Character Interviews: The Three Merchants

sakov

Since I sent my WIP Crowning Heaven to my beta readers two nights ago, I have been relaxing with a side project that has been percolating in my head for a few weeks.  Today I sat down and had a chat with the main characters and loved it too much not to share.

Three rival merchants in 9th century Byzantine are forced to forget old grievances and work together when they are held hostage by bandits seeking ransom.

Note: These fellows are of varying ethnic background and speak in their native accents, so please forgive them if their grammar is not up to standard.

Ini-heret, a Greek/Egyptian:

What is your favorite food?

Eish Masri, which is our standard bread, with lamb and rice flavored with garlic. It is my usual food as I travel, though sometimes I have to do without the lamb.

What is the worst injury you have ever received?

I had a fall from my camel many years ago (it was not a clumsy accident—we were on very bad ground in bad weather) and I broke my arm and my ribs. I was far from help and with ignorant fellows who barely spoke the language, so I was six months in a Bedouin healer’s tent before I was well enough to travel.

What is your greatest fear?

That when I grow old I will become fat and a fool. And crocodiles. A spiteful woman cursed me to be eaten by them, and I pray that she was not stronger than my amulets.

What is something you would dream of but never expect to happen?

That I should be both rich and beloved. Who doesn’t? But you asked for something I do not expect, and I do not expect that, because it is impossible.

Is there anything you would rather die than do?

Perhaps. But I have not had to be in that situation, so I do not think about it.

What do you care the most about in life?

The knowledge I have of goods and of gold. My mind is my greatest asset, and while riches come and go, my mind cannot be touched.

Whose opinion do you care the most about?

My own.

How do you react when you get tired?

I snap. But I do not act rashly.

What is your dream job?

I am happy doing what I do. If I were to do anything else, it would be to govern a city. So long as it was not too powerful, because I don’t want a knife in my back.

Are you more comfortable under authority or in authority?

In authority. What do you think I do for a living?

What do you see as the most significant event in your life so far?

The day I made my first hard bargain. I drove it hard against a man who was forty years older than me and far more experienced, and I won.

What has been the greatest trial in your life so far?

When my father died and left me and my mother poor. I had to leave home to support us, and I didn’t want to leave my mother.

What would you do if you had a free hour and could do anything you wanted to?

First, I would eat. Eish Masri and roasted lamb. And then I would sleep. Just a little. And then I would eat a honey cake, perhaps, and do some trading with whatever merchants were nearby. If they had something I want.

What is most important to you, heart, head or hands?

My head. I thought you were listening.

What would you least like to be chased by?

A crocodile or a lion. Both go very fast and will kill you.

Would you rather die alone or with friends?

Alone? If friends were there, perhaps they could save me.

What is the last lie you told?

I told it to a Byzantine trader last week. I said I was out of amber, and that I was out of Chinese silk. I did not want to do business with him, because I will get a better price in Krakow.

What is something you would tell nobody (barring the author)?

I was sold as a slave once. I was captured by slave traders and they were taking me to the galleys. I gave them the slip before we reached the coast—I knew the area and I carried a knife so small they never found it.

What is one thing you would love everyone to know about you?

I do not buy cheap goods. Everything I sell—it is the best that can be found in the world.

What would be your preferred mode of execution?

Poison. Maybe beheading, if it is a sharp sword.

Is there anyone you would die for or follow to the ends of the earth?

No.

What would move you to tears?

My mother. She was a beautiful woman, and she died many years ago. But if she came to me again, I would cry because I would be happy to see her.

What is the dumbest thing you’ve ever done?

I traded three silks of fine make for a ruby that was not real. But I was young. I learned.

Describe your wife or ideal wife?

I’m not that interested in women. They get in the way, and they make you complacent and fat, and wanting pleasure instead of work.

Would you rather be guilty of a crime and get away with it or be innocent and falsely accused?

Guilty, I think. I do a little bit of cheating, and I think that is just fine.

 

Fernando Casimiro, son of a Spanish father and a mother of mixed Slavic background:

What is your favorite food?

Seasoned rice or a good barley soup with bread.

What is the worst injury you have ever received?

