Author Topic: Vignette: Pepper and Lace  (Read 1624 times)

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Offline MerchantDeryni

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Vignette: Pepper and Lace
« on: September 18, 2018, 09:54:58 PM »
I'll put a girdle round about the earth
In forty minutes. - Puck

William Shakespeare: possible Deryni playwright

   The Longwyn Estate was modest, set well back from the road and had a well built stone road from the gate to the front courtyard.  The road leading up to the house was wider than usual, and rather rutted in spots.  A lot of traffic went through here.

   A butler met me as I stood down from the carriage and escorted me into a chamber off the library.  It was well appointed, comfortable furniture, a Torrenthi style tapestry on the wall.  There was money and good taste in this room. I lacked the former and appreciated the latter.  My family used to have nice things.

   A mild aged man came into the room.  He was dressed as a well to do businessman and greeted me warmly and shook my hand.

“A pleasure to meet you sir, I am glad you accepted my invitation.”  My name is Terrel Longwyn.  I am a businessman who imports and exports rare items.

“A pleasure to meet you Sir. I have heard your name actually, a friend of mine bought from you recently, a tapestry, much like the one on the wall behind you.  He was well pleased with the quality and the price.  I am Dhyrruc Imbrael, pleased to make our acquaintance.”  I was polite, this man had built up a large trading concern in the last few years with rich imports.  I could afford nothing he had to offer.

“Please sit, have some wine.” We sat, and the wine was brought in.  It was excellent, again, I appreciated it for I could never again afford it. Our family cellar stocked locally grown wine.

   We spoke of the gardens visible through the windows, and the difficulty in getting certain roses to flower.  After a time he set his glass aside and told me why he had invited me.
“I wish to speak to you about a unique business opportunity.”

“I interrupted him as graciously as I could. “Sir, I have no wish to offend, and no wish to waste your time.  My family has long ties in the area, but we are not as we once were.  As I said, I am aware of who you are, but sadly, I am certain that I cannot afford to buy into whatever venture you are raising funds for.  If they are anything like your other ventures I am sure they will be successful and profitable, but I am afraid I must decline your offer.”

   There was silence for a moment as he considered my words, then he spoke again “I think you misunderstand me,  I am not asking for backers to finance another trading expedition.  I am offering you a job in my trading firm.  A rather specialized and unique job and one that requires a great deal of skill and discretion.  Everything I am about to say I must ask to remain in the strictest confidence.  Are we agreed?”

“Certainly Sir, although I must warn you again that I have no head for business and no skill in any trade, much to the despair of my parents.”

“You are the third son of a family that does not have a business for a third son to work at.  You have an estate which is modestly profitable. Your family is an old human family, well known for generations.  Over the years however there has been collusion in the family about bringing in Deryni women who change their names and marry as human.  You give a human veneer of respectability in exchange for monies paid into the family coffers.  Your family has done this many times.  Your children are largely male, thus keeping the line intact.  By this time you are more Deryni than human, despite your long human history.”

I was shocked, “how?!” he cut me off.
“I know because I am in the business of knowing Deryni, and tracing the family histories of Deryni family.  I myself am Deryni, and I want to improve the status of all Deryni.  And I want your help in doing so.  In exchange you will be paid, and paid well.  Within two months you could be making 10 pounds of gold a month, enough to pay off all the Creditors, expand your lands, get married, whatever you want to do.”

“And what do I have to do to make this fortune.”

“You just have to be able to do what Deryni do, use Magic.”  Can you?  With that, a small corona of light flickered into existence over his shoulder.  A pale green in colour, his handfire was sure indication of his Deryni heritage.

My own light was cool blue.  In the morning sun the lights were scarcely visible, but they were there, and we looked at one another in silence.  Then he grinned. “Well you are hired if you want the job. One more hurdle, but if you pass it, you'll get a pound of gold. Think of it as a signing bonus.”

He drained his glass and stood up.  “Let me take you to where you will start work, and we will see if you can do the job.  Have you heard of Transfer Portals?”

   I had actually, a family tale.  “I know of them, Portals are matrices of energy, and using one you can go to another when you balance the energies.”

   We walked through the house and passed through a nondescript door.  We went down a work stair, we were in the servant side of the house.  Reaching the cellar area we moved towards the rear of the house.
   “That is exactly right.  Sadly in this part of the world Transfer Portals are almost a lost Art.  I hope to change that, at least for myself.  I'd like to think I have changed that actually.” said Terrel.

   We reached a large cellar room.  There were racks and tables along the walls, and a large sturdy door on the far wall.  Terrel opened this door and showed me the almost empty room.  There was an inlaid circle in the center of the room. On one wall was a collection of hooks with leather pouches on straps hanging from them. Above the hooks were labels.  Over the top was 'Longwyn Estates', each pouch had labels like Longwyn, Deflite, Aelian.  The table had two sturdy backpacks packed full and leaning upright on the wall.  There was a note on the packs reading 'Rhemuth'.  I knew Rhemuth was 180 miles away.  Next to the pouches was a small hook holding a small basket.  In the basket were half a dozen silver coins.

