MELNOR’S TOWER

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Chapter 18: TRADE RIGHTS

It took many weeks but finally when the ship came home they had a full load of unfamiliar fruits, spices and a small load of sticks that the captain insisted were popular with the crew. He didn’t expect that they would be worth much but the men insisted that they bring enough for themselves.

“Captain Jones!” Called out Armad. “Come! Let us go sit and talk about your trip.”

The captain rolled down the gangplank to join him while chewing on a stick. Going into the diner, Armad had him seated and served almost before the ship was unloaded. “It seems that you have a wonderful haul. What do you think will provide the best trading to the Islands?”

“The islanders have a lot of useless decorative stuff that they want to trade but what they wanted most was our drink and spices. We have spices that they enjoy as well as I think that we will enjoy theirs, especially the hot ones. They like our wheat for making bread because they can’t grow it very easily there, it’s too wet, and they find our mushrooms interesting but they aren’t ready to ask for a lot of them yet. As you asked for fruit, I brought a lot of different ones back and then, there is this sweet stuff that you chew on. It is good, but I can’t see you selling it in any great quantity.”

Armad reached out for one of the sticks. After smelling it he turned it over the table and scraped the outer layer off of it. He then cut the tip off and stuck it in his cheek. “Hmm.”

“Do you like it?”

“I like it just fine, David. We will need some plantings. As many as we can get.”

Captain Jones looked around and noticed that nobody was listening. “What do you think we will do with it?”

“I think that this cane is probably the most valuable thing you have brought back. But you won’t believe why.”

“Do you have an idea?”

Armad sucked on the cane and smiled. Captain Jones had never seen such a calculating smile before and it rather disturbed him. “I know exactly what we can do with this. What about cuttings, did you bring any back?”

Nodding an affirmative, he asked with his eyes what Armad had for a plan.

“We will plant the cuttings and see if they will grow. If they will grow, you will be wealthy beyond your present belief. When we have enough sugar cane, we will separate the sugar out of it for other uses.”

“What, if I may ask, is sugar?”

“It is the sweet flavor that you taste. It can be reduced to a powder and it can be used in making a thing called candy that is sweet and in cooking as well. It will be extremely popular. It also has other uses that I will go into once we get to that point.”

“I guess that I will just have to be patient. OH!”

“I also found this stuff that they chew. It makes your teeth a little black, but it makes you calm.”

Armad shook his head. “If it is what I think it is, we are going to have to be very careful with it. It can be misused a bit too easily although it also would make us wealthy.”

“I don’t understand,” said a clearly puzzled captain.

Armad reached over to the plate that the captain was eating out of and pointed at the beans that he was nibbling on. “What are these?”

David gave him a puzzled glance. “They are beans, of course.”

Do you like them?”

“Of course! I grew up on them.”

“What is your favorite food?”

“Potatoes!” David still, clearly didn’t know where Armad was going with this.

“Do you like potatoes without salt or butter?”

“They are O.K. but I like them better with both.”

“Do you think that a lot of food would be better if you could make it sweeter like the cane?”

Captain Jones thought about that for a bit while he sampled the different things on his plate. “Some things might be more interesting and other things might not. Can you do that?”

“With a little luck, we will be able to. The sugars in the cane and the weed that they chew have a few things in common. They both are different and they both give the individual a reaction that is interesting and may be very popular. We will begin by slowly introducing them to the people around us, especially the sailors that visit our port. If the sugar cane and tobacco are well liked, we will set a price and see what the market will bear. In the meantime, we will find out if we can grow the cane and the tobacco.”

“Tobacco. That is a strange word. Is that what you call this brown stuff?”

“Yes. We are going to have to be very careful with it. It is very addictive and over a lifetime of use, it can kill you if you use too much. I am half tempted to not even use it but that presents another problem.”

Captain David Jones looked puzzled. He had to ask, “If you don’t introduce it to other people, then how is it a problem?”

“David, if I don’t introduce it, then somebody else will and once that demon is out of the box, it will be very hard to keep control. I need to figure a way to either make tobacco safe, or conceal it from the people of this world.”

David looked at him closely and smiled the biggest smile that Armad had ever seen on him. “My friend, you are truly not from this world. Have you ever thought of calling on M’Lady?”

“What good would that do?”

“Sailors have always called on M’Lady for good fortune and fair weather and advice on tough decisions. I have heard of many a story where someone said that M’Lady helped them decide. There have been many Gods over the years, but two of them have always been constant: The Dragon and M’Lady. They aren’t exactly considered Gods anymore because of the nature of magic.”

“I never believed in magic before coming here, but what does that have to do with the two of them not being Gods?”

David was just warming to his subject. “Our world, other worlds that demons come from, the stars and our sun, all of them come from somewhere. M’Lady and The Dragon did not create each other. The conclusion is that there is either a greater being or system of nature that created M’Lady, The Dragon, our world and yours. There seems to be a lot more to God than just our world.”

“That is fairly perceptive of you.”

“The Dragon is a very selfish being. He is seen rarely, but often enough to prove that he is real. M’Lady is felt by anyone that wants to talk to her. She has particular interest in all things that grow in the ground and watches over the health and wellbeing of her followers. You don’t have to believe in her to receive her help and she also won’t turn things to your individual advantage just to make you better off. Instead, she represents balance but she is willing to let life go at its own pace even if it seems that things are temporarily out of balance.”

Armad nodded. This agreed with what he had already learned. “I have no magic. How do I contact her?”

“Let someone else help you. Have you tried to talk to her yourself?”

Armad nodded. “I had help once. She gave me a few warnings that won’t let me do what I really want to do.”

“And what is it that you want to do?”

“I want to take a boat and go sailing. I want to leave my worries on land and leave.”

“That is easy, you can have a place on my crew any time you want or you can build your own sloop and sail off on your own. Do you need lessons in handling the sails?” This last was delivered with a nudge and a wink. Captain Jones had seen Armad’s familiarity with the sails.

“Thanks. M’Lady told me that I have to have magic or sail with it or die. This still doesn’t eliminate the problems that tobacco causes.”

“As Captain of a ship, I always keep somebody aboard that can speak with M’Lady. I will bring him by tonight and together, we will talk.”

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