Our Most Esteemed Trader – #Blog Battle – February


The LifeGuard had completed another task. This one by those of Leopard Company, where questions of morals and ethics never arose. Other LifeGuard left them be to their own small rituals. Like their sergeants and those damn pocket book ledgers. God knew what they wrote in them after every mission. At least you hoped it was God. And it was just red ink.


Rituals are always based on accounts, which usually have at least a sliver of fact in the depths of the Origin.


It was said of Rachmoregin the first emperor of The Oakhostian he risked all, not for himself but for the causes of Unity and Stability of the turbulent lands. Expediency was the gold in his war chest. Many of all ranks were drawn by his constant energies.


Now in his most private of apartments, the morning spring sun doing nothing to raise his mood. Trepidation born of anguished regret heavy upon his shoulders.

In a corner shadowed from the light, a slight man dressed in modest garb sat studying the document. In a court complementary to Rachmoregin. Master Vermittler, Clerke Senior of Provisions, could be taken as a mere functionary doing the will of others. In fact Vermittler, was known for his quietly spoken response to many a challenge of gaining resources ‘Yes. I will attend to this,’

Respected for his renowned ability to navigate through the complex turbulent world of trade and supplies was this Master of Contracts and Obligations. Negotiator and Deliverer.


Rachmoregin recognised a man for a role, whatever position they currently held. Which was, despite his gnawing anxiety why he sat, patiently. Vermittler shared with him an eye for detail. It must be so, the Emperor reasoned for the man never failed to provide. And his fortitude was rewarded as Vermittler rolled up the document looking up with due and plain respect.

‘I understand how at the time this was judged Expedient My Emperor,’ he said shorn of reproach ‘Your adherence to it however will be ruinous. Default is not an option. Renegotiation is necessary,’

‘With these?’ Rachmoregin said gesturing into an apparently emptiness. He rarely sounded aghast.

Vermittler rose and stepped out of the shadows, only the eyes on his pale angular features indicated anything, widened with a thoughtful intensity, fixed upon somewhere beyond the confines of that room. When Vermittler spoke The Emperor felt the words’ meanings were being brought from those distances.

‘Contracts My Emperor are ever transitory things. Even the most secure forged to stand firm in a Court of Law is subject to whims. A turn of Nature laying waste a nation, or a war upending the society, even something as minor as a change of governance and the whole is swept away, sending the once illustrious wealthy, barefoot and in rags to seek scraps. Contracts are unavoidable, but those who build them should ever be aware the need to adapt. All is change My Emperor,’ he considered the rolled up document.

‘Yes, I will attend to this,’


Aldebray The Mage chaffed, while accepting such was hopeless. The Contract he had signed with this Vermittler, who would supply the rare substances Aldebray required, was quite specific about being willing to offer assistance. He had not expected this though. And yet the Court of Mages would find for the trader, reasoning would not do to upset the means of supplies.

‘Each action will literally cost me three years of my life,’ Aldebray protested.

‘Look upon it as a small payment, a possible investment for your peace of mind,’

‘How can Contact with These bring peace of mind?’

‘In Negotiations you may be a minor beneficiary,’

From anyone else but Vermittler that would certainly be bombastic insanity. This fellow though, there was a distance about him, which seemed to be outside of anything other than the base practicalities of trade.

Aldebray set to work, with words, symbols and artefacts; reaching out beyond The World Physical, to The realms of The Lords of The Lands, demonic Zerstorung, creatures feasting on strife and suffering.


The landscape was cloying night, illuminated by roiling flames, sounds of battle. Ranks of hunched soldiers, faces distorted into myriad feral shapes, eyes burning offset by slackened jaws marching off into the maw of conflict, herded by larger bestial creatures wielding barbed whips a’fire.

Some yelled obscene threats at Vermittler. He did not pay heed, all emptiness.

Standing ahead a figure, cowled and burdened with meaningless decorations, a staff of bones held in a clawed hand, features mostly covered, save for a mouth curled in hate.

‘What brings you fool?’ hissed the voice, so filled with loathing it rose above the other clamours.

