The Value of a Profession

Waylan might be a city girl, but she's learned how to fit in with the locals.  Mostly.

Goldshire.

Growing up in Northshire, we looked at Goldshire as a bustling, happening place.  When you’re surrounded by scholars, priests and farmers, the pace of life is pretty slow.  But not in Goldshire!  No, Goldshire is where things happened.

It didn’t take much exposure of the larger world to see Goldshire very differently: a dinky town outside a big city, with the people who lived there trying to be bigger than they really are.

And yet, having faced the horror of the Scourge from both sides, I’ve come to appreciate this sleepy hamlet for what it is.  Yes, the folks are simple, plain spoken, and they have their own little world going here… but it’s a not a bad place to be.

I rode slowly around the pond behind the blacksmith, edging back towards the road that led to the center of the town.  I didn’t know if Waylan would be in Goldshire, but it seemed worth a visit to find out.  I’d already ranged over much of Elwynn without sighting her.

Northshire has two kinds of people who coexist in a relatively easy fashion – farmers and scholars.  There’s a pretty heavy overlap between the two, actually, as scholars settle in and start raising families in farm country, but there are not a lot of tradesmen in that remote valley.

Goldshire is different.  As I rode down the main street towards the Lion’s Pride Inn, the difference was clear.  Tradesmen working at their shops, conversing in the streets.  There weren’t a lot of merchants out hawking wares, but they were there; craftsmen, artisans, a few traveling salesmen.  Kira Songshine waved hello as I rode past, then raised her eyebrows at my outfit.  I smiled and shrugged, she laughed and went on her familiar route to bring fresh-baked bread to some of the outlying houses.

I pulled up to the Lion’s Pride Inn, dismounted, and handed my horse over to Erma, the stable master.  She smiled and made some small talk while I pulled a few things out of my saddlebags.  I described Waylan to her, and Erma told me she was inside.  So inside I went, steeling myself against the smells and sounds coming from the bar.

I found Waylan seated inside, talking animatedly to Melika, the assistant Innkeeper, who was standing beside her table.  Waylan had changed into a simple country dress; Melika looked at me in some surprise as I approached.

“Cynwulf, is that you?” she asked, making a quick gesture at my clothes.

“Oh yes,” I laughed, straightening my tuxedo jacket with a quick tug.  “It’s me.  Miss Waylan over here thought I needed some cleaning up in order to be taken seriously.”

“I considered making him wear a Haliscan outfit, Mel, but decided against it at the last minute,” chimed in Waylan.

“Well, he looks good in it.  Don’t you be spoiling him by taking him to any low places, now!” laughed Melika as I sat down.  “What can I get for you, ‘wulf?”

I thought for a moment, caught.  I honestly had no idea what to order that wasn’t a Azora Stout or Westfall Whiskey or any of a dozen other drinks that I really, really wanted right now.  I struggled through drinks I’d seen others order.

“Tea, if you have any.  Thanks, Mel,” I said.

Melika blinked at me.  “I’d be happy to, hon,” she said, then walked back to the kitchen.  I turned back to Waylan, who was watching me with interest.

“There aren’t many options in Goldshire, ‘wulf.  I’m sorry,” she said, looking at me.  Then she looked at her wine glass almost guiltily.

“Don’t apologize.  This is the best inn in the region, and even if it wasn’t, this is something I’ll have to get used to anyways,” I said.  I waited a moment and then asked, “would you really have told me to wear a haliscan outfit?”

Waylan laughed a wicked little laugh.  “I might have, had I thought of it!” she said, her eyes dancing.  “I still might.”  She relaxed a little, the tension broken over my choice of drink.  Mel brought the tea a few moments later in a steaming mug.  As she left, Waylan raised her wine glass in a toast.  I automatically raised my drink in response.

“To prosperity,” she said.

“To prosperity,” I returned.  We drank.

“So, how did you do out there?” Waylan asked after a few moments.  “Will you be able to be a gentleman and buy me a few drinks and dinner, or am I on my own?”  She smiled teasingly as she said this, and I smiled in return.

“It all depends on what you order,” I replied.  I was pretty sure I knew which wine she was drinking.  If I was right, it would exhaust my funds on the third glass.

“Oho!  Well, let’s see how you did,” she said, leaning forward.  I obliged by dropping a full coin purse on the table, then pulling some small nuggets of copper ore out of my pocket and placing them on the table.  Waylan nimbly took the purse, poured the coins out on the table, and started counting.  She was very, very fast at counting and stacking coins.  “Fifty four silver and thirty two copper,” she said after a minute.  “Not bad, I guess.  How much copper ore did you get?”

