Whispers of Fire Ch5 – Exchange Rates

A/N: Internet is back. Hopefully.


“Kou Empire Fan bills,” Sinbad nodded. He might be a king rather than an active merchant-adventurer these days, but he still kept an eye on the currency flows between nations. Rashid had drummed that into his head hard enough to leave marks, Djinn or no Djinn. “If Abhmad’s made a Kou Empire license a requirement for trade, it’s no wonder they’re here-”

“Balbadd’s not using anything else. Officially.” Ja’far’s shoulders were tense under his official robe; a bureaucrat about to shed hard-earned civility and go hunting. “The dock-master had the gall to tell us coinage of other nations would be confiscated. Oh, he didn’t say that, just offered us exchange rates for money that wouldn’t be worth anything….”

“I smiled at him,” Masrur said quietly.

“I’ll bet you did,” Sinbad grinned. After which, he was sure, the dock-master had found some reason to make Ja’far someone else’s problem. Anyone else’s. “The traders who come to us must be working around the currency somehow-”

Steel glinted between Ja’far’s clenched fingers. Sinbad tensed, before recognizing those weren’t at all the right shape to be Ja’far’s deadly rope-darts.

With a bow, Ja’far unfolded his fingers, displaying three polished nails; one steel, one iron, one bright copper. “It’s not easy to get anyone to talk. But if you say you’re willing to trade something small and not too expensive – say, a sky-blue ribbon for a cleaning maid’s hair – and keep it out of official sight….”

Startled, Sinbad picked one of the nails off Ja’far’s palm. Straight, new, and certainly not cheap. Steel would be the most expensive, used where two planks had to join and stay as long as possible. Iron was cheaper, used where someone might tolerate some rust, and it didn’t matter if wear eventually shattered it. The copper nail wasn’t cheap, though it’d be most valuable in the shipyard, nailing sheathing to hulls to keep them from fouling….

Most valuable in a shipyard, yes, Sinbad thought. But everyone knows that – so it’s worth something anywhere. “Someone,” he breathed, “is an absolute genius.” He paused, trying to consider that from an ordinary citizen’s point of view, instead of a rukh-led king’s. “Or desperate. But still, genius.” He glanced up at his companions. “And now they’re a target.”

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28 thoughts on “Whispers of Fire Ch5 – Exchange Rates

  1. If you’ve read Mercedes Lackey’s Bardic Voices, you will see people accepting pins (like for sewing) as currency as well as coins. In this setting, wouldn’t really good steel pins/needles (as well as fishing hooks) also be useful for his new “coinage”?

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      1. Is there a set exchange rate like 10 iron is equal to 1 steel nail, or is it all haggling and negotiation between the parties involved?

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  2. > “And now they’re a target.”>
    In more ways than one.

    After all, said mystery person just got Sinbad interested in them. And the Generals could tell you stories about what happens when Sinbad gets interested in someone or something.

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      1. Because for once the craziest of the craziness is directed at someone who is not him?

        Not all of the craziness mind you. Because Sinbad. And that with Sinbad invovled it is never not his problem.

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      1. >Definitely yes.>
        Drakon: Yamraiha, I require your magic and assistance.

        Yamraiha: What happened?

        Drakon: Ja’far is currently standing in the main hall while cackling and laughing like a 10 copper villain on too much poppy. I suspect the ‘events’ of Balbadd have finally caught up with him.

        Yamraiha: Right, so a Number Six then. You go get Hinahoho to help hold him down while I dig out the essence of dreamless sleep.

        Drakon: Thank you. Please make haste or Lord Sinbad may find him and start egging Ja’far on. I do not wish for a repeat of the last time that occurred.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I like the image of Rashid pounding valuable information in Sinbad’s head – and I bet some of his retinue was happy that it was someone else’s job to get something through that at least very stubbornly thick skull . . .

    Of course, Rashid would not have warned anyone that as difficult as it can be to get something into Sinbad’s head, once it is in there . . . .

    Beware Sinbad with a notion. Because he is not only like a dog with a soup bone with the whole enterprise, he is also like cat fur. He gets everything and into everything. And he encourages the same in other people.

    Granted I think Alibaba could use a heavy dose of “it’s good to be curious.” He’s already got the stubborn. Of course, I wish he’d be stubborn about something besides how terrible he is at everything. -_-‘

    Good thing Morgiana and Aladdin is in town – Morgiana got a knack for knocking that kind of nonsense out of his head. And Aladdin can smile it out of his head.

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    1. I’m getting to those three finding each other. Just have a few RL things to get out of the way so I can concentrate, first….

      Canon, we know Rashid mentored Sinbad in trade, at least a bit; and gave him help when things had gone very, very bad, hence that sword that ended up with Alibaba. So I feel I have enough canon basis to say Rashid was smart enough to see that Sinbad was going to be a major power – with Djinn and otherwise – and make sure he got the guy taught right. Because honestly, Balbadd has probably always needed all the friendly, smart allies they can get!

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  4. Alibaba has a target on his back no matter what in Balbadd.
    They were going to try to shake the generals down? Its like they want to stop breathing.

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  5. >>I wasn’t planning things to get that specific.

    It would depend on what part of the market you were in I imagine. If you were a sailor or a shipwright talking to a seamstress and you offered her some pins, needles, and nails for some of her goods, she’d probably put a higher value on the needles and pins then the nail. But if the fisherman off the docks were paying you for, say, some tar, you’d want copper nails as a preference. And the fisherman would probably rather have a mix of copper nails and fishhooks as payment for his catch.

    And with barter as an option, the bachelor baker could pay with loaves of bread or meal rolls to have his clothes laundered, and it just goes on. Reading the ficbit and the comments made me think of Spice and Wolf actually. And Henrietta, I’m going back through Log Horizon.

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  6. I laughed at this sentence. Laughed long and hard and hope that Sindbad will remember thinking this in the future when everything is revealed, just for his reaction.

    I love what is going on. It sounds like Balbadd has reverted to a Free Market System with the nails being a ‘standard’ (like gold is world wide, even to this day), but a moving one instead of being a currency. After all, a currency can be confisticated but barter is barter, and as there is no actual set ‘price’ for nails, any trade going on will be barter. Is that what you had in mind?

    Also, when everything is settled and the dust finally clears, I suspect that Ja’far is going the fact that this time Sinbad is the one getting caught in another Kings plans. At least, based on his reaction when Alibaba ‘talked’ Sinbad into extending the timeline for Kou to repay their debts.

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    1. Ok, not sure why it didn’t turn up, but the sentence I was laughing at was:
      >He paused, trying to consider that from an ordinary citizen’s point of view, instead of a rukh-led king’s.<

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    2. Thing is, Sinbad’s ability to read the rukh is, canon, unique to him. Alibaba’s doing this by sheer guesses and hard work!

      And yep. Alibaba dragged in barter kicking and screaming. Al-Thamen’s about to start noticing….

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  7. Rereading this, I am greatly reminded of Terry Pratchett’s “Making Money” where Moist Von Lipwig threatened to institute a currency based on potatoes.

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