- "The Business of Marienburg, is business."
- —Director Jaan Van de Kuypens[1g]
|Inhabitants||Humans, Elves, Dwarfs|
|Location||Old World, The Wasteland|
|Industry||International trade, fishing|
Marienburg is considered to be the largest trading hub in the Old World and is the greatest of its ports, far more wondrous than even the city-states of Tilea. Straddling the mouth of the River Reik as it drains the mainland into the Sea of Claws, nearly all maritime trade that concerns Bretonnia and the Empire happens here. It is a place of great wealth and great opportunity. It is a place despised by the Empire, despite its reliance on the fabulous port city’s good fortunes.[2a]
Marienburg is vast. It is a bright spot in an otherwise forlorn and wretched landscape. The city itself rises from the foetid swamp that typifies the Wasteland, that gloomy march between the impenetrable Drakwald Forest and the immense Pale Sisters. With the regular rains, sucking mires, and the strange breed of peasants that make their living trawling the dark waters of the countryside, reaching the grand city can sometimes be a feat in itself. A visitor to Marienburg can quickly be overwhelmed by the sheer size of this metropolis, with its innumerable islands, canals, and labyrinthine streets. So large is the city that many of its denizens rarely venture beyond their own districts, and can only speculate about what happens on the other side of the city.[2b]
Anyone wishing to get anywhere in the city must cough up a few coins to pay for passage on one of the canals. Certainly, one could get where they want to go on foot, but the streets are so narrow, so twisting, it’s easy to get lost, swallowed whole by a city that always hungers for fresh meat. Thus the canals are the main thoroughfares and the murky waters, glistening with the oily sheen of filth, are filled with skiffs, rowboats, sailing ships, and even galleons come to pass through the city and venture onwards to Altdorf or even as far as Nuln.[2b]
The facts of Marienburg's origins are all but lost in the distant past. War, fire, floods, rats and even the cult of Manaan have all done their best to obscure the truth. What have come down to the present are little more than tall tales told in tap-rooms and educated guesses by Old World scholars poring over crumbling manuscripts. Marienburgers are a practical lot: their city just is, and that's that. As long as it's a profitable place to be, then how it came to be here is of little concern to its average inhabitant. Still, almost any street urchin will gladly sell a visitor a map to Marius's secret treasure hoard, or showing the vault where the cult of Manaan hid their altar-pieces during the Bretonnian occupation.[1e]
Marius the Fen Wolf (-20 to -10 IC)Edit
Yet despite this layer of fabrication, some accurate facts are known about the city's early history. According to sagas set down in writing centuries later, between the departure of the Dwarfs and the coming of Man, the fens around the islands of what would become Marienburg came to be infested with Fimir. At the same time, far away in the northern forests of the Old World, the Juton tribe was at the brink of destruction at the hands of the far larger and seemingly invincible Teutognens, a warlike tribe that dominated all the others in the days before the coming of Sigmar. Faced with the choice of slavery, starvation or suicidal battle, their paramount chief, the semi-mythical Marius, persuaded his people to instead flee the Forest of Shadows and head west with all they could carry, in a great exodus.[1e]
However they got there and for whatever reason they left, it's agreed that the Jutones were in the Wasteland by the year -20 I.C. There, all the tales state, they engaged in a fierce war with the Fimir, with neither side giving quarter, each bent on genocide. Around -10 I.C., the Jutones and the Fimir met in a climactic battle amidst the ruins of the Sea Elf fortress. The Saga of Dobbe Arend, the oldest known with fragments dating from the sixth century, says that Marius met the Fimir queen in single combat and killed her on Slagveldsrots ('Battlefield Rock'), the old name for the island on which the Staadtholder's palace sits. He laid claim to the marsh and all the lands between "the forests and the seas" and founded his city on the Elven ruins of the ancient Elven city, proclaiming himself King of Jutonsryk ('Realm of the Jutones').[1e]
He saw fit to name the city for himself, and built his tower on Rykseiland ('Realm's Isle'), these days called Rijkers' Isle. The next several centuries are shrouded in obscurity. A column in the crypts of the cathedral of Manaan bears carved names and accomplishments, some of which are still readable. Though styled 'kings', they can have been little better than chiefs in these days, ruling a crude fishing village amongst the ruins. Euricius Mariuszoon and the twin-tailed comet of his reign are mentioned. Then Gijsbert Mannelykheid of th edozen sons in the third century I.C., and his heir, known only as Grootneus ('Big nose').[1e]
Sigismund the Conqueror (-10 to 501 IC)Edit
The Jutones tried to settle the Wasteland, too, especiallythe fertile country around the banks of the Reik. One can still see the artificial hills of old motte-and-bailey forts, some maintained as places of refuge to this day. Small towns and villageswere founded on the Tumble Downs, of which Aarnau is the largest and oldest. None survived any of the few attempts made to settle the Bitter Moors, Almshoven being the last to die. After the first few centuries, these attempts at colonisation werehalf-hearted at best, a bone thrown to disaffected factions or young nobles who "wanted land, not fish!" Even in these early days, Marienburg was not only the chief city of the Wasteland, it was the Wasteland.[1e]
The next time the city enters history with any certainty is in the Chronicles of the Venerable Ottokar, an early Grand Theogonist of the cult of Sigmar. The unknown scribe records Ottokar's blessings on the efforts of Emperor Sigismund II "the Conqueror" to extend the domains of "the unity of Divine Sigmar". While the Chronicle concentrates on wars to the south and east, it makes brief mention of a campaign against the "barbarians of the Reik's mouth" in the spring and summer of 501 IC.[1e]
Mustering a great army, Sigismund is said to have swept aside the resistance of the Jutones and received the submission of King Bram, the Jutones ruler. The chronicler praises the wisdom and generosity of the Emperor, for "he neither razed their Citadel nor reduced them to charcoal, but rather loved them as Children, making their King a Baron and Vassal of the Empire, and naming the new province 'Wessterland'. And so he shewed His Love for all the Children of Sigmar."[1e]
The Raiders of the Far North (501 to 632 IC)Edit
