Friday Fiction: Of Merchant and Magic Part 9

Chapter Nine: The Southern Lands

Tycho Rhonarida reaches the Moahne River and wonders if age is starting to addle his wits, or at least his good sense.

“Must have been built by a pageant planner,” one of the beast-handlers grumbled from Tycho’s right side. He was walking two of the injured great-haulers farther ahead in the line, to keep them calm and so they could water first and avoid the usual crowding.

Tycho wondered. The walls of Moahnebrig shone white against the dark green of the forest behind them and on the other side of the blue-grey river. Towers, at least four that he could see, no, five, anchored the walls. Two of the towers appeared to have red bands painted just below the upper rows of stone. Reddish-brown tiles with blue and grey bands covered the roofs of the towers. Only one spire rose above the wall, but Hardrad had said that the city had suffered a fire two years before, and the count had ruled against any wooden spires. The city truly did look as if it were a drawing from a temple manuscript come to life, aside from the smell of the river and the scruffy great-haulers in a paddock beside the road. The light brown birds stared at their darker northern cousins and hissed. The caravan birds returned the compliment. The goats in the paddock along with the great-haulers ignored the commotion. Continue reading

Friday Fiction: Of Merchant and Magic Part 8

Tycho’s caravan moves south, and Tycho chews on some ideas as well as road dust.

Chapter Eight – Across the River

 

“I don’t have a good way to get letters of credit to Milunis,” the Five Cities factor said. He grimaced, although Tycho wasn’t certain if it was because of the complication or because a tanner’s waste wagon had leaked as it passed through town to the river and the nose-stinging stench was still hanging around the building. “Have you traded recently that far south, sir?”

“No. Guill was as far as I went last year. Usually leave the southern cities to Liambruu and Sinmartin and Bushmakk.”

“It’s, well, see.” The round-faced man hunted among rolled maps and documents in the cubbies behind his long counter until he found a map. “We’re here,” he pointed with one thick, dark finger, then put river rocks on the corners of the map to hold it. “River’s here, and the main roads and routes are the top five strips. Bottom two are ship routes on the river.” Tycho peered, looking for names, and found Milunis on the fourth strip down. “Red dashes are county, duchy, city, and Liambruu borders.”

“I see.”

“Because of the problem with the crown’s credit being no good, they started leaning on their merchants. After we,” he pointed at the floor, “and other people got stung last year, no one will take anything from Liambruu except goods for barter and silver coin. Good silver coin, and you can be certain everyone is weighing every single piece of metal with the crown mark on it.”

Tycho snorted. Debasing coinage was a good way to tell the world that you’d ruined your accounts, once everyone found out. “They still mint good silver?”

“Aye. So far,” his mouth twisted a little to one side and he snorted in turn. “But that meant that a lot more businesses are wary of letters of credit, even from the Five Free Cities, unless you personally know and are known to the receiving party, or have an agent in the city already.”

Damn. Tycho had neither, just his contacts through the confraternity. “What about temple letters?”

“Same problem. And without mage-notarization, someone could claim the letter was forged and there would be no way to prove it was good.” The notary took a deep breath. “There is one option, other than hiring a wagon to carry the coin you’ll need. Maartin Corwinda is known and has credit in Milunis as well as here. I can write you a letter of credit through his agent. Fair warning, he’ll want three percent. He’s done this before, and we’ve done it for him.”

Ugh. Tycho felt his lip trying to curl and wanted to spit. Doing business with and through Maartin Corwinda? He’d rather kiss a great-hauler’s tail feathers. He’d rather eat a sea-fat. If Maartin said the sun rose in the east, Tycho would look west for the dawn. The last leather he’d accepted that had Maartin’s seal had rotted before it came off the wagon, almost. But he couldn’t haul three hundredweight of silver along with his goods, assuming he could find that much in Gheelford at a reasonable interest rate. He wondered if this were some sort of test by Maarsrodi. Or perhaps he had irritated the god in some way? Tycho considered his options, swallowed his pride, and took a long, calming breath. Continue reading

Monday Amusement

 From the up-coming urban fantasy collection, to be released later this month.

Morgana gave Smiley a warning look as Dolores threw herself into the chair beside them and groaned. “Dare I ask?” Dolores’s Eurasian eagle-owl, Isabeau, spread her wings. Morgana ducked to the side.

“Neither Cinders nor Isabeau like the rain because we can’t let them out. New grass seed at the neighbor’s place. And Patrick is in the last-chapter push. At least, I hope he is. Otherwise he died in his office and there’s a revenant poking at the computer and snarling about foot-notes and conclusions and conflict theory.” Dolores straightened up in the chair and ran a hand over Isabeau. “The food disappears and I hear sounds from the office, but Cinders isn’t talking.”

“We should all be so blessed,” Jaramillo sighed as he came in, an enormous overstuffed folder under one arm and Dog the Iguana on his shoulder. Dog had headphones on and was either rocking out or having serious balance problems. The warlock thumped the papers onto the table, lifted Dog off his shoulder and onto the stack, and sat. “Dog discovered Midnight Oil and started chanting along.” Continue reading

Friday Fiction: Of Merchant and Magic Part 7

The caravan forms…

Chapter Seven – Road Wary

 

Tycho studied the other men and they returned his regard. “He has seal and transport, his own beasts, and a beast-mage. Is he known to ought here?” the lead guard asked the other caravan members.

