Fair Vickelt and Low Vickelt are rife with guilds: organizations that act in part as unions (protecting their members, providing training, advancing capital, guaranteeing quality, and setting prices) and in part as protection rackets (doing their best to put out of business anyone who tries to practice a trade without paying guild dues). There are also a number of influential groups or even families with monopolies on certain corners of the market. Most of these, such as the Rush-Weavers’ Guild, have a seat in the Consortium, but are relatively mundane. The following are those most likely to be of especial interest to a common adventurer.
House Antsi monopolizes the cultivation and processing of Raptor Root, a tuber which depending on how it is prepared can be a powerful spice or a mild hallucinogen. The family patriarch has retired and runs a tavern that serves its own home-brewed potato alcohol, called Hawksmead; the family’s affairs are run by twin sisters in their early thirties, Dona and Duma. They are commonly suspected to also control one of the town’s criminal organizations, but no attempt to make the connection has ever been successful enough for the Magistrate to move against them. They have been known to hire mercenaries as extra guards for their fields, especially during harvest times in early summer and late fall.
The Beggars’ Guild is an actual organization of beggars, led (and represented in the Consortium!) by a man whom they call the Goden Goden, but whom everyone else calls the Beggar King. Every year the Goden Goden organizes the Rag Festival, when the city’s beggars put on plays and other performances in the hopes of securing rich patrons who will sponsor them in the coming year. Many beggars, of course, also have their hands in pick-pocketing, larceny, smuggling, and information-peddling.
The Collectors are a club of moderately wealthy individuals whose collective hobby is the stocking and maintenance of their own private museum and library of curiosities. If you find something you can’t explain, the Collectors would be delighted to get their hands on it to study and identify. Their pursuits remain low-key, semi-secret and purely academic (aside from the occasional elaborate hoax or prank) in order to avoid the Order’s wrath. But adventurers can count on them to have leads to potential treasure hauls, and to buy up artifacts that couldn’t be sold on the open market.
The Crystal Blade Academy charges a solid price, but provides proportionally excellent training in the spear and blade. Outsiders with especial skill may be hired on for a term as guest instructors; those who show promise in their teaching ability and moral fiber are even, on rare occasion, given long-term positions in the school. The Heartforges are largely retired from public life, but they have at times been convinced to sponsor adventurers with an interest in the way of the paladin or with a sufficiently noble cause.
Lampsonius’ Library is a private library run by the town’s most famed eccentric sage. “Old Lamps” is around 60 but hale and cheerful, a highly-skilled scribe with an extensive library. He speaks at least half a dozen languages well enough to converse in, is said to be able to research almost any subject, and makes the best peach brandycake you’ll ever eat. He isn’t interested in artifacts but competes fiercely with the Collectors over any interesting written text. His prices for research, or copies from his collection, are exorbitant, but the prices he’ll pay for new knowledge are just as high.
The Magistrate does not offer jobs or any particular services to those outside the faith of the Third of Law. But if you fight against lawbreakers or those who would disturb the peace of Low and Fair Vickelt, the Magistrate’s acolytes can be counted on for backup. If you break the law, of course, the Magistrate is not your friend, although you can expect relatively humane treatment if they catch you.
The Order of Magi… is complex. It is one part public service organization, maintaining a sage and several hedge-wizards in Fair and Low Vickelt. It is one part research organization, ready and willing to study local magical traditions in search of new knowledge to incorporate into its body of lore, even maintaining a liaison with the less-hostile Bronze Men tribe. It is one part enforcement organization, using its own resources and hired mercenaries to ruthlessly wipe out magical practices that threaten the public peace and wellbeing. And it is one part meta-church, offering training to priests and druids of all stripes, existing in slightly-uneasy tandem with the Archipelago’s native druidic hierarchy.
Pasti Enterprises controls the town copper mine. Its scion Guy Pasti is one of the town’s few truly idle rich. He is rich, charming, handsome, rich, and rich. It’s said that he sleeps most of the day so that he can spend his evenings going to parties – if there’s no party in town worth going to in a given tenday, he throws one himself – and so that he can spend his nights dallying with women. The Pasti family is always interested in hiring trustworthy guards for its shipping and processing, but the mine itself is left unguarded at night, protected by the widespread belief that those caught in its depths after sunset are likely to be eaten by a grue.
