"The city of slaves, where people are born into chains they will never know to resist, and captives thrown into cages to have their spirit broken and body repurposed. They concentrate power in the hands of a few and remove the will to resist from the rest. I don't know what is more terrifying, that they have only become stronger and more productive over time, or that the wider world still trades with them" -Ashed Ethics Council
NorthGuard, previously called NorthCliff city is a rogue Ashed city-state which seceded from the Ashed Confederacy and returned after a brief conflict. The city-state seceded over laws concerning the treatment and ownership of live human beings and the distribution of power through the city-states.
The city-state of NorthGuard is the only Ashed city-state that legalizes the trade and ownership of live human beings as property. Slavery is legal in NorthGuard as one of their largest industries. The slave masters of NorthGuard are the reigning power of the city, raising the majority of citizens as uneducated brainwashed property.
- NorthGuard has the heaviest fortifications of all the Ashed city-states.
- The city is located on top of a cliff face with easy access to the sea, the only way to access it by sea is a land bridge.
- Occasionally citizens of other city-states will purchase slaves in an attempt to save them. Due to their selective breeding of their workers and mental conditioning, it is a lost cause.
"The winding path that NorthGuard took was paved with good intentions and led by the Ashed's own philosophy taken too far." -Page fragment from book "City of Slaves"
"It was a beautiful city at the start, ships loaded with manufactured goods leaving port, caravans of fish travelling to the other cities, people running around, free and happy in the lives they chose. Now all that is left is death and the inescapable fate of being used by the wielders from the day you are born to the day they put you in the wall. Even death is no escape from bondage in this hellish place." -Ethics Council spy journal post execution
NorthGuard was established during the first age as a fishing and overseas shipping port called "NorthCliff city". Its positioning near the sea made it ideal for these purposes and its position on the tops of the cliff gave it a very defensible position. As Woag activity, banditry, and piracy rose, the city took on the secondary task of being a military stronghold for Family Hearth naval vessels and road patrols. Its inaccessibility by land, high vantage point and sheer seaside cliffs made it ideal for this purpose. The city was renamed "NorthGuard" to reflect its new duties.
Start of the Slave Trade
"It’s nothing personal; it’s just good business. If not us, someone else would do it, except they would do it poorly." -NorthGuard hand caste "bounty hunter" regarding selling prisoners
In most engagements, Ashed mercenaries hired to defend shipping routes do not take prisoners; they either drive off the foe or finish them off. However, when the Family Hearth began paying extra sums of money to their hired mercenary bands to bring them live captives to be tried and punished by Family Hearth courts, the mercenary guilds obliged.
Their business became more lucrative however far more dangerous as the capture of human beings is often far more difficult than killing them. The companies began specializing and focusing on training their mercenaries to capture and disable opponents instead of killing them quickly. Their medical guilds became far more focused on repairing damage to non Ashed captured in the process of "packaging" them for sale to the Family Hearth.
Some of the prisoners taken captive by these new forces were not purchased by the Family Hearth courts due to them having a lack of interest, however the cost of capturing them still needed to be reclaimed, thus they sold them as "prisoners of justice" to Tallet slave merchants, transported by the Family Hearth.
- The companies referred to themselves as the "bounty hunting industry".
- Prisoners on the manifest were assigned crimes they had possibly committed so they could be sold not as people but as a "capture fee".
Start of the Caste System
As the capture, transportation and storage of live human beings is often far more dangerous and costly than simply killing them on the battlefield, the NorthGuard mercenary companies began seeing far more casualties, and began requiring stricter training and larger amounts of soldiers. With their population overtaxed, the Council of 14 created what was referred to as "the Hearthstone Incentives".
These incentives were a series of laws that required their education system to forgo large chunks of education in favor of combat training and push children into the roles of professional soldier from the age of ten forward. The incentives also promoted higher population growth rates by having businesses give extra pay to female laborers per child produced. The "child pay" was only given if they had children with mercenaries, to help pass on aggressive traits to those the education system would mold into soldiers. This was the beginning of the caste system as the council of 12 began effectively controlling human breeding and job prospects.
- The reasons for the "Homestead" laws was to protect NorthGuard's economy.
- Homestead laws narrowed job prospects and directed children’s lives from age ten and up.
- It was reasoned that they couldn't trust other cities’ mercenaries to not steal their business.
- They refused to subcontract other companies due to loss of profit.
War of Two Councils
The Ethics Council attempted to reign in the Council of 14's decisions regarding the trade of humans, claiming that the bounty hunting label they had given themselves was a loophole they were using to sell slaves, which was outlawed at the founding of the Ashed Confederacy. The Council of 14 responded by halting all business within the city, slowly starving its economy while pocketing vast stores of their own private wealth. The Ethics Council attempted to seize their assets only to be killed by the mercenaries under the control of the Council of 14. The reason behind the arrest and execution was due to "sabotaging the economy"
The Ethics Council was completely destroyed, every member captured or killed, a new Ethics Council was put into place by the Council of 14, all under their control. With no oversight or resistance, new laws were put into place officially legalizing the trade and ownership of live human beings and the slave trade was made official.
With slavery legal, it took only a generation for the various businesses to declare the remaining citizens property of the companies that employed them, and the unemployed or dependents of the city were deemed "waste" and sent to the carvers for summary execution and recycling. Their will was enforced by the specially bred and trained mercenary companies, and all dissenters were enslaved under the premise of "disturbing the peace" As under Ashed law, any crime can be paid back with forced labor, the new council simply extended all crimes to "life sentences".
- NorthGuard fell to internal corruption, despite their claims that it was necessary to survive.
