When the road has grown too long dear
and my feet too weary to tread,
Then I shall be coming home dear,
to you and to my bed.
—Elvish Traveling song
The elves, more than any other race save the gnomes, are travelers and journeymen. They are masters of the sea, and Atva-Arunë was crisscrossed with elven tracks before men ever came north. It serves to reason, then, that their mercantile guilds are more complex than those of men and more accepted by elvish noble society. Merchants in elven lands often walk the Silver Road, which serves as an unbreakable bond of culture and knowledge between all elven kingdoms.
It is a facet of elvish culture that any family can attain nobility by service to its prince or king; Those which produce brilliant poets and artists, those who bring great wealth into the kingdom, and any who make outstanding accomplishments are generally rewarded with overlordship of the great elvish estates. While there is still a laboring class, it is far more permeable amongst elves than anywhere else, and the basic services expected to reach them are far greater.
Even elvish farmers receive training in the classics, swordsmanship, and grammar known as the paidea. Many elves choose the route of mercantile venture, for literacy is almost universal amongst elves and the ability to do basic sums is part of the paidea.
The Great Companies
The first among the great elvish trading companies is, of course, the Silver Tree. This guild was incorporated in the middle Eighth Age as a formal agreement between four noble houses of Tailimisiä and Vesimä as well as the treasury of four wealthy merchant-lords. These eight elvish men and women made up the original governorship of the company, and it is on the format of the House of the Silver Tree that most other elvish trading guilds where founded.
Elvish tradesmen, of course, must pay dues to whatever kingdom they operate in, so they frequently incorporate in order to reach the most equitable agreement with the local regents. They also request use of the Silver Road, which is overseen by the magi of any given realm. This means that members must be formally inducted and granted badges to prove that they are protected by the same compact as that originally made.
Other elvish guilds include the illustrious Seven Stars Compact, the Sign of the White Swan, the Company of the Ashen Staff, the Bent Bow Coster, and the Moonstar Coster. There are countless other small guilds that operate in a particular region, but of those listed all but the White Swan can be found in a variety of elvish, mannish, and dwarven lands.
Elven trading companies tend to work lightly in the competition department. They would generally prefer to come to an agreement about what types of goods they are to carry and where they are to carry them than engage in trade wars (unlike mannish and sometimes dwarven companies). Elves are quick to employ halflings and gnomes amongst their number, but may be more reticent to engage the aid of men or dwarves.
Each of the great trading companies maintains a network of supply houses, warehouses, waystations, private docks, stables, and inns throughout Atva-Arunë. These are generally private affairs, reserved for individual merchants who belong to the guild. Guild meetings, on the whole, are rare but lavish affairs where even the lowliest and poorest of the Guild Merchants are welcome to voice their opinions.
The greatest offering joining one of the merchant guilds grants, however, is not reduced tariffs, better guards, or private wayhouses. Rather, it is the guarantee that if someone waylays a caravan belonging to a merchant with membership to one of these guilds they can be assured that the guild will stop at nothing to reclaim the goods and bring the bandits to justice. For this reason it is very rare for any but the boldest or most desperate to attack an elven caravan that flies the sign of any of the great companies. Indeed, the Moonstar Coster maintains a small contingent of elite pegasus-mounted Skyknights for just such occasions, and the call of a Moonstar hunting horn from the air is a sound to fear.
The Moonstar Coster
A.K.A. the Merchants of the Moonstar, the Moonstar Traders, the Gemstone Traders, the Mystics
Badge: The Moonstar Coster uses as its badge a simple piece of Moonstar surmounting a horned moon, smoothed and polished, born on a black field
The Moonstar Coster has always focused on high-value esoteric items of interest to wizards, adventurers, and the wealthiest of nobility. The Coster’s purpose is the facilitation of magic and the reintroduction of lost culture to the world. Most members of the Coster strongly believe in the need to preserve and disseminate books and histories, and so it has fallen to the Moonstar Traders to deliver these services.
In addition, the Moonstar Coster seeks to maintain a powerful presence in Valkaela and Talimisiä; for this reason amongst others they opposed the ascension of the current Gwydereon, Kelatulë, who has favored the Silver Tree and other compacts over the Gemstone Traders.
The Coster has a vested interest in elvish politics, and makes it part of their business to sponsor liberal families and ventures within the elvish kingdoms.
History and Motivation
Founded around the same time as the House of the Silver Tree, the Moonstar Coster was an outgrowth of the efforts of a single elvish noble house hailing from Valkaela; these elves were the scions of the a wizard with supposedly Oronnian heritage.
Vironylatimen of the Starry Field was both the founder of his noble house (under the Valkaelan Brenneon Tythilondaryn) and the originator of the Moonstar Coster. Vironyl was one of a number of elves who participated heavily in what was referred to as the “rebirth” during the end of the Eighth Age and the early Ninth and which was abruptly brought to an end by the spread of the Red Plague.
Though Vironyl was a victim of the disease, his mercantile compact was not. Throughout the spread of the Bleeding Death the Moonstar Coster continued to travel along those Silver Roads which remained open and to trade with men and dwarves.
These days, the descendants of Vironyl maintain control of the Coster. They represent some of the more liberal elements within Valkaelan society, and they have long lamented the rise of Kelatulë and his restrictive policies in Talimisiä. These are the brother and sister Aronthilië and Minurentameri.
The Moonstar Coster is composed of independent merchants who have signed on with the Moonstar Twins and accepted their terms which is an informal agreement to pay ten percent of their income yearly to the company coffers; in return the merchants receive a year of protection from the Moonstar guards at lowered rates as well as extremely cheap lodgings and preferential treatment in cities and ports that have a Moonstar presence.