Adventures of Carsomus Limus, Mint Surety

Author: Rascien Wickersly
Released In:
Category:

This text was first published on Douglas Goodall’s Substack from 1/31/24 to 2/19/24


Adventures of Carsomus Limus, Mint Surety, V. I

I. The Man

I was in The Sack, a tavern so poor it had to steal its sign from a merchant’s shop, trying to nurse my drink as long as possible. It was a cold winter in Cyrodiil, so cold there was even snow on the ground, and few still living could remember the last time it snowed in the capital. My fortunes had not so much come and gone as vanished and fled. The Sack didn’t have a fireplace, but you got there from a narrow stairway into another house’s basement, and the walls kept the worst of the cold out. I’d found three septims in the gutter, and was hoping I’d have a better night than the last, even if it meant staying awake and drinking what tasted like spoiled beer mixed with dishwater.

The rest of the clientele were of a like mind. The bartender grumbled and kept going from table to table asking if anyone wanted another drink. He’d glare at each of us in turn as we declined, but he knew we’d have to finish eventually, so he didn’t kick anyone out.

The few new arrivals opened the door as little as possible and came in quietly, so we were all surprised when the door slammed open. There in the doorway stood a man, an Imperial, wearing a banker’s vest, fingerless leather gloves, and huge goggles. A few people spoke up, most of the saying something like, “Hey, close the—”

The stranger scanned the room slowly, settling on my table. He shut the door and strode toward me. “You! What’re you!”

I thought he must be asking who I was. “I’m Rascien, a Breton who—”

“Beggar?” he asked, loudly, pointing his bare fingertip at me. “Thief? Outcast?”

“No, no, I’m a writer. A failed writer. You see, I was fired from the paper. I’d only taken the job because my publisher in Rihad hadn’t sent any royalties for months, and while I was waiting for—”

“Perfect!” He turned, spinning on his heel all the way around and then some until was facing the door. “Follow!”

How could I not follow him? And so I did, right out into the cold and the snow.

“Who are you? And what do you need me for?” I asked. I wasn’t sure whether to expect an answer.

“Carsomus Limus,” the man said, “Mint Surety. My Witness died, and I need another. You’re an honest man, are you not? If not, it will go badly for you.”

“As a writer,” I said, “I am naturally a liar. But I’m as honest as most men in other affairs.”

Carsomus spun again, all the way around and then some, the tails of his jacket flying out almost horizontally. He appraised me. “I hope you last the night, at least.” And he spun around again and kept marching.

I asked him where we were going and what a Mint Surety was, but he dismissed all my questions with a wave of his fingerless glove. I was freezing, hugging myself with my hands in my armpits. Carsomus seemed unaffected by the cold. I began to worry. With the way he was dressed, he could be the Mad God, leading me to some terrible, unbearable revelation.

We came to a large, featureless building and Carsomus walked up to a door. Or rather, a depression in the otherwise featureless wall. There was no door handle and no obvious lock. I couldn’t quite see what Carsomus was doing, but there was now a dark opening in the wall, and he stepped inside and vanished.

What could I do, but follow?

Adventures of Carsomus Limus, Mint Surety, V. II

II. The Mint

Inside it was bright, warm, and much larger than I expected. The floor and wall panels were a mix of exotic hardwoods imported from Elsweyr or Black Marsh. On the far wall was a large sign of solid gold that said THE ROYAL IMPERIAL MINT EST 2712. Above each of the exits was a smaller, but still quite solid gold sign. These said DIAMONDS METALS, FORGES PLANCHETS PROOFS PRESSES, LOCKERS VAULTS SHIPS, and SHRINE.

Carsomus led me to a receptionist table, also of solid gold. A bored Imperial woman sat behind it, scribbling in a ledger. “New Witness,” Carsomus said. “Give him the oath. He’ll need a suit and goggles, too.”

