1204 RE-- The Dissolution of the Royal Society of Alechemists
Date: Spring 1203 -- 9th April, 1204
Outcome: End of formal Guild-Sanctioned Alchemy in the Athral Isle
Parties: King Sigmar, Royal Society of Alchemists
In the spring of 1203, Athral Isle had seen almost six years of peace with its Gauntish overlords, and some believed that the last of the Isle’s courage had died in Prince Auberic’s rebellion. King Sigmar and his nobles breathed a sigh of relief and worked toward securing their power and stockpiling food, weapons, and alchemical formulations. The Royal Society of Alchemists, which had grown unbelievably wealthy selling supplies to the Couraine Kings, was entirely willing to offer Sigmar what they claimed were the same prices.
Sigmar was outraged at those prices, and he attempted to institute changes to the guild system so that he could hire alchemists on a permanent basis, paying them for their time rather than paying for their products. This patronage system was more in keeping with the customs of Gaunt and the relationship between land-owning lords and smiths, skalds, or other specialists. Most Senior Guildmaster Kenston the Lame, a native Athral, informed him that such an arrangement would violate the guild’s laws by undercutting the guild’s stated prices, and that hiring outside the guild would compel the guild to cut off all dealings with him.
If Sigmar was outraged before, his fury was now white-hot. The art of alchemy was rare among the Athral-born Gauntishmen, but Sigmar found and summoned two Gauntish journeymen: Vita Drusse of House Risten and Keld Hartmark of House Voluspa. When they stood before him on the 10th of September, Sigmar called them to renew their oaths of fealty to him and forswear their oaths to the Royal Society of Alchemists. He gave them only a moment to decide, while his warriors stood by with weapons at the ready. Keld spoke quickly, affirming his loyalty to the king and accepting the king’s offer of patronage. Vita, however, bowed her head and sighed. She replied, “Mighty king, I must decline, for I would not permit an oathbreaker to enter your service.” Sigmar’s warriors took Vita away and locked her in a dungeon beneath Exendun. To Keld Hartmark he gave a gift of gold and silver, as well as a tower of the royal keep to be his personal laboratory.
Two days later, Most Senior Guildmaster Kenston the Lame came to court to decry the king’s actions and insist on the immediate release of Vita Drusse. He was accompanied by a representative1 of House Risten, who echoed his request, though House Risten would have surely punished Vita for choosing her guild over her king; the representative stated, however, that her House should have the first opportunity to punish her, as she had sworn fealty to Sigmar only by the proxy of House Risten.
Sigmar flatly refused both requests and sentenced her to execution in a week’s time. He named the junior warrior2 of the Dane’s Bulwark who would be her executioner. One of a rare breed of Gauntishmen devoted to the Redwood Throne, the warrior spent the following week in prayer, private counsel with a priest, and conversation with Vita Drusse. Much has been supposed about the results of the warrior’s three conversations, but the warrior, the priest, and Vita all kept their silence. In the meantime, the Royal Society of Alchemists issued a daily entreaty to Sigmar for clemency and the immediate release of Vita Drusse, all of which he ignored.
On the 19th of September, the executioner struck true.
The Most Senior Guildmaster declared economic war against the Crown, dissolving all current contracts and forbidding any future contracts. The Royal Society of Alchemists was starving itself of the majority of its legitimate business, as Kenston saw the guild’s laws as something like holy oaths. Still the guild brought in raw materials, and if anything they labored more fervently than ever before. Some goods they must have sold, perhaps to the notorious Travelers’ Guilds, and perhaps to rebellious nobles. The bulk of their work, though, they shipped away from major cities. In January of 1204, Sigmar’s guards and tax men found wagons full of formulations, money, production formulas, and equipment leaving Exendun and Seastone Deeps. When they reported this to the king, he concluded that they intended to take up arms against him, and he ordered the confiscation of all usable formulations, though he left currency, formulas, and equipment alone.
The confiscation of hundreds of crowns’ worth of alchemy instantly soured Sigmar’s relationship with the rest of the guilds, as they saw his complete lack of respect for their laws and property. They declined, however, to terminate their royal contracts. Kenston, however, had neither been idle, nor depended upon their aid; conferring with them was a courtesy and nothing more. Kenston’s agents went into action.
A team of thieves3, 4 escorted a junior alchemist5 on a mission into the royal keep. If it had been a simple theft or espionage job, the thieves would have worked alone, but Kenston sought a death; this the thieves would not do. They entered the keep by the expedient of selling ale and mead from the north country, where the mead is bitingly dry; a taste Sigmar famously preferred from his time there during the war. It was the king’s custom to require sellers of anything that might be poisoned to stay in the keep overnight while his tasters sampled each item.
During the night, the thieves escaped the quarters to which they had been confined and freed the alchemist. Catching two guards by surprise, they subdued them without injury, as the alchemist destroyed his weapon with a single hurled flask. They passed through the courtyard and into the northeastern tower, where Keld Hartmark lay sleeping. The thieves passed each lock with speed, and the alchemist ended Keld’s life with a dreadful poison known as the Warden’s Grasp, a slow and agonizing death. As Keld lay dying, the alchemist whispered to him of the guild’s terrible vengeance on all who betrayed their oaths of brotherhood and secrecy. By sunrise, Keld was dead and the intruders were away.
When the king’s physicker determined Keld’s cause of death, Sigmar had no trouble assigning the blame to the Royal Society of Alchemists, and Kenston didn’t really bother to deny it, because Kenston was already on a ship bound for the Hulder, along with the thieves and the junior alchemist, where their brothers in the Imperial Society of Alchemists would shield them from the king’s retribution. Sigmar’s wrath, then, fell upon the Royal Society of Alchemists in its entirety. On the 9th of April, 1204, he dissolved their centuries-old royal charter, declared their properties and ancient rights null and void, redistributed their granted holdings to his vassals and kinsmen, and ordered the arrest of all guild members. Those who were arrested by his warriors or the Left Hand were put to the question and stripped of wealth and honors; most, however, escaped into hiding.