Maps, charts, star movements, atlases, and terrain reliefs all help the world know itself better. People explore unknown areas for adventure and fame, honor and glory, riches and knowledge, but most importantly because it’s what’s next. Perhaps that fundamental search for discovery is what leads people to explore the world around us. Those who do, lead the way for others, and a way they do that is to leave behind records of where they’ve been. Few things can inspire and spark the urge to roam better than a well made map of where we’ve been. The details and artistry flourish into our imaginations and carry us away to places we’ve never been, to see and experience with our own eyes what these places really are. Even better, we see the edges of the maps, the great beyond, and wonder what we’ll find just around the corner, across the plains, over the mountains, and past the oceans.
These stewards of discovery make up the Cartographers Guild. In Easthalen maps have more uses than just exploration, but in their hearts, this is the reason all join the guild. Be it from a city or the wilds, those who join are ever curious about the world and are enthralled with the idea of exploration. However, not everyone gets to climb the mountains and document what has never been documented before. In fact, while the world is ever changing, the majority of the work the guild does is in maintaining the pool of knowledge that those for over a thousand years before set out to map with continuity for the first time. However, while only a small percentage of Journeyers get to adventure to their heart’s content, most find a fulfilling life nonetheless in the guild. Branches of the guild can be found in every major city, most minor cities and even in some frontier towns. They can also be found on the border of two conflicting nations to try and keep some semblance of sanity over property rights. Members of the guild take a census of the buildings in the major cities for urban development, and chart the changes in river currents that traders need to know before setting sail with their wares. They help farmers find the best lands for growing different crops, and strive to settle old arguments about property by maintaining older maps.
The guild helps hunters track animals through different regions, monsters as they roam the wilds looking for an unsuspecting village to raid, and help other guilds with their own projects. In short, if you need to know where something is, was, or should be, the Cartographers Guild is where you go for help.
Today, the headquarters for the guild is in Franner
, in an odd looking building called the Great Atlas. What can be best described as a covered compound, the Great Atlas is one structure with several unique buildings under its massive dome. Made of mostly grey stone and white marble, the structure is rather less elegant than the other guild halls that inhabit this district of the city. Most spectacular to visitors is the clockwork star tracking room, where people, sailors in particular, go and study the movement of the stars and learn to use a sextant. The compound features a large library as well as several small artist spaces for guild members to work on new maps, copying old maps, or ingesting maps brought in from the various guild halls throughout the world. There is a council chamber for the guild to conduct its own business, a small set of living quarters for when the guild elects a Grand Trailblazer, and a receiving area to meet with important peoples throughout the world. There is also a small courtyard, with 8 paths leading places, each pointing in an accurate North, South, East, West, and the 4 diagonal directions. In the middle of the yard is what would be considered a small monument for most of the rich in Franner, but for what the monument actually is, a quite large compass.
Maintained by students at the Cartographers Academy that sits next to the Great Atlas, the monument is to some unknown wayfinder of days long past. It’s a large wooden bowl, filled with water and a layer of quicksilver, in which sits a large straight piece of metal that is constantly spinning. The secrets of this monument are kept only by the highest ranking members of the guild, but most people see it simply as a curiosity as they walk from one building to another. Sitting across the street from the Great Atlas is the Cartographers Academy. Here people learn how to be whatever the guild needs them to be. The building is largely unimpressive, old, but not grand in any way. It’s wildey known that the Academy used to also be the headquarters for the guild as well, before the Great Atlas was constructed. Some other rumors say that the strange cubed building is older than the city itself although this is likely started by Apprentices trying to scare new Trainees. A large majority of people in the guild spend time going through this academy, although there are some exceptions. It is a large world afterall, and traveling to Franner simply to attend school isn’t the easiest thing to do for a lot of people. There is no doubt however, that the Academy produces some exemplary cartographers. Most of whom find themselves on a faster track to positions of influence in the guild and in the world as a whole.
The Academy features rooms for learning many things, most of which have to do with map making, although the academy also emphasizes history and survival as well as a certain amount of artistry. All peoples are welcome at the Academy, as everyone sees the world in a different way. Students are encouraged to find their “eyes” as they look at the world around them. Some of the most useful maps show nothing but trade routes and products transported across them. Some are maps of battlefields or of borders between nations. Some show water and air currents, migratory patterns of animals, and trails lost to time. No matter what the Trainees and Apprentices of the Academy see when they make maps, they are all useful.
