The Seven Cardinal Rules of Traveling Merchants

Excerpt from The Baron Would Be Proud, in which Hepheastus introduces the Baron Pan Bordolo to the rules.

Keeping his pride behind his teeth, Hephaestus said, “Seven Rules, Mister Bordolo. Seven Cardinal Rules for the ranks of traveling merchants, which we all must obey without question.”“Cardinal Rules of Traveling Merchants, you say?” asked the Baron, as if he assumed that the other man might yet be spinning him an elaborate yarn.“I’ll assume that you are new to the game, Mister Bordolo, and that your last master was not as keen to acquaint you with them,” to which the Baron seemed to stiffen, but Hephaestus went on anyway with, “but I assure you that you ask any traveler of a professional bearing and he will tell you the very same.” Hephaestus strode past the Baron to the lamp, where he quite promptly extracted the candle to plant in the ground before them, which focused its little halo of light on the dirt rather than their faces.The Baron looked about to speak, to protest as it were—the edges of his stache coiled in anticipation, but he was silenced by the warm song of cool steel.Hephaestus swiftly drew his sword from his cane. It was a magnificent specimen, so magnificent in fact that the Baron had not even noticed that the smooth cherrywood had indeed concealed a blade. With the pinpoint precision of a brain surgeon—an occupation which did not even exist at that time—he scrawled the quick heading RULES in the dirt, saying as he did, “These—are—the seven rules—of traveling—merchants.” And as a final added flourish, deftly underlined the letters in his heading.“Number one,” he said, writing the numeral in the dirt. “You may not—upon entering a new town, province, city, or principality—claim any untrue purpose for your arrival.” And beneathRULES he had written the paraphrase NO false pretense.The Baron made to speak. He probably had a point, some rational objection, or even just an amusing joke to quip, but before he could say “I—” the other merchant cut him off with:“No, my friend: there are seven rules in full, and I should scarcely get through any of them if we have interruptions.”The Baron thought that ‘we’ was not the correct term, seeing as only Hephaestus felt interrupted, but said nothing.“Now, number two,” Hephaestus continued, writing ahead of himself as he went: “You may not lie about the functionality of items for sale to primitive or modern persons.” And once he had finished scribing the paraphrase, added, “No implying either.“Three!” he announced, clearly on the proverbial roll, “You may not kill any native inhabitants,” to which the Baron would have objected had Hephaestus not followed with, “unless first attacked.”And then, as if leaping upon the Baron’s next thought, said, “Number four: you may not purposefully provoke native inhabitants to attack so you may kill them, and thus comply with the self-defense caveat of rule three. Number five: you may not sleep with influential men or women.”“Any special circumstance on that one?” inquired the playful Baron, properly treating the ‘Pan’ in his title.Hephaestus, apart from rolling his eyes, ignored that last, and continued with number six: “You may not rearrange the political or social structure of any nation.”This was shortly followed by, “Is that even possible?” which was ornamented in chuckles.“It’s easier than you think,” said Hephaestus, consenting to the Baron’s whimsy enough to answer him. Then with a sweeping motion, he refaced his list and wrote a very bold numeral 7. Speaking in a harsher voice than he had for any of the previous six, Hephaestus declared, “Finally. you may not—having accumulated the knowledge of a people, their beliefs, and their superstitions—take advantage of that people by pretending to be a God. In other words—” he said, indicating his writing in the dirt, “DON’T—PLAY—GOD! You see?”And following the direction of the merchant’s blade-point, our Baron read and re-read Hephaestus’ list, which—printed into soil as if in stone—followed: RULES1 – NO false pretense2 – NO misleading sales3 – NO killing4 – NO instigating5 – Don’t date the duchess6 – Don’t crown kings7 – DON’T PLAY GOD!

The full novel can be purchased here:

#Hephaestus #SevenRules #TheBaronPanBordolo #thebaronwouldbeproud

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