O bloody 'ell!

Thursday, 22 November, Year 4 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

"O bloody 'ell!"

Pichard was blinking furiously in knee deep brine. The gating process has the unfortunate property of light-bathing the victim quite well, to the degree one always came out of it with an improved tan. The quantum storm produces electric disturbance too, so even with eyes closed there'd still be nowhere to hide from the light. Nothing short of plucking one's optic nerves out could do anything on that score.

Eventually he could see well enough to notice the shore curving around him a short distance away. A couple of stocky red-haired fellows in chain mail and with metal helmets on were chuckling and gossiping huddled together like faeries, all the while pointing in his direction.

"Oy! Are you English ?" yelled Pichard.
"HA!!!!" came from the two, suddenly springing into a belicose posture.
"Eenglish!!!" hollered Pichard. "Are you it!"
"Nay!" came the answer.

Pichard dragged his heavy supermarket bags slowly ashore. Watching them spill their salty water bounty on the wet sand he continued his inquiries.

"Well, what are you then?"
"I'm French. Why do think I have this outrageous accent, you silly Dutchman." retorted the shorter man.
"What are you doing in England?"
"Mind your own business." barked the other.

Pichard suddenly realised that the two monkeys in mail were, actually, for better or worse, the military in this new world. The police. The Force. He was just a visitor. His countenance softened visibly.

"I am sorry sir, I meant no disrespect. My ship wrecked you see, and I am a little lost. Could you point me to the closest town ?"
"Are you a merchant ?"
"Yes sir, yes indeed I am." confirmed Pichard eagerly.
"Are you Dutch ? You're not dressed like a Dutchman." The taller man eyed him suspiciously.
"But his accent is Dutch!" complained the shorter.
"No. No I am not. I am not Dutch."
"Well what are you then ?"
"I am from Caspiar."
"Caspiar ?"
"An island in the Caspian sea".
"The Caspian sea ?!"
"Yes... it... it sunk".
"That's no island I ever heard of. They speak English in Caspiar ?!"
"Well... no. Not anymore, I don't think. I learned it as a little boy from my nurse."
"An English nurse in this Caspiar then ?"
"Well... I think her grandmother was English..."
"If you're Dutch the King allows you to trade in London. If not... you'll have to ask someone."
"Where would I ask ?"
"In London."
"How far is London?"
"About two weeks..."

Pichard's shoulders sunk. Two weeks to get to London from the shore. The whole island could be walked from end to end in two weeks, he thought, it's not that big.

Eventually, after a little more parlay the soldiers saw him to the little hamlet nearby, where he met the mayor, the priest of the local church and an agent from a London trading corporation, a strapping young fellow who as it happened was just on his way back to London. They all seemed rather excited to see him, as if nothing nearly as strange had happened in that place for years.

After a thousand or more questions it was established that "the merchant" having no currency of his own (his ship having been lost at sea), the London firm's agent shall supply him with two pounds in silver, arrange for the transport of his wares alongside the firm's straight to London, the two of them to follow the next morning together in the agent's horsedrawn thingee, whereupon the firm will endeavour to obtain all permits and allowances needed for the merchant to dispose his valuable yet unknown cargo, upon which he will repay from the proceeds the sum of eleven pounds in gold. The agent was persuaded to this by a fleeting glimpse of the contents of one bag and a cursory hand weighing of the lot, figuring they'd be worth at least ten times that.

For his part, Pichard signed gleefully, then proceeded to spend his first money. He acquired a set of clothes, a rough but workable leather body, a good oak walking stick, a smallish but relatively accurate cross-bow and bolts for it plus a few other items.

They caught up with their cargo the next evening, were beset by wolves twice and by robbers three times, killing a total of eight, wounding at least a dozen more and losing two of the six guards, one horse and one servant but making it safe and sound to London on September the 21st, 1117 ad.

The boastful young man took upon it himself to talk the ears off everyone in the firm that would listen in rem "the grandeur and excellence of the foreign shipwrecked merchant", to the point that Pichard found himself brought before the entire corporation board. In front of these famous, rich and powerful people he casually extracted one roll from a paper box covered in "exquisite colors and illuminations", carelessly peeled the plastic cover off (which later was smelled, chewed and explored in myriad other ways) and unravelled on the table half a metre of common aluminum foil.

The audience was aghast.

This precious metal, as shiny as silver, that will not tarnish, with two faces, as thin as the ray of Sun, as light as the wings of angels was an instant hit. Pichard had bought almost two hundred rolls, close to half a hundred thousand square feet. He sold it slowly, travelling to the old Hansa towns, establishing a special trading house for the commerce of his fabled treasure. No jewelry was considered first class if it didn't include the Caspic Silver, and indeed a crown made out of a sheet of aluminum foil was held in more regard than any made out of a solid block of gold and affixed with whatever precious stones.

The price was consistently over ten pounds in silver per square foot in the first few years, but as the merchants started returning that had bought some to offer in exchange of trade with the arabs on the road of silks and on the road of condiments, its price increased to such heights that neither tulip nor stock certificate has since ever seen.

Category: Prz arhscrt
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One Response

  1. There's a joke about foil hats in here somewhere....

    Super fun read. :D

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