Uneasy Lies the Head
Neu Ungren Guild of Imperial Engineers
This short essay on the “Historie of the Guild” by Johan Fugger:
Of all the bodies that form the civic structure of our city, possibly most important is that of the Guild. Grand Families and the Wheat Lords feed our bellies, Centuries enact our laws and captains conduct our commerce, but it is the Guildsmen who keep us, quite literally, afloat.
In spite of this, citizens of Neu Ungren know very little of this organization, its goals, structure and history. This is no surprise as the Guild is known to keep to itself and discourage the inquiries. Even the wealth and prestige of this author and the access to the best libraries, in our own city and in the monastery of St. Miklos and even imperial city of Miskoltz yielded only the fragments of information about this mysterious institution.
The origins of the Guild can be traced to the mixing of three major influences: Imperial Engineering Corps, mythical brotherhood of Builders that are said to be the makers of the guard-towers that line the Tierz starting two days north of Neu Ungren, worked closely with the Metallurgists of the Smelter at the first cataract who, according to the tradition, furnished most of the machinery that furnished and defended the towers. The third and less acknowledged influence was that of the Hermetic Order which, in those times, was closely entwined with both military and the nobility and whose initiates were certainly interested in the fortification works and whose influence was already present in the doctrines both Engineers and the Metallurgists.
As the building of the towers is conventionally dated to the reigns of the Kyrios III and IV Theogenes some four hundred years before founding of the city, this date could be used as a nominal beginning of the story of the Guild.
In the scant documents of the period that have survived the tooth of time and the ravages of the civil wars, however, there is no record of any formal bonding between the Engineers and the Metallurgists although it is quite unimaginable that century or so of shared building works has not led to fraternization and significant mutual influence of the two orders. In fact, the spread of the One Faith around and beyond the first cataract is almost undeniably consequence of the return and flow of the converted Metallurgists rather then the proselytizing efforts of the traveling monks. Similarly the advancements in the military technology of the Imperial Armies that date from the period, including the Stirrup, Chain Mail and the long steel-bladed sword, indicate that the exchange was mutually beneficial.
The death of Kyrios IV and the first Imperial involvement in the Magyr-Askari wars brought the abrupt end to the building program and for the first time removed the focus of the throne in Miskoltz from its Western and Northern borders to those in the South and East, the change that has not been reversed in eight hundred years. However, the very wars in the south as well as the shift of the imperial military dogma from the small number of elite, religiously inspired fighters to the vast sprawling legions of the later Theogeni period increased the dependence of the Empire on the large quantities of quality Iron and Steel and therefore on the mines of the Heidalles and the Foundries of the Smelter. As the Sorrowful Sea was at the time still deemed un-navigable and the Tierz Marsh impassible, this trade took place by the torturous land-route that winded for hundreds of miles through the valleys separating the Mountains of northern Weld and the Eastern Heidalles.
At one of the rare hospitable spots on this long route, at the shores of the Poltana Lake, there grew a city which, as I argue elsewhere, can be thought of as a precursor of our own. It was the Weiburg of many towers and its story and tragic destiny are recorded elsewhere for warning and edification of those who would lead our own city. For our present story it suffices to know that the Weiburg was most likely the birth-place of the guild as we know it today.
Why have so many master Metallurgists come from Smelter to dwell in Imperial Weiburg can be only subject of guessing. My theory, supported to an extent by the sources from [[St.Miklos]]’s is that those were descendants of those metallurgists who have accepted the Faith during their sojourn while building towers. It is quite possible that the brotherhood of the Faith became a target of persecutions during one of the periodic civic disturbances at the Smelter and that a number of them looked for shelter at fast developing Imperial outpost. Whatever the reason, Weiburg became, not only a point of import but also a center of the imperial metal-work, shipping out tens of thousands of pieces of arms and armor annually for the imperial war-effort. It is not known why the masters at Weiburg first started to experiment with the pumps but the commonly held opinion is that it was originally for lifting heavy objects and was inspired by the industrial-sized bellows used in forges. At any rate it was in Weiburg that Herman Garillian made one of the greatest inventions in history: that of a compression cylinder.
