Money Makes the World Go Round

Well not quite. It should be made clear from that start that, in this post-apocalyptic world riddled with magic and mayhem that we experience in Sojourners in Shadow, there is no global currency. There is nothing that everyone uses. People barter, that happens everywhere. If you want to trade then you need to be able to give up something yourself. But the world contains patches of civilisation, and in those money has taken some form. So here I’ll explain them: each place, each type, and give some kind of context and history about them.

The first place to start has to be Trade Island. As the name suggests, trade is the main aim, and while you can barter and swap goods, a form of money had to come about. Now if you’re a high up and wealthy member of a business family, then a credit note is all you need. These are worth whatever is written on them, because everyone knows you have that money, so if words say you’re giving that to someone else, you are. It also helps that the families all keep their main wealth in the same bank, the Vault, so dealing with each other is literally no more than moving numbers about. Others can use credit notes too, but you had better be someone of worth, otherwise you could end up eating that note. Or worse.

As for a more menial form of money, something that looks pretty but is not really valuable, then people use gems. These are small crystals, not like anything of this world as we know it today, and that’s because gleaners make them. Literally. Gems are gleaner shit. They often leave their, well, leavings about their caves and tunnels to give off a small glimmer of reflected light. Gleaners see better in the dark than most monsters but they don’t fully see in it. Whatever their cause and use, the people of Trade Island handle these daily, buying goods. Some know where they came from. Most don’t. Most don’t want to know nor care to. In Trade Island, handling gems is the least of the dirty tasks you’ll have to do to get by.

In many places money has developed where humans are maintaining communities, especially small forms of civilisation. In essence, if things are in order and people are trying to trade and grow, then a currency is created.

In Central Asia, across the steppes, where many tribes and gatherings have merged, the people have developed coins. At first, they were made of precious metals, but over time they used cheaper things and were pledges, as in I don’t have this money to buy, but if you give this to someone else in my tribe, they will give you something. Tribes and groups had coins that had the names of their leaders on, as a sign or promise that they were supporting this pledge. You would use a coin to buy something and any problems later on could be taken to the leader himself and he might pay up, or at least see recompense made. This gave the leaders more prestige, and also more power. This led to a counter move by certain richer people, who began to make their own coins and give them out, and people used them as they knew these had the wealth to back up the offer. These people were also looking for a currency that could be used beyond each tribe, as more and more were moving closer together to avoid enemies, and more were trading together. This is what led to the rise of the kulaks, the merchant class that now has power without being leaders or elders. By now, most coins are cheap metal with kulak family names on, and are handed about and taken as worth, and so, while people still barter, the wealthy have a form of power over others.

The Deliverer is a ship, stranded in the Pacific Ocean. To be honest, it is three ships, but they have been fixed together so long the humans living there see it as one. They are a practical people, surviving by working together, so for them, you mainly get what your role earns. Everyone is meant to contribute. Yet some tokens were made long ago, small bits of scrap metal cut and stamped by machinery. There’s nothing fancy about them, they have numbers for value on, and marks from the machines down below to prove they’re authentic. You have any and you can hand them over to buy yourself something special once in a while, to get a bit more than your role in the ship earns you. Some frown on them, wondering why they’re still around when they haven’t been made in a long time. In a way, it is an expression of individuality within the community. Most likely that’s why their production was ceased.

The Northern Federation, because it has had to grow, regrow and develop, has dabbled in money a few times before now. At one point wooden tokens were currency, once you had etched your name and debt on. Some still use these, mostly in the villages. In the cities they have gone back to coins and notes. Oddly enough, there is a direct parallel with the market towns of Europe across the sea. While the Northern Federation are together, the cities themselves tend to compete. Each produces money with their name on. They are all acceptable across the region, but it has become a matter of pride for each city. Carthage was the first to make coins with its name on. It pushed them to the other cities with a passion, seeking its place as first city, which it gained. After a while, the other cities fought back with their own coins, but this had to be negotiated. Basically, the coins, and later the paper notes, had to be the same value across the Federation, and all were to be accepted. Money could be used to promote pride in your home city, but it couldn’t actually become an act of independence. Also, while it was never made official, the Carthaginian coinage was favoured. By now, notes and coins are commonplace, the first called dollars, the latter, which are bronze metal, are pennies.

The Mediterranean market towns are developing money. At first people made coins to try and pay for things, but as market towns grew and became known settlements, they were able to make their own coins. People in those places were commanded to accept them as money, and so others began to do so, knowing they can be used there. Barter still goes on, but more towns are producing coins and as their trade and influence spreads, so does the coins. Funnily, pirates have been a big boost in this. By robbing the merchants of the Mediterranean, they’re the ones first responsible for taking coins to other places, and exchanging them with other coins.

The Coalition of the South has money that harks back to the era before the Shadow World. Back then, the region was an important trading nation and it did well, the perfectly placed go-between for other countries. In that time, the rand and cents were currency, and the people today remember such things, and more. They use paper notes, called rand but sometimes dollars too, and cents are the coins, which look gold, hearkening back to the glorious trade era. The cities of the Coalition are more inland and secluded, unlike those of the Northern Federation, so their money has yet to be taken abroad. Perhaps soon.

