The Royal Guild of Merchants of Aerdy
Day to day administration of Kalstrand is in the hands of the Royal Guild of Merchants of Aerdy, of which Xavener is patron. Virtually all matters of city governance are administered from the Guildhall, including the Watch and appointments to the Law Courts. In this, the city is a microcosm of the kingdom as a whole. Though the nobles of the realm have a firm grasp of the reins of power, they allow the Royal Guild to administer the fine details of governance for them, effectively acting as a civil service. The picture is complicated by the fact that many nobles, especially in the House of Darmen, are also members of the Royal Guild.
The Royal Guild is wealthier than some small nations, its riches and power derived from the monopoly granted to it over all crafts, commerce and trades in Ahlissa. To ply his trade in the United Kingdom, an artisan must first pay to be a member of the appropriate guild. All guilds must in turn pay for a license from the Royal Guild to exist. Thus the Royal Guild takes a cut of every commercial activity in Ahlissa, a portion of which it passes on in tax to the Nightingale Throne.
Jareled Theldrenn is a feudal vassal of Xavener who holds the Guildmaster’s title as his fief. He is therefore very much a creature of the overking. The Royal Guild firmly backs Xavener, and, along with the Church of Zilchus and the House of Darmen, is one of the three pillars supporting the overking’s vast influence and power. However, there is a pragmatic aspect to this. The leaders of the Guild see that Xavener’s interests and their own coincide. Thus they are content to support him. Equally, because he relies on their support, the overking does what he can to enrich the Royal Guild – bolstering trade within the kingdom and with Ahlissa’s neighbors, in the process strengthening his own position. However, were Xavener’s interests ever to diverge from those of the Royal Guild, then the pragmatic guildsmen would be forced to rethink their unconditional enthusiasm for the Nightingale Throne.
Overseen by the Royal Guild, the Watch maintains strict order in Kalstrand. Judges of the Sessions pay lip-service to the ancient and equitable Code of Laws of Schandor Lawgiver. However, in practice the degree to which the law is enforced depends on the relative wealth of the perpetrator and the victim. Wealthy princes and merchants have little to fear, unless they harm a more powerful personage. Thieves are tolerated, provided they are local, don’t get caught and don’t ruin anyone of importance with their activities. However, the poor can expect to suffer the full weight of the law. Foreign lawbreakers (especially thieves) endure severe punishments, ranging from crippling fines for minor offences to lifelong indentured servitude or execution for more serious crimes.
In the Free City of Greyhawk: Ahlissan Merchants’ Headquarters is a huge, four-story block of offices that is rented by the Royal Guild of Merchants of Aerdy, the only official guild of traders in the United Kingdom of Ahlissa. The Royal Guild has held a monopoly over nearly all trade in the Great Kingdom lands since the Turmoil Between Crowns over 150 years ago, when House Darmen cast its lot with House Naelax (Ivid I). House Darmen was then given the authority to license and regulate all trade and crafts guilds in the Great Kingdom, and it formed the Royal Guild to oversee its immense operations. The guild is not evil in the main, and it is heavily backed by the Ahlissan priesthood of Zilchus. However, the Royal Guild is wealthy beyond the wildest dreams of the guilds in Greyhawk, and it has huge landholdings in Ahlissa. The current Overking of the United Kingdom, Xavener I, is the leader of House Darmen, and he receives a part of its profits.
When the United Kingdom of Ahlissa was formed, many in the west did not trust it, fearing it would be as bad as the old Great Kingdom. This has not proven true (so far), and Overking Xavener has granted permission for the Royal Guild to seek markets in those lands that allow it. With grave misgivings, the Directing Oligarchy allowed the Royal Guild to rent a large building in the Foreign Quarter for its operations, for an absurdly high rent. The Royal Guild paid the fee for 10 years in advance from its petty cash reserves, to the Oligarchy’s astonishment and horror, and took up residence within a month. The building is still in chaos, with Ahlissan merchants arguing with architects and engineers over how their offices should be set up, but it has already begun to serve as the hub of Ahlissan business west of the Nyrond/Ahlissan border.