From the Shelves: Commerce in Illythia

While it is said that it is the lords and nobles, kings and counts of the land that dictate plenty and happiness, this is not true. It is no truer than the gods or saints keeping a land healthy and happy. It is trade that ensures the survival and the prosperity of a kingdom. Look at Arenja, Svjordheim, and Tyrantium if you need an example of what happens when nations are hostile toward trade. They wither and die.

Trade began when our ancestors were still wandering nomads, desperate to find a place to safely lay their heads before the darkness came. It was need that necessitated trade and the talented or intelligent were elevated above the needy. A valuable hunter could provide the starving with food, the tanner could provide clothing for warmth, and the smith could sharpen a stick for protection. It was these base trades that formed the first foundations of civilization.

From there, raiders and marauders began to form their kingdoms, but when they invaded and took prisoners, they looked for those with skills first to take back before throwing the rest into laborious slavery. Craftsmen became valuable because it was from them that coin would flow.

Now, every village needs craftsmen for the locals to buy from. Smiths for nails and horseshoes, tanners for leather goods, woodsmen for firewood, weavers for cloth, tailors for turning that cloth into clothes, butchers for meet, and so on and so forth. Craftsmen provide stability and the safer craftsmen feel, the more diversity they can employ for a town.

Communes have been the breeding ground for these craftsmen to form guilds. These were places of community for local craftsmen of similar skill and necessity to mediate disputes, defend their market, and provide a barrier of safety for any craftsmen loyal to the guild within the kingdom. They needn’t worry about the local bannerlord’s wrath that a smith could not dedicate their whole stock to a local feud, because the Guild protected them and mediated to the king for them.

From the guilds, traders began to form. Caravans were safe to leave towns under armed protection to visit other markets, acquire rare goods and bring them back to their hometown. While traders and caravans create a communal network of mutual need and desire between neighboring towns and cities, they have also expanded and complicated the market further. Wood in Tyrantium was a rare commodity, exported from the Prasini mostly, but traders from Chevain and Fenkland have flooded the market, making it less of a rarity now in Tyrantium.

There are some traders that are not loyal to any one craftsman, community, or guild, but simply play the market as a gambler might play dice in a back alley. They start out with a cart and invest all of their money in a single item and a sword, taking to the road until they find a distant town where their goods are considered rare and expensive. If they successfully make the journey, they are immediately wealthy, where upon they can purchase a wagon or two, more goods for immediate investment, and armed men who will make the return journey with them. Should they again find the good fortune to return, their wealth increases exponentially. They can buy their wife the jewels and luxuries she always desired, or a new house, or anything they want. And from there, a trader may become a broker, overseeing caravans leaving their hometown or wherever they set up roots, making the gamble against bandits and marauders, to increase their wealth more and more. And, should they succeed, they will move to a city and they will curry the favor of any whom they desire.

Of course, traders are rarely successful. Intelligence, study, and lucky become huge factors among traders and many will wind up dead on the side of the road or penniless, far from home as a laborer hoping to make enough to buy a round at the local brewers tonight.

But, as long as trade grows, innovation, invention, and advancement thrives. While few lords understand this, it usually doesn’t even matter. So long as intelligent traders, skilled craftsmen, and the need for finer goods, stability, and basic survival exists, so too will trade, whereas the foolish local lord, will not.

 

–Professor of Economics Emeric Gould of Oxenly

A letter to the head of the Silver Guild of Abbershire

 


 

Dear Rylan,

You’re a damned fool if you think you’re going to survive the journey to Oro with just that wagon, your nag, and a club. First of all, there are bandits and cutthroats everywhere. The roads are teaming with them. Secondly, you don’t even know what damned road to take. Thirdly, you’ve never even traded before.

You heard that the Duke of Apaccia likes toasted pine nuts and you spent a whole year picking through pine cones to go get yourself killed. Someone will find you, slit your throat, just for that worthless nag and the clothes on your back. They’ll take everything you own to the local fence and they’ll make more coin off of your corpse than you’ll ever see off a single pine nut.

