Halfling Merchant Companies
The large merchant companies of the Halflings are powerful trade organizations. They dominate the Halfling cities of the eastern coast of Wu-Yu, and have even come to rival the Empire itself in strength. This was demonstrated in ZY1100, when they threatened Emperor Hunun Gol with war. Already weak with internal strife, the Empire was forced to agree to enormous trade concessions. The ensuing Freedom of Trade Proclamation gave Halfling merchants legal passage throughout the Empire, and legalized the profitable Tabaxi slave trade. The companies now extend far beyond their native Halfling realms, making them Wu-Yu’s first multinational corporations.
The merchant companies grew fantastically from their genesis only two centuries ago. The Halflings were once simple reindeer herders of the Northern Wastes, ignorant of currency, much less trade. Imperial expeditions began trading with them, acquiring raw goods in exchange for luxuries. The distance from the Empire was far, however, and before long the venture was abandoned. But the Halflings did not forget what they had learned. They adopted agriculture and currency. Soon they were founding their own cities, and their ships were plying the coast. They filled the vacuum left by the retreating Empire, and profited enormously by it. The merchant companies got their start in these early developments. Now they extend to the Eastern Islands, Southern Islands, and even beyond to the distant Empire of the Yuan-ti, far across the sea to the south.