The cylinder consists of a solid chamber and a movable piston which can be locked at one or more fixed points inside the cylinder. The idea behind the invention is that a pump, which was originally nothing more then the ordinary bellows, can be used to press the piston deep into the cylinder increasing the pressure of the air trapped therein. Energy thus imparted over a period of time can then, by releasing the cylinder, be freed instantaneously providing for the sudden bursts of strength beyond the human capacity.
Garillian was quick to see many possible applications of his invention: from pylon driving in mining and demolition to, most importantly, military application in crossbows.
The principal limitation to the power of the crossbow was always the efficiency of loading. Range and penetration of even the ordinary crossbows requires the bending of the bow that is hard even for the strong man unaided. All crossbows therefore look for some loading aid. The standard crossbow utilizes the lever principle to bend the bow. It is reasonably quick but can achieve only modest range and penetration, roughly on par with the much quicker long-bow. Prior to the Garillian’s invention, the only way to load the stronger cross-bows was by using the rotary crank. By this method, much more powerful shots became possible but at a heavy cost as the turning of crank could take a long time usually unavailable in the thick of battle. The result was that the heavy crossbow-men fired a single powerful salvo and then abandoned their weapons for something faster. The Garillian’s cylinder essentially provides the same service as the crank, makes it possible to spend the time prior to the battle storing the energy that is used to fire the bolts. The advantage of the later is that, firstly, much more energy can be stored and, secondly, not all of it has to be released at once. By using the compression cylinder to power the loading mechanism and having it devised for a number of discharges greater then one (usually four, seven or twelve) the speed of a long-bow can be combined with the range and penetration of the heaviest of the heavy crossbows. The disadvantage of course, is that after the number of the discharges has been used up it becomes virtually impossible to reload the crossbow under the battle-field conditions. The half an hour or more and a strong pump are necessary to make weapon operational again. However, given that in the battle there is scarcely any difference between a weapon that goes dead for a minute and one that is permanently useless and the fact that not many things can survive the dozen concentrated volleys from the heavy crossbow, made the disadvantages look slight and the significant costs of making this devices easy to bear. Pneumatic crossbow will go to become the favored weapon of imperial armies and the one that will contribute heavily the defeat of the Failin overlordship, freeing of the Magyr and their eventual joining to the empire. Herman Garillian, however, did not live to see his weapon adopted by the armies of the Faithful. He died in a riot in which mob tried to force their way into his workshop at the end of his annus mirabilis y.xi.leo.ii.rdm. It is unknown whether the riot was led by the worshipers of the goddess who found the Garillian’s work both sacrilegious and dangerous or simply by the opportunists who wanted to disclose the old man’s secrets for their own profit, but it is undeniable that it was caused by the public fame that Garillian has acquired as an inventor. It was this death that provided the catalyst for the creation of the guild as we know it today. Stunned by the death of their master the students of the Garillian decided to proceed with their work only under the utmost secrecy and anonymity. They invoked the mystique of the ancient Builders of the Towers and made of themselves a secret society limiting their communication with outside world to the few high ranked imperial representatives. They procured the imperial commission that exempted them from any authority save that of the Emperor alone and gave them virtual monopoly on technological work in the empire. Then they built their impregnable Guild-Hall at the outskirts of Weiburg. Here they continued their work but from this point on very little of it became public and the citizens of the empire become content to hire the Guild to perform the engineering work for them rather then to expect to learn how to do it themselves.
Of those who hired the Guild to do the work for them few are more famous then Joackim Fez, the first Navigator and the founder of Neu Ungren. When in his 56th year of age, y.iii.arhos.i.rdm, Fez landed in his small ship in what is to become Neu Ungren bay, there was little there except the old Cathedral of the Angels, the small border garrison on Ferentz’s Rock and a small settlement of riverland traders and pilgrims. Much like Garillian, Fez was quick to realize the importance of his discovery and the pivotal value of the navigable port at the mouth of Tierz. Stopping only shortly to purchase most of what was to become the Old City and Taliver neighborhoods from the church for a song, he proceeded to Weiburg where he contacted the Guildmaster and commissioned the most extensive work that guild has ever undertaken. Over ten million men-hours with the most advanced digging and pumping technology that guild of the time could muster; all of that on credit. Fez, however, had a most impressive collateral and the Guild Master of the time was a man of vision. The agreement was reached and the surveyors were sent to begin the works on what was to become the city of Neu Ungren. Even before work on the city started Fez formed a consortium of merchants to accompany and finance his first real crossing. Among those was one Matias Fugger, enterprising merchant from Weiburg.
