“Secret” and/or clandestine organizations are the meat n’ taters of any decent setting. What follows is a (by no means complete) list of such operations found in the Rúksea Region. The existence of these particular groups is common knowledge to any peasant who ever spent time gossiping in a tavern… Which is to say, just about every peasant. (They’re a bunch of drunkards.)

The Merchant Consortium is possibly the most powerful organization in the Known World. Most of its activities are by no means secret. Consortium trade ships dominate the Sea and can be found in almost every port. And every fool knows that Consortium higher-ups directly control the governments of Dyánmir, Orsinay and Iskem Barra. Where the facts end the rumors begin: Just what are these trade magnates up to? Stories of secret armies, alliances with dark powers, and coup d’etats abound. Certainly none of these things are beyond the power of the Merchants to obtain, and many believe that open confrontation with the Consortium is inevitable and could erupt at any time.

The Black Ring may be a thorn in the Consortium’s side, but it is by no means a benevolent organization. A cabal of smugglers and pirates, the Ring has a long and bloody history in the Region that predates the Merchant Consortium by several hundred years. Specializing in the transport of illicit substances, tax evasion, and sea-faring treachery, the Ring is universally despised by all decent and honest folk. Despite concerted efforts from all corners to police the Rúksea, there is no sign that the group’s masters will ever be brought to justice.

The Cult of Cesse is a mysterious sisterhood found throughout the lands of the Rúksea. Ostensibly a monastic order, it is rumored that the servants of the goddess of wisdom have been charged with a special mission that may include infiltration of the Region’s governments. Certainly the general activities of the Daughters tend toward the secretive. It’s possible that men are simply inclined to be suspicious of any organization that would prohibit all male involvement. Indeed, no man is allowed entry into the House of Cesse (as the goddess’ temples are known), for such a thing is a violation of the Daughters’ sacred laws.

The Orwhyst [or-wyste; or-vyste] is a name that means fear in all corners of the world. An ancient circle of Orsine sorcerers with followers among all Parse-speaking communities, the Orwhyst is oath-bound to destroy the kingdoms of the Dyaths. Many scholars credit them with the creation of the Sleeping Death, an ancient dream-plague that lasted forty-four years and took the lives of tens of thousands. It is said that the sorcerers of the Orwhyst are especially cruel to any Orsine who should do business with the Dyaths. However, since the ascension of the Merchant Consortium in Orsinay, it seems the circle has gone into hiding. Rumors tell of their imminent return, a return that would spell the end of Consortium control in Orsinay.

The Thralls of Twytharúm [twai-thar-oom] are men and women who are indebted to the giant-lord of the World Below. In exchange for forbidden knowledge, they have pledged to serve Twytharúm in whatever capacity he should require. Just what the Elder Giant intends for the surface world is unclear, but all folk know that the creature is filled with hate for mankind. His business among the people of the Rúksea, whatever it may be, will surely mean suffering or death for all in the days to come.

Painting by Pieter Brueghel the Elder

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