Vermittler said nothing, he merely produced the Contract, a bitter laugh chittered forth from the being.

‘You come to bargain?’ it mocked.

‘Negotiate,’ came the reply, sure and steady ‘For mutual benefit. Your Master has failed to appreciate this binding is ruinous to them to. They ask for quantity not quality. A poor investment in the future,’

The figure recoiled at his detached judgment, turned its back, muttering in growls, spits and shrieks. Vermittler assumed it was speaking to its masters. Vermittler felt he might have more independence, of a sort, anyhow.

There came the expected rejection, full of anger, hate and distain. Vermittler did not respond with words, only pondering what came as judgement from the Zerstroung lord and what was originating from this representative. He doubted if the demonic creatures would know either, after all there was a mutual incomprehension in what were but two races.

Whether lord or servant gave the command Vermittler was not sure, but three muscle warped things rushed at him, intent on harm.

They passed through him causing no more distress that a sudden fetid summer wind out town’s open drains. They blundered to a confused halt; the creature servant shrieked, whether in frustration or in its Lord displeasure Vermittler could not say.

‘Tell your master this. I have not travelled here in the physical. I was allotted this spectral ability by but a simple human mage. Humanity is adapting to the Ethereal elements and events which brought you to their home world, working with The Ethereal or taking advantage of opportunities arising. The gathering of the souls of all the dead from Rachmoregin’s wars in exchange for vigour supplied to him is wearing thin. The harvest is poorer by the season. These ranks will not suit your lord’s wars and Rachmoregin is fading, others will take his place, using innate cunning and intelligence; they will not need this contract. This will not happen soon, but soon enough. Then in Rachmoregin’s demise this contract will be revealed, and there will be resolve to turn against it, in some part by religion, but in other part by Human’s knack for weaponry. In time there will be machines and devices which will lay waste these lands, a fearful reckoning,’

The servant screamed denial, shook the staff at Vermittler, energies flew at him, his only reaction was to blink, then reply.

‘Tell your masters I wish to re-negotiate. I cannot guarantee them survival, but I can extend their tenure on this world long enough for them to explore other means,’

There followed more screaming, howling and general noise, all of which Vermittler took to be threats. As he did not respond to these there were more physical attempts, all of which flew past or through him. He reflected that he would truly have to ensure Aldebray was recompensed for the reduction in the mage’s life expectancy.

Once the expected storms of outrage had passed, there came what passed for negotiation, involving more unpleasant sounds, and he noted more distress on the behalf of the servant. Vermittler continued to press his case. Instead of these wretched unfortunates swept from the battlefield he would arrange for better quality, those who lived for and off war, the ones who relished others’ sufferings, for they too were not immune to Death’s gaze. There was the obvious objection that they were here already. He countered that they were hiding in the ranks of the others, but with this arrangement they would be open to the more special treatment and melded to suit purpose. For it was obvious wars with other demonic lords were of great importance, and an opportunity to have quality folk whose being exists for the urge to kill should not be passed over.

He pressed on. Did not waver. Continued with the theme that Humanity was enduring and could never truly be subsumed by these methods, if at all. Eventually his casual persistence won the day.

‘How will you do this?’ hissed the servant.

‘To begin with, you will come with me. You will sift through those who die upon the battlefield and send only the truly worthy here,’

‘Worthy’ was the important word to sell to the lord here. All creatures had vanity.

And he sensed the change in the servant’s stance. He had the fellow, with that one swift move. Now they would an additional factor in the tying up.

There was more noise, but when he glanced down the wording of the Contract had changed.

‘Our business here is concluded,’ he said ‘You come with me,’

‘But the new dead for my Lord?’ there was near plaintiveness.

‘Tell him I will attend to this,’

As Vermittler expected his way back was not barred and his new servant followed him.


‘Was I away long?’ he asked Aldebray on return.

‘I have waited two days and one night. Who is this?’ the mage asked gestured to the hunched figure, now in rags.

