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August 14, 2017
A Matter of Currency
Sheamus kicked and wriggled through the water, squinted his red eyes against stinging brine. A pouch trailed from his neck on long straps, floated beside his scaly tail.
The mouse pushed through curtains of slick, rubbery stalks. Tiny, fluttering creatures flew beside him, propelled by writhing flagella. A reddish fish of considerable size emerged from the swaying weeds, crossed his path. It viewed the mouse with a cloudy, steady eye, as if deciding whether he would fit past its thick, gulping gums. The fish kicked its tail, swam on. Sheamus pulled aside a wad of weeds, surveyed the valley before him. A brown and moldy hulk sagged in the soft sand of the crevasse. Shafts of light fell from the glittering ceiling of the sea, dappled the algae-crusted bulk with dots of white. From a crooked mast head, a Firlish flag fluttered in the current. Sheamus lifted his paw in wry salute. With a few swift kicks, Sheamus crossed to the hulk. He hurried through the open void, lest he be spotted by something hungry. Sheamus pulled himself through a gap in the broken hull. The moldering wood was soft and crumbly beneath his paws. Inside, all was cloudy and dim, save for a pillar of light which lit the sunken hold's center. In that light, little red fish flashed above a chest. Something shiny dribbled from the cask's split side like thick blood from a wound. Sheamus wriggled closer, plucked a shining dot from the pile spilling from the chest, slipped it into his pouch. In a flash, the little red fish scattered into darkness. Sheamus froze, saw a long and muscled shape shift in the hazy dark. Bronze, coruscating scales slipped lithely through the water. Bright white teeth twitched beneath hungry, walleye orbs. Sheamus gave an inaudible squeak. Bubbles slipped from his snout. He turned and bolted through the gap in the hold. The mouse didn't stop kicking till he reached the surface. "Well" said Caemus, peering from the dock at his brother. "Anything?" Sheamus wrinkled his snout, showed his blocky incisors in a grin. "Aye" he said, rummaging in his floating pouch. He produced the treasure he'd snagged: A disk of gold, bound in iron, wide as his padded palm. A heart wreathed by a twelve pointed crown showed on the coin's face. "Gold, brother. Hundreds of old pounds." The yellow metal floated, a liquid reflection, in the mouse brothers' red eyes.
For a thousand years, the economies of the North have been driven by the golden pound. The coin's value is associated with its glittering composition; a true gold standard.
Since 2.481, the pound has swayed little from its original design. The weighty coin is composed of a half ounce of gold. Its circumference is bound in iron. This binding serves to protect coins from debasement. It also dissuades thieving ælves. The pound's obverse face shows a shield bearing the layered scales and plump outline of a fir cone. Around the shield is graven the Firlish motto: "Fast is the shield against night." The reverse face displays a stylized heart nestled in a twelve-pointed crown. Other coins, minted from bronze or silver cut with cupronickel, circulate alongside the pound. Though their value is not intrinsic, it is also set in the value of the golden coin itself. Below, the pound's value is listed in relation to its sister coins. For ease of comprehension, values are given in silver pence.
Golden crown = 100 pence
Golden pound = 20 pence
Silver shilling = 5 pence
Silver tuppence = 2 pence
Silver penny = 1 penny
Bronze haypenny = 1/2 penny
The Firlish, though largely atheistic as a culture, are incredibly superstitious. They hold a deal of traditions regarding the currency of their realm.
Those with a bit of gold to spare will leave coins on their windowsills. Doing so is thought to enhance the likelihood of more gold entering the home. Whether this practice works or not is debatable. "Sill pence," are, however, a sign to thieves that some degree of surplus cash resides within a home. Other traditions suggest the iron binding on pounds prevents ælves from entering a home via its windows.
Pounds found in shipwrecks, like those raided from Tombs, are regarded as free for the taking. The dead, Northerners believe, have no use for money.
Coins are always minted on full, white moons during the spring. Doing so is thought to limit the influence of the Otherworld on new objects of wealth.
Historical Variants and Significance
Every line of minted pounds carries with it a slight variation. Newer pounds carry the year of their manufacture embossed beneath the heart on their reverse face. Older pounds carry subtler historical markers.
Coins minted before the establishment of the Ward Rangers† display a fir cone on their obverse face with no shield outline or motto. These coins are auspicious items, and are thought to protect their bearer from the Other.
Pounds minted before the change to the Royal Weal†† display a crooked, ancient crown instead of the modern twelve-pointed version. These are lucky, said to bestow the bearer with enhanced skills of reason.
For a brief time, pounds were minted in the Firlish vassal state of Lothrhaim. These coins bear a rose pixie within their crown instead of a heart. They are said to bring affection upon the bearer. When wrapped with copper wire and worn on a chain, they are an overt indication that the wearer is sexually available.
Many Northerners will carry a second purse or pouch (worn about the neck) filled with lucky coins and other items of superstition. Rare coins, like those above, are carried in "hex pouches" alongside iron filings, grisodate grains, and wort leaves for luck and protection from ælves.
Mechanically, hex pouches could be quite fun. Allowing special coins (very rare, mind) to actually convey a (non numeric) benefit upon a character could be rather interesting. This could lead to competitive coin collecting among players (or stealing hex pouches from the dead.) Either way, fun. This article was made possible by Incunabuli's generous supporters on Patreon. To join them and read articles available only to supporters, support Incunabuli on Patreon.
† The Ward Rangers are a military organization who stand guard on the Plains So Sere. They protect Firlund from the terrors of the Wilderness beyond.
†† The Royal Weal is the name of the current, physical crown which Firlish monarchs wear. It replaced the Crown of Gram II, a item of headgear who's toxic metallurgical disposition caused a dynasty of Firlish royals to go mad.