“By why is it you hate all merchants, Friar?” asked the young woman who offered to help carry the food Ignatius had been gathering that morning.
“Hate is a strong word, child. And all is unfair to say. And perhaps I do find myself more critical of them than some deserve, but it is only in the spirit of keeping them honest, and it is not a mistrust I have developed without cause.” Ignatius offered as a point of clarification.
He could see the curiosity on her face maintained, and with a deep breath he began his tale. “It was the final harvest before winter, in Lion 586 I think it was? Close enough to it for this retelling, anyway. Forgive my memory.” He chuckled. “I volunteered to help transport the crops from one of the five farms that fed the community I had been tending to for the past few seasons at that point in time, but when we arrived to load the farmer said he’d sold the crops off. He explained that a merchant caravan from the Hestrali Trade Guild had passed through, and one of them spoke to the farmer and explained that since the community only needed the crops from three of the five farms to be able to sustain it through the winter, that the merchant would buy his crop for twenty percent more than the market would normally offer since he was passing through and could sell it elsewhere where it was more needed.”
“Now I won’t condemn merchant for making profit when someone has more than they need, and someone else could use more. Within reason, that is. But when we moved on to the next farm to collect their crop, she had the same story to tell. And when the day came to an end, to our great horror, it seems this merchant assured all five farms that three of the others were taking care of the community’s needs. He’d bought the whole seasons crops from all five, and moved on.” The Friars tone carried an uncharacteristic anger that he took a few moments to let go of before continuing.
“A few weeks later when stores were nearly gone that caravan returned loaded with the food that he bought, now seeking no less than triple market value. No one could convince them to barter down the price, and it emptied the coffers of the village to buy back only three quarters of what it would take to feed the community that winter. The rest was beyond what the village could afford, and we watched it roll away on the Trade Guild wagons.”
It was near a minute of slow breaths before he continued. “That winter I helped dig sixty three graves for those who died of starvation. Twelve… were children’s.” His voice carried a cold more bitter than the Njordic wind.
“But surely there are no such men here? The Hestrali from that ship seem so friendly!” She remarked, trying to brighten the mood.
The Friar lowered his head and sighed as they arrived in town to hand off the food. “This past forum Tomasso was trying to buy up every scrap of food he could get his hands on.” He nodded. “Such men are everywhere.”