The Rock of Bral, Part Duex
The Rock of Bral
The Rock of Bral is a bustling, dirty, port city filled with the most outlandish collection of traders, rogues, mercenaries, pirates and thugs imaginable. Law and order are virtually nonexistent; there is no city watch to keep order in the streets of the Low City. There are two rules one needs to remember when visiting Bral: one, mind your own business; and two, enough gold can fix anything.
Bral is somewhat over crowded, but there are few who are truly poor. Enough money flows through the town in the hands of merchants and adventurers to profit everyone. For example, there is always work to be had as a longshoreman down on the docks and it is a rare day when a passing ship isn’t taking on crew.
If courtesy is king in Bral, then gold is queen. Trade is the life of the city, the sole reason for its existence. People who do not work for a merchant house, trader company, or mercenary organization, cater to those individuals who do. Of course where ever gold is found there are all the kinds of rouges you care to mention: con-men, sell-swords, mountebanks, charlatans, and of course the honest thief.
A typical stroll along Grand Street or Lamp Street is a breathless affair, as the milling crowds swirl and chatter endlessly in a cacophony of a hundred languages. Vendors hawk their wares, bold spacefarers strut down the street seeking taverns and less reputable places to squander their hard-earned gold, and entertainers and minstrels plead with passersby to pay a couple of coppers for a song.
As one passes from the Low City to the Middle City the streets clear a bit. The taverns and whore houses of the lower regions are replaced with shops and inns of greater quality. From here Andru’s palace can be seen, rising above the noise and grime of the city, just beyond the green fields of the noble villas.
There are four distinct classes of traders operating in Bral: the trading companies, the merchant houses, small merchants, and independent captains. Each class fills its own special niche in the cutthroat world of bargaining and competition that is trade on the Rock.
The Trading companies, such as Smith’s Coster, are large firms with bases of operation on several worlds. They are ruled, not by family, but by a council which sets policy or a board of directors. Most are large enough to be able to move material in massive quantities, extracting a profit from the bulk cartage of such materials as lumber, textiles or grain. The loss of the occasional ship or even the loss of a world base, can be absorbed by these solid firms. On the Rock of Bral, each trading company is represented by a group of warehouses and an emporium or exchange, where their goods can be bartered.
Merchant houses are usually smaller than their publically owned rivals and often tend towards more exotic cargoes-high risk ventures that will turn a substantial profit with a single ship. The untimely loss of a ship and its cargo can break a small merchant house, but, more often than not, they survive such mishaps. A merchant house is always run either by an individual or small family that makes all key decisions.
The small merchants of Bral are the thousands of shop owners, store keepers, and entrepreneurs who operate the inns, taverns, restaurants, chandleries, apothecaries, shops, and varied services of the city. The fortunes of the larger companies and houses set the standards for the rest of the Rock – when trade is booming and large numbers of ships are calling at Bral, the small merchants do a fine business from the hordes of spacefarers and travelers who pass through the streets of the city.
Independent captains are daring speculators who usually pull into the Rock with a ship full of rare or exotic commodities. They sell to a trading company or merchants house that in turn transports the material to another market and takes its profit from the trade. In many cases it is better not to worry too much about how the captain may have acquired his cargo.
The currency of exchange on the Rock of Bral is a topic open to debate. The coins of at least thirty nations and organizations are honored, but the paper currency of a dozen or more powerful, stable realms is not. Generally a traveler will find that most anybody will honor most any coinage, but perhaps not at the rate of exchange one might have hoped to receive. Those looking to exchange a large quantity of coins are directed to the Royal Exchequer