Of Ivy and Ash
The Guild is the largest business venture and trade organization in all Creation. The Guild dominates the 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, it trades in goods from all corners of Creation, and even the Blessed Isle itself. The Guild is one of the farthest reaching institutions and links the lands of Creation, providing stability in an uncertain world.
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.
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
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.
The Guild can threaten the Exalted because of one simple realization: they are human. Just like any other client, the Exalted have weaknesses that can be exploited: a love of vice, dependency on an infrastructure to maintain their holdings, friends and family less powerful than themselves, an inability to be everywhere at once. The Exalted are not immune to temptation, extortion, or simply by fear. What they care for can be used against them. The Guild does not hate the Exalted though, rather they seek to treat them on their own terms, from a position of strength.
More often than not, the Guild will seek to offer power to the newly-returned Solars. A Solar who rejects their offers might not be attacked by the Guild, but will have to watch as a rival takes the Guild’s offer. That the Guild can put the Solar’s enemies high above them can give pause to even the most virtuous Lawgiver.