Mirrored from Sythyry.
An essay on part of the Kismirth economy — just to prove it’s not all prostitutes and enchantments.
Perhaps you were a person of some importance: the Assistant Minister of the Exchequer in Vheshrame, to pick a topic utterly at random without any thought or awareness of recent crimes and scandals. Perhaps, too, you have been dismissed from your post by — let us say — the malice and ill-will of the actual Minister, plus a potage of purely meritless accusations of embezzling. Perhaps you wish to have a deliciously scandalous and juicy, and eminently readable, book on the shelves of every bookstore in Vheshrame, wherein you demonstrate that the actual Minister was the embezzler, and, additionally, a notable intimate of goats, armadillos, taptet, and other such — though of course the book stops short of explicit libel on this point. Perhaps you are aware that the actual Minister is writing a similar book, though one that seems to involve a wide and surprising array of invertebrates about you. Perhaps you want yours out first — and best if it’s out, oh, next week — months before the Minister’s!
Well, when this sort of scandal happened nineteen years ago, you would have simply been out of luck. Your ghost-writer would have had no advantage over the Minister’s ghost-writer. Whoever wrote faster and published faster would be on the stands first. And everyone wanting to read the deliciously disreputable details would get both books more or less at the same time, and would form an unbiased opinion. Alas! Woe!
But today — today! Send your ghost-writer to the Quick Quarter in Kismirth! In that blessed place, the power of a great time-wizard has arranged that the days shall speed past. Your ghost-writer shall have a week of time for each day that the Minister’s ghost-writer has! Your victory is assured!
What? Even that is not enough? You wish the book to be on the stands all but instantly? Kismirth’s Quick-Quick Quarter is at your service! In that place, time passes at an astounding clip — a day in the normal world is three months for your ghost writer! Your book shall be done within the week, with time to spare! And, unlike the Minister’s book, it shall be well and carefully written, full of the sort of literary allusions and amusing epigraphs and other authorial flourishes. It shall be more enjoyable to read — to the degree that it shall all but make your case by itself! “Who cares about the truth of the details — the Assistant Minister is delightfully clever; the Minister is a turgid beetle!”
- It was Daukrhame, not Vheshrame. I’m actually pretty certain that the Assistant Minister is guilty — if only because of the amount of money he was willing to spend on his ghost-writer. That does not preclude the guilt of the Minister, of course.
- You might wonder how we tend the ghost-writers. Obviously we can’t have a whole commercial district inside the Quick Quarter, much less in the Quite Quick Quarter. (Both names are in common use.) What we have, for most sorts of goods, is catalogs. A great many things can be bought in the QQ and QQQ, but they must be ordered. Runners arrive every day or two to see what you might want or need. They take your orders — and your lozens, oh, your lozens will fly from you! — and scoot to the merchants of Kismirth, and bring you what you have requested, as quick as they can. In the QQQ, by the very nature of time itself, you may wait for two or three days to get your new supply of nibs, or your replacement undergarments. Best to order generously, so you do not run out of anything essential!
This won’t do for crucial items, like food. We offer a special dining service. (By “we” I mean “Arfaen and I”.) A large supply of delicious and varied meals will be prepared and ensorcelled, so that, when you wish to dine, you may pick one from the supply and have it fresh-cooked and smoking-hot and wholesome and delicious, no matter how long ago it was actually prepared.
This is actually quite hard to do. We prepare, at times, thousands of meals in a day. Each one is wrapped in an elegant paper doily. It is then marked as to the precise nature of its contents, for it would never do to for the hungry auteur to call for duck breast in brandy sauce with spätzle and grilled cherries, and — horrors! — find instead an elegant terrine of salmon, confit of shrimps, and candied turnips! (This catastrophe actually happened in our earlier days. The horror of the ghost-writer was barely measurable — but one annoys a ghost-writer at one’s extreme peril; one risks mockery, which is a terrible weapon against a struggling new tourist spot!) Then, when they are at the height of perfection, the dishes are individually placed in abayance, by means of an enchanted tool prepared by the greatest time-wizard in all Kismirth. They will remain at the height of perfection until the seal on the doily is broken. Then they may be eaten. Only the most magically-sensitive of diners will detect the residual hint of the time magic used on them.
- Our prices in the catalog are quite high. I feel no shame from this. The logisitic difficulties are quite high as well. We must keep everything available constantly, and well-stocked stores near the Quarters must be open all the time. Runners willing to endure the difficulties of the time distortion must be hired, and kept in constant motion, and endure the difficulties attendant on time distortion.
- Incidentally, our runners are not all prime. We have a substantial population of taptet, tiny cervian monsters of no great power or danger. Taptet are, on the whole, more willing to sacrifice their lives — or take the risk of death — than primes are. They seem glad to get jobs as runners, for which the risks are minor. (Runners live as long as anyone else. But, if they spend a long time in the QQQ, they will die at a hundred years old a mere, say, seventy years after their birth … or forty. We encourage them to balance their quick time with slow time, but almost nobody does so.)