Two key factors shaped Marienburg's early history: the people's growing love of the sea and their contacts, violent and commercial, with the Norse. The Manaanspoort Sea was Marienburg's gold mine - its seemingly inexhaustible supply of fish provided a large surplus that was salted and exported to the growing towns and cities of the interior, while the King of Jutonsryk (and, later, the Barons of Westerland) enjoyed a monopoly on the production and export of salt. In fact, thesalt trade was so profitable that the earliest Imperial laws against smuggling were devoted to it. The penalty for salt-smuggling was imprisonment for life in the dungeons of the Baron. But bright gold often draws greedy eyes. Across the Sea of Claws the Norscan jarls saw the gathering wealth to the south and decided that taking it all at once would be more profit- able than trading for it with amber and furs.[1e]
It was in 632 I.C. that the first raiders appeared, their dragon-headed longboats bringing terror to the coasts of the Old World. In the library of the Temple of Verena, an ancient diary records the fear the Norscan raids inspired: "Merciful Shallya," pleaded the unknown writer, "spare us the fury of the Norscans!" Mercy was apparently in short supply, since this year also saw the first sacking and burning of Marienburg, an event that would happen three more times over the next 1200 years. Not that the Marienburgers took it quietly. From studying captured longboats they learned how to built their own open-ocean craft and tried time and again to fight the attackers on their own ground. Sometimes they succeeded, sometimes they didn't. When they didn't, the Barons would agree to some enormous tribute, usually gold, in return for peace - at least until the next time the Jarls of Norsca wanted more. When it did work, treaties would be signed that provided for trade instead of tribute, the Marienburgers always seeking to bind the Norscans with luxury imports they could obtain more easily than by risking lives in a war.[1e]
The Rise of the Merchants (632 to 2150 IC)Edit
All this bound Marienburg's inhabitants more closely to the sea. With their new-found confidence, they explored the coasts of the Old World, making contact and trading with the cities and towns of Bretonnia, Estalia and Tilea. They even crossed the Sea of Claws to sign treaties of commerce with the inhabitants of Albion, and ventured far to the south to bring back silks and spices from the distant lands of Araby and Ind. At first, trade was run by the noble families of the Wasteland, who were traditionally close to their people and not above working side-by-side with their villeins. But, along with Imperial fashion, Imperial attitudes took hold among the Wasteland's nobles, who began to sniff at commerce and leave it to the common folk.[1e]
It was an unwise move. The new merchants took up the slack with such gusto that successful trading houses soon began to rival the nobles in terms of wealth, even becoming the creditors of those that had fallen on hard times. By the Time of the Three Emperors, the influence of the middle class and its entrepreneurs had grown to the point that they could demand and get seats on the Baron's advisory council, the Stadsraad, which had formerly been restricted to the clergy and the nobility. At first, Baron Roelandius van Buik refused absolutely: 'Admit commoners to governance and you might as well give Chaos the keys to the Old World!"[1e]
The Arrival of the High Elves (2150 to 2301 IC)Edit
He saw the light, however, after the Merchants' Association revealed several past-due loans against the homes of the nobility, including the Baron's new palace, that would sadly have to be foreclosed upon. Not relishing the thought of moving back to the draughty castle on Rijker's, nor of being stuck there again with his dispossessed noble chums, Baron van Buik relented in return for a renegotiation of the loans. The real turning-point in Marienburg's history came in 2150 I.C., when a strange ship was sighted approaching the Manaanspoort Zee. While not obviously hostile, its alien design prompted Baron Matteus van Hoogmans to despatch four ships of his own to make contact and discover the newcomer's intent. Within a day caution had turned to joy as the ship sailed into Marienburg harbour with the four carracks as escort, firing their cannons in salute. The Sea Elves had returned to their ancient port. Having the chance of a lifetime fall into his lap like a ripe apple, Baron van Hoogmans immediately opened negotiations with the Sea Elf Wavemaster, Sullandiel Fartrader. A team of negotiators comprising the Baron himself, the chief priest of Haendryk and the heads of the great merchant houses worked for two hard weeks with the captain and officers of theLughsoll. The result was the Treaty of Amity and Commerce. With this coup, Marienburg made fast its claim to be the premier port in the Old World.[1e]
Imperial Crisis (2301 to 2378 IC)Edit
Crisis came to Marienburg, as it did for the entire world, during the Incursion of Chaos in 2301 I.C. The last Baron of Westerland, Paulus van der Maacht, died without heir whiles erving in Magnus the Pious's army in Kislev. Almost as soon as the war was over, Emperor Magnus was besieged by claims to the province and its vast wealth. The ruling families of both Talabecland and Nordland had reasonable claims, but literally hundreds of petitions flooded the Imperial Palace from noble families across the Empire who sought the office. Lawyers and genealogists worked overtime to produce connections to the House of van der Maacht, no matter how tenuous. More disquieting were the reports from spies that several of the Empire's electoral provinces had begun to secretly gather armies.[1e]
Magnus saw the full picture; should any of the great noble familiesfeel slighted, the resulting animosities could rekindle the civil wars he had so recently ended. It was late one spring night that Magnus received yet another deputation, not from an Imperial noble, but a committee representing the wealthiest merchants of Marienburg, bearing a proposal. Their scheme was simple yet daring: rather than risk renewed fighting by choosing one noble house over another, Magnus could refuse to appoint anyone and instead let Marienburg be governed by a directorate comprising the greatest of its Merchant Houses and temples. Business would go on as it always had - taxes would be collected, trade goods would flow into and out of the Empire, and Imperial peace and unity would be preserved.[1e]
The Emperor, according to legend, prayed hard for several days and nights. In the end, he agreed and declared the Barony ceased, renaming it the Province of Westerland and placing the merchants in charge. All seemed to be in order, and things ran so smoothly that subsequent Emperors came to take Marienburg for granted and largely forgot about it. Whether it was part of a grand plan on the part of Marienburg's plutocrats or simply a canny sense of the opportunities that came their way, over the next century the Directorate concentrated more and more power in their hands, loosening the ties that bound them to the Empire.[1e]
