Whispers of Fire Ch14 Ficbit – They’re In On It

How. How did he…?

Still standing by an effort of will, Kougyoku kept her hands from shaking. With fear or pure rage, she wasn’t sure. Because this had been a setup, this had been an ambush – Sindria and Sabhmad and who knew how many of the ambassadors were all in on it-!

And Merhdad had just annihilated every legal pretext she had to take Balbadd. In full view of enough nations to spread the Kou Empire’s defeat across the world. After all, what could she do? Not take the money the Empire was owed?

Though part of her blush had nothing to do with rage. Merhdad was willing to pay a king’s ransom rather than fight her blade to blade. That was respect.

From Judar’s little huff of breath, the magi was restraining gut-busting laughter. “So that’s why Rashid… oh, this is going to be fun.”

“Heh.” Cassim’s voice was almost too low for her to hear. “Just wait.”

This is fun? They think this is fun?

Oddly, that let her calm down. Just a little. There still had to be a chance for a fight. Somehow. If she could not make any mistakes-

“I checked the amounts, Princess Kougyoku,” Merhdad went on. “It’s all there. Plus interest.” Blond brows arched. “Didn’t know your Empire was into loansharking.”

Eh? Interest? Loan-what? The Empire doesn’t even have sharks!

But it obviously had to be important, from the way the ambassadors had gone even more formally stoic. And how Sinbad was chuckling.

Merhdad was watching her, gold eyes blinking from hard concentration to sudden incredulity. Like Elder Brother Kouen, when someone had tossed what was supposed to be an experienced swordsman at him to spar.

He thinks I should know that? Why would I know about money? I am a princess of Kou! That’s merchant business!

Gold blazed, fierce as the flames she’d fought nights ago. “It’s a pity the Banker’s not here to explain… but don’t worry, we have his papers. All of them.”

25 thoughts on “Whispers of Fire Ch14 Ficbit – They’re In On It

  1. It’s kind of a problem when your ruling class is actively steering events to “get a fight.”
    Not necessarily to advance political goals, just to fight.

    “Now how can I turn this into an excuse to punch someone…”

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Given that ‘loan shark’ barely dates back to 1900, it feels to me like ‘usury’ would fit better. Or at least, I’d recommend mentioning it in an author’s note as an older version of the concept. Also as something that all three branches of Abrahamic faiths forbade doing within the faith, because their experience in the ancient world was that it always went predatory. And that at least part of the enduring bad blood between them was that they were allowed to be usurers to infidels, just as it was okay to take infidels as slaves, with all the attendant ill-will that comes from justifying greed in the name of ‘they aren’t worshiping God right!’

    (Yes, IIRC Christians could lend at interest to Jews and Muslims, and take them as slaves, during the Medieval centuries. Or in the cases of various kings, borrow money and then kill them when payment came due.)


    Liked by 3 people

    1. Normally it would… but this is a merchant kingdom (specifically one that glorifies merchants at all levels, at least historically) that relies primarily on shipping because it’s surrounded by desert on land. It’s one of the few places where “loan shark” would be a reasonable term for them to invent.

      Liked by 5 people

  3. I do like that she picks up on Merhdad’s absolute willingness to not get in the ring with her has nothing to do with chivalry and everything to do with not wanting to be cut to ribbons. Also, Judar and Cassim working as her emotional anchors is amazing and I love it. And I don’t wonder that Al Thamen might be kicking themselves here for being a bit too clever.

    Mentally I can’t really do more then grin because I am enjoying this but not really sure how to express my appreciation in words right now.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. that sort of culture clash between kou royalty not handling money and balbadd royalty /really handling/ money is super interesting. not only was kougyoku surprised by alibaba’s willingness to take control of “merchant business”, but in turn alibaba was startled by kougyoku’s lack of knowledge in regards to “loan sharks”. it piques my interest!

    thank you for the ficbit!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I do agree that loan shark seems a TOO modern a term for it.
    And i think all the Kou royals are ignorant to economics, even the logistically minded- after all thats the job for mere merchants.

    I wonder what Kogyouku will take as lesson from this. will she or her siblings get a clue about the inherent trap?

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Perfection is the enemy of good enough.

    I’d rather see this now than delayed to the point where the spoons exist to anticipate and avoid every little issue.

    Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people


    I have been asked to pass this on: Vathara is currently busy with hurricane cleanup, which includes having no internet at the moment. She has a workaround, but it doesn’t allow access to WordPress. She doesn’t know when internet will be up and running, so there will be a delay in comment replies. In addition, there may be a pause in new posts if the internet outage outlasts the posts that were prepared before the storm hit (starting Sunday if things continue).

    Everyone is okay, power and water are shaky but available, annoyance abounds.

    If the first commenter on the next post could repeat this message to make sure people see it, much obliged.

    Liked by 6 people

  8. Well… here we have a culture clash between a royal who thinks all power flows from the barrel of a gun– er, the point of a sword, and another who sees power as rooted in economics.

    Of course, we all remember the old saw about “amateurs study tactics, experts study strategy, *masters* study logistics,” don’t we?

    Kougyoku seems to be somewhere between amateur and expert, I assume her brothers are mostly experts. But Al-Thamen are *masters* (this whole “economic warfare” thing is their idea, yes?)

    Fortunately, so is Alibaba.

    (Sinbad? Sinbad’s a polymath, he studied them *all*. He has a mastery of logistics, but keeps having to deal with strategy, and is vulnerable to being distracted by tac OOOH SHINY!)

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Tom Kratman likes to say that a real master studies everything, because war can encompass the sum total of human ingenuity. Anything can be weaponized, therefore an officer has to understand as much as possible, even though a full and thorough understanding of everything is itself impossible.


      Liked by 2 people

  9. “So that’s why Rashid…

    Well, I think Judar knows who this honest merchant really is.

    The people trying to keep that a secret have done an admirable job but . . . I can’t help but think that keeping the fact that Merhdad the merchant and Alibaba Saluja the missing prince are the same person was ultimately doomed to failure. Eventually too many people would have added two and two and gotten four . . .

    Liked by 1 person

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