FanFiction > MerchantDeryni's FanFic

Pepper and Lace: Chapter 8


Chapter 8: Lords of All they Survey

   The next few months were what Daniel referred to as “pleasantly, repetitively profitable.” Alicia and Victoria became fast friends and were together for days at a time. Alicia trained with her for several days before being cleared for use on the transfer portals. Terrel approved of her hiring to Longwyn Merchant House. The terms of the contract were not known to Dhyrucc, Alicia asked her father for advice, and Victoria as well. Dhyrucc did see Alicia hand a pouch of money to Daniel with a lighthearted, “Here is my dowry, hold onto it, or invest it. I know a good deal on silk coming in soon.” Dhyrucc was wise enough to not say a word. As Alicia had pointed out, she was her own agent in this. Their father had taken the pouch and kissed his daughter on top of her head and hugged her.
   Their mother was a problem. Dhyrucc knew there would be trouble. Even Victoria knew. She had handed both him and his father notes on land out of the country, across the border in more tolerant lands. His mother could not resist trying to show off her increased income. She wanted to expand the manor house, dress in the latest fashions. His father had received invoices from merchants in town, dressmakers, cobblers, silver and goldsmiths had all been contacted by his mother. An architect had received a letter from Jane Imbrael and schemes for remodelling were hatched.
   His father had crushed all the invoices and cancelled all orders. The row had lasted days. His mother was in a sulk. She knew they had money now and wanted to raise the social standing of the family. Daniel refused to do so. The rumours of their wealth, fed by the boasting of his wife, had caused a stir among the countryside families. Daniel, Dhyrucc and Alicia had had questions put to them by their friends. Some conversations were congratulatory, others not so much. The agreed upon tale was of a modest gain that helped erase their old debts.
   At home the arguments never ceased. Both Dhyrucc and Alicia had used the network to leave the house. They had left notes to their friends and family and gone on extended mercantile jaunts. They had told their friends they were visiting family in the city, and some family further afield.
   Dhyrucc had visited Byzantyum. Victoria took him, and saw him settled in a large house on the outskirts of the city. The exotic location, the warm climate and even more exotic looking people amazed him.  He had stayed there a few weeks, and spent the time learning about the spice trade and how the local merchant house operated. This house had many Deryni staying there and feeding several trading routes. The line west to Gwynedd was matched by a line east to India and Wa. There was also a network southwest to the exotic land south of the Anvil of the Lord and R'Kassi.
   Dhyrucc still moved material every day, shuttling spices westward and bringing back Gwynedd made goods. He picked up a smattering of several languages, and the world walkers talked to one another in an ever evolving patois of foreign slang and pejoratives.
   He saw Alicia one day. She was walking through the halls of the merchant house and he was coming in from the central courtyard. The homes of the city were all inward looking with an open central courtyard, surrounded on all four sides with the house itself. An exterior courtyard held the stables and storage sheds of the trading house, and a tall outer compound wall surrounded the entire property. Even in the cosmopolitan Byzantyum the Deryni kept a low profile.
“What are you doing here?” he asked, amazed at the sight of her. She was dressed in a large cloak covering her to her ankles, but it was billowing behind her as she walked confidently down the hallway. Her hair was covered in a silken hood that was fastened to a squarish hat. She was wearing loose pants of cotton, and soft leather boots. She looked like a creature from out of a fairytale. “And what are you wearing?”

“Hello Dhyrucc. I am working with Victoria and some of the new order folks to map the lands east of here. There is a way to cut the cost of nutmeg to nothing, we are sure of it. It involves some overland riding as we map. This outfit, well, it’s a mish mash of some tribes riding gear, some of the hot weather gear, and some sand survival ideas that the mapping folks have come up with.  Did you know that some of them are actually basically walking across the world? They walk or ride across the land, make a new portal, send one person back for supplies and they keep moving. They have not been back to Gwynedd in years.”

“And you can just join in with the crew?”

“Well that IS the advantage of portals. I am taking along some supplies. I’ve just brought in some Gwynedd ale. Popped along the last few days and here I am. They have the clock set to Rhemuth time now. And each house along the route has been surveyed.”

Dhyrucc looked blankly at his sister. “What?”

“Mapping brother. We are making a map of the known world. And it all fits together. Everything in its place.”

“And you need a clock for this?”