The Directorate of Marienburg (2378 IC to Present)Edit
First, the Merchant Houses gained the right to arm and maintain large private militias, ostensibly to deal with the pirates of Reavers' Point. After the successful campaigns of 2378, this right was made permanent and the Imperial garrison was withdrawn. Playing on that success, the Directorate offered to take over the maintenance and operations of the Imperial Second Fleet, which had been stationed in Marienburg for over a thousand years. The financially strapped Emperor Leopold von Ulhafiger was only too happy to agree, freeing the funds he needed to fight wars to the east and put down revolts at home. Content to leave the defense of Westerland to its helpful burghers, Leopold swiftly disbanded the Second Fleet. Not surprisingly, its ships and sailors quickly found their way into the private forces of the Merchant Houses.[1e]
Finally, the Directors appointed their own excise service in 2399 IC to see to the efficient collection of taxes and tariffs and control of smugglers. Every penny was neatly counted and tallied before it reached the Imperial Legation, while the Marienburg excise men proved themselves skilled at catching smugglers. Some said at the time that the innocent people were framed when no real smugglers could be found, just to make things look good. A grateful government in Altdorf allowed the Imperial Excise Service in Marienburg to wither until it did little more than receive the Directorate's payments. The final break with the Empire came at the end of the reign of Emperor Dieter IV, last of the Unfahigers, who imposed heavy taxes on beer and sausages to prosecute his invasion of the Border Princedoms. In the chaos caused by revolts against the taxes and Dieter's deposition in favour of Grand Prince Wilhelm of the Reikland, the Directorate seized the moment and had the Stadsraad declare Westerland's independence.[1e]
The newly made Emperor Wilhelm III did not take the news quietly. He sent three expeditions against Marienburg. All three were defeated, and the last resulted in the surrender of the Imperial Army at the so-called Battle of the Grootscher Marsh. This also revealed the ties between the Directorate and the Sea Elves, whose wizards were decisive in the final campaign. With threats on all sides, Wilhelm acceded to the inevitable and recognized the independence of what was now proudly calling itself the 'Wasteland'. With the treaty of 20 Kaldezeit2429, Marienburg was free to chart its course in the world.[1e]
- "Of course they should be Directors! Their very success shows they have Heendryk's favour. What's good for them is good for Marienburg."
- —priest of Haendryk answering a student radical[1g]
Marienburg is so different from the rest of the Old World in its culture that it is unsurprising its government is different as well. Since the passing of the Barons of Westerland, it has had no royalty: no kings, no princes, no dukes - not even an odd baronet or two to form a proper government. Needing something to describe themselves to others, the scholars of Baron Henryk's College of Navigation and Sea Magicks recently coined the term 'democracy', meaning 'rule by the masses'.[1g]
Marienburgers are proud to say that they make their own laws, and see themselves and their city as shining examples of how good things can be. "Let each man have his say, let each tend to his own business, and it'll be clear sailing for all", according to a Wastelander proverb. That's how the visitors' bureau says it's supposed to work,at least. The truth, as always, is somewhere else, and it's far darker than even the populace fail to realize. While Marienburgers enjoy more social mobility than their Imperial cousins, the city is dominated by a clique of the wealthiest of the wealthy, governing from the smoke-filled lounges of the Export-Import Exchange with no more regard for the common man than a kennel owner has for his dogs. While a haughty matriarch sips cold Norscan akavit and stuffs herself with Kislevan caviar in Goudberg, families starve in tiny rooms in Suiddock. And in between are all the factions, people who've gathered together to protect people like themselves from people who aren't, all aiming to climb another step up the ladder towards riches of social classes.[1g]
- "Figgers all them roosters would want the best-lookin' hen house to squawk in. 'Course, it's the common man what has to clean up the droppings..Mustard wif that?"
- —Local herring-sausage vendor[1h]
The Stadsraad is the building occupied by the two houses of the Wasteland's parliament, in the Paleisbuurt district. The upper house is the Rijkskamer, a sleepy body comprising all the priests of the recognized cults, the deans of the university and the few of the old nobility that remain. The Staadtholder presides over it on the rare occasions that it meets. The lower house is the Burgerhof, a rowdy chamber in which are represented all the city's guilds and aldermen elected by the householders of the city's wards and the major Wasteland towns. It meets more frequently, and its sessions are marked by sharp debates and even fist-fights.The Burgerhof's leader is Speaker Nieut Gyngrijk, a firebrand demagogue especially popular with the working classes.[1h]
A skilled political manoeuvrer, he is adept at manipulating the various factions to get what he wants. Though it has the authority to pass laws, conduct investigations and set Wasteland policy, the Stadsraad is really just a glorified debating society whose true role is to approve decisions already made by the Directorate. Many of its law-making powers have been passed to the guilds, who make regulations concerning their own trades. Even when it issues formal "instructions" to the Staadtholder and the Directors, the crucial decisions have already been made behind the scenes by the leaders of the city's many factions. The Clerk of the Stadsraad, Ulric Vanden-Bogaerde, acts as the informal conduit for instructions between the Directorate and the two houses of the parliament, and once a law reaches the floor of the Burgerhof, Gyngrijk deftly makes sure that, while the debate flows freely, the votes follow their destined course. Clandestine gifts from the Directorate make him quite happy to do that. The Rijkskamer meets mostly when called by the Staadtholder to veto some objectionable measure thathas slipped past the Speaker's best efforts.[1h]
- "Amazing, isn't it? Rulers of the most complex city in the world, and yet their meetings are models of efficiency and unity. It's almost as if they knew in advancewhat the decisions would be... but that would be dishonest, of course."
