Commerce of the Twilight Isles

   Long-range trade in the Twilight Isles operates almost entirely by sea. Thanks to the wild magical distortions generated by the Elemental Storms, the Sieltufan, the Jav-Sabok, and the Underworld, attempting long-range travel or cargo transport via magic or psionics – teleportation, gates, shadow-travel, or what-have-you – is extraordinarily dangerous and becomes more so as the distance increases and the line of travel intersects the Jav-Sabok. Even if you or your cargo arrives in one piece (not too likely), it’s probably going to be in the wrong place. The Thunder Dwarves use such methods of transport occasionally – equipped with as many stabilizing, protective, and error-correcting spells as they can manage – but even they normally settle for simply trying to get messages through.

   Trading by ship is less dangerous – but it’s still in no way safe. Ships are extremely vulnerable to the Elemental Storms and are occasionally attacked by sea monsters. The available maps are imprecise and full of unexplored areas (and no, those are not marked on the main maps, noted major features generally do exist, but some features are not marked). Sailing routes must often circumnavigate dangerous areas; roughly double the straight-line distance is about average. Ships commonly make roughly 200 miles a day with a bit of magic or a dwarven engine, or close to 250 with both – but that still means that reaching another archipelago can take a month or more. Finally, navigation is awkward. While the towering Sieltufan can serve as landmarks, and can be seen up to a hundred and fifty miles away under (rare) good conditions, the lack of a sun, moon, stars, or even a day and night cycle makes things quite difficult. Trading or raiding journeys are long, dangerous – and often richly profitable, since each archipelago has it’s own unique resources.

   The Ikam export:

  • Exotic bioproducts – the long-term result of applying subtle reality-editing to breeding plants and animals across generations. Their creations include various exotic drugs and compounds, strange fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices, the best silk to be found in the Twilight Isles, and a wide variety of useful and ornamental beasts. Of course, any single Deza normally only produces a few such items, and in very limited quantities.
  • Religious Services. The Ikam’s Triune God may simply be a manifestation of the Ikam’s massed reality-bending abilities or it may really be reaching through the Maze of Souls to the Ikam – but either way only the Ikam have access to an entity that grants major divine powers and makes a serious claim to being a true creator god. Ikam priests thus possess a good deal of prestige even among the other three major races.
  • Personal aides and bodyguards. While the Sovath are most commonly sent out as utterly-reliable mercenaries, bodyguards, and trainers, occasional members of the other castes are encountered out in the wider world as political advisors (primarily with the Thunder Dwarves) or speciality magi (primarily with the Shadow Elves and Veltine) – although they will usually have a Sovath bodyguard or two along.
  • Minor exports include fine crafts and high-quality equipment, cloth and other fiberwork, small amounts of magical materials, leather goods, and other small-scale handicrafts – although the Ikam are bad at the large-scale production of anything. Each Deza operates independently, and they’re too small to support operations beyond the shop level.

   The Ikam usually import food, lumber and other raw materials, construction techniques and defensive weaponry, charms and talismans, potions, and permanent magical devices.

   The Veltine export:

