In the winter of DN 1978, a bard named Stanley the Suave joined an adventuring party of nine on a quest to slay an evil banshee queen in the sea caves south of Pelican Bay. After an arduous journey fraught with both danger and peril, the quest was successful and the party returned to Pelican Bay. Around the table in the inn that night, Stanley performed several songs, including one he’d written about the battle. After that, he and his companions were talking, and the topic of pay came up. And Stanley learned that he’d been paid half of what the rest of his party had been.
Outraged, Stanley confronted the party leader, who simply told him he’d agreed to his pay already, and that it was the going rate for bards. Stanley spoke to many of his bard friends, and they all began to realize that they were being underpaid. So several of them petitioned the Guild of Bardic Performers, which until then had mostly been an organization dedicated to collecting songs, to do something about this unfairness.
It took some time and some changes in Guild leadership, but the Guild eventually did do something about it. Several years of organizing had them raising bards’ pay across Dolovai and Kyaine by setting rates for their bards and forbidding any of their members from charging under those rates. Information campaigns were run about the value of bards and indeed, those who had been on journeys both with and without bards could confirm it was far better to have one around—and that they were worth the price.
With the issue of fair pay addressed, Stanley, now leader of the Guild, began to address a series of other ways in which bards felt they were being treated unfairly, sometimes informally by getting his membership to simply walk away from jobs that couldn’t guarantee a certain level of safety, for example, but sometimes very formally by negotiating with nobles and even royalty, most notably in the meeting he had with King Gerard ven Sancte and Queen Francesca DiGorre at Yoel Fortress in DN 1985, where, after a lengthy debate that lasted all night, both of them agreed to create laws that prohibited anyone from calling themselves a bard if they were not registered with the Guild of Bardic Performers.
The most recent effort Stanley has made on behalf of bards everywhere has been to create a registry of bardic songs, which will catalogue which songs belong to the Guild and which do not, and require anyone who sings a Guild song to credit the original writer (if they are still living) and pay a small portion of their earnings to the Guild, which will be given to said writer. This, along with a series of other proposed legal changes, including a subsidy on wood for instruments, a law formally separating bards from prostitutes, and a law freeing bards from parental responsibility for any children they conceive while working, has proven to be a difficult package for the Dolovin crown especially to swallow, house DiGorre down south having indicated that they are content to follow House ven Sancte’s lead, though it is unclear if the current political unrest in Kyaine will affect this.
Due to the crown’s unreasonable lack of willingness to negotiate, since the spring of DN 1990, no bards have sung in Dolovai or Kyaine. The Guild has asked all its members to comply with a general strike, a refusal to work until its demands have been met. For nearly two full years now, adventuring parties, weddings, holidays and even just normal nights in the tavern have gone without professional music, and people are growing increasingly tired of living in a world without songs.
The strike was intended to last only three weeks, and has stretched slightly farther than originally planned, due to the reluctance of the crown to negotiate. The Guild is confident that eventually the king and queen will see reason and resume negotiations. In the meantime, it has attempted to urge their attention by also speaking to the crown princess Gabrielle, similarly with little success. Some within the Guild have argued that perhaps Prince Gavin might be more amenable to the Guild’s struggle, but because his position is not one of authority and because he has spent a significant portion of the last two years out of the capital, reaching him for a meeting is both difficult and considered a low priority for the Guild.
The crown’s position is that the Guild has been given enough protections and rights already, and that any further concessions to our needs is both unnecessary and unfair to other workers. The queen has been a particularly strong opponent of the Guild’s rights for the last two years, and notably was absent from the initial successes the Guild had in negotiating with King Gerard in the 1980s. She seems particularly opposed to the drafting of a law freeing bards form parental responsibility, and has been quoted as saying “fucking everyone you sing to is a perk of your job, not a responsibility of it.” Her crass misunderstanding of the sexual nature of bardic labour has been a continual stumbling block in the negotiation process, and attempts to convince her of that have failed just as badly as attempts to negotiate around her.
The Guild does not feel that the protections we are demanding are unnecessary, and nor do we feel they are unfair to other workers, who, were their Guilds to organize and insist on better treatment, we would support. The public is on our side, and as their discontent with the crown’s obstinance grows, so still with the power of our bargaining position. We call on our members to continue holding back their songs for just a short while longer, for soon the crown will capitulate and our demands will be met.
Remember, we are not only individual bards, but a great concert, and as long as we harmonize with one voice, nobody can drown out our song.
“A Verse of Encouragement,” from the office of Stanley the Suave, Songmaster for the Guild of Bardic Performers. 1st Ezran DN 1992.
2 thoughts on “Friday Lore Post: Menechit’s Ongoing Bardic Labour Stoppage”
I find myself agreeing with Georgina. It really seems like Stanley is undermining what could be a powerful, influential, and paradigm-shifting labor movement by being unable to accept anything less than 100% of what he asks for. From the sound of things, dropping the parental responsibility exemption would have seen swift agreement from the royal family on the rest of the terms, but instead the whole thing has dragged on for years and made the idea of collective bargaining look really bad in the eyes of other guilds.
Also, deadbeat dads (and moms, of course, but that doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as well) should never be a protected class, regardless of occupation.
I am also in agreement with Georgina on this and a few other small issues. By and large I agree with the impulse behind the strike, if only because unions are good and labour rights should be supported, but in this case, I think Stanley has a personal agenda that’s actually harming his cause, and it’s pretty clear that the crown’s plan is just to wait him out. I do think dropping the parental responsibility exemption would probably get that agreement, though they’d also want a compromise on the wood subsidy because we know how House ven Sancte feels about lumber. But if Stanley and the Guild could compromise on those two things, everything else would probably fall into place quite quickly.
And you and Georgina aren’t wrong–deadbeat parents don’t need legal protections. Cheap and effective contraception is widely and easily available across Menechit! Sex workers are expected to use it all the time, so if bards want sex work to be a protected part of their labour, I think it’s fair to require that from them as well, tbh.