A Tale of Merchants, by Amani Joas, on the value of speculation and trading
Posted in   Energyblog   on  April 5, 2024 by  Amani Joas0
A Tale of Merchants, by Amani Joas

Ary was exhausted, her breath ragged and her muscles aching as she raced back to the harbor. The journey had been grueling, a test of endurance and determination. Yet, every step was fueled by the weight of the message she carried, a secret known only to her — a message worth its weight in gold.

The day had begun before the first light of dawn had even touched the horizon. Rising at the unearthly hour of 4 am, Ary packed her satchel with provisions, anticipation coursing through her veins as she embarked on her daily pilgrimage to her secluded vantage point. This spot, nestled at the outermost edge of the bay, was her sanctuary, offering a panoramic view of the vast expanse of sea stretching towards the horizon. Here, Ary would while away the hours, watching with keen eyes the majestic wooden ships as they emerged on the distant waters, heralds of Emporion's bustling harbor.

In her youth, Ary had spent countless hours upon these rugged cliffs, observing the comings and goings of vessels with a fascination bordering on obsession. Each ship bore its own tale — the toils of fishermen, the bounty of the sea, the trials of a journey homeward. Armed with an ancient spyglass unearthed from her grandfather's attic, Ary would scrutinize the decks, deciphering the subtle cues that hinted at the fortunes of the day's catch. It was here, amidst the salty breeze and the cry of gulls, that Ary developed her skill in the art of reading ships. Her utmost delight lay with the grandeur of the fishing fleets. Ary reveled in the spectacle of fishermen laboring as they hauled in their nets, meticulously sorting through their catch, and indulging in well-deserved breaks with their pipes aglow. Despite their weariness, a palpable sense of accomplishment permeated the air — a testament to their unwavering dedication and the fruits of their labor.

Through astute observation and keen analysis, Ary honed her ability to discern the nature of each catch — the subtle nuances revealing tales of success or disappointment. While counting barrels provided a straightforward measure, it was the fishermens’ demeanor that offered the truest insight into their journey. A tranquil crew puffing contentedly on their pipes signaled prosperity, while an empty deck and the captain's stern gestures betrayed turmoil on the high seas.

It took Ary more than a year to grasp the true value of her knack for deciphering ships. The realization struck her as she overheard a fish merchant bemoaning his plight at the close of the market.

"All this fish will go to waste," the merchant lamented, his voice heavy with regret.

"I bought it too late, and now nobody wants this splendid sturgeon. What a pity!"

"Bought it too late…", Ary echoed in her mind, pondering the merchant's predicament. The pieces of the puzzle fell into place as she reasoned through the situation. The man hadn't acted sooner because he lacked foresight — he didn't know the daily influx of fish into the harbor. A meager catch meant low supply and inflated prices, while a bountiful haul spelled abundance and low prices. And in the event of an excess, even free fish would languish unsold, destined for the rubbish heap. "But I know," Ary thought, a spark of realization igniting within her. "I know the ebb and flow of the harbor's bounty before anyone else does."

With this newfound knowledge burning brightly in her mind, Ary embarked on a quest to ensure that no fish would meet a wasteful end — and perhaps even turn a profit in the process. From her vantage point on the cliffs, she concocted a plan to transform her observations into tangible action.

In the hurried marketplace of Emporion, where the scent of salt hung heavy in the air and the cries of merchants filled the streets, the price of sturgeon danced like a fish caught in the tide. On ordinary days, a dozen ounces fetched a fair sum of 6 Solidus at the wholesale auction, where eager buyers vied for the day's catch. Two hours after sunrise, merchants gathered to cast their bids, hoping to secure their share of the ocean's bounty. Yet, despite their best efforts, profit margins remained slim at 2 Solidus between wholesale and retail price as competition on the fish market was stiff.

In moments of plenty, when the nets overflowed with silver-scaled treasures, the wholesale price of sturgeon dipped to a modest 4 Solidus and, on a day of a great catch, could even drop down to 2 Solidus per dozen ounces. Conversely, when the ocean offered its bounty sparingly, prices soared, reaching as high as 10 Solidus or more. And on rare occasions, such as the fateful day when two ships collided in the harbor, chaos reigned supreme, sending prices skyrocketing to an astonishing 30 Solidus — an event etched forever in the annals of Emporion's maritime lore.

Amidst this clamor of commerce, Ary, with her keen eye and astute mind, sought to chart her own course of fortune. "I possess the gift of knowledge and the gift of time," Ary contemplated, pondering how she could harness these assets for a greater purpose. While she entertained the idea of simply informing the merchants of the day's catch, thus potentially earning compensation for her services, Ary relished the thrill of predicting the actual haul. She wanted to embrace responsibility, or risk, and came up with a different plan which she put into action.

One day, when Ary was very confident she spotted an exceptionally bountiful catch, she hurried back to the harbor, seeking out the largest sturgeon merchant, who everyone called Spotty as dawn broke over the horizon.

"3 Solidus for a dozen," Ary declared with pride.

The merchant regarded her with confusion.

"What do you mean?", Spotty inquired.

"3 Solidus for a dozen pounds of sturgeon," Ary reiterated confidently.

"I am offering to sell you a dozen pounds for 3 Solidus."

The merchant chuckled dismissively.

"You have no fish to sell, little girl. Begone. I have work to do."

Undeterred, Ary responded,

"I may not possess the fish yet, but I intend to purchase them at the auction and sell them to you for 3 Solidus." 

The merchant scoffed,

"Preposterous! The standard auction price is 6 Solidus. Why would you sell them to me for 3 Solidus now?"

