When shadows pass gigantic on the sand,
And softly though the silence beat the bells
Along the Golden Road to Samarkand.
By hotter winds our fiery hearts are fanned:
For lust of knowing what should not be known
We make the Golden Journey to Samarkand."
An Intrepid Merchant is a merchant that goes to the far corners of his world, bravely seeking profit. He is a treasure-hunter but the treasure is not hidden, it is in the bazaar waiting for him after he has crossed the deserts, mountains, seas, or trackless gulfs of space. The chief characteristic of an Intrepid Merchant is that he is both a merchant and an adventurer. He buys and sells like any other trader. The difference is that he goes to far distant markets to find what he is looking for. (May be fond of being In Harm's Way — after all, the more dangerous it is to get at something, the rarer and, therefore, more valuable it's likely to be.)
On the less salubrious side of things, this character type can overlap with being a Privateer or Pirate (where the risk is the original owner fighting back), a smuggler (where the risk is that you're trading illegally), or even a slave trader.
If he ever "retires" (or at least settles in one place), he's likely to become a Merchant Prince on the basis of his earnings.
This trope is Older Than Feudalism, dating back in poetry, folklore and history to at least Sinbad the Sailor, continuing as a staple of adventure fiction until the present day, and finding its way into science-fiction almost as soon as the genre came into existence. It migrated to role-playing games, especially Traveller, in which it is one of the main player character types. Inevitably the Intrepid Trader found new territory to explore in computer games, appearing in Elite and its successors. A common space subtrope of this would be the Space Trucker.
Intrepid Merchants were arguably the foundation of the world's economy, before easy transportation and communication made his kind irrelevant. They still exist in places like Central Asia in which transportation and communication are not easy.
Compare Venturous Smuggler, when they also carry around and sell illegal stuff.
- Spice and Wolf: Although the story begins when Holo the wolf goddess hitches a ride in the protagonist's cart, the series primarily follows a fairly ordinary medieval merchant, whose experiences manage to be interesting without seeming unrealistic, traveling company aside.
- Dryden Fassa in Vision of Escaflowne heads a large merchant convoy of airships owned by his father, a rich and powerful Merchant Prince. He becomes quite the player in the cast, thanks to becoming The Team Benefactor and quite the Guile Hero.
- The Gu Binnen Trade Federation in Drifters.
- Tintin first met the Portuguese merchant Oliveira de Figueira on a dhow bound for the Middle East, where he sells modern items to the locals.
- In one Bloom County arc, Opus is lost in the desert dying of thirst; he finally finds salvation from a 7-Eleven that someone thought to set up there. (The clerk doesn't speak English, unfortunately, but Opus seems to make due as he's able to return home in the next strip.)
- In the Arabian Nights: Sinbad the sailor.
- Who was actually based on a real person — a Chinese sailor, and Muslim, who traveled as far as Venice to bring back goods to China — only to have his deeds dashed from all records of Chinese history.
- In Star Wars, Han Solo is one (there's often a lot of overlap with smuggling).
- In one of Poul Anderson's Polesotechnic League stories, David Falkayn quotes a poem (attributed to "Sanders," one of Anderson's pen names) which describes this sort of character:
Their topmasts gilt by sunset, though their sails be whipped to rags
Who raced the wind around the world go reeling home again
With ivory, apes, and peacocks loaded, memories and brags
To sell for this high profit: knowing fully they are Men!
- In Isaac Asimov's Foundation, a subculture of these arose as a Batman Gambit to help spread the Path of Inspiration the titular society used to control its neighbors. Hober Mallow became known as "the Merchant Prince" for being successful enough — at many levels — to change the Foundation's Hat to Proud Merchant Race.
- Leland Gaunt is an evil version in Needful Things. He shows up in town, sets up shop, and sells "gray objects" that change shape according to the buyer's desires for a pittance and a favor which always sets two unrelated people against each other. In the end, he always winds up selling only one thing: weapons.
- One of Kipling's most beautiful passages is the beginning of "Ballad of The King's Jest". It describes the arrival of Caravans(or "Kafilas") in "The Market Square of Peshawar Town" and goes on from there to show two Intrepid Merchants telling traveller's tales to one another.