‘Yes. Who are you?’ Vermittler asked ‘I quite overlooked that matter,’

A human face ravaged by torment peered out, the voice now a cracked broken thing.

‘I have forgotten,’ it said, miserably

‘Hmm. I shall name you Sorrow,’

‘As you wish,’ the fellow said with head bowed.

‘I declare Vermittler,’ tartly said the mage ‘You are showing celestial aspirations. Are you about to re-name me?’

Vermittler looked upon him with some pity.

‘I don’t think it necessary. Examine again the codicil of our contract. I am now your sole employer,’


‘Ask not,’

Aldebray for the next three days and nights tried to go his own way. He could only follow The Merchant.


With scroll Vermittler knelt before Emperor Rachmoregin.

‘I can confirm this contract is now revised and binding My Emperor,’

Rachmoregin read the contents and sighed as he concluded.

‘I felt a weight lift from my being Master Vermittler, yet I must ask can we be sure these creatures will adhere?’

‘You must forgive me this one judgement My Emperor. The original business was badly constructed. These we call demonic folk have little true understanding of the complexities they ensnare themselves into when dealing with Humans,’ he made a casual gesture ‘This intelligence I have garnered from various of those wise and cautious in this field. Daemonics are trapped by this revision,’

‘Can we make good our side?’

‘I have two in my employ who are versed in the subtleties of how to implant the process,’

From once Emperor Rachmoregin discerned a slight humorous twitch of the mouth.

‘It will by folk lore and tradition. Those used to killing ensuring the more deserving cases of the fate are transported,’

Rachmoregin looked puzzled.

‘Will this run consistently?’

‘There are exigencies My Emperor best not discussed,’


In a time centuries hence, in a place remote.

‘I have collected this days ashes Sage Aldebray,’

‘Thank you Friend Sorrow,’ he looked at the gathered greying pile ‘Somehow the work never grows dull. A fortunate state in our Immortality,’

‘Aye,’ over the years Sorrow had become less ravaged, straighter.

As was often, they looked as one towards the room, wherein sat their Master Vermittler. Solitary. Remote.

As he had explained to them. He had accepted the payment of his soul as cost for being one knowing Merchant for Unknowing Humanity’s varied enterprises. Ever balancing costs against benefits. No place for a soul.   


37 thoughts on “Our Most Esteemed Trader – #Blog Battle – February

  1. All in the small print and terms and conditions. I suspect your “trader” has those in invisible ink or so small to be cunningly unreadable.

    Particularly like ‘I have collected this days ashes…” Alludes to the memories of yesterday. Remembered but now ghosts of the past.

    Very Darth Vader and Lando… Pray I do not alter the deal further.

    Quite a complicated read mind, Shows the depth of world build making it harder to put a story into such a short amount of words.

    Can’t help but wonder whose trapped who in the contracts too. The “merchant” or daemons… could it be there is manipulation and things are not as they seem? That cropped up reading Humans are enduring….with that comes arrogance maybe. With that comes the we’re always right attitude. A scenario ripe for taking advantage by creatures with no real empathy towards us. The potential for an entire political system to be under subliminal control….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Gary.

      Another challenge that didn’t write itself .😕

      This one all started off with a little known song by the little remembered 1960s US Band Left Banke: To some a quirky song- ‘Barters and Their Wives’ (details below). Add to that my perception that business details have many underlying themes of complexity (Hence specialist lawyers).

      Hence the theme that everyone is trapped by ‘The Contracts’.
      Also in my world build, despite the apparent advantages other beings have; there is nothing so dangerous as Humanity, because of its inventiveness and adaptability- although that can back-fire as those ‘in the know’ are well aware.

      It’s a gloomier than my usual tales- that’s my pre-disposed view on commerce (Well, yeah ‘More Than Faith’ was not laughter filled but that was more a tribute to soldiers), and you are quite right it begged a longer story (novella?).