The receptionist sighed and said, “Repeat after me.” This was followed by some ominous oaths, such as that if I stole so much as a pinch of gold, I’d be hung from The Thief by my little toe. Half of the oath was utter nonsense. It didn’t really worry me, but it made me question why I followed him here. Then I had to add my name to a long list of names that had been loaned equipment.

Carsomus took me into the room labelled LOCKERS. “Change into this,” he said, handing me a suit similar to his own. “If there was time for a bath…” he said, then shook his head. I put the suit on. It fit well, and I felt it even flattered me, although there was no mirror in the room. Next I put on the goggles. At first everything was dark, but as my eyes adjusted, it showed the world as normal…yet a few objects and people had a sort of aura. It was not unlike a detection spell, if you are familiar with those, but the colors and intensity were different. I couldn’t figure out what, exactly, it was detecting.

Carsomus said, “Acceptable. You will follow me on my rounds. Your only job is to make sure I don’t steal anything, forge anything, corrupt the purity of Mint in any way. Understand?”

I didn’t really, but I nodded. He led me back and into the door marked FORGES. The first room contained, as you’d expect, several forges. We walked quite close to some of them, and I expected to feel burned, but I barely felt the heat at all. “How are these forges not hot?” I asked.

Carsomus spun all the way around and more and began walking backwards. “The suit offers superior protection against fire and cold. The job requires it.”

I thought he’d turn back around, but he kept walking backwards, staring at me, until we were almost at the next room. There were many employees there and Carsomus made a sort of token inspection of their work. They were pouring out molds for blank coins, which wasn’t surprising. The strange thing was that they each had a bag, floating in the air, tied to their workbenches with a sturdy, thin rope. They’d put a sort of wand into the bag, pull it out with a tiny red gem attached, and then pushed the tip of the want into the center of the still-molten coin blanks. The gem stayed behind when they pulled the wand out

“What the—” I said. Carsomus ignored me in favor of chit-chat among the workers. Then he spun around again and began walking out the next door.

“Hey,” I said, “what were they doing with those red gems?”

“Diamonds,” Carsomus said. “Red Diamonds. Do you not know your history? Of course not. No one does anymore. Let me start over. Do you ever wonder why septims are so light? They are practically weightless, and yet they are made with mostly gold.”

“Well, no,” I said, “I thought they might be enchanted with levitation, or like, spongewood with gold foil, or—”

“SPONGEWOOD!” screamed Carsomus. “SPONGEWOOD! FOIL! You never tried to shave or clip a septim?”

“Do what?” I was confused. “I don’t even try to shave myself.”

“Perhaps you are an honest man, after all. Before the Mint, before the Sureties of the Mint, before Proper Currency,” he said, with great emphasis on ‘proper.’ “Before that time, all the coins were debased. Untrustworthy. An unscrupulous person, a thief, a liar, could use a file and shave a little gold off each coin they had. Or they could use a chisel or other tool to chip small pieces of gold off each coin. They’d do this to hundreds of coins. HUNDREDS! Innocent coins, adulterated by thieving hands! And for what? To make new, false coins, children whose fathers are not clean molds and presses, but lies! LIES!”

“I never really thought about it. But what does that have to do with—”

“Have you ever wondered why the Red Diamond is the symbol of the royal family? Of the Empire itself?”

“Is it not the Amulet of Kings? A small drop of Lorkhan’s—”

“No! No, no, no. Never trust a bard. Well yes, in a roundabout way,” he said, “but the Chim-el-Adabal is bound to Nirn now, no risk of that one floating off. These are from the hearts of the dead. Each wishes to return to their origin. The Law of Attraction, you know. But the remains are so much further away, the attraction is quite strong. A tiny Red Diamond perfectly offsets the weight of the coin. And if someone clips a septim now? The poor coin is whisked up into the sky, where, shepherded by the tides of the moons, they gather. Serves them right. The thieves, that is, not the poor metal. Our ships work the same way, of course.”

“Your…uh…what?” I said, thoughtfully.