"That is not your concern," Ary retorted. "You can purchase them for 3 Solidus and inform your customers of the opportunity to enjoy affordable fish dinners. They may even offer special deals in their establishments to attract more patrons."

Spotty mulled over Ary's proposition. Perhaps she possessed insight unknown to him. While he typically paid 6 Solidus, acquiring sturgeon for 3 Solidus was an enticing offer. However, he hesitated, considering the possibility of a significant price drop if it proved to be a day with an exceptional catch. Ultimately, the merchant reasoned,

"If I add a 2 Solidus margin to her price, I can secure deals with my principal customers and restaurants. They will gladly purchase at 5 Solidus, a mutually beneficial arrangement. Moreover, with two hours until the auction, there is ample time for planning. By purchasing at 3 Solidus and selling at five, I will sell much more fish than on a usual day and achieve a substantial profit." 

"Agreed," the merchant finally declared, shaking Ary's outstretched hand solemnly.

"Return at 10:10 after the auction to deliver the fish, and I will pay you 3 Solidus." 

"Now, be on your way. I have customers to attend to," the merchant instructed briskly.

Ary and the merchant shared a mutual understanding, adhering to Emporion's code of conduct, where a handshake sealed the deal. In a realm where trust was paramount and broken agreements were met with severe consequences, reneging on a handshake agreement was unthinkable.

With the deal sealed, Ary proceeded to the auction, short on fish. Her intuition proved correct: it was indeed a magnificent catch, and the quantities up for sale were so substantial that prices settled at a mere 2 Solidus per dozen ounces. Ary swiftly made her purchase and then transported her goods to the merchant, who, true to their agreement, promptly paid her the promised 3 Solidus.

Satisfied with the transaction, Spotty harbored no regrets, having struck advantageous deals with his own clientele to provide them with fish at exceptional prices. Meanwhile, the most prominent eatery in Emporion, having procured fish from the merchant, boldly displayed a sign announcing, "Special Sturgeon Dinner Deal Tonight," luring in a throng of patrons eager to savor a delectable meal. Also, sure that the affordable prices would convince many townspeople to splurge on a meal of fresh fish, the owner of the eatery had paid the town crier to announce the offer in every street of busy Emporion. Thanks to these timely initiatives, even before the auction concluded, a considerable portion of the day's catch had been enjoyed throughout Emporion, ensuring that not a single fish went to waste.

Encouraged by her success and the profits it brought, Ary embarked on the journey to the harbor every day, gradually expanding her clientele. She would sell fish even before it was brought ashore, buying and delivering it later that morning. Over time, she developed acquaintances with the ship captains, enabling her to purchase fish directly from them and saving them the hassle of carrying their yield to the market and participating in the auction. Certainly, Ary's predictions about the catch size weren't always accurate. There were occasions when her estimations faltered, leading to financial losses on the trades she had initiated. Nevertheless, with each experience, she sharpened her ability to assess the fluctuating dynamics of supply and demand within the market and became a liked and respected trader.

As Ary's business flourished, she invested in a carriage to transport fish from the auction to the merchants. Later, she would acquire a horse for faster rides to her vista point and entertained the idea of establishing a cooling house for storing fish. The customers grew accustomed to Ary's subtle yet impactful communication style, wherein she divulged valuable information through the bids and offers she placed for fish. By providing early insights into market prices, Ary empowered customers to adapt their behaviors according to fish availability. Ary's contribution to the people of Emporion was valuable — she gifted them with both time and information. Through her observations and relentless study of her surroundings, she emerged as a successful young entrepreneur, enriching the lives of those around her. There were more important things in the lives of Emporion's citizens than the consumption of fish, of course, but it helped their days nonetheless and made life just a little better.

However, none of this mattered now to her as she was running back to the Harbor transporting nothing but knowledge. Fish stocks had become depleted over the last year and prices had risen as the people of Emporion had substituted away from the traditional diet. But today would be different. She had seen what no merchant thought possible. Six large vessels, barrels filled to the brim, sailors cheering and singing for their good catch.

She ran the last stretches with the sure knowledge of a bumper profit. But fortune was not on her side today. She screamed as she fell. She lay in the dust holding her feet twisted in a devilish way instantly knowing they would be of no use to her for some time to come. She lay in the sand breathing exhausted, knowing that this opportunity had passed, and her message was lost to the world.

As the sun rose, the merchants of Emporion looked around puzzled as they didn’t see Ary shouting her prices around the market. She was there every day, and they had gotten used to making trades with her or simply hearing her prices to make their own best judgments where prices would settle that day. But she was nowhere to be seen. Early customers and especially the restaurant chefs stood around waiting for the early offers to plan their menus, but no one could offer them a price. They all trod back to their restaurants, putting "the usual" on the menu and going on with their day.

As the ships rolled in for the auction, the merchants saw what the hour had brought. Happy sailors, full barrels. Today would be a fishy day. Prices at the auction settled at a mere 1 Solidus as demand for fish had declined in the last months and Merchants did not know who should buy all the goods. Customers came to the market and bought some fish, however, were unprepared for this meal and only bought a little despite prices being so favorable. At the end of the day, no one valued the great blessing of the great catch, and lots of fish went to waste into the bay of the beautiful harbor of Emporion.

"What a bloody waste," the merchant Spotty said, and missed the girl that always gave him a good price and security for his day to come. As he closed down his stand, he saw the fiery little person hopping towards him on self-made crutches.

"Not to worry Spotty," Ary said with a smile. "I will be back tomorrow."


Speculation, Trader

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