Saturday, May 12, 2012

Strangerside Scholar: The Dragon Trade

The Dragon Trade: This is no Mother of Dragons scenario. You'll find no fairy tale princess trudging with her hatchlings across the desert to the big City. The truck and barter in live Dragons is another Trade entirely. The Dragon Trade relates to currency, as well as to some special Dragon-derived commerce (more on this later).

If you have visited or live in Strangerside, you have seen quite a few different examples of currency from the many realms and spheres. And we all know that the Digger family maintains the official monopoly controlling the foreign currency exchange. Everway itself has three forms of currency: pea-sized copper beads, which can be put on a string, a silver coin called a "heft" (worth 24 beads), and a gold coin called a "heft" (worth 24 silver hefts). [You can consult the Playing Guide, p. 17 - Ed.] Of course, Everwayans also use paper forms of currency, such as promissory notes and debt tokens.

But what underlies a currency, and thus trade itself? What stands behind it? How does one currency relate to another?

We find our first clue by going to any of the markets of Everway. Goods (and currency) are weighed on scales. Indeed, an old name for coins is "scales". This vernacular of course alludes to dragons, who love coins, jewels, and other precious articles. These beloved things are what they collect and jealously guard in their vast hoards.

A rich man is said to "ride the dragon's back." Most currencies today - whether copper beads, silver, gold, jewels, paper, tokens, beautiful feathers, pieces of shell, or something else are also said to be dragon-backed. And it is widely recognized that even using gold coins does not secure the value of gold. What guarantees and secures the value of gold or any other currency is that it is dragon-backed. That is, the value of a currency is only truly universal and guaranteed when that currency is derived from a dragon's hoard. A dragon sat on it, rolled around on it, scratched its back on it. 

So it has been since this fiscal doctrine was first proclaimed by Luchre Scales, the ancient lender-priest of the ancient realm known as The Market, "the land where gold reigns supreme, and anything (and anyone) can be bought or sold" (Playing Guide, p. 25). Lenders are respected and sought after when they are dragon-backed. And as any adventurer will tell you, wealthy people's constant thirst to increase their dragon-backed holdings spurs a constant search for new treasure hoards.Merchants, lenders, sovereigns, and nobles hire out Spherewalkers to discover, uncover, and "recover" dragons' hoards in other realms so they can increase the portion of their wealth that is dragon-backed. Amassing ordinary gold is just never enough.

These folk keep their own dragon's hoards - sometimes several, and often in secret locations - in order to dragon-back their money. There is a whole industry devoted to proving the provenance of various dragon-backed treasuries, and another industry dedicated to building the secret and not-so-secret (but always well protected) vaults that store this treasure. In Everway, vault construction is an uneasy joint venture between the Digger, Stonebreaker, and Gold families...and the vault designers often have short lifelines.

Sometimes people who amass dragon-backed hoards turn into dragons, becoming as arrogant and foolish as those ancient creatures who declared war on the gods. A foolish king or queen  is often said to be "striking the dragon's tail". Great greed often leads to great folly. That is what led to the downfall of the Blue Khan, that terror of many realms now lost.

The Blue Khan's closest advisor was a Spherewalker named Scale Snakering. Posing as a traitor to Everway, Scale offered to lead the Blue Khan to Everway's supposedly hidden, dragon-backed treasury in the realm of Stone Cage. Scale Snakering led the Blue Khan and his army into the realm through a secret gate. Once he and his armies entered the vast empty chamber vault that is the realm of Stone Cage (Playing Guide, p. 27), Scale Snakering used powerful magics to seal the Blue Khan and his armies inside forever. Now even their bones are gone. A few scattered beads are all that remain inside this hollow tomb.

All of that being said, certain gadflies, such as Strangerside resident and self-proclaimed "Student of Kinship" Deft Grabber, have tried to debunk the notion that money's value derives from the dragon's hoard. Instead, he sees money as a form of reason itself. In his scroll-set called "That Which is Owed: the First Five Thousand Spheres", Grabber writes:
Money was no more "invented" than music or mathematics or jewelry. What we call "money" isn't a "thing" at all, it's a way of comparing things mathematically, as proportions: of saying one of X is equivalent to six of Y. As such it is probably as old as human thought.The moment we try to get any more specific, we discover that there are any number of different habits and practices that have converged on the stuff we now call "money", and this is precisely the reason why...[we] have found it so difficult to come up with a single definition" (p.52).

Deft Grabber hasn't been seen in a while, but you can find his scroll-set in the Library of All Worlds. Recently, it was moved from the Sphere Studies wing of the library and into the Numerology Section. It is stored in a cabinet that looks like this:

South East Asia Collection, University of Michigan Museum of Art
Photo c. 2012 John Everett Till


  1. Really enjoying the blog! Loving the one-man Everway resurgence!

  2. Thank you, Rusty! I am finding the process pretty energizing.


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