- —lawyer of the Inns of Court[1h]
The Directorate is the Executive Council of the Stadsraad, which meets in weekly sessions to make the major decisions affecting the Wasteland's affairs. Its meetings in the New Palace in Paleisbuurt are open to any citizen of Marienburg and its debates are a matter of public record. Decisions are made by a majority vote, with the Staadtholder voting in case of a tie. Its membership consists of the High Priests of Manaan, Verena, Shallya and Haendryk, the Rector of Baron Henryk's College and the heads of the ten wealthiest Merchant Houses. Its public image is of Marienburg's finest citizens working mightily in a dangerous world for thebest interests of all the Wasteland's people.[1h]
Like the Stadsraad, this carefully crafted tableau hides the realities of power.While the seats held by the priests and the university are permanent, the ten chairs held by the merchant houses are supposedly open to any member of the Burgerhof, rich or poor. Since the time of Magnus, though, these seats have been reservedin all but name for the merchant houses. By informal agreement, the heads of the ten wealthiest families winelection at the start of each two-year term, their liberal patronage ensuring that they have the necessary votes. The only way to lose one's seat among the Ten, short of treason or murdering one's granny in public, is to suffer such a reversal in the family's fortunes that one's house is no longer among the richest. Predictably, there is stiff competition among the almost-wealthy enough merchants to make that final leap to the top.[1h]
Most of the time, this is done by means of (relatively) honest business competition, but impatient orless scrupulous houses may use nastier methods to sabotage the business of a Director who seems vulnerable. The Directorate achieves its amazing unity because it reaches its decisions throughback-room deals. Those in the know refer to the Boardroom, the private meeting room of the governors of the Export-Import Exchange, as the genuine centre of power in Marienburg. It's no coincidence that its membership comprises most of the Directorate. Here, and in the opulent drawing rooms of the wealthiest of thewealthy, is Marienburg's real government.[1h]
- "Van Rcemerswijk is the ideal Staadtholder. He lets the Directorate get on with business, while he concerns himself with looking good at balls and parades."
- —Director Clotilde de Roelef[1h]
As a concession to the sensitivities of the Empire's no-ble houses, incensed at having mere shopkeepers put in charge of the Empire's wealthiest province, the Merchant Houses of Marienburg agreed to have one of the Directorate elected Staadtholder, to act as regent "until a true heir to the House of van de Maacht can be found". Of course, no heir has ever been found. The Directorate is careful to see that no one can meet the conditions. The Staadtholder is chosen each year from among the Directors, and has always come from the heads of the ten Great Families.[1i]
While he chairs the meetings of the Directorate and sets its agenda, his role is strictly ceremonial. He only votes to break a tie and, on the rare moments he has had to do this, always sides with the interests of the merchant houses. To maintain this pleasant situation, the Ten and their allies on the Directorate are always careful to choose the least ambitious and most pliant among them. With the considerable perks of the office and the opportunities to advance one's own House, no Staadtholder has ever betrayed his fellows. Among his duties, the Staadtholder receives foreign ambassadors and represents the Wasteland at various state functions, such as the ceremony that officially opens the year's trading season.[1i]
He is the commander of the Wasteland's military, giving him authority over the City and River Watches, the Excise Service, the city's mercenaries and its militia. But these commands are usually in name only, their daily affairs being run by various commissioners, captains and commandants. He can even, in times of emergency, commandeer the private militias and ships of the city's merchant houses and temples, though this hasn't been done since the war for independence. He is also a priest of Haendryk and Manaan, though thetitles are strictly honorary. In one way, though, the Staadtholder has real power, power that a ruthless man or woman could use to become supreme on the Directorate, and thus in Marienburg. In a side room accessed only through his office sits his permanentsecretary, officially known as the Steward of the Palace.[1i]
He is actually the head of Marienburg's intelligence service, the Fog Walkers. Quiet and unassuming in public,few outside the Directorate know his real job: to gather information and take covert action against all internal and external threats to Marienburg's position. He maintains an extensive network of spies and informants throughout the Old World and Marienburg itself; even, it's said, in the mansions of the Directors. He makes daily reports to the Staadtholder. In a city of secret deals, information is worth more than gold.[1i]
Minor Boards and CommisionsEdit
The Directorate and the Stadsraad would be overwhelmed if they had to take care of every niggling detail of Marienburg's business themselves. Happily, such work is best left to those best suited to minutiae: bureaucrats. Befitting a city set in a marsh, the bureaucrats work through a morass of commissions, chambers, offices, guilds, departments and boards of all sizes, each with its own jurisdiction that often overlaps and conflicts with other bureaux, and all of which require forms in triplicate. Some are so ancient that their purpose has been almost forgotten. This confusing system has spawned an entire class of lawyers who do nothing but deal with administrative law - for large fees, of course.[1i]
Because the bureaucrats are so adept at justifying their funding to the Stadsraad (and because these positions are often simply sinecures handed out to favourites and family members),they are almost never eliminated in the name of efficiency. Ever resourceful, Marienburgers have become experts at cutting through the red tape with a well-placed bribe or two, of- ten couched as a donation to the office 'shrine club'.The Board of Public Health in the Temple District is a typical recent creation, a pet project of Sister Anneloes van de Maarel, High Priestess of Shallya. Under the direction of its head, Dr Anders Vesalion (see p.90), it pushes the strange idea that disease may be caused by dirty canal water and insects, and spends much money hiring poor people to scoop filth out of the canals. Its small successes in improving the healthof poor Suiddockers by teaching them to boil water has earned it the derisive name of "muckrakers" from the Physikers' Guild, which considers it a threat to business.[1j]
It also frequently files complaints against the Elf Quarter for its practice of using small water elementals to sweep trash out of their canals and into the rest of the city. Though ignored by the Directorate, its lack of tact has earned it some powerful enemies, who are seeking to have its budget cut at the next session of the Burgerhof. The Commissariat of Public Works and Reclamations is charged with maintaining the canals, the great flood wall and the breakwater. Headed by the Dwarf Waltonius Joken Fooger,a cousin of Director Fooger, it is the source of large contracts for the city's labour guilds and architects. Though hotly denied by the commissariat's public relations office, it is an open secret that Commissioner Fooger favours whoever gives him the last and best bribe, which has led some to call him "Goldbeard" behind his back.[1j]
