Hollow's Last Hope
A holdover from the days when Andoran existed as a province of Cheliax, the Lumber Consortium has watched its fortunes and influence wane with the rise of democracy. Although a mere shadow of what it was at its height, the Lumber Consortium nonetheless continues to exert incredible influence over certain regions and communities, particularly in the wild corners of Andoran. Nowhere is this continued power more obvious than in Darkmoon Vale, where the consortium’s major tree-felling operation occurs. The consortium owns the entire town of Falcon’s Hollow including, residents say, their very souls.
Management: No one man controls the consortium. A board of directors, all of whom share a controlling interest in the endeavor, oversees the operations of the collective, forming long-term and large-scale strategies and leaving the day-to-day operations to on-site foremen (known as gavels). The powerful and unscrupulous men who sit on the board of directors include lumber barons and timber magnates, all of whom made their fortunes on the backs of lumberjacks and at the expense of the forests. Never a group possessing high moral standards, members of the board have become increasingly sadistic and cruel as their power has eroded. Whispers tie a few of the directors to the mysteriously sinister Aspis Consortium.
Two gavels—down from the heyday of the consortium’s power, when more than a dozen of such men existed—maintain absolute control over the last of the consortium’s holdings. In Darkmoon Vale, the gavel is Thuldrin Kreed, a hateful and hate-filled man whose sadistic and cruel ways keep the town pinned under his callused thumb. As a gavel, Thuldrin Kreed has absolute control over the consortium’s presence in Darkmoon Vale, including its employees and hard assets. As long as he squeezes out a larger profit each year, Thuldrin Kreed can do no wrong in the eyes of the consortium (whose barristers have saved the gavel from the gallows on at least four occasions). With the passage of each year, though, it becomes ever more difficult for Kreed to increase his profits, resulting in ever-more horrific displays of exploitation and greed.
As a side-effect of his increasingly desperate need to
turn a profit, Thuldrin Kreed keeps only one full-time underling: Payden Teedum. In addition to his loyal lackey, Kreed also keeps on retainer two other professionals who only infrequently work for him. One, a scribe named Weston, travels from Olfden for several days every few months in order to organize and update the operation’s books. The other, a young woman named Jillia Apta, appears two or three times a year to clean and organize both the consortium office and Kreed’s own house (usually just a few days before an inspection or visit from one of the consortium’s directors).
Despite his incorrigibly evil ways, Thuldrin Kreed actually represents an improvement in Falcon’s Hollow. His predecessor, a Lumber Consortium gavel named Kaxel Thaulrose, exalted in the town’s anguish and took greater pains in squeezing from the town and lumberjacks everything they had—body, soul, and mind. People who lived in Falcon’s Hollow under Thaulrose do not exactly praise Kreed’s less evil ways, but they do remind younger residents, “It could be worse.”
Business: The Lumber Consortium retains a monopoly over darkwood and other hardwoods feeding into Almas and Augustana, and it is thanks only to this absolute control that it has managed to survive. Every attempt by the Andoran People’s Council to shut down, break up, or otherwise compromise the excessive power of the Lumber Consortium has resulted in a cessation of delivery on the part of the collective. Although these refusals to deliver hurt the consortium’s profitability in the short term, they cripple the all-important shipbuilding industry in Andoran’s largest port cities. To date, every standoff has seen Andoran blink first, although rumors whisper that the last work stoppage very nearly bankrupted the consortium. The only power Andoran truly holds over the Lumber Consortium is exclusivity.
While the consortium holds a monopoly on hardwoods in the country, it may only sell its commodities in and to Andoran. For this reason, the Eagle Knights frequently perform investigations into Lumber Consortium practices, looking for violations of the trade restrictions and thus an excuse to shut down the operation. To date, the knights have never found any legally admissible evidence pointing at the consortium’s wrongdoing.
Within Darkmoon Vale, the Lumber Consortium controls most of the cutyards in and around Darkmoon Wood. Independent cutyards are allowed only to fell alder, pine, and other softwoods, and any darkwood or other hardwood trees they bring down are, by law, to be sold to the consortium for a fraction of the timber’s value. Those lumberjacks who refuse to affiliate with the consortium (and agree to its horrendously exploitative labor and pay practices) are often muscled out of business or simply disappear, even if they cooperate with the consortium and only harvest softwoods.
Employees: In Darkmoon Vale alone, the consortium employs 300 lumberjacks and 140 “security guards”— at best mercenaries and at worst hardened criminals given an air of legitimacy. These security guards do actually protect the lumberjacks from wolves and other predators in around Darkmoon Wood, but that is hardly their primary purpose. Mostly, the security guards exist to put pressure on independent lumberjacks (often attempting to “persuade” those who don’t work with or for the consortium to change their minds). The guards also ensure that independent lumberjacks only harvest softwoods or turn over any hardwoods they fell. Although the Lumber Consortium vigorously defends its security guards and claims they operate within the bounds of the law, the Fangwatch has, on multiple occasions, uncovered dead independent lumberjacks obviously cut down by human weapons. Neither the rangers nor the Diamond Regiment have thus far found proof that ties the Lumber consortium to these mysterious deaths, but most people in the vale suspect the “security guard” thugs are behind the murders.
