The collection of extremely rare and exotic animals has always been a traditional past-time of the Haracron empire's elite classes. Determined to grace their magnificent menageries and aviaries with the most visually stunning and bizarre accqusitions and outdo their most disliked rivals in this rather indulgent pursuit. There are few things more satisfying for a Haracron noble than to humiliate his foe by having the guests that the former had invited to see his new collection of wild animals, turn up to view his own latest accqusitions instead. Great prestige is placed on the breath-taking quality of the beast of bird in question.

Unfortunately, this popular past-time suffered a set-back when a certain king ascended to the throne of Haracron. Distinguished by the extremely close ties he shared with the Church, His majesty King Reynold the Strict, heartily disapproved of the frivolous amusements that his nobles were so fond of indulging in, when their talents and resources could be allotted to the pursuit of more useful endeavors. And most detestable of all the denigrate past-times of the wealthy and famous, was their utterly indulgent collection of exotic pets. Great amounts of gold was spent on providing these animals with every luxury and comfort inconceivable, while the wretched employees and tenants that lived on the holdings of their employers were often mired in a constant state of near starvation. Even worse, some of the exotic beasts would escape and then proceed to destroy the livestock and crops of the peasants, adding yet more woe to their already unfortunate lives. And the most dreadful possibility by far, was that involving the break-out of some ferocious and dangerous escapees likely to become prime candidates for turning man-eater.

Eager to remedy this, King Reynold the Strict passed a law banning the import of all exotic animals, a measure backed by the Church and the aggrieved peasantry. Well after his death, this law still remains in effect, borne as ever, on the shoulders of the public fear of some vicious beast running amok among them.

It is not a law that carries wide respect among the nobles and wealthy unfortunately, with many of them paying it no heed. Demand for prized exotic animals still remain strong some hundred and fifty years after the death of King Reynold.

Enter the Keepers Of Forbidden Beasts and Birds. Thanks to their efforts, the trade in forbidden animals remains as thriving as ever. Operating from bases both within and without Haracron, they are a major smuggling network that enjoys the protection and patronage of some very powerful individuals indeed, making the task of actually prosecuting them for any serious offence very difficult.

The roots of this quasi-criminal organization can be traced to a certain son of Yokaru, that dark land of dense rain-forests which borders the south of Haracron, famous both for the fantastic animals that dwell in them, and the jet black natives that amass great fortunes by capturing and selling these elusive and bizarre beasts to wealthy clients in Haracron. Born to a family of well established animal traders that commanded the loyalty of thirty other animal collecting family based operations hailing from their tribe, he was known by the name of Mubuka and like all his ancestors before him, had earned his riches from the trade of exporting wild-life. When news of Reynold the Strict's ban was announced, Mubuka resolved to continue with his lucrative trade instead of despairing, knowing he could count on the complicity of Haracron's elite and his own ruling chiefs to ensure that business would go on as usual. Putting his adept mind to great use, he immediately contacted his patrons in the bureaucracy assuring them that the trade of smuggled animals would continue as long as they promised him their cooperation. Many of them being avid animal collectors, they readily agreed. His own ruling class was just as quick to agree, knowing that their incomes depended on the taxes they were able to gather from wealthy traders like him.

His successors continue to be in the business today. Operating from their camps in the jungles of Yokaru, their subordinate trading vassals send expeditions deep into the jungles to trap these beasts with the use of sophistocated snares, and then have them hauled back to the camps. Once this is accomplished, they negotiate a fair price with the Keeper representative stationed at every camp. This part settled, large caravans are used to transport the valuable acquisitions back to the main operating camp of the Keepers in the province of Zhoku.

Upon their entry into the province of Zhoku, in which the main trading operation of the Keepers is located, the caravan convoy is accosted by the tax collectors of the ruling chief, who demand that the traders pay the ''fine'' incurred for taking part in a trade outlawed by the royal government of Haracron. A round of negotiations ensues, and persists until a reasonable amount of tribute to pay the ''fine' is agreed upon.

They are allowed to pass on to the base located in the vicinity of patch of scrub jungle that straddles the boundary between Haracron and Horaku. From there they proceed to smuggle the animals into Haracron. Usually a two man team of expert animal handlers equipped with enough money to bribe the border guards to let them past, and a portable bamboo cage to transport the animal in, are enough to accomplish this, but occasionally, when the animal in question happens to be an extremely dangerous beast like a manticore or wyvern, arrangements are made with contacts among the border commanders of Haracron, and a special escort of fifteen men-at-arms is provided to ensure that the smugglers safely reach one of their scattered trading ware-houses in the nearest city. Only then are the animals able to be delivered to the future owners that have made arrangements for their purchase in the months past.

From time to time, the Keepers will send one of their members to participate in the traveling Black Market Market in the hope of attracting new clients. Of course, this is not strictly necessary since their reputation usually precedes them, a fact that prompts any wealthy individual with a passion for animal collecting that is interested in seeing what they have to offer for sale, to invite the head of the Keepers to the opening of his private zoo. In addition to their animal acquisition venture, the Keepers also operate a profitable side-line that specialises in providing the extremely costly and difficult to obtain food that some of these animals require.

Plot Hooks

Escape!:A fearsome Manticore has escaped while on its way to a city Haracron. Can the PC's capture it before this creature is noticed by anyone sympathetic to the Church Fathers?

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The pcs become involved with the Keepers of Forbidden Beasts and Birds, accompanying one of them to a black market warehouse where many exchanges and deals are being made.

The warehouse is stormed by the local guard and the Keeper slips away in the confusion. The party is now incriminated in the trafficking of exotic creatures and imprisoned.

The captain of the guard later has them brought to him, and in his desire to see the law respected, he makes an unexpected request, help to bring down the ringleaders and end the exotic creature trade. He lets them go on the condition they continue to be involved in the Keepers affairs.