The Guild Council
Helleras is administered by the Guild Council, representing the major guilds of the city. Once a guild reaches a predetermined size and is able to pay a certain level of annual dues, it is granted membership; older and more prestigious guilds, such as the Shipwrights Guild and the Merchant Marine have more influential, if unofficial, roles in the Council. There is a general assembly of all member guilds, where they meet to determine the policing schedules and pass various laws, or to simply bring their concerns to the Council at large.
Guilds are important to the social structure of Helleras, even superseding the importance of a bloodline. People, especially those in more managerial positions (day laborers get freer reign to change their guild allegiances), tend to stick with the guild their family is in; ‘defections’ to other guilds can cause controversy over the trustworthiness of the individual involved. Rumors will circle that person from then on, claiming that they are too ambitious for their own good.
Jana Starshine was one such ‘defector’. Formerly a scion of a minor guild of venerable age and minimal influence, she cast aside her heritage and worked her way up to become Guildmaster of the Merchant Marine. She was also a staunch defender of the non-interventionist position during the Sacred War, content to let the pent-up aggression of the theocracies burn itself out.
She did not want to see the ships of Helleras damaged in a war that did not involve them. It was a religiously motivated war between foolish northrons, although it was bad for trade. It did have one positive effect for Helleras though: Ithlon’s fleets were focused on the war effort, especially in maintaining their blockade of House Starglass. Once the war finally ground down to a halt, Helleras would be in a good position to send a punitive fleet against Ithlon, led by Lady Starshine herself. Not to rule Ithlon, of course; it was far too out of the way, and besides, Helleras is not bent on territorial domination. Ithlon, to Helleras, is a blight on the face of Lothienye – no, Beleah as a whole – and needed to be eradicated. Thus, Helleras had every motivation to stay out of the war and play the long game. Following the near-eradication of House Starglass however, she had a change of heart, browbeating the rest of the Guild Council into action. Thus, the Peacemakers sprung forth.
The Day of Compromise
The Birth of Helleras
Helleras is a city of many things. One of its more famous aspects is its festivals. They thank the gods for their wisdom, the merchants for their prosperity, the seas for their bounty. More recently, there are even more somber affairs notching the years of peace. However, the most gaily celebrated of these festivals is known as the Day of Compromise. The name is a nod to the most widely accepted founding story of Helleras.
Helleras is located on the isthmus between two halves of an island to the south of the main landmass of Lothienye. Long ago, the story goes, there were two cities on each side of the isthmus, founded even longer ago by twin brothers. These brothers hated each other, each blaming the other for the death of their father. The towns they later founded grew into cities, and those cities inherited this animosity. The brothers were controlling, and their little kinglings followed suit, keeping their people trapped within an iron fist, soon to be aimed as a weapon at their brothers. But within both their populaces lay a prophecy: that the promised land of Helleras but awaited those brave enough to find it. No one knew what it looked like, other than a land where anyone could arise to power, should they prove cunning and ambitious enough. Their merits alone would award them a comfortable station in life.
This goal was threatened when the twin cities finally declared a fratricidal war that dragged on for many years. The common people suffered as their leaders fought not for land, but for the honor of a nearly forgotten vendetta. Even the military suffered, leaving gaps in its leadership. The leaders who were able to climb to the top were believers in the Promise of Helleras, and sent occult communiques to their counterparts, arranging nearly bloodless coups in their cities.
This would be a new age, they declared, and as such they needed a new home. To forget the pain of the past, they would leave their cities. To avoid the reminders of those horrors, they would being anew, meeting metaphorically and physically in the middle, to found a better, more just land.
This land was Helleras, the best mirror they could bring of that prophesied place to the profane world.
It has been memorialized thus as the Day of Compromise, and is celebrated by a dualistic manner. It is seen as an auspicious – and even more strongly binding – day to forge contracts and bury hatchets. Terms agreed upon this day cannot be changed until the next Day of Compromise.
Once the sun dips down below the horizon, the celebrations consist of symbolically burning effigies of the year past. These are constructed when the citizens write down their grievances and secret frustrations from the past year on paper, which is then used to construct a paper mache effigy. It is also a day when people are encouraged to forgive debts and old vendettas, since they are what led to the demise of the old cities.
Some of the other cities on the island dispute this version of events, citing the lack of these mythical progenitor cities. But the citizens of Helleras believe in the promise of the prophecy, and take it as an article of faith that they were removed once the people were freed to go to Helleras.
The Aeaephoenos Institute of the Bardic Arts is one of Helleras’ proudest achievements. It is the elite college of the guild of bards in Helleras, and holds an important honor in Helleras’ society: the head of the Institue officiates the Day of Compromise ceremonies. Bards in the guild itself are respected for their dedication to their craft, but only the most promising students with the most inquisitive minds are accepted into the Institute; competition is fierce. Students are also welcomed from outside of the guild itself, but those are rare instances, few and far between.
Those who graduate from the Institute love to delve to the heart of stories and legends from ages past. The majority view all stories as part of a larger, objective ‘Truth’ that mortals will never truly comprehend, so they find a facet of the story and help suss out its beauty through this lens. Few of the graduates stay in Helleras for long, preferring to spread their name and the reputation of the Institute far and wide. A benefit of this is their ability to bring back a wide variety of tales, truths and songs back to the Institute, should they choose to become a teacher there.