THE DISTRUSTFUL MERCHANT

A SANTHARIAN FAIRY TALE

 
Master Tribell's Miraculous Narrations   
  Click on the book's name to view the Table of Contents
  Click on the author's name to view the Author's Index
  10 pages (Download is available Download text)

Introduction. A wealthy merchant who is plagued by suspicions whether he can truly trust his overseers, hatches a plan to put them to the test. And once a chest brimmed with gold and gems is involved everyone is indeed likely to show his true colors...

 

here once lived a mighty rich Avennorian merchant in the town of Ciosa, to whom no other merchant could even dare to compare himself, so mighty rich was he. He had warehouses, shops and offices all over Manthria and enormous ships as large and pompous as the giant eight-bedroom-palaces he lived in, and they sailed in all directions the wind can blow and brought exotic spices, gems, flowers, beasts, weapons, works of art and whatnot home to the shores of Santharia. Daigeir of Twelvewaters was well-known and respected, undoubtedly. He was one of the very few who bore the title “Skeijorn”, marking the wealthiest of the wealthy. However, Daigeir’s name was also notorious, for he had quite a temper, and moreover it was said that he was greedy and, above all, a miser. But the way he was, was also the reason why the merchant had made his way up the ladder from a humble accountant at the Klinsor wharves to one of the kingdom’s most prominent celebrities, and by now he probably was nearly as well off as members of the royalty up there in New-Santhala.

Skeijorn Daigeir was never short of plans and ideas: strategies how to outrival a business opponent, inventive new ways to acquire goods, clever pricing policies, opening up new markets, and so on. Part of his success was to constantly question whether the traders and accountants he had in his employ were the right ones to do their job; and once he found out that someone else would be better suited for his purposes, he quickly replaced the struggling ones, regardless how long they had worked for him already and what profit they had helped to make. A calculating business man he was, the merchant, and as far as a good deal of people was concerned this meant that he was just plain ruthless and had no heart at all. All what really mattered to him was the gold he gained, and as long as the money came flowing in, he was a happy man. He had a wife, and six children of course as well, and estates everywhere, and the best horses, and he wore the most exquisite garments; but much more important than any of that were the coins he enjoyed counting and the lavish chains with sparkling jewels or the precious pocket watch he paraded around, all of which earned him envious looks and awestruck compliments. One day, he thought, I will be Thane, regent of the whole province! He would have liked that very much, not because holding the office of Thane meant power to change things, but because people would look up to him even more, and he couldn’t get enough of that.

The Skeijorn however was very suspicious and distrustful of everyone around him; the only one he had absolute faith in was himself. On the other hand he had to rely on his four overseers, all still only Fjoreks – meaning “of minor wealth” – by title, that administered everything from their offices in Ciosa. It was essential for the merchant that they followed his lead unconditionally and with fervor, so that while they did the hard day-to-day job, he could count his money; furthermore the merchant was always busy devising plans for future projects – or he occupied his mind with thinking about making the current personnel situation more efficient.

One day the Skeijorn came up with an idea to put his overseers to the test. For he had been in doubt about the reliability of at least three of the four, which he deemed a dangerous gamble to keep on should the going get though. This development was not surprising, because the way the merchant led his business he attracted people who were similar to him, unrelenting and callous and who’d do anything to attain wealth and reputation – more often than not regardless of the cost. Well, thanks to a cleverly plotted trick the merchant intended to separate the wheat from the chaff – at least that’s how he saw it.

For this purpose he made arrangements that one of his overseers would travel to the other side of the continent. Then he gathered all four of them and laid out the following plan:

“Go forth, to Lorehaven,” he said to the one he had chosen for the task, “and acquire buildings and ships for me over there. I want to open up a whole new branch office, just like here in Ciosa.”

“You want me to go alone and handle these decisions all by myself, Skeijorn?” the man, whose name was Snierett, asked, astounded by the trust the merchant put in him all of a sudden. In fact however he was the one the merchant mistrusted the most.

“Sure,” the merchant lied. “I have full confidence in your abilities to set up a this new venture and make us ready for the long overdue oversea trading relations with Nybelmar.“

“Well, if you say so, then so it shall be, Skeijorn, and I will try to do my very best to please you and make this branch profitable and prosperous,” Fjorek Snierett said.

“You will need a lot of gold over there to get started in earnest,” the merchant explained. “So I’ll fill a whole trunk with coins and jewels for you to take with you on your journey. This will be your very own war chest, and you’ll have it for full disposal to meet the demands of our endeavor. Just make sure to do your bookkeeping properly. I’ll come to pay a visit once in a while to check how you’re faring.”

The selected overseer and his three colleagues looked at the merchant incredulously as they listened to such a fantastic plan, but he just went on unperturbed: “I don’t want to make our intentions official though before we haven’t managed to set a foot inside Lorehaven, so keep all this under wraps and don’t tell anyone.”

The four men all nodded, but with the new prospects a lot of doubt, envy and suspicion had been sawn as well.

