Trade is the reason why Twill exists. Its role as the link between the spice routes and the Empire is well known but it plays a vital part in the trade of many goods. Not all these goods are sent to the Empire and the business of commerce leads to many dark corners and unexpected people.
All this trade generates wealth and those with the wealth use it to secure more trade and more wealth. Traders use whatever tactics are necessary to secure an advantage in business and plenty of business people have found their warehouse burnt down, their throat cut or their entire family massacred.
The heart of this power and wealth is the Chancellor. They are elected by the City Council, a body made up exclusively of guild leaders. Each guild is a hot-house of politics as members jockey for influence and aim to become the master of the guild. Each guild has a different way of selecting its leaders and even in apparently innocuous and peaceful professions such as the Candlemakers Guild, competition for the top spot can be violent.
Where there is trade, there is taxation. Some people would describe the collection of tax in Twill as little more than an officially sanctioned extortion racket and they would not be far wrong.
The main source of tax is a levy on all loaded carts, pack animals and boats arriving and leaving the city. Though only a 1 silver piece for a pack animal, the quantity of trade is such that this raises a significant amount of money. For traders, some of whom will have caravans of hundreds of camels or bring supplies into the town everyday, the levy is hated.
Traders naturally try to avoid the levy but this is where the city exerts its power beyond its walls. The city militia patrols up to fifty miles in all directions around the city. If it finds people transporting bulk goods without a tax chit, the goods will be seized by the city. Repeat offenders are executed. The militia has even invaded and destroyed dwarf mines in order to enforce its authority.
Between the city militia and tax officials located at key points on the river, it is hard to avoid taxation. Most traders just accept it and carry out their trade in the city.
Trade Routes and Trade Goods
Twill is the nexus of a trade network that extends hundreds of miles and involves many different races and trade goods.
Spices are brought across the wild steppes by nomads from the Eastern Lands. Sometimes individual traders with a handful of camels, sometimes whole tribes with hundreds of animals. The spices are then sold in Twill's Paddock, an open area where the caverns camp. The trade here is done discreetly, with buyers and sellers discussing business in the tents and drinking eastern coffee.
In exchange for the spices, the traders seek exotic gems as they can be easily transported and they avoid the levy on laden pack animals leaving the city. Sometimes luxury goods from the Empire are taken back and novel items of a magical nature are highly prized.
From the Paddock, the spices make their way to the docks where the halfling boat-people load them onto their craft before sailing them down the river and into the heart of the Empire. Though some of the halfings actually buy and sell the spices, many are simply transporting the goods on behalf of others.
Though the region of Twill has many dwarf mines, none of them are mining gems. Most assume the gems that the spice traders take east come up river from mines deep in the Empire but this not the case.
Most gems come via the underworld. Deep beneath Twill is a smaller, but equally vibrant city, populate by a variety of dark creatures. How the trade between surface and underworld takes place is a closely guarded secret and how much the City Council knows about it is debatable.
A city needs to eat and the 20,000 souls of Twill eat a lot. The grains, eggs, meat and dairy product needed to feed the city come from the ever growing number of farms around the lake.
Lake Twill covers an area of about 400 square miles and is rich in fish. Fresh fish and barrels of salted fish are brought into the city by the halfing boat-people. Most people assume the boat people catch the fish as well but this is mostly a wrong assumption. There are some halfing fishermen and there are a number of human settlements around the lake based on fishing but the halfing's main source is from under the lake.
Beneath the lake is a culture of merpeople and other sub-aquatic creatures. These peoples collect or farm the fish and sell them onto the halfings in exchange for gold. The majority of the fish heads into the city but a significant share of the salted fish heads down river to help feed the Empire.
The trade in magical equipment is officially banned by the Wizard's Guild on the grounds that ancient (or even new) cursed items could threaten the entire city. The guild may occasionally buy interesting artifacts for the sake of knowledge but this is a rare occurrence.
Though on the surface the trade in magic is banned, below the surface (both figuratively and literally) it does take place. The traders of the spice caravans often seek new magics to take to the Eastern Lands. The merpeople also seek out magics, a fact known to very few air breathers. There is also a market for them in Twill among wealth merchants, especially for protective magics.
The source of these items is varied. Some do travel up river from the Empire and occasionally adventures will find something of value. Most, however, come from the Underworld and the non-human races that live there.
Iron and Coal
The region around Twill is rich in iron and coal deposits plus dwarfs willing to mine them. The coal is mostly used to smelt the iron but some coal heads into the city or down river. The iron ore is turned into pig iron ingots in the dwarf's furnaces that are then sold and sent down river.
Much of the trade in iron and other bulk goods such as coal takes place near the head of the river rather than in Twill itself. This saves the dwarves the time and effort of moving the goods across the lake, into the city and back again. Once a week, the dwarfs auction their goods at the river side. As each boatload starts its journey downstream, a tax official collects the city's levy.
As the iron goes downstream, Empire Steel comes upstream. Made with the high quality dwarven iron, Empire Steel is superior to other types steel and the secret of its production is a closely guarded. The steel is used to create weapons and armour in the city and the dwarves use it to create better mining tools. Some of the steel ends up with the secretive forest elves, exchanged by the dwarves for elven magics.
Other than Empire Steel, luxury goods are the only things that come up river from the Empire. The term covers a wide range of items but includes fine cloth, artworks and pottery, all of the best quality. Most of these goods end up in the house of the rich merchants of Twill but some will head out east or into the dwarven mines.
In the mountains and valleys beyond to Twill's west and north, there are various goblinoid races and tribes of primitive humans. Beyond the reach of Twill's tax collectors, the dwarves and a few brave humans, trade with them.
These primitive peoples supply the dwarves with furs, animals skins, timber and, most importantly, charcoal. A vital ingredient in smelting iron ore. In return, the dwarves supply basic trade goods such as metal pots and cloth plus weapons and armour. One of the consequences of this trade is the primitives are encroaching on the elvish forests in search of wood and animals. This frequently leads to conflict.