Friday, 25 April 2014

T is for the Ten

Often has the actions, motivations and movements of the Directorate been discussed thus far, but an explanation of what it actually is has yet to be given. I shall remedy that now... Please be advised that this is a very long article, and in fact took several days to write, which has caused it to be late. I do apologise for this. I wont be able to catch up the difference today, but perhaps later this month I will make a double post one day to fix it all up.

Marienburg's politics are handled by a council known as the Stadsraad, a bi-house parliament which meets to debate and discuss the minutiae of Wasteland affairs - from the prices on various bridge taxes, to the exact nature of minor and ancient laws.

The Stadsraad is made up of two houses, as mentioned, with the upper house (the Rijkskamer) being comprised of the priests of all the recognised cults, the deans of the various university schools, and a few remaining nobility who held on to power by selling out their fellows. It meets very rarely, and when it does, it is presided over by the Staadtholder - the elected president of the Stadsraad.

The lower house - the Burgerhof - is a rowdy collection of the heads of each Guild, and the aldermen elected by the householders of each Ward and prominent Wasteland town. It officially meets weekly (with minor matters being presented daily) in loud debates and often fist-fights. It is overseen by Speaker Nieut Gyngrijk, a defacto Judge/Peacekeeper, who is a favourite with the working class, and is very slow to break up fights when they serve his purpose.

Above the Stadsraad is the Directorate proper - the executive council. Any laws or decisions passed by the Stadsraad then pass through the Directorate, and vice versa (though there has never been a recorded 'Nay' vote from a decree passing through from the Directorate). The Directorate itself meets weekly in the New Palace, and its members are made up of the High Priests of Manaan, Verena, Shallya and Haendryk, as well as the Rector of Baron Henryk's College, and the indomitable Ten. Whilst the Directorates sessions are technically open to the public, they are somewhat of a farce, with the real debating and politicking happening behind closed doors, and the decisions just being presented at the meetings.

Whilst the priests and Rector hold a seat, each one is actually allied to one of the Ten, and it truth, it is they who hold all the power in Marienburg. Who are the Ten, then? Well, they are the heads of each of the ten richest families in the city. Whilst it is possible for these positions to change, they haven't done so for the past 17 years.

The Ten, as they currently stand, are listed below in no particular order:

House van de Kuypers, lead by Jaan van de Kuypers sits as the richest House in the Ten, and is the real power broker of the city, with all acts either being presented by them for their interests, or against them by the other Houses to attempt to topple their monopoly. Collectively, through his agents and allies, he commands a block of 8 votes - which is exactly enough to break any ties. Among his allies are House van Raemerswijk, van Scheldt, den Euwe and Rothemuur. He also commands the admiration from the High Priests of Haendryk and Verena, and the suppose of the Rector of Baron Henryk's as the man is his cousin. They have the widest trade interests, stretching from Averland corn futures, to medicines from Cathay, and all the way to the Lustrian trade.

House van Onderzoeker, lead by Thijs "the Lesser", is currently in a state of decline, as the recently deceased Rembrand van Onderzoeker (father of Thijs) placed the house heavily in debt due to mostly losing court cases. Rembrand attempted to aggressively cut out the middleman with the continental trade routes with the Empire and the Dwarves further inland. As such, the house has lost its allies in House Fooger, and can only call House van den Nijmenk their friends. Due to this decline, they may find themselves ousted from a position on the Directorate. But, even if they fall, Thijs is determined to take House van Haagen with him, as he is certain that they in fact murdered his father.

House de Roelef, lead by Clotilde de Roelef, which is actually the only remaining noble family to have succeeded in business and who won their security after the fall of the Baron. They won their seat again on the Directorate with the fall of House Akkerman, when they were revealed to be Slaaneshi cultists. Clotilde is still unmarried at 47, and spurns all suitors, including Jaan van de Kuypers. They trade mostly in luxury imports from Araby, Tilea and Estalia, and export Imperial cloth, liquors, and Wasteland lace. She counts among her friends several Arabyan, Tilean and Estalian rulers, as well as most of the other Directorate members (excluding Jaan, who she holds nothing but disgust for). She is particularly close with Arkat Fooger.

