You know, since I first picked up Encyclopedia Harnica No. 1 way back in 1984 in a small Queensland country city, I’ve always loved Kaldor. But one thing has always bugged me about the kingdom; it has this commercial fair that goes on for over two months. I mean, a fair might take three or four days of trading, perhaps even a week, but two months? Sure, there’s the annual caravans that arrived from the four cardinal points of the compass, but seriously, who thinks mere caravans can transport enough cargo to keep a commercial fair going for over 2 months!
Before you go on, this post—in fact, the entire series—assumes that you have read An Ocean Port for Kaldor, and that you are somewhat familiar with the world of Hârn in general, and the Kingdom of Kaldor in particular. If not, then you probably won’t make a great deal of sense out of it.
The Great Summer Fair
It wasn’t until I read Life In A Medieval City, by Joseph & Frances Gies that I realised that it was possible. In that book, the Gies discuss the city of Troyes, located in the heart of the Champagne region of central France. It had two fairs a year, one July to August (the “Hot” Fair or Fair of St-Jean), and one November to December (the “Cold” Fair or Fair of St-Rémi). In 1250, the population of Troyes was roughly the same as Tashal (~10,000), but there were some significant differences which meant that Troyes could support two big fairs every year.
The area around Troyes is a broad and fertile plain. Well populated even in the early Middle Ages, the Champagne region was wealthy and easily accessible from Italy, Germany, Spain and the Low Countries. Well-heeled and well stocked with goods, the merchants of Europe descended on Troyes and other major centres in Champagne to trade almost all year round. For it’s time, Troyes was very advanced, had a stable government and, because of its location, there were few wars that bothered the city.
Tashal Isn’t Troyes
But Tashal presents a few problems for merchants that Troyes didn’t have:
- it’s far away, and made to seem even further by the ocean gap between the continent and the island;
- you have to deal with creepy wizard-enforced embargoes;
- there’s an arduous trek through wilderness teeming with ghastly barbarians and horrible monsters; and
- you have deal with semi-civilised kingdoms and primitive conditions.
So there are lots of reasons to think that the Great Summer Fair, as written, is not so great or so full of cool stuff that it could go on for two months. I mean, how many times could bags of salt, bales of fur, or a few Khuzan trinkets really change hands? As for wool, does anyone seriously believe anyone at the fair actually sees more than a few bales of wool? Don’t forget that wool is Hârn’s major export, but why would you transport it to Tashal from Vemionshire (let alone Kanday) only to transport it pretty much all the way back again on the way to Thay? Wouldn’t you be better off to bring a couple of bales of your finest to Tashal, and ship the rest directly to, say, Kobing? Or, if you are a Kandian merchant, ship it directly to Cherafir or Thay by sea?
It just doesn’t make sense to transport a whole bunch of luxury goods overland from Thay when the pulling power of your goods could easily force the Hârnic merchants to come to Thay. After all, it’s only a few more leagues in an already long journey from Kanday/Tharda, and little less convenient from Azadmere or Leriel/Lorkin. No, if Tashal is to keep its place as a central point of commerce for the island, and all the wealth that implies is brought into the kingdom, Kaldor must develop a port capable of taking ocean-going vessels. Only by eliminating the expense and danger of the overland trek can you convince foreign merchants to continue to arrive in Tashal.
More Positive Reasons
There are two more really good reasons to develop a port for Kaldor.
The first is that a Kaldoran port becomes an alternative to Cherafir and Thay, both controlled by Melderyn and the aforementioned creepy wizard-enforced embargo. A bit of adroit marketing, spreading the word in the inns, taverns and coffee houses of the continent, and soon the Larun are bypassing Melderyn altogether, for a more friendly haven (with appropriate bribes….I mean, bonding house rebates, of course!)
The second reason is that any ship offloading good in a Kaldoran port will want to load up with more goods, even if it’s only wool (high volume, low value goods). An empty ship earns her owners nothing; in fact it costs them money (in wages and upkeep). A central point to ship bulky goods like wool means that all those Hârnic goods will be coming through a Kaldoran port instead of a Melderyni port. That has to be good for the Treasury coffers!
But where is a good location for a Kaldoran port? How will you decide? Never fear, this question was raised a few years ago, and Robin Crossby and I batted it about for a couple of months. At the end of that, I wrote an article that many of you have probably already downloaded and read. If you haven’t, then click here to go get it right now. Of course, it’s completely unofficial because as of 720TR, there is no port or even any serious plans for a port. At least, not in official, or canon, HârnWorld material.
Once you’ve read (or re-read) the article, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. And next time, I’ll discuss why the saving of Tashal as a commercial hub by building a port is also its death knell.