  • Bone, ivory, inedible oils, and other extracts from an assortment of dangerous sea creatures that no one else is tough and strong (or perhaps crazy) enough to try and harvest. While they usually use the edible meat of such creatures internally, small amounts are traded for larger quantities of other foodstuffs.
  • Magical materials – stormfruits, thunder metals, monster parts, magical ores and crystals – from Nardrasyl (the nearby Sieltufan). While the Veltine are still affected by the enormous energies of the Sieltufan, their general lack of inherent magic, immense physical advantages, and limited use of external magic, allows them to exploit the Sieltufan far more readily than the other races.
  • Mercenaries and bodyguards. While the Thunder Dwarves usually hire Ikam instead, the Shadow Elves often hire Veltine for such tasks. Veltine tend to be boisterous and unsubtle, but they’re far more loyal and reliable than Shadow Elf mercenaries, are much more fun (and cheaper) to have around than the Ikam, and are likely to turn up as raiders if they aren’t being hired as guards anyway.
  • Exotic furs and plant products. While these are usually only available in small quantities, quite a few plants and fur-bearing creatures need cold weather, giving the Veltine a natural monopoly on them and on a variety of charms and talismans derived from them.
  • Speciality brews. The enhanced Veltine sense of smell aids them in the production of a variety of touchy liquors, spices, teas, and compounds- allowing them to harvest them at their peak and to detect the slightest traces of contaminants or processing errors. Secondarily, their resilience has allowed them to experiment with things that no sane individual of one of the other races would touch, and there have – of course – been some real successes. Of course, rarity adds to the price.
  • Wolf-form Veltine slaves. Sadly, wolf-form children are widely regarded as being too defective to be supportable. After all, unless a specialist mentor with the ability to bestow shapeshifting is available, even once they’re old enough to learn to shapeshift, they’ll be many years behind on learning to use their hands and speak. Fortunately, Shadow Elf slave traders are often willing to buy them, which at least lets them live – often quite comfortably.

   Imports include food, heavy cloth, lumber, spices, perfumes and incense, skilled slaves, magical devices, weapons, and armor.

   The Thunder Dwarves export:

  • Technological items, such as lathes, clocks (if only because no one else in the Twilight Seas can really agree on a timekeeping scheme) and other mechanical devices and toys. Advanced armor is less popular than it might be what with all the sea travel, but najmhan-powered steam engines, as well as occasional najmhan-powered steam guns, also fall into this category.
  • Magical devices, including both stored spells and permanent devices. Given the inherent aptitude of the Thunder Dwarves, and the cumulatively toxic effects of such items, virtually none of the other races bother producing such things except for the most minor items. It’s almost invariably cheaper – and much less toxic – to order what you want from the Thunder Dwarves.
  • Minor exports include architects, masons, and engineers, stocks of basic foodstuffs (primarily to the Ikam), pigments, assorted minerals (including coal, a material in short supply elsewhere and fairly rare with them), gems, and mundane metals.

   Imports include the thunder metals and other magical materials, paper, lacquers and varnishes, cloth and fiber, oils, fruits and spices, tar, and animals.

   The Shadow Elves export:

  • Ocean products, including fish, shellfish, the skins and flesh of marine mammals, ivory, seaweed, oils, drugs and toxins, and rarities such as ambergris, pearls, and gem-quality coral. The oceanic harvest provides much of the protein, and not a small chunk, of the calories in the Shadow Elf diet. Many or most Shadow Elves dabble in dabble sailing and in trade, although few undertake trading on a professional basis.
  • Rain forest products, include lumber, paper, dyes, medicinal fungi, exotic fruits, stormfruits, odd saps and extracts, spices, waxes, honey, and a wide variety of compounds and drugs. Harvesting in the forests is pretty dangerous but – as usual for the Shadow Elves – unpleasant jobs simply get dumped on the slaves and low-status individuals.
  • The Shadow Elves also operate small mines, and gather magical metals (chiefly for use as coinage and for export to the Thunder Dwarves), although they – at least where they get past placer-deposits and open-pit operations – are usually only worked by slaves. Free Shadow Elves aren’t willing to work exposed to the necromantic energies of the depths; given their metabolic reliance on magic, exposure to such forces drastically shortens their lifespans.
  • Charms, Talismans, and Relics – primarily produced by forcing slaves and criminals to contribute a portion of their life energy to the relic-crafters in lieu of most other punishments, something made possible both by their general ruthlessness and by their magical metabolisms.
  • Minor exports include crafts, artwork, music, and poetry, skilled slaves (primarily to the Veltine), wine, glass, personal services, cheese, and trade expeditions.

   Imports include mercenaries and bodyguards, magical devices, intoxicants and drugs, ivory and bone, pigments, slaves, luxuries, exotic animals, and magical materials.


One Response

  1. quite interesting.

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