And before you argue with me, shut up and listen. Your uncle, Saints preserve his soul, loaded his horse with fox furs and set out for Caravas to sell at the local market because all the lordly ladies wanted fox furs on their winter dresses and coats. He made it to Caravas, sold his furs and had himself a merry night. Bought a dozen bolts of fine linen to sell to the local lords on the way back. Halfway out of Carva, he was stopped by a knight who demanded he pay the merchant tax. Your uncle, having sunk all of his money into cloth was given the choice of jail time or to surrender two of his bolts to the local knight.  Being a greedy nit, he refused and ended up run through by the knight’s sword. Your aunt never saw a penny and come to find out, there was no merchant tax for passing traders in Carva, just an asshole knight who wanted to take some coin off a foreigner.

You can’t trust anyone on the road. I get it, I really do. You spent a year picking through pine cones for this little dream of yours and you want to see it pay off. If you must go, sign on to a caravan, pay the travel cost, the armed fee, and travel in safety. The overseer will make sure you’re protected, fed well, and you’ll make a few decent friends in the trader world along the way. Also, you’ll pick up some knowledge about the local markets on your way to Oro. You won’t make nearly the fortune you might have hoped, but on the return journey, you might compensate for the initial loss. Be smart, Rylan and be reasonable.

Your mother and I will be waiting for you to come back and tell us all about your travels.

Best of luck.

 

Your Father.

 

Trade has made Apaccia what it is today. Wheat and wine do little to stimulate wealth on their own. For centuries, it made our people fat and drunk, easy targets for the Malonese and the Thanes of the western forests. But, where our kingdom lacks a noble tradition of warriors and knights, we do have a history of smart men moving coin.

The moment a deal is struck between two traders, two merchants, two venders, or two craftsmen, money dies. They begin to lose coin after coin. They buy a round for their travelling companions, buy a new sword or jerkin, they purchase lodgings from the innkeepers, and they buy meals from the tavern, kitchen, or anyone willing to feed their bellies. Their profit shrinks and it dies with each little transaction. It is a death from multiple small cuts that leave the one with coin penniless or poorer for the journey home.

In Apaccia, we understand that the moment a purse stops moving, the purse loses value. So, trade must never stop. Because trade must never stop, there are other parts to play, other roles that must be filled on the stage of commerce. Couriers must deposit goods, guards must defend products and wealth, wainwrights must keep caravans moving, bloodstock agents keeping the wagons moving, cooks feeding the caravans and traders, innkeepers keeping them housed behind walls, stables for the horses, smiths to keep their wainwrights working, woodsmen for keeping fires burning, fishmongers, shepherds, breeders, and farmers to keep the butchers, bakers, and kitchens turning out food. All of these roles also need laborers for smaller tasks, apprentices, and pupils to keep the roles full.

And this only works if trade keeps moving and diversifying.

You see, Apaccia is not like Mordale, Carva, or Chevain where the locals get drunk and take to the woods to hunt honest venders. We keep our people employed, our people working for the greater good. Because with each transaction, men become wealthier, coin is given to these smaller roles for their noble service, and people are happy. Your bandits, your knights, and your warriors, they’re more than happy to tear off your coat of arms and enlist in the service of an Apaccian. Why? Because the coin keeps moving for them. No lord, baron, or count hordes it in a treasury or vault where it does no good to anyone. That coin needs to keep moving for a nation to flourish.

This is why Apaccia is the wealthiest of the Kingdoms. This is why we have not been conquered since the First Malonese Empire fell. This is why we drink our savored wines, eat our delicious food, work our honest day’s labor, and go to bed with beautiful women waiting for us. Because we understand trade and the coin continues to move in Apaccia.

If you’re ever looking for work, come to Apaccia. We have a job and coin for you.

 

 

–Count Bernardo Viscarde of Niapolo

A letter to Baron Terrence Lowder upon losing his estate.

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