The Queen, the great central river of the Nayoran Peninsula, is vital to the prosperity of both Elden and Ceres Nayor. Countless tributaries flow to the Queen from every corner of the land, and upon this vast system of waterways are borne all manner of goods. From the humblest lowborn to the most powerful noble, all Nayorans depend on the Queen for their livelihood.
The Rivermen (officially the Honorable Guild of Rivermen) were chartered centuries ago to serve this need. Originally one of many workers' guilds involved in river trade, the Rivermen competed with (and eventually subsumed) guilds for deckhands, navigators, and longshoremen to achieve a total monopoly over freshwater travel.
The guild's ascendancy and longevity are a product of operational efficiency, political astuteness, and (according to some) a campaign of brutal intimidation against their rivals.
The Rivermen have been known to employ strongarm tactics against the nobility, as well. Their most common means of persuasion is docking, in which the captains of all water vessels in a particular fiefdom simply put to shore, refusing to sail until a given demand is met. In the less common case of a general docking, Rivermen halt all their traffic… bringing commerce to a standstill and threatening the stability of the kingdom itself.
These capabilities ensure that Rivermen Chiefs are habitually seated among the councils of the mighty; "the Law must float," as the saying goes among courtiers. Even the will of a King must be reconciled with the Rivermen's agenda before a decree can be proclaimed.
Thus the nobility and the Rivermen act in coalition, but always with a view to pressing their advantage. It is an open secret that the Houses have sought a credible rival guild for generations, working behind the scenes to break the Rivermen's power. And Rivermen are suspected as a matter of course when ill fortune befalls any noble.
The lowborn have another saying: "Never cross a Riverman." On more than one occasion a local card-sharp or cutpurse has been found at the water's edge, drowned and marked with an unmistakable stylized "R." The warning is clear: Rivermen do not tolerate effrontery, either as individuals or as a group.
The current Riverman chief is Drexel Barth. A commoner, Barth has nonetheless styled himself with a surname, after the noble fashion. Whether this should be interpreted as aspirational, or merely a reflection of the man's caustic sense of humor, is unknown.