The merchant from Aiud
A merchant from Aiud went to the large market, like every Michaelmas. There he met with a merchant from Gloj who caught his eye. Before the market closed they were properly introduced to one another, as merchants are, by two other merchants who knew each other as well as each of them, independently. Then they exchanged vows, as merchants do, by carefully taking the print of each other's seal ring for their own records, in front of the merchant priest in the merchant church of Trader Michael Of The Heavens. Then they were forever united together by the invisible wiring of the same trade network that covers the entire world and emanates from Tradess, the Great Spider, herself.
As part of their merchantly intercourse the merchant of Aiud pledged the shipping of a cartful of picioci to Gloj, upon receipt of which the merchant of Gloj pledged to return a cartful of lumbered wood. Thus the great Gloj picioci famine of 7914 was narrowly avoided, which is why it is not recorded anywhere -- but had it been recorded, had the merchant of Aiud not sent the cart he promised, then the recording'd have blotted out all other such recordings for that'd have been the greatest picioci famine yet, if only it were to be. Which it wasn't.
As time went by and the Gloj cart of lumbered wood was not ariving, the Aiud merchant took worry. It is impossible to tell from a distance the difference between a cart that's not arrived yet and a cart that merely doesn't exist ; yet he thought perhaps the Gloj merchant's faith is false, which greatly saddened him. To set his heart at ease, his friends the other merchants of Aiud proposed he visit the gypsy crone of Aiud, an old woman who provided solace to all the merchants and all other notabilities in town through her own, secret ways.
The merchant sought out the gypsy crone, in her strange hut standing on chicken wire strung between three poles somewhere past the unfashionable bend of the wrong side of the small stream struggling within Aiud's neighbourhoods and surroundings. As the merchant went in through the curtains hanging over the entrance, a young warrior went out. He was the greatest warrior ever to be born, not merely up until that point but simply forever. He could have easily defeated the entire list of history's most able, limber and skilfull one hundred warriors, were they arrayed in a small army of fabled heroes before him. He could have raped a dragon raw, just as easy as the average workman can ravish any sixteen year old princess selected for her being worth a ravishing or two : he'd have grabbed it by the scruff of its neck, and thrown it to the ground ; then, as the poor dragon'd try to squirm away, on knees and elbows (such as dragons have) the warrior'd have put his weight to bear (in the sense of, dragon), and parted -- what parted, ripped -- the prone dragon's secret, intimate folds with the driven might of his warriorly shaft. Then he'd have been remembered for all time, his great deeds an indelible, inextricable part of recorded history, written down as well as sung aloud for all eternity : the first and only warrior to not merely defeat, but actually own a dragon.
As it happens, there were no dragons then alive, whether in a subconsciously amorous disposition they were from themselves denying or otherwise, nor any worthy foes. The next-best warrior then present in the whereabouts of Aiud was a fellow not qualified within the first zillion heroes of history, which is indeed a very large number. Defeating him wouldn't have gained much glory for the best warrior ever, a circumstance the best hero ever was well aware of through the happenstance that he defeated the inconsequential louse biweekly to little effect. Nobody else was interested in a challenge, and so the best warrior ever slowly grew old and surly. What fault of his that the kingdom's been at peace even before he was born, and all the dragons previously killed by lesser warriors who, innured to the notion that they should perhaps try fucking them, didn't even have the foresight to understand that if the 2nd best defeats the 3rd best, that leaves the best only the 4th best available to defeat, and so now the 2nd best is in fact "he who's defeated the 3rd best" whereas the true best is merely "he who's defeated the 4th best" and so less of a better than he should be! Then the 2nd best dies of natural causes centuries prior and the true best's left holding the bag!
But the merchant went in not knowing anything about any of this, as he was a merchant, his interests strictly circumscribed by Michaelmesses rather than disembowelment, or any other kind, of messes ; and besides the kingdom's peacefulness was predicated upon its prosperity, the laziness of all the neighbours brought about and polished to a shine by the constant outflow of shiny dubloons, thalers and other anal beads of solid gold and sparkly moonsilver -- so as the merchant rendered the warrior irrelevant metasyntactycally, just so in person, equally. And besides, the merchant was concerned about the other merchant, not about other things.