The Ratcatchers’ Guild is an excellent source of income for down-on-their-luck mercenaries. Instead of a regular fee it simply asks a 10% tithe of all profits, and the guild house keeps a perpetual cauldron of ‘stone soup’ warm for those who would otherwise go without dinner. The Guild’s portfolio includes not only the killing of rats and other vermin, but also the training and sale of dogs, cats, and hawks for pest control, and even (for a couple of their highly-specialized members) control of supernatural menaces. Jobs are first-come, first-served, and are signaled by the infested house hanging out a knotted rag. One knot means insects or similar tiny vermin; two knots means rats; three knots means something worse.
The Seaharvest Guild is, technically, a union of sailors and fishermen. In reality its leader, Master Ordus, was part of Archipelago’s fraternity of self-styled pirate kings. Ordus made the wise PR move of only preying on Imperial shipping not bound for Kyper, though, and has since retired to Fair Vickelt to live in comfort. Meanwhile his fleet of pirates joined the population of Low Vickelt and continues to earn him money with their labor. If you’re interested in a ship to hire, pearls, or craggy hairworm chitin, or a job in shipping or as a marine, Ordus is your man. Don’t get on his bad side if you ever want to see the sea again.
The Senken schools are the descendants of a school of physical magic that predates the Order’s presence on the island. Each year in midwinter the Senken school hosted the Festival of Strength, a time of athletic competitions and of free self-defense training for the common folk. Now the school has split into Ocean Senken, emphasizing flowing movements and lightness of foot, and Mountain Senken, favoring bursts of strength and direct, focused motion. Each school is consumed by the quest to prove its superiority over the other; the fighting is worst during the Festival of Strength, when private dueling threatens to explode into widespread street brawling. Each school provides relatively decent combat training, devotees are expected to duel members of the opposing school if an opportunity presents itself.
The Wergild Mercenary Guild charges a membership fee, but members receive top picks for a lot of good jobs. Businesses will hire extra guards or bouncers at times, as will merchants or explorers when who want to travel. Occasionally, a mercenary army will even be raised to combat monsters, bandits or a similar external threat. Those unafraid of a little labor can find work here in construction and hauling as well. And best of all, if you die while on the job, your next of kin get a cash payment to keep them out of the poorhouse for a while!
Out of town
The island of Kyper is miles across and mountainous. Its preeminent community is Fair Vickelt, with Low Vickelt in second place, but scattered across Kyper one can find dozens of tiny settlements, from lone hermits to bands of one or two hundred people who turn from farmers and hunters to bandits and pirates when the need arises. There are also eight communities of a few thousand individuals each that never fully assimilated into the dominant Archipelago culture. They have names for themselves; the following is how they are known in the Vickelts.
The Bronze Men are remnant communities of the Archipelago’s oldest known inhabitants, so called because they continue using bronze tools even now that iron-working and steel have been imported from the mainland. The Bronze Men on Kyper are divided into two main factions. One of these is relatively open, welcoming trade and hosting an Order hedge-wizard. The other is hostile to outsiders, isolationist and mistrustful, raiding when times are tough and vanishing into the ravines and caves when attacked in force.
The Rune-Sailors are a quiet, seafaring tribe whose religious practices revolve around the manipulation of “sacred words.” Although a relatively peaceful group, they occasionally clash with Ordus’ fleet over fishing territory, and will attack anything Castoff or Slakiv on sight.
The Castoff tribes, the Hartii and Scantii, came to the island after the Bronze Men and Rune-Sailors and ruled it for a long time before breaking down into civil war. They have since been driven off of Kyper proper and now bicker and battle among themselves on a smaller island off of its northern coast. They are inveterate pirates, but only against targets they think they can defeat with impunity.
The Mudhoppers live in a marshy area on the far side of the island from the Vickelts. Peaceable and open to trade, but they depend for everything – their livings and protection – on the swamp. Trade with them can be very lucrative, but you have to go to them and make your way past all the others first.
The Ghoul-eaters live in the island’s center. Little is known of them other than that their magical traditions revolve around necromantic practices, they engage in trading or raiding only seldom, and they show zero tolerance to the Order and its agents.
The Redskins are the remnants of a Slakiv garrison… or rather, its women and children. The garrison was cut off from aid during the expulsion of Slakiv forces from the islands, and then assaulted by a combined force of local tribes, warlords, and pirates. The Slakiv men were massacred, every last one, but the women and children were taken as prizes and slaves, and their red skin and gray eyes still mark the community to this day, even as their practices were assimilated into the broader Archipelago culture.