Monday, April 1, 2013

Merchant's Guild: An Overview

By Dominic Ford

Liara Rosetongue, Guild Leader of the Merchants, has designed her operation to be flexible, utilitarian, and provide as much profit as possible to each of its members. She rules with an iron fist and silky whispers, and few things in Hub are more feared than the idea of your name sliding off her tongue. Her followers are fanatically loyal, however, and rarely have anything to fear from the most powerful Elf since the demise of the Empire. 

The Merchants have a Direct Hierarchy, which forms the backbone of the system. Even here, however, the individual members are strongly encouraged to think for themselves, to creatively pursue their objectives, and to accept success and failure both as learning opportunities. Liara has been known to personally intervene and promote individuals up the hierarchy if she feels they possess unique attributes and have been overlooked. The Direct Hierarchy is composed of these five positions (alternate names indicate type, rather than rank):

  • ·        Grand Ambassador (Also Grand Caravanner and Grand Admiral) - Responsible for a Grand Fleet, a Grand Caravan, or a Foreign Establishment

  • ·        Ambassador (Also Caravanner and Admiral) - Responsible for a Fleet, a Caravan, or an Establishment

  • ·         Keeper (Also Merchant and Captain) - Responsible for an individual shop, wagon, or ship.

  • ·         Guards (Also Defender and Marine) - Responsible for the safekeeping of their charge.

  • ·         Laborer (Also Worker and Sailor) - Responsible for physical duties, including ship operations, loading and unloading cargoes, and generally doing as they have been asked.

In addition to the Direct Hierarchy, the Merchants also have three Flexible positions, which form the various arms of the Guild. These individuals sit outside of the traditional hierarchy as they could serve under any one of them, or under Liara herself. Typically they serve directly under the highest ranking individual in their current location, whoever that may be. Often, they work alone, and they are almost always above Laborers and Guards. There are three general positions, although these have rank structures of their own:

  • ·        Master - Responsible for the animals, particularly Horses and Oxen, but there is at least one Master for any animal in Merchant Guild possession. If the Master demands a Grand Caravan be stopped in order to water the Horses, even a Grand Ambassador must listen. They put the needs of the animals under their care before their own. While the position may seem menial, Masters are afforded great prestige, as the entire organization depends on the animals in their care.

  • ·        Dancer - Responsible for the defense of the Guild as a whole, Dancers are more than simple guards - they are trained in the Great Dance. Although there are a wide variety of Dancers, the most common are Sword Dancers, who specialize in traditional combat, Lance Dancers, specializing in Cavalry, and Shield Dancers, who actually specialize in defending against Magic users. No Caravan departs without at least a few Dancers, who coordinate the Guards and take control of the entire Caravan if a military emergency emerges. Shield Dancers have a strong tendency to cause friction with the Mage's Guild, as they tend to take a no-nonsense approach to the magic addicted chaos masters.

  • ·        Artisan - An Artisan can come from any background, as long as they are particularly dedicated to perfecting their craft. Classic art, particularly sculpting, is emphasized, but Artisans specialize in most forms of art and finely crafted luxury goods. The uniting ideology behind the Artisans is that they are working toward perfection, and selling special goods and art across Desylinn. Even the Dwarves are beginning to recognize the quality work coming from the Artisan Merchants. This portion of the Merchants Guild has been growing the most rapidly in recent years.

Finally, there are two secret organizations within the Merchants Guild. The public is universally ignorant of these groups, and most Guild members are unaware. These groups run clandestine operations and reports go directly to Liara. Small, tight units ensure loyalty and prevent infiltration, even by the Music Guild. Liara employs these secret groups to gather the two things she needs most - useful secrets and useful individuals:

  • ·        The Seekers - this group specializes in finding special individuals across Desylinn that can serve the Guild, testing them, and bringing them into the Guild. The most common positions they recruit for are Artisans and Dancers, although they find people for every position in the Direct Hierarchy as well. Not content to simply offer jobs, they usually resort to secretive tests for potential recruits, including posing as clients, burning down nearly completed projects, and seeking apprenticeships. Only if the candidate passes are they approached about the Guild.

  • ·        The Whispers - little is known of this group, save that they serve the Master of Whispers as her eyes, ears, mouthpiece, hands, blades, songs, coins, and more.
The Merchants are a force of stability in the chaos-riddled madness of Hub, embracing flexibility and encouraging both ambition and altruism. Not everyone in Hub shares their vision, and the Merchant's relations with the other guilds range from carefully manufactured agreements to hidden hostilities. They tend to get along best with the Blacksmith's, as they agreed not to poach Smiths and in exchange spread valuable items across Desylinn. With the Mages, relations vary from day to day, depending on who has power within their chaotic organization. The Workman's Guild and the Merchants once had a terrible relationship, with Artisan's pulled from the Workman's. This led to one of the worst riots in the Hub's history, prompting Liara to alter her approach to the volatile democratic guild. Now the Merchants acquire the best goods for sale, typically without significant haggling, and the Seekers avoid poaching from the Workman's Guild. Liara sees the Musicians as an abomination, and has her Whispers waging a secret war to have them eliminated - or at least removed from their prestigious position as one of the Five Guilds.