The Family Hearth or Hearth Family is the name of the world trade corporation which operates out of its homeland in the Midlands. Both a nation and a corporation, the Family Hearth's capital and headquarters is in the city known as Hearthhome. From here the Corporate Board, under the guidance of its Immortal chairman the Mother, has created a trade network that stretches the breadth of the world. The Family Hearth can be found with their trade enclaves in every major town and city on the mainland with exception of the Circle and Kushan. Company ships command the World Ocean of Soi, vulnerable only to the ravages of the North Sea and the attentions of the dread Woag pirates. Meanwhile the company's caravans travel and maintain the network of roadways, bridges, and ferries which join the civilizations of the world together in commerce.
The Hearth Edit
The homeland of the Family Hearth is located on a equatorial peninsula to the east of the Ebony Isle and the west of the Tallet Empire. Commonly referred to as the Hearth, the capital of the homeland is the city of Hearthhome located on the southern shore of the island on what is perhaps the greatest harbor in Soi. The largest known gold reserves exist under the lands of the Hearth, the extraction rites to the mines being owned directly by the Mother. Aside from the mines and Hearthhome, the land of the peninsula is divided into eight districts. Each of the eight districts is ruled by one of the eight first families of the Hearth. These families trace their lineage directly to the Mother, and are said to be descended of her first eight children. The other families of the Hearth measure their relative closeness to the Mother as the source of their rank in society. with second, third, fourth, and fifth counted among the True Family. Outsiders do point out though, that the fifth families of the Hearth as as functionally related to the Mother as one randomly selected peasant family may be to any other with blood connections to the Mother being five times removed through marriage. What remains however is that to captain one of the Family Hearth's ships or caravans one must belong to or have married into one of the Hearth Families, be it one of the first families all the way down to one of the fifth families. It is worth noting, that even someone who has married into a first family will always outrank the highest standing member of a second family and so on.
Shipping and Commerce Edit
The Family hearth
Banking and currency Edit
The currency and set value of many of the world's trade goods, while not all exclusively controlled by the Family Hearth, tend to follow values and standards set by them.
Loans and debts Edit
Universal Units of Measurement Edit
The universal units of measurement for weight was a joint effort by the Circle and Hearth during their brief cooperation during the First Age and agreed upon by the rest of the civilized world. Since their conflicts they have continued to use these measurements as most of their economy is based on these and adjusting them would be more trouble than it is worth.
The Corporate Board Edit
The Corporate Board refers to the ruling body of the Family Hearth. The board has eight chairs, filled by the heads of the first families. The final component of the Corporate Board is the Mother, her chair referred to as the Seat of the Hearth. Together, the board rules foreign policy and oversees the seething mass of commerce which makes the Family Hearth the world's largest business, if one of its smallest nations. Matters of business include the maintenance of the Family's network of trade enclaves and ports throughout the world, foreign relations with organized powers, investment into foreign resources or markets, and maintaining the security of the world market for the prosperity of all branches of the Family.
The Hearth at Sail Edit
From early in the time of Soi, the Family Hearth's focus on trade and economic growth has lead it to be a major presence on the seas of Soi. From their ancient single masted and rudder steered vessels of antiquity the Family Hearth laid claim to most of the navigable harbors on the World Sea, only the Woag successfully fighting off the trespasses into their territory. Over the millenia the small anchorages and supply houses in those harbors grew to the largest of the Family Hearth's trade complexes, becoming decentralized dumping grounds for the goods of the world as they are transported far and wide. Many of these port-enclaves have since been absorbed into larger cities of major and minor cities alike, with the enclaves maintaining their independence from the greater settlement as the price of secured business dealings with the Family Hearth. Likewise, the naval forces of the Family Hearth have grown. Where once a single small ship would adventure into the world alone, now towering merchant galleons armed to the teeth travel in convoys throughout much of the world. Only in the treacherous North Sea of the Woag are lesser vessels utilized as the lumbering galleons are unfit for the wild waters. Likewise it is only in the North Sea, under threat of nature and Woag alike that the Family Hearth's peaceful supremacy is compromised, ships and crews alike gone missing with notable frequency.
Each ship is crewed by an entire family of the Hearth, the occupation of sailing merchant treated with great regard in their homeland. In a unique marriage arrangement even among the Families of the Hearth, each adult member of the crew is wed in some way to the rest of the crew, with the adolescents considered to be the children of all. The matriarch of the family is recognized as the captain of the ship while the patriarch often takes on the role of mate or navigator. It is not unusual for ships on convoy together to lash their vessels together while at anchor to give the youths of each family the chance to intermingle with one another, often resulting in brief courtships and quick marriages during the journeys, before the convoy splits apart and goes their separate ways.
The Hearth on Wheels Edit
Most of the world knows the Family Hearth from their caravans, which travel the world on roads for the greater part maintained by those same caravans. These caravans are typically immense affairs, consisting of merchant wagons, freight wagons, escort forces, and repair crews. It is not unusual for the caravans to receive additional escorts from the nations they travel through, to help ensure that no fault can be laid at the local ruler's feet for losses suffered by the Family. Likewise, the caravan master tends to be personally guarded by Goran warriors as any loss of a Family member is considered a blemish on Gor's honor.