“The circle is the Transfer Portal?  This is Longwyn Estate obviously.  What are Deflite and Aelian?” I asked.

“Names of Transfer Portals.  Every Portal has a name, coordinates that are specific to that Portal.  If you learn a portal's coordinates you can reach it from another portal.  The hooks are for messages and small items going to the next leg of the journey.  There is an energy cost to Transfer Portals, the greater the distance the higher the energy cost.  Most of our jumps are within 150 to 250 miles.  Any more than that and the energy cost is so high you cannot safely get to the portal, if you can even get there at all. Most of us can do 300 mile jumps, but it is draining, especially at first.”

“How many portals do you have in your network?”

Terrel grinned; “That is a trade secret, and something you will find out once you have been working here for a time.  Now, here is today's task.  These two bags are packed to hold 50 pounds of goods.  I want to take them to Rhemuth,  I could do it myself, but want to entice you with money.  You do not know the coordinates of the Portal, but I propose to take the energy for the jump from you, and teach you coordinates once we are there.  Agreed?”

“Certainly.  What do you carry that pays for all this? And why is there a coin basket on the walls?”

   “I carry what is most profitable.  Pepper is worth its weight in gold here, because it comes from lands over two thousand miles away.  Nutmeg, sugar, silk,  We export wines, artwork, lace, perfume.  Anything we make here that is rare somewhere else.  We don't need to carry anything, silk and spice would pay for all this, but since we are going there anyway, why not make more money?  The coin basket started as a joke, but has proven to be very useful.  I need a house every two hundred miles or so.  I can buy a house and staff it, turn it into a trading post and get more customers, and I am doing that along key points in the Network.  In some areas, in lands far between high populations and customers, I have gone to Deryni friendly people and offered this deal.  I 'buy' a room from them, I install a portal and they let people flit through on their way to other places.  Sometimes if a carrier is tired they can sleep in the room off to one side of the Portal, regain their energy and then carry on.  Carriers started leaving a tip for each Portal owner, for little things, having a lamp on so they do not show up in the dark, having a wash basin and wine waiting.  Then it grew into a pay as you go toll.  The added cost is not excessive on the goods we are carrying, and we make so much money that now a way station can make a decent living just providing services to the carriers, depending on the route.”

“How much can you carry through a portal?” I asked, looking at the packs. They were well built, wide straps,  obviously made with carrying capacity in mind.

“Well stories of the Michaeline Knights say they carried enough supplies to withstand a siege and supply all their men during the dark Times before the Haldane restoration.  I figure about 50 pounds a load, which does not strain the carrier unduly.  Some carriers, especially those on a personal run have carried more.”

“ A personal run?” I asked.

“Once you have met your obligation to the company you can use the network for your own uses.  I don't stint my partners.  So carriers who use the network to haul material on their own time carry more material and make more money.  They are the ones who started paying the silver bits to rest at various locations.  Carrying more can slow you down.  I sell the material they bring in, and take a share from the sale.  If they find their own customers, well, each case is different.  I built the Network, so I do not want my business undercut by my own employees, but we work things out.  One carrier brought a foal through the network.  Thoroughbred, took him a week, but he made so much money he did not care.”

He looked at me and said: “Ready to go to Rhemuth?”

We shouldered the packs on, Terrel took the pouch for Rhemuth and we walked to the center of the portal. He turned to me,  “I do not know what training you have had, but relax, open yourself to me and let me draw energy, agreed?”
I nodded.  I had had some training growing up.  My eldest brother had had most of the training, even gone east to a Deryni holding and studied for a few months. He had taught me the basics.  I reached out, felt the portal matrix beneath my feet, learned the matrix so I could come here again.  It was a strong, raw, new Portal, and well used.  I felt Terrel's mind brush my shields and I relaxed them and pushed energy towards him.  It was an effort, I was not used to working with anyone other than family. 
   There was a rush of vertigo as Terrel balanced the energies of the portals, I fell the ground twist under my feet and seem to both rise up and fall away, and I was elsewhere.

   Another cellar, lamp lit, whitewashed walls and table and hooks on one wall.  Terrel let go of my arm, and went to the pouches and did his paperwork.  I went to the table and put my pack there.  Terrel joined me a moment later and did the same.  An aide came to the portal room door and looked in.  He nodded greetings to Terrel, looked at me questioningly.
“A new carrier I hope. This is Dhyrruc.  Dhyrruc, this is Altan, my Rhemuth representative.  Anything of note Altan?”
   Altan shook his head no and grabbed one of the packs.  I grabbed the other and followed him out into the other room.  Altan unpacked them.  Bags of spices, wrapped tightly in thin cloth.  A few porcelain pieces, a few bottles of wine, and several bags of amber.

   “Dhyrruc, lets go for lunch, rest up and then head back in a couple of hours.  Altan, anything going my way, just put into the packs.”  Terrel looped the message pouch onto Altan's neck and clapped him on the shoulder.

