Monday, May 14, 2012

Strangerside Scholar: The Dragon Trade II

The Dragon Trade has two forms: the backing of currency, discussed in an earlier essay, and a secondary trade in dragon relics, which is the subject of this brief essay. The two trades appear to have a common origin: the Scales family, which has both an assimilated Everwayan branch, and the originary branch native to the realm known as The Market.

The Market branch of the family continues its role in lending. Long ago, the ancient-lender priest Luchre Scales set the family on this road. But in Everway, the Diggers have been successful in preventing the Scales from having a direct role in lending. Nevertheless, they play a critical role in the sponsorship of expeditions to recover dragon's hoards, and thus also a role in authenticating the provenance of coins and other treasures derived from dragon's hoards. Both branches of the Scales family also play a central role in the secondary Dragon Trade: the trade in dragon relics. 

As noted in the earlier essay on currency, the Dragon Trade does not deal in live dragons or viable dragon eggs. Instead, it deals with the remains of dragons: dragons' teeth, scales, horns, claws, bones, mummified dragons' hearts and other vital organs, and more. This is the ultimate irony and indignity to which the gods consigned their rebellious creations: not only were the dragons cursed to become more twisted and deficient with each successive generation, but after their deaths they are consigned to the fate of being sold part and parcel across the million spheres.

It's a lucrative trade. While the Scales don't directly control currency and wealth in every realm, they are supreme in a few and influential in many. They are sought out by warriors and alchemists searching for puissant weapons and powders, by priests in search of relics sacrifice to the gods for favors, and by potentates who seek immortality.

Dragon relics have great power, but they often pay forward part of the karma associated with the rebellious dragons' curse. Take, for example, the Mechanical Scorpion's Spite Auger, which is used to trap and torture spirits; this is a rare and two-edged dragon relic. Taken from the hyoid bone of a dragon slain while shifted into human form, the Spite Auger is a venomous tongue which can provide divinatory services - or power a scorpion's tail that poison's the diviner.

The Scales themselves pass on a variety of dragon-derived curses to their children. Like the successive generations of dragons born after their rebellion against the gods, most Scales are missing some essential quality - in their case, something essentially human. One Scales stares like a reptile, and thus has a difficult time in social situations; brings a forked tongue to the negotiating table, and gains an instant reputation for being untrustworthy; yet another has dragon's claws, and draws blood with each handshake or caress of a loved one.

Even worse (if more subtle), someone's Virtue might disappear entirely.

As the saying goes: "Scales' greed, bad seed."


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