“About 70 pounds.”

“Huh,” she said, suddenly all business.  “What else?”

I quickly listed the rest of my inventory from memory.  It didn’t take long.  She brightened up a bit when I told of the stores of cloth I’d taken off the Defias down by Jerrod’s Landing, but most of the other items she passed by without comment.  I recounted my experience in Northshire and the scarcity of coin up there, and then how my luck changed a bit when I moved into the more trafficked areas.  She nodded during this, absently toying with the copper ore.

“Copper is currently going for about fifty silver a pound in Ironforge,” she said when I finished.  “Which is actually a pretty good rate.  So you could say that you had a profitable afternoon, what with 35 gold pieces worth of ore out in your bags.  But here’s the thing,” she leaned forward, holding the ore sample out to me, “You can’t buy anything with the ore in it’s current form.  And the price you’d get in Ironforge is not what you’d get here.  In fact,”  she continued, “I wager you’d probably get about the equivalent weight in copper coins.”

“True enough,” I agreed.  Smith Argus, one of the best blacksmiths in town, might buy it from me for a bit more – or he might not.  He’s a strange chap.

“So on the one hand, just by going and doing little tasks for the people of Elwynn Forest, you made some cash that you can spend; we call that liquid capital.  Capital are things that you have that have value; money is liquid capital because it can be changed into a lot of different things easily.  You can buy a meal, or a horse, or a sword, or an inn with money.”  She paused.   “Remind me later to see about the finances of this inn.  It might make a worthwhile investment.”  Waylan grinned.  I hoped I wasn’t supposed to actually write that down, since I didn’t have any parchment.

“The copper ore and linen cloth you gathered today are assets; another word for things that have value.  There are some distinctions between assets and capital that will be important later, but aren’t right now.  How much is that copper worth, ‘Wulf?” she asked suddenly.

“You said it was worth 35 gold in Ironforge, a good price,” I responded quickly.

Waylan looked pleased.  “Very good.  And how much are they worth here?  Right now, in this inn.”

“About … 5 copper a pound, so 350 copper… or 3 and a half silver?” I asked.

She leaned in.  “So which is it… 35 gold, or 350 copper?”

I thought before answering.  “Both,” I said.  “It depends on the buyer.”

“Exactly!” Waylan said, leaning back and smiling.  “The first price, the price you can get from people who want it, is the market price.  The second price, the one you can get from just about anyone, from ol’ Farley over there to Donni the cat lady, is called the vendor price.  At least, that’s our slang term for it in the bank alt community.  It’s really the minimum asset value, which often is substantially less than the book value of an item, which is hopefully less than the market value.”

I blinked several times at that.  She laughed.

“Sorry!  I got ahead of myself.  Think of the vendor price as the absolute minimum value an asset can have.  If all else fails, you can turn around and sell it to anyone for this price.”

“Like the useless gear I collected up in Northshire.”

“Exactly,” Waylan said.  “Because that gear isn’t useful to anyone, the vendor price is the best price you’ll get for it.”

“That implies that market price is directly related to utility,” I said.  “The more useful an item is, the higher the market value will be.”

“Well… not exactly, ‘Wulf,” Waylan cautioned.  “The market – which is what we call that big amorphous crowd of people who might be interested in whatever you’re selling – isn’t really based on utility.  It’s based on desire.  It’s based on individual value judgments that might, when considered separately, seem crazy, but when you consider it as a whole it seems to be rational.”

She paused and took a drink.  “There’s an important point here.  The copper ore you collected today has value because certain people want it. It doesn’t matter why they want it, or what they want it for – they want it.  And they are willing to pay for it.  Maybe they don’t know how to mine, or they don’t want to be bothered riding out and getting it.  It doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that you had the skill to gather it, you took the time to gather it, and they are willing to pay you for it.”

“There’s a substantial difference in income between having a profession and not having a profession. Not having a profession limits your income opportunities.  Especially when folks are getting started in the world, developing a profession gives them income above and beyond the wages they get from questing and loot they collect from their kills.”

“Consider your experience this afternoon,” she said.  “Best case market value, how much income did you generate today?”

“About 38 gold or so, with all the cloth and copper ore?” I replied.

“Okay, she said.  “And how much of that came from mining and engineering?”

“35 gold.  All of it from mining copper.”

“Huh,” she said, taking another sip of her wine.  “Interesting.”

“Now, if only we can figure out how to turn copper ore into gold.”

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