The Ordrish Road
Introduction If the Starrander Road in Arc is the boulevard of wealth, power and status, and the Dures Road is an avenue of former glories, now fast becoming part of the city’s underworld, the Ordrish Road is the home of the administrators, judges, treasurers and intellectuals that make the city function. Its rows of small, well maintained stone houses and ‘corner chancelleries’ (a variety of Arcish administrative centre built on street corners, normally because Arcites tend to avoid putting houses there), are almost an extension of the grander government buildings that sit at the periphery of the Trophym, which the north end of the Odrish Road opens out onto. History The Ordrish Road is named after the Ordrish Dynasty of Arc, who, despite their many shortcomings, did more to establish a unified bureaucracy, the rule of law and a stable economy in the city than any other family of emperors. When the empire fell, the Protectors of Arc who replaced the emperors were wise enough to leave the structures of administration they had created in place. Whilst it is unfashionable even today amongst governmental circles to speak well of Arc’s emperors, even the most guarded Protector will freely admit that Ordrian Era administration was one of the marvels of Arcish civilisation. It is no exaggeration to say that the administrators who inhabit the Ordrish Road and who work quietly and anonymously to further the ends of the city are one of the last bastions of order in an increasingly chaotic polity and without them both Arc and the civilisation it supports would face collapse. The administrators of the Ordrish Road follow a set of rules created by Saar Valandin, the first Lord Counsel of Arc, known as the Valandian Protocols. The protocols can be summarised thusly: The Emperor’s secrets are all encompassing - Roughly meaning that any and all knowledge acquired by a servant of the city or created by them is the property of the Emperor (now the Protector), and is considered a secret. This prohibits the servant from disclosing, divulging or using that knowledge without the imperial seal or Arrum. The Arrum is the heart of the city - Each Protector has an Arrum, or great seal, which verifies the documents and edicts they sign as being authentic. Twelve Thaindarrum were created for the most senior administrators and over the centuries hundreds and even thousands of lesser Thaindarrums were created for junior officials to use. Once a document is sealed with an Arrum or Thaindarrum, it is understood implicitly that the creator of the document has been granted the Protector’s trust. To betray that trust in any way will result in the direst of punishments. The Arrum therefore is seen by those who use it as the city’s beating heart, a system that ensures the veracity of documents and that the trust the Protector places in his servants is inviolable. The truth, no matter how dark, is powerful: Officials are encouraged to see themselves as defenders of the truth, and wise Protectors in the past have relied upon their servants to be as honest with them as possible. In recent decades, Droskun Arrand and his predecessors began to retreat from this principle, deciding that it was better to be ignorant of the growing corruption in the city. The Quiet Thoroughfare Because The Ordrish Road lacks the splendour of the Starrander Road or the criminality of the Dures Road, it attracts far fewer visitors and those that tend to linger there are often engaged in the business of government. For the branches of the Protector’s Government that wish to keep their business private, the Ordrish Road is an ideal place to hide. Dissenting Bureaucrats The most important task of the Protector’s government (some have argued that this is an even greater priority than manning the city’s defences), is protecting the value of Arc’s currency. The value of the Levat determines the amount of indebtedness of each Arcish citizen, and the entire economy is based upon this measure. The women and men of the Odrian Chancery work to discover and expose counterfeit notes and coins and to calculate debts across the city. Generations of Ordrians have found the work increasingly difficult following the ascendency of the Oboline as a means of terrorising and coercing the poor. Few relish the burden of deciding that a citizen’s rights should be revoked because of their inability to repay debts, thus consigning them to the torment of the Oboline. As a result, a secret group within the Ordrian Chancery has operated on and off for decades, finding opportunities to secretly erase debts or forge new identities for debtors with which they can leave the city. This group is known to one another as the Black Key Brotherhood, the name being a reference to the sigil of the Ordrish Dynasty. The majority of Ordrians and other workers in the great departments of the state have no knowledge of the brotherhood, but in the eyes of the merchants of the Azure Chamber, their strict adherence to the rules is a problem in itself. The Ordrians and the Azure Chamber The rule of bankers and merchants has deeply corrupted a city founded on a strict adherence to the law. Large parts of Arc’s public and civic culture have been compromised by bribery and criminality. The traditions of the Valandian Protocols have ensured that at the very least, the city’s bureaucracy remains largely uncorrupted. The refusal to accept bribes, bend the rules or give favour to specific interest groups has led to some of the more powerful guilds in the chamber planning their own system of administration. This began during the era of Droskun Arrand, where bodies like the House of Torres would surround the weak Protector with their own advisors. These advisors then called on a private army of administrators and clerks from the banks to do their bidding and to create a parallel system of bureaucracy, which gradually began to gain the favour of the Protector. This system reduced the power and influence of the Ordrians and the other administrators of the Ordrish Road. Now that Droskun lies dying, there is the chance of some respite for Ordrian administrators as both his sons, Simon and Mortymr have no love for the banks and believe in the traditions the Ordrish dynasty established. Marshals of Ordrish The secret work of protecting the city’s currency and its secrets is carried out by a small group of justiciars known as the Marshals of Ordrish, whose waterproof cloaks, cudgels and inscrutable expressions are their hallmark. Like their deskbound colleagues along the Ordrish Road, they take orders from nobody other than the word of long dead emperors themselves. They adhere closely to the Valandian Protocols and will brutally beat anyone foolish enough to offer them a bribe.
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The original Ordrian black key was owned by Traedus Ordrish, and was said to open the doors to hidden chambers where the empire’s secrets were kept. It was a revered item, because Ordrish, towards the end of his life unlocked these secret places for his servants to see, showing that there was no hidden knowledge that he would not share with those beneath him. The Black Key Brotherhood believe that their mission is to unlock not the secrets of Arc, but to unlock the chains of Arc, specifically its debt bondage.