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"Traders trade—they don't do. We don't handle, we don't work. We pay lugsha the lowest price we can get for their pieces, then we sell at the highest profit. It's all right to smile, listen to their tales, compliment them on their craft, if it means closing the trade. It is not all right to show an interest on your own account."
Daja's mother teaching Daja about Trader ways[src]

The Traders are a people of their own in the universe around Emelan, although it doesn't seem as though they had a homeland. As suggested by their name, they make their living with trading. They use caravans on land--sand or snow--as well as ships on the sea. Traders normally only interact with outsiders when there is a business opportunity. They live in families and one clan often possesses several ships or caravans. Traders who travel by land are called "White Traders" and Traders who travel by sea are called "Blue Traders"[1].



"We only did what our people have always done, but Tsaw'ha custom is cruel, when you're on the wrong end of it."
Polyam to Daja about her caravan's behavior to the latter[src]

There exists a Trader Council, which decides upon important matters like if someone is declared trangshi. Traders have only a handful of hidden cities for those too young or too old for the hard life at sea.[2]

Traders mourn in crimson as red stands for blood[3]. Traders normally carry a long ebony staff with brass caps which have two purposes. For one the staff allows the carrier to defend himself or herself when they are with non-Traders.[4] For another the staff shows the deeds and important events in the life of the carrier. The caps of a staff in the possession of a trangshi are unmarked to show their status. In addition to their staffs another distinguishing feature of Traders are their clothes, because they normally wear leggins and long coattunics[5]. Especially the men and most children could be seen in leggings and thigh-length tunics, while women and the older girls wore wide skirts, short-sleeved blouses and long vests[6].

Trader children are tested for magic when they turn four[7]. Their education includes lessons in trading where they learn amongst others about different metals and alloys like bronze, which consists of copper and tin[8]. Trader children were also taught how to handle dangerous situations. Thus they knew to keep as quiet as possible and out of the adult's way when Tenth Caravan Idaram was trapped in a forest fire.[9] The children probably joined their ship or caravan as full member of the crew around the age of nine, like Daja's younger sister.[10]

Although Traders deal with outsiders, they don't normally do business with pirates. A Trader dealing with a pirate is normally executed by his own crew.[11] They also normally don't share their secrets, or even normal custom, with outsiders and disapprove of Traders who tell outsiders too much.[12] Traders don't like to owe anyone anything. As Polyam once put it, "Tsaw'ha have a dozen words that mean "thank you"--each with its drop of dislike".[13]

When bargaining for valuable objects it is customary that Traders provide refreshments--food and tea--, a comfortable environment, musicians and a present for the negotiations.[14] All important Trader gifts were wrapped in yellow silk.[15] The customary words to indicate that one wants to do serious business are: "It is a fine day for conversation". Those words were set by generations of Traders and none-Traders alike all around the Pebbled Sea.[16] Each caravan was lead by a wirok--a position which could also be held by women--, who was also the first wagon in the caravan, just behind the caravan's journey leader and a handful of other riders. The journey leader wore a short, green-and-orange-striped cape and anounced to the caravan when it was time to set out, probably also when to rest and where to go.[17]

Centuries ago "some distant emperor", perhaps the ruler of the Kurchal Empire, had taught the Traders a bow called the "Grand Submission". In the eleventh century KF they only used it when lives had been saved. Daja was once honored with it when she and her friends saved Tenth Caravan Idaram from a forest fire in Gold Ridge.[18]

Religion and Beliefs

Traders do not follow the Living Circle religion. They worship the gods Trader Koma and his wife Bookkeeper Oti. The Trader creation myth begins thus: "In the long ago, Trader Koma and his Bride Oti saw that they had no savings in their account books, no warm memories laid up for cold times," and describes how Trader Koma created the Traders and wrote their names in the great books. Framing one's eyes with two fingers is seen as a holy vow to Koma and Oti,[19] and the gesture for asking help of the gods is to place one hand atop the other as if climbing a rope[20]. Traders recite the following prayer before going to sleep each night: "Trader, watch over those at home and at sea. Send them fair winds to speed them home."[21]

Traders believe in an afterlife, and the afterlife for those who do not pay their debts is called pijule fakol, in which probably fires similar to forest fires burn[22]. They also have a belief in ghosts and spirits, such as the yerui, a ghost-devil. Both White and Blue Traders fix blue pompoms and strings of bells to belongings to scare away demons. Babies and older children also wore blue things and bells for that purpose. Thus every child younger than two years wore earrings with bells and girls also wore ankle bracelets with bells, while babies wore blue strings on their writsts and boys had azure blue writs bands.[6]


"Talk needs food, or the talkers weaken."
Polyam, probably quoting a Trader proverb[src]

Traders drink a special tea, which is strong and flavored with smoke.[23] Their unique tea blend was never included in business with outsiders. Those dealing with Traders might taste it in the bargaining process but were unable to purchase their tea. All the more astounding for Daja when Polyam promised her to give her a package of their tea.[24]

Traditional Trader food includes "cold vine leaves stuffed with rice, onion, garlic, and mint, tiny pickled onions, pastries filled with chicken or eggplant and spices, apricots stuffed with almond-rosewater paste, and small fruit tartlets" as well as almond and orange cakes. Those dishes are known in caravans and ships alike.[25]

Being able to prepare good meals is an important skill in Trader society, because they believe people let their guard down, when they're well-fed. Thus even the clan leaders cook and people being able to cook well have a high status in the caravan or ship. Polyam's aunt is according to Daja, who sampled her food, a very good cook, even better than Daja's clan leader was.[12]


Traders have their own language, known as Tradertalk.

