Shaliun Gold Coins
Claude spent more than an hour bathing at a spring near the ruins to wash the mud off him. Fortunately, he brought an extra set of clothes to change into, as well as underwear and socks. He had prepared to change into them should he have to swim. Even though it was the end of the 5th month and the lakewater was still rather cold, Claude brought some extra clothes along just in case. They were boating to Egret after all. Who knew when they would get the urge to go in for a swim?
After changing into new clothes, he gave his dirty clothes a simple rinse to get the mud off them. As for the stains on the clothes, he would bring them home and get his mother to find a house cleaner to wash them. There was no need for him to go out of his way to thoroughly wash them and hang them out in the wilderness.
When Claude was done with all that, Welikro, Borkal and Eriksson had already skinned the python and cut off its tendons. They then brought the materials back to their camp and aired them out in the open for the night breeze.
As for the remaining python flesh, a large piece was cut off from the back per Claude’s request for their dinner. Welikro then cut off some other good pieces of meat from the python into strips and salted them before hanging them on his wooden rack for smoking during the night. The gallbladder and eyes of the python were also harvested carefully by Welikro and stored into empty bottles. He said that those were valuable medicinal ingredients that the apothecaries would be glad to pay a high price to purchase.
Borkal and Eriksson didn’t slack off either. They helped Welikro defang the python, wash it clean, and took one each for themselves. The older folk of Whitestag said that carrying a snake fang would help stave off diseases. Even though it was only a folk rumor, Borkal and Eriksson didn’t seem to doubt it the slightest bit.
Stars could be seen sprinkled all over the night sky.
The four youths ate python meat for dinner around the bonfire.
“I never would’ve imagined python meat to taste this good,” Borkal said with his mouth oily, “It tastes too good! Claude, you grilled it just right.”
“I forgot something,” Claude said as he went ot his bag and took out two bottles of blackcurrant wine from his bag, “Actually, I should’ve added some of this wine into the pan before grilling. That would’ve made it even more delicious.”
“Huh? Blackcurrant wine?” Borkal said, overjoyed, “You brought this? Why isn’t this a pleasant surprise?”
“Yup,” Claude said with a nod, “My father gave me one riyas. I didn’t know what to buy with it, so I bought two bottles of this for you to try. But make sure to take care when you drink. This gets your head hurting quite easily.”
When Claude took the thale and riyas from his father, he had wanted to give Borkal the money right away to settle his debt at first. But the total amount of money he owed was one thale and three riyases. After giving away his money, he would still owe two riyases and he would feel rather bad for not paying all of it back altogether. So, he thought it better to settle the debt in full after their trip to Egret. When he remembered that his friends had wanted to buy some blackcurrant wine to try before Claude had used up a huge chunk of their money, he made up his mind to get some so satisfy their craving.
As they didn’t bring any cups, only some wooden plates and utensils, the four of them drank from the bottles directly and passed them to one another.
“Oh, Eyke, I forgot to tell you something.” Claude found the short-barreled matchlock and gave it back. “Sorry, the python bti onto the gun and made two holes in it when I was struggling against it. It’s over here. If you need to get it fixed when you get back, tell me how much the repairs cost. I’ll pay for it.”
Eriksson widened his eyes in flabbergastment. “How… how did the python end up biting into the gun? Claude, how in the world did you kill the python?”
“It’s all thanks to your gun,” Claude said, “When I was down there, the python had me constricted and I fell straight into the mud. I wanted to grab into it but it didn’t work as its body was slippery with all the mud on it. When I saw its head shooting towards me for a bite, I had no choice but to block with the gun. I didn’t think it’d actually bite into it either.
“Thankfully, its bite sunk into the gun. It was only after that when I realized that the gun was stuck in its mouth. I held onto it with all my might as the python shook its head frantically to free itself from the gun. It was only a hand’s distance away from me as it shook. Had my hand not been within the trigger hold, the gun would’ve slipped out of my hand.
“In a panic, I saw the torch that I had plunged into the branches not far away and reached out to it with my left hand like my life depended on it. When I grabbed it, I pressed it against the whole gun itself. Thank the wargod that the slow match was finally lit. Seeing that it was already close to the flash pan, I pulled the trigger with all I had and bam! The snake stopped moving after writhing for a bit. After I uncoiled the snake from my body, I removed the gun and climbed up the rope ladder, only managing to catch a breath when I finally reached the top. Only after that did I reload and fire at the sky to notify you guys. And as expected, you came back right after that.”
His friends were speechless after hearing his account of his brush with death. They could only imagine how terrifying and dangerous the whole situation might have been. The slightest mistake would’ve caused them to never be able to see Claude ever again.
“It’s all my fault,” Welikro said after a period of silence, “I was far too careless. I had come with my father during the past two winters and thought that the ruins weren’t dangerous at all, so I thought it would be fine to leave Claude here by himself. I forgot that it is currently the transition from spring to summer. The pythons usually hibernate during winter and are dormant during that time. However, this season is when it’s at its most active. If Claude didn’t kill it, we might be attacked by it tonight. This ruin should be where it hunts its prey.”
“Are you saying that the ruins are this huge python’s territory?” asked Borkal.
“That’s right. In fact, we could’ve noticed some signs if we paid close enough attention. For instance, there was no sign of any other snake, insect or mice in the ruins apart from some seagulls that perch on the rubble in the distance. Yet, not a single of those birds come to the ruins. That should’ve been a suspicious sign. But all I had in my head was how this place was during winter, desolate and lifeless, so I assumed that nothing was amiss when I saw how lifeless it currently was as well,” explained Welikro troubledly.
