Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Strangerside Scholar: Merchant Houses of Everway

The Merchant of Baghdad, The Arabian Nights (1948) by Arthur Szyk
The Everwayans are masters of commerce and trade. You don't get to be the city at the center of the multiverse without developing your capacities in that area. Centuries ago, Everwayan legalists decided that businesses were like people, with specific gifts, rights, and entitlements. One or two Everwayans have even tried to marry one. This isn't surprising or odd at all, since most Merchant Houses are tied to a particular Everwayan family.

Recently, it has been proposed that the Empty Chair set aside in the Council House for the Whiteoar family be given over to the House of Beads - also known as the Little Council - which represents the Merchant Houses of Everway. Why not let them have a seat, the great families ask? There are so many Merchant Houses after all, they need a voice in the governance of the city, and they have so much to offer. "All wealth comes from charters" as the say. At least that's the perspective of those who are already doing well thanks to such businesses.

Most of the great families sponsor one or more Merchant Houses. Each Merchant House has a charter, ratified by the Council and stamped with the seal of the King himself. Getting charters approved costs money. Not official money, as in taxes, but beads to move the wheels as the saying goes.

The charter sets out a Merchant House's purpose, and typically specifies the goods that it is empowered by Council and King to buy and sell. The charter may also specify the spheres or spherepaths in which the Merchant House may operate. Some are quite broad enterprises, trading many different types of items in many different realms; others buy and sell a single commodity, or serve only one or two realms.

One thing is for sure: almost all Merchant Houses require Spherewalkers: as representatives, as porters, as caravan guides between the realms. And here the different levels of ability with Spherewalking really matter. As the saying goes: "Walk for yourself, and you'll do make due. Help others Walk and you'll open the Gate of Riches." 

This opens our series on Merchant Houses of Everway.

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