People have asked, more than once, why we chose “The Cartographers Guild.” After all, we’re not really map makers. I mean, Josh and I make our own maps when we’re running game, but it’s not the unifying factor in the group. The truth is, the name came from an idea Josh had for a comic that he wanted us all to collaborate on, but the sad truth is while all four of us can wield a pen with a degree of deftness, not a one of us can draw. We really loved this idea, though, and didn’t want to see it disappear, and so the Guild was born.
However, I also really liked the original comic concept. I still can’t draw, so I chose my preferred medium and this is my best attempt to give it life. There will be more little stories of the fictitious Guild in the future, so I hope you enjoy this take on the idea that started it all.
Lord Leopold Tiberius Sebastian LeVane III was a man of great importance, the head of a prestigious merchant family whose trading empire stretched from the Northern Depths to Cape Sanguine and beyond the Southern Expanse. Granted, he didn’t quite have the navy that the Tremayne’s boasted, or the noble contacts of the Ravelle’s, but the LeVane family was the third greatest merchant family in Twinriver.
At the moment, the head of the third greatest merchant family was becoming increasingly annoyed. He stood at the end of a long line of supplicants outside a largely unassuming shop just outside the mercantile district. The sign above the shop had a unique standard – a compass rose imposed over a crossed blade and quill. The doors to the shop were closed, but a large shuttered window had been opened and a sign hung that read, “Accepting petitions between noon and tea”. A cheerful looking woman with blond hair and an affable expression manned the window, speaking with petitioners. Just to her right, standing before the closed doors, was a great bear of a man with a far less inviting demeanor. Arms crossed over his chest, his frown unmistakeable even hidden in his beard, it was this man who had informed Lord LeVane that if he had a petition, he could stand in line like everyone else.
In truth, Lord LeVane has been irritated even before he arrived in the mercantile district today. He had sent one of his clerks to the shop earlier this week to inquire about hiring out this particular group. The clerk had been dismissed, returning with the news that the group only accepted jobs on petition days, and that unless it was for the king, the petitioner had to be there in person. Lord LeVane had bristled at the idea of having to waste his day thusly, but had relented. Because you see, Lord LeVane had a problem. He was very proud of the fact that his caravans traveled to the Southern Expanse, but he was having a problem getting them through Tracker’s Pass. Every caravan in the past year had been hit. His personnel losses were at a minimum, so thankfully he was still able to hire people on for the trip, but he was losing a wagon’s worth of goods every time they made the crossing. There was not enough taken for the losses to overwhelm the profits of that trade line, but it was still affecting Lord LeVane’s bottom line. It was also chafing his sense of pride – word had begun to spread among the other families that he was having problems.
So here Lord LeVane was, grousing in the hot sun, wishing he had brought a larger retinue so that he could send a valet back to his estate for a parasol. He had not thought they would make him wait. Important men such as himself did not await the leisure of mercenary companies! He needed this problem in the pass dealt with, however, and quickly. He had listened to his associates, and the company with the standard of the compass rose always got the best results. So here he was, moving closer to the window, fuming in the heat and becoming increasingly concerned for his complexion.
Lord LeVane relaxed a bit as he and his retainer came close enough to the front of the line to benefit from the shade of the shop’s awning. His mood was not improved, but at least he could see and he needn’t concern himself with fear of further sunburn. He fanned himself and looked about, his eyes adjusting to the lack of glare. The canopy of the awning above him was striped, and as he studied it he realized that each stripe was made from the hide of a different creature. Textiles were, after all, his market, and you didn’t even have to be that much of a specialist to recognize dragon scale when you saw it. Remarkable. Two different dragons, by the look of it, given their difference in color, and the scale pattern was tighter on the one, indicating a younger dragon. There was also some sort of snakeskin, though the pattern indicated a much larger snake than any he’d ever dealt with. The other hides were less distinct from each other, though one had the unmistakable dots of a creature that once had feathers. Lord LeVane’s anger ebbed as his curiosity and interest peaked.
