The growth of market towns is relatively new phenomenon – Meade, the first and largest, received the first charter during the reign of Empress Mariika in 225YE – and they are only just beginning to come into their power. They represent a place where a canny individual can make a fortune, where individual achievement, chutzpah and moxie are valued commodities, and they represent an opportunity to travel outside the parochial circle of the traditional Marcher. Market towns send representatives all over the Empire and beyond to secure deals, acquire trade goods, and negotiate contracts. They are rich, and their wealth brings a power of its own that may yet prove to be a match for that of the Households.
Perhaps more than anything else, the market towns create an environment where it is not land, but wealth, that leads to prosperity. If there were to be a bad harvest in the Marches, the market towns would be in the best position to adapt to that disaster and continue to prosper. Those Marcher folk who do not own farmland are beginning to look to the market towns to offer them a different way of life. The most successful towns are starting to grow and exert real influence on nearby Households.
The Imperial Breadbasket
Relations between the aldermen of the market towns and the traditional stewards have often been strained, but have begun to improve in recent years. The good work done in the wake of the disasters that plagued the Marches during late 379YE and early 380YE has done much to improve the standing of the market towns.