Mirrors in the Desert
“I have always enjoyed doing business with them. Let the crass complain of cutthroat competition! House Rubaiyat has never let me down.” – Iakob, ceramic trader for House Wavir
Though they originated in Tyr, House Rubaiyat has spread all over the Tyr region, appearing in every city-state and the wastelands in between. Headed by the reclusive “Omar Khayyam,” House Rubaiyat has established a reputation for closely managed caravans, highly principled negotiations, and brutal punishment for broken contracts. Some say their success was guaranteed with the support of King Kalak, but the monarch’s death seems to have not impeded their growth at all; however, allegations of sorcerous support stills dog the house.
Their closely managed caravans and silt skimmers have become a famous item of discussion even outside the bazaars. Unlike most other Houses, House Rubaiyat very rarely employs mercenaries to guard their trading vessels, instead relying on internally-trained soldiers. Though this drives up the cost of shipping, they suffer far lesser losses to theft and raids. This has given rise to the popular saying, “Right as a rubai,” which means, “A decision that seems unpopular at first, but turns out to be the correct choice.”
House Rubaiyat’s bizarrely moralistic stance in dealing with independent traders and the traders of other merchant Houses has baffled many. Rubaiyat traders follow, as company policy, a strict series of guidelines for negotiations that can be summarized as, “Do not deceive, but persuade.” This, as well as their refusal to work in the slave trade, has expanded their reach to the otherwise fiercely xenophobic desert nomads.
What allows, perhaps, House Rubaiyat to practice these seemingly unprofitable strategies is their reputation for swift, merciless repayment of betrayals. After House Rubaiyat’s expansion into the wealthy and ruthlessly mercantile Balic, a money-lender from House Rees tried to swindle Rubaiyat’s novice trade representative out of a stockpile of metal. The merchant noticed this breach of contract, and within days the money-lender and his associates were found dead. (The praetors never punished House Rubaiyat for this blatant display of power, leading to more speculation that a Sorcerer-King lies behind the House.)
House Rees’ humiliation, and other such stories, have led to a great respect for the House’s contracts, and an even greater resentment of their reach. A few independent merchants claim it is only a matter of time before House Rubaiyat provokes the other merchant Houses to band together, thus instigating a devastating trade war.