“Aye, by sight and reputation. He’s good, and he can fight.” Jens Hemprat, the ealdorman, nodded to Tycho. “He’s good for the road.”

“You’re in, then,” the senior guard said. He strode out of the group, going instead to confirm details and weapons with the other hired men.

Jens clapped his hands together once. “So. It has been agreed that we follow Vlaatport law while we are on the road. All know and understand?”

“Aye.”

“Yes.”

“Je.”

The merchants all signaled their understanding. Having one basic code made life easier, and everyone knew already what was legal and what wasn’t. Vlaatport was not too different from Rhonari in matters of travel law, so Tycho recalled. The ealdorman spoke for the group if needed, and the group acted together if threatened by bandits or others. Any differences were settled within the group while on the road, and of course local market rules applied at the market cities. Each man was responsible for his hired men and beasts.

“We have sixty wagons, ninety three men, a hundred great-haulers more or less.” That generated some knowing laughter and a few sighs. “We rotate. Draw for positions tonight, then rotate down the lines, travel in double line.” Jens looked at the men. “Who here can fight with staff?” All the hands went up. “And sword?” Two-thirds of the hands stayed up. “Knife?” A few hands rose, most lowered. “Anything else?”

“Flip sling. I hunt with it.” Someone in the back, a man from Corwin Tycho guessed.

“Good to know. We will have weapons practice at night when we are outside of walls.” Tycho grumbled a little at the news but had to agree. Skills unused were useless. Continue reading

Friday Fiction: Of Merchant and Magic Part 6

Spring has come to the north.

Chapter Six – The Sea-Road South

 

The winter passed as they often did, with a little snow, much cold rain, a few flooding storms, and the onset of negotiations for dowry rates. It wasn’t that Tycho didn’t think his daughter was not a fine, well-trained and charming young woman with an abundance of skill and an attractive face, far from it. But Geraarda should not require two gold kog to find a husband. Especially since Tycho would have to leave much of the selection and opening negotiations to Gerta while he went south. Both Gerta and Geraarda had candidates in mind, and to his great surprise several of the same names appeared on both lists. One of Geraarda’s he crossed through, then scratched it over until all that remained was a black splotch.

“He is unacceptable, my lord husband?” Gerta raised one eyebrow.

He pointed at the blot. “He abuses hired women. Was almost thrown bodily out of the merchants’ housing in Gheelford for beating a prostitute when she insisted on being paid the full amount he owed her. He was forced to pay damages as well as twice her hire. I do not trust some of his business practices, either.” What passed between a man and woman was their business so long as both agreed, but bad trade practices plus abuse? Absolutely not in any man who would marry one of Tycho Galnaar’s daughters. Continue reading

Friday Fiction: Of Merchant and Magic Part Five

Tycho Galnaar Rhonarida settles in for a quiet winter. Perhaps.

Chapter Five – Winter into Spring

 

The notary-mage studied Tycho and the seal, then stood. He walked around the merchant and out the open front of his work-area, into the main market and currency exchange. The stocky man pulled a stout cord hanging beside the door.

Clatter-tap, clatter-tap, clatter-tap. Everyone within hearing paused and looked to the notary. He raised his hands to his mouth and called, “Is there any man of good repute who can identify this person standing beside me?” He pointed an ink-stained finger at Tycho.

After a moment, three men in merchant’s or craftsmen’s clothes walked up, along with one of the ship-captains. “I know him. I am Ventris Bormanson.”

“I know him. I am Henk Wesserman,” the captain said.

“I know him. I am Gregor Smithson.”

“And I am Haako Peltzerman, and he is Tycho Galnaar, husband of Gerta Galnaar born Krewatzi.” Continue reading

Friday Fiction: Of Merchant and Magic Part Four

Chapter Four: Home and Winter

 

Gerta patted one paten-shod foot on the rear stoop-stone, the wooden tap tap tap warning passers-by of her possible irritation. “Your son,” she began, fist on hip.

“Half of him is yours,” Tycho reminded her. They had been not-arguing over the boys’ behavior for twenty years. “And you have delegated authority in my absence.”

“That is true, but you are larger than I am, and the council frowns on hitting your own children on the head with broomsticks and fish-gaffs.”

Depending on which son had done what, Tycho doubted the broomstick would be strong enough to attract the young man’s attention. Gerta moved out of the way, allowing him into the narrow door leading to the residential part of their house. “I just came back from the called meeting about letters of credit from Liambruu.”

That explained the patens and her formal dark attire, along with her wearing his chain of mastery. The flat gold and silver links shimmered, if one could see the spells cast on them, and showed that he had formally given her business authority to act in his name in his absence. She slid the patens off her fine embroidered leather shoes, removed her flat-brimmed hat, and lifted the chain over her head. “This I return to my husband and master.”

“This I accept from my wife and lady.” He accepted the chain, held it up for a moment, then lowered it over his own head and accepted the weight of duty. She put her arms around his waist and he pulled her close, kissing her thin, firm lips. Oh he had missed her! Continue reading