The Guildersligue is an association of traders, bankers, and artisans that was first created to solve a major problem on Gahla - the challenge of converting wealth into portable form. While the Prospero Consortium takes a more aggressive and adventurous approach to money-making, the Guildersligue prefers the long slow game.
In the skies, money never rests. As with everything else, it must be frequently relocated from one ayrland to another. The constant yearly shuffling of available biomes, and their respective resources, keeps the markets on their toes. Metal is valuable, to be sure, but so are gems, pearls, brightseeds, spice vials, dyes, inks, shells, and ammunition. Cultures trade in different currencies whose exchange rates are hard to peg, and while metal coins might serve in small amounts, the truly wealthy cannot afford to keep all their riches in such a bulky form.
So there is plenty of profit to be made, from the safety and comfort of civilization, by simply knowing the value of one thing versus another. Even better if one can effectively communicate it to all the parties who wish to engage in commerce with the proper information in hand. It is a truism that every time an item changes hands, the specter of distrust pockets a tax on the exchange. There is always a middleman, even if people refuse to admit it. The Guildersligue sees no reason why they shouldn't be the ones picking up the slack.
The Value Theory of Labor
The novice economist will point out that the price of an item can be arrived at organically, conveniently waiting at the crossroads of supply and demand. But this is a facile point. The Guildersligue tackles the more important question: how can gahls determine how vigorously to demand a thing, if no one is there to tell them how much they're supposed to value it?
Imagine that a legendary abstract painter pours their blood, sweat, and tears into producing their life's crowning opus. Is the product any less a masterpiece if no one who beholds it is learned enough to recognize the painting as more than a child's idle scrawling? And how are folk to know that they should not allow themselves to be swindled by the upstart hack that simply copies the techniques pioneered by the original? Clearly, the value of a thing is a very different metric than its price, or even its physical composition.
So what makes a finely crafted ring, a perfectly balanced rapier, an exquisitely tuned music box, or an elegantly shaped ballgown, worth more than the sum of its materials? Obviously, it is the value that is added by its creator, and not all creators are created equal. Value, according to the ligue, is a product of time, skill, and rarity, all of which can be measured and graded, but only through the coordinated effort of hundreds of agents and appraisers, guildmasters and licensing bureaus, spread through the skies.
It is the difficulty of the licensing process that gives a craftsman the right to charge a sum commensurate to their rank. It is the trust cultivated by the ligue that allows a simple paper note to substitute for hard currency. And without a certificate of authenticity to accompany a one-of-a-kind treasure, even gold is hardly worth its weight in gold.
To accomplish its mission, the ligue maintains chapterhalls in every town of note. The chapterhalls are built for negotiation, leisure, and cultural appreciation. Every chapterhall is different, and each takes pride in showing off the unique talents and styles of the local guildmasters and ayrchitects.
The chapterhalls offer currency exchange services, banking and secure storage, escrow, legal representation, and loan servicing. In larger cities, they may even be attached to a hotel where notable figures rest in luxury and comfort when they travel. These are where one goes to lounge, and gamble, and network with individuals who are often as interesting as they are dangerous, in one way another.
They are typically built downwards, so that they are more difficult to infiltrate, with each descending level drawing a higher level of scrutiny upon the visitor. At the very bottom is the master vault, which is only accessed by the highest ranking members of the ligue. Inside a chapterhall, weapons are strictly forbidden, as are outside clothes, regardless of the visitor's status. Beyond the welcoming hall on the top level, where the most casual of business is managed, one may not proceed without first going through the changing rooms.
There, disciplined teams of eerily silent footmen and handmaidens help the visitor secure their clothing and belongings. These are placed in a locker to prevent the smuggling in of anything that might aid in trickery or violence. They are then granted a wrapped garment such as a toga, sari, or a yukata. This puts most members on an even playing field in terms of fashion, although a member of deep enough pockets may commission a guild tailor to craft a custom garment. Since it must still be stored and used exclusively within the chapterhall, this is one of those expenses that is typically considered a "power move".
The older members of the ligue frown at these displays of extravagance. This shrinking minority clings on to memories of a time when, as they tell it, the ligue held fast to traditions that reminded us that all gahls are created equal, differentiated only through deed and reputation. Money, they say, is to be treated as an extension of one's very will, and that a person is ultimately responsible for the consequences of where their money is spent. It is thus to be conservatively invested for the betterment of one's own community, not squandered on vanity and spectacle, nor sullied by deals with disreputable agents.
Whether this is really true, or merely romantic revisionism doesn't much matter. Either way, time is money, money is time, and times are always changing.