Stormhaven is a republic governed by a council, with representatives elected by the merchant guilds. Councilors serve a five-year term, meeting once every two weeks in a gathering called the Grand Parliament, ostensibly to create and debate law, but more often simply to hammer out trade agreements and line guild coffers. The founding laws dictated that each of the city’s thirty-seven recognized guilds has the right to elect a councilor. 137 years ago Ulik Thom of the Underwriter’s Guild drafted and pushed an amendment that now bears his name, by which each guild must contribute a flat fee to buy Parliament representation. Engrossed by this money, the city treasury can pay for dock and shipyard maintenance, as well as afford wages for the navy and city guard. As a result, only eleven councilors rule the city, drawn from Stormhaven’s wealthiest guilds. Members of the founding clans have strong government influence, though they are only involved officially with the Moneychanger’s Guild, and in fact are legally forbidden from other guild memberships in an attempt to curb corruption. Theirs are the hands controlling guild policy, using bribes and “polite” suggestions to achieve their goals, backed by blackmail and the occasional assassination. The guild councilors resent the interference, but see no easy way to counter it.
There are 37 guild houses arrayed in a wide circle around Rockhammer Square, each a villa lavish enough for royal sensibilities. All but eleven stand empty. With the passing of Thom’s Law the poorer guilds were banished to the Driftdowns. During the height of the trade and diplomatic season, the unused guild houses are sometimes rented to wealthy merchants and foreign governments without permanent Stormhaven residence. Since the lesser guilds banishment to the Driftdowns there are many rumors of lost guild treasures lying hidden in several of the old guild homes. None of the rumors have been substantiated but there is one tale of a merchant some fifty years ago, who after staying in the old diver guild house, left Stormhaven before his long negotiated appearance at a Grand Parliament. Many Stormhaven treasure hunters believe that the merchant found something so valuable in the home it made his negotiations with the Parliament moot.