      Anyway thanks for your feedback; glad it resonated.
      And that song:

      Barterers and their wives
      Barterers and their wives
      Trading, fading, taking, breaking
      Barter away their lives

      Crowding the city gates
      Shunning the master’s fate
      Low decisions they envision
      Cleaning the pauper’s plates

      In the marketplace changing commonplace friends
      Come to banter on odds to meet their own ends

      Barterers hold their own
      Pinching on what they loan
      After seeding, people pleading
      Spending the heat alone

      Who will sacrifice pride for being nice game?
      He’s in season and that’s the reason he came

      Barterers and their trade
      Lately fall back to fade
      Every evening, packing, leaving
      Counting on what they’ve made

      Wifely cooking will keep them looking their best
      As they smile and set out beguiling with jest

      Barterers and their wives
      Barterers and their wives
      Trading, fading, taking, breaking
      Barter away their lives

      Liked by 1 person

      • ahh that explains much. Nothing like a song to inspire. One of mine is Dead But Dreaming by Fields of the Nephilim.

        Taking humanity as “inventive and adaptable” is very positive spin. I see greed and avarice tossed in with I’ll advance things if I get piles of cash. Off world I think is also down to who can landgrab or mine rare materials. Then again I’m a cynic haha

        Liked by 1 person

      • That was a bit of a challenge here.
        Narratives involving merchants usually have a greed or ambition motive.
        Here I wanted to fit a merchant into the Realpolitik arena, devoid of personal ambition, and altruism. Just facing up to challenges because he sees no other alternative. I guess having handed over their soul does that would do that to someone.
        (Reading International Relations Theories – Realism School has sort of influenced my writing. Folk doing things, ‘because’ and no pantomime villains being central to the narrative)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Wait till you see next years prompt haha. Mind you is that not the point of BB, the challenge. Its easier of you pick words that are run of the mill I guess.

        I tend to play idea generating like a radio game I listen to. Hear a word and say the first thing that comes to mind. Merchant being trader, but you could have used a merchant ship, chandler, broker or reversed it to customer with inference of dealing with a trader.

        That said you’ve done a great job in the arena of politics. I do like this one too. quite dark in some respects

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ah yes, history. How may politicians take any notice of that? It reminds me of the BSE crisis when they commissioned a new report to conclude the same as one done in the sixties. Then ignored it anyway. They also have selective memories too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Twas every thus?
        Speaking for politicians the problem the truly thinking ones have is having the balance the long term requirements with the transitory ‘latest’ ‘thing’ drilled up by public opinion, and of course ‘Events’

        Liked by 1 person

      • Long term is the next election methinks. With an opposition whose aim is power at all costs, which translates to everything the other side says is wrong with policies that are yet to be written. The people who should be there avoiding it as they could never achieve much though all the bickering. strange old world

        Liked by 1 person

      • There is one paradoxical problem about Democracy and the Will of The People.
        Those who would be in governing to achieve that status have to convince ‘The People’ to vote for them. In doing so they naturally have to give ‘The People’ something approximating what the people want. In addition they must portray the opposition as a threat to The People’s Stability and Well-Being, which is something ‘The People’ in part already believe.
        Both sides are therefore in a bidding war, and although will have beliefs will still compromise those to get into government, as that will be the only way to satisfy ‘The People’.
        Hence both sides are locked in, to some extent to ‘power at all costs’.
        Messy thing, Democracy. The Alternatives are of course far worse.

        Liked by 1 person

      • About the way I sum it up too. Say what the people want and off you go with sheep. When you can’t deliver the other side picks up the mantle. I see one being spendthrift because the other spends it all. Put years in between and folk forget the cycle. Meanwhile nobody spends anything on actually doing core stuff but commissions more consultations until the cost is prohibitive.