“Yes, for longitude. Like the Aegean king. He made maps of his land with latitude and longitude notations on the maps. So, he knew exactly where everything was. Latitude is easy enough. You take a sighting on a star and you know where you are north to south. East to West is tougher. It has to be done at the same time from east to west to let you know how far east you have come. So suppose you walked east from Rhemuth, due east, over rivers, mountains, forests. Nothing could stop you from going due east in a straight line. Your Latitude would not change, but your longitude would as you travel east. If you measured every day at noon you could determine exactly where you are along that line. But to do that you have to know exactly when it is. So, we’ve had clocks built. Not me personally, but the bank paid for it. One was set up in Rhemuth. It keeps Rhemuth time. The next clock was moved to the next link in the chain and then someone looked at the clock in Rhemuth and when it said noon they transferred over to the next link and yelled “now” and they started the next clock. The next clock is almost in time with Rhemuth. They tested it several times and it is almost the exact time. This introduces some errors in the math, being off by a second, or less than, but it is as close as we can get.”

“So what’s the point of this?”
“Well most routes are along roads, and the merchant houses pop up every 200 miles or so, mostly at other trade towns. The roads, and rivers meander all over the place, and go around mountains. Mapping things out lets us know exactly how far apart the portals actually are. When we can map an area out, there may be spots to travel straight over a mountain and bypass entire towns. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Did you know there are two towns that are only 10 miles apart as the crow flies but the road between them is 70 miles long? Unless you can climb a mountain to get over the peaks you have to travel south and then north back to the other town, 70 miles. Now we can bypass the entire area because we mapped it.”

“So you are mapping the world now? This is what you are going to do?”

“Good heaven’s no. I am working with Victoria to see about making a faster path for long distance trade goods. We could cut 4 days off the journey for goods heading directly to Gwynedd. That increases profits. Ships travel the coast unless their pilot and navigator are very good. Clocks don’t work on ships. We are actually getting better maps of the world than the best sailors, because our clocks work on land, and we can move the time along and be within a second of Rhemuth. This lets us make a map of anywhere and place it like a piece of a puzzle into the map. We’ve even figured out the shape of the world and the circumference. It’s really quite amazing.”

“And you’ve done this in the last 3 weeks since mother and father started their row?”

“Well one must do something to escape the crying or icy silences followed by more crying. We may be rich, but we are still Deryni. Mother thinks one cancels the other. I think it just paints us with a golden target. So I am helping out as they map the secret route across the desert.”

Dhyrucc was confused. “Secret route?”

“Yes, the desert people are nomads, riding their great ugly beasts from oasis to oasis. Merchants pay huge fees to be guided through the desert. Now we have the latitude and are bringing a clock across the desert to map out the shortest route. Going east along the coastline doubles the distance. Twice as many merchant houses to support and staff. On the flip side each merchant house does bring in customers and money. How is that for a problem. We are too profitable.” Alicia laughed. “We want a straight line route around the world, to all the sources of money. Every spice island, every plantation, every silk loom. Every farmer with a field of gold. We want to be right next to him. We can pay him a good wage, then whisk the cargo across the world and sell it for a profit. Think of it Dhyrucc. Connect the grower and the buyer directly. No more meandering trade routes. No more spice bazaars where they collect things in a hub, and a price markup, to ship goods to their final destination. We are going to change all that.”

“And clocks are the key to this?”

“Exactly! We know where each area is, every portal and build direct links. Big cities are no more important than little towns with portals. Everywhere is exactly that, everywhere. A craftsman in a small town can sell his goods to a small estate on the other side of the world. Why make arrangements through a guild? Do you see what this can mean?”

“I can barely wrap my head around it. How many portals are you thinking about, if you want all the small towns connected? There are not enough Deryni in the world to do that.”

Alicia paused. “Well there is that. The math gets a little depressing when you think of that.” She smiled happily. “But that is for a long time in the future. Right now we are just connecting things along and making money. The grand scheme of things will work out in the end, I am sure of it.”

“Well right now let's have a grand scheme of getting some food, unless there is somewhere you need to be?” said Dhyrucc. He gestured down the hall towards the dining hall.

“My thoughts exactly. I cannot transfer for a few hours. I was going to get some dinner and rest a bit, then continue on to the next portal.”

“We will have to go home at some point, just to give father some diversion at the very least. I do not fancy meeting mother though. She will be ever so put out that we ran away from their “discussions”, and in so doing refused to take her side.” said Dhyrucc.

Alicia laughed again, but it was tinged with a bit of bitterness. “You did not hear of it then. She and I are barely speaking. I refused to wed, or make plans to wed. She was upset about the scandal of a woman working. I told her I was now wealthy enough to buy a better manor than the one she has, without a man involved. The conversation went downhill from there. I may be the reason she wanted to improve everything at the estate so much, to make it into something grander than I could get.”

“I love her dearly, but there are times I am very glad I can be elsewhere far away.”

“You and me both brother. You and me both.”

The siblings headed down the hall for dinner, still chatting about their newfound place in the ever widening world.

Why do I have a feeling there is trouble brewing ahead?

Fascinating but, like Jerusha  I'm not entirely happy where this is going.

Well I can't have it be all money, happiness and light. Where would the fun be in that???

I wait on the edge of my chair for the next installment.


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