- Mahbub Ali, an Afghan horse-trader in Kim. Well, if his caravan is ambushed and shot at twice in one season, it's unusual, but not quite shocking.
- C. J. Cherryh's Alliance/Union 'verse:
- In Tales of the Alhambra Washington Irving describes Spanish muleteers as this and tells how they risked hardship and banditry, as well as how they sang songs about contrabandistas(smugglers)
- In the H. Rider Haggard stories, Alan Quartermain did this as one of his occupations in his backstory, as well as prospecting and ivory hunting.
- A Song of Ice and Fire has an Intrepid Banker called Tycho Nestoris. When the crumbling central government of Westeros rather bluntly refuses to pay the massive debts it owes the Iron Bank of Braavos (a Merchant City that is something of a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to Renaissance Venice), Nestoris willingly goes into several warzones to negotiate with other claimants to the throne, offering to fund their campaigns in exchange for their promises to honor their debts and the debts of the rulers they hope to replace, and also doing business with anyone else who wishes to make use of his services. When one of the many Proud Warrior Race Guys that inhabit Westeros ask him about what a banker is doing in such dangerous situations, he proudly claims this trope as his explanation.
- In Komarr, the noble families of Komarr are described as very successful Intrepid Merchants.
- In A Harvest of War, Ayan and the Makimba clan are merchants from the far south.
- In Hal Clement's Mission of Gravity, Barlennan and the crew of the Bree have traveled to their world's equator in search of trading opportunities. They are willing to go all the way to their world's north pole, hoping to make a profit, eventually, from the Higher-Tech Species (humans).
- In The Stormlight Archive, Vstim is a renowned merchant who fits this description, going all over the world to civilizations many overlook to buy goods unavailable elsewhere. He's also the only person some distant cultures will sell to, because they don't get much news and thus will only trade with people they trust not to lie to them to get a better deal.
- In Hellspark, the Hellsparks are an entire culture of intergalactic intrepid merchants.
- Jang Bogo of the Korean TV epic Emperor of the Sea might do. Of course he is a member of a whole tribe of Intrepid Merchants. Which brings up a point that this can be a narrative theme as well as a character.
- Mal and his crew from Firefly, though due to the harsh nature of the show, they struggle just to make enough money to get by. "Intrepid" doesn't guarantee "successful".
- Star Trek gives us a few examples.
Nog: You see, there are millions upon millions of worlds in the universe, each one filled with too much of one thing and not enough of another. And the Great Continuum flows through them all, like a mighty river, from 'have' to 'want' and back again. And if we navigate the Continuum with skill and grace, our ship will be filled with everything our hearts desire.
- Star Trek: The Original Series had Cyrano Jones and Harry Mudd, frequently found at the frontier with new and exotic goods for sale from worlds the rest of the Federation had never heard of. This almost always went badly for all involved thanks to them not looking into their goods too much before trying to sell them.
- The whole Ferengi race holds this as a cultural ideal, with several episodes from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine revolving around Ferengi characters questing to open new markets in the Gamma Quadrant, Mirror Universe, and in one case with the local sort-of-gods.
- Marco Polo: Marco, his father Nicolo and most of the men of Venice.
- In the Horror podcast Alice Isn't Dead, the series' Narrator Exploits the mobility her long-haul trucking job offers in her search for her missing wife Alice, while the narrative itself thoroughly Deconstructs the concept, swinging from the unglamorous, blue-collar banality of her actual job to the horror of her paranormal encounters. Given the contrast, she tends to take a wry tone when she repeats her employer's pithy slogans.
Narrator: [I'm] a loyal employee of Bay & Creek Shipping, moving what is in one place to another, every mile a few cents.
- In Traveller the players are often Free Traders, buying goods (sometimes the illegal kind) on one planet and selling them on another in an attempt to make their ship's mortgage payments.
- Rogue Traders in the Warhammer 40,000 universe are part merchants, part privateers, and sometimes, part conquistador.
- Most settings of Dungeons & Dragons aren't nice safe places, be it Spelljammer or Dark Sun — thus there are merchants hauling cargo through anything, and sometimes a sourcebook about them.
