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The two of them walked into the center of town where the Monarch kept his home. King ‘Bear’ Roth stood and walked up to them. “Parry knows to call me Bear when we are not in a formal setting. My wife Remy.” He indicated the beautiful woman to his left. “Formality has a sting that is hard to remove, and I remove it as often as I can. Since we have two Parrys, how do I distinguish between you?”

The young man bowed, first to the Queen and then to the King and replied, “I am a cooper and use that as my second name as well. I have known only one cooper, and he was not my father.”

“Since you are a trader and have spent a while in our neighborhood, what do you have that you think we could use, and what do you want?”

Cooper smiled, “You’d make either a very poor or a very skilled horse trader. With your position as King, I suspect that I should watch my dealings with you. We have spices that you have never seen, fruits that would amaze you if we could get them to you fresh and a few things that you may never have heard about.”

“Who makes your selections in these trades? I assume that you don’t work alone.”

“I have a man of extraordinary abilities that tells us the things that have the brightest future for trade. He built the bridges, our ship construction site and designed his own ships. We no longer depend exclusively on magicians when out of sight of land.”

“This sounds like one extraordinary man. Will I ever meet him?”

“Quite possibly so, he likes to travel but he likes to sail the most but M’Lady has forbidden him to do so unless there is a magician aboard. The warning has saved his life once when I was there and possibly many times more. He has told us that sugar and tobacco are our most valuable trade items but they are habit forming.”

“There is nothing wrong with a few simple habits unless they do you damage. What damage do they do?”

“Sugar is used in cooking. It makes foods sweet as does honey but with a different taste and texture. It makes it possible to have many new and different foods that almost everyone enjoys. The drawback is that these same foods can make you fat. Some people will overindulge and once a habit is formed, it runs out of control. Once you are fat, you cease to enjoy physical labor and you get fatter. There is more to it to that, he says, but it is enough for a simple explanation.”

“Tobacco is a plant that can be chewed or smoked. It calms a person and gives them something to do when bored or nervous. I’ve not tried it, but many sailors chew because to smoke it would mean fire and fire, as you know, is forbidden on most ships.”

“I would like for you to trade with me for some of these things. What is it that you wish to trade for?”

“That is the key to the whole problem. Some must trade to survive, I must trade to prosper and I enjoy trading. The Woodkind and the Bird People have woods, spices and feathers that would do well in trade. None of our peoples are hungry or in need of more than different foods except the Plains folk. They make their living trading. Trade is necessary for communication so that if we meet an enemy, we can meet them together as a common, stronger force. I and others thirst for knowledge of all kinds.”

“I enjoy travel and as I am single, I can travel where I wish. There may come a time when I will not be able to easily travel and I would like to settle in relative comfort.” Parry waved his hands around the room. “This room is larger than I would be comfortable with, but your job requires you to have large rooms. I do not aspire to large rooms and the control of others.”

“You have laid out your plans most elegantly. Do your partners have the same needs and desires?”

“No sir, they do not. The two young men are the Twin Princes and no matter what they wish to do, they will have to settle down and rule. Neither is over ambitious. They look upon your lands as yours and none others.”

“They look upon my daughters faces with desire.”

Parry smiled. As do most men, I suspect. As do I, but they are not for me but I have seen another that makes me wish for more than friendship. Grimley, the fifth member of our group, is more than our guide. He is the protector of the two Princes and I think that he and Shar love each other.”

King Roth sat back and thought on what he had to say. “You are most forthcoming for a trader. We see so few these days since I have consolidated our territory. Most of our trade happens between towns that once raided each other. One or two towns fought to the death and are no more. By sea, we trade only occasionally with others and only at their whim. By nature, we are fairly self-contained. As a consequence, we are a simple folk with few luxuries as I suppose you once were before you built the bridges.”
Cooper thought for a few minutes and nodded. “You are quite perceptive. With new things to find, we are no longer satisfied with simple stew. Bigger and better meals are desired. Do you wish to open these opportunities? I suspect that we have already begun the change, like it or not. Perhaps it will be for the best that our two kingdoms trade more often. Perhaps we can establish a regular trade period and place that we and other parties can meet. Have you any suggestions?”

