Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Coins of Sartar

(Or the History of the Heortling Pesos.)

"Cattle are the proper geld, for in cattle the laws are measured."
        - Orlanthi truism.

This truism, commonly known amongst the rural Orlanthi across the barbarian belt, speaks of a greater truth. All wealth is ultimately derived from the Earth's bounty. Not for nothing is Asrelia called the Giver of Plenty.
The Earth's bounty was the birthright of Asrelia's daughter Esrola, who herself gave rise to all the plants and animals who the Orlanthi hold sacred and valuable. What wealth she did not provide herself, she was given by others who wished to wed her.
It is therefore unsurprising that when Orlanthi trade, they do so in terms of cattle and grain.

The earliest form of Orlanthi currency discovered are Storm Age ingots of copper, in two principle varieties. Many of these are still used by traditional Orlanthi clans who scorn modern coinage.
Copper Oxhide ingot, dating to the Silver Age.
  • One takes the form of large sheets, in the shape of an oxhide, weighing around 60 to 70 pounds. They have large handles allowing them to be carried by traders, and are valued as equal to a cow.
  • The other form is that of a rod or stalk. These are approximately half a yard in length, and bare carvings of grain. These stalks, as they are commonly known, represent ears of barley and are traded for a day's worth of food for one man.
  • The stalks have also been found bound together into bushels of ten or so, for ease of transportation. Worth an equivalent amount of grain, these bushels are rarely used except for taxation purposes.
All of these, and more, have been found in ancient ruined shrines to the Orlanthi deities, usually deliberately broken. During this early period they were primarily used for votive offerings, in place of the animal or plant they depict. It was only during the Great Darkness when their usage shifted.

As with many Orlanthi innovations, this shift took place in Esrolia. During the reign of Queen Norinel, a daughter of Esrola, many disasters occured. It was not safe outside the city of Notchet, and many of the Esrovuli clustered inside its walls. Whenever attackers raided the city, they would steal cattle and grain from the farmers, and many went hungry. Kimantor, the husband protector of Norinel, put a stop to this by erecting a great wall around his trading blanket, and commanding the Esrovuli to place their goods here; where they could be protected by him, and nurtured by Norinel.
To make sure that each person who took goods inside the walls could still access things when need be, Kimantor gave each one oxhides, stalks, and bushels in accordance with what they brought in, and marked each with Norinel's personal rune to show her protection.
While the Esrovuli could use their stalks and oxhides to collect grain and cattle for food, they also exchanged them amongst themselves. When a rich noblewoman wanted bodyguards, she could pay them each a stalk a day, thereby allowing them to survive while not working the fields themselves. Others would get a redsmith to smelt bronze weapons and armour from their riches, leaving their goods property of the Queens of Notchet.

In this way Notchet prospered when all looked bleak, and it became a model for other Orlanthi who copied this method of handling stalks and oxhides.

During the Silver Age, after the Unity Battle, the Orlanthi (both Esrovuli or Heortling) united with the other ancient peoples who aided them into a great council. The merfolk, the elves, the dwarves, and the trolls all came together under the leadership of the Only Old One, who was kin to Kimantor. Inspired by his kinsman's deeds, the Only Old One enforced a great taxation. known as the Shadow Tribute, amongst the Unity Council members. They would give him goods, and in return he provided magical and military support.
While the Esrovuli and Heortlings gave oxhides, bushels, and other goods; the other people gave in their own way, but it was the dwarven tribute which was most important.
When the Only Old One's tallyman accepted their tribute, it was found to consist entirely of small pieces of copper, each one bearing an icon of some kind of good or act. The dwarves explained that the Only Old One would not need everything at once; but when he did need something from the dwarves, he could show them the copper piece marked with a particular good or service, and the dwarves would perform it.
First Age Clack, worth one cow.

The Esrovuli understood this was the same as how Kimantor had exchanged goods for ingots, and learned from the dwarves of this new secret; while the Heortlings turned their backs. With the dwarven secrets, the Esrovuli made their own copper pieces, which they named clacks, after the sounds they made. They were square like the Earth Rune, and bore on one the queen of the city, and on the other how much they were worth. This was usually a stalk, bushel, or cow; but clacks showing other amounts, such as three stalks, or seven bushels, have also been made.

These clacks became common currency throughout the lands of the Unity Council, even amongst the scornful Heortlings, who could not deny their usefulness. Still, they preferred their oxhides and stalks, and ignored all differences in a clack's value, treating them all as if they were worth a single stalk.

Silver currency only rose to prominence during the Third Age. Despite the Middle Sea Empire's influence, silver coins had never taken root amongst the Orlanthi. The Esrolians preferred their copper clacks, and the Heortlings were as disdainful of the Empire's coins as they were of any other invention. This was especially true since most coins made near the Heortlings came from the infamous Clanking City, where it is said more coins were made in a single year than in a century before.

The change came at the hands of Sartar, as did so many other miracles. Silver coins had been filtering down through Tarsh from the northern empire for many years already. The people of Dragon Pass had been treating them as they would any other piece of silver, made into jewellery or smelted to make new treasures. Sartar knew his kingdom would need something to make trade easy and convenient, and so traded for as many of the silver coins as he could.
He took them to the trade guilds of Boldhome, his great city, and had them restamped, erasing the foreign markings with Orlanthi gods and trade runes. He convinced others of their worth by exchanging many of them with the Feathered Horse Queen of the Grazers, convincing her to part with more gold than the silver itself would be worth; all with the power of his mark.
Guilder depicting King Terasarin and Orlanth Larnsting

The Dragon Pass Orlanthi, who would later name themselves after Sartar, accepted these silver coins as part of Sartar's magic. He could create wealth were there was none before, and this great magic would allow them to prosper. Silver coins were hammered in Boldhome and distributed amongst the Orlanthi, in place of Bushels of copper or grain.

When Sartar died, his successors used his magic to hammer new coinage. These coins, known as Guilders after the trade guilds who hammered them, became widespread as the Kingdom of Sartar's fame grew. Some have even been found in the great city of Glamour, where the original silver coins were forged.

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