Scarecrows of Nevermore
The Trade Council
The 1st Trade Council
Centuries ago, Inaulia and the surrounding lands were ruled by a cornucopia of feuding dynasties with rapidly shifting alliances and goals. A merchant by the name of Paulus Nyrach was able to take advantage of the chaos to gain increasing wealth and influence without the notice of the battling despots. He gradually assembled a network of loyal tradesmen (later called the Angaria) that provided him with information and supply routes throughout the land.
An increasing number of the reigning sovereigns began to suspect that Nyrach’s intentions were more than just greed; they allied against him under a man who called himself King Agerimal, intending to quickly put an end to the merchant’s operations, but saw their armies dissolve from under them as they discovered that the supply routes, salaries and contracts of their mercenaries had all come into the grasp of vendors loyal to Nyrach.
Their attempted suppression of the merchants became known as the Tradesmen’s War, now renowned for being one of the most bloodless of conflicts in recorded history. In its climactic battle (the only pitched battle in the campaign, and the one battle that finally saw the Angaria working in unison), the feudal lords’ armies themselves delivered their rulers, tied and bound, to the Angaria, without marching a step against the tradesmen. One of King Agerimal’s guardsmen is written to have told his liege “You have my allegiance, my lord; but he has my stipend,” before cutting off the monarch’s head and placing it at Nyrach’s feet.
After this battle, the 1st Trade Council was formed by several respected members of the Angaria as a central authority to rule over the lands that had once been fragmented. It made its seat in the city of Inaulia, Nyrach’s birthplace; over time, the Angaria became a vital piece of this new empire’s infrastructure: building and maintaining roads, communications and trade networks; crushing insurrections through superior organization; and developing ciphers that the members of the Trade Council would use to communicate securely at great distance.
The tradesmen that formed this council were largely merchants, with no knowledge of administration or legislation, and the council’s decisions were driven mainly by a desire to maximize the profits of these now immensely rich businesspeople. As a result, their rule was as tyrannical and arbitrary as the anarchic and decentralized system it had replaced, catering only to the whims of the rich and landed aristocrats close to Nyrach.
The Angaria remains in operation as a courier and intelligence network.
The 2nd Trade Council
Less than three decades after the establishment of the 1st Trade Council, dissatisfaction with the autocratic leadership of Nyrach and his fellow oligarchs reached a boiling point. A brief drought to the east of Inaulia, and the resultant increase in public levies to support the cost of importing grain from elsewhere, provoked a general outrage, and the citizenry of Inaulia and other nearby cities took to the streets to express their displeasure at the incompetence and decadence of the aristocrats that ruled over them. Nyrach’s severe response to the disorder—the siege of the Paleorum, Inaulia’s oldest quarter, where the bulk of the riots took place; and the mass execution of prisoners held in the Horodomor, a stronghold built to contain enemies of the Council—served only fan the flames; the demonstrations and riots became a general uprising that quickly spread throughout Inaulia.
The Angaria, focused almost exclusively on monitoring and extinguishing the last remnants of the feudal dynasties that had previously held sway, was taken completely by surprise and unprepared for the sudden unrest. The insurgents, organizing themselves under a body calling itself the Coalition of Opposition, were able to overwhelm the militias that the Council dispatched to suppress them, who were accustomed to working with the advantage that the Angaria’s advanced intelligence capabilities had always provided. Nyrach and the rest of the Trade Council surrendered to the Coalition mere weeks after the riots began.
Nyrach and any of the councilmen who had not fled Inaulia were taken to the Horodomor to await judgement. The Coalition leadership drafted a constitution for the city of Inaulia, in which seats in the (new) Trade Council were to be chosen through a series of public debates and elections. A set of civil and criminal courts were put into place to replace the summary ‘justice’ that had been handed down by the 1st Trade Council; the first such court was the Court of the Defence of the Constitution of Inaulia, convened to elaborate on the goals and directives set forward in that constitution, and made up of some of the original members of the Coalition.
The 3rd Trade Council
Nyrach and his associates were brought before the court in order to determine their fate; yet even while imprisoned in the Horodomor, the councilmen had not been idle; and their immense wealth still served to procure them allies and sway sentiment in their favor. While the public at large demanded death for the tyrants, the defense was able to provide a stream of well-educated and eloquent witnesses to argue their case. At the end of a full month of closed hearings, the councilmen were set free; Nyrach alone was to be expelled from Inaulia, though his network of wealthy associates, still largely intact, ensured that it would be a very comfortable exile.
The crowds amassed outside the court did not respond well upon the announcement of this judgment; the riots, having only just calmed down, sparked once more, and large portions of Inaulia were set ablaze as rioters demanded recompense from the aristocrats that had forcibly disenfranchised them. Any home, establishment or monument with links to the 1st Trade Council was torn apart or burned; suspected compatriots of Nyrach, and those labelled as sympathizers by the crowds, were dragged from their homes and stoned. The Court had Nyrach taken back to the Horodomor for his own protection, posting an armed guard in and around the prison and promising to review their decision, but this was not enough to satisfy the rioters. The prison was assaulted by angry mobs; the guards were immediately overwhelmed; Nyrach was dragged from his cell, beaten to death, torn into several pieces; then buried in the rubble of the prison as it was brought down on top of him and subsequently set afire.
