The Gentlemen

In Averland, the inland smugglers are mostly members of a loose association that calls itself “the Gentlemen”, which has existed for decades.

They control large scale overland smuggling for the purpose of avoiding tariffs and other controls on goods entering or leaving the Empire. This includes trade to Zhufbar, which otherwise moves through south-western Stirland (its normal route being through the Moot to Wurtbad).

The title “Gentlemen” is meant ironically for they are anything but except on one point, they keep their word as a good Averlander always does so. They reward peasants and others who send state patrols and roadwardens in the wrong direction and punish ruthlessly anyone who informs on them.

Their survival is assisted by the fact that though they are responsible for loss of tariffs, many local officials and minor nobles obtain luxury items from them. Many a noble’s steward, the clerk of the poem, relies on the Gentlemen to put something special on their master’s table.

A popular folk song speaks of them.

The Gentlemen’s Song
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If you wake at midnight, and hear a horse’s feet,
Don’t go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street,
Them that ask no questions isn’t told a lie.
Watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen go by.

Five and twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark –
Brandy for the captain, spices for the clerk.
Laces for a lady; letters for a spy,
Watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen go by!

Running round the woodlump if you chance to find
Little barrels, roped and tarred, all full of brandy-wine,
Don’t you shout to come and look, nor use ‘em for your play.
Put the brushwood back again – and they’ll be gone next day!

If you meet the Count’s men, dressed in black and gold,
You be careful what you say, and mindful what is told.
If they call you “pretty maid,” and chuck you ‘neath the chin,
Don’t you tell where no one is, nor yet where no one’s been!

‘If you do as you’ve been told, ‘likely there’s a chance,
You’ll get a dainty doll, carved where fey things dance,
With a cap of lace, and a velvet hood –
A present from the Gentlemen, as long as you are good!

Five and twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark –
Brandy for the captain, spices for the clerk.
Them that asks no questions isn’t told a lie –
Watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen go by!

(Shortened and adapted from Kipling, the Smuggler’s Song)

The Gentlemen

After the Storm valvorik