   I nodded farewell to Altan and followed Terrel up the stairs.  We grabbed two simple cloaks from the foyer cabinet, there were several cloaks all arranged by size hanging ready.  Emerging into the streets I found myself in the mercantile district of Rhemuth.  Trading shops and artisan stores lined the busy streets.  Terrel ignored the hustle and bustle and moved steadily through the crowd.  I was far more the farm boy gaping at the sights.
   We entered a restaurant and Terrel greeted the owner with a smile and a wave.  We were seated and Terrel recommended the house white.  I agreed, and we ordered the house special for lunch. 

“Welcome to Rhemuth.  Do you get here much?” grinned Terrel.

“I've been a few times.  It seems surreal, we came 180 miles in an instant.”

“That is where the money is.  Pardon me while I rant business, but I want you to understand exactly what we do, and why we do it.  First, being who we are,” and his warning glance told me to hide my Deryni heritage in the restaurant, “means we have to be very careful in exposing ourselves to danger, and oppression.  I have come back here because things seems to be changing slightly for the better, and, to be honest, I want the money.  So here is the system.  It is twenty five hundred miles to the Spice Bazaar of Byzantyum where I can get pepper for a tenth of the cost I can buy it here. I have twenty-five portals strung between here and that city.  That is about 100 miles per jump.  If you can do four portal transfers per day you will reach the port in 6 days.  Now a rider carrying fifty pounds of goods on his back can travel about thirty miles per day, give or take, so that will take him eighty-three days to get there, and another eighty-three days to get back.  I can do it in less than two weeks.”

   So we have several human families, some in similar situations as yours, with Deryni blood. Others are fully human. They act as business owners and traders. They find customers, fill orders and contracts etc. Not all humans are afraid of Deryni, or magic. Some are more afraid of being poor. All very above board.

“And nobody notices the flow of spices and silks without ships coming into port?” Dhyrruc asked.
“I own a carting business. I have trade ships that sails away on trade missions every year. We move material along the roads every day. We pay taxes on material as well. We pay taxes to the local leaders in high end spices, appraised at a discount. Kings and Tax Collectors love me.” Terrel grinned. The ship sails south, picks up some goods and sails back. It justifies the trickle of spices I produce on a daily basis. I am simply selling slowly to maintain high prices, as any good human merchant would”

   We finished lunch and headed back to the shop.  I was feeling fine, ready to travel once more.  I felt sure that if I practised I would be able to do the four jumps, or more! In a day.  Terrel stopped in an office and opened a cash box.  He took out a small pouch of coins and handed it to me.  More money than I had held in years. 

“Let's go home.” he said simply.  So we headed to the basement, shouldered new packs and repeated the portal shift back home.  Terrel had a large pouch of papers with him.  At my enquiring look he smiled; “Fast travel means fast information. What takes weeks to get to Rhemuth I get every day.  Information is worth more than pepper.  I know when ships sink, battles get won and lost, highway activity, troop movements.  All the way down the line the third sons at parties and simple folk on the street collect information and write notes, these notes get copied and sent to all other portals, also requests for special orders, rare wines, whatever.  I make money from information the same as selling produce.”

   The trip back was almost anticlimactic. We appeared in the basement of Longwyn and another helper took charge of the packs and papers. Terrel and Dhyrruc went back into the parlour upstairs and sat down again for tea.

   “So, interested in seeing the world?”

   Dhyrruc's grin was answer enough. 

Offline revanne

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Re: Vignette: Pepper and Lace
« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2018, 10:13:27 PM »
Interesting. It's good to have a story which gives a different insight.into Deryni human interaction.
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Offline Shiral

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Re: Vignette: Pepper and Lace
« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2018, 11:46:14 PM »
I like the start of this story! You have me curious, by mentioning Shakespeare and using a quote from him to start your story. Are you intending to set your story in what would be the Eleven Kingdoms in say, a Tudor-esque era?  You don't mention any specific year, but I get the impression that this is possibly later than Kelson's reign. Please continue!

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Offline Evie

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Re: Vignette: Pepper and Lace
« Reply #3 on: September 19, 2018, 09:49:01 AM »
Interesting!  Looking forward to seeing where you go with this story. (Or is this a stand-alone in your bigger story arc?)
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Offline Jerusha

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Re: Vignette: Pepper and Lace
« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2018, 10:46:09 AM »
I thoroughly enjoyed this!  I hope there will be  more to come.
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Re: Vignette: Pepper and Lace
« Reply #5 on: September 19, 2018, 11:18:44 AM »
* DesertRose arches one eyebrow a la Spock.


Seriously, though, I really like this story; I can see some of the concepts we've been discussing regarding Modern-Day Impact of Deryni showing in this vignette.  :D
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Re: Vignette: Pepper and Lace
« Reply #6 on: September 19, 2018, 11:41:44 AM »
I get the impression your story is set somewhere in the 1600's- 1700's. Being Deryni may be dangerous but it has it's advantages. Smuggling and black-racketeering certainly did have a way making coin. Don't get caught and don't cheat the boss.  Though a little freelance is OK. I like the concept.


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