The Green Man
The Tinkers Union
The Tinkers Union maintains a small museum in the Fortress District where it chronicles the Union’s origins and history. Of course if you want the real history of the Tinkers Union, you need to catch one of the docents (always a Union pensioner of unusually advanced age) on a slow day, when no one else is around. If you ask him nicely, or slip him a bottle of Drimaq Gin, you may very well hear how the Union actually began…
Wimarc’s traveling merchants and tradesmen have always been known collectively as tinkers, purportedly a tradition dating back to the days of the Lovcen Empire. It’s said that the province’s governor, in order to keep any one population center from monopolizing trade or industry, demanded the merchants and specialists remained on the move…never stopping for more than a week in any location. Of course they were able to maintain workshops and bases of operations, but this constant flow of commerce and innovation kept the standard of living very high throughout the province.
Such movement of wealth and valuables was also cause for danger, however. While the Empire flourished, the tinkers were relatively safe. Once the Empire fell, though, the tinkers became fearful of the roads they were so used to roaming. While the army of Wimarc protected its borders against its neighbors, the dangerous wilds and ever present bandits moved in to menace the byways between towns. And some small towns and villages, feeling alone and cut off from the Empire that was no more, would become traps for the tinkers. Woe be unto the tinker who has no demonstrable skill, for once they took his wares he was of no use to them anymore. Though perhaps that is a better fate than becoming a slave for the rest of your days.
It took one tinker, named Stanislaus Vissfulk, to usher in a new era for his suffering fellows. Vissfulk had a son named Peter and Peter was Vissfulk’s pride. The boy apprenticed with him on the road and they spent many seasons successfully evading brigands, hungry wildlife, and worse as plied their trade. But one day Vissfulk broke an ankle on a hidden root and the two had to make camp a half a day away from the village they were next to visit. Peter insisted to his father that he be allowed to travel on ahead, perhaps to trade some wares for a bit of aid and a warm bed in which his father could recuperate.
Though he initially refused his son, in his pain he eventually relented. His son went on ahead to the town, promising to return within a day. As listeners to this tale can expect, Peter did not return within a day…nor within two days…nor within three days. Eventually Vissfulk gathered his strength and, using a branch as a crutch, made his way to the nearby village. Though his ankle ground upon itself and caused him to shudder in pain with each step, he saw the village ahead as dusk began to fall.
A bonfire blazed in the center of the village and Vissfulk crept as silently as he could around the squat houses until he had sight of the fire. Villagers milled around the bonfire and slowly gathered until the village’s headman arrived and everyone fell silent. It’s not known what exactly was said at that point, but the headman spoke a bit, shouted a bit more, then finally quieted. At that point a limp body was brought forward, hoisted up, and thrown onto the fire.
The tellers of this tale often relate at this point that their personal hope that Peter Vissfulk was dead before being burnt. Either way, though, the deed was done and how it was accomplished mattered little to Stanislaus. In the small hours of the morning he crept back into the village, his crutch forgotten back at the forest’s edge, and retrieved his son’s still-warm skull from the ashes of the fire. He then made his way over to the village’s well. Working quickly, with the care of a professional, he slipped a handful of vials out of their pockets inside his cloak and, mixing their contents in a certain pattern, poured the resulting liquid down into the well. Then he left, stopping on the outskirts of town to wait. And watch.
It took a full day and a half before each and every villager was dead. Man, woman, and child fell- all in extreme agony as their lungs slowly but surely seized up. Some fell as they made their way out of town, oblivious to the man carefully hidden in the brush. For Stanislaus Vissfulk, Master Alchemist, was as skilled as he was clever. As with his best mouse-killing compounds, the combination slipped into the well was mixed to ensure death, but not before everyone had time to take a drink.
What Vissfulk started, none could stop. He organized an ever-widening community of tinkers and together they took their fates back into their own hands. And before too long it was well known that to harm a tinker would mean not just your death, but the death of your family as well. To cheat a tinker meant the utter destruction of your credit, your reputation, and your livelihood. The banks, shops, and tradesmen all consolidated under a veil of shared responsibility and retribution. There were no holdouts in the face of the Tinkers Union- there is no place in their vision of Wimarc for options; there is only the Union.