September 23, 2016

Merchant Houses

Politics and Business

Money is power in the Empire of the Seven Stars. Most Merchant Houses are an Imperial Corpocracy, or rulership by the elected officials of the different trade houses who see governance as a business venture and are relatively autonomous from each other. Thus, Jade House, Crane House, and most of the other houses have little control over each other, and power in the house is derived from the merit of the business decisions of the elite.

Merchant Princes and Princesses: Each House has a certain dynastic lineage, and these Princes are highly learned individuals in the areas of economy, trade, and rulership. These are the de jure leaders of trade, but those who show the most mercantile promise among the non-dynastic merchant elites often marry the sons and daughters of princes within the Merchant House. This ensures that each Merchant House remains competitive. Of course, each House is at least slightly different in its techniques, leadership, and political methods, and the particular house should be referenced for more details.

Ownership and Governance: There is no ownership of large regions of area as there is in the Kingdom of Dawn, for this would stifle competition—the owner of an entire city could simply suppress competing merchants and reap the entire coin flow. This is never done for two reasons. First, in doing so, the city would founder from its own stagnant economy, and second, other powerful Merchant Houses would cry foul and move in anyway.

Because of this corporate arrangement, no city or stretch of land is strictly controlled by one Merchant House. Rather, most areas are said to be under a Merchant House’s influence—particularly one of the seven major Merchant Houses. Being in a Merchant House’s influence means that, although another Merchant House or business owner can own land and compete in the area, the politics are primarily determined by the head Merchant House in the area.

Governors of cities and districts are determined by the votes of land owners and profit margins, and within a particular Merchant House’s influence, the governor will almost always be from that particular House.

Merchant Houses are always attempting to out compete other houses everywhere. Business is politics, and should a disaster befall a city, the Merchant House that can nab land and relieve the populace quick enough by spending large amounts of coin wins.

The Emperor: Law, order, and discipline are important to the people of the Empire, and without the Emperor, these virtues would crumble. From a time of warring Empires came the tradition of having a single Emperor that can create laws and implement them as he sees fit. The Heritage Dragon of the Merchant House that has the Emperor gains power from the dream energy of all the Merchant Houses, and can thus aid in the duties of the Emperor.

These powers are limited, however, due to the relative autonomy and power of the other Merchant Houses. Should the Emperor insist on something that is widely unpopular, a quick and successful coup would sure to follow. Thus, the Emperor must be careful about which powers he decides to wield.

A council of all the Merchant Princes elects an Emperor every ten years. If the Emperor should die before his term is completed, then the council of Merchant Princes must elect another. This governing system lends itself to high competitiveness, espionage, and even assassination. Although this may seem corrupt, it ensures that the Emperor is strong and intelligent enough to hold the position and rule the Empire effectively.

The current Emperor is Master Kastagire of the Jade House. To the contentment of most and the ire of a few, the Jade House has maintained the Emperor position during the entire Age of Heroes and much of the Age of Shadow. It is known that the Kastagire dynasty has been always honest, always wise, always strong, and always blessed by the stars. It is also said that a time will come when the Emperor will be of the Phoenix House, and this will usher in a new age of prosperity and joy. How this could happen, no one knows, for House Phoenix is the weakest of the seven major Merchant Houses.

Currency: The Merchant Houses accept any form of currency, as long as it’s useful—they are canny traders and merchants and know the value of most materials. In fact, diversity in currency is very important, as currency for the Clans is different from the Kingdom of Dawn is different from Mezticlan. However, the Empire of the Seven Stars has a national currency similar to the Kingdom of Dawn—they have bronze pieces, silver pieces, gold pieces, and platinum pieces. Each Merchant House that mints their coins has different effigies on the coins, though they all have Master Kastagire on the silver piece as a sign of respect.

Other Merchant Houses

There are another fourteen known Merchant Houses throughout the Empire of the Seven Stars. They either do not hold a strong enough presence in an area already dominated by another major Merchant House, or they hold no cities or major trade centers. Still, they play an important competitive part in Empire politics and trade. Like the Spirit Houses, they influence daily life of the populace and even steer decisions by other Merchant Houses.

The other Merchant Houses specialize in their own crafts, filling important niches throughout the Empire of the Seven Stars. These Houses include Turtle, Lily, Opal, Serpent, Marble, Garnet, Silver, Purple, Ivory, and other houses.

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