        One alternative is apolitical. Abolish parties and go with best candidates that have no choice but to work together. Subcommittees where the cabinet minister is chair. NHS e.g., full of experts agreeing the way forward and the “chair” goes away with that to get funds. No politico making the decision as it were… obviously you’d need at least one that can count though 🤔

        Liked by 1 person

      • Nice idea Gary, but then you get factions – like in Rome and Greece.
        Whichever way you look at it there’s always someone looking to climb up to the top of the greasy pole.
        I think we might be stuck with this system as the least worst option.
        (I’ve read too much Realpolitik of course)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Therein lies the problem….people and the avarice trap. I also feel humans as a species are reluctant to accept change. Easy to stagnate and hard to do something outside the perceived normal. Also very easy to manipulate via media. Kind of implies we are indeed biological computers… hmm… feel a Corona piece coming on 😂

        Liked by 1 person

      • We seem to have a knack of doing both, advance and stagnate, all so fast we appear to be doing them at the same time.
        Complex creatures whose more basic instincts of fight or flight are still only just below the surface, our inventiveness thus in unchecked flying off in all directions.
        Our evolution is out of sync..
        Did I just lay down the opening lines for a song?🤨
        Quick someone give me a genre! 😃

        Liked by 1 person

      • I hear you. I’ve just read my first one again so it’s now been edited twice this year and I’ve knocked out around 10k words bringing it to 80k. It’s improving but flipping hard!

        I actually like complex too. Must be something to do with old style gaming RPG and reading stuff that’s too linear. Mind you Sam’s comment on DS caught me out. How do you keep track of all the plots and systems in Dragon Stone? No idea 😳

        In the words of Gary King, good name for a song Roger, you should write that down… and watch out for the blanks 👀

        Liked by 1 person

      • Wow knocking out 10,000 words. That is impressive. Durn straight it was hard work!
        (Cue old Blues Standard ‘Workin’ On The Chain Gang’)

        Yeah keeping track of plots and systems; that’s tricky….I go all Civil Service and keep ‘historical records’- though that does not always work🥴🤯. I started to live them instead, which led to a lot of muttering in the kitchen and my dear wife saying ‘What’s that love?’😄

        As for the song I’ll try. (Sans blanks)
        Should I go ‘Warm Leatherette’ as in The Normals?
        Full Gary Numan?
        I would go metal or goth, but my 70+ year old vocal chords ‘cannae take cap’n’

        Liked by 1 person

      • I know. It’s a bit embarrassing going back to see how the early stuff went verbose.

        Plots and stuff I really need to get a handle on. The first book set the scene but even that’s getting infill from what I now know.

        Gary Numan I’d almost forgotten about. Thanks for that. Mind you the list of age amnesia grows very long indeed now!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I confess verbose is probably my ‘thing’. Although I do try and not literally lose the plot, which did happen on two occasions- one is on self-published print…..urgh 🤨
        Sometimes we have to work backwards to fill in justification for something which really works later on, but begs a bit of back story in an earlier piece of work (Hence my several editions of a volume of Kindle- happily in a skewed way not much read).

        Age amnesia. Yep! I take comfort from a blog post I once read bearing the title ‘Why Did I Come Upstairs?’ 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • Tends to happen on first drafts. Then remain if the editing time isn’t there. Easier now I guess with active grammar checkers but now I’m getting hit with gender flags. Eg I have actually got a barmaid so stop saying it’s gender insensitive.

        In my case it’s often Why Did I Come Downstairs 😂😂

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s the trouble with ‘flags’ they get in the way of a plot and atmosphere.
        OK, in fact arguably vital if you are writing in current times, to make sure you are abreast of current views and mindsets.
        But if you are working in earlier eras or speculative settings adherence does not work.

        I think that lament was a common one of my teenage children in mornings 😄

        Liked by 1 person

      • Very true Roger. That said current mindsets all seem morose and dissatisfied with there lot so it’s easy haha. For politics just watch Yes Prime Minster. Pity they dropped Spitting Image really. The material now would be easy to write.

        Re earlier eras I have a library of books from Templars to the anything to do with mythology. Just need more post it notes now

        Liked by 1 person

      • Post-it’s…. Yes, we’ve found we’ve run out of them in our house…..a crisis which needs to be attended to.
        Sheila also uses large numbers of notebooks for her poetry.
        I keep it all jumbled up in my head for that stream of consciousness first-draft ‘get it down on paper / word-doc’.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Pretty much what I do. Actually you reminded me of something used to do. Lind Hills stream of conscious. Bit like BB with a prompt word and then wing it. I did a few short DS ones there including a personal favourite called Tea Thaumaturge? Bet you can’t guess which of those two words was the prompt 😂😂

        Might start doing that again soon too. Good reminder there Roger.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s an oldie haha.

