The Guild is the largest business venture and trade organization in all Creation, and one of the few powers that can challenge the might of the Realm. It dominates crafts and commerce throughout the Threshold, and effectively sets standards for weights, measures and currency wherever the authority of the Realm does not reach. Although based in the city of Nexus, the guild trades in good from all corners of creation, and even the Blessed Isle itself. As one of the farthest reaching institutions of the Age of Sorrows, the Guild links the lands of Creation and provides stability in an uncertain world.
History of the Guild
The concept of the Guild was born in Realm Year 88, when Great Forks merchant Brem Marst came into contact with a group of merchant-philosophers in the Lap called the Counters. He put the Counters' philosophical teachings to practical use, and within 10 years, he had solidified the basic structure. The Guild itself was founded in Realm Year 99, supported by the recent formation of the League of Many Rivers, but also by merchant houses from Sijan, Nexus and Chaya. Eighteen years later, the Guild established its permanent headquarters in Nexus and formalized the first Directorate, the head of the pyramidal structure that it had become. It worked its trade-route tendrils throughout the Threshold and solidified its structure, just as the Realm itself was stabilizing on and around the Blessed Isle and beginning to spread.
Over the next three centuries, the Guild grew steadily, and local merchant houses and leagues became absorbed into it while nations and city-states became dependent on Guild-delivered goods and news. The constant battles between the Realm and the River League impressed on the Guild the need for military might of its own, and in response, it formed the first affiliated mercenary companies. It established functionally permanent contracts with large standing mercenary companies and became a military power in its own right. The Scarlet Empress permitted strictly limited trade with the Blessed Isle but restricted the areas in which Guild craftsmen and merchants could operate. She disallowed trade in Jade, weapons, armor and rice, and animosity over these restrictions blossomed into a trade war in Realm Year 416. This destructive conflict ended two years later after doing more damage to the surrounding Threshold states and tributaries than to the Guild or the Realm.
Organization of the Guild
The three main branches of the Guild are merchants, craftsmen and laborers. Anyone who joins must enter through one of those branches and must have a Guild sponsor. Good though the other main businesses are, though, the three effective pillars of the Guild in practice are slaves, drugs and mercenaries.
Since the Great Contagion, the slave trade has been an integral factor in rebuilding and maintaining societies across Creation. The Guild buys from warlords and armies, civilized nations and barbarians, Shadowlands and Fair Folk, then it moves the living bodies to where they are wanted. One faction that does not trade slaves with the Guild, however, is the Imperial Army, as the Scarlet Empress made it clear that House Cynis was to maintain the monopoly on slave-trading inside the Realm. The Guild's willingness to trade slaves to the Fair Folk in order to feed their hunger for souls, even after the Fair Folk launched numerous assaults on Creation, has done nothing for its reputation.