Wings of Malaakh
The Wings of Malaakh (also known as the 10,000 Wings of Malaakh, The Wind Fleet, or The Blue Hand) are a trade guild most known for their large fleet of flying sail-vessels, distrust of technology, and hatred for “evil beings”. Almost entirely nomadic they are Ravnica’s most prolific cartographers by far, with a strong majority control of long distance trade routes, public transportation, and mail delivery.
The Wings of Malaakh trace their ancestry back to refugees from Suq’Ata and Femeref: two nomadic nations of the continent of Jamuria on the plane of Dominaria, thrown free from Dominaria during the Jamurian war when Teferi phased out his realm. The first refugees were people close to the conflict at the time: Merchant marines, traders, navigators, sailors, and wizards from Suq’Ata. Scouts, clerics, and nomad militias from Femeref.
Arriving in Ravnica during an earlier age of reconstruction and reclamation, their nomadic tradition served them well. With no lands to call their own in their new home, they traveled the plane; mapping, trading, and building the beginnings of the fleet which now serves as their powerbase. These early days saw the establishment of a secure and reliable message delivery service as well.
Malaakh is a group of traders and merchants first and foremost. Their highest sacrament is honesty and the keeping of promises made. Second to that is hospitality. As nomads, they can only stay where they are welcome, trade with those who are willing, and travel where they won’t be barred. Keeping good relations (and peaceful streets) with any market district is very important.
The Malaakh also keep a combination of beliefs and fears from their heritage in Dominaria. The Fallout from the Brother’s War was still ravaging Jamuria immediately before their exile. The Phyrexian’s wouldn’t be defeated for years, keeping them entrenched as the nightmare fuel for the whole plane. The refugees brought the memories of these horrors with them, and the Malaakh are strict Luddites. Any technology more advanced than a sextant and compass (and flying boat) is thoroughly evil. Markets and trade areas in participating neighborhoods are kept strictly low tech, and relations with high tech trading partners are uneasy. Of course, anything can be transported for the right price…
Fresh in their minds were the horrors of war visited by Kaervek the Merciless and his armies. On Dominaria, the Suq’Ata merchants and Femeref priests were of one opinion on Kaervek’s hordes and the treatment of the dead by the Shadow Guild. Demons, devils, the undead, the cursed, dark wizards, those twisted by madness, living artifacts of all kinds, and other hybrids and abominations are not to be tolerated under the teachings of the Malaakh, and trading partners are frequently offered “complimentary and treaty reaffirming neighborhood cleansings” to be carried out by the Malaakh clerics.
The core of the Wings of Malaakh is structured like, and is, a fleet. Specifically a fleet of flying sail-vessels which is the backbone of the guilds trade monopoly. The guild is headed by the Al’Malaakh, who is effectively the Admiral. Throughout history this has been a more or less ostentatious position depending on the holder.
Below the Al’Malaakh are the 9 Hands, one hand per guild with command and responsibility for the trade routes and business thus associated. The 9 Hands select the Al’Malaakh after the death of the previous Al’Malaakh, usually from among the Hands. Since the tact required to deal with each guild is quite different, the temperament of the Hands follows, and thus, the character of each subsequent Al’Malaakh. The Hands usually act as ships captains as well.
Below the Hands are the captains of individual ships. All non-sailing members of the Malaakh are also broken up into “Ships” with Captains. Thus, a group of herders or message runners would be a ship, and their leader the Captain.
The clerics are an integrated part of the fleet, with each ship having it’s own Chaplain. The chaplain to the Hand is the head of that Hands fleets chaplains. There is no head chaplain, as the Al’Malaakh is the final authority.
Information is a tricky thing, and one of the primary exports and imports of the Malaakh. Disseminating information among their various members is not difficult, by word of mouth or normal post. For ship to ship communication, messenger gulls are used while in flight. For snap decisions, a Captain must be relied upon to know what is best for his ship.
The average color wearing member of the guild is probably a sailor, ship’s merchant, or other ship worker. Salty, hospitable, trade savvy, and probably handy around a sword or dagger. Those who don’t fly in the fleet might run public transport ships in the canals. Adjunct members include stall merchants at markets around the city, parcel runners, nomadic herders, and some more independent minded explorers.
