The Merchant With No Coin
(Art by Kevin Pabst)
In the days before now there lived a merchant of Vraszan who belonged to the clan of Kiraly, people renowned far and wide for their skill and cunning at trade. But although for many years this man toiled hard, scarcely any money would he make; no sooner had he tied the knot of any deal than the coin of it through his fingers slipped, never to be seen again.
So in time this man to a szorsa went, and from her he begged a blessing of wealth. But renowned was this szorsa for her wisdom and craft, and before she made any blessing, nine cards she laid from her pattern deck, to see the fabric of his fate.
“O merchant,” she said, “no good will it do you, however great a blessing I bestow. For in the double-plied thread of your life, one strand has snapped. A connection you have to Pra Makoroš, the Mask of Hollows, but none to Pra Govye, the Face of Gold. The world has fated you for poverty, not wealth. Ask some other thing of me.”
Yet still this merchant said, “Szorsa, I would have a blessing of wealth.”
“For what purpose?” the szorsa asked. “The strand that is broken I cannot restore; no szorsa can force a deity to turn from Mask to Face. Even if to your hands I bring an endless river of coin, like water it will flow away, leaving your palms scarcely damp with even so much as copper.”
The merchant said, “Rice grows in a flooded field long after the farmer’s hands are dry. Though with me the money I earn may not stay, to my cousins it might flow, to my friends, to beggars whose need is greater than mine. Them I can aid; and as for myself, in family, in friendship, in kindness I may yet be rich, even if Pra Govye Makoroš turns only their Mask toward me.”
And so the szorsa blessed him. For many years afterward was the merchant famed for his generosity, earning much but keeping nothing for himself. Long after he died, people set lanterns on the river in honor of his name, and perhaps some still remember him today.
About the author:
M.A. Carrick is the writing duo of Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms; this story was written by Marie. She is a former anthropologist and folklorist who shamelessly pillages her academic fields for inspiration. She recently misapplied her professors’ hard work to The Game of 100 Candles and the short novel Driftwood. She is the author of the Hugo Award-nominated Victorian adventure series The Memoirs of Lady Trent along with several other series, over seventy short stories, and the New Worlds series of worldbuilding guides; as half of M.A. Carrick, she has written the epic Rook and Rose trilogy, beginning with The Mask of Mirrors. For more information, visit swantower.com, Twitter @swan_tower, or her Patreon at http://www.patreon.com/swan_tower.