Adventures of Carsomus Limus, Mint Surety, V. II

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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.

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