Exploration Alliance

Patience is bitter, but her fruit is sweet

Out of a side door came a woman in a gray cloak. Her upper face was covered with a black ball mask with attached veil, its upper half made from stiffened linen, the lower half thick black cotton bordered with cheap lace. Aside from the lace, only a small diamond-shape on the cotton decorated the mask. Her right eye shone bright green, which some would recognise as a typical cheap contact, worn by those on a budget trying to resemble the upper class. Her left eye she kept closed, as she walked through the alleyways at a brisk pace.   Her path took her through a labyrinth of inner streets, yet she walked as someone who knew exactly where she was going. Then, just as suddenly as she had appeared in the backstreets, she disappeared into an alcove, entering a door that was impossible to spot unless one stood directly in front of it.   As soon as she entered the building, she closed her right eye and opened her left, allowing her to instantly adjust to the bright lights. A red-eyed butler greeted her, wearing a similar veiled mask, his entirely silver, with two crossed daggers as its sole decoration. She nodded to him. "Daggers are cheap, but a good knife is priceless."   He smiled and responded, "A cloak is more valuable when dyed properly." Her open eye narrowed, an instinctive gesture she quickly disguised by turning it into a blink. His response should have been an acknowledging of her identity. Instead, he indicated there was an extra guest attending the meeting.   The past seven seasons, she had attended fifteen of these Alliance meetings. In those, she had met with three different Alchemists and four different Graycloaks. For someone else to appear now, without any advanced warning, the only reasonable explanation would be Coin, the Graycloak leader. As to why Coin had come, that she needed to find out.   She chose her words carefully to lure out a response. "The smartest will coordinate with the sky?" Looking closely at the butler's eyes, she saw them widen in surprise before recovering. His subsequent nod was all she needed to confirm her suspicion.   The butler directed her to a meeting room, where three people were waiting. From the Alchemists, there was a woman with four small alabaster stones woven into her mask, and subtle brown contacts in her eyes. From the Graycloaks, she saw a man with a thin layer of brass decorating the edge of the linen, who was wearing similar subtle contacts. The last person was Coin, wearing a fully-gray mask decorated with a single embroidered coin. Her left eye was deep blue, her right eye she kept closed.   The woman nodded at the three. "The tide comes in treacherously quick tonight." She saw Alabaster and Brass stiffen, for those words were not what they had expected. She should have greeted them with "the dark came far too quick tonight". Instead, she indicated Coin's presence was an unexpected danger that could sweep them away.   But Coin smiled faintly before responding. "Even dangerous tides can be fortuitous." An acknowledgement, and a clear declaration of her intent. The woman nodded, satisfied with this answer. Had Coin provided the normal response, it would have indicated duress, or nearby snooping ears. Improvising along meant all was well. As such, it seemed Coin was here because she had heard of the recent positive results, and had come to personally get involved with the next phase.   With the exchange of keyphrases out of the way, the meeting went into veiled discussing of results and future steps. Had there been anyone eavesdropping, all they would have heard were vague terms that sounded like weird business deals and gossip. But those present discussed the big success of the new steamships, and all agreed to send one on a trial-trip to Goldrock.   After the meeting, each participant went their own way. The woman was second to leave, switching eyes again before navigating the maze of inner streets. Entering a completely different building than she had originally come out of, she stepped through a backdoor, into an empty kitchen with a large clock. She swiftly took off her mask and hid it behind the stove, then took out her contacts and attached them to the back of the clock's pendulum.   She turned her cloak inside-out, showing a far lighter gray instead, before leaving the kitchen. After crossing a skybridge to the adjacent building, she stepped into a busy dining room. There, she ignored all present and sat down at the bar. The bartender nodded at her. "Greetings, Miss Latimer. The usual?" She nodded in response, and the bartender promptly poured her a stout ale. Taking the occasional sip, she observed the crowd while idly chatting with the bartender. Her work tonight had only just begun.

