I am proud to count myself among the honorable Guild of Witnesses, the final entry on this written tour of Imperial history. Witnesses are the official record-keepers of the Empire, having chronicled the entirety of the Empire’s history since our inception. We also observe momentous events, record battles, produce educational reading materials for the general public, and notarize official documents.
As Sadesthenes once said, “The Witnesses are the grease that allow the wheels of Empire to turn.”
Generally speaking, Witnesses travel in pairs:
As a Chronicler, I am a Reader with the ability to store my memories inside a special alchemically created candle. I burn the candle while I write, and as the memories flow out, I can record my thoughts without any margin of error even years after the events I have witnessed.
Always, I am accompanied by my Silent One, a trained warrior and my bodyguard. Silent Ones bind their mouths to symbolize their inability to betray secret or sensitive events, but contrary to popular belief, we do not remove their tongues. We’re not barbarians. They are capable of speech, they are simply discouraged from doing so in the presence of outsiders.
Guild Head: The Heads of my own Guild are the twin sisters Azea and Calazan Farstrider, natives of exotic Izyria. Though they are young, having risen to prominence after the Emperor’s untimely demise, I have never met anyone so dedicated to accuracy and neutrality. Azea works as a Chronicler, and Calazan as her attendant Silent One, though I can personally confirm that either sister can perform either role. Azea is a remarkable fighter in her own right, and Calazan a skilled Reader and clerk.
Symbol: the Quill and Candle
When I call the Navigators a Guild, I use the term loosely.
Navigators are the only sailors who can cross the deadly, shifting ocean at the heart of our Empire: the Aion Sea. We therefore rely on them for communication, trade, exploration, and transport between the eastern continent of Aurelia and the western continent, Izyria.
It’s too bad that they’re the most shifty and unreliable collection of pirates, confidence artists, mercenaries, and outright criminals the Empire has ever seen.
No one knows how they cross the Aion, with its hundreds of deadly Kameira, its disappearing islands, its unpredictable weather, and its host of lurking Elders, but anyone else who sails far enough out into the ocean either vanishes or returns insane.
The best way to recognize a real Navigator from a faker is to ask to see their Guild license, which is unmistakable and cannot be reproduced. Unfortunately, that only tells you which sailor is truly able to cross the Aion: not whether he can be trusted.
Guild Head: Captain Cheska Bennett is one of the few reliable Navigators left in this world. She owns and commands The Eternal, a most striking ship with billowing red sails and a wake that trails flame. She commands truly shocking prices for her services, but if you hire her, you can be certain that every splinter of your cargo will remain secure between one continent and the other.
Symbol: the Navigator’s Wheel (a ship’s wheel with a single eye at the center)
Magisters are the most accomplished and educated Readers in the world. You probably grew up with a local Reader, who invested your knives and cleansed your graveyard of harmful intent. Most small-town Readers are powerful and possibly even quite skilled.
But they aren’t Magisters.
A Magister is a Reader who has received an extensive education inside the Vey Illai, an extensive forest in the Aurelian heartland, inside what was once the original Imperial Academy. They can use their intent with a degree of focus, subtlety, and precision that an ordinary Reader could barely comprehend.
Magisters are in charge of regulating Readers and the use of human intent, in much the same way that a father is in charge of preventing his children from misbehaving.
It’s impossible for all Readers to study at the Vey Illai and become Magisters, because there are simply too many people with a talent for Reading. And of course everyone invests their intent into objects, to one degree or another.
But the best and most powerful are called Magisters.
Guild Head: Professor Mekendi Maxeus, one of the most distinguished researchers at the Aurelian National Academy, retired from his lecture tour to the “relaxing” position as head of one of the largest Imperial Guilds. He isn’t seen outside much these days, having received several disfiguring facial scars in the Inheritance Conflict five years ago, but he still lends his overwhelming power of intent to the construction of new public monuments in the Capital. He carries a black staff, and I have personally witnessed him use it to blast a collapsed building off a pair of trapped children’[. I have met few heroes in my career, but this man is among them.
Symbol: the Open Book
The Luminian Order:
Ah, the Luminians. A more versatile Guild you won’t find anywhere: they’re responsible for building cathedrals, policing Imperial roads, hunting down Elders, and generally acting heroic.
Luminian Knights, the martial arm of the Order, march around in their powerfully invested steel armor, fighting deadly monsters chest-to-chest. Their swords are bound with light so that they reflect the sun even in the dead of night, burning through creatures of darkness.
The trademark representatives of the Luminian Order are Pilgrims, humble wanderers in simple robes. They are each Readers—some of them Soulbound—charged to remove harmful intent and the maddening influence of the Elders.
The Luminian Order and the Blackwatch have each held a knife to the other’s back for hundreds of years, arguing over the best way to protect the populace, to prevent the rise of the Great Elders, and to keep the Empire whole. Perhaps if one of them would learn to compromise, we would all feel safer after midnight.
Guild Head: Father Jameson Allbright is an old man, but his vigilance has never dimmed in the fight against darkness. He is one of the oldest Soulbound on record, wielding his shining Vessel to bring the purifying light to Elder worshipers and malicious Readers alike.
Symbol: the White Sun (usually on a red banner)
Kanatalia, the Guild of Alchemists:
As I write this guide, I sip a glass of enhanced wine that slowly shifts flavor from cherry to apple to lemon. A cart rumbles by my house, with a hawker loudly announcing his remedies for sale. A quicklamp provides my light, glowing a steady blue, never smoking or flickering like a candle.
Truly, one cannot escape the advances of alchemy in our modern society.
Though alchemists have existed since long before the Empire, Kanatalia is one of the more recent additions to the Ten Guilds. It was the first organization to unify the previously contentious brotherhood of alchemists, allowing them to collectively achieve what they never could separately.
Matches, quicklamps, potions, invested alloys, healing salves, enhanced soldiers, vaccines…practically every scientific advance in the past century, including the advance of science itself, can be traced back to Kanatalia’s door.
Just don’t ask too many questions. A true Kanatalian alchemist can be very protective of his secrets, and you might find yourself a drooling vegetable if you get on the wrong side of an experienced potion-maker.
Guild Head: Nathanael Bareius did not become one of the richest men in the Empire by relaxing on his inheritance. After receiving a substantial fortune from his late father, Lord Bareius went on to receive a full education at the Aurelian National Academy. He graduated as a licensed Imperial alchemist and a member of Kanatalia. At that point, he wagered all of his capital on a single risky investment: alchemy. He opened his vaults, spending every bit he had to make sure that every corner and crevice of the Empire had a licensed Kanatalian alchemist there to provide illumination, potions, medical care, and Guild-approved recreational substances.
Lord Bareius has personally earned back triple his initial investment over the past ten years, and is now poised as the most prominent leader in the Capital. Even more significantly, he seems to have won the battle of public opinion—I haven’t seen a street in the Capital unlit by alchemical lanterns, and no one has died of dysentery or plague since before the Emperor’s death. No matter what you think of his politics, Nathanael Bareius has made great strides in moving our Empire forward into this new century.
Symbol: the Bottled Flame
Of the Cradle series
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