“You will therefore leave in a carriage early on Prayday morn,” the Skeijorn finished his instructions to Snierett. “That way nobody will see you leaving and get wind of it. Once you arrive on the other coast, don’t conduct business in my name, so that we gain an advantage over possible competitors. Part of our cover will also be to refrain from guarding the carriage in order not to attract unwanted attention. The less we excite suspicion, the better for business in the end.”

Now that seemed even too bold an idea for Fjorek Snierett himself, but before he could answer, the fourth overseer, Friss by name, already raised his objections: “Skeijorn, you cannot mean in all seriousness to leave a carriage laden with gold unattended the whole way through to Lorehaven! What if bandits waylay it and rob Fjorek Snierett blind?”

Skeijorn Daigeir nodded and smiled, for Friss was the one he trusted the most among his men, and he expected him to be the first to come forward with his misgivings. “No need to worry,” the merchant however assuaged his concerns. “Snierett can take care of protection once he’s come as far as two or three towns, for then he won’t be recognized anymore among the locals and can continue as he pleases with whatever safeguard he considers necessary. However, we wouldn’t want to give the impression that we’re up to something in and around Ciosa. It’s safer that way, trust me.”


While this was a rather curious approach, three of the four overseers were satisfied with the given explanation right away. This was mainly because it was the Skeijorn’s will and they didn’t dare contradict him. Only Friss still protested the idea as shortsighted, unreasonable and not thought through enough, but eventually gave in and let the merchant go ahead with it.


 

The Treasure Chest

Picture description. The treasure chest. Image drawn by Faugar.

Prayday morning Skeijorn Daigeir presented Fjorek Snierett as promised with the treasure chest brimmed with gold and jewels. After everything was loaded onto the carriage, he bade his overseer farewell and wished him good luck on the journey.

“Fare thee well,” Snierett said, waving from the cabin as the coach got rolling towards the city gate. “I won’t disappoint you, Skeijorn, rest assured!” were his last words. And then the Fjorek was off and away.

It’s almost an understatement to say that quite a bit happened on this very day after the two men had said their farewells. But let’s hear the succession of events from Skeijorn Daigeir himself, for he had quite a tale to tell when the day drew to a close. He would recount everything in all its details to overseer Friss, the one of the lot who had objected to the audacious plan from the get-go. Thus it came that shortly before midnight the Skeijorn sent a messenger to Friss, asking him despite the late hour to show up promptly at his residence, for there was important news to relay. Friss did as he was asked, and once he arrived, the Skeijorn offered the following report:

“Fjorek Friss, as you know, we’ve sent our dear overseer Snierett on his way this morning”, he began while sipping on a glass of white wine. He was sitting in a large winged leather covered chair while Friss got seated on a much humbler one. “I personally handed him his promised treasure chest when he left, so that he might draw from it at will and establish the branch in Lorehaven we’ve discussed. But see, as it stands, our Lorehaven venture is not about to happen after all. Not that soon anyway.”

“So?” Friss’ features immediately expressed concern. “Oh, I fear for the worst already!”

“You need not worry about the business angle, Fjorek. For to be frank,” the Skeijorn continued, “I had other things in mind anyway with the Lorehaven idea. But it was good to see everyone play along for their own reasons apparently. You see, I rather meant to test the trustworthiness of Fjorek Snierett, and I fear he failed in that respect.“
Friss nodded. He had suspected secretly that the Skeijorn had more up his sleeve. “So I understand you had him followed?”

“Of course I did, by no other than the two other overseers. You know, to oversee things. One has to make sure.”
“You put the other overseers on it? Liemring and Terleif?”

“Sure, why not?” the Skeijorn nodded. “They both agreed happily anyway. Are you irked perhaps because I let you have your well deserved Prayday off?”

“Not exactly,” Friss admitted. “But well, so be it. Go on then... What exactly happened?”

“Well, the most unfortunate thing, I fear. Not entirely unexpected, though,” the Skeijorn replied with a good deal of sarcasm tainting his words. “It looks like our dear Fjorek Snierett didn’t plan to go to Lorehaven after all with that fancy treasure chest of his. Instead he opted to head north, in the direction of, well, elsewhere... – Never to be seen again, I would assume,” the Skeijorn sneered. “As it was, Fjorek Snierett changed clothes and carriage after a visit to an inn in Greywold. It appears he tried to fool possible pursuers. But he wasn’t clever enough for that.”

“Interesting – and disappointing. A pity to see it end that way for Snierett, who was with us for so long...” Friss remarked. “I gather Liemring and Terleif confronted the Fjorek?”

“Well, not exactly.” Skeijorn Daigeir clicked with his tongue. “They bludgeoned him to death in a dark alleyway.”

“What!?” Friss blurted out and looked at the Skeijorn incredulously. “Did... did...” He had difficulty grasping what he had just heard. And he had even more difficulties with phrasing the next alarming question that had instantly taken possession of his mind.

“Did I order that gruesome end of his journey, you want to ask?” the Skeijorn completed Friss’ sentence with a wry smile. “No, no, of course not, Fjorek,” he added quickly and gulped down his wine, only to top it up again.

