From the journal of Barnard of Shelton, master trader in the employ of the Illyria Trade Council, recording his journeys to the Broken Lands.
On my arrival I was somewhat shocked to find that, as a trader, I was directed to the dingiest, most miserable, labyrinthine maze of alleyways imaginable, in the shadow of the great college itself. In this ramshackle city I found a cramped market, shoddy lodgings, a bustle of traders and laborers and beggars, and, as the narrow streets are also open sewers, an unpleasant stench.
Naturally I made straight for the College itself, proceeded up the broad steps, and at the huge wooden doors I requested an audience with the Mistress. My demand was met with some bemusement, but I was politely allowed in to the great building, which rises above the surrounding squalor like some giant majestic temple.
Within, everything was in contrast with the world outside. The halls were light and airy, with hugely high ceilings supported by slender columns. Few people seemed to work or live here, though a few figures drifted through the halls, books in hand, not speaking. I tried to make conversation with my guide, but he rebuked me, saying: “Within the College we speak only to exchange knowledge. We might exchange knowledge regarding history, diplomacy, magic, engineering, or any other worthy subject. But we do not make idle chatter.”
The Mistress of the college greeted me, also wordlessly, in a room which seemed to be a private library, its walls lined with bookshelves. She sat not on a throne, as a ruler of a great city might, but at a desk strewn with scrolls.
I explained that I had traveled many miles, to establish profitable trade links with the cities of this land, so distant from my own. I’d like to think that it was a pretty slick pitch. But she dismissed all I said with two short sentences.
“Base concerns are dealt with in the alleys. Inside the college we have a higher calling.”
Obviously I was aghast. A higher calling than ensuring the prosperity of her city? What sort of ruler was this? I queried this, of course, and was brushed off again.
“We have a vital duty to perform here,” she frowned. “When the King dies, his successor will be chosen based on who in the lands is most blessed with wisdom, justice, compassion, duty and purpose. It is vital that people understand, and particularly, that the Kartur-Hhakrall understand, who might be worthwhile candidates, what their strengths and weaknesses might be. The whole continuity, peace and stability of the Kingdom relies upon the quality of the King, and so our role is key. During the reign, we simply amass information, and advise if and as we are requested. I am sure that you will understand that compared with this calling, to haggle over commercial transactions is insignificant.”
I tried to remonstrate, of course, but I was cut off with “Here we speak to exchange wisdom. You wish only to exchange gold, and so you should return to the alleys outside. The local merchants will welcome you. Farewell.”