Athasian merchants as a group include merchant dynasties, tribal merchants, and independent merchants (or free citizens).
Merchant dynasties (or houses, as they’re often called) are a class of free folk who maintain emporiums, resource-gathering outposts, and trade routes in the city-states and across the hostile wastes. They are citizens of no city and exist outside the normal power structure, although their wealth and influence rivals that of the most prominent nobles. Each merchant house is a family or an alliance of dealers with its own small army of guards and slaves that keeps goods flowing from one region to another. Intrepid dune traders and larger caravans carry merchandise from place to place. Merchant dynasties operate large emporiums in various city-states and pay taxes to the sorcerer-kings in return for this privilege. Even the most rapacious templars avoid harassing members of the merchant houses without good cause. Doing so would risk not only the templars’ personal buying power but also the welfare of the city-state.
Tribal merchants operate in a commercial manner similar to that of a merchant house. Many elven tribes are merchants of this type. Some forge alliances with merchant houses, whereas others compete with the great dynasties. Unlike merchant houses, mercantile tribes rarely establish headquarters and outposts. Instead, they travel as an eternal caravan, gathering and selling wares all over the region.
The bazaars of merchant tribes – especially those run by elves – are good sources of illegal or exotic items and experiences. Such marketplaces are also reputed to be shady in other ways, selling shoddy products, running confidence schemes, and committing outright robbery. Merchant tribesfolk try to avoid engaging in too much behavior that might invite the scrutiny of the templars. When a settlement becomes too unfriendly to a particular tribe, the tribe moves on and avoids that place for a few years.