Friss breathed out, visibly relieved for a moment. However, he still felt the shock of the news of the murder in each of his limbs. It took a few moments until his brain began working again: “So what happened to Liemring and Terleif after they had done their vile deed?” he asked. “Even if Fjorek Snierett turned out to be a thief, there would have been other ways to deal with the matter, right? They just couldn’t –” He left the sentence unfinished and just glared at the Skeijorn helplessly.

“They could kill him and did kill him,” Skeijorn Daigeir explained, “because they were in it for the gold. They did him in, grabbed his chest and ran. That’s how it was.”

“What!?” Friss found himself blurting out again.

“Sad, isn’t it?” the Skeijorn commented flatly and shook his head, appalled. “Who would have thought?”

Friss scratched his head, still in disbelief. “You sure about this? How could you possibly know that it all happened that way if they’re on the run now?”

“Because I had them followed as well!” the Skeijorn answered without batting an eye. “I put some of my most trusted security guards on the both of them. To oversee the overseers, you understand? One has to make sure, especially overseers should know that, right?”

Friss was stunned. He had known the Skeijorn for years, but he was still full of surprises, especially when it came to hatching a plan to protect his interests. Apparently he had thought about everything. “So...” Friss began, still collecting his thoughts, looking for words. “So the guards confronted the both of them and restrained them at last?”

“Well, they wanted to, that’s what they were there fore,” Skeijorn Daigeir let out a sigh in frustration. “But the two escaped rather quickly from the scene of the murder. So the guards had no other choice than pursue these two scoundrels and murderers deep into the Auturian Woods. Alas, they came too late, for tragedy had struck again. They found the both of them at the edge of a clearing – slain.”

“Slain?” Friss shouted out for the third time. “Both of them?”

“Not by the hands of bandits by the looks of it,” the Skeijorn added. “Rather, it appears that they fought among themselves for the treasure, and wounded each other mortally. When the guards came across the scene, they were covered in blood, both had daggers in their hands – and the treasure chest was sitting right next to them.”

Fjorek Friss leaned back in his chair, still trying to take it all in.

“Here,” the Skeijorn said and poured his last remaining overseer a glass of wine. “I guess you may need it. Looks like it’s just us now. Isn’t it strange? What money can do to people...”

Friss simply nodded, lost in his own thoughts. Listlessly he sipped the wine, but it tasted bitter, no matter how sweet it was supposed to be.

“And the irony of it all,” the Skeijorn finally remarked, “there wasn’t even any gold in that chest! None whatsoever!” He let out a bellowing laugh and slammed his fist a couple of times on the table, amused by his own inventiveness. “You see, after I’ve shown the filled chest to Snierett I substituted it with another I had prepared in my office in the warehouse, filled with rocks... So all that bloodshed was for nothing. For nothing at all!”

Friss remained quiet. With glassy eyes he kept on staring at the Skeijorn. He heard his laughter ringing in his ears. And he imagined each one of his former colleagues lying there in their own blood: Snierett, Liemring and Terleif.

“Then again, my dear Fjorek Friss,” the Skeijorn went on, “it wasn’t all for nothing, of course not. Despite the tragic outcome, it was a necessity to cleanse our business from greedy, back-stabbing, murderous rapscallions. And now that the black sheep have conveniently eliminated themselves, I guess it is time for a promotion for the last man standing, right? After all, I remember you were wise enough to doubt such a foolish plan from the very beginning, and I commend you for your foresight. So what do you think, overseer? Or should I say, Veior Friss?”

Feigning interest Friss replied: “That would be most gracious and an extraordinary honor, Skeijorn!” He raised his glass in acknowledgement of his newly bestowed title.

“Cheers then,” Skeijorn Daigeir said. They clinked their glasses. “We’ll discuss further details first thing tomorrow morning!”

So that’s the story how the mighty rich Avennorian Skeijorn Daigeir of Ciosa lost all four of his overseers in one single day and a whole treasure chest brimmed with gold and jewels.

All four I hear you ask? And a whole treasure chest? Well, yes, for right after Fjorek Friss had left the Skeijorn that evening, he must have decided to make a late night trip to the warehouse. He had a key to the office after all, and he felt the urge to check whether that fortune that had cost three lives on this very day, was still there as the Skeijorn had hinted at. And it was. And because he had endured the whims of this greedy, miserly, mistrusting, jaded merchant for quite a while, he figured that in the end the man’s suspicious and conniving nature might prove to be his downfall as well – justified or not, the Skeijorn would find ways if he wanted to and exorcise demons wherever he suspected them.

Thus he did what he had to do, Fjorek Friss thought. Once he had gained the Skeijorn’s unconditional trust, he betrayed it immediately. He had had a good teacher in the Skeijorn. And so he escaped with the gold, never to be heard from again.
 


Return to the Book
Click on the book's name to view the Table of Contents
or the
Click here to view the Author's Index
 

Fairy tale written by by Artimidor Federkiel View Profile