A final mention goes to Australasia, where they have notes and coins as well. When the nation was formed, including the Aussies, the Brits, the Americans and the Japanese, they had to agree to a currency to share, to include them all and maintain equality. The easiest thing to do was to stick with Aussie dollars and cents. They’re not the same as today, obviously, but called the same and used for the same purposes. Only in the wilder central areas would anyone think of bartering instead of just delving into their wallet. Oh, it should also be mentioned that some Americans and Brits use old slang for coins, such as dimes and shillings.

Those are the major realms and communities where money has emerged once again. New, and yet fulfilling an old purpose. The more humans spread and interact, the more they need stable forms of currency to work with. So far there is nothing that works around the world. It is too fractured a place. It can be pointed out that bullets, fuel or food are forms of currency, far more sought after than most coins on a global scale. But as time passes and more groups become organised, these forms of money can begin to overlap. Already Mediterranean settlements work with money from the Northern Federation, and vice versa. As the two sides get to know each other, it is possible the merchants will push for a common currency. Others might well oppose it.

Many places around the world have no need for money. Cyborg sects are fighting a constant war for the betterment of the human race, so getting paid or buying goods isn’t even considered, not even among the less united groups. When a power rules, there rarely develops a need for money so at Constantinople the military takes as it likes, although some settlements of mutants are beginning to trade secretly with other places. Eden is a place of science, faith and unity, so wealth is abhorrent, and in the religiously inspired Octagon State in Texas, the love of money is still seen as the root of all evil.

Perhaps those people are right, perhaps not. With money, people find themselves able to buy, to improve their lives, to provide for others. Yet there is no doubt that often, the creation of coins has been done as some seek to exercise power over others. By making a form of currency, not only can that be used to praise your greatness – bearing your name, perhaps even your image – it means you get to set the standards. Whether it be Carthage or the kulaks, the market towns or the business families, those with the wealth and the will seek to rule others via the power of the coin. The pen is claimed mightier than the sword, although others can argue the gun beats both. Yet to these people, the coin beats them all. As currencies develop and spread, we will see who is right.

Pirates of the Mediterranean

There are pirates in this world, here and there across the vast oceans. Yet in the Mediterranean, piracy is more than just a means to an end. Around the world, various beings raid at sea, but it can’t be said that there is a lot of traffic for them to prey on. In the Mediterranean, commerce is ongoing, flourishing in recent times, and pirates have been around for decades now. They have havens and hideouts, they have their own culture and hierarchy, so here I’ll discuss all of that.

To understand the pirates of this enclosed sea, you have to understand the land around it and those who live there. Across the north of Africa we have several cities, surrounded by numerous villages. This network is known as the Northern Federation. It has been a long struggle, yet these Africans have managed to raise their level of technology and civilisation to a point where they have ships ready to expand their influence. Many of these ships are steam powered, this has been their level for some time, but better craft have been made recently. Mainly warships.

To the east are the mutants. In Eastern Europe they are mostly mutts – the lesser, deformed types – but there are many super-soldiers who have organised the rest. An army is in charge, centralised at Constantinople. Villages and towns are scattered across this end of the Mediterranean, with military camps and bases among them, keeping everyone in check. The mutants don’t go out to sea, their objectives are all on land, but a good number of them are open to trade, as long as the soldiers don’t find out.

I should add when I say mutants, I don’t include the aquatics. These reside in the sea and are part of the reason why the mutant army don’t intrude on the water – the two groups have an understanding to not interfere with each other. But the aquatics here aren’t exactly the same as those elsewhere. Aquatics swim around the world, sharing everything with their own and supporting each other, while keeping the land races at a distance. But a certain number of them reside solely in the Mediterranean, and they have more contact with the land, and are more influenced by the people there.

Finally, across the European coast line, are human settlements, which have been trading with one another for a long time. A number of these have grown to be known as market towns. Trade has brought many things, including new resources, and also ambition and greed. Wooden ships sail along the coast, transporting goods and spreading the wealth. Everyone wants in on the action. Which returns us to the pirates.

They began as European humans. As trade spread along that coast, many who couldn’t afford to get involved found alternative methods. Grab a ship, bring some ruffians together, try and ambush a trade ship. Simple enough. Of course, this caused a reaction, and soon secrecy became more important to hide the whereabouts of the trading vessels, while fighters were hired to be onboard. Trading was never hindered enough to stop progress, which was good for the pirates as well. As the humans of the Iberian Peninsular got to know those of the Italian Peninsular, and in turn they began to deal with those from the Aegean Peninsular, word spread even further. The Northern Federation wanted to trade – sparsely at first but more as contacts and routes became established. They were also able to provide better ships to combat the pirates, although those kept to African waters unless provoked. Aquatics began helping out, usually for a fee, sometimes for knowledge. The mutants of Eastern Europe, who were under less restriction by the army than in other places, started to trade, and so word spread again, leading to certain mutt settlements becoming part of the network, able to sell military equipment their unknowing overlords had stored away.

