Postfest V: The Yellow Cartel
Date: Tue, July 12, 2005
Topic: Campaign Articles

Within the lawless region of Ull exists an organization of wealth that rivals the Pit Masters of Kester and has the influence to affect the decisions of the Orakhan. Ullís black market has always operated openly much to the chagrin of established Baklunish trade groups like the Mouqollad, but now the Yellow Cartelís emergence in Ull has given them new cause for concern.

The Yellow Cartel
By: mortellan
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.

Flowers and Foundations

In a land of poverty and many social ills, a new commodity has taken root in the last few decades. Throughout Ullís rugged bordering mountain valleys, fields of poppies grow abundantly in stark contrast with the severe droughts to the south. These precious poppies are called Hul Zil (Bliss Flower) in the Ulagha tongue. Unknown before the reign of Kanduz Orakhan, the plant is said to have been brought across the Dry Steppes from far southwest of the Sea of Dust. Equally unheard of, the Yellow Cartel appeared out of nowhere not long afterward to seize upon the lucrative manufacture and trade of the opiates made from Hul Zil. The Yellow Cartel is an improbable association of independent nomad warlords, anonymous sheikhs and other sundry villains from the West. How the foundation of the Yellow Cartel came to be in this lawless frontier is a mystery to all, as there seems to be no clear hierarchy of control or set base of operations. Loyalty inside the Cartel is tenuously maintained as long as there is work to be done and their mutual power and wealth grows. The coterie of Cartel bosses, when necessary, quietly exact discipline from within while brazenly defending their interests from others through a brutal cadre of enforcers made up of retired Kester gladiators and the worst of Paynim outcasts and mercenaries.

Poverty threatened Uli commoners provide an ample workforce by harvesting the valuable flowers to bring to the Cartelís roving agents for payment. These rewards, while meager by normal Baklunish standards, are tempting enough to make an impoverished Uli clan comfortable year to year. Indeed, inter-clan fighting over fields of poppies is not uncommon in the highlands of Ull. With that in mind, Draske the Ferocious was first to be conciliatory to the Yellow Cartelís swift rise, allowing them freedoms and concessions never heard of in any khanate. More recently however, Draskeís replacement, the usurping half-ogre Bruzharag Orakhan has been leery toward the clandestine methods of this organization. Wild rumors circulate that Bruzharagís bloody coup may have been backed by the Yellow Cartel and now the fledgling ruler stubbornly refuses to return the favor.

Demand and Distribution

What makes the Yellow Cartel dynamic is their far-reaching ambition. They are not content with simple caravan raiding or bartering in the markets of Kester. They seek nothing less than the spread of their own brand of corruption to distant cities that most Uli have never seen, much less heard of. The flood of drugs out of Ull has taken off in all directions, from Ket to Kanak and even across the Dramidj Ocean to pirate islands. Their opiates are much prized on the shadowy streets of Zeif and Tusmit and have even broken into use among Perrenlandís idle mercenaries. Righteous Ekbir has so far had success banning opiates as contraband, enacting a low tolerance for offenders. This sentiment is not unique. Indeed the Worthy Elders of the Mouqollad Consortium exhaustively spend resources to ferret out members who assist the Yellow Cartel in their international smuggling and also to covertly tear apart this rival consortium before it gets too powerful.

Demand for opiates is underestimated by the Mouqollad. On the streets of far flung metropolises like Gradsul and Greyhawk City, cultural neighborhoods like ĎLittle Ketí are already showing the influence of the Yellow Cartel. Furthermore, faithful of many religions are now discreetly seeking out the drugs to enhance their own diverse needs. Templar guards of Hextor in the east use opiates as painkillers while clerics of Olidammara use them purely for pleasure. Addicted cultists of Ralishaz and Tharizdun look to the drugs to spread their maddened visions even as peaceful poets of Lirr become users just as a means of new inspiration.

The Yellow Cartel distributes their opiates insidiously swift, smuggling along regular trade routes that intersect Ull and the Plains of the Paynims, but by and large the bulk of their product moves invisibly and unhindered using extraordinary magical means in order to reach farther customers faster. While the Mouqollad and Ekbir waste time searching hundreds of caravans, the Cartelís agents make use of extra-dimensional carrying devices, teleportation items and custom flying carpets. Stories abound that the Cartel even have secret locations in the surrounding mountains where they hide special magic gates to cities in the East. Allegedly nothing living can pass through these gates, instead it is said transactions are conducted between sites by golem porters. These methods and many more are devised each year and though some might be fanciful tales, if even half of them are true the taint of the Yellow Cartel will be hard to wash away.

Uli Drugs

In Ull, the most common way opium is used is by eating the seeds and resin of Hul Zil directly or baked into food. Other parts of the plant can also be chewed on for a lesser effect. Below are a few of the many opiate substances that are finding their way out of Ull and into the hands of abusers all across the Flanaess. The Book of Vile Darkness is recommended reading to adapt these to your game.

Otoghul (Opium Wine)
This potable is made by dissolving opium resin into an already potent alcohol. Opium wine first saw popularity among roving Paynim horsemen but is now gaining a hold in the clergies of Olidammara and Lirr. Otoghul is easy to make and is moderately addictive, causing euphoria and lowered inhibitions followed by a brief desirable period of intense focus.

Zharkat (Pleasure Herb)
This is a combination of harvested opium and various stimulant herbs, smoked in its final form. Zharkat while highly addictive is popular due to its portability and its cheap street price. Hazy pleasure dens are common in Kester and are now appearing in the many cities of the West. Pleasure herb produces strong hallucinations and is claimed to take all worries and fears away.

Kadzur-Ruz (Blackstones)
These black colored pills are made in shadowy shops belonging to agents of the Yellow Cartel. The most addictive product of opium to date, Blackstone is a mixture of several medicinal herbs, figs and the purest opium. Expensive but long lasting, the pill is a strong painkiller that also creates a short euphoric sensation of flight.

This article comes from Canonfire!

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