There was once a great and glorious Guild. Its origins were so ancient that they were lost in the mists of antiquity and its branches had spread into every country of the world. It was highly venerated and its very existence was deemed essential for the survival of society itself: almost everyone wanted to join and, provided they abided by its rules and traditions, they could. In return, the Guild offered them protection and security.
Of course, there were always some who chose not to join, but they were few and had limited ability to influence the status quo.
There were also some who chose to leave the Guild, but again, their numbers were small and their leaving had minimal impact.
Then, one year, a great Calamity befell; it continued for six years and many died. Thereafter, ten times as many chose to leave the Guild as had before the Calamity; more people decided not to join at all, they believed that if they followed rules similar to the Guild’s, they would still be entitled to its protection and security. They were wrong, however, and when they discovered this, they could not accept that the fault was theirs, so they would target their disappointment and resentment at the Guild.
Others began to teach that the Guild was corrupt and abusive: that it bullied and exploited its members; they campaigned for the Guild to be shut down, and they managed to persuade the Regime, which was young and inexperienced by comparison with the Guild, to pay the costs of their campaign.
Some, who rejected the Guild’s rules and traditions, nevertheless wished to join; again, they demanded the protection and security without having to abide by the rules and traditions which underpinned it. The Guild refused, so they went to the House of Decrees, which agreed that it was unfair to exclude them. The Regime sought to compromise and set up a rival guild. They also began to dismantle some of the Guild’s rules.
But it wasn’t sufficient, limited numbers signed up for the rival guild: they only wanted to be members of the original so, eventually, the Regime capitulated to the House of Decrees, marketing their defeat as a great modernisation. Many members of the Guild believed that the Regime had no authority to do this: the Guild belonged to the people, not to the Regime.
By now, few of the Guild’s rules and traditions, which had once been so important to people, survived. What remained seemed anachronistic and irrelevant; it was presented as the preserve of the wealthy and the upper classes, ordinary people left or stayed away.
Some now demanded to join the rival guild, even though they didn’t qualify. They said the Guild no longer catered for their beliefs. People began to demand that the Regime should set up extra guilds just for them. Rather than comply with the rules of the existing guilds, they wanted the rules to be tailored to their individual requirements. It became a free-for-all, with the original purpose of the Guild long forgotten, and its protections diminished or lost.
Eventually, the Guild closed down; its existing members clung together for a while before dispersing, but no new members could join. The other guilds, lacking a model, fizzled out. The protections and security, once so highly valued, were gone, people were forced to survive hand-to-mouth, competing with those who had once been their neighbours. The structures which had once defined their society were gone. An era of darkness descended upon them.