Shifting in his seat, Cooper noticed that King Roth was a physically powerful man and that sitting was not to his preference. “Trade by sea is expensive and the occasional trade that comes across the mountains will be all the easier with the bridges. I am assured that there are several paths, not difficult for wagons to travel.”

“How far is it for a man to walk from the bridge to your town? To bring a wagon and leave it on the far side of the bridge would be very inconvenient. Perhaps we should build a trade station on our side of the bridge.”

“That would be one possibility. There is already a small town not far from there that our men go to, to trade for horses. The Plains folk will take anything in trade, but they are very shrewd.”

Baj Roth smiled. As King he divorced himself from feelings but the man within knew well the trading of the Plainsmen. “At the junction of Plains, Hills and Woods, I have been to trade with the Plainsmen. To trade for a horse, you have to be prepared for a season or more of waiting. They come when they will and they don’t always arrive when you are there.”

“There is a small settlement there. The man takes in trade what he will hold in wait for the Plainsmen. He is the Cooper that taught me my trade. Perhaps nearby we could arrange a seasonal trade. Others would come and we would both see profit. However, if you ever wish to trade directly with our town, the bridge will handle whatever wagon you wish to bring. From there, you could even trade over land with the Port of Oman.”

“Certainly the bridge is not that large?”

“But it is! The Rope Bridge is only there for the kids to play. We have repaired it many times. The Wooden Bridge will handle running messengers or a small cart. The Stone Bridge is a wonder. It will handle a line of large carts and wagons with four in hand horses drawing them. Armad assures us that it will last many generations before it is necessary to repair it.”

“This Armad must be quite some magician.”

“He is not, and wishes he could be but M’Lady has assured him that he will never be a magician, ever. His greatest desire is to explore and have time to sail in private.”

“Certainly he can’t sail a ship by himself. That would be mad.”

“He has built a small ship, which he calls a sloop that can be sailed by one person. I have seen him do it and sailed with him at the tiller, controlling the sails all by himself.”

“It must be a fine ship for that much control.”

“It is not large and would make a lousy trading vessel. It is a personal craft, much as a raft would be for a boy. The man is smart, but stubborn.”

“I believe that two trades near the junction can be scheduled for each year. They can’t be held at the peak of winter nor can they be held at the peak of harvest or planting. They must be held after harvest or before planting. That would make for two very distinctly different types of trades. If you will spread the word, Parry our Trader can show you the most efficient paths.”

They made their way from their meeting with King Roth and that evening relayed the results to their partners.

Garrett looked at his brother and asked, “What were you doing with the King?”

“Well…you remember the lass I was chasing?”

“You’re always chasing someone. What is so special about this one?”

Barrett replied with a large grin on his face. “This one has brains, class and happens to be the King’s daughter. If it is a match, it will be a good one personally and politically.”

“My! Don’t you pick carefully.”

Grimley and Shar entered the room, “What is going on?”

Barrett and his brother turned to face them. She was dressed in her wood gear and had not yet changed from their wandering. It was amazing how clean they stayed even in the woods.

Garrett nodded to his brother, “A young girl has found his interest.”

Grimley nudged Shar and grinned. “Looks like Garrett has nobody to keep him warm at night.”

Garrett didn’t smile and his brother alerted on it. “No! Don’t tell me you found time to bed a lady while we were trading?” Again, Garrett gave himself away, so he asked, “Who is she?”

“I met her while you and Cooper were working on trades. She works with King Roth.”

“Would you stay here to be with her?”
“All depends on her. You are Prince, Barrett. The only thing that I have to look forward to is a long wait until your son is born. Even if something happens to you, there are plenty of people to guide him. I can be there if I am needed, but I won’t be needed. He will take care of you.”

The big man nodded his acceptance of his charge but interrupted, “If you don’t mind, Shar and I will be traveling after I return you to your home. You need to take that into account.”

Barrett nodded his acceptance that they had to return to her home, at least for a short while. He was still a Prince and had many things to learn. Learning took time and he wished for a great deal of time before he was required to take the reins of power from his father. “What about you, Parry? Will you be returning with us?”

Parry Cooper nodded and then replied. “We have a guide on our return. He wishes to talk with Armad and find out what he has that is needed. As for me, I think that I am going to take a wife. That trip will also solidify a trading base that our two kingdoms can share on neutral ground. It appears that life is about to get quite busy.”

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