I was shot by an arrow while traveling up the Amber Road during a war. It was lodged in above my knee, and it was very hard keeping it clean—you know, keeping the infection away. But it did not stop me much. I used a cane for the better part of a year, and that was all.

What is your greatest fear?

That something would happen to my wife and daughter and two sons. I do not think about it—we all know that we love each other. But I would be the saddest if something happened.

What is something you would dream of but never expect to happen?

I do not dream many impossible dreams. God has been good in granting me a good life and a heaven someday. Why should I ask for more?

Is there anything you would rather die than do?

I would never kill a man in cold blood, and I would never put my family in danger.

What do you care the most about in life?

My family.

Whose opinion do you care the most about?

I should say my wife’s, don’t you think? *laughs* But I trust my son’s trade sense. He is very smart.

How do you react when you get tired?

I don’t know if I have a reaction. I nod off…I don’t talk.

What is your dream job?

I should have liked to be a bullfighter. Do not tell my wife—she will think I still want to do it. I only want to in my dreams. It is not practical.

Are you more comfortable under authority or in authority?

I am comfortable in authority.

What do you see as the most significant event in your life so far?

There was a time when I met some young men of questionable character, and they were very drunk. They noticed a cross around my neck, and asked if I was a Christian, in front of some Greeks I was trying to trade with. Those Greeks were not friendly to Christians, and I didn’t want them to know. At the time I struggled with many doubts—not about being a Christ-follower, but whether I was a brave one. It got worse. The young men—I told you they were very drunk—they started to say that they would cut my throat if I was a Christian. And I decided that I had had enough and I must decide if I was going to be a coward about it or not. And—I had not even thought about it before I did it—but I turned around and told them (with my hand on my knife) that I was a Christian, and I wasn’t afraid of them. As it turned out, the Greeks stood up for me and sent the young men away. And they still traded with me, because they said I was a real man, even though I was a Christian. And it was significant, not because it was a huge thing, but because God proved to me that He would take care of His own. And I decided that I was not going to be a coward.

What has been the greatest trial in your life so far?

I had a second daughter, and she was four when she died. She was a beautiful child, and so happy. That is why my other daughter is so special to me.

What would you do if you had a free hour and could do anything you wanted to?

I would spend it with my family. It doesn’t matter what we do. Just so long as we are together and happy.

What is most important to you, heart, head or hands?

Oh, maybe the heart. That is where all the strong feelings come from.

What would you least like to be chased by?

Probably a lion. I saw one kill a wild ox by breaking its neck. One swipe and it was done. It would kill me faster than that.

Would you rather die alone or with friends?

With friends. If they were good friends. Family I would prefer, though.

What is the last lie you told?

I refuse to tell lies now. The last one I told was when I was a boy and I took some of my father’s dates. But I did tell him the truth, later.

What is something you would tell nobody (barring the author)?

 I would rather not answer that question, if it is not a problem.

What is one thing you would love everyone to know about you?

This is not an easy one to answer—I do not like everybody knowing about me and my matters. I guess it would be that even though I am the richest of all the merchants in Constantinople, I do not have black market dealings. And I do not live a frivolous lifestyle. But it is not their business anyway.

What would be your preferred mode of execution?

Must I answer this? You know, I do not like to think about death. It will come when it comes, and I will not be able to stop it.

Is there anyone you would die for or follow to the ends of the earth?

My family. And my father or my mother, if they were still alive.

What would move you to tears?

When I think of beauty. I know it seems strange—I work with the finest marble statues, or the best silks, or amber that is the purest in the world. But it’s not that beauty—it is a sunset, or the way the wind sweeps sand, or a little street child playing in the street. It is those things.

What is the dumbest thing you’ve ever done?

You know, I do not have very many regrets, but one thing that I think was not wise of me was to buy the villa on the far border. The Tartars took it, and they have had it for fifteen years now.

Describe your wife or ideal wife?

I have my ideal wife. She is wonderful, she is kind, she is intelligent, and she takes very good care of everything I put in her hands. She is an asset to me and to my trade in every possible way.

Would you rather be guilty of a crime and get away with it or be innocent and falsely accused?