If dealing with dozens of obscure commissions isn't confusing enough for someone doing business in Marienburg, there's also the by-product of the Wastelanders' egalitarian nature: a proliferation of local committees for each district in the City. Chosen by acclamation in public meetings, the boards are filled with respectable citizens who are charged with collecting funds to maintain the local stations of the local Watch and the Black Caps, and providing crossbowmen for the militia.[1j]
The ward committees have the authority to enact by-laws "for the maintenance of the public good". Rarely reviewed, this has led over the centuries to a mountain of ancient, picayune and often contradictory regulations that vary from district to district, most of them forgotten soon after their enactment. These regulations deal with everything from public conduct to local commerce. The only time most people encounter them is when some watchman or other official takes a dislike to someone and decides to levy a spot fine, ranging from a shilling to a couple of guilders. Few bother to contest these fines, since it almost in-evitably leads to a charge of 'resisting lawful authority' or 'publicdisorder' and a larger fine, a day in the stocks or even a beat-ing. That the money collected often winds up in the pockets of the watchman rather than the ward treasury is written off as part of everyday life in Marienburg.[1j]
Long before the Incursions of Chaos, merchants, traders andsea captains had become Marienburg's real rulers. Having ledthe resistance to L'Anguille's occupation, they demanded a share of power, and they got it. Over time they accumulated moreand more influence: first the barons were so in their debt thatthey could do little without prior approval, then they convinced the Emperor to place them in charge, and finally they told the Empire to "kiss the Chaos Moon". By the time of independence, the greatest among them had cometo be known as the Merchant Houses, the Great Families, or simply the Ten. One criterion alone determines the membership in this exclusive club: wealth.[1j]
Whilst Marienburg sports dozens, perhaps hundreds, of mercantile concerns, only the richest gain the coveted seat on the Directorate and admittance to the boardroom of the Change. There is no fixed measure for this - it simply comes to the notice of the Directors and other savvy observers that, while one House is in serious decline, another is on the rise, perhaps even helping the fall of the former. This is permissible as long as it is not too obvious or violent. When the challenger has demonstrated sufficient will, business acumen and a willingness to play by the rules of the game, the next election in the Burgerhof sees the fading House defeated and the newcomer in its place, perhaps taking the loser's mansion,overseas interests and even their household militia.[1j]
A place among the Ten does not mean that all is peace and harmony among the elite. Each has its own interests, and the competition for even more wealth and power is fierce, sometimes violent. While recognizing the need for peace and stability in Marienburg, the Houses use spies to ferret out each other's secrets, hire criminals for occasional acts of sabotage and burglary, and even, it is said, send pirates and wreckers against each other's trading fleets. Assassinations are not unknown, though such extreme measures are usually limited to blows against lesser retainers - Directors are reluctant to send killers after one another, for fear of the vendettas that make Tilean politics such chaos. But one should not assume the Great Houses are in a state of war with each other: far from it.[1j]
While individuals and even Houses may come and go, their instincts as a body remaintrue. They are businessmen, and it is because of their ability tosee mutual need and make a deal that they retain their hold on power. With marriages among their peers and generous patronage for those loyal to them, they have built a web of relationships and obligations that gives many in Marienburgan interest in keeping things just the way they are. And while the other Directors, lesser merchants, powerful labour guilds and even the Elves demand their share of the prize, the Ten keep their hold on the purse strings, as they have since the long-ago fateful meeting with Magnus the Pious.[1j]
- House Van De Kuypers
- House Van Onderzoeker
- House de Roelef
- House Van Haagen
- House Van Scheldt
- House Fooger
- House Van Den Nijmenk
- House Den Euwe
- House Van Raemerswijk
- House Rothemuur
- "It isn't hard to find one's way around Marienburg, provided one is part fish."
- —Imperial Diplomat[1b]
Marienburg is a city of islands, bridges and canals. When travellers arrive here, usually from the sea or after sailing through the fens on the Reik, the first thing that strikes them is how it rises from the water like some behemoth, safe behind the massive wall of the Vloedmuur, unconcerned with anything around it. The second thing that strikes them is how crowded all the islands are, with every inch taken up by residences, shops and warehouses, even on the bridges. The third and final thing that strikes the new arrival is the need for a large parasol when travelling the canals under the bridges or beneath overhanging windows. Marienburg's islands are the remnants of the land on whichstood the ancient Sea Elf port of Sit Rionnasc'namishathir, (Fortress of the Star-Gem on the Sandy Coast), the Vloedmuur itself following the outline of the old Elven fortress wall.[1b]
By the time Man arrived, nothing but broken ruins remained onthe surface, though their foundations provided the base for future building. Why these islands remained above water whilethe swamp swallowed so much of the surrounding land is a mystery, though scholars of the College of Navigation and Sea Magicks have speculated that it may have something to do with Elven High Magic, the obscure runes of which have been found in the deepest ruins' chambers. Nowadays, most of the islands rise up to twenty feet above the canals (though that's less than ten feet at high tide, and the waters rise even higher during the greatest tides aroundthe spring and autumn equinoxes) and are threatened by only the worst floods.[1b]
- "Velvet and timber, ships and liquor, even someone's life - they say everything can be bought and sold in Marienburg. But, there's one thing you can't buy here, not for all the tea in Ind: open land. "
- —Marienburg Trader[1b]
The tallest are found in the oldest or wealthiest parts of the city, such as Oudgeldwijk, the Temple and University district, or Guilderveld. Further out and closer to the walls,the poorest neighbourhoods, such as Doodkanaal or the Flats,lie on low land and flood at least once a year. Over the city's first thousand years, as Marienburg grewfrom a place of refuge to a fishing port to a great centre of commerce, the people built the islands up from the water, facing their sides with stone and filling the interior with earth and rock. Noble families would spend vast sums to add another foot or two, each new layer visible sign of their power and wealth. Every so often, when the walls had risenhigh enough that it was time to fill theinterior in, the Barons of Westerland would command the levelling of all structures and their rebuilding on thenew surface.[1b]