“Sir,” a bright, female voice inquired, drawing Lord LeVane away from his study of the awning. The blond woman was looking up at him patiently. It seemed it was finally his turn. Drawing himself up, he strode forward the four steps to the window with as much grandeur as he could possibly manage, snapping his fan closed with a flourish.
“Finally,” Lord LeVane exclaimed. “Now then, I wish to hire your company to take care of a problem I am having with my caravans.”
“Of course, sir,” the woman replied, still smiling. “Where?”
“The teams haven’t gotten a very good look at the bandits, but they don’t seem to be sporting any colors that we can trace back to a particular group,” Lord LeVane began to explain, not really hearing the question. “My men have been thoroughly interrogated, and I’m certain no one in my employ is giving them any information. They seem to just be targeting the pass.”
The barest flicker of weariness crossed the blond’s expression, though Lord LeVane wasn’t paying enough attention to notice. “A pass, sir? Which pass?”
Blinking in surprise, having been thrown off his narrative, Lord LeVane regarded the woman for a moment before replying. Surely she recognized him, and therefore would know which routes he was having trouble with. “Why, Tracker’s Pass, of course.”
The blond smiled apologetically. “I’m sorry, sir, but we will have to decline.”
Lord LeVane blinked again. “What?”
At this point, a rather disinterested looking young man who had been sitting quietly behind the blond stood up. Lord LeVane startled a bit, not having noticed him as he quietly read and hid in the shade of the shop.
“I’m afraid we’ve been to Tracker’s Pass too many times,” the young man interjected, closing his book with a snap that added severity and emphasis to his words. The blond nodded in agreement, still looking politely apologetic.
“What do I care,” Lord LeVane replied, his voice growing with his agitation. “What does it matter how many times you’ve been to a place? I need you to go there now!”
The great bear of a man by the door shifted his position a bit, regarding Lord LeVane speculatively. Lord LeVane’s retainer had the sense to step back a little. Lord LeVane, however, was oblivious. Enough was a enough. These peasants had forced him to sit in the hot sun all afternoon, taking him away from his office and his luxuries to stand in the dust, and now they were refusing the job?
The blond woman pressed her lips into a line and narrowed her eyes. The weariness was more apparent now. Another woman appeared from within the shop and placed a hand on the blond’s shoulder. This woman was short and busty, with garish accessories and low neckline.
“I’ve got this, sweetie, you’ve had a long afternoon,” the new woman said to the blond, who looked at her gratefully before walking away. The new woman then turned to Lord LeVane, with a glare he suspected was typically reserved for spoiled children. “Now look, precious, it matters very much where we’ve been. And we’ve been through Tracker’s Pass so many times we can claim accuracy down to an ell.”
Lord LeVane was moving from angry to bewildered, “But-”
The woman held up her hand to silence him. “Sorry about your caravans,” she said, in a tone that indicated she wasn’t sorry at all, “but we’re not going through Tracker’s Pass. Go four doors down to the mercenary guild house and I’m sure you can get the Cutters or the Red Wolves or the Iron Company or some other group of sell swords lacking in imagination to take the job.”
“What-,” Lord LeVane blinked again, looked down the street where, indeed, the mercenary companies had their signs out as to whom was available for hire. He then looked back at the woman, and over her shoulder into the shop, which was not full of swords or warriors milling about, but bookcases, drafting tables, and piles upon piles of scrolls.
“You’re…not a mercenary company,” Lord LeVane said slowly, the pieces finally coming together, the fire gone from his voice.
The woman laughed, and gave him a patronizing smile. “No, dear. We’re the Cartographers Guild.”
Leaning forward, the woman grabbed the handles to the shutters and raised her voice. “Petitions are closed for this week,” she declared, before shuttering the window in Lord LeVane’s face.
The short line that still remained behind Lord LeVane groaned in disappointment, then began to shuffle away. Lord LeVane stood for another minute, befuddled. Then the giant at the door cleared his throat, and Lord LeVane’s retainer wisely began to lead his employer away from the shop, back into the mercantile district.