Retribution of the 14th
Other city-states began noticing the changes NorthGuard was making to their city structure and culture decades late to intervene or enact any real change due to the independence and general lack of oversight with each individual city. The Ethics Council put in place by the NorthGuard Council of 14 sent false reports regarding the well-being of the citizenry. Once the other cities began noticing, none of them wanted to dedicate the resources to do anything about it, nor did they know what they could do.
The 14th Council arrived at NorthGuard, making one of its supremely rare public appearances. It summoned the Council of 14 to an emergency meeting. The council arrived, and as the meeting commenced the 14th laid out several constructed plans to slowly reverse the positions of NorthGuard over the course of several generations with the promise of relatively light to no punishment if they complied.
The council unanimously blocked every motion the 14th offered, as according to Ashed law, a unanimous vote blocks the Immortal. As they motioned unanimously to have the meeting adjourned, they found the council chambers to be locked. The 14th murdered every member of the new council and every guard in the room before calling for a new council to be formed.
The successors of the council quickly acted and ordered the capture of the Immortal; the NorthGuard mercenaries complied. The 14th was able to escape the city and issued an order to assemble the combined armies of the Ashed Confederacy. The full force of the Ashed Confederacy marched on NorthGuard to liberate the people and reclaim the city.
Conflict of Secession
After the killing of the first NorthGuard Council of 14, the council was reformed into the Council of 13, omitting the Immortal's seat as it was demolished by hand. The walls of the NorthGuard council chamber were never cleaned, the blood of the original council being left there as a reminder.
NorthGuard attempted to secede from the confederacy. The unified Ashed army arrived with the 14th at its head, rolling over the NorthGuard mercenaries stationed in its outer territories. Though they were numerically superior and aided by warriors of the early Ebony Pillars civilization, they took heavy losses for every NorthGuard mercenary taken.
The NorthGuard council retreated its soldiers within its heavily fortified walls and the 14th demanded to speak to the new council. The new council discussed unknown terms with the Immortal; after terms were agreed upon, the assembled armies were ordered to return to their cities and NorthGuard remained a part of the confederacy.
- It is speculated the 14th wanted to avoid the extreme cost in both lives and material of taking the heavily fortified city.
- The city had several heavy trade restrictions placed upon it and other city-states do not trade with them to this day.
- Further speculation states the 14th allows NorthGuard to exist as a standard of how a city-state is not to be run.
Caste System and Power Structure
The smallest caste of NorthGuard, the wielder caste are the descendants of the original twelve councilors that formed the quiet rebellion and secession of NorthGuard. They control the hand, weapon, and tool caste. They own every person and property in the city.
- The wielder caste makes up 0.1% of the population of NorthGuard.
The second smallest caste of NorthGuard, the hand caste are the descendants of the original floor bosses and middle factory managers, they act as the semi-free commanders of the tool and weapon caste. The hand caste can own property and currency, however each one is owned by one of the twelve wielder caste families.
- The Hand caste makes up 0.9% of the population.
The second largest caste of NorthGuard, the weapon caste are specially bred for strength, endurance,
aggression, and lack of mental capacity. They are further trained to only obey their hand and wielder caste. While usually controlled exclusively by the wielder caste for their slaving and affairs abroad, their services can be sold to others as mercenaries.
- The weapon caste makes up 25% of the population
- They are noted at being far more dangerous and determined than the average Ashed mercenary.
- They are noticeably bulkier than most Ashed.
- They have no concept of freedom or self-determination due to stunted mental growth and conditioning.
The largest caste of NorthGuard. Every tool caste is bred for improved durability and stamina even by the standards of the Ashed. The secondary thing they are bred for is reduced mental capacity and docility. The tool caste is born into the trade they will fulfill for the rest of their lives as property of the hand and wielder caste. They are further trained to be obedient to their owners through aversion therapy and reward conditioning.
- The Tool Caste makes up 74% of the population.
- The males of the tool caste are the only ones sold outside of the gates, and they are gelded before being sold to outsiders.
- They have no concept of self-determination or freedom due to training and stunted mental growth.
NorthGuard enjoys a special relationship with the people of the Broken Kingdom. Seen as an evil made mortal in a way that only the Immortal Faceless Emperor matches, even traveling bands of civilians will at times attack NorthGuard slaving parties on sight. There is a bounty of gold and prestige offered by the Truest King for those who stop and capture slavers. Freed peoples are escorted back to their homes (if at times after a trip to the Kingdom to testify against their captors). The confirmed slavers themselves have inevitably found their blood staining the executioner's block. It is not uncommon for some of the more senior Armored Riders to simply execute such slavers themselves, not needing further recognition and not desiring to inconvenience the "witnesses" they've liberated. It is worth noting that while success is not guaranteed given the respectable skill of the weapon caste, the people of the Broken Kingdom aren't exactly known for a lack of willingness to take a risk.
The Family Hearth
"Trade is trade; coin is coin." -Family Hearth Merchant
The Technocracy have called NorthGuard "a problem that is lucky it's too far away to be our problem." They have accused NorthGuard repeatedly of trading kidnapped members of the Circle as slaves, to which NorthGuard gave them prices. The Technocracy's response is that they refuse to pay ransom.
NorthGuard officials have accused the Encircled Pirate Corps of orchestrating periodic Woag attacks, which somehow enter through carefully researched weaknesses, such as the sewers, and use heavy artillery which is of obviously Circle origin to bombard from warships. The Pirate Corps point out that those ships are flying Woag colors and are manned by crews with Woag paint, and are therefore obviously Woag. Other Ashed cities have echoed this sentiment, and the Woag aren't talking. Interestingly enough, the other Ashed cities have no legal basis to press here, as the main thing "stolen" is not a legally traded good, but slaves, mostly of Circle origin.