Though orders were given that all rooms were to be filled, many found ways to avoid this and constructed their new structures atop the chambers of the old. As a result, many Marienburg buildings have basements, sub-basements and sub-sub-basements, some still in use, others long ago walled-off and forgotten, and some connected by networks of tunnels dug by long-forgot-ten architects. While most are used for legitimate purposes, many are popular routes and bolt-holes for smugglers, criminals and cultists who access them via hidden or forgotten doors in the archaic system of cisterns and flood sluices under the islands atdie water's level. The canals are Marienburg's highways, crowded with boats of all kinds. The largest is the Rijksweg, the main channel of the river Reik which bisectsthe city and along which most ships pass. A branch of it, the Bruyn water, courses between the islands of die Suiddock and provides access to some of the city's busiest docks.[1b]
- "Look around you! Dozens of islands lashed together by hundreds of bridges, tall spires like masts. This city is like a fleet braced for the worst the sea can throw at it. Too bad the officers have it beaded for the rocks. "
- —student of the College of Navigation and Sea Magicks[1b]
At the far north, the Noordmuur canal is a popular route for people conducting business in the commercial and government districts, as it lets them avoid the heavy traffic on the Rijksweg. Contrasted with this is the southernmost channel, the aptly named Doodkanaal or 'Dead canal', a sluggish and malodorous waterway choked with trash and sometimes bodies from the worst parts of the city. Evil smells and vapours rise from it, and only those who can't afford anything better or who aren't welcome anywhere else willingly live along its banks. Dozens of other canals meander among the islands, some so small they aren't even marked on city maps. Little more than alleys, these narrow channels lead to the backs of businesses or homes, or to private lagoons hidden among the overhanging buildings. It's easy for a stranger to get lost among all the waterways, named but not marked, so most visitors to Marienburg hire one of the many local water-coaches to take them around.[1b]
Stairs cut into the islands themselves whilst the poorer districts provide rickey wooden stairs in order to gain access to the canals and docks. Some, like the Grand Sweep on the Reik-side of the Palace District, are broad and open. Others, especially deep within the old quarters like Suiddock or the forgotten tenements of the Doodkanaal slums, are little more than cuts in the rock barely large enough for a man to get through. Ill-lit and hidden from view, what were meant to be simple pathways often become death-traps for those who have an enemy or two.[1b]
In a city built upon islands and surrounded by a swamp, it's only natural that space is at a premium. Th opportunistic as always, have built wherever they can find a spare yard or two. The gabled roofs of their narrow buildings regularly climb four or five storeys, some leaning so far over the streets and canals that they look as if they might crumble down at any moment. Even the many bridges connecting the islands have been built on, with structures hanging over the sides and sometimes into the span itself. Some of these 'bridge-towns' have existed for so long that they have become recognized city wards, with their own characters, personalities and confusing by-laws. One or two, such as Suiddock's notorious Three-Penny Bridge, have actually achieved fame outside the Wasteland.[1b]
Two bridges, though, are kept clear by law; One is the Niederbrug Bridge, the only link between High Tower and the main islands of Suiddock, but the more famous is the mighty Hoogbrug Bridge, a spectacular span with arches high enough to let a full-masted shipsail under it, that leaps the Reik channel from High Tower Isle to the Palace District. At each end is a high tower with a ramp spiralling around its outside,wide enough for two carriages to pass each other. Apart from ferries, bargesor swimming, the Hoogbrug Bridge is the only route between the northern and southern parts of the city, and theDirectorate will not let anything get in the way of the free flow of commerce - or soldiers sent to putdown a riot in Suiddock. While there are no laws against it, nobody tries to build on the Draaienbrug Swing Bridge, an engineering marvel that pivots on a central pillar to let ships coming down the Reik reach Suiddock. After several buildings toppled into the river, people got the idea that living on it was a bad idea. Still, charlatans manage to sell the occasional Draaienbrug building permit to less savvy newcomers.[1b]
- "It's-a magnifico!"
- —Tilean seamen on his first sight of Marienburg[1b]
Surrounding Marienburg like a mother sheltering her children in her arms is the great wall of the Vloedmuur. This is the city's main protection against the dangers of flooding fromthe sea, and against the possibility of attack from any side. Itruns for miles around the perimeter of Marienburg, built onthe foundations of the walls of the old Sea-Elf fortress, but the Directors have lavished the most money and attention at either end of the Reik and at the important Oostenpoort and Westenpoort gates.[1c]
Here, ramparts of stone and great round towers face the entrance of the Reik, known as the Strompoort Gate. In timesof emergency, officers in charge of the Strompoort towers can order the raising of huge chains that have been laid across the bottom of the channel. Within a half hour, a metal fence canblock entrance to all ships coming down the Reik; and can- non on the towers ensure that vessels trapped by the chains will be in for a very rough time. At the opposite end, where the Manaanspoort Zee begins,the entrance to Marienburg's harbour is primarily guarded by the fortress-prison of Rijker's Isle and its cannon and fire-hurling catapults.[1c]
Here the towers of the Vloedmuur are smaller andthe walls are meant more to shelter the harbours of Manaanshaven and Elftown,whose ships and marines are vital to thecity's defence. In between Strompoort and Rijker'sIsle, broken only by the imposing gatehouses of Oostenpoort and Westenpoort, the Vloedmuur is more of a large dike, built of packed earth,stone and wood pilings, constantly reinforced and rebuilt. Brick-lined tunnels pierce it at several points, each built within thebase of a stone watch tower. During times of dangerously hightides, residents near the walls can hear the rhythmic thrumming of the Dwarf-built pumps forcing water out into the swamp. Each end is guarded by twin metal portcullises to prevent en-trance from the swamp, while the city's lamplighters keep aregular patrol on the wooden palisade that tops the Vloedmuur.[1c]
- "Worship of the Gods is, for the Wastelander, like everything else in his life — a business deal in which he has every expectation of making a profit. It's little short of blasphemy."
