Thieves like to gather in clusters. These groups, through their shared common interest, gravitate into clans for protection and profit. Long before the time of Haidley, a major overhaul had seen the number of clans diminish from several hundreds, of widely varying numbers, to several dozens. To better coordinate their potency, the thieves took the extraordinary step to legitimise their unlawful activities by sponsoring specific legitimate businesses under the innocuous name The Crafters Guild.
Clan was the common term to describe a gang of thieves in the River City. Some still clung to the old term of colster, derived from the old name for the codger that was the favoured tool of those who used force. The other term was leever, the more subtle and unarmed form of theft that was also part of a thief’s toolkit. Clan was an outside term that gained prominence when several gangs from outside of the city established themselves in the river quarter. When first used, it would describe one of those outsiders groups.
The major clans at the time of Mother Senna all had names that identified them to other clans and individuals. Often these were names of fowls, such as Owls, Ducks, Ravens, Rooks, Rabbits, Eagles, and so on. But fauna weren’t the only source – fauna, incidents, dates were also used with frequency; practically anything representative that took the fancy of whoever founded the group was used to identify a clan. These would change regularly as leadership or focus changed. It was a bewildering maze for anyone want to catalogue these names or titles.
When Boss Thormo assumed the mantle of Guild Master, the hierarchy of clans was centralised under the reforms he instituted. He chose twelve to be the main clans –
- Rabbits, who controls all the Markets, much of the River docks and the nearby processing operations. A powerful and sizeable clan. They control the Guild Hall by maintaining its essential staff – administrators, guards, gaolers, informants. Headed by the Guild Master, Boss Thormo. But the Rabbits rule has exponentially expanded into the other cities along the River. The clan “Bumblers”, operating out of the southern port city is an associate of the Rabbits due its leader being one of Thormo’s protégé – Banyon. The Guild’s influence is extensive as it is widespread. Whenever an associate Guild member is operating, so too is the Guild.
- Jackals or Red Jackets. Control the City Traders markets to the south, an area where all contracts and business transactions in and out of the city are conducted by most of the Trading Houses. Main rivals to the Rabbits who are seeking to undermine their control.
- Grubs. Operates out of the shanties and pauper’s quarters. One of the larger Guild clans, the Grubs suffer from a disorganized leadership who struggle to control their powerful but fractured hierarchy. Often involved in internal petty disputes.
- Talons. Operates in smaller “Claws” throughout the city. Base is around the East gate. Lately, they’ve started expanding outside of the city. Rivals to the Grubs who resent this intrusion into their traditional “turf”.
- Adders. Toll-collectors at all the gates; they control all access and egress from the city. Also run protection rackets for several trading Houses.
- Third Leaf. The only clan that chooses to bases itself outside of the City. Based in Duellings, a ten minutes ride from the South gate. Their speciality is controlling the busy traffic on the southern roads in and out of the River City. Often clashing with the Adders over control of the triple Southern gates.
- Evil Eyes. Scammers involved in virtually everything that operates within the city. Their far-seeing clan leader, the crotchety old Felwo, has decided to expand his operation, recognising that as long as Thormo controlled the Guild and therefore the city, his own clan would remain subservient, a thing he personally wanted to be rid of.
- Fishmongers. Controls a portion of the Fish Markets. They still control all river trade traffic but are facing competition from the Rabbits and the Talons. Known to run the more potent of river pirates that plague the river.
- Bloody Hands. Control all land caravanserais and carter, and their routes in and out of the city. They also control the hiring of all mercenary bands within the city limits. No one can operate such an armed band without their approval. Delgo heads this clan, although it’s acknowledged that he runs a “loose ship”, meaning he leaves operation of its clan sub-leaders to their own course, something that Thormo loathes privately.
- Green Gloves. The smallest clan, its members are highly skilled as masters of the sleight-of-hand and pickpockets. Often hired out by other Guild members for difficult tasks.
- Lilacs. This group focuses their attentions on the more wealthy and potent citizens of the River City. Often considered dandies because they shun the more familiar and conventional activities favoured by their Guild members, nonetheless they are accepted because they are also one of the more wealthy clans. Involved in extortion, kidnappings, murders. Like many, a clan with few scruples.
Under the umbrella of the Guild, these arbitrarily selected key clans rose to prominence while the majority of other lesser groups were either incorporated into main clans or else ruthlessly eliminated. Each clan group was allocated a portion of the city as their “turf”. A percentage of all their individual takings was “tax” paid to the Guild; in return they received the Guild’s protection and patronage. Of course, Thormo’s clan, the Rabbits, ran the Guild. He also chosen the docks and markets as the domain of the Rabbits, much to the chagrin of the traditional two that had always run these areas – the Ravens and the Bowlers. Initial resistance soon turned into open warfare, but Thormo won out after some sneaky alliances and betrayals.
The Ravens were a small but powerful clan who ran the actual docks. Main rivals to the more numerous Rabbits who ran the nearby abattoirs and processing areas but tinkered in the fish markets which was traditionally a free market. The Fishmongers controlled much of it but several other former clans also ran operations there (the Ospreys, Gaffers, Bowlers are just three of note).
Senna inherited leadership of the Ravens when Mosis was stabbed in a bar fight. She quickly earned the title Clan Mother, a generic term that took on endearment quality because of what she offered each clan member. This earned her a fierce loyalty uncommon among thieves. And it would prove fatal when Boss Thormo set sights on them. In his grand plan, the Ravens would be subsumed into his Rabbits thus expanding his operations easily: he would finally control the river docklands.
But Senna resisted this plan. That bought her into direct conflict with Thormo who threatened her openly. This naturally aroused retaliation from the adult members of the Ravens. In one dark night, Thormo struck. By morning, only Senna remained. Her lucky escape was due to Kirren, father of Klax. He alerted Senna who barely had time to race from her room with just her clothes. Of course, Thormo denied all knowledge of the murders but he took full advantage of it by shifting blame onto Senna and the few survivors – mostly children. The Guild members were duped into believing the trumped up charges of treachery. The clan was outlawed. Senna was forced into accepting Thormo’s judgement: for continued existence, one of their own would serve as indentured for a period of five years. She begged to be that individual but Thormo wanted her to suffer. He denied her wish instead choosing one of her talented charges – the young Haidley.
© 2017 L. Tafa