Adventures of Carsomus Limus, Mint Surety, V. III

III. The Mess

Carsomus took me through to the PROOFS room, where thousands of coins lay on the floor, floated in mid-air, or were lying up against the ceiling. Carsomus pushed the coins aside as he strode through them. He walked up to part of the wall and picked up two broom-shovel-like implements and handed me one.

“See the slots in the ceiling?” he asked, and I nodded. “Push the floating coins into the slots. They will be reforged to be just a little heavier.”

I helped him push the coins up and through the slots. It didn’t take as long as I expected before much of the room was clear. “What about the coins that are too heavy?” I asked.

“They are next,” he said. “That’s good enough. No point in tracking every stray coin. Next shift will get them, or the next. Push all the coins on the floor through that doorway.”

So we shifted to sweeping the coins on the floor into the door. This took longer as there were far more coins on the floor than floating. As we began to approach the door itself, Carsomus said, “Watch your step. Keep to the edge of the room.”

We entered the next room and kept sweeping. I noticed the coins seemed to sink as I swept them into the pile in the middle of the room. Each pile swept in made the coins undulate, rising up and down like an ocean of gold. Carsomus took the left side of the room and I took the right. We swept all the coins off the edge, and at times it looked like some coins were wet.

“Now watch me very closely,” Carsomus said. He used his broom-shovel to stir the coins in the middle, then scooped up the coins on top and shoveled them into a slot in the wall. There were several slots on each side. I started doing the same. It was tiring work, even though the coins weighed little. They were still hard to stir and to move.

I have no idea how long we spent, but it did seem like the ocean of coins was lessened. Carsomus said, “Good. Very good.” He collected my broom-shovel and left it back in the first room.

“What happens to coins that sink?”

“Not our job,” Carsomus said. “Not tonight. The pool is drained once a month and the heavy coins are collected for re-forging.”

We went through another door and down a long stairway. I found out where the coins we shoveled into the slots in the wall ended up. There were slots high in the wall and piles of coin blanks beneath each one. Dozens of people were gathering the blanks, putting them in slots on large sheets. Once a sheet was full, two men would carry it to one of the presses in the middle of the room, place another sheet of metal on top of it, and then turn the wheels on the press to print the coins.

We had no work to do here, but Carsomus chatted with the workers, gave a few words of encouragement, and we began climbing up the stairs. “Can you believe Antiochus tried to use iron golems for this work?”

“Uh,” I said, “I guess?”

“It tarnished the entire mythological basis of the Empire. The Elder Council took control of the mint after the war.” Carsomus shook his head slowly. “A soulless machine can press the coins, but can it imbue them with truth? With purpose? With purity? Of course not. Potema was inevitable.”

I wasn’t sure what to say to that, and we traveled silently until we were back in the locker room. “What’s the shrine?” I asked, looking at the sign over a door we hadn’t entered.

“Peryite, of course. Do you need to go?” Carsomus asked.

“To the shrine? I’m no Daedra worship—”

Carsomus held up a fingerless glove. “Do you need to use the facilities?”

“What facilities?”

“Do you need to use the lavatory?” Carsomus asked with a hint of disgust. “We will be away for several hours. I don’t want to clean the ship again.”

“Oh,” I said. “Yes. That might be a good idea. I hate to mention it, but if we’re going somewhere, I should really get something to eat and drink. I haven’t had—”

“Refreshments shall be provided.”

When I got back from the unusual…facilities, Carsomus was holding a metal tray, somewhat Dwemer in appearance. On the tray was a fluffy looking cake and a wine glass of something pink, perhaps a blend or a rosé. “One reason,” Carsomus said, “that we have Witnesses go through the chores is to ensure they haven’t eaten anything vulgar or the trip shall go poorly for them.”

I took the tray and sat on a bench. The cake was light and fluffy. So much so, that I felt a bit lightheaded. The drink was neither wine nor juice, at least not any I could place. I asked Carsomus what it was, but we were interrupted.

“Evening Carsomus,” said a deep, grumbling voice. I stood up a little and almost spilled my tray. A minotaur, a huge example of his species, came into the room.