“You can’t be blamed for that,” Claude said with a smile, “The matter’s already in the past and the python is dead. I wasn’t harmed either. In fact, I’m glad at the great haul we got. I only blame Boa for forcing me to drink that bottle of antidote and saying that just because I wasn’t injured, that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t poisoned either and that drinking the antidote would be on the safe side and whatnot. Do you guys know how bad it tastes? It’s far too weird, bitter, spicy and viscous. My tongue was numb for a while after that.”
“It’s best to drink it just in case. Boa was right,” said Eriksson. He stuck the fang of the python back into the gun and whistled. “This is damned cool, Claude. Forget the repair fee. This fang is more than enough to make up for it. Look how firm it sticks into the gun! I’ll go back and tell the others that the hole in my gun was made by a python and not a single one of them can dispute me when I have evidence like this.”
Welikro gave it a look and said, “You and Boa ought to give the fangs a good boiling for an hour or so. Even though you’ve rinsed them off with clean water, we can’t be sure that the venom is completely gone. Boiling it first would be much safer. Otherwise, it’ll be troublesome if you get poisoned from accidentally cutting yourself with it.”
Welikro’s advice was sensible. Borkal and Eriksson hurried to get the pot to boil the fangs.
By the time they were done with it, Claude and Welikro had started to smoke the python jerky.
“Boa, I almost forgot to ask you something,” Claude said, “When you saw the shaliun gold coins just now, you said that it’s too bad that they aren’t magical shaliun gold coins. What did you mean by that? Is there a difference between magical or normal shaliun goid coins?”
Boa nodded. “Do you know how the earliest gold coins came about? Who made them?”
“I don’t know…” Claude had wanted to say that they were probably molded into shape. He had watched some shows on the internet about clay molds used in ancient times to make gold coins. Molten gold would be poured into the molds and left to cool before the molds would be broken. Only after the coins were shaved on the sides would they be complete. It was time-consuming and troublesome and every coin had some slight variances. No two coins made of clay molds were completely identical.
But he was in a parallel world. Claude didn’t want to presume anything he wasn’t sure about.
“It’s said that the earliest gold coins were made by the magi four thousand years ago,” Borkal began, “Don’t look at me. That’s what’s stated in the coin encyclopedia. Humans of that time seemed to only conduct bartering and it proved to be quite troublesome for the magi who were trying to acquire magical ingredients. Later, the magi used precious darkgold to make small, circular plates which they gave value to trade between one another.
“However, darkgold is a magical material and there isn’t a lot going around. So, the magi began to use normal gold and a gram of darkgold each to make gold coins with engravings of a cloaked magi on them. The magi named the currency after the magus that created the darkgold coins, Shaliun.
“Because those shaliun gold coins contained a gram of darkgold, many magi used them as ingredients in their magical experiments, causing the number of magical shaliuns to decrease over time. It was said that the northern kingdom of Shiks still has one in their possession and it’s treated as a national treasure.
“The earliest gold coins were all made by magi. Their alchemical techniques allowed them to make completely identical magical shaliun coins. As long as they had darkgold, they could make as many of them as they pleased and anyone was allowed to do so.
“But as the amount of magical resources gradually lessened, their value began to inflate. The extraction of darkgold also slowly became troublesome, so the magi were no longer willing to make their coins with darkgold. So, around two thousand years ago, a darkgoldless gold coin was born. It was callued the shaliun like its predecessor, just without the ‘magical’ prefix. Back then, each magical shaliun could be traded for ten to even a hundred normal shaliun gold coins.
“The appearance of the normal shaliun gold coins soon saw them being used among the common folk in trade. At first, it was only popularized among the magi nobles, but they soon spread all over the continent. Almost everyone traded using shaliuns.
“But back then, all the gold coins were made by the magi using alchemy to ensure that the gold content in each coin is kept constant. That was a rather difficult burden for the magi to bear. They weren’t willing to waste so much magical power and gold to make coins used by the common folk. So, they devised a plan and made seven sets of gold coin molds given to seven magi noble families that would be put in charge of making gold coins for the common people.
“It was those seven sets of molds that gave the common people inspiration and soon, silver and copper coins began to show up to meet the needs for smaller denominations of currency. However, the seven gold coin molds were only used by the magi and there were only seven variations of engravings on the coins. The silver and copper coins on the other hand spawned all sorts of offshoots with different engravings and patterns.
“The encyclopedia stated that back then, there were only seven kinds of gold coins. But there were 143 silver coins and more than 800 copper coins with different patterns. Any noble or merchant that owned a copper mine would make their own copper coin molds with different engravings to make coins for use in the market and it was quite a troublesome matter to exchange a coin for another.
“It was only when the Amsra dynasty came to power that the number of gold coins increased in variety. After that, the empire split up into many independent nations and it was only after the geopolitics of the nation settled in its current state did the various nations start to understand how important currency was. They scrambled to restrict the rights of currency making only to the nations and came up with their own gold, silver and copper coins to stabilize trade in their nations.
“The seven gold coin molds the magi gave the magi noble families had engravings of plants and animals. The shaliuns on the other hand became the currency used exclusively by the magi and were made traditionally with alchemical techniques. The shaliun is hailed as the king of gold coins and are regarded more highly than all other coins.
“But ever since the founding of the Amsra dynasty, Emperor Regius Au Syr forbade the circulation of shaliuns in Freia and issued a brand new mold-casted gold coin in its stead. That ban is still in effect in our kingdom as well, causing the number of shaliuns to continue to dwindle.
“So, Claude, it’s best if we keep the shaliuns as our personal collection instead of using them in the public.”