What do you remember of my last tale?
Issar Roon’s question is direct—more so than ever before—and catches you off guard. He interprets your hesitation as a lack of knowledge.
You seemed interested. I had hoped some of the details might have permeated that tough skull of yours.
You walk with the old man through one of the inner courtyards. Snow covers the trees and shrubbery so all that is visible are soft mounds and odd shapes of white and grey. The paths are cleared—among the many jobs you and the other disciples attend to each day. The path is winding and the snow is helping to obscure your view of anything but a few feet in any direction.
Your walk is slow, with the old man setting the rate of your footsteps. His gait more of a shuffling dance, not that of one who has lost mobility in his joints, but of one who is in no hurry and has no destination in mind. The pace suits you—you’d rather not think of things still left to do today. Turning your mind back to the old man, you find him about to start his story.
Perhaps divulging more of Ravnica’s culture will refresh your memory. I shall tell you of the Guildpact and remaining guilds. I would ask if you are interested, but I can already tell from your face that you are.
The Guildpact was formed over ten thousand years ago. It is an ancient document of sorts, bound by blood, magic, and unseen powers. It keeps each guild of Ravnica constrained to its duties and prevents each from meddling in the affairs of the others. It is also the savior of Ravnica, or so their ancestors would have you believe.
Before the Guildpact, there was nothing but strife and conflict. Multiple factions and allegiances on the plane fought for control over areas, resources, and anything else they might have held valuable. War was constant, death was ever-present, and tragedy loomed over all who lived on the plane. It is possible that the plane could have extinguished itself if certain events fell into place. Luckily for Ravnica, that was not the case.
The lawmage Azor I saw the greater danger that lay ahead, and he set about changing the plane’s course. Azor I brought together a council of leaders from each faction and told them of the danger. He proposed a weaving of a great spell that would give each faction a place and responsibility on the plane, directed toward the strengths of each. The spell that eventually became the Guildpact would regulate each faction, preventing it from suppressing the others to increase its own power and influence.
Though the more chaos-oriented factions resisted initial opportunities to agree, even they could not ignore the truth in Azor I’s prediction. In the end, the leader of each faction signed the Guildpact in blood and sealed it with magic. Some say the document was created by Azor I, but others suggest that it is much too awe-inspiring to have been created by one mage. They claim that the Guildpact could only be formed by the agreement of all the leaders and that it drew power from each to create itself. They say it lives.
The power and restraint the Guildpact exerts is subtle and ever-present. It does not have specific rules that one must follow like the decrees of kings here in your land. It sees all, and it works to counteract any attempts to subvert the union and order of the guilds. If a guild or its parun attempts to overthrow another guild, a third party will intervene under the quiet direction of the Guildpact. It is unseen and unheard, but it is there, maintaining peace.
The old man stops his walk for a moment to look around the garden, then turns toward you.
If you have paid attention, you may have noticed my choice of words. When the Guildpact was created, the factions that existed were not guilds. Indeed, it was not even called the Guildpact at the time. Its original name has been lost to the annals of history. However, the factions that existed then were the progenitors of today’s guilds. Each was given the place and responsibility that a guild now holds. Each of the groups’ leaders became the first parun of his or her respective guild. It was because of the Guildpact that those factions were able to order themselves and prosper.
The old man pauses for a moment, letting his words sink in. He starts walking again as his story continues.
I suppose it is time I told you of the other five guilds. You will need the knowledge, and I imagine you will enjoy the short summaries. The politics between guilds is what makes Ravnica’s history so fascinating.
If the Azorius Senate writes the rules, and the Selesnya Conclave preaches the values within them, the Boros Legion is the arm that enforces Ravnica’s laws. Without the Boros Legion, laws would be meaningless, and the Guildpact would fall apart. That is not to say that the Boros are above vying for power against the other guilds, but they do so for the sake of the Guildpact. This is tempered by the other guilds’ zeal for debasing the ancient document.
The Orzhov Syndicate controls business and finance on Ravnica. If you find a new business in one of the city’s districts, chances are the Orzhov already have a hand—or three—involved. Unlike banks or organizations on other planes, the Orzhov control its members through life and death. Dying provides no escape from payments. Though they pretend to be a religious organization, they do not believe in anything beyond power.
The Orzhov may control your spirit after death, but it is the Golgari Swarm that controls death itself. Officially controlling Ravnica’s food production and supply, the Golgari believe death to be only one part of a never-ending cycle. Being Ravnica’s largest guild thanks to this cycle, they are kept in check only by inner conflict. The Devkarin and Teratogens are only two of the cells within the Golgari that are striving for dominance.
The Simic Combine was once Ravnica’s guild of healers. Sadly, in an effort toward improvement and perfection, the guild has become a society of scientists experimenting on the living. They still provide basic healthcare to those who need it on the plane, but the larger part of the Simic’s energy and time goes toward improving all life forms on Ravnica. This pursuit has alienated them from the majority of Ravnica, but the Simic are still called upon when no normal healer can fix a wound.
Whereas the Simic Combine experiments with biological patients, the Izzet League toys with mechanical and technological inventions. Any technological or magical advancement made over the past ten thousand years is most likely the result of an Izzet scientist. Unpredictable and not wholly organized, the Izzet are a source of curiosity among Ravnica dwellers . . . when they’re not destroying entire neighborhoods with their experiments, of course.
And that, my student, is what I have to say on Ravnica for the time being. There is much more I could tell you, but I shall not drown you. I will revisit these subjects in their own time.
When the old man finishes his story, you look up in surprise at finding yourself in front of his study. When you arrived, you cannot remember. Knowing the old man will give you no more for the day, you slowly make your way back to your duties.