Together we shall rise

Defying the confinements from a judgemental elite, the Exploration Alliance covertly aims to advance society. A fragile teamup of three secret organizations, the Alliance works on technological advancements, with which they hope to develop society and free it from the grasp of the arrogant upper class. One of their main goals is to send steamships on expeditions outside the Grayburn area.   Each member organization has its own motives. The Industrialists, dissident members of the upper class, aim to be freed from the scorn of their peers. For this goal, they skim resources for their private projects. The Alchemist Union, a group of magic users capable of using herbal lifeforce in medicine, desires a safe place to practice and research magic publicly. The Graycloaks, who sell information and courier services, primarily seek profits.   Yet all are united to end the stagnation of Grayburn's society, for which the full blame lies with the Conventionalists, and their obsession with public image. To do so, the Alliance must tread carefully, for the Conventionalists still control most of the resources of Grayburn. As such, they can easily cut off the Alliance from all they require. Industrialists could be disinherited, while Alchemists and Graycloaks could lose their jobs and patrons. So the Alliance members keep up their pretense, milking their opponents while hiding their hostility.   The Gray Church is another party that the Alliance is wary of. While their only function is to gather donations to aid those in need, as has always been throughout the history of Grayburn, it is this charity that gives them a massive amount of potential influence. The Gray Church has the hearts of the people, so the Alliance must win those hearts first, before they dare risk alienating the Church.

Structure

Like its member organizations, the Alliance takes precautions so that exposed members cannot topple the entire organization, starting with a clustered setup. In each city and town where they operate, only a few individuals of each organization are familiar with the other Alliance members, and will only occasionally meet to exchange resources and information. Lower-ranked individuals may only vaguely be aware of the other organizations. The exception to this are the two Alliance bases, Greenbay and the Lonely Isle. There, all work together, though the higher-ups remain masked.

Culture

Secrecy remains a must in the Alliance, with their resources and influence at stake were the Conventionalists to discover and oppose them. This makes disguising oneself very important to all members, so that they are not recognised at a wrong time.   Members will wear near-identical masks and clothing, with only colors and small marks to differentiate between each other. The masks are a combination of stiffened linen for the top part, and cotton for the bottom part. Contact-lenses help hide one's true eye color.   Meetings will follow strict procedures with keyphrases and special signals to verify membership. Voice-changers are often used to disguise one's voice, again meant to help prevent identifying an attendee. If anyone were ever to be caught, these measures should buy others the time needed to get to safety.   While careful in their interactions, the members will all treat each other with respect. Each group has aspects that the other groups admire, all serving society as well as their own survival. Disagreements are debated fairly and even when outvoted, the groups hold no rancor, even if individuals may. After all, none doubt the commitment of the others, and they recognise all have plenty to lose.

Main Agenda

The Exploration Alliance seeks to further technological development, surpassing the societal restrictions that are holding back the next stage of the Industrial Revolution. They seek a Grand Expedition, both as a goal and means. By contacting other civilizations, discovering new resources, and finding better lands outside the reach of the Conventionalists, they aim to rid themselves of the oppression of societal expectations.

History

Isabell Patience Latimer is living proof that a name can be a perfect fit. As she grew up, she realised society was stagnating and that saying so would only cause her grief. Instead, she held back but kept her eyes and ears open, patiently plotting for future days. Her younger brother, Emmett Pleasant Latimer was more vocal about his discontent. Isabell convinced him to be more careful, so high society would only frown at him, rather than spit him out.   At age 16, Isabell received management rights over her first factory. She managed it well, all the while looking for loopholes to exploit in the future. Two years later, Emmett received a factory in the far south. After a few years, the two started funneling resources into covert projects, concurrently recruiting likeminded individuals for a clustered organization. Later their organization would be called the Industrialists.   While their actions remained unnoticed by high society, the Graycloaks did not miss what the siblings were doing. At age 22, Isabell was contacted by Agnes Amaryllis Gridley, the Graycloak leader. Agnes offered services and aid, and in return she sought resources and useful employment for some of her members.   After a few years of careful cooperation, Agnes brought Isabell in contact with several members of the Alchemist Union. After months of negotiations, the three organizations formed the Exploration Alliance.   In the years since then, the Alliance managed to reclaim parts of the lost city of Greenbay, as well as build a base on the Lonely Isle. In the far south, deep within the jungle at Deepwood Fortress, they test weaponry and other new technology.