While relatively secure affairs, the caravans of the Family Hearth are notoriously slow-moving, weighted down as they move masses of goods from one region to the next, and repairing their roadways and bridges as they go. While the merchants traveling with caravans do quite well working in small villages, the true fonts of wealth are the trade enclaves found at major population centers to which the bulk of freight is delivered to be haggled for by the local economic and political leadership. The skill of a caravan master at the bargaining table for the freighted wares is the source of each individual's reputation, and failure to secure favorable enough dealings means taking losses even to the point of bankruptcy when the first families collect their due.
Protecting the Hearth Edit
The Family Hearth spent the greater part of its existence on Soi following the guidance of the Mother in its
avoidance of open conflict with the military powers of the world. Instead, the Corporate Board maintained a practice of staunch neutrality and utilized its economic leverage to keep its own borders secure from foreign invasion. The Family even quelled the Goran hostilities against their caravans in the west by swearing the Rite of the Vassal to Gor, securing his protection in addition to expanding their trade routes. The one exception to the Hearth's security has always been Woag raids, but the people of the far north pose no threat to the homeland itself. True to form, the Corporate Board spent the first millennia dealing with the Woag as they deal with any brigands, paying others to sort out the matter in the form of bounties. These policies however would have their strength tested during the Great War and eventually find themselves adjusted.
The Family Album Edit
The Family Album is the name given to the great library of the Family Hearth, personally sponsored by the Mother herself. Within the structure was kept the lineage of all of the Families of the Hearth, the records of each member of the family, records of trade deals, and, most importantly to the Mother, a portrait of each child borne into the first families. During the early years of the Great War, the Circle bungled an attempt to exert pressure on the Family Hearth to cut trade relations with the Tallet Empire. The result was the burning of the Family Album by the Woag who had aided the Circle. While the Family Album has risen again from the ashes, little was ever recovered and even less could be replaced. The Mother and her Family to this day are known to harbor a deep grudge against the Woag and Circle for the now centuries-old loss.
The Hearth Shield Edit
"You would dare attack my family in our own home? Come forth to be destroyed, and know that even if you win, your misdeeds will make you a villain to the world." -Hearth defender to Durashi war party, a destroyed mortal nation
The loss of the Family Album and the perpetual worry of the Hearth's vulnerability to a land invasion lead to
the formation of the Family Hearth's first extensive security force. Where once there were only civilian police forces, a professional fighting force referred to officially as the Shield of The Family's Hearth or colloquially as the Hearth Shield has arisen. Where there were once only rudimentary defensive structures, immense walls and fortifications have risen. The men of the Hearth Shield are a strictly defensive force which never leaves the homeland. The Family Hearth, making use of their immense wealth and trade empire, equip their forces as armored halberdiers, wearing lightweight leather and padded armors under their stout breastplates and shady helms. Unique among the armies of the world, these soldiers are equipped with krak-powder weapons known as scatter-guns when on patrol and heavy recurved arbalests when stationed at fortifications.
The Archway of Prosperity Edit
"One of the largest structures built by human hands, it is beautiful to look upon, a reminder of the power of the Family, and every time they take a toll its a reminder of where that power comes from." -Captain of the "Wander" shipping vesselMore commonly known throughout the world simply as "the Bridge", the Archway of Prosperity is the largest bridge in the world and was some hundred years in the making, stretching from the southern shore of the Hearth to the northern shore of the mainland across the Golden Sea. Like with many of the new fortifications of the Hearth, the bridge was constructed via Grand Parade from the Broken Kingdom. Serving a double purpose, the Archway allows caravans and travelers approaching from the west and south to enter the Hearth while bypassing weeks of travel through the Tallet Empire and avoiding the expense of Tallet tolls. The Archway however also serves as an immense gateway into the Golden Sea and Hearthhome's harbor. In an ironic twist of fate, following almost two millennia of paying Tallet tolls, the Family Hearth now taxes Tallet galleys seeking to leave the Golden Sea and enter the World Ocean. Heavy bronze chains and siege weaponry set into the fortress-like piers of the bridge ensure that nothing short of the Family's own navy will be able to force its way past the Archway in the near future.
The Gateway to Home Edit
Finished far more rapidly than the Archway, and admittedly less impressive in scale, the Gateway is the large wall which now bisects the narrow isthmus which connects the Hearth to the mainland. A multi-layered defense, the Gateway features a wall and towers built to the Family's specifications by the Broken Kingdom, a series of Goran barracks, a fifty meter wide moat with drawbridge, and over a mile of razed salt marsh, ensuring that any army seeking to siege the Gateway will have to build their engines in plain sight, if not range firing range, of the wall.
War Frigates Edit
"Let the Tallet try to force our hand with their clinker-built follies they call galleys. We will sail one vessel alone into a dozen of theirs and emerge victorious, for ours is a mighty frigate of destruction!" -Maria et Bakkar, Captain of the Gilded Eagle shortly before being overwhelmed by the Tallet fleetWhile most ships used by the Family Hearth resemble giant floating warehouses and are known as galleons, the shoreline of the Hearth and its approaching waters are patrolled by ships known as war-frigates. These vessels make no qualms about their purpose, nor is any pain taken to make them appear as anything other than instruments of war. Representing incredible expenditures that minor kingdoms could only dream of, the war frigates are armed to the rails with siege weaponry and sport bronze plating both above and below the waterline. Due to their weight and cost, these frigates are never seen away from the Hearth's waters where a sizable shipyard is devoted to the maintenance of the vessels.