Since time immemorial, the rulers of Siege have jealously guarded their autonomy. When settlements have grown up outside of the official chartered towns, they have been met with the royal cold shoulder at best, and downright hostility at worst. No ruler was more insouciant than Lord British himself, who in his desperate quest to keep Order no doubt feared the consequences that too much self-government might bring. But times they are a-changing. With the crowning of Lord Blackthorn last October, it seems there may now be a regent who is willing to loosen the strings of the marionette. After all, Chaos is Blackthorn's mantra, and he would probably welcome the upheaval that a few upstart communities might bring. Earlier this year, the King announced that he would be accepting applications from settlements wishing to be granted official recognition. He even appointed a special officer, a Mr E.M. Troubadour, to oversee the process, and at a packed meeting in Britain back in April, Troubadour enthusiastically outlined his plans and encouraged all communities to put in an application. Following the meeting, two established settlements, Gilfane and Barter Town, wasted no time in putting in their petitions. The city-state of Gilfane is by far the largest. Covering the areas east and north-east of Skara Brae, it currently contains over forty buildings, almost half of which are open to the public including such diverse interests as a tavern, rune library, arena and zoo. For Lady Hoffs, Keeper of the Hall of the Gilfane community, official status cannot come soon enough. “When I look at all the work that people have put into creating our city,” she told me, “not to mentioned all the trade and employment that the building process created, I think it is only right that the Crown should give some kind of recognition. Communities like ours have helped drive the economy of Siege for years, not to mention all the blood we spilled repelling common enemies like Minax and the Shadowlords.” And whilst Barter Town cannot compete with Gilfane in terms of size, it is equally well known throughout the lands of Siege. Sitting as it does just a little north-east of Minoc, the town already claims parts of the official city - including the mines and the stables - as its own, and now that Barter Town's mayor has been elected as the governor of Minoc, who knows what might happen? But for Ladra, who vigorously campaigned in vain for Queen Dawn's endorsement of the area, gaining official town status would be more than just extending the settlement's power. “For me personally it would make me feel like I have contributed something to the community on Siege,” she said. “The important part is that it's a historic town here and it's about time we recognize it as such. I know the founder, Chad Sexington, has wanted it official for a long time, and it would make me very happy to preserve his legacy.” Both Barter Town and Gilfane have now had their applications approved, months ago in the latter's case. But the final step requires combating possibly the most fearsome adversary known to man: governmental bureaucracy. Any official town must have a proper monument, or “banner”, to mark its status, which can only be constructed under the direction of the King's Master Architect. And with only one such architect and numerous building projects in the works, there is nothing anyone can do but wait. Still, it is not just Barter Town and Gilfane that are eager to see the plans come to fruition. At the April meeting, many present felt that once the first official towns were established, others would be encouraged to make applications for their own settlements. Probably first on the list will be Pirate Cove, the new home town of well-known guild, Arrr. “It is in the making,” said spokesman Captain Sureno. “It will have a tavern, workshops and a plush fighting area. We will certainly be applying for official status when we are ready.” Sadly, all this comes too late for some of the great cities of yore. The once mighty settlements of Iantown, Stonehaven and Wintermoor are now only ruins, their very location lost to most of today's youth. And whilst some vestiges of Safe Haven and Wispwood still exist, they have clearly either fallen into neglect or lost their identities. But there may be some hope here, too, as Mr Troubadour mentioned the possibility of commemorating them. “It wouldn't be a full banner,” he told me recently, “but more of a marker stone at the location that lists the name, rough dates and some relevant facts, although the concept may yet be shot down above my level.” Kelmo, former mayor of Iantown, was supportive of the idea, “It is hard to go back,” he said. “I did once attempt to rebuild Iantown, and there was some support, but people and situations had changed so much. But I would like to see some kind of historical marker, something small and unobtrusive.” And Lady Freja, the vampire who has been championing the area of Safe Haven for some years, is yet hopeful that her town can become recognized in its own right, although she sounded a note of caution in regards to the older settlements. “I would love to get Safe Haven officially recognized,” she said. “I'm not so sure about the forgotten towns, though. Maybe those areas should be left for new towns to emerge. Barter Town was known under a different name in the past, but that is long forgotten.” And this may be the ultimate fate of Iantown, too. The fields west of Gravewater Lake, where the once-proud city formerly stood, are now occupied by a series of building plots owned by Lord Tazar and his colleagues. Tazar is a fairly recent arrival from the lands of Atlantic, where his fame and influence are second to none. One of his greatest accomplishments there is the extraordinary Falling Waters Fortress, a must-see destination on the itinerary of anyone visiting those shores. “It feels strange building on the ashes of Iantown,” he explained, “but that spot of land just feels like home to me. If the plans go right, the plots will eventually become a beach-front resort community. It's a long, slow process, and we have a ways to go before applying for official status. But we will get there eventually.” Given his past record, I would not doubt his words. And as with Gilfane and Barter Town, probably the only thing that truly stands in his way now is going to be the formidable Master Architect.