The Old Civic Guild
The city of Hahvrensburg, like many others, during it’s youth was neither large enough or wealthy enough to support a system of mercantile and economic guilds. After the community was chartered and settled by Lord Hahvren, the lord created a Town council to oversee the day to day functioning of the new community. This council’s primary occupation was to arbitrate minor disputes, collect tolls and taxes, and see to the maintenance of the township as it grew.
The Guild itself was born in the last days of Lord Hahvren’s life and was officially sanctioned by his hand a mere week before he passed away due to consumption. The guild was formed from a band of merchants and some of Hahvren’s retainers who at that point lived around what would later become Tollmartyr Plaza. They shared in a common expense, supporting the Civic Guild, and as such recieved preferrential treatment from the guild. The bonuses of being part of the guild were important during the growing phase of the township.
Guild members were taxed at a decreased rate, often as little as half of what others were taxed at. As an additional bonus, guild members had their domains patroled by the then much smaller Town Guard, which was entirely funded by the guild. Prior to this, those who wanted protection had to rely on luck, mercenaries, or the good timing of Hahvren’s retainers as they made irregular sweeps through the town looking for criminals and thieves.
The Heyday of the Guild
Eventually membership in the Civic Guild became a basic fundamental in Hahvrensburg. Most of the peerage was able to make the annual fee required to be part of the guild, which swelled the Guild’s coffers, now at the expense of the township tax tolls. The guard was now policing more terrain than ever, and while guild areas were doing very well, those parts of the township that relied on taxes, such as the roads and the bridges, were quickly falling into poor repair.
The High Guild
Rather than being placed side by side with plebians who were hard pressed to make their guild dues, many of the rich and upper middle class created a ‘country club’ within the Civic Guild. Being part of the High Guild afforded fewer benefits, but by guild bylaws and statures they were able to form their own interior set of customs and traditions seperate from the Civic Guild at large.
For a time, this was not a bad thing, as the Guild itself remained strong. In addition, the High Guild set out on a number of ambitious projects to demonstrate its haute couture or it’s own greatness. Many of the stone fountains were commissioned and built by the High Guild, as were a great number of statues, as well as mural painters and other aspects of art.
Not to be outdone, the Civic Guild came up with a grand project of it’s own, building a protective wall around the grounds of Hahvrensburg. This would make the city safer from marauding brigands as well as making toll-dodging much more difficult. It was determined that the wall would take over 30 years to build, being a thick construction of rubble pile and brick faced with cut stone. The entire thing could have been made of stone, but the cost of the building would have been well beyond the guild’s ability to finance.
After eight years of building, the High Guild partnered with the Civic Guild and the two combined resources to accelerate the construction of the wall, as well as ‘prettying it up’ as one High Guildsman said. This was to have a disasterous outcome. As can be expected there were many cost overruns, labor was not always reliable, and there were construction delays.
By the 24th year of construction, the Guild coffers were almost dry, and the town guard was getting peevish about not getting paid regularly. This was tied in to a revoking of the Guild privelage of reduced taxes as the township itself and it’s council, long divorced from the Guild, were increasingly called upon to clean up roads ruined by mason carts and fix things that were damaged by pieces falling off of the wall.
The Guild Rebellion
The Guild officially ended when it’s last Guildmaster, Atulke Rabanatyr embezzeled what gold was left in the guild coffers and fled during a peasant revolt. The revolt was focused at the Civic Guildhall, and dressed in rags Atulke slipped away unnoticed while much of the furniture within was broken and burned.
Lacking the massive and bloated oligarchies of the Civic and High Guilds, the now more mature market and craft districts and wards were able to organize their own associated guilds. The city council and the current incarnation of Lord Hahvren VIII approved this consolidation and those wards and areas that didn’t adopt patron guilds gained city organized ward guilds that were headed by appointed or elected Aldermen.
The Wall remains, encircling the east and northern sides of teh city, leaving the western side, or the back of the city, open, as well as the riverfrontage. The Guildhall was commandeered by the council and now serves as a public building for various uses. In the city now, referring to the Civic Guild is generally a mention of something that started off good, but outlived its original purpose.