You know, the thing that most folks who come down here notice right off the bat is how no one's jumping to someone else's orders. After living up there and dealing with superiors, that's the one thing that stands out most. No orders, here. You chip in, you do what you do, and you can tend your own garden as much as you want. And that's it

Yep! No joke. Anarchy in the U-S-A, amigo. Right here and now.


The Rules:

Of course, it ain't a complete free-for-all. We got a community to preserve so, of course, we got rules we have to follow. Most folks just follow right along and get with the program, of course, but some folks screw up and have to be used as a lesson for everyone else. Fortunately, that doesn't happen all that often.

Rules are simple:

1: All for One and One for All
2: The Many Before the One
3: Don't Shit Where You Eat

"All for One and One for All" only sounds silly. That's what we live by, down here. We have to look after one another or else the community's sunk. And that's the bottom line. We're all equals, everyone's as deserving a hand as anyone else.

That said, we also have to think like a community. So the needs of the many come before the one. If that means two people escape capture because the third had to be left behind, that's what it means. It's a tough call to make in those cases, but sometimes it's the difference between the whole ship going down or one sailor hitting the bottom. You do the math.

Now, that last one... that's a rude way to put a simple idea. Basically, the community comes first. So you do nothing to endanger it. That means you don't blab to the wrong people about how cool it is to be a Freewraith. That means you don't do stupid things, like lead a whole patrol here hoping your pals will kick the crap out of them for you. And you don't sell it out or give the impression there's more to you than just you and maybe the buddies they can see. No no no.

Your community is your family, in a way. It's all you have between here and going back to where you came from. So you stand up for it with all you got, and if that means you bite the bullet and go down for it, that's what it means.


Status among Equals:

Like I said, we're all equal down here. Only thing is that equality's sort of a double-edged Gladius. If you're no better than me, then how do we decide what to do if we can't figure out who's got the better idea? If an emergency hits, where do I get off telling you what to do, anyway?

Yeah, equality sounds nice. But "sounds" and "is" aren't always the same thing. You want to see a recipe for disaster? You go check out those Conclaves where they've gone off the deep end and declared everyone to be their own leader. When trouble hits, the "leaders" are too busy arguing with each other to do anything, and then the beast has them. No contest.

So yeah, the community's got leaders, at least part-time ones. You don't hear them barking orders all the time and they sure as hell aren't sitting on a throne with some silly title. They kind of lead by example and they kind of know how to shout loudest and keep the floor, and that's how we get led when we need a leader. The rest of the time they're happy to just shut up.

How do you pick them? That's a damn good question. Best answer I can give is that they pick themselves by merit. The person who has the most to give, or can do the one thing that no one else really can, is more respected than someone who's just there. Sort of like that thing about one-eyed men in the land of the blind being king?

When things are going well, you'd never know there was a leader in most Conclaves. Stuff gets done and no one says anything. When there's trouble, that's when things get interesting. It's almost always a tie-up between the person who knows Castigate, the person who can work the Forges and the resident Moliator. That's the big three right there, and if they aren't friends, or at least on speaking terms, the Conclave's history.


The Conclaves

The vast majority of Freewraiths are Conclavers. Any one association of Freewraiths in any given area is known as a Conclave, and this town just happens to have several of them floating about, here and there. Can't tell you exactly where, mind... that's a secret. Maybe if you pass the initiation ritual?

Yeah, of course we got one. Of course, the only way to pass is by just saying no to the dumbshit parts.

Yes, I'm kidding. And no, there isn't one. We can just smell out our own, is all. The real folks get shooed on in and the fakes get sent on their way.

A Conclave could be anything, really. A haunted tenement, a tent city in the Shadowlands of a cavern, the cathedral on the hill no one goes to because it's supposed to be haunted by Spectres... you know the drill. I've heard stories of Conclaves created by dropout Sandmen in the dreams of coma patients, or little pockets in the Tempest where no one can get in or out if they don't know what to look for.

But I've never visited them, so don't ask me if they're real.


Hiding in Plain Sight:

And I bet you're going to ask just how these "abandoned" places stay abandoned and attract no attention?

Well, let's just say that we've become masters in hiding ourselves, but not without occasionally doing some stuff that we'd really rather not. A lot of those things involve deep-cover operatives, friendly people we bribe to look the other way... stuff like that.

Like this place, for instance. Every day the Emerald Legion sends in two Legionnaires to look over the place and then leave. Those two Emeralds are in our pocket, so to speak: one of them is one of us, Masquered up for the job, and the other one takes the Oboli we leave once a week and says nothing. He doesn't know the other guy's not his Legionmate and would kill him as soon as clap him on the back.

See, the other guy - the one our guy's impersonating? He wasn't going to go for the cash for silence ploy. So we turned him into a coin and paid the first guy with him when he said he would, only he didn't know who the coin was. Had to move fast on that one, we did.

Of course, that's not the only way to do it. If you can provide some kind of service on the sly for cheap for someone up high, then lo and behold the patrols just never come around. And they stay not around as long as the services is regular and well-done. A bit too much like prostitution for my liking, but it works.

The third option's the really tough one, but it's been done before. Remember the deep cover I was talking about? You make sure the guy in charge of the patrol in the area is one of yours. If that means you hire a Masquer long-term, you do it, and if that means you send the Freewraith in, well, that's what you gotta do. That sort of trick is the sort of thing that the whole Conclave's got to pull together on to get it to work, of course, and it's harder than hell to pull off real well for very long. But there have been success stories told here and there.

And no, I can't say exactly where. You just hear things, you know?