Six guilds rule the Hulder, with some dozen additional minor guilds falling in line behind them; few outside of the Hulder know that the minor guilds exist, much less what they actually do. The six great guilds hold their position chiefly through royal charters that grant them legal monopolies over their respective goods and services. The minor guilds have a charter that governs their positions, but lack royal backing for those charters. For political protection, they typically ally with one of the greater guilds. The guild system has extended to Athral Isle, though these guilds are technically independent of the Hulder. They have slightly different names from the Hulder guilds, but remain on friendly terms with Hulder guild members, rather competing with them.
Membership in a Guild
Joining a guild requires sponsorship from a guild member in good standing, and other guild members are permitted to blackball candidates (this is not common). Most candidates apply to join a guild before they gain the most basic skills of their trade, and the guilds claims exclusive privilege to teach these skills. At other times, individuals already skilled in a trade are admitted to a guild, usually because of immigration.
A guild member is sworn to secrecy on all techniques or production formulas they learn from guild members or develop in their research. Minor infractions against these oaths result in suspension from the guild, such that other guild members may not share their formulas with that individual. This suspension lasts from six months to a year.
A second minor offense or a more serious infraction against guild oaths results in more drastic action; the guild member is forced to choose between the permanent end of her guild membership (also officially ending her status as a professional of that trade within countries that recognize guild monopoly) or paying a staggering penalty, typically valued in excess of five hundred crowns. Mitigating circumstances can come into play here, if the accused can convincingly argue that her breach of oath was necessary for the health of the guild as a whole.
The most egregious offenses, such as betrayal of a senior guild member in such a manner as to cause death, carry a punishment of execution. This too can have mitigating factors, such as conclusive proof that the senior guild member had broken a guild oath or was conspiring to do so. The bodies of those executed for this degree of offense are transported to the Hulder. There are many rumors as to what the guild enforcers do with these bodies; some members recall seeing piles of bones in the chambers where they took their oaths.
The six great guilds are:
The Imperial Society of Alchemists
The Honorable Society of Brewers and Vintners
The Brotherhood of Ledgers
The Honorable Guild of Physickers
The Imperial Scribes
The Imperial Society of Smiths
The six guilds require oaths of their membership that are very similar. Although the oaths are officially a secret, they have leaked out over the years, so that anyone who cares to know can find them out.
- I shall not speak of my oaths to the guild or the circumstances of my entry into the guild, save to a guild member of higher rank than mine.
- I shall share knowledge relating to the guild’s trade and practices only with other guild members in good standing. From those in good standing, I shall not withhold my knowledge if I am fairly compensated and the knowledge is not expressly forbidden to be shared.
- I shall protect my brothers and sisters within the guild, both their safety and their security in practice of our trade, to the utmost of my ability. I shall adhere to the prices set by the guild leaders, so as to avoid fostering enmity within the guild.
- I shall hold my brothers and sisters within the guild to the same standards of duty to the guild and these oaths as I myself am held; I shall report violations of these oaths to a superior within the guild without hesitation. I shall never proffer for sale goods or services of substandard quality.
- If I violate these oaths in the slightest measure, let my life and treasures be forfeit.
All guilds recognize at least four ranks: apprentice, journeyman, master, and guildmaster.Apprentice
- Alchemists: An alchemist is an apprentice until he attains his first rank of the Alchemy talent.
- Brewers and Vintners: A brewer is an apprentice until he attains the third rank of the Brewing talent, or the second rank of Craft: Vintner.
- Ledgers: A Ledger is an apprentice until she clears fifty crowns in a month in earnings derived from wagers or moneylending.
- Physickers: A Physicker is an apprentice until he learns Chirurgery. Note that the teaching of Healing Ways specifically permissible to non-members of the guild, so long as they do not accept payment for that service or falsely represent themselves as physickers.
- Scribes: A scribe is an apprentice until she learns the third rank of the Inscription talent.
- Smiths: A smith is an apprentice until he learns the third rank of the Weaponsmith or Armorsmith talents.
- Alchemists: An alchemist is a journeyman until he attains the third rank of the Alchemy talent.
- Brewers and Vintners: A brewer is an journeyman until he attains the sixth rank of the Brewing talent, or the fourth rank of Craft: Vintner.
- Ledgers: A Ledger is a journeyman until she clears two hundred crowns in a month in earnings derived from wagers or moneylending.
- Physickers: A Physicker is a journeyman until he has learned Chirurgery, Leechcraft, and Studia Mortis, and has completed additional work within the field of medicine. This usually involves curing rare diseases that have resisted standard treatments. Increasing the guild’s body of knowledge with regard to medicine is all that is required.
- Scribes: A scribe is a journeyman until she learns the sixth rank of the Inscription talent.
- Smiths: A smith is a journeyman until he learns the sixth rank of the Weaponsmith or Armorsmith talents.
The nature of advancement, once one has attained mastery, is kept secret, though it is widely assumed that advancement within each trade’s chosen skills is at least useful.
The Security Talent
No single guild has exclusive control over the Security skill, although the smiths are the only group able to teach Forge Magic. Instead, each guild keeps security experts on retainer, and holds them to oaths reasonably similar to the rest of the guild’s oaths, with particular emphasis on the fifth oath.