPORTANCE

The Santharian Thieves Underground is a rather controversial group of people. Some say they are open-minded romantics, leading an unusual life and spreading around some very unusual ideas. Like that there hasn’t got to be a king in Santharia or that every man and woman has an equal right to be robbed. Others say they’re just a bunch of thieves and anarchists. Fact is: the Underground exists, although only few probably are informed about the details.

A Santharian Thief

View picture in full size Image description: A cutpurse girl searching the city crowd for a victim. Drawn by Faugar.

In the late years every major Santharian city has become a base of its operations. It is, however, not known for the king’s government how exactly the Underground operates, where the thieves meet each other, the way they communicate with and, of course, who they are hired and paid by. Basically, only the results of their operations point at an organized structure of the Underground: prisoners who flee to the distant lands on pirate ships, secret information that gets into the wrong hands along with the sudden disappearance of its guardians, little riots in three or four neighbor cities that slow down a certain trading caravan…

Appearance. It is hard to recognize a thief among the other people. In fact, almost impossible, unless you have caught him in the act. How do you know someone is a thief? What are the criteria? A hooded cloak? A grim look? Tattoos? Knives in the boots? Old ladies pointing at one and screaming: “Get the thief!”? Well, then most of the proud adventurers in our kingdom would have to be called thieves.

But the actual member of the Underground, they never catch any unneeded attention. They dress up as common craftsmen or peasants, walk the streets unnoticed and meet in ordinary taverns where they drink and laugh just like everyone else.

Most of the members are probably local, “working” in the towns where they live, but there are also couriers and professional thieves who specialize on rich houses and travel from town to town. Such professionals can be traced by the individual signs of their work, which are found on different theft sites. On contrary to their less skilled colleagues, they never strike often, because the loot is mostly sufficient to live on for many months.

How the thieves find their potential victims is unknown. Ordinary pickpockets probably orientate themselves by the clothes: the richer the better, minor housebreakers – by the rumors about someone’s recently bought silver spoons or jewels which are often spread after a couple of beers. The victims’ houses usually bear special marks that some of the Underground informers have left for the newcomers in the town. The professionals who often have to sneak by the guards or open very difficult locks most likely even use bribes to get the information they need before choosing their next target.

The Underground, however, doesn’t only consist of thieves and robbers. In its rows there are street gamblers and beggars, mercenaries and ladies of easy virtue. According to the rumors, many important ideological opponents of the King’s government are hiding from the guards under the protection of the Underground. The organization seems to have connections to different wealthy traders in the Kingdom, the pirates who sail the waters between Sarvonia and Nybelmar, some dark elven tribes, such as the Eophyrhim (supposedly buyers of the stolen goods) and even to well-know Santharian nobles.

The structure of the Underground is yet another unknown fact about it. Seemingly, there doesn’t exist any hierarchy among the thieves, they have no leaders and don’t obey any orders. Rather logical. However, there must be major and minor patrons in every town, who pay the members for accomplishing their tasks and provide them with hideouts.
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Territory. The traces of the Underground can be found throughout the whole Santharian Kingdom. Formerly Marcogg based, the organization now exists also in the Stratanian region, around Elsreth, in Ximax (the city guards should really take a closer look at the Crimson Crescent!), even in Voldar and New-Santhala. It is quite possible that the Underground’s influence now reaches to the areas outside of Santharia, though the barbarian tribes like the Kuglimz wouldn’t probably have much to do with the thieves.

History. Tracing the history of an organization, which existence has not even been approved is hard. However, there remained records that mention events in which the Underground apparently was involved. Comparing such records may help making a picture of it.

From an interrogation of Samain Dar on 14 Sognasthos, 1553.

"…Alright, alright, I’ll tell ye! Jus’ get those fangs ‘way from me! Ye know the guy, Lothar Heth. He paid our gang, he did. First told us to sniff in that Altnus fella’s house, search for sumtin’ of 'interest'. Wanted to destroy the fella’s reputation somehow. Dunno why though, he was rich enough to buy the whole kingdom. Guess, it had sumtin’ to do with the Duke. Everyone thought ol’ Ladruf was gonna die before the summer comes. Guess, Heth wanted to take the title and needed to get rid o’ rivals.

