The Orient and Spice Isles

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Shortage of spice causing problems

From TVMCOA, a regular pamphlet covering the Merchant Companies

“In the markets: fluctuations in the supply of cinnamon are disturbing the transport links throughout Albion. Guild Navigators are increasing prices across the board in a bid to ensure their regular flow of the spice, whilst even those who are unaffected by the price hikes complain of longer transport times. A recent flood of ginger in the market has done nothing to sate demand. At present, any shipment of cinnamon is likely to bring a large profit, and both the EIC and MISC are looking to set up an expedition to ensure supply.”

From the Merchant Companies Briefing


Even after years of investigation, and in former times the considerable support of the Prime Minister William Milton, we have failed to establish the exact source within Cathay from which gunpowder originates. Since the awful years, and embarrassment, of the First Civil War the Companies have ensured above all priorities that the arsenals of England are well stocked with powder purchased from India and directly from Cathay.

Our agents have however discovered that the black powder appears to originate from the closed province of Shaanxi, near mountains that fanciful Chinese scholars claim tower more than five miles into the sky!((Note from Ivan: Originally the gunpowder factory was supposed to be in foothills of the Himalayas and not central China…) All efforts to scry more information have failed.

Imagine the profit that could be obtained and the military edge to be gained for Albion if we could learn the secret of its manufacture. The officer or trader of the Company that learns more about the art of gunpowder production shall be handsomely rewarded.

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Joshua Wrackham

Spice Islands

Reports of the events on the trip to the Spice Islands are mixed with rumour and heresy. It is known for certain that Sir Joshua Wrackham set sail for the Spice Islands with funding and ships provided by the East India Company and the Guild of Navigators. It is also known that Wrackham did not return with the ships, but the ships did return with a quantity of cinnamon sufficient to last a year or so, but not to abate the shortage entirely.

Putting together all the rumours, you obtain the following story. Factual accuracy may or may not apply.

The outward journey from Albion proceeded fairly well. Guild Navigators managed to ensure a good route for the ship, and it made good speed. Some sailors claim the sea seemed to “fold” at times, but it is quite unclear what they meant. In any case, all was going well, with Wrackham seemingly very happy with progress, until storms hit the fleet of ships. Miraculously, no ships went down to the 30 foot waves, but nonetheless the fleet was blown considerably off course, and two ships became separated from the fleet, returning to Albion alone.

Guild Navigators were for some reason unable to locate the ships on a map, but land was sighted, and the best guess was that the ships were in roughly the right area for the Spice Islands. The story becomes even fuzzier here: some allege it could only have been Zilmatillia that the ships landed on, others claim it was another spice island, and many believe that the ships landed in India itself. In any case, Wrackham and a number of EIC members went to trade cloth and gold for spices, but none returned. A search party was sent out from one of the ships to look for the negotiators, but again, nothing was heard from the party for a number of days. Eventually, the search party returned, running at high speed to the shore, and bidding the ships' captains to set sail immediately. Seeing the fear in their men's eyes, the captains did so with remarkable speed. Those on the search party give conflicting reports: certainly cannibalism is involved, but some claim that the negotiating party had already become dinner, while others maintain that Wrackham had somehow appointed himself head of the tribe, and was planning on converting the ships' crews into snack food.

On the return journey, the ships did manage to find port that actually was selling spices, and stocked up on as much cinnamon as was available. Having lost a number of their party, the EIC members weren't up to negotiating a good price, however, and so the cinnamon supply is still somewhat short, albeit not so much as previously.

bonus.cathay/1.txt · Last modified: 2008/03/11 23:03 by ivan