The crone smiled a crooked smile, as if she'd penned all of this, although she didn't, being illiterate. She found letters distracted her from her true calling, which was the studency of human moves ; and besides, all cakes are lies anyways. Instead, she grabbed some beans from an open sack behind her, sorted forty-one on the short, three legged wooden table before her, and just as the merchant pondered how very much better that table'd be had the wood been lumbered she began her scrying :
"Forty-one beads, well you know and well you guess, were it well and by the mind drop by nine, karavai on the threshold and joy in both hands, but otherwise, drop by ones and twos and whither away." she mumbled, rubbing the small pile in her right hand on the right side as the Sun turns about, threatening and beseeching the little dry imps as she went. Then she split them in three piles, counted them in lines and arrows, separated them by fours and counted some more. Eventually she had enough mumbling and she told the merchant that his way is locked and the matter hue'd, there's no bead of commings so he'd better take his mind off the whole thing and buy himself a pretty girl instead. Would he want one ?
The merchant didn't want one, because he already had more than he knew what to do with. They spun threads and nonsense scattered about the upper floor of his house, coming up with insane twists and tangles merely for the exquisite pleasure of having something to unknot laboriously. Because of them he had to make terem out of his house, because if he just let them go out and intermingle with normal people they'd take all of five seconds before finding something somebody said to them, or even within their earshot, that they couldn't bear, as if that's how bearing works ; and so, in preference of always finding themselves at war with the entire world, the merchants of Aiud simply locked the women upstairs where there's nobody they can be bothered by except for each other. It seemed to work well enough, they kept each other busy enough if not happy necessarily, and everyone else could go about their business in peace.
The merchant ordered his horse readied, took two of the youngsters loafing about with him, and made out in all haste for Gloj. His wife saw him spin through the courtyard and then gallop away, and a tear dropped from her eye. He never even came to say goodbye. She asked the logothethe if the master had left any message, but he hadn't. He hadn't even left any message. She broke out in crying, for she understood exactly where the problem lies ; and she tried, every day tried, every morning woke up praying she'll manage just one day, and every night crying herself to sleep over having, yet again, failed. Yet she understood precisely where the problem lay ; but somehow that understanding never seemed to practically help anything. She promised, to herself, or rather to the wind, to no-one, that she'll do better this time, like so many times before she promised. Then, like so many times before, she thought of all the many times she's promised, and cried. Yet she'd do better, she wanted to, she yearned to. What's in a promise ?
She wrung her hands and sent for the merchant's foreman, from which she learned that the foreman's busy and doesn't have the time to be bothered with her petty nonsense. She then sent for her husband's factor, from whom she learned that the merchant had left for Gloj, to see after some wood that's long in the arriving. Indeed the men dealing with money are more amenable to playing cat's cradle than they dealing with objects, because money's no kind of object. Then the first concubine's mother told her that she heard tell that the merchant had visited the procuress. The old woman said no more, thereby saying that the merchant must be smitten with young love for some young filly, which of course bothered the merchant's wife, so she started crying, which bothered her, so she promised she'd stop, which bothered her because she wasn't stopping which meant she wasn't keeping her promises and so all she could think of was sending for the gypsy crone.
The merchant meanwhile took the wrong fork in the road, arriving by nightfall to an unknown place where people spoke an unknown tongue. He was taken before the sultan-al-alekhum of that place, who was very entertained by the merchant's clothing, as well as the clothes on the backs of his minuscule retinue. They were fed something that tasted objectionable and looked rather like dried octopus suction cups, then were taken to the Chamber of Dawns, an octogonal room with translucent doors on each side. They went out through one and presently were somewhere else. It wasn't even night anymore, nor were they ever heard from again.
The wife was too skillful to let another old woman know her business, so obviously the old crone knew exactly what's going on. She kept up the pretense, and laid out her beads again, to scry and blather. She told the crying wife she needn't worry, for the merchant's gone on business, nor will he find there a woman he likes. Strangely this did not set the wife at ease ; but it did set a shiny coin in the hag's palm.
More things then happened, involving the duke of Aiud and the countess of Gloj, none of which are discussed here.