The Trading Folk
The Trading Folk are an extended family of people of mysterious origin who nomadically travel Creation, peddling their wares as they go. This state of affairs is said to be the legacy of a blessing or curse that prevents them from settling any one place for any great length of time as a price for great wisdom and knowledge. Unfortunately, they have a bad reputation with most civilizations and nations as being trouble-makers and thieves, which also keeps them moving, to avoid persecution. They are known by many appelations, such as the Rovers, the Revelers and others much less complementary, but prefer "Trading Folk" among themselves.
The true history of the Trading Folk is unknown, but most tales they tell involve the Maiden of Journeys. Some claim direct descent from her, while others tell of her blessing (or cursing) their forefathers with a bit of her own power, along with her restless wanderlust. Some few tales also include the Maiden of Secrets in this family history, but she isn't talking either way. Regardless of the truth, they seem to have been present since the 1st Age, though only a few documents allude to their existence. They claim to have been around since the Primordial Wars, and to have known the Lintha in their original form, but few believe such tall tales...
The Trading Folk are spread across the face of Creation, and are organized into tribe-like collections of Families. Although intermingling with Outsiders is not forbidden, it is somewhat frowned upon, and the Families do try to keep their culture by intermarrying with each other; their numbers are large enough that they can still avoid weakening their bloodlines through doing so, even if prospectives must travel far to meet suitable mates. Much of Family life is very strictly formalized, based on traditions that go back thousands of years, or so they say. But every generation sees at least a few young turks who forsake such staid rules and go their own way, often taking small bands of the Folk with them on a quest for fame and glory.
While the Trading Folk generally prefer to abide by whatever law they find themselves under, they often find themselves caught in a vicious circle. Their (highly exagerated) reputation precedes them, and they find themselves disenfranchised by the cultures they visit, and are often not allowed to come inside city walls in any great numbers. This self-fulfilling prophecy sometimes forces them to actually assume the criminal practices they are reknown for, simply to survive. It is only to their worsening reputation that are so good at it, whether it comes to subtly finding loopholes in the law to exploit, or outright defying it. This is not due to their inherent nature, as many would have it, but due to long experience with dealing with this sort of ostracizing prejudice.
But as noted above, there are always a few bad seeds who choose to wholeheartedly embrace the legacy they've been dealt. These Raiding Folk become bandits, pirates, con artists, or professional mercenaries. They are officially repudiated by the Families and Cast Out, tho they may pretend otherwise to exploit others' trust.
The Families normally confine themselves to a specific direction of Creation, and have the standard appearance of people native to that region, although most of the people have hair or eye color that is shockingly different from most around them (pink hair is common among them, but no one else in the world, for example). Their dress ranges from outlandishly flamboyant to simple rugged travellers wear, but will be consistent within a caravan. While they flawlessly speak all the tongues of the world, they also have a secret language amongst themselves, a trade tongue that helps identify and bind all members of the Family together. This language has no similarity to any other in the world and only increases the air of mystery about them for any who hear it. The Traders also have an elaborate system of casual-seeming gestures that allow them to speak to each other at a distance or directly while verbally carrying on a meaningless conversation (this method is often used to quickly haggle amongst themselves as well).
The Trading Folk are gifted in a number of ways, most of which they use to supplement their income beyond simple trading. Second only to the Haltans in animal husbandry, each of their caravans is normally full of animal life, some of it Ata and San-Beasts gifted to them by the Haltans, on whom they are on good terms with (the best breeders among the Folk are working on creating Ata and San-Dogs). Many Families have a long history of acrobatics, acting, and ledgerdermain, and sometimes travel as wandering circuses. Some of the best Thaumaturges in Creation, the Traders are (often secretly) feted for Enchanted and Exceptional items, Alchemical potions for every use imaginable, Divination of future affairs, Geomantic consultation, and the Summoning or Warding away of various supernatural creatures.
As a whole, the Folk have stable relations with the Supernatural. They directly worship the Celestial Incarna, especially the Five Maidens, and give great honor to local Spirit Courts and especially the great Wilderness gods (as a consequence, they are much less likely to be shaken down by bored or greedy spirits).
Because of some ancient enmity, the Trading Folk despise Terrestrial Exalted with a passion, especially the Immaculate Order, and will often go out of their way to bedevil them. Dragon blood is exceptionally rare among them, and any who exalt to the Dragons are likely to be driven out. Outcastes who go to great lengths to prove their trustworthiness may be trusted, up to a point, but will be very carefully watched. For this reason, there are next to no Traders on the Blessed Isle...officially. The Realm quietly suspects that there
By way of contrast, the Rovers get on very well with the Lunar Exalted, at least as well as any non-Lunars can. Luna's Children have watched them presevere throughout history and have gained a lasting respect for their hardiness. They consider them among the few products of "civilization" that actually have the strength of true Barbarians and reverence for the old ways. Alhough nothing should be assumed, Trading caravans often have safe passage through many Lunar territories, though they are always closely watched by hidden Beastmen. Any Tradesman who is Exalted by Luna is celebrated, but rarely stays with the Family (although there are a few tales of Changing Moon-led Raider bandit tribes).
However, it is, unsurprisingly, the Sidereal Exalted that the Traders owe the most to. They have often played host to the travellers of Mercury, and the caravans have what is probably the largest concentration of Star-Blessed Halfcastes in Creation. Most of these individuals possess the Innocous and Lucky Merits, which both makes the Travellers hard to catch, but also enhances their unsavory reputation. All Sidereal Factions have Acquaintences among them, so there is an unspoken accord between them that the Traders are off-limits for Faction politics (whether this is actually held to, however...). As throughout Creation, those who Exalt to the Maidens are quickly forgotten, and must slip away into the night to make their way alone. But they often try to find time to join a caravan for a mile or two...
As worshippers of the Incarna, the Traders have no problem with Solar Exalted, whether visiting or Exalting from their ranks. Indeed, they are eager to shelter and aid Solars, especially from the thrice-damned Wyld Hunt, and expect little recompense for their efforts. However, they are willing to accept their services as payment, esp. from the Night and Eclipse castes.
Despite popular belief, the Families have no truck with demons, although their expansive Occult Libraries probably have more genuine information on them than most. They are, however, quite skilled at the summoning and warding of ghosts, and keep in constant contact with their Underworld relatives, which allows to be among the most well-informed among the living in the affairs of the dead. It is said that the caravans act as mobile fetters for their deceased relatives, who ceaselessly travel the length and breadth of the Underworld as they did in life. True or not, the continual veneration of their ancestors makes them very rich in Memorium and Grave Goods, indeed.
Much of Creation believes that the Trading Folk are (literally and figuratively) in bed with the Fair Folk; sometimes they are, and some places they aren't. One of the main things that divides each Family is their policy on the Fae. Some are basically Ravagers, complete with Wyld mutations, while others hate Raksha with a passion, and sell their services as professional Fae Hunters. Many are in a comfortable middle, cautiously trading rare curiosities with the Fair Ones (never slaves, of course) in exchange for Gossamer goods and weapons. The percentage of Traders with Fae Blood is much lower than many think...
Similarly, relations with the Guild vary. But on the whole, both groups agree to stay out of each others' affairs. It is fair to say that most of the Roamers despise the Guild's slave and drug trade, but they simply spit and move on. Some few unscroupolous Traders have joined the Guild for very prosperous careers, though at the price of being declared dead to their Families...