As such the Academy has an exceptional retention and graduation rate, as they find uses for almost everyone who goes through the system. The exception to this would be the people who enter for their own selfish ends, finding buried treasure, or making sewer maps for the thieve’s guild. There are guildhalls all throughout Easthalen. All marked by the simple 8 way compass emblem on the main doors. The guildhalls themselves are never of uniform construction, as the guild prefers to purchase buildings that are already built in places they wish to expand. In the rare cases where a permanent guildhall needs to be built, they usually defer to the plans of the local building contractor for the actual structure of the building. However there are interior similarities between all the guildhalls. All guildhalls have at least one public library attached somehow for people to do their own research or learn how to read maps. There is also a private library in each guildhall, along with storage for duplicate maps, old maps, or maps and material that get sold to raise revenue for the guild. Each guildhall also has an office for the Master Scribe, a meeting room, a reception area, and vault for collecting dues and taxes. After these criteria are met however, each guildhall will customize any remaining space for the needs of the city. Sometimes a larger public library, or classrooms to help teach people how to survey their farmlands. Some host small stores that sell maps and equipment needed for wayfinding. Those on the coasts frequently feature a room that maps the rocks and shoals of the coast line so that sailors can avoid obstacles. Whatever the guildhall looks like, they all feature at least a dozen Scribes, another dozen Mapolosits, usually a few Journeyers, and the Master Scribe, so the building is pretty crowded and busy at all times even at night, as that’s when the stars are tracked by those who need to know the movement of the stars.
There is no solid start date for the guild. In fact in the years after the chaos, there was no centralised system of cartography. Hundreds of small map making groups and enterprising people collectively established local guilds that were centralised overtime. What we do know though is that by around 300 AB there was a central cartography authority based in Franner
, exercising influence over smaller guilds all over Easthalen. This guild, calling themselves the Trailblazers, would buy out or absorb smaller conglomerates rather than expand in their own merit. They specialized more in actual exploration rather than map making however, and saw map-making as a revenue stream instead of a calling. While efficient explorers, no solid set of rules were ever set for the Trailblazers, and they dissolved into their own egos and bureaucracies by 450 AB. This is when a collective of regional guild leaders met in the headquarters in Franner and held the first council of Surveyors.
Here, guild rules were discussed, debated, and consolidated into one comprehensive charter under the ruling of a single person, the Grand Trailblazer. With a clear hierarchy established, the guild renamed themselves the Cartographers, and started working not just with local customers, but political leaders, religious factions, and militaries. While the romanticism of the daring adventurer was still the main public face of the guild, the Cartographers quickly found they made far more money making and selling maps than actually exploring. Such started what is known as the Consolidation in the guild’s history.
With the guild under a unified authority, the Cartographers started establishing guildhalls farther and farther from Franner. Each successive Grand Trailblazer saw the growth of the guild as their personal legacy. Some of the greatest projects of the guild’s history were completed in this period. With money flowing seemingly from every direction, and some clever investments in the trade of goods across the bridge between Franner
, the guild was quickly flush with their own success. This is when the academy was established in the guild headquarters in Franner. Also a quick success, the Academy produced some legendary cartographers including Gralf the Blind, Theo Featherloft, and Marsha the Mapmaker. All of whom were celebrated and participated in some of the most influential events of their time as Grand Trailblazers. While this may be seen as the guild’s golden age, there were some underlying problems that would eventually lead to the decline of the guild.
Over time, guildhalls would accept bribes to change maps in the favor of the highest bidder, or refuse to help certain militaries cross unknown territory. The Cartographers were starting to become highly politicised and corrupt. There were also rumors that the headmasters of the academy were experimenting with magic in the halls of their school in the dark of night, using failing students as guinea pigs for magical experiments.
Whether these rumors are true or not, we know this for certain, in 783 AB the headmaster of the academy was found dead in their quarters, and a young tiefling woman named Eclisi was named headmaster by the Grand Trailblazer at the time. That Grand Trailblazer was also shortly found dead in their bed, and the position given to a young Half-Elf named Salic. These two people would drastically alter the course of the guild’s history in a short, violent, and turbulent time known as the Time of the Tetrarchy.
Time of the Tetrarchy
Eclisi and Salic were students at the academy, both exceptionally talented in the arts and accuracy of their map making. Although ostracized by their peers for their success, Eclisi and Salic found comfort in each other, and were seen together at nearly all times leading up to graduation. They also spent a lot of time with the Headmaster and Grand Trailblazer, as being seen as prodigies in the guild. When Eclisi took a position in the academy after graduation, it was no surprise that Salic took a position in the headquarters, working on projects with the Grand Trailblazer immediately. In a small but highly publicised ceremony, they were married with their hands on a small mysterious atlas that was said to have glowed during the ceremony.
Rumors abound that these two had been involved in the magical experimentations that were banned in Easthalen, and that this ceremony was more of a consolidation of their power than of marriage. It was also quickly announced that Eclisi was pregnant. Masters in the academy started to mysteriously be dismissed from their positions in what seemed like a clearing of a path for Eclisi to be next in line to be Headmistress of the academy. At the same time Salic was being given more and more responsibility within the guild itself, and was sitting in on Surveyor meets before he was made one himself. The night Eclisi gave birth to a tiefling daughter named Scala and human son named Eclestian, the Headmaster was found dead in his bed. The Grand Trailblazer named Eclisi Headmaster while still in her birthing clothes, in a short bizarre naming ceremony that many witnesses said the Grand Trailblazer looked pale and gaunt.