Territories

Greenbay
In the past a monstertide flood tore through Greenbay and its factories, spreading pollution everywhere. Rather than rebuilding the city, Greenbay was abandoned entirely. It remained empty until the Industrialists secretly began reclaiming it. Now it hosts a group of Industrialists and Alchemists, and is the only shared base they have on the mainland.  
Lonely Isle
The Lonely Isle, located 120 miles north of the central Grayburn coast, had no settlements before the Alliance reached its shores. The Alliance has since constructed several small factories as well as developed large tracts of farmland. Experiments with various crop rotations, as well as food preservation, are meant to help with long-term expeditions and building bases in unknown lands.  
Other areas
Not counted among Alliance bases are Goldrock and Deepwood Fortress. These settlements are primarily controlled by Industrialists, not by the Alliance. Furthermore, the Conventionalists still have significant influence in those areas, so there the Alliance would not dare maintain a shared base.

Military

Grayburn knows no military force asides from guardsfolk and hunters, due to having nearly no history of armed conflict. Thanks to its widespread religious charity, there have been few cases where violence tempted people. The Alliance does have one standing army, but not for fear of guardsfolk. They solely fear whatever hostility may await them outside their borders. To prepare, they have created the Latimer Hunting Force, located at Deepwood Fortress. There, extremely hostile wildlife has proven the perfect testing ground for weaponry and troop organization.   The Hunting Force, commanded by Emmett Pleasant Latimer, has 3600 dedicated troops, slightly outnumbering the local guardsfolk. It consists of ten Years of troops, each further split into five Seasons, and further down into eight Weeks. The smallest unit configuration contains nine Days, as single troops are called. Half the Years are located at Deepwood Fortress, the other Years man bases deep in the rainforest.   Primary arms are air guns and swords, while backup weapons include crossbows, longbows, and knives. Specialist weapons, which only some per Week are trained in, include pikes and air rifles. Both the Fortress and bases are armed with air cannons, supplementing the defensive structures that ward off local predators.   Hunting expeditions and defending bases have trained the troops on how to deal with ambushes, as well as frontal confrontations with hard targets. However, their leadership realises that they have no idea how to fight against an enemy force, which they are desperately trying to resolve. And while they may be capable of taking over a city, the Alliance knows an armed coup would not serve them well. Violence would only turn the people against them, leaving them extremely outnumbered. As such, their sole goal is creating a defensive force to protect the Expedition.

Explore freely

Founding Date
327
Main base
Greenbay   Leader
Isabell Patience Latimer   Alternative Name
The Expedition   Military Level
Semi-professional
Poor tactics     Members   Opponents   Important individuals   Bases     Member relationships  
 IndustrialistsGraycloaks 
Friendly cooperation
The Industrialists know that they can easily deny most claims the Graycloaks could make against them, which makes them more confident. The Graycloaks distrust the upper class, but mostly trust any Industrialist they have worked with in the past. Knowing the Industrialists treat them with respect rather than with contempt, and are a good source of profit, is all they need to like them.
 
 IndustrialistsAlchemist Union 
Careful cooperation
The Alchemists don't fully trust the Industrialists, afraid for persecution. The Industrialists have great respect for the Alchemists, though they still act with great care.
 
 Alchemist UnionGraycloaks 
Careful cooperation
The Alchemists are glad the Graycloaks have never sold them out, but still treat them warily, making sure to leave as little to chance as they can. The Graycloaks don't fully understand the Alchemists, and a lack of knowledge is what they fear most. But they know the Alchemists mean profit, and that they appreciate.


Comments

Author's Notes

Header image by PrettySleepy from Pixabay.
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10 Oct, 2020 15:57

Great entry! It is well-written, and fairly complete. I liked the way you added your prose at the beginning of the article. Not to mention, your page style and layout is very pleasant: I like that wooden effect!

With love,   Pouaseuille.   Feel free to check my entry for the Alliance Challenge! Or don't, if you don't feel like it.
11 Oct, 2020 15:17

Thanks for the comment! Glad the prose landed well. The styling took some tweaking, trying to work out the css here to make it global (well, for all my articles in this shared world) later on.   (I tweaked the css a bit, to make links in comments more readable. Not perfect but a good improvement.)

All my WorldEmber 2020 work, including my main highlights.   Too low they build who build beneath the stars - Edward Young
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