The Azure Chamber
The Azure Chamber is Arc's parliament, where representatives of Arc's merchant and financial classes meet to debate, negotiate, cajole and bribe one another. Arc is by no means a democratic society and those who sit in the Azure Chamber are not representatives of the people. It was decided by the Emperor Dures II that in a trading city the only voices that realistically needed to be heard were those of the traders themselves and the elite ruling classes. Each of the great guild houses of Arc send dozens of delegates to represent their interests. Typically, the deeper one guild's pockets, the greater representation it can afford. The real decisions are made by the Protector's Council at the Rulderhall, Great Varler Square, and the Azure Chamber instead debates and either ratifies or rejects the suggestions of the council and ultimately the Protector themselves. It is known as the Azure chamber because of the vast sky blue mosaic of the heavens that covers the inside of the chamber's Yerena Dome (created by the Durian artist Yerena in the last years of Dures II). It was meant to signify that while Arc's merchants occupied themselves with the earthly crudity of money and commerce, that there was still something transcendent in their souls and that they could imagine themselves talking directly to the heavens and by extension, to the Keeper.
BackgroundIt was the Ordrish dynasty of emperors who first established the Azure Chamber, understanding from early on in their reign, in the year -2131 that without cooperation from the city's mercantile classes, that effective government (and therefore their own ability to rule), would be impossible. The first Ordrish emperor Waydur Ordrish, a descendant of Dures II required new taxes to be levied in order to defend the borders of the Arc Empire and to control what was left of the crumbling Vannic empire in Aestis. These conflicts were far from successful and Waydur fought more battles than he won. The merchants and money lenders, led by the keeper of the city's silver vaults Lady Y'neran, demanded concessions from Waydur before they financed any more ships or armies. Enraged, Waydur made plans to hang the leaders until his sister Averna persuaded him to listen to Y'neran. She set out the merchants demands and also offered the great prize that he sought, an endless flow of money and resources for whatever wars he wanted to wage as long as there was a chamber of merchants elected to oversee and approve it. Waydur recognised the power that existed in such a partnership and eventually agreed. The political makeup of the Chamber, which was established in a vast new circular marble central plaza in the heart of the city, a stone's throw from ten minutes walk from the feet of the Three Sisters, favoured the finance guilds, collectively known as the House of Coin. Arc, after all, was the world's banker and second to this were the Houses of Sword and Sail, accounting for its two other exports, war and trade. The master of the house was known as the Lord Wreath of the Chamber, a title that honoured the Ordrish family who's crest featured a serpent and a wreath. For the first five hundred years of its existence, the chamber was a relatively passive body that voted through taxes for emperors when it was required to. This changed in -1649 however, when, during the third Arc-Dran War, Emperor Holdaran Hood was killed during the seige of Nurian's Rock and Arc was plunged into crisis. During the ensuing chaos Ryvala Thorn, the Lord Wreath of the Chamber organised the war against Dran, evacuating the armies of Arc from their hopeless position on Nurian's Rock and inflicting sufficient defeats on Dran to bring the rival city state to the negotiating table. Following this Nyan Hood, the emperor's daughter and heir took power and regained the direction of the war from Ryvala, but conceded that the chamber would henceforth have a greater role in political life. The 'Ryvalan Hour' gave the chamber immense power and this was enhanced when the last of the emperors fell and the Protectors of Arc came to power, knowing that their position was far more precarious initially, and that they needed willing allies in the guise of the chamber. In the past three centuries, the chamber's power and the overwheening power of guild factions in Arc has led to a mounting perception among the citizenry that they are ruled by a plutocratic core of the rich and there is much validity in this view. Seats in the chamber are handed down from family to family and membership of the chamber is a guarantee of wealth and privilege in Arc. The quality of public service is questionable and many representatives in the chamber have now been bought by crime lords such as Reyman Carth.
