The Exploration Society
The ‘Exploration Society’:
The ‘Exploration Society’ is a concept born from the Second Wave of Settlement of the Airle, and the post-Reconquest period. While the Knight Orders had to devote most of its own resources towards fighting against the hordes, there remained a large need for detailed scouting of conquered areas for suitability of habitation, of possible resources to be secured, and to analyze the potential for contact with indigenous populations.
Among the settlers, there existed those with unique and valuable martial, arcane, and mechanical skills, but for many different reasons did not directly assist the efforts of the Orders during the Reconquest. In order to utilize the skills of these non-combatants, the Knight Order’s leadership approved the formation of paramilitary groups, who’s primary functions would be scouting and resource recovery. Initially, this took the form of searching out cleared Orc villages, and securing the resources for the Knight Order of the sphere they operated under while mapping the surrounding areas.
Those groups that contained members with more academic skills might document fauna and flora of the areas, test water supplies, and even undertake magical analysis of any exotic artifacts recovered. These activities continued decades past the Battle of Fellsong Pass, resulting in a huge stockpile of detailed documentation, some which has not been analyzed even to this day.
The initial reward for providing these services was a cut of the valuables found, which in effect meant that the Orders had to expend very little of their own resources for these groups to operate. The tiny amount of superficial valuables they relinquished for this service was a small price to pay for the securing of entire regions until the 2nd Vervine could arrive to take control.
This did not always go smoothly however. There were incidents of paramilitary groups looting villages entirely and leaving them abandoned. Other times, they pursued their job perhaps too diligently, using excessive force to dissuade unsanctioned settlers from entering their regions of control. Many of these troubles came towards the end of the Reconquest period, and with the lack of new villages to make money off of, a good portion of these groups dispersed, their members using their fortunes to found businesses and invest in the new Felusian towns that were popping up everywhere.
Some of these groups, generally the more academic, continued their exploration of the more wilderness areas of the Airle. Others focused their study on the indigenous Airle settlement, such as the Zielgfoke and Telis’ouvanian cultures. And, there were those that had discovered ancient ruins, and desired to continue archeological and treasure finding expeditions to get a better picture of the continents mysterious history, as well as for monetary gain. The Knight Orders could see the wisdom in keeping this potential information and revenue stream open. Conversely, they desired to put a tighter reign on the operational liberties these groups were allowed, in order to avoid the problems of the past.
It was at this time that the Knight Orders were transitioning from mainly military focused organizations to governing ones. The issue of crafting a role for these groups was placed on the pile with the rest of the new laws that were being documented at a rapid pace by the scribes of each Knight Order. When the charters were completed, the concept and guidelines of the ‘exploration society’ would become a core part of each Hold’s governing laws.
The remaining exploration societies would experience a boom period in the 50 years following the end of the Hordewars. Discoveries were relatively common, as many unexplored areas were fundamentally easy to reach. Although the knowledge gained from these ancient and weathered ruins themselves was limited, the resulting mapping that was created to support these expeditions had an immediate value to the new governments of the Holds. The members of the more successful societies made quite a hefty profit from their discoveries, while quite a few others were not so lucky with their finds. As the easier to reach sites dried up, the remaining societies were required to travel into more remote and dangerous lands in search of finds.
After a century, the lack of profit forced most of these societies to disband, or transition into small groups focusing on scholarly research, which put it in direct competition with the larger and better financed magical academies. Although the petition to form a society would be invoked for the occasional new ruin discovered, any created to explore it would disband soon after words. By 794 AT, the Exploration Society had become an anachronistic and outdated concept, their more prominent exploits remembered as the subject of obscure bardic tales.
In the modern day, the role of the Exploration Society has been replaced by unsanctioned and/or illegal expeditions, often organized in regions without the restrictive regulations that Societies need to adhere to. These fortune hunters are usually interested only in the wealth that could be gained by a find, and not the academic value that could be obtained from it. Although this allows these expeditions to keep all the profits discovered by their efforts, sometimes they fall victim to duplicity, conflict over shares, and in some cases, double cross and murder.
The Basic Roles, Rights, and Responsibilities of Exploration Societies:
Official Sanction of an Airle government – This allows for free transit and operational privilege in any government that recognizes Exploration Societies.
The right to claim archeological finds anywhere in the Airle – This of course comes with certain caveats. Some governments may allow operation, but also levy a tax on the profits, as well as possibly overall management of the sites.
The duty to turn over 25% of the material profits, as well as all maps and information created as a result of an expedition – Societies in the past have been able to skirt this requirement somewhat, but more than minor violations could lead to the Societies liquidation and disbandment.
The rest of the bulk of valuable goods are split by percentage, decided upon before the start of the expedition, and agreed to by all parties involved – This allows for no negotiation or blackmail during an expedition, with those breaking the deals subject to penalty by law, with the rest of the group immediately entitled to take forcible custody of the offender, as well as the offender forfeiting their share. Some provisions exist for the temporary use of items discovered for ‘loan purposes’ until the expeditions return, and for what would be considered sole use items.
The right to bear arms for the purpose of mutual protection and advancement of the legal aims of their society – Mercenary groups, or more specifically organized private militias, are not legal in the Holds, or in most other Airle states. In its intent, this rule allows an exemption, allowing a means for expeditions to protect themselves. However, there is no upper limit to the people the society could potentially hold, nor is there a limit how many chapterhouses a society could maintain within its nation of sponsorship. The only requirement is that all members of the expedition must be sanctioned by the society, and operate under its rules for the duration of the expedition. Accepting persons into the society for reasons other than its intended purpose, for monetary gain or sedition, could lead to the liquidation and disbandment of the society.
To protect and uphold the laws of the (nation) the society operates under – This is a function which stems from the earlier paramilitary incarnation of the society concept, when the groups were more interested in securing regions during the Reconquest. Operationally, this compels the society to be self-policing, and to act as an available skilled force for local government officials to petition for assistance. In practice, societies could find many ways to be passively compliant with this requirement, and to stretch the law when unusual circumstances present themselves.
To elect a Society Chair every 3 years, who acts as sole judge in internal disputes and representative in external matters – This created a point of accountability between the Society and the State. Some societies created their own self-government, governing through democratic means. This still relied on the permission and sufferance of the elected Society Chair, who could change or revoke internal rules, save currently active expeditions. The check to this power came in the form that people could leave the societies any time they liked without penalty, save during an expedition for purely monetary reasons.
This list will be elaborated on as other questions concerning the Societies come up.