House van Haagen, lead by Leo van Haagen, is the second wealthiest of the Ten. They trade extensively in continental affairs, which causes nothing but hot blood between them and House van Onderzoeker. However, their wealth far outweighs their products' value, which has caused some to speculate that they are more heavily involved with smuggling than first expected. They have even been known to call for bans on products, only to secretly be smuggling them in for a higher price. Further rumours claim that they might even be involved in the illegal body-trade of slavery! Stranger still, they have no standing friendships on the Directorate - with almost every house openly despising them. Yet, somehow, every time they call for a vote they just narrowly win...

House van Scheldt, lead by Wessel van Scheldt, is concerned chiefly with fishing and fish-packing. They have managed to set every fisherman in the city either in debt or indentured to them through rather nasty tactics. As such, the vast majority of fishermen have to sell their catch to them at a reduced price to await salting and packing. These fish are then exported to Kislev, or the Empire. A recent attempt on Wessel's life has lead him to become a shut-in - only leaving his manse for Directorate meetings. As such, his influence is dwindling, and the lack of an heir is even more concerning. Whilst he still holds the alliance with van de Kuypers, Raemerswijk, den Euwe and Rothemuur, his paranoia and grim prospects have meant that few even on the council listen to him any more.

House van Raemerswijk, lead by Luitpold van Raemerswijk (the current Staadtholder), is a puppet house. Luitpold, known as the "old bull seal" for his girth and great moustache, was chosen for the role precisely because he wanted it, and because everyone knew that he wouldn't know what to do with it. He is happy to sit and preside over things whilst not actually taking an active or aggressive interest in them himself. the house doesn't actually trade in anything itself, but is the junior partner in several ventures in the city and Old World at large, where their sponsorship gains them profits. Their ties to House van de Kuypers are so close that some have renamed the house van Raemerkuypers. Luitpold has never failed to cast his tie breaking vote with his allies.

House Fooger, lead by Arkat Fooger, holds all ties to the Dwarven trade routes deeper into the Old World and beyond (a fact which has caused conflict with van Onderzoeker). They also control the letting of public works contracts, which has made them a favourite with Lea-Jan Cobbius and his guild. The house holds close ties with no particular other house, as they are traditionally close to their chest in the Dwarven fashion, but Arkat has been courting an alliance with House de Roelef.

House van den Nijmenk, lead by Sasha van den Nijmenk, whose line is a mix from Kislev and Norsca. Sasha was forced to take over the family interests and abandon his sea-faring ways when the rest of his line met unfortunate ends during the previous decade of war and strife. Now, he is resigned to picking up the pieces and staying in Marienburg to oversee them. The house has great contacts up and down the River Lynsk, and Sasha calls King Naranbaatar I ni Praag his close and personal friend. They mainly trade in rich amber, furs, gems, and other products unique to Kislev and Norsca. The house is particularly famous for the wondrous unique goods it brings back from its many expeditions into the two snow-bound countries.

House den Euwe, lead by Karl den Euwe, is the smallest of the Ten, but has made its sizeable wealth through the trade of gems, precious metals and alchemical ingredients, all of which are sourced from their extensive trade network in Cathay and Nippon. These trade networks have given the house much prestige in the Empire, as many nobles will only purchase their diamonds and other rarities from the house. Furthermore, the White, Gold and Blue colleges purchase all their alchemical ingredients and magical accoutrements from the house, and eagerly await the trade in magical grimoires that has been promised from the East. This patronage has made the house strong, and made Karl bold. Karl, despite being an ally of Jaan van de Kuypers, fears the man's reach, and has begun amassing a secret counter-balance alliance of the Foogers, van den Nijmenks, de Roelefs, van Onderzoekers, and the Cult of Shallya.

House Rothemuur, lead by Maximilian Rothemuur, concentrates its trade on Araby and the New World markets. The former has placed them in contention with the de Roelefs, whilst the latter is done with support of the van de Kuypers. The house also holds significant ties to the Sea Elves, which aids their Lustrian trade. Maximilian was recently and horribly embarrassed when he proposed marriage to Clotilde de Roelef and she laughed in his face until tears rolled down her cheeks.

There stand the Ten most influential people in Marienburg - even if not all of them grasp at their power. The movements of one can effect the others, and what may be decided on a whim for them could spell doom or elation for hundreds of thousands of Old Worlders...