Lumberjacks affiliated with the consortium work 12-hour days, 5 days a week, plus a shorter 6-hour day on Starday. They rest on Sunday, and many spend most of that day sleeping. For their labors, lumberjacks receive 2 silvers per week. The consortium does provide bonuses (of up to 5 silver), delivered on each solstice. Lumberjacks injured by accident (when they are at fault) and who cannot work can expect almost no support from the consortium, and most starve to death when their food runs out. On the other hand, lumberjacks attacked by fey or other local menaces and those harmed by accidents caused by others receive pensions and the best care the consortium can afford. Most employees of the forges in Oregent are lumberjacks recovering from injuries or wounds. For this reason, many lumberjacks secretly hope to be attacked while at work, provoking fey and wild beasts they find. The consortium buries more than two- dozen lumberjacks and transfers another dozen or so to other jobs every year.
Conditions for other consortium laborers, while onerous, are much better than those of lumberjacks. Forge workers, for example, can expect to make 4 silvers per week, with solstice bonuses up to 1 gold.
Suppliers: The Lumber Consortium owns all of Falcon’s Hollow and everything within it (many people in Olfden and Almas bitterly remark that it also owns the downtrodden people of that town). The consortium imports all its tools (from the ubiquitous axes and saws of lumbermen to the largest lumber wagons) from its massive forges in Oregent, the raw supplies for which it gets as part of its contract with the government of Andoran. This monopoly of raw-material supplies from the government helps ensure that Andoran can still exert some amount of non-punitive control over the consortium. Evidence occasionally surfaces, however, that the consortium smuggles in pig iron from other nations, but the company’s barristers always find ways to quickly suppress such unwholesome facts.
Relations: As might be imagined, the Lumber Consortium’s relationship with the government of Andoran can best be defined as “strained.” Neither cares for the other, but they rely on one another in a strangely symbiotic way. The government in Almas supplies the Lumber Consortium with the raw materials it needs to make its tools, the consortium supplies Andoran with nearly all of the nation’s hardwoods and much of its softwoods, and government buyers buy up every board- foot of lumber the company churns out. Despite this pat arrangement, both sides constantly look for loopholes in the trade agreements, with Andoran seeking out cheaper supplies of wood and the Lumber Consortium smuggling in iron and smuggling out darkwood to parties who pay more.
Resulting both from its monopoly and also from its treatment of its employees (who are often called slaves by those wishing to break up the company), the Lumber Consortium has few friends outside of the Andoran government (not that it has many within the People’s Council). Most citizens who live outside of Darkmoon Vale or the consortium’s other heavily controlled area—the Verduran Forest in Andoran—know little about the company or its practices, but many have heard nothing good about it. Occasionally, sympathetic people in Almas, Bellis, and Carpenden organize protests against the Lumber Consortium and its treatment of its employees. These well-meaning protests tend to have no effect (outside of making the protestors feel better about themselves) and are quickly forgotten by those in positions of power. More rarely, organized groups of well-meaning people work within the system in attempts to crack the consortium’s monopoly, shut down its suppliers, or otherwise disrupt its business to the point of forcing change. For the most part, those who participate in these sorts of actions tend to fade quickly into obscurity—usually due to unfortunate “accidents” that claim their lives.
Despite an entire nation guiltily tolerant of its indecencies and numerous groups bent on its destruction, the Lumber Consortium is not without its supporters. Those whose lives depend on the consortium—aside from the lumberjacks, who are both the most vital and worst- treated employees—are more than willing to look the other way when questions of the company’s ethics come up. For the most part, these affiliated companies and people exist within Augustana (home of Andoran’s massive shipyards and prime benefactor of the consortium’s inexpensive lumber) and Oregent (where the consortium started and still maintains an office, where most of its directors live, and where its immense forges and sawmills stand). In fact, Oregent only exists because of the consortium, and nearly 8 jobs in 10 in the town exist—directly or indirectly—thanks to it.
Syntira and her druidic allies (both the Greenfire Circle and the Third Veil) have attempted on numerous occasions to make contact with Thuldrin Kreed and establish some sort of discussion. Kreed has rejected every attempt, often contemptuously. For obvious reasons, the fey queen and druids hope the Lumber Consortium changes its ways, and to that end they occasionally engage in sabotage and harrying tactics. Lately, dark whispers by lumberjacks speak of fey also employing violent tactics, although, to date, there remains little actual proof of this.