Whispers of Fire Ch2 bit – Visual aids

Cassim’s hands fell on his shoulders, dragging him close. “Come with me, Alibaba. We need you – I need someone I can trust!”

Alibaba shivered. “I can’t.”

“Can’t?” That was a tear-stained growl. “If you think you’ve got a deal with this Jahan-!”

“It’s not about that!” Alibaba gripped Cassim’s hand, heart racing. “You need ships coming in. A lot more ships.”

“Ships!” Cassim shook him. “The nobles are grinding us into the dirt, and you’re worried about ships?”

“Yes, I am!” Barkakk’s lessons let Alibaba slip out from under strong hands, even as he grabbed the pouch of Desert Tears he’d planned to use as a sample. “Cassim, look.”

“Pretty.” Cassim’s lip curled as Alibaba poured out a small pile of shimmering blue-green onto the little stand hanging from the bulkhead. “We can’t eat beads.”

“Don’t think of them as beads,” Alibaba said firmly. “Think of them as cargo. Look. Say this pile is the Shadow’s cargo. Here’s what the dock-master took in fees.” He swept aside about a tenth. “Here’s what you took.” Another portion, swept off to the other side. “And here’s what the nobles will take when the cargo hits the market.” A third smaller pile. “That leaves this much,” Alibaba tapped the shrunken mound in the middle, “for everybody who’s just trying to get by.”

Cassim opened his mouth to speak. Closed it again, squinting at the piles.

“People in the market,” Alibaba went on. “The crew. Everybody who gets a piece of reselling or more business because what the Shadow brought in let them sell something else. You can steal more from the nobles,” Alibaba shoved some from the nobles’ pile to Cassim’s, a whisper of wood and the faint green-and-sand scent of a desert oasis. “But that doesn’t make the pile any bigger.”

Cassim snarled. “At least we can hurt them-”

“You want to hurt them? Really hurt them?” Alibaba said pointedly. “Then look at this. What happens when you get two cargoes in? Or three?” He poured out two more small piles of beads, and stepped back, daring Cassim to split them up the same way.

Cassim didn’t take the dare. “More cargo means the nobles grind more out of us.”

“Sure. And then you steal some of it back. And in the meantime, there’s more for everyone else.” Alibaba met that fox’s gaze, determined. “Want to know what I saw a month ago? I saw the noble in charge of Qishan crack. Like an eggshell. You know what did it? One kid. One kid telling him he wasn’t special.”

Cassim started.

“Cassim, if you want to hurt these guys, then we need to get people on their feet, trading. So the nobles know we don’t need them. They’re not special. That’s what will hurt the bastards.” Alibaba drew in an unsteady breath. “If you want to take down the nobles, if you want to help your people, then we need to hit them where they notice it. In the coin pouch.”

Cassim stared at the separate piles. Reached out one finger, spinning a Desert Tear around and around.

I’ve said all I can. If he won’t listen to this

“Are you telling me,” and that was a laugh in Cassim’s voice, tear-strained and thick but almost a giggle anyway, “you want to get people trading so I can steal more?”

I’m still crying, Alibaba realized, swiping away tears. Why am I still crying? “It… kind of works out that way?”

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14 thoughts on “Whispers of Fire Ch2 bit – Visual aids

  1. Oh…. Oh, boy… Cassim may have just made a teeeny little mistake there…

    Quick, where’s the popcorn?

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  2. Sorry Cassim but any plans you had? Just went poof!

    Because Alibaba is a proper King and you let him talk.

    Of course, a big part of the reason proper Kings can talk people into stuff is simply because most of the time, they are right. Insane, perhaps, but right. And their crazy plans, against what looks like all reasonable expectation, work.
    “Is he crazy?”
    “Oh yeah. But he also tends to be right.”
    “. . . Fine but I still say this plan is crazy.”
    “It is. But I’ve found this kind of crazy works most of the time.”
    “. . .”
    “It does! I don’t know how but somehow they almost always pull it off!”
    “. . . That’s scary.”
    “Yes. Yes, it is. And be glad it isn’t working against you.”
    “Eeep!”

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That certainly helps. Most people don’t think well in shock. And Cassim probably took advantage of that knowing what once he had Alibaba’s word, even if he thought it was a bad idea, he wouldn’t back out on it.

        Because despite all of his jealous complaining, he knows Alibaba is very loyal to those he calls his own and true to his word.

        In this version of this particular mess, it probably helps that while Cassim wants to hurt the nobles, he doesn’t want to hurt John and Jane Q Public in Balbadd. And Alibaba just demonstrated to him that he was hurting his own people more than he was hurting the nobles.

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      1. Is very, very cool. 🙂 Manga is marked mature, but basically all there is, is some partial nudity in a few spots, some alcohol drinking (accurate to the period) and some frank discussion of medieval levels of imprisonment/torture. Not graphic, but a little whoof.

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  3. Also Alibaba just arranged for Cassim to help his own people, right there on the docks. Never underestimate the value of “My people are going to eat tonight”!

    Like I said before, Alibaba feeds people.

    Granted I think Sinbad might too. He knows the power of a full tummy.

    It seems we have stumbled against another characteristic of Kings: They all have that inner grandma who goes “eat something, you are too skinny”

    OR a simple instinctive knowledge that full tummies meant that soon their owners hearts and minds will follow. Especially if you do something crazy awesome*.

    OR both.

    *I’m pretty sure Alibaba doesn’t recognize his own moments of crazy awesome for what they are. Someone will have to tell him. Repeatedly.

    Some of them will not appreciate the irony of having to encourage someone to be a curious bundle of crazy awesome forever poking his nose into things after so much time lecturing their own curious bundle of crazy awesome forever poking his nose into things about not being quite so crazy, curious, and poking his nose into things.

    Especially since by encouraging one, they can no longer discouragement the other.

    Their aforementioned bundle thinks it’s hilarious.

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  4. It’ll be even nastier for the nobles when Alibaba really shows to Cassim that his methods are working.

    Sure the nobles might take more for the increased supply, but then Cassim steals even more and funnels the extra back into Alibaba’s growing trade network. The more money the nobles take, the more Alibaba’s people (and the derivates thereof) ultimately get.

    And as Cassim get more food, supplies etc for his people, he can take more and more from the nobles leaving them with even less as the lives of the rest of Balbadd improve.

    Combined with the fact that I suspect Alibaba is going to try and cut out the buying capability of the Fan somehow, it wont even matter if the current King and nobility borrow more and more of it. Nobodies interested in dealing with the Fan.

    End result? Ahbmad and his nobles will be sitting on a huge mountain of worthless paper as the kingdom flourishes around them.

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