- —disapproving priest of Sigmar[1o]
Religion is a part of everyday life in Marienburg, pervading almost everything Marienburgers do, think or say. They see the reality of the gods all around them: when a priestess heals a dying child, it is because Shallya heard her prayers; when a ship carry-ing a loved one returns safely, it is because of Manaan's protection; and when a merchant makes a small fortune on a single deal, it is because Haendryk favoured him. Marienburgers perform small rituals with each act, almost unconsciously invoking a god's favour: a trader will spit on his palm before shaking hands on a deal, affirming to Ranald 'the Dealer' that his business is clean. A mother will tie the first tooth to fall from her child's mouth in a bag and hang it on the child's bed to remind Morr of her baby's innocence and beg for its protection.[1o]
Organized religion and formal worship are important to Marienburgers, too. The census of 2500 IC listed 157 recognized places of worship, from the great temples and cathedrals of Tempelwijk to small churches and shrines hidden down nearly forgotten side canals. And there are many more private shrines to gods and saints in homes, businesses, offices, boats, guilds, etc. All this is not to say that Wastelanders are religious fanatics. Their attitudes toward their gods are just as pragmatic as the rest of their views. The High Priest of Haendryk describes it as an attitude of "religious commerce - I give the gods worship and, in return, they give me what I need. Everyone comes out ahead."[1o]
And, like other Old Worlders, they pray to whatever god most fits the circumstance.A lawyer on his way to court might stop at a shrine to Verena, but never to Morr (unless his client's prospects are particularly bleak). A docker playing dice at the Pelican's Perch would say a quick prayer to Ranald, not Shallya. While a Marienburger might have a favourite god, exclusive devotion is rare, a thing for saints and other fanatics. Even priests will pray to other gods from time to time, sometimes even officiating at the services of friendly cults when no cult priest is available. The calendar is filled with major and minor religious holidays, and the sight of a parade by some guild or other organization tohonour their patron god or saint is common in Marienburg. And not just in honour of the Old World gods, either, for Marienburg is home to large communities from Araby, Nippon, Ind and Cathay.[1o]
Each has brought their gods with them, and their public celebrations lend an exotic air to the city's daily life. More open andtolerant than most of their Old World cousins, Marienburgers take it all in their stride. It's not at all unusual, for example, to pass a solemn procession of Shallyan penitents at one corner and have to wait for a parade of leaping and singing red-robed Indie monks at the next. Many Marienburgers take this religious stew as a sign of their city's vitality. Many, but by no means all. The Star Chamber and its Witch Hunters watch the foreign cults for signs of Chaos worship, while conservative factions in the temples press for campaigns to convert the heathen, peacefully or otherwise. Many among the laboring classes and the poor resent foreigners - even other Old Worlders - accusing them of taking work that rightfully belongs to "real" Marienburgers. Their cults and churches become a lightning rod for this resentment, often leading to violence and vandalism. Guildsmen of the Stevedores and Teamsters have been blamed for a recent series of arson attacks against shrines in Elftown, their anger over the Sea Elves' labour practices well known to all.[1o]
Major Cults Edit
- Cult of Manann - The Cult of Manann is the most prominent Cult within Marienburg, due in most part to their shared relations with trade and the sea.
- Cult of Haendryk - The second most largest of the Cults, Haendryk is the God of Merchants and with trade being the lifeblood of Marienburg, it has made Haendryk second only to Manann.
- Cult of Verena - The Cult of Verena has extenseive reach within Marienburg, due in most part because of the city's close relations to Tilean ports and trade.
- Cult of Shallya - The Cult of Shallya is not an uncommon occurence in such a large city. Indeed, for nearly every city with large populations of people suffering poverty and abuse will always have a Cult of Shallya there to nurse them.
- Cult of Ranald - The Cult of Ranald is prominent within Marienburg, due in most part to the cut-throat society of its inhabitants and the large amount of smuggling going on everyday.
- Cult of Sigmar - Being Imperial in origin, the people of Marienburg have had many dealings with the scions of Sigmar.
- Cult of Morr - The Cult of Morr is almost a common occurence within every fascete of Human society, and Marienburg is no exception.
- Cult of Solkan - An ancient and almost forgotten Cult which once worshipped a vengeful diety of Light.
- Cult of Ulric - There are few worshippers of Ulric within Marienburg, and those who do worship him are typically Norscan immigrants.
- Cult of Myrmidia - Another Tilean Cult brought about by close interactions with Tilean merchants and trade.
- "After you shake hands with a Marienburger, he's sure to count your fingers."
- —Imperial Proverb[1b]
Newcomers to the Wasteland and Marienburg often have a skewed view of its people. This is especially true of Imperials, who have trouble forgiving the Marienburgers for seceding in the first place. The easiest mistake to make is to assume that Marienburgers and Wastelanders are the same. Given that the census of 2500 I.C. counted 135,000 heads of households in Marienburg and just 15,000 in all the rest of the Wasteland, it's an understandable thing to do. Wastelanders, though, tend to be more conservative and less open to strangers than their city cousins, who, of course, are open to anyone and anything that brings a profit.1c
Popular stereotypes in the Empire picture the typical Marienburger as a sharp-witted con man, one who could sell snow to a Kislevite or get a Tilean to buy his own wine. Marienburg documents are said to be nine-tenths fine print, no contract is written without an escape clause, and every handshake hides fingers crossed behind the Marienburger's back. You might as well sign over your goods lock, stock and barrel right now, since you'll never get the better of a Marienburger in a deal. Like any stereotype, it's an exaggeration, albeit one encouraged by Marienburgers themselves, since a reputation for sharpness gives a welcome edge in a deal.1c
Still, Marienburg lives for and by trade, and the desire to get ahead makes wheeler dealers of almost everyone. Naturally, a Marienburger - and a country Wastelander, to a lesser degree sees this differently. They look out for themselves, and expect others to do the same. It's just hard-headed, practical business: if you don't grab the gold ring first, someone else will. Maybe it comes from the poor nature of the land around them: living in such a barren place, Marienburgers had to learn to trade to get any of the good things in life. After a while, it became a habit. With this in mind, it's no surprise that Marienburgers are an active people, always on the move. There's always a new deal waiting to be made. Their neighbours in the Empire and Bretonnia say, only half-jokingly, that the Marienburger is always moving about because he's trying to avoid the last chump he swindled. Still, Marienburgers treat the stuffy buffoons of Bretonnia and the angst-laden, dark-garbed grandees of the Empire with amused tolerance, they know who's going to come out on top when the real business starts.[1d]
The Wastelanders use a calendar fundamentally the same as the Empire's. The weeks are eight days long and there are four hundred days in the year. As a bow to regional pride, or maybe just to tweak the Empire's nose, the city council changed the sixth day from Konistag ('King's Day') to Guilstag ('Guild's Day'). Marienburgers are known to use the two names interchangeably just to prod any Imperials within hearing.[1d]
Money is similar to that used in the Empire, too. The City has its own mint located under the Staadtholder's Residence, and its coins are recognized as a standard for value throughout the Old World. All Marienburg coins carry the city's seal (a mermaid holding a bag of money in one hand and a sword in the other) on the obverse and the value and year of minting on the reverse. The gold coin is called a Guilder, representing Marienburg's control by its guilds, and is equal to the Imperial Crown. It is abbreviated to 'Gu', so '7 Gu 15/5' is seven guilders, five shillings and five pence.[1d]
For clarity's sake, the Directorate ties it to the standard counting system in the Empire, though patriotic money changers claim it's the other way around.As a cosmopolitan city, Marienburg is accustomed to seeing money from many different lands. Most merchants and shops will take coins at their face value whatever their origin, though they will weigh them carefully. Still, there are always travellers foolish enough to insist on having their coins officially changed at a counting house or goldsmith's shop. The money-changer will just smile and charge the standard 19/- on the Crown (for it's usually an Imperial on the short end of this stick), plus an additional 10% for handling fees.[1d]
- "Sure the guilds are a racket! But the guildmasters came from ordinary folk and they don't forget their own. They may be crooks, but they're our crooks."