Story of the First Crossing is well documented elsewhere as are the early days of Neu Ungren. What is relevant to our story is that, Fez, who was eunuch and thus heirless, provided for fledgling city by tying most of his considerable fortune in the famous Fez Bequest with which he paid the Guild in perpetuity for “building and maintaining and upon demonstrated need expanding, the drainage, sewage and canallage of the city of Fez upon Tierz (later renamed Neu Ungren)”. It is based on this bequest that the guild is still beholden to the interests of the city and continues to keep it from sinking into the swamp.
Actual technological development within the guild is difficult to trace after the death of Herman Garillian as it is shrouded in secrecy. It is quite obvious that the work in Neu Ungren has moved guild even further away from their original metallurgical focus and towards the mechanics and engineering particularly pumps, hydraulics and the excavations. It is also in the Neu Ungren that they have finally adopted black over-coats and heavy boots as their official attire. They have, however, never abandoned their connection with the imperial military and during both external crises that the western empire faced under late Theogeni they each time send two regiments to march under the banners as the engineers attached to the legions. During the succession crisis, however, the Guild itself was split as its two major branches took the sides of the cities they were stationed in. The Weiburg Guild Master was said to have been one of the principal voices on the city council that brought the fateful decision and the Weiburg regiment of the Guild was a part of the celebrated Northern Army and ultimately shared its fate. As an Urbis Liberum Neu Ungren had suffered much less at the hands of Divine Theodosius and therefore there was much less inclination to join the fray on the part of it citizenry. With Centuries paralyzed by the internal squabbles of the nobility and merchants keen to maintain good relations with both sides, Master of Works, as the Guild Master of the junior Chapter came to be known, decided caution and did not commit to the war.
Sack of Weiburg and the destruction of the Guild Hall was almost a mortal strike against the Guild. With the events of the Northern Theatre developing as fast as they did and without reliable information Master of Works did not have time to send help to his beleaguered brethren or even to smuggle enough of the important documents from the Guild Hall. Centuries of expertise and craftsmanship burned as the Guildsman destroyed their life’s work rather then see it fall into the hands of the tyrant.
Victorious Father Dmitrius passed the proclamation in the name of the infant emperor effectively banning the Guild but, when it comes to Neu Ungren chapter at least, it was virtually unenforceable. With Weiburg burnt and north still reeling from internal rebellions and external depredations, only route for the much needed Iron was down Tierz and using the newly discovered “Notheren Router” by ship to Miskoltz via Neu Ungren. This meant that neither priest-butcher nor the compact that took regency after him dared antagonize the city that controlled this traffic.
Growth of Neu Ungren in wealth and power in the uncertain decades of the last Theogeni is well documented story. What is less well known is that this prosperity was not shared by the Neu Ungren Guild. Besides the great loss of the knowledge fall of Weiburg was a significant financial blow as much of the Fez Bequest was invested from there. Even when the imperial ban got lifted in y.xxi.const.iii.rdmui much of the investment beyond the Neu Ungren itself was lost. Even though Survivors of the Weiburg Regiment went on to establish chapters in most of the Imperial cities including Miskoltz herself, this did little to compensate for the loss of the Mother Chapter. Although Guild continued to fulfill its obligations under the terms of Fez Bequest its work become noticeably weaker and its innovation stifled. To compensate it retreated even further into secrecy and mystique. It is from this period that the mysterious testing for the future guildsmen stems.
Second succession crisis and the rise of Koroly affected Guild less then the first one. They adhered to strictest neutrality and failed to take sides even during rioting and street fighting on the very streets of Neu Ungren. Years of relative prosperity and heavy demand for their services during the building of the New City during the reigns of Istvan II and III did help bring Guild back somewhat from its stupor and their work on the Istvan Bridge remains one of their finer accomplishments. The fact remains that the times of great inventions and advancements were past and that Guild cast itself into the capacity of custodians and sewage experts of one city alone, the role they maintain to the present day.