“Evening Hrahd,” Carsomus said. “How’s the moon?”

“All is well,” the minotaur said, sitting down right next to me. “No trouble at the mines. I heard The Terminus might cause some trouble.”

“They’re still around?” asked Carsomus.

“Oh, yeah, they just went deeper underground. Well, enjoy your flight.” The minotaur stood, patted me on the back hard enough to almost knock me off the bench, and left.

“M…m….mmino…” I stuttered.

“Never spoke with a minotaur before?”

“N…n…no.”

Carsomus smiled. “Good! That’s exactly the attitude that led to so many of them seeking employment with the Mint. They suit us perfectly. Well, time to go.”

We went past the Vaults, which were enormous. They were far too large to fit in the building, unless we were somehow underground or…well, I wasn’t sure what else. And then we came to another large room full of gold…things. They were squat and had what might be called wings and what might generously be called a tail.

“Are these the Sunbirds of Alinor?” I asked.

“What? Do these look like birds to you? Do they look of elven construction?”

“Well, no, but—”

Carsomus walked up to one, did something to it, and the “head” of it split open sideways, revealing steep steps and some very small chairs beyond.

“Hop in,” he said.

Adventures of Carsomus Limus, Mint Surety, V. IV

IV. The Mission

Carsomus fiddled with something in front of me and the bird’s head closed up. It was really nothing like a bird, and yet I couldn’t help but think of it as one. It was cramped and uncomfortable in the chair, and I couldn’t see much apart from the back of Carsomus’ head. More fiddling and the bird jerked upward and stopped. “Ack!” I said. It felt like it was straining against something, like it was trying to fall upwards, but was being held by a giant hand.

The bird vanished, and I could see the room all around us and all the other golden birds sitting there in neat little rows. I looked down at my hands, and found that I had vanished as well.

Then the bird shot straight up, and I was squashed down into my seat. This went on an unconscionably long time, until my legs and rear end were sore. My neck hurt, too, from the initial jerk. There wasn’t much to see straight ahead. The world went white a few times, and the sky gradually went from blue to black. Then the black began to be filled with swirls and lines of color. I tried to look down, but it hurt my neck to move it even a little, so I tried to keep it pressed against the back of the chair.

The force pressing me down slowly let up and then we were falling. Or it felt as if we were falling. I swallowed and tried not to lose the strange lunch I’d eaten moments before. We were spinning among the stars. And yet they looked nothing like they did from the safety of Nirn. They grew, shrank, twirled, and all about between and among them were ribbons of faint color. Perhaps it was the goggles.

“We shall approach the coins soon,” he said. It was getting notably colder, but my suit seemed to offer some protection. “Put these on,” he said, and I saw he was holding a pair of fingerless leather gloves. I took them and struggled a bit getting them on my hands.

“Take this as well and put it over your head. Let it rest on your shoulders.” He handed me a ring of metal. “Oh, and the red band must be facing up. Lost a few Witnesses to such carelessness.” I looked at the ring and made sure the red band was ‘up’ and then slid it over my head.

“So, uh, what now?”

“We collect the adulterated coins. Just as we swept them in the mint, the moons sweep them along out here and they gather. Behold!” He pointed ahead, and if I squinted a bit, I thought I could see a little glitter among the swirling ribbons.

“I often wonder what the Khajiit think of them,” he said. “We collect them long before they become visible of course, but the cat folk are obsessed with the moons. It wouldn’t surprise me if they’ve seen a glint of gold out here. I’d like to know what they think it is. There are no Khajiit at the Mint.”

We were approaching far more rapidly than I thought. The distant bits of glitter approached at terrifying speed and became a huge mass of loose coins. We shot past just under the mass. Carsomus did something to the bird and, we spun around, and I felt a hand pressing me backwards. Then we came upon the coins again, must slower.

