Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Business over the 'Pits

"Master Kervoklav..."
"Please, you are an adult now, here on your own business. Call me Torheck." Before Jarvis could apologize or protest or make some excuse, the salt pit manager produced a bottle of wine. As he poured out to cups he made a toast, "to first names."
Jarvic did not delay any longer letting Master Kervoklav know the rumors were true, that his father had died. As a former slave, an outlaw, and a master of men Torheck did not afford himself the luxury of expressing the delicate emotions. Having cultivated a long relationship with the elder Merchant al-Fadlon and his family, he reacted as one of his station and birth might be expected to, he hit something. Notably, he had the prescience and presence of mind to have a hanging bag of sand and use it as the target.
When the two men were sitting together again, the younger had before him two documents, on paper. The young ibn-Fadlon turned the copy of his father's Statement of Indebture to face the manager and pointed out the "X" he scrawled to indicate his consent, and the string of, to him, strange symbols that supposedly represented his name.
"He kept telling me, 'Torheck, you have dealt with me unfairly and put me in your debt. I will not forget this.' At first I thought he is giving me a great complement. But, after some time it appeared like an insult, if you don't mind me being frank. I loved your father, and wouldn't have cared if he stopped acquiring my salt, as long as he would visit me on his routes." He cleared his throat, and not because of the air. "Finally, he produced this contract, a mystery to me, and a mystery to everyone else. I never admitted that there was writing in my office, let alone from your father."
"Thank you for your discretion. My father would always say of you, 'Master Kervoklav is a far greater asset than the salt his pits produce. He is as trustworthy and loyal as a House member. Not to the House because of membership, but to those he deals with because of his nature and our fair dealings.'"
An exchange of memories and pleasantries continued as a cold casserole of meat in a fruit sauce was presented. The writing was discretely hidden until after only mead was on their lips and no further interruptions were expected.
"The more than fair exchange rates you provided my father was converted into an investment. You have nearly an eigth of his Caravan, and thus approximately a thirty-second of the whole House. You could extract your investment now, as upon the guarantor's death there is no penalty, or you could sign this." Another document revealed from underneath the other, filled from top to bottom with the alien symbols, and a blank line ripe for Torheck's consent. "It is the swearing of my fealty to the House, and a promise to uphold the dealings of my father. I don't need your consent to continue his work. However, with it not only would it make my struggles less, but we could trade immediately."

(C) Michael Mosher 2010


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