(vehemently) I would rather be innocent. I would rather have my honesty and nothing than be fattened on dishonesty.

 

Giancarlo Fiorelli, of Italian birth:

What is your favorite food?

How can I have a favorite? That is like saying you have a favorite child. But no—I think I like sausage—from my Italy—with pasta and herbs.

What is the worst injury you have ever received?

My foot was broken after one of my servants dropped an idol on it. It was made of stone. It was a miracle that no sickness set in to the foot. I sent the servant away. He was no good.

What is your greatest fear?

I don’t know. Maybe dying. You can’t do anything after you die. But I also don’t like being robbed. That’ s bad too. No, no—it is water. I have a fear of drowning. And of dying of thirst.

What is something you would dream of but never expect to happen?

Yes—that I will live forever! No, I am only making joke. It would be that I become a king. I think that would be so nice.

Is there anything you would rather die than do?

Watch a little child or an animal suffer. I hate it. It makes me want to stop existing so I do not feel the pain.

What do you care the most about in life?

Staying happy. And making the people around me happy. Except for some merchants, and of course vagabonds. I really don’t care about them. Some of them deserve to be unhappy.

Whose opinion do you care the most about?

My wife Maria’s. She has a heart like honey, but a tongue like fire. And you get it from her, if you do not agree.

How do you react when you get tired?

I forget things. That is why I try and sleep enough. Otherwise I forget things. Important things.

What is your dream job?

To be a rich man and do no work. I am a little rich, but not enough to do no work.

Are you more comfortable under authority or in authority?

That is a hard one. It depends on which one is harder at the moment.

What do you see as the most significant event in your life so far?

The day my son Giancarlo was born. He is my first child, and my heart almost burst with happiness.

What has been the greatest trial in your life so far?

I have lost three children, when they were babies. One I never even saw. That has always been sad to me.

What would you do if you had a free hour and could do anything you wanted to?

I would eat, and I toss my little children into the air. It makes them laugh.

What is most important to you, heart, head or hands?

Oh, everything, yes?

What would you least like to be chased by?

A pack of wolves. They are frightening beasts and always so hungry.

Would you rather die alone or with friends?

With friends. That makes it more comfortable.

What is the last lie you told?

Oh, I think I told it to my wife Bernicia. I told her I hadn’t eaten already.

What is something you would tell nobody (barring the author)?

If I tell you, then it wouldn’t be nobody!

What is one thing you would love everyone to know about you?

That I love food. I will never turn down food. And if anyone has need of a roof over their heads, my door will never be closed.

What would be your preferred mode of execution?

Oh, don’t make me think about that! It makes me want to squirm! Whatever is fast and won’t hurt too much!

Is there anyone you would die for or follow to the ends of the earth?

Umm, I have to think about that one.

What would move you to tears?

Little children. Happy, sad—it doesn’t matter. They are so wonderful, so full of life—they just make my eyes—they fill with tears.

What is the dumbest thing you’ve ever done?

I pay some guards to escort my caravan once, and they ended up robbing me. I and five of my servants, we have to walk all the way to the nearest city—fifteen miles in hot sun and cold night.

Describe your wife or ideal wife?

I have three, and they are all ideal. Maria, she is the smart one. Bernicia, she is the sweet one—and Claudia, she is the best cook.

Would you rather be guilty of a crime and get away with it or be innocent and falsely accused?

Don’t ask me this question. You maybe not like the answer. Ask me a different one…

 

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12 thoughts on “Character Interviews: The Three Merchants

  1. The Philologist

    For the record, this is hilarious. I can only imagine how interesting things will get when they have to try to work together. I feel sorry for the bandits. 🙂

    Like

  2. This was a very amusing read, thanks for sharing! I think I like the second one (Fernando?) the best… not sure how I feel about the other two. Anyway, yeah… I’d hate to be those bandits when they get a load of these three!!

    Like

  3. E.M.H.

    Ah ha ha! They are Hilarious! You are a very good writer, You bring character to these three merchants. 😀 My favorite is Fernando Casimiro. But maybe it’s because I LOVE…well… his voice, if you know what I mean…… 😉 Love this post! ❤
    -Esther

    Like

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