The bird’s face opened up. My ears popped, and I felt briefly terrible, and a bubble appeared around my head. It was not unlike a wizard’s shield, but it was strange wearing it. I began to smell something like a cross between flowers and rotting fish.

“Sorry about the smell,” Carsomus said, his voice sounding oddly distance and muted. “Grab a sack.” He pointed to a pile of shiny cloth.

I took one and tried to unfold it. “No, no,” Carsomus said. He already had his sack unfolded and puffed out. It was easily four or five times his height. He took my sack, did something to it, and it…well, inflated is not quite the right word, but it was soon open.

“Now we fly,” he said, and did something to move towards the mass of coins. He held the sack open and collected a bunch of them, then came back the other way, gathering even more in his sack.

“How do I move?” I asked.

“Oh, of course,” he said. “Do you know the basic levitate spell?”

“Yes, should I—”

“No! Absolutely not! Make one that is hundreds of times weaker. The weakest possible one that can still be cast. One using the same forms, but that is too weak to do anything on Nirn.”

“Make a spell? Without the grid and diagrams and everything at the Guild’s spellmaker?”

“Of course. You don’t—” He seemed to think a moment. “Nevermind. Just hold the sack. I will fill them both.”

Soon he had both sacks full. There were still many loose coins, but they were floating around, spinning flickering, and no longer in a concentrated mass. “Again, we ignore the spares,” he said. Carsomus tied both sacks shut and hooked them to the back of the golden bird.

“No need to reforge these,” he said, “the trip back will do that for us.”

He grabbed me on the way back into the bird. As he spun me around, I saw something else, a piece of white crystal. “What is that?” I asked, pointing to it.

“Not what we are here for. The ship can’t handle it, anyway.”

“But what is—”

“Meteoric glass. Or perhaps a tooth. Do not meddle with it. Valuable? Very. Collecting one requires experience and knowledge I lack. And a much larger ship.”

We got back into the bird. He did whatever he did to close it up, and we pointed back down to Nirn. It was the most beautiful sight I’d ever seen.

Soon I was shoved back in my seat, and the ground approached so fast I closed my eyes and lifted my arms up, preparing to crash. We were falling again, then another weight from a strange angle, then another, then there was a clanking noise and the bird came to a sudden halt.

The bird’s head opened back up and Carsomus got out. I tried to follow him, but it took a few minutes. I was not very steady on my feet. When I managed to get the ring off my neck and wobble down the stairs, Carsomus handed me one of he sacks, now deflated, but still full of thousands of septims, and threatening to float up to the ceiling. “Just drag it behind you,” he said.

We went back into the locker area, and Carsomus told me to change back to my old clothes. I did so reluctantly and spent some time with the…facilities. “Leave the sacks here. I’ll deal with them,” he said and led me back outside the Mint building and into the cold. I wished I still had the suit.

“You’re honest,” Carsomus said, “but you don’t have what it takes to be a Witness. Still, you lived through the night, which is better than some. Most. Here’s your first and only week’s pay.” He handed me a sack full of septims. It was enough to rent a room – a warm room with a meal of known meat twice a day – the rest of this winter.

“You’re a lifesaver,” I said, taking the sack.

“Yes, but I don’t see how that is relevant.” Carsomus Limus, Mint Surety, spun around twice on his heel and gave me a final wave with his fingerless glove. He walked back into the dark opening of the Royal Mint. The wall sealed back up. No one could tell there was ever a door there.

“What was all that about?” I asked myself, running a finger along the wall where the door once was. Luckily, no one answered. I hefted the sack to make sure it was real and headed for the docks. The Bloated Float wasn’t the cleanest inn, but it had the best stories.

***

Months later I was stuck in a pit with no mana. I thought back to my time at the Mint. I tried to clip a bunch of coins and catch them in a sack. I thought if I got enough of them, it might pull me up to the edge of the pit. Both the chips and the rest of the coins fell to the ground. I managed to get out another way, but it made me question what happened in the Mint, or whether some stranger handed me a sack of coins, and I dreamed the rest of it.

Scroll to Top