While many on Ravnica would say that the merchants of the Malaakh profits help no one, membership is not an impossibility. Joining the Malaakh is as simple abiding their exchange rates and “hygiene” rules, with a small guild tithe of course. To be dressed in guild colors requires an apprenticeship, consisting of 6 months in each of the 9 Hands fleets. If you haven’t died or been booted for incompetence (and agree to the teachings of the clerics), you can earn full membership. Most members of the fleet join this way voluntarily, but apprentices are always in need and most merchants quarters don’t mind a little conscription to clean the place up.
The Guild War:
The Guild War meant two things for the Malaakh: profiteering and inquisition. There is always money to be made in a war, and the Malaakh got plenty of it. Selling weapons, buying pillage, and trading in valuable information and logistics, it was a good time to be a merchant with a fleet of flying ships. Of course, with honesty as a high law, it meant selling weapons to friend and enemy alike in the open, smiling all the while.
Most of the profits went right back into a very public and border spanning inquisition. Well armed and armored detachments of ships would drop in to neighborhoods in a flash, disembarking sword wielding crusaders bent on killing all of the evil inhabitants. As quickly as they arrived, they would be back in the skies, moving on to the next neighborhood, adding chaos to an already tumultuous time.
After the signing of the Guildpact, the Malaakh found themselves in a position of highs and lows: still sitting on piles of loot from selling weapons during the Guildwar, but having angered most of their trading partners by selling to their enemies and unannounced neighborhood cleansings. Rebuilding the trust of the other guilds is their primary concern. What parts of the fleet were lost is outweighed by the changed the landscape of Ravnica, through mighty creatures and powerful magic. Re-mapping the trade routes of the plane is vital to their business, and hopefully valuable to their irritated trading partners. That is, if they can find anyone willing to build them new boats.
The military element of the guild has always been dispersed, with each ship fully enabled to defend itself from pirates and police the trade routes. The forces and equipment of the Inquisition were not disassembled with the signing of the Guildpact, just reassigned. For more information, see Allies and Enemies.
Areas of Influence:
As some of the fastest transport on the plane, the Malaakh have a firm control of the post office. Although it is officially an independent entity, it was founded by guild members and later spun off to stem the concerns of the other guilds. Most priority mail is still carried by the Malaakh’s ships.
The Malaakh, although indirectly, control the exchange rates between the guilds. They just move too much damn money not to. They’re also one of the largest money lenders of Ravnica, although they do not have a central bank and don’t traditionally make large loans, especially to other guilds.
The Malaakh have some of the best shipwrights on Ravnica as well, although for the most part nobody cares. There’s almost no place to sail. Since the Guildwar, the Malaakh have lost the actual property acting as their drydock, so it’s less (or more) important than ever.
Area’s of renown and other influence can be found in The Agencies.
Allies and Enemies:
As nomads, the Malaakh really have very little that they can say they produce. The wood for their boats, cloth for their sails and clothes, the swords in their scabbards (the scabbards themselves), the food in their bellies, and even the paper for their world famous maps must be traded for. The tithes from their associated merchants came, originally of course, from trade. The only thing they can really say they produce are the few animals they breed: goats, messenger gulls, falcons, and griffins of Jamurian stock (Like This one, and This other guy).
This has always put the Malaakh in a precarious position. Prior to the Guildwar, trading partners could be found in every port. Now, things are a bit stickier. Here is a summary of the current relations by guild.
“How dare you speak to me of health surrounded by the dead! The Guildpact can only stay my hand for so long: I’ll use these thousand years to dig your graves.” Mavet Alhumaizi, Hand over Svenkhar
Abominations. Each and every one. Either undead, or necromancers. The Guildwar was an open cleansing of all associates and all holdings. Now, the fleet which patrols the Svenkhar holdings carries extra clerics, every ship. Shipments of goods are stopped whenever possible. The undead are put down whenever the Guildpact can be skirted. Unlike Water and Power, border skirmishes are not enough. Containment is no option. Only eradication. The Guildpact stays our hand. For now.
