Here we begin our second deep-dive into the world of The Adventurers Guild, this time focusing on Freestone, and how the city functions after the end of the world.
Freestone’s protective magical wards and high walls encircle a pretty wide area (see the map at the bottom of this post). Even before the Day of Dangers, however, Freestone was a resource-rich mining center and merchant hub. With careful planning, there’s enough land protected by the walls that the city can farm to feed its citizens, and enough natural resources that it’s able to mine for ore and draw water from plentiful underground aquifers.
But even with all these assets, keeping a city alive requires structure: and that brings us to the Guild System.
Civics: Guilds and the Guildculling
Every child in Freestone eventually gets assigned to a guild in a special yearly ceremony called the Guildculling. Nobles usually belong to the Stewards Guild, serving the city as administrators, judges, and magistrates. (The King of Freestone is the official guildmaster of this guild.) Occasionally a noble who shows a special aptitude might be placed into one of the more prestigious High Guilds, however, like the Knights Guild or the Mages Guild.
If a family (even a noble family) has more than two children, the third and on are usually claimed by the Healers Guild. Once claimed, they must renounce their titles, family names, and never take a family of their own. One way to avoid this fate is to be chosen by the Knights Guild or the Mages Guild, who have precedence. The Healers Guild has a limited capacity, however, so even a spot there isn’t a guarantee.
The Merchants Guild oversees trade in Freestone and collects taxes for the royal family. Its members are usually very wealthy. In this way, guild members are sort of a caste all their own: most are not nobles, but not too far down, and are sometimes called merchant lords or ladies. Not all traders are in the Merchants Guild — in fact most are artisans who belong to other guilds — but all traders must operate through the merchants.
The merchants also have a hidden arm called the Shadows, who are shrouded in secret. . . .
If a child somehow slips through the cracks and is claimed by no guild, a rare occurrence, then they become guildless. The guildless are the untouchables of Freestone — beggars and criminals who are reviled by the rest of the city. The only way to escape the extreme poverty of being guildless is to join the Adventurers Guild.
The Sea of Stars, also called the Adventurers Guild, is the most dangerous occupation in all of Freestone. They are the only citizens of Freestone who regularly leave the safety of the city’s walls. Their guild has the highest mortality rate of any, and is usually made up of those children the other guilds don’t choose, or criminals who were booted from their previous ones.
However, because the Adventurers Guild is vital to the life of Freestone, they have a power that none of the other guilds, even the High Guilds, possess: the draft. Once a year, the guild may choose any first-year apprentice they want and claim them for their own, regardless of the claims of the other guilds. This way the guild ensures it doesn’t suffer from a lack of talent. They don’t have to use the draft during the Guildculling — they may do it at any time within the first year, after which they must choose from the new batch of first year apprentices. For this reason, many guilds are very secretive about their most promising apprentices.
Civics: Guild Hierarchies
There are four tiers of advancement within a guild: apprentice, journey, master, and guildmaster.
Apprentice: Apprenticeships last no fewer than five years. During this period the apprentice is unpaid, but has their room, lodging, and education provided for them by their guild. Some guilds have different names for the apprentice rank. The Knights Guild, for instance, call theirs squires, and the Healers refer to theirs as novices.
Journey: After five years, an apprentice may — after passing a test of requisite skill, and with the approval of their guildmaster — graduate to the rank journeywoman or journeyman. Then they begin their “journey years,” a period of no fewer than three years in which they are paid for their services by their guild and are expected to contribute to the life of Freestone. (Once, before the Day of Dangers, guild members actually journeyed from city to city to hone their crafts during this period, thus the name.)
Master: After this three-year period, a journeywoman or journeyman may be considered for master rank. This rank requires a difficult test or project to be completed, usually at the guild member’s own expense, along with a majority vote from all the guild’s current masters and mistresses. Not all guild members will move from journey to master rank. Masters make up a rare tier of the most excellent members in their field.
Guildmaster: Different guilds will have different administrative positions as befitting their needs and size — but every guild has one guildmaster who leads them. Typically, this is a lifelong position. Candidates are chosen by the masters of a particular guild (a 2/3 majority is needed here) and submitted to the king’s council for approval. If a majority can’t be reached, the king and his council may appoint a guildmaster. If a guildmaster misuses their power, or becomes ineffective and refuses to step down, then the council may be called on to depose them. This is a very rare occurrence.
Civics: Titles of Freestone
Readers will come across a LOT of titles in our books. Here’s an overview of the more prominent ones, and what exactly they mean.
Ser: given to knights who have passed beyond their squirehood (in Freestone only men may be knights, though there are tales of female warriors who took the title Dame).
Magus: given to wizards and sorcerers of the Mages Guild (Archmagus is given to the guildmaster).
Brother/Sister: given to novices, monks, and nuns of the Golden Way (Mother/Father to master rank, Luminous Father/Mother to the guildmaster) Note: novices permanently lose their family name when taking this title, even if they eventually renounce their vows.
Lord/Lady: given to nobles, though any of the previous titles would supercede this one. Sometimes merchants are also addressed with this title.
Guildmaster/Guildmistress: Only ever used to address the head of a guild.
Messere: a deferential way of addressing someone; genderless.
Civics: The People of Freestone
While its populace is mostly human, with a much smaller community of dwarves, Freestone once drew in merchants and noble dignitaries from across the world, and the city still retains that diversity. Without a world to continuously draw immigrants from, however, Freestone is more racially diverse than it is culturally. Noble houses may have some well-preserved relics and histories of their origins, but for the vast majority, distinctions like countries have ceased to exist. (This even includes the name of whatever nation Freestone once belonged to.) Over two centuries of isolation, as the various human communities who populated the city were assimilated into the larger culture, some of the rich and distinct customs they’d brought with them began to fade — often to the great sadness of the older generations.
Now all humans in Freestone speak a single language, called the trade tongue, which is represented by English in our books. Freestone’s dwarven population has kept alive a small tradition of dwarven language, though most aren’t fluent.
OK, that’s all for now. Our next post will be of a more mystical bent, discussing the world beyond Freestone, the planes beyond Terryn, and of course my favorite topic of all . . . yesMAGIC!!!!!!&%$($&@($*&^(@