        Nothing like word visuals to send the mind on a wander. Bit like me I just found an old post I was editing saved as a draft. Jut had to re-publish it. How does that work #ageamnesia

        Liked by 1 person

      • Very much so. Mine in DS is lost in temporal resonance.

        Here’s a snippet of what I’m working on now

        A man buried alive scrabbling at a coffin lid and a beast licking his mind and taunting him. Fortunately, this one was rare, for which she was grateful. It was a ten on Whitakers scale of mental impact, the rest were eights and nines.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You might have seen reference to The Paradox man in various DS stories. This bit is an extract from his book loosely titled The Paradox Man. This dream referral is from the surviving twin after her sister was hit by a van. What she is referring to here is


        Well, that’s part one of three. This piece is forming chapter 3 of DS.

        I refer to the Paradox Man as the twins. First written in 2016 and now under major revision 😯


  2. Very Faustian! Vermittler’s comment on how contracts are subject to whim in a court of law is an astute observation on our hellish legal system. Speaking of hellish, his dealings with the ‘devil’ was wonderfully imaginative. I liked how they never dreamed he’d negotiate with them in ‘Ethereal’ form. Gives a new perspective on the Merchant of Death title, and the arrangement to have those with the highest urge to kill join the forces of demons was fitting in several ways. Great characterization!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Roger, any compliments I pay you here will fall short of how good this piece was!

    Absolutely fantastic. Very, very clever, too. Your descriptions have such a unique lilt; you have a truly original voice. I particularly liked “Ranks of hunched soldiers, faces distorted into myriad feral shapes, eyes burning offset by slackened jaws marching off into the maw of conflict, herded by larger bestial creatures wielding barbed whips a’fire.” and “…a mouth curled in hate.”

    I couldn’t help but notice that Vermittler’s name means “mediator” auf Deutsch. (Living in Austria has improved my German marginally!) A lovely touch. It is intriguing how they now live, immortal, and Sorrow appears to be improving. I tasted notes of “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream”.

    Excellent writing, Roger!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much Joshua for your generous review.
      Ah busted 😄.
      Most of my stories take place in a world build based on Europe. I sometimes trawl translation dictionaries for inspiration for names- since most names seemed to be based on activities , professions etc.

      Being compared with Harlan Ellison…wow! That tale was one of the most powerful and bleak SFs I ever read.
      Thanks again.
      I try I end on a sorta upbeat though.


  4. Renegotiations of a contract can be such a double-edged sword. You think you are getting what you want and duping the other side while they give you want you want and then pull one over you as you’re blinded with perceived ‘win.’ Who’s the bad guy in such a scenario?

    This could serve as a beginning to a great longer story of Vermittler but works well as a standalone, too. The ending was quite powerful. It made me wonder if Aldebray was ‘acquired’ the same way as Sorrow. While it might be Rachmoregin who’s the face of power, it’s Vermittler who actually holds it – something we often don’t realize. And the sentence at the end regarding no room for a soul – very chilling. Just an empty shell. A machine. Oh, but how mighty.

    Great story. I enjoyed the separation of scenes by extra space lines. It made it easier to read (I often read bites at a time as I fit it in between other obligations.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much Sam.
      I’m glad that WP played nice and kept the separations- it’s not always so; which inadvertently speeds up a narrative when it was supposed be the opposite.

      Reading much History has left me with the notion that no one is truly overall control, there are always swings in emphasis as to who relies on who. Yep, Aldebray did not read the small print.
      Truth be known I reckoned Vermittler went into his deal eyes wide open, but why and to who….. Can’t be sure?
      And maybe they get to all turn up in another part of the Saga. Never waste a good world-build I say.

      Liked by 1 person

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