The life-blood in the Vale is in trade, and it is through trade that many of the communities and towns came to be. The key to this trade is the various merchant companies, which carry, buy, protect, and store goods.
Most trade travels in caravans for safety, throughout the Vale, and the great majority of caravans are run by independent governments from each town. They usually bear the sigils of the town they transport for. The caravans of Winterhaven are so marked, as are those of Hammerfast,using the sigils of the hammer and anvil flag.
Smaller independent caravan companies are known as Costers. Several have formed in the past few years and have alliances with one another. While these coster are more expensive than their government run brothers, they are better armed and trained. Most are comprised of “retired” adventurers that are not keen to sit back and relax.
The most well known costers are listed below:
Dragoneye Dealing Coster
Headquartered in Winterhaven, with bases in Fallcrest and Hammerfast, this is the oldest of the costers. It was begun by Abaddon, the Lord of Winterhaven, who needed a specialized (heavily armed and highly motivated) group for the transportation of trade bars. Solid gold bars that are more portable then coins, that governments and wealthy merchants use as currency. This coster has never lost a wagon but the same can not be said of men. All the major towns use this coster for the transportation of large amounts of wealth, fine art and personal protection of important people. They employ only the elite of staff, personally chosen by Abaddon himself.
Trueshield Trading Coster
Based in Fallcrest this professional organization builds its own wagons and equipment and trains its own guards, and does both of these things very well. Few bandits tangle with its caravans; even goblins leave them alone on most trips. Its rates are expensive, but it almost always delivers, so money has been pouring into its coffers for the eight seasons it has been in business. The Master Merchant of the Trueshields, Traven Thomtul, is credited with the idea of sealed destination wagons into which the goods of many small shippers intended for a common destination are packed together, rather than the traditional packed-by-weight and -bulk assorted peddlar wagonpacking method.
Thousandheads Trading Coster
Run by the former adventurer Raven Kantos from her stronghold near Nenlast this Coster operates only on a single route: from Nenlast to Harkenwold with a stop at Fiveleague House), Raven recruits retired adventurers to guard her caravans, and offers cut rates to small merchants. Her guards are tough, hard-nosed, and tireless; they have instructions to go after and kill any caravan raider, so few casual raiders tangle with Thousandheads caravans twice. Raven is remembered for putting her gold pieces where her tongue wags on her instructions to slay raiders: she once spent two hot summer months hunting down and butchering every single member of an goblin band, the Poison Fang tribe, that was repeatedly harrying her caravans east Harken Forest, and impaling the bodies of the goblins on stakes along the trade route, with the sigils of her company branded on each one. Some of the stakes can still be seen to this
day, although their grisly messages are long gone, save for a skull and a bone or two.