I suppose most people have heard of the Reverential, Bounteous, and Peculiar Guild of Scriveners of Port Naain. I suppose it isn’t an entirely secret society, but nobody ever admits to being a member, even if they wear a small silver pen nib on the reverse of their jacket lapel.
The membership originally seems to have consisted of male clerks who banded together, in theory to provide members with mutual support in the face of harsh oppression on the part of their masters. As it is, the guild has largely colonised the offices of usurers, lawyers, and those who hold minor clerical posts and are paid by the city of Port Naain.
In recent years the guild also draws members from the class of small shopkeepers who feel themselves to be victims of the paper pushing classes; and such small businessmen who have hopes of winning contracts with various city enterprises.
I personally have my doubts about the latter. I know one night soil collector who joined for just that purpose. He did indeed win a remarkably number of contracts to clean the privies of offices and similar, but this was counterbalanced by the number of members of the guild who expected a discount when it came to the emptying of their own earth closet.
I know a number of poets who have been called to join the Scriveners. I think they felt that there should be an element of fellow feeling amongst those who live by the pen, but between ourselves they were hoping for patronage and even commissions. But the sort of commission you are likely to win is the tedious task of announcing the appointment of a new chief clerk in a minor office somewhere. And whilst patronage is possible, I confess it isn’t the sort of work I seek. I like a patron who can afford my services, not one who has to somehow lose the cost in office expenses.
Still I have known many Scriveners and it has always struck me that they do vary. At the lower levels you get many of the sort I have mentioned. Largely they’re sensible men with their heads screwed on. They reckon a bit of trivial embarrassment is worth it for the opportunity to put a word in, and thus to ensure that your debts can get nudged gently into the category where you pay less interest. Or alternatively that the magistrate’s ruling is watered down even as it is written down.
But I am running ahead of myself here. The embarrassment. Now I have never taken part in any of the rituals, and similarly whilst I have had them described to me, it has been over a period of years, things may have evolved. Certainly I have always had my doubts about that I have heard. If I am correctly informed, then the ritual one undergoes when one becomes a member rather strikes me as the sort of thing persons of specialist tastes have to pay good money for at one of the city’s more discerning bordellos.
Once a member, one proceeds through numerous iterations. The number appears to be large but most members never progress beyond the second. From what I can make out, by the time you reach the fifteenth you are told the inner purpose of the guild. By the time you reach the thirty-third you are told the real inner purpose of the guild. By the time you reach the fiftieth you realise that you must worship the Ostentatious Principal as a living god, and when you arrive at the one hundredth and fiftieth iteration, you become the Ostentatious Principal.
Between ourselves I have noted that the lowlier guild members seem entirely practical men, (No women are admitted into the guild, not even to do the catering). These men put up with ritual because there’s money to be made and contracts to be signed. But above a certain level you get people who are caught up in the ritual and also perhaps those who hope the guild will be a vehicle for their own ambitions (so often thwarted in a harsh cruel world which demands competence).
With regard to the upper levels, (fifty and above) I have been told that promotion can be fast for the person who has the right qualities. Given that it involves a willingness to worship the Ostentatious Principal as a living god, I feel a degree of gullibility is called for.
Still, how does this impact on the Order of Aea in her many Aspects? It must be stressed that at a theological level, the Order rather frowns on anybody being worshiped as a living god. I confess to a strong sympathy with this stance, even if I do not perhaps grasp the full subtlety of the theological underpinnings. In my experience, living gods tend to self-importance and have a tendency to tip poorly.
There are also certain strange customs that the guild have which sit badly with the Order. Now I’m not talking about the somewhat unusual custom of a gold sphincter clasp being fitted to the deceased. Apparently there is some ancient reason for this, perhaps to do with the relationship between yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm. Still the dead of guild are welcomed on board the dead ship with great formality. Then they, like the rest of us, make their final voyage to be buried at sea. I did notice that respect seems to have waned in recent years. I remember talking to one of the crew and he merely commented that the guild is not what it once was. Apparently in his youth, they used real gold sphincter clasps, now they are apparently largely pinchbeck.
What the Order of Aea dislikes is the habit the guild has of cuddling up to a lesser shrine which has fallen on hard times. The guild members will be generous, funding repairs. But they will also hold funerals, weddings and similar ceremonies there. These can bring in much needed income to help keep the shrine afloat. Those attending these events always give generously when the plate is passed around, so it is a particularly heartless temple warden who steels themselves to forbid the guild from displaying guild banners and symbols on such an emotionally charged time.
Given their web of connections the guild can initially be quite helpful, but there is a suspicion that work goes preferentially to guild members whether or not they’re best value. Still, at this point the guild is still paying. But always check the work done. I’ve known priests discover that under the allegedly temporary banner there has suddenly sprouted a hatchment, and the shrine is suddenly festooned with guild sigils and glyphs. At that point you either abandon the shrine to the cleansing flames or reclaim it with a chisel.
Should you wish to learn more about life in Port Naain
As a reviewer commented, “What’s a poet to do when one of his lady patrons is being blackmailed and his own life may be at risk due to his actions in defending another from attack some time in the past.
How are both these events connected?
Well – read this tale and find out – trust me, it’ll be time well spent.”