A few nights later, the Grand Trailblazer was also found dead, and somehow Salic had secured enough votes to be named their successor. Over the next several years, Eclisi and Salic ruled the guild side by side, in what seemed at first, to be extreme success. The guild found itself expanding very quickly, often into towns and villages who couldn’t support a guildhall. To the outside world, the Cartographers were well on their way to become the most influential guild of all of Easthalen.
However, on the inside, things were rotten to the core. Salic promoted cruel and clever people to important posts, often their paths to power freed by an unfortunate death. Scribes in guild halls were encouraged to advance their careers by taking the position however they could. Journeyers became nothing but king pins, forcing money from Farmers for land surveys and to keep their property lines from shrinking a bit year by year. At the top, Salic was pitting world leaders against each other, providing accurate information to one group one day, then to another the next, all based on how much power and money he could make at the time. Eclisi in her part continued the magical research that she and Salic had tried when in the Academy, now openly defying laws and conventions. After about 20 years of leadership, the pair elevated their daughter Scala to be Headmistress of the Academy while Eclisi oversaw the embodiment of magic in maps. Eclestian was also elevated into positions of power in the guild, and the 4 family members established what is known as the Tetrarchy of Cartographers.
Eclestian oversaw the creation of the Great Atlas, while Scala oversaw the conversion of the old headquarters to being just the academy. Not being quite and bright or strong as their parents however, some infighting was started between Scala and Eclestian, with power being divided between factions within the guild who saw the weakness of the children as their chance to advance their agendas.. Salic was now pitting nation against nation, in a path to power that he found most satisfying. Eclisi was falling deeper and deeper into her magical studies, becoming strangely disconnected with the world. One night, an argument broke out between the husband and wife as to the direction the guild should take. Eclisi favoring exercising influence by the magical means she was mastering and teaching Scala, and Salic favoring a more underhanded and political approach with Eclestian. Culminating in an explosion that killed the both of them.
Now firmly entrenched in their factions, Eclestian and Scala both claimed power over the guild and for 3 terrifying days, fighting broke out between the academy and the Great Atlas. The end of which found both Scala and Eclestian dead in the courtyard where now stands the compass monument. From the outside, the council of Surveyors had been watching the power struggle for some time, and reached out to other powers in Easthalen for help. Surrounding the two buildings, a coalition of Franner guards, Journeyers loyal to the council, and the mysterious Archivers, managed to contain the violence and eventually took both buildings. With the Tetrarchy dead, some major changes were coming for the Cartographers in a time called the Era of Truth.
Era of Truth
With the help of the Archivers
, the council of Surveyors contained and destroyed the magic the Tetrarchy was experimenting with and accepted many levies sanctioned against them in Easthalen, cutting the number of guildhalls by nearly 40%. They also established strict rules for continued operations in smaller towns and villages, making as much restitution as they could. They also elimited the position of Grand Trailblazer as a requirement. Now the guild would be run by council, a Grand Trailblazer being elected only when one was needed. And their powers were given on condition of their election.
While some Grand Trailblazers have over stretched their authority in the years since, nothing anywhere near the chaos caused by the Tetrarchy has ever been approached. The Academy too was changed in many ways. The power of the Headmaster would never again be under the same system as the rest of the guild in a checks and balances system. The council would retain the majority of the guild’s influence and power now, and a new message was sent out the world. The Cartographers would focus on the truth. However it was, it was, and they would do their best to show only that. Rules regarding which maps went to which people were abolished, and a new, standard master map would be sent to all world leaders equally, at the same time every year.
The Cartographers would no longer be involved in wars between nations, and they would no longer hold any property rights of their own save for the Great Atlas and Academy in Franner. The Cartographers also agreed to help the Archivers locate magical items that needed to be destroyed or kept safe, as recompense for the Archiver’s assistance in subduing the chaos caused by the Tetrarchy. Although this fact has been kept secret from the general public. Finally, the council started educational outreach programs for free in the communities, so that farmers could survey their own land, and sailors find their own way. These programs are subsidized by a new system of dues and taxes imposed on guild members designed to keep them in check while out on the frontier, to make sure that people who seek power over others don’t be put in a position to extort a small village or locals ever again. This era of Truth has largely been a success.
There have been some turbulent times, but in general the Cartographers have reclaimed much of the respect they lost during the Tetrarchy all throughout Easthalen. Changes in the Academy system came a few hundred years later to include methods for those who aren’t able to go through the academy itself to still join the guild, in an attempt to remove any stigma of hierarchy within the guild, although those who do go still do generally better in their field than those who petition in. There has been one strange development in the guild however, the magic that Eclisi tried so hard to master proved very difficult to contain. Some Cartographers can tap into it today while focusing on a highly personal map or atlas of their own. While no longer the extreme hazard it used to be, Cartographer Journeyers who are able to use their maps as spell focuses and utilize the special abilities of same, pop up every now and then and tend to become highly influential in the guild.