The Young MastersThe young masters are a powerful social group in Arc. They are the wealthy sons and daughters of the heads of the great guilds and they spend much of their time drinking, dining, duelling and offending public morality. They are widely looked upon as lazy, disreputable and entitled, but their influence and power has gained them seats in the Azure Chamber, which are frequently vacant. The young masters have grown up in wealth and see themselves as entitled to political power, even though they rarely have any idea how to effectively use it. Many of them see power as an insurance policy against being arrested for crimes they might commit or against the threat of taxation. Within this social grouping are various factions, such as the Young Lords of the Port, who attempt to take a more responsible approach to their position within the Azure Chamber, but they are by and large the exception to the rule. Currently Harkess Milneran, the daughter of Veyde Milneran the Arcish ship owner and banker is the head of the Young Masters in the chamber, but she rarely attends sessions. Harkess and several of her contemporaries, bored with the life of privilege that they lead, have become dupes for Reyman Carth, the most powerful crime lord in Arc. Carth enjoys blackmailing his young accomplices into corrupting Arc's political and legal systems in his favour. He sees Harkess as a way of extending his influence beyond even that of the Protector, Droskun Arrand.
The Inner MastersThe Inner Masters were once the direct appointees of the guilds in the chamber. Over the centuries, they coalesced into differing factions, sometimes even defying the guilds they were appointed to represent. They are known as the Inner Masters as they are privy to some of the secrets of the Rulderhall and the Protectors and they inhabit a position of seniority and power within the Azure Chamber. There are 405 Inner Masters who have merged into the Protectors faction (men and women who invariably vote in whatever way the Protector desires) which is normally dominant. There are the 'Ledger Men' who represent bankers and money lenders, the 'Barrowers' who represent every trader, innkeeper and merchant and then there are Barefoot Senators, a tiny minority who speak up for the poor.
The Lord Wreath of the ChamberTraditionally the Lord Wreath of the Chamber was the spokesman of the guilds, who articulated the combined will of Arc's merchants to the emperors and protectors alike however, as Ryvala showed, the Lord Wreath also proved capable of seizing control of events in Arc during periods of crisis and gradually became a constitutional insurance policy against weak emperors and protectors. Knowing this meant that the protectors of Arc in recent centuries had to be chosen carefully, as the last thing that the nobles of the Rulderhall want is for the Azure Chamber to establish its rule over them. The current Lord Wreath is Marken Hoye, a charming and cunning political operator who looks upon the declining health of the current protector Droskun Arrand with great interest and also the protector's heirs, Simon and Mortymr, neither of whom seem like promising successors to the old man.
The ScribesUnlike the impoverished scribes of Inktown in Harenis, the scribes of the Azure Chamber command a respect and an income that is evidence of their power and significance in the administration of the city. Not only do they keep a record of the countless daily debates at the Azure Chamber but they are the most accurate source of information about the adminsitration and the history of the city. They not only act as chroniclers of the past but also interpreters of the city's complex legal codes and even Justiciars rely on them to clarify the extent and limits of the law. The scribes of the Azure Chamber are famously insular as they are aware of the propensity for corruption within Arc and know that they are the chief targets for being offered bribes or other inducements. Those that have succumbed to corruption have been able to offer great influence and power to those who have compromised them.
The JusticiarsJustice is administed by Arc's Justiciars, who are stationed in the lower floors of the Azure Chamber. They are investigating magistrates and are one of the few public bodies that command any respect in the city. There are twelve principal Justiciars who are responsible for investigating major plots, treasons, conspiracies and crimes against the commonwealth of the city. Below them are ninety lesser justiciars, each of whom lead a group of 'thoroughfellows'; part time investigators, informants, intelligence gatherers and spies. The role of the individuals in this network is to pass information to the justiciars about any and all threats to the law and the peace of the city. Issues of day to day crime and law and order are generally dealt with by the city watch, but it is the Justiciars who monitor the less visible trade in rare artifacts, the financing of pirate and mercenary groups, the existence of spy networks in Arc and the emergence of strange religious cults and covens dedicated to creatures from Damnation and the strange and barely understood entities that exist in the weave.
Kherrune VaarVaar is one of the Inner Masters of the Azure Chamber and also the Khul's resident in Arc. Coming from humble origins as the only son of a shoemaker in the Old Tannery District, Vaar rose rapidly through Arc society, starting his career as a small time money lender and leveraging criminal contacts until he could build a bank, the Rose House, which looks after money gained dubiously, keeping it safe from the justiciars. It was through this process that Vaar unwittingly banked the proceeds of the Khul's piracy in the Greater Arc Sea. When the origin of the wealth he was administering was revealed, Vaar was at first terrified and then quickly understood that he had no choice than to cooperate with the Khul and work as her resident in Arc. Do you want more lore? Get weekly updates on World Anvil and the Arclands Blog straight to your email inbox, PLUS our list of fifty mysterious trinkets to delight and enchant your adventuring party. Get your copy here.