- —Marienburg Pilot[1b]
The Ten aren't the only ones to see the benefits of sticking together: almost all Marienburgers are members of trade guilds. The guilds exist to regulate business, protect members from competition from outsiders, and provide the only social safety net in the city outside of Shallyan poorhouses. While all Old World cities and towns have guilds, from the highly controlled 'tame' guilds of Talabheim and Kislev to the anarchic 'clubs' of Brionne and Miragliano, in Marienburg the guild system has reached its highest development. There are so many guilds wielding so much power that an Imperial playwright, when told that he would need workers from four different guilds just to set up and strike his sets, cried out that he was "a bard trapped in a guilded cage."[1l]
There are around a hundred guilds in Marienburg, from the massive and wealthy to the tiny and insignificant. Three of the most important are described in detail later: the Stevedores' & Teamsters' Guild, the Rivermen's Association and the Pilots' and Seamen's Guild. But there are others: the Masons and Tilers, with their secret handshakes and rituals; the Glassmakers' Guild, banned to a small island off Rijkspoort because of the frequent explosions in their workshops; and the Physikers' and Barbers' College, formed in the days when Marienburg law allowed only barbers to perform surgery. Every possible trade has one and sometimes several guilds: even beggars must join the Unfortunate Brotherhood, which regulates who can beg where.[1l]
Permits and RegulationsEdit
No one can work or practice a trade in Marienburg without belonging to a guild. The city has closed its ranks to prevent outsiders from coming in and stealing business and jobs from its citizens. Enforcement of privileges varies from guild to guild. Some take legal action and bring the Watch down on the offenders. Anyone practising the trade for more than one week must either apply for full guild membership or be subject to criminal charges, usually fraud. Repeat troublemakers are eventually banned, meaning no master of that trade may ever hire that person nor teach them the secrets of the guild.[1m]
Other guilds are harsher in protecting their turf. Unlicensed practice of medicine in Marienburg is seen as attempted murder, with five years on Rijker's as the minimum sentence. Wizards new to Marienburg should report immediately to the Board of Examiners at Baron Henryk's, or the authorities must regretfully assume them to be Necromancers and turn them over to the cult of Morr and the Temple Court for interrogation and burning - unless they wish to take an emergency exam, at short notice and for an extortionate fee. The labouring guilds are more direct in their approach: off-loading your own cargo from your ship will earn you a "chat" with four or five members of the Stevedores in a back alley.[1m]
Welfare and BenefitsEdit
While setting standards and collect dues, guilds also provide their members with many benefits, the most basic of which is finding work in the first place. People needing work done go to the guild hall, which assigns the work amongst its members, perhaps even subcontracting portions to other guilds.Captains with cargoes to move shouldn't hire anyone around the docks - not if they want to keep their knees. They either go to the guildhouse or, more commonly, find a foreman on the docks and hire a crew from him. For an extra bit "for the widows and orphans fund", he may even see that your ship is unloaded before next Marktag. The guilds serve as a welfare system too, a way of giving a hand-up to one's fellows. Often this is done through "shrine clubs", dedicated to honouring an aspect of a favoured deity, such as Ranald the Protector. One member acts as deacon and keeps all donations at the shrine.[1m]
How elaborate such support is depends on the size and wealth of the guild. Some are very basic: the Bilge Muckers' Guild is so poor that it doesn't have its own guildhouse, or even a room in another guild's headquarters. Instead its members meet in the Lucky Loon tavern in Suiddock, where the owner acts asdeacon and keeps their meagre funds in a box behind the bar. All the guild can provide for its members is a pint of ale everyother Festag and a shilling to pay a priest of Morr to say a few prayers over a mucker's corpse so he doesn't show up at the next meeting. At the other end are the elaborate benefits offered by pow-erful guilds, like the Stevedores and Teamsters.[1m]
Not only do they guarantee work at a fair wage, but regular breaks, widows' pensions, subsistence wages while you're sick or during a strike, a Hexenstag "goose club" and loans for bail money should you be arrested. In return, the guild expects absolute loyalty: you work when it says work, strike when it says strike, and don't ask about those funny crates being loaded. And woe betide anyone who turns scab. Guilds are central to the common man's social life and a throat for his voice in politics.[1m]
Wastelanders speak Reikspiel with a rapid and staccato accent that easily identifies them from their Imperial cousins. The vowels are stretched and the sentences rise and fall in an almost sing-song fashion. More expressive than the Imperials, the Wastelanders talk a lot with their hands, frequently making jabbing gestures for emphasis. At the same time, they won't waste words like a loquacious Tilean or Bretonnian. Marienburgers are famous for coming right to the point - point by point by point - and pointing a lot as they do. Not withstanding their devotion to the god Haendryk's divine precept of "Make money fast", Wastelanders are gifted with a wry wit and a keen ability to poke holes in the posturings of stuffy visitors. This appreciation of the absurd includes themselves: Marienburg has a lively theatre, and the arts of satire and farce are appreciated even by their victims. All this has led more than one Imperial to dismiss Wastelanders as "flippantsmart-arses". To which a Marienburger will just smile - all the way to the counting house.[1d]
- 1: Marienburg - Sold down the River (1st Edition Fantasy Roleplay)
- 2: Thousand Thrones (2nd Edition Fantasy Roleplay)