Trade and Transport in Aerdy
Trade within Aerdy also has sharply declined. Once, the great rivers of Aerdy and the dirawaen roads provided superb highways for merchants to travel with great wagon convoys and merchant vessels ranging from long, slow barges hauled by horses to smaller sailing vessels (coasters being the most common sort employed). Metals, woods, silks, salt, spices, and more were ferried around the kingdom in great quantities.
Nowadays, few merchants venture forth in this way. For one thing, importing goods has declined sharply. Also, the risks of doing so are simply too great. Even if a merchant hires a hundred men-at-arms to protect his goods, he may run into a marauding army of thousands of men or orcs only too ready and able to overwhelm such protection—that is, if the men he has hired don’t slit his throat and steal what he has for themselves. Ordinary people don’t trade much either. Leaving home with goods to sell makes one a target and leaves one’s home undefended. Then again, most people don’t raise surplus produce; tithes are too high.
Just about the only people in a position to trade are nobles with tithes and armies large enough to fend off bandits and discourage marauding armies from attacking them. Such trade tends to be arranged in advance. Two landholders agree to terms of trade and a meeting place. And barter is at least as important as buying and selling. Rulers need wood, iron, alloys for weapons; stone for fortifications; and the luxuries they once had in abundance and which are now so difficult to obtain. The surrender of the Lords of the Isles to the Scarlet Brotherhood, cutting off imports of spices, silks and the like, make luxuries hard to come by.
Still, some trade continues. It is mostly restricted to the major waterways of the lands, and also to the dirawaen roads, for a special reason in the latter case. When Schandor framed the Aerdy legal system, part of the code was a duty laid upon landholders along these roads to provide secure accommodations at regular intervals for the traveling judges of the sessions. As a result, a network of fortified coaching inns sprang up along these major highways.
Since judges visited them rarely, the innkeepers obviously needed other custom—and the traveling merchants saw the attraction of stopping over at such secure places. Hence, as he intended, Schandor’s legal maneuver stimulated trade. Some of these fortified inns still stand, and the few merchants still traveling the lands usually plan their travel routes to be sure of spending the night at them.