Anyway, we jus’ stole every document and brought it to Heth. Seemed satisfied an’ said he’s got more work for us. Said we should meet his other people in a tavern. Heck, as we saw ‘em we had to pick up our jaws from the floor. Mercenaries, some of ‘em orcs, armed like the real fighters, not simple thugs like us. They ordered ‘round like fighters too. We were to help ‘em in a raid on Kolbruk. Along with the half o’ the town outlaws that is..."

This record was made during the time when Ladruf the Rockbiter, Thane of Manthria got gravely sick and almost died. Because he had no children, there were no successors for his title. The leaders of two families struggled to become the new Duke: Lothar Heth, the wealthiest man in the province, and Adrian Altnaus, the young owner of the Kolbruk Trading Center, the Santhran's favorite who shortly before had been made a Hillgraven of his lands.

Knowing that the King would never grant him the title if he plays fair, Heth organized a network of spies and thieves to investigate Altnaus' finances, compromise him and ruin his trading career. Meanwhile he hired a group of mercenaries to lead an attack on the tradepost.

Unfortunately for Heth, his affairs had been discovered (right after the news spread out Ladruf was recovering from his sickness), before the attack took place. The King arrested Lothar and passed his property to his cousin Laerth. Lothar's thieves' network, however, had only been partly destroyed and became partly independent, realizing how many possibilities were there for the thieves in such a big city as Marcogg. Most likely, this is how the Underground was born.

It was only a matter of time then until it established a connection to the Stratanian criminals, as that city’s reputation is well known. Reports from the last century state the increase of the raids on trading ships and caravans between Strata and Marcogg, in which almost certainly this connection has resulted. Similar problems soon arose also in the northern part of the Santharian Kingdom.

From “Dialogs with the lawbreakers” by Rolan Kuchenbacken:

"…So you think there is a justification for what you do?"

"Why, sure. I, meself, am no thug an’ no murderer and neither are my buddies. We do not harm people physically. I mean, they’re just poor devils like us. We can rob ‘em of their riches, but not of their life."

"But you do realize there are those who think different and are less moralistic, do you?"

"Yes. ‘Tis sad, but such is life. We don’t have much in common with such blokes though. Sometimes they help us, sometimes we help ‘em, that’s all. None of us wants to be involved in any dark affairs."

"And what about the ones you rob?"

"Well, they’re mostly rich, they can live without their jewels an’ stuff. Why would someone rob a poor beggar? We just make sure those who need the money more have the money."

"Such pragmatical idealism."

"Aye, ye have to be pragmatical out there on the streets."

The book “Dialogs with the Lawbreakers” saw the light in the year 1591 in Bardavos and in short time became very famous. Its author, a bard and writer, had many conversations with the members of the Underground in order to represent their beliefs and views and dispel the prejudices about them. The Santhran, however, wasn’t very enthusiastic about the book and prohibited its printing in Santharia. Return to the top

Importance. The Underground’s main role in the Santharian Kingdom has always been a thorn in the King’s side. They never really show up, never start any major revolts, but they are there, making the life of the nobles, traders and the government in general harder and less sure than it could be. Its links to other important criminal organizations as well as its size could prove quite dangerous for the King, should someone with enough power take control over the Underground. At the first sight it definitely seems to be an element that should be taken care of. But only at the first sight.

In truth, the Underground is filling a certain niche in the Kingdom. A niche that sooner or later something would fill anyway, because every society has its outlaws. The existence of the Underground is therefore just a natural development, a fact its members already cleverly recognized.

"A thriving kingdom should have men who redistribute the income among the population evenly! The gap between the rich and the poor should not grow to immense heights! No rich man should be too rich!

No law should be the absolute, because the absolute cannot be reached by what is mortal! The flow of life must not be affected by any artificial rules, one must follow the rules dictated by the life itself!

Mercy! Have mercy!"

-- From the historical speech of Melfidor Stalmarchan, leader of the thieves in Chondra, at the day of his arrest.
 

The Thieves’ Manifesto

(From one of the leaflets that have been found on a street in Marcogg.
Supposedly, just a joke by some of the local bards.)

Just simple thieves, that’s what we are.
Stealing your goods and taking ’em far.
On every street side
In shadows we stride,
We lurk, and we hide
Under our lucky star.

We never have rest and we hardly have sleep,
We work very hard to get into your keep.
Be you a Graven, a Duke or a King,
Your guards will not stop us from having your ring...

Your money will soon disappear from its place
Doors we’ll unlock, window bars we’ll displace.
Beware, usurpers, your riches will fade
Hereby, the very first step shall be made.

Time for the folk to get finally paid!
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