“They are our wives, they stitch our sails, they heal our sick, and keep our hearths. Had they wings I would call to them as to the Daughters of Serra.” ~Ma’az Baz, Hand over Mokosh
The Mokosh have come to represent a huge portion of the wives and lovers of the Wings of Malaakh regular fleet, and their beauty, hospitality, and healthcare system have always made them a friendly sight in port. These things have combined to make them a regular and favorite trading partner of the Malaakh, with their primary trade goods being medicine and sail cloth. As the Mokosh still control much of Ravnican industry post war, there are of course other manufactured goods to consider.
“Order is necessary and right for Ravnica. Food, more so.” ~Yatseen Khattib, Hand over Kings
They uphold law, keep peace, and grow food. What’s not to like? As long as they do not think they are our kings. They may rule the land, but we rule the skies.
But then again, they grow all our damn food that isn’t goat…
“That is as may be, but curiosity alone brought unspeakable horror to our old world. Let us see that it does not happen to this one.” ~Soad Amri, Hand over Veles
The Veles do not know when to leave well enough alone. They mostly leave knowledge of the unspeakable in books and scrolls, to molder in libraries. That is fine. Sometimes their secret societies get a bit… “engaged”. This is easily dealt with. What’s a few dead dark wizards between friends. On occasion, their experiments get away from them. This is unacceptable. During the guild war, a university or two may have been razed over war machine prototypes. It has left relations…uneasy.
This is a serious shame, because the University provides us with all of our paper, surveying gear, and map making equipment. Hopefully they’ll be pacified by a few dusty trinkets and crumbling statues.
“Ah, my friend! The things I have seen, they will keep you in spirits for a month! And I wouldn’t mind one myself for the telling.” ~Bedekh Falak, Hand over Zpravy
The Liska Zpravy are an interesting bunch. Always friendly in port, willing to pay for news from afar, and with plenty of adventurous journalists willing to fly with the fleet. Many a tavern table is lively with drink and talk between Malaakh sailors and Zpravy journalists.
At the same time, Malaakh honesty and Zpravy “truth” are often in contradiction. Punches have been thrown and even swords drawn when a sailor finds himself misquoted in the Daily Days. Also, they certainly do get a bit… “forward” with the… “blackmail” sometimes. During the Guildwar, with the blood high in the eyes, a field office or two may have been sacked. And if you’re asking, yes that did happen.
But then again, information is always valuable. The Zpravy seem to know the names of many a dark wizard and half demon alike. We’ll just have to check their sources. We know they didn’t.
“They are the fire which consumes the land. May we be the extinguishing storm.” ~Mayeem Majali, Hand over Water and Power
During the Guildwar, this was one of the Guilds with which the Malaakh had open and stated hostilities. In everything but name they resemble the phyrexians of legend, and are anathema to the fleet. Burning their black oil clouds the sky and poisons the people. Their destruction of the Wizards Shortcut is a travesty of trade and post alike. As nomads, there is little they need from the company, and little the company needs from them.
Trade is out of the question with Water and Power. The Inquisition forces now make up the “Trade Fleet” of the Hand assigned to the “utility” company. They watch for any breaking of the Guildpact, and act as a loose and peaceful blockade. Peace will be had, but it will be costly for J.P. Murdock. There can be no other way.
“Laborers, craftsmen, nomads and exiles: these are my brothers. But savages? Murderers? I cannot shake a hand with a knife in it.” ~Khol Abdul Rashid, Hand over the Triumvirate
The Triumvirate represents many of the skilled crafts that float (or fly) a boat, and make for good trade across all social strata. At the same time, The Triumvirate are aggressive beyond measure, and did major damage to the fleet during the guild war.
The Malaakh fully supported the Triumvirate’s becoming a union and inclusion in the Guildpact because it meant that they would be brought to order and held to a standard.
There is nothing wrong with people having power over themselves, being their own masters. We are not your enemy, but we can be.
Sample Cards, Leaders, Champions: