Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sneedsworth the Money Lender

Occasionally, one needs a loan. The seeds didn’t take, the rats got into the flour, the pig died. In Wagstaff’s case, he got bit by a rat. Not a big deal in and of itself, until he realized after a couple of weeks that the wound wasn’t healing so well. Aside from that, he was just feeling weak overall - and worse every day. Sure, the local high ranking cleric could heal him… for a price. Though he didn’t have the money to pay, a new friend who’d recently inherited some money lent it to him. But what about those poor souls that couldn’t find or know anyone who could lend them money in a similar situation? The local church seems to have no pity for men such as these! Perhaps it’s just the way of the world - even in a land of magic, men must sometimes die poor, ignoble deaths.

But there is hope, in a sense, for these folk that have fallen by the wayside… for those that society has failed and who stare grimly at their own impending doom - due only to an empty wallet. Hope’s name is Sneedsworth and Associates!

A thin, balding man of between sixty and seventy years of age, Sneedsworth seems frail. Seldom seen, when he does make a public appearance, it’s with an entourage of attendants, helping him to move about with his cane. He’s a man of few words, businesslike in conversation: polite but to the point. He seems to smile at odd times and occasionally lose himself in thought. Sometimes this is mistaken for early senility - but the truth is far from it.

In fact, Sneedsworth is an assassin - and a nearly retired guildmaster at that. His headquarters are located in the largest city of the region. A brimming red cauldron of gold is the symbol that hangs outside, as it does outside the numerous branches scattered throughout the kingdom. This and the prominent “Sneedsworth’s” name on such signs are all that’s necessary to both attract and warn passersby.

Sneedsworth's primary business has become money lending. Where other perhaps more reputable lenders would refuse a loan or require serious proof of credit, this is seldom if ever required by the customers of Sneedsworth’s. Here a man can simply rely on his own good word in order to obtain a loan. Small sums and large sums, it matters not - even nobles have approached Sneedsworth’s with requests for vast quantities of gold. Of course, the terms of these loans can only charitably be called extortionate. And repaid any loan best be, for the loan officers of Sneedsworth (high ranking assassins themselves) are deadly serious about their work.

Loan terms can vary wildly, from 0% interest (especially for first time, small loans to locals) up to 500% interest per day. In the course of coming to terms over a loan, virtually anything can become subject to negotiation. Typically, such negotiations are brief, and payment is expected within a short matter of time - from a day up to as much as a month. As opposed to many other shady lenders, failure to repay a loan when the final payment due date has been reached will not result in a price being put on the debtor’s head. Instead, Sneedsworth’s prefers to deal with such matters on their own, sending out its assassins when necessary. If it’s suspected that a customer knowingly took out a loan without ever intending to pay it back (perhaps intending instead to forfeit their life upon signing, as a sacrifice for some purpose the money could fulfill), then the family and friends of the customer may be targeted. If the sincerity of someone who’s been issued a loan is ever in doubt, torture (in addition to magical means) may be used to ascertain the truth. Sneedsworth makes no apologies for these “standard business practices” and the terms are always made explicitly clear to the loanee!

The tactics of Sneedsworth assassins run the gamut from the traditional (back stabbing, or poisoning of food and drink) to the more direct approach (such as waiting for a weakened party to exit from a dungeon before shooting them with poisoned crossbows), to the more example setting extremes of public, live disembowelment or burning. Sneedsworth’s has a reputation to uphold, and their “debt collectors” are not interested in last minute payment, although they are not averse to removing all of a debtor’s possessions before executing him.

Sneedsworth and Associates almost never accept solicitations for work involving assassinations - theirs has become a very specialized business. It’s also a very lucrative one, and its niche has allowed it to flourish while free from costly battles with other assassin or thieves guilds, some of whom even “bank” with Sneedsworth’s. Of course there are always those jealous of the success of others to be on guard against, as the guildmaster himself well knows.

Branches are maintained in meticulous compliance with headquarters’ standard operating procedures. No loans are made without being signed off on with two officers witnessing. Funds are not always immediately provided, and the movement of any large sum to or from a branch and headquarters is heavily guarded with mundane and magic power alike. All associates of Sneedsworth wear the red, gold filled cauldron symbol of the guild emblazoned on platinum medallions. The backs of these are inscribed with secret symbols: a riddle or one’s solution, which are known only by guild members.

Sneedsworth: Level 9 Assassin
Loan Officers: Assassins ranging in level from 4-7 .
Other “Associates” (assistants, guards, couriers, etc.) are fighters and assassins ranging in level from 1-3.

Swords &Wizardry Assassin Class per the S&W Companion

Sneedsworth has made his own deal with the devil known as Mammon, and serves his lord however he can when Mammon’s messengers call upon him.
This post is dedicated to bankers everywhere.


Daddy Grognard said...

This reminds me a bit of Valint and Balk from Joe Abercrombie's First Law series. Now there's a bank where even its own employees are frightened of working for it.

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