 

To be honest, this post has become more about the Mediterranean region than just the pirates, but they are an important ingredient and reflect the various parts of the region. Pirates are now of many types of being. Mostly they remain humans from Europe, but Africans are not unusual, nor are mutants. In fact, mutants from Normandy are known to travel down and adventure at sea because of the fame of pirates. They sail in wooden ships, yet other tech and types of equipment will usually be found with them too. Pirates raid to sell on, but also to better themselves. The more the market towns of Europe and the Northern Federation try to protect their trade, the further the pirates go to overcome them.

Pirates vary as well in nature, although they are all pretty much criminals aiming to steal. Some are bloodthirsty. Some act according to cunning as opposed to brute force. Some are looking for financial gain. Some want glory and action. Some crews are well organised and well led. Some are little more than vicious gangs. Some are there by choice, others enslaved.

As expected, a captain leads each crew on each ship. In order to be one, you had better either be the scariest bastard on the ship or have some kind of usefulness that makes the crew want you in charge. If you are of the latter, even with popular support, it is best to have a few strong lieutenants to back you up. These could include first mate, bosun, helmsman, quartermaster, navigator, etc. All roles on a normal ship are just as vital on a pirate one. The difference is any failure could meet disposal rather than demotion.

The running of the ship will vary, depending on the type of captain and the way he or she does things. A brutal tyrant who treats the crew little better than slaves will pretty much keep them together, allowing little time off the ship to relax. Most pirate captains tend to rotate personnel. After a successful raid or adventure, crews tend to want to land and enjoy their gains. If things didn’t go so well, part of the crew might want to get away, or the captain might want them removed before they start trouble. Either way, a captain will tend to have a smaller, select crew who have proven themselves over time, while the rest will come and go depending on timing, the risks, the reputation, etc.

Obviously, a successful captain can attract more and better pirates, so reputation counts for a lot. It can also help where enemies are concerned. As occurred in times past, pirates have flags and emblems to let others know who they face, so if your reputation carries weight, a ship may give in without a fight. Also, as used to be the case in our world, pirates of this time and place have a dreadful reputation, and many people around the Mediterranean have heard horror stories. Not all are true, but there’s certainly enough truth in them. Pirates have havens for a reason – anywhere else and you’re a wanted criminal. Even a suspicion of piracy can get someone hung.

Pirates lead very dangerous lives. The sea can be tough enough, along with diseases, illnesses and ailments any ship on voyage might endure, but the problems they have caused for merchants mean rewards for their heads are high. Pirate hunters roam the Mediterranean. Not nearly enough to stop the pirates, but they tend to be formidable foes, so are best avoided. Of course, other pirates are a danger too, and while at sea, everyone is considered fair game. That’s why the havens were created. Mainly they are very small islands, usually with no one in charge. Everything operates on an understanding that everyone plays nice and so everyone benefits. With a few exceptions, it has always worked, not least because even pirates need a place where they can relax.

While pirates are the criminals of the sea, they aren’t the only ones. Merchants from the market towns, even from the Northern Federation, have found these scum to be useful allies or employees. Trade secrets are jealously guarded, so spies are watching and listening, and gathered information tends to get sold onto pirates or handed out with an agreement for joint reward. Betraying pirates is a bad idea though. Pirates are divided and divisive for the most part, but they also understand the need to stand strong, as all groups do. Pirates will strike back if they have been wronged. Not all, many are selfish and will only act if they are the victim, but if someone mistreats one of their community, enough will react, and others will join in seeing the chance for personal gain. In essence, doing business with a pirate is as dangerous an act as it is unscrupulous.

The pirates of the Mediterranean are a frustrating yet inevitable part of the expanding trade there. While the attempts to prevent them from raiding settlements and stealing ships goes on, many have come to accept their presence, along with storms and human error. When pirates steal, the goods usually end up back in the trade system anyway, so often merchants put more effort into buying their cargo back rather than seeking revenge. In this way, sometimes they even buy it back from those who stole it. Cuts out any middle-men. Pirates can be bought and bribed, same as anyone else. Well, many pirates can. To some, being a pirate is something to maintain. Yes, they are criminals – cutthroats and thieves, raiders and marauders. But merchants and mercenaries are no better. Pirates should keep their word to one another. Pirate captains need to listen to their crews and rewards need to be handed out justly. Havens are to be respected. Fear must be maintained but excessive cruelty only brings down greater repercussions.

Pirates have their place in the ecosystem of the Mediterranean. That is, as long as they don’t push it. Once, someone did. A pirate climbed the ranks and became head of a number of ships and crews, and terrorised the sea and coastlines. He went so far that all sides came together – the Northern Federation, the market towns, and even other pirate captains. They all wanted him gone. After a severe battle, he was chased out, and what was left of his fleet was hunted down. That was twenty years ago. There are those who fear his return, his name is even banned in some places, but for now, pirates know they can keep making this life work as long as they don’t overstep too far. Breaking the law is one thing, but the trade of the Mediterranean has to keep going. For everyone.