- The moral dilemma of the first half of the year was a Rassimel who identified himself to us as “Feralan Stensio” — Feralan being an exceedingly common Rassimel name — but we suspect of being one Malakip Prenkrip. Prenkrip, if it was him, had embezzled nearly a million lozens from a count of Ulmarn. He wished to live out the rest of his life in luxury in the company of his wife and their beloved, and suddenly much larger, collection of tea caddies. He estimated his remaining years as ten — it proved to be a mere nine. He could have tried to flee to some distant region and live in some mixture of hiding and fear of being found. Or, he could come to Kismirth and do so efficiently, in the Quite Quick Quarter, and have his nine years take but a month in Ulmarn. It took twelve days for Ulmarn to find his trail adequately, and another eleven days for the extradition request to visit all the offices and officials in Ulmarn and Vheshrame that it needed to visit. And another day for it to get to Kismirth, and for us to figure out how to manage it, since the extradition papers usedg the name ‘Malakip Prenkrip’ and we had no idea who that was. When we finally, politely, hauled the right person out of the QQQ, he was in the last few months of his life, and had gotten pretty much full value out of his crime. (If it really was him, and if we really didn’t deliver an innocent Rassy to Ulmarn to die, etc. I wish I could be sure. One good reason not to be a duke is that I do not want to actually try to make that sort of decision.)
- Yes, Arfaen’s business’s cooking is good enough so that eating it for nine years counts as ‘living in luxury’. Well, her top line is. There are somewhat cheaper choices too.
The Less Glamorous But More Profitable Time Warping Business Model
That’s what I thought of with the QQQ. But actually there are only a moderate number of scandal-ridden Assistant Ministers, or even Malakip Prenkrips. What we actually do in the QQQ is, of course, is to age things very quickly.
Suppose that you are V. Astorio, seventh in the line of V. Astorio Vintners. Or that you are Mvs. Ganquin et Qualosquin, cheesemakers of the finest. Or K. Q. Vorgram and Sons, makers of the finest in whiskey. Or Alonzo DeLort, whose well-cured polypimento is the spice of choice for all who enjoy dartmorts, the branchwide dish of Hybraeia. Or Narwin Borswimmy, Grand Picklemaster by appointment to the Queen of Regnoth, wherever that may be. Or any of, as of today, sixty-eight other makers of various fine food items and whatnots that need to be aged.
Anyhow, you are such a manufacturer, and you wish — unaccountably! — to make more money, by selling much more of the food you produce, yet keeping its quality as high as it is now — or even higher. And, indeed, you could make a great more wine, or cheese, or whiskey. But your wine takes eight years from bottling to age to the minimum quality you are willing to sell, and should ideally age for fifty. The mightiest cheese that you sell takes two years, though the stuff aged for five years is amazing but too hard to produce. Your whiskey should sit in scorched arkenwood casks for five to eight years. And so on.
Well, you could build vast warehouses, big enough for years of aging of the quantity you wish to produce. And you could wait, personally, for years and years, until your stock is ready to sell. Or you could go out of business by then, or die of old age, or various other problems.
Or you could rent space in the QQQ, where a year passes in three days, where fifty-year wine is ready in a few months. Where there is a wizard who can arrange for the temperature to be cool, for the air to be dry, for a floral-scented breeze to circle endlessly, for golems to turn the bottles thrice a day, and so on.
It’s not that cheap. But it is not so expensive as you might think at first, and it does mean that you will be able to sell your fine foods this month instead of some distant and hypothetical one. And you might well cooperate with V. Astorio, Mvs. Ganquin and Qualosquin, K. Q. Vorgram and Sons, Alonzo DeLort, Narwin Borswimmy (Grand Picklemaster! To the Queen of Regnoth! Wherever that may be), and most of the sixty-eight other makers of various fine foods and whatnots, to share the costs of the sky-barges that carry your fine foods and whatnots hither and yon about Ketheria.
And, in the end, I am pleased. Whatever the reputation of Kismirth, our actual industry is doing well: even without the tourists and the trades which entertain them in sometimes undignified ways, we have a solid economy based on making delicious items that primes can enjoy thousands of miles off.
And arranging matters so that fifty times as many people can have the best dartmorts, or drink Astorio wines, or even dine on the same pickles as the Queen of Regnoth (w.t.m.b.), pleases me as well. I am no more of a populist than the next prime, but I see no reason why luxury foods should be supremely expensive if they can be made just as well for less.
The Even Less Glamorous One
We have huge tracts of land. They are indoors, in the Quick Quarter. I don’t know quite how big they are, because they were made by crystallization and space distortion techniques, but I would guess that Kismirth’s fields and meadows could easily be a dozen or nineteen times those of Vheshrame. Even if they are all indoors. Sunlight, soil, and hot and cold running water are provided as well.
So the grain for the whiskey, the milk for the cheese, and the vegetables for the pickles enjoyed by the Queen of Regnoth (w.t.m.b.) are actually from Kismirth. The fruit for the wine and the spices are more finicky, and are grown at home … though some of the vintners are learning how to use Kismirth’s potentially voluminous (but, alas, relatively bland compared to those grown in natural soil exposed to natural weather and natural parasites) fruit.
Welcome to the future of Ketherian civilization. It’s a vast and well-provisioned place, though we’re still figuring out how to make it quite as tasty as the present.