"'I should think it would reduce one's chances of being preyed upon by footpads,' she observed.
Benedict grinned. 'Oh, of course. Crews like that never pick on anyone from their home habble. Too easily identified to the authorities. And their leaders would never allow it.'
'Leaders?' Bridget asked. ' They aren't just ... like, packs of marauding ventrats?'
'Naturally not,' Benedict said. Far too messy and choatic, and therefore easily stopped. Everyhting they do has to be coordinated and carefully organized.'
'Among other things, yes,' Benedict said. 'Smuggling, the sale of dangerous intoxicants, trafficking in weapons, in medicines, in flesh.' His eyes darkened slightly. 'All controlled and precisely applied by the guilds.'
Bridget blinked. 'The Guilds? Like the Vatterists' Guild?'
'I doubt it's much like the Vaterists' Guild in Habble Morning,' Benedict replied. 'All of the guilds are in competition here, and most of them engage in one kind of shady activity or another. Some are worse than others, but as a rule, if someone gets his head broken in Habble Landing, it was because one of the guilds decided it needed to be done.'
'It would seem to be a great deal of trouble to manage a group of men who would do such things,' Bridget noted.
'Indeed it is.'
'Wouldn't it be simpler for them to ... just do honest work?'
Benedict showed his teeth. 'Probably. But there will always be those who seem to think that simply taking what they need through strength is easier and more enjoyable than working to create it. Certainly it leaves them more leisure time.'
'I don't understand,' Bridget said. 'Why would guilds that behave this way be permitted to exist?'
'Any number of reasons,' Benedict said. 'If there is a law, someone will work to break it. That's human nature. The guilds have a certain code of conduct to which they adhere that makes them a somewhat less appalling proposition than independent criminal activity. They are the devil we know.' He pursed his lips. And they are extremely powerful.'"
"Inspired" by Terry Pratchett, Mr. Butcher (only minus the satirical bits)?