In this week’s Faction Feature, we look at the enterprising traders of the Vastness, the Mercantile Guild!
Symbol: The Swan
Colors: Gold and White
Ship Prefix: GFA (Guild Fleet Airship)
Territory: The Vastness
Peace is good for business, and so is war. No one knows this better than the traders, merchants, crafters, dockworkers, cargo haulers, convoy escorts, brokers, moneylenders, speculators, bankers, and businesspeople of all stripes who form the core constituency of the Mercantile Guild. A sprawling confederation of smaller guilds and market towns, the Guild defies borders and its enclaves can be found in in all the great cities of the region, with Guildhalls in once-mighty Iscadon to the east, Dragontown and Qinjuru in the west, great Cathedral in the Midland Plains, and Nalm and Anvala in the Burren, and even as far north as Qinqaachi in the frozen reaches of distant Firnfeld.
Though its influence is far-flung, the home and beating heart of the Guild are found deep in the polluted, battle-scarred wilderness known as the Vastness. During the Age of Dust, the hilltop city of Vyshtorg, rising like a boil over the flat and drab plain, was a well-trafficked waypoint for traders and travelers making the long, desolate crossing between Arashi and Abermar. Although it was a prosperous trade hub, with its cramped narrow streets and commingling itinerant population it was also a hotbed of disease. The city was wracked by the Gray Blight, a virulent contaigon that attacked young and old, strong and weak, rich and poor alike, producing a wasting sickness and, invariably, death. The people of Vyshtorg were desperate to find a cure.
The city’s wealthiest citizens came together to build a fleet of airships, in a desperate bid to rise above the filth and pestilence of the city’s streets. The weak and cowardly among them simply fled, emigrating to Lake Arcul or Iscadon where they hoped the Blight would not follow. Those with a stronger sense of duty and compassion for their fellows set off as traders and explorers, earnestly searching for some cure or relief to bring home to their suffering people. Eventually a treatment was found, and the Blight subdued; but in the meantime, in their wanderings, the Vyshtorg traders had become masters of air travel and barter, the most successful and wide-ranging airship merchants of the day. As the city grew and prospered its local merchant guild increased in power and prestige, forging ties with guilds from nearby towns in the Vastness and other points along the major trade routes, and finally formally unifying with the signing of the Mercantile Guild Charter in AB 222.
Vyshtorg soon became the unrivalled cultural and economic capital of the South, and the polyglot Guilders today pride themselves on their worldliness, diplomatic savvy, and urbane sophistication. Fine textiles, precious metals, fresh fruits, and other luxuries unheard-of in other parts of the world are common finds in the bustling city center’s High Market, and the deals brokered there daily in the shadow of the Guildhall’s Watchtower have effects that reverberate through the finances of nations half a continent away.
In addition to its vast merchant fleet, the Guild also commands a considerable naval force contracted to escort shipping vessels, defend Guild cities, hunt down privateers, patrol aerial trade routes, and perform other military actions as necessary to ensure the safe passage and free operation of its members and protect the economic interests of the Guild.