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Literature / The Cambist and Lord Iron

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"The Cambist and Lord Iron" is a novelette by Daniel Abraham that follows two men: Edmund Scarasso, Lord Iron, famous as one of the most extraordinarily debauched, corrupt, and wicked nobles in the city, and Olaf Neddelsohn, a cambist (exchanger of currencies) at the Magdalen Gate postal authority, not famous at all, whose greatest vice is the reading of adventure novels. The fates of these two grow entwined as Lord Iron sets for the cambist three challenges of exchange, each with greater consequences than the last. It is considered to be an example of Rational Fic.


The story is publicly available under a Creative Commons license — in text here, here, and here, and as a podcast here.

  • Absurdly High-Stakes Game: Lord Iron plays these frequently, it seems.
  • Deadly Decadent Court: Lord Iron and his acquaintances.
  • Deal with the Devil: Discussed in the context of the third challenge.
  • Hookers and Blow: Lord Iron indulges in both sex and drugs, although not generally with either hookers nor blow.
  • A Party, Also Known as an Orgy: Apparently these are common at Lord Iron's city mansion.
  • Ridiculous Exchange Rates: The convertible guilders issued by the Independent Protectorate of Analdi-Wat had no known exchange rate — not even to the system of cowrie shells that replaced them. Olaf ultimately calculated the value of the notes simply by finding the highest bidder: a glassblower's shop in Harrington Square willing to pay nine pounds and seven shillings for novelty wrapping paper.
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  • Right in Front of Me: Olaf would likely have expressed his argument that the days of his king, Walther IV, were worth less than the days of one of his prisoners less bluntly had he recognized that the eldest of the three judges he was addressing this argument to was that selfsame king.
  • Science Hero: Of a most unusual kind — Olaf is an expert of economics, and it is this knowledge that he uses to face these challenges.

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