  • azigazi (pronounced ahzee-GAH-zee) - mirage[26]
  • bijili - power source/storage
  • Blue Traders - those who trade with boats, on salt or fresh water
  • daka - a negotiator who brings profit
  • damohi [27]- homosexual (male)
  • gilav - a caravan's leader (same as a ship's captain)
  • hamot - idiot
  • jishen – something that feeds of others and then kills them[28]
  • kaq - the lowest kind of non Trader, translates as "dirt under foot"
  • lugsha (pl. lugshai [29]- craftsperson or artisan who provides goods[30]
  • mimander - Trader mage
  • nisamohi - homosexual (female)
  • pijule fakol - the afterlife for those who don't pay debts
  • qunsua(nen) - to cleanse, literally, to wash off bad luck
  • saati - a non-Trader who is a true friend[31]
  • suraku - survival box with food and water (mostly on ships)
  • trangshi - outcast, unclean
  • Tsaw'ha - the Trader's name for themselves, tranlates as "the People"
  • uvumi - patience
  • White Traders - those who trade with caravans, in sand or snow
  • wirok - a person who buys provisions, low-status
  • xurdin - non-Trader mage[32]
  • yerui - a ghost-devil that feeds and destroys
  • zokin - balance on the Trader books, a persons stock of honor

Known Traders

Kisubo clan

Idaram clan

  • Polyam - a wirok of Tenth Caravan Idaram
  • Chandrisa - gilav of Tenth Caravan Idaram
  • Unnamed woman - sister of Chandrisa and aunt of Polyam, member of Tenth Caravan Idaram


Social status

As others are prejudiced against Traders they aren't liked by outsiders. There are many prejudices against the Traders who are sometimes thought of as arrogant. Often Traders are asked (rudely) whose baby they killed to tie a wind into a string, who they'd robbed that day, so it is clear that not so many people like the traders.[34] Non-Traders mostly only know of tales about them concerning secret rituals and how they cheat merchants[35]. The prejudices about Traders included that they were always the first to leave when "things get rough" or "plague comes to town", and that one couldn't depend on them.[36].

Still Traders often allow outsiders to join their caravans on their travels. This is often favorable for the outsiders, because they're protected from bandit attacks with a big group. However, Traders normally don't allow outsiders to share their fires, but have them make their own camp at night and they let those travellers pay for the protection the caravan provides.

Thieves are discouraged from stealing from Traders by the superstition that people who steal from Traders "get bad magic on them".[32]

Notes and references

  1. Daja's Book, Cp. 6 (p. 105; Scholastic paperback)
  2. Sandry's Book, Cp. 2 (p. 18; Scholastic paperback)
  3. Sandry's Book, Cp. 4 (p. 64; Scholastic paperback)
  4. Sandry's Book, Cp. 5 (p. 79; Scholastic paperback)
  5. Sandry's Book, Cp. 10 (p. 181; Scholastic paperback)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Daja's Book, Cp. 10 (p. 184; Scholastic paperback)
  7. Sandry's Book, Cp. 10 (p. 194; Scholastic paperback)
  8. Sandry's Book, Cp. 11 (p. 200; Scholastic paperback)
  9. Daja's Book, Cp. 12 (p. 211; Scholastic paperback)
  10. Daja's Book, Cp. 12 (p. 212; Scholastic paperback)
  11. Tris's Book, Cp. 11 (p. 194; Scholastic paperback)
  12. 12.0 12.1 Daja's Book, Cp. 6 (p. 102; Scholastic paperback)
  13. Daja's Book, Cp. 13 (p. 223; Scholastic paperback)
  14. Daja's Book, Cp. 4 (p. 72; Scholastic paperback)
  15. Daja's Book, Cp. 7 (p. 124; Scholastic paperback)
  16. Daja's Book, Cp. 6 (p. 99; Scholastic paperback)
  17. Daja's Book, Cp. 10 (p. 185/186; Scholastic paperback)
  18. Daja's Book, Cp. 12 (p. 218; Scholastic paperback)
  19. Sandry's Book, Cp. 7 (p. 141; Scholastic paperback)
  20. Tris's Book, Cp. 5 (p. 71; Scholastic paperback)
  21. Briar's Book Cp. 2 (p. 40; Scholastic paperback)
  22. Daja's Book Cp. 1 (p. 3; Scholastic paperback)
  23. Daja's Book, Cp. 6 (p. 100; Scholastic paperback)
  24. Daja's Book, Cp. 6 (p. 107; Scholastic paperback)
  25. Daja's Book, Cp. 6 (p. 100/101; Scholastic paperback)
  26. Tris's Book, Cp. 4 (p. 55; Scholastic paperback)
  27. Battle Magic, Glossary
  28. Tris's Book, Cp. 1 (p. 11; Scholastic paperback)
  29. Battle Magic, Glossary
  30. Sandry's Book, Cp. 5 (p. 80; Scholastic paperback)
  31. Sandry's Book, Cp. 10 (p. 182; Scholastic paperback)
  32. 32.0 32.1 Daja's Book, Cp. 6 (p. 104; Scholastic paperback)
  33. Cold Fire, Cp. 9 (p. 194; Scholastic paperback)
  34. Sandry's Book, Cp. 3 (p. 38; Scholastic paperback)
  35. Sandry's Book, Cp. 5 (p. 101; Scholastic paperback)
  36. Daja's Book, Cp. 12 (p. 216; Scholastic paperback)
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