The Court and the 2nd Trade Council it had attempted to establish were both dissolved, and a new constitution drafted for Inaulia. This constitution drew extensively from records of the government of Atvar, the ancient empire that had built Daetas Angvoran; it defined a highly devolved and democratic structure patterned after the Atvarian electorates. Local governance was left to the individual electorates, who also had the authority to elect representatives for an upper council that dealt with matters involving multiple electorates.
The 4th Trade Council
This government proved to be as myopic as the 1st Trade Council; the electorates, focusing almost exclusively on affairs within Inaulia, neglected to administer the surrounding agrarian regions, exacerbating the famine that Nyrach had sought to forstall with his levies. As Inaulia began to starve, the Council took control of food distribution from the electorates, instituting a regime of city-wide rationing in an attempt to reduce the impact of the famine; the immediate response was anarchy, as mobs form once more, this time tearing the city apart in a search for rumoured stockpiles of grain. No such provisions were found, but most of Inaulia was burnt to the ground in the process; only the Paleorum, now home to Inaulia’s largest slums, survived the conflagration.
The Paleorum still exists today, buried in a warren of mazelike alleys in Inaulia’s lower city; though most of its residents, Inaulia’s poorest, are not aware of the incredible age of the ruins they make their homes in.
An alliance formed between surviving remnants of the 1st Trade Council—the councilmen who had been released by the Court of the Constitution—and some of the factions of the surrounding lands, which had reverted to feudalism in the absence of a powerful central authority. With Inaulia still ablaze, the army they formed marched into the city, instituting martial law and a strict curfew to bring the riots under control. Those blamed for causing the disorder, largely the lower classes of the city, were imprisoned en masse in camps built atop the ruins of the Horodomor, which had not yet been rebuilt.
A new Trade Council was formed out of this alliance, centralizing power once more in the hands of the elite of Inaulia. Lacking facilities to deal with the sheer number of those now held prisoner, the Council began to commute their sentences to debt; each prisoner was given a ‘contract’ in which was calculated the amount owed for crimes against Inaulia, and had the option to either buy out their contract in full or in part, barter portions of the debt to reduce the total amount, or work off the debt as unpaid laborers. A market quickly formed for trading both contracts and labor, promising a way for those trapped under implausible amounts of debt to release themselves from their state of indentured servitute, but the fees and interest associated with transactions on this market seem to have resulted only in the perpetuation—and expansion—of this ‘original debt’ through the following centuries.
The remains of the Horodomor were turned into a monument to Nyrach and the 1st Trade Council that still stands today.
The 4th Trade Council proved much more durable than its predecessors, lasting through several generations of leadership and almost one hundred and fifty years of uninterrupted control. The economically astute management of the council produced a golden age of commerce and diplomacy, during which Inaulia made itself once more the center of the eastern world. While much of the city’s prosperity was built upon the backs of the contracted masses, still trapped under the debts their ancestors had incurred, there were opportunities for the shrewd and capable to achieve great success, and many did so, creating new merchant houses that spread their tendrils of trade and correspondence throughout the world.
The 5th Trade Council
Over time, however, the Council’s enterprising leadership began to lose its way, as its members were replaced by patricians more interested in increasing their own prestige than in building upon Inaulia’s robust foundation of competition and ambition. A period of economic stagnation ensued, exacerbated by the merchant houses’ initial contact with the western kingdoms across the …this text is illegible…, and their resulting loss of competitiveness.
One of the council members, Jarak Avarial, in attempt to head off the great city’s decline, pushed for structural reform throughout Inaulia’s government and within the Trade Council itself, but was stymied at every turn by his associates in the council, who were more than comfortable with affairs as they were. Jarak was able to expand ties with the merchant houses upon which Inaulia’s prosperity relied, but was prevented from devolving any of the Council’s authority by the intransigence of the incumbent councillors.
During an outbreak of the Atavir Pox, Jarak became greatly ill and was confined to his home, where he expired a few days later. His death initiated a series of protests at the Horodomor that the Council attempted to suppress by force. Fearing a reoccurance of Inaulia’s violent history, the merchant houses took advantage of the moment of crisis to sieze control of the Council, forcibly repossessing much of the councillors’ property—including any of their contracted servants, of which the councillors had many—in order to coerce their acquiescence. The reforms that Jarak had called for were rapidly pushed through, forcing the Council to accept the heads of the Great Houses as voting members, and opening up the trade barriers that had frustrated Inaulia’s competitive spirits.
While the lower classes of Inaulia still remained in effective slavery, and much of the new-found wealth accumulated in the coffers of those connected to the Great Houses, the city as a whole grew to new heights of prosperity that have lasted until this day.
A statue of Jarak was built at the Horodomor, adjacent but subordinate to Nyrach’s, to demonstrate—or assert—the stateman’s connection to that founder.
“The 6th Council”
There are rumours of a network of insurgents—seen by Inaulia’s leadership as terrorists and cultists—devoted to the destruction of the 5th Council and a return to the “halcyon”, democratic days of the 3rd Council. These agitators seem to believe that the 3rd Council was in fact a successful, utopian institution, and that histories of the time are fabrications, created by the 4th Council to solidify its rule. The phrase “The 6th Council” has been used to refer to this network, though only behind closed doors, for fear of the Angaria’s listening ears.