In the recent years, across the country, a merchant partnership has expanded rapidly and efficiently. The “Glinting Topaz” has spread their influence town by town, offering their quality goods at fair prices. Nearly every town they enter has felt their touch keenly. Most growing to become substantially more industrious, thereby increasing the quality of life for peasants who before only knew a farmer or hunter’s life. Of course, the townspeople affected by their business are not all great lovers of the Topaz. Many prefer the way the town was before the merchant company “took over.” Others claim that their shops cannot compete with the quality of goods nor the prices set on them, and most close down or merge with the partnership.
Topaz boasts of their brilliant and diverse merchants, from wily gnomes to ambitious humans. Indeed, even a half-orc or two has reportedly loaned their hands to the Topaz forge. The race that is most notably absent from the melting pot of partners seems to be the Dwarves. This is explained away by representatives of the Topaz, insisting that dwarves were always a glorified company of merchants themselves, stressing that even their homes are deep within their mines and forges, and pointing out that the dwarves are surrounded by industry. To the dwarves, Topaz representatives insist, the Topaz is nothing but competition for goods, and the mission statement of Topaz clearly indicates an attempt to break the virtual monopoly that the dwarves have on strong armor and deadly steel.
Such a large and fast growing company does not long do business unopposed. Not long after people started hearing tales of the Glinting Topaz Merchant Brotherhood, ludicrous stories have sprung up of a terrorist group hindering their progress at every step. There have been tales of well-known trade routes becoming swiftly and brutally dangerous when any Topaz caravans pass by. A favorite story of the bartender in a local tavern, “Hobgoblin’s Demise,” claims that he was in a caravan run by a native merchant that passed by the wreckage of a wagon bearing a tell-tale yellow gem, the Topaz’s insignia. Nervous, since notoriously Topaz caravans were much more heavily guarded than the guards that the bartender’s caravan could afford, his group pressed on. They reached their goal uncontested, and perhaps in what is simply a hook to the story, he claims an ogre was slain on the road poised for an ambush of its own. Of course, no ogres have been seen within a league of that route.
Speculators say that the terrorist group is dwarf funded; everyone knows the Topaz Brotherhood has been no friend to the underground weaponsmiths. Others say that mostly human attackers have been sighted by the few survivors of the caravan attacks. Needless to say, the Topaz knew that this group, if that is indeed what it was, was bad for business. A call far and wide was sounded for hardy adventurers to investigate these brutal attacks. They lured the goodly priests and rangers with distress signals containing reports of slain innocents on trade routes, and civilians being killed during store raids. For the more self-centered adventurers, there was a promise of substantial coin and powerful magic. This attracted a wide range of strong and eager candidates, coming from far and wide across the country. Far from being overwhelmed by the swell of names in their recruiting box, the merchant company did what they did best: Arranged groups according to talent, and assigned them according to their strengths.
YOU have been tasked with investigating a site recently raided by the terrorist group. You are to salvage what you can of the items that were being stored there, check for any survivors, and maybe exact a little repayment on those who caused this to occur. Your reward for doing this is only hinted at, with the recruitment posters claiming, “Favor among the Topaz merchants” and “Riches to help you settle down.” Settling down is the last thing on all of your minds, but riches are never a bad thing.