- In Forgotten Realms you don't know whether the next caravan will be raided by a dragon, Zhents or mere goblins. But a special mention must be given to "enterprising entrepreneur, Aurora the Eclectic", ex-adventurer and founder of all-goods retail chain with its Aurora's Whole Realms Catalogue.
- Welcome to Crazy Hassan's Used Camels!
- Exalted: Intrepid Merchants are among the most likely to go far in The Guild. Among the most notable achievements are how they reacted to the observations of the raksha by making overtures intended to teach them the very concept of commerce, just so that they could have an inroad to trade for their magical items.
- The trope is mentioned in briefly in the background material for Star Realms. Thanks to such brave and enterprising traders, the typically hostile Blobs are willing to trade with and provide ships for humans.
- The merchants in James Elroy Flecker's play: "Hassan: The Story of Hassan of Baghdad and How he Came to Make the Golden Journey to Samarkand", quoted at the top of this page.
- This is a playable class in Ragnarok Online. They (mostly) deal with the economy and are able to generate cash at an increased rate with their Overcharge and Discount skills; they can also employ Pushcarts as a kind of second inventory, and if they have this they can do Vending to sell valuable items to other players. In battle they use axes, and additionally can throw money at the enemy (Mammonite skill). Later on, Merchants can progress into the Blacksmith and Alchemist lines.
- Vega Strike aside of privateers choosing this line of work has Merchant faction ("Interstellar Shipping and Mercantile Guild"); Loading Screen with their advertisement says they even run through blockades.
- Castlevania 64 you meet a demon salesman called Renon early on in the Villa, who offers to sell you potions and other items. His stock is not very impressive compared to most merchants, but unlike most, his shop can be accessed from anywhere, using magical scrolls, making him somewhat of an asset. However there is a catch. He neglects to mention that spending more than 30,000 gold in his shop equals to selling your soul to the devil (that clause is technically written into the contract, but in a demonic language that humans can't read), in which case Renon will be more than eager to claim his fee when the time comes. (If this happens, you have to fight him as a Bonus Boss, right before you face Dracula and the contract is rendered void if you defeat him.)
- The Khajiit caravans of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim travel to cities all across the province to sell their wares. Since they are not trusted within the cities themselves, they live in temporary camps on the outskirts, where they set up shop for a while before hitting the road again. The player can find these caravans either just outside any major cities of Skyrim, or traversing the wilderness on the way to another one.
- Might and Magic had a few. One example was in 6, where the best inn in the game, where you could buy 40 units of supplies, was south of a town where you initially had to fly over a few mountains to reach. Not coincidentally, this was located at the fork of two roads, one of which led to Dragonsands (one of the most dangerous parts of the game, with had no inn at all) and the other to Paradise Valley (which did have a town and an inn, but required getting past hordes of dragons and titans to get to.).
- Suikoden Tierkreis has a whole race of them in the Wanderers. They even travel to different worlds in search of profit. Some of the series allows the player to get into it as well, buying commodities in one region and traveling to the other side of the world to sell it for profit.
- Secret of Mana and Trials of Mana have Neko (in Secret of Mana) or Niccolo (in Trials of Mana), a cat person with a pack full of goodies that he will sell for a hefty markup. He tends to show up in the wilderness or in the middle of dungeons, where there's less competition to force his prices down. The well-prepared adventurer seldom has need of his services, but his presence can save your ass if you forgot to stock up before setting out.
- Resident Evil 4 features The Merchant. He may be infected by Plagas, given his Glowing Eyes of Doom, but he seems like a pretty cool guy regardless. Rather than bludgeon Leon's brains out he'd rather earn some cash selling weapons and upgrades to the agent.
WEEEELCOME! GOT A SELECTION OF GOOD THINGS ON SALE, STRANGER!
- There are several in Fallout 3 — each one is a trader with a pack Brahmin and a bodyguard to take care of Shoplift and Die duties, and they are the only people aside from Raiders, mercenary headhunters and the odd hunter who regularly leave population centres to cross the Wasteland.
- Roguelikes Nethack and Dungeon Crawl have shops inside the dungeon; Angband merchants play it a little safer, hanging out only in the town atop the dungeon.
- O'aka XXIII in Final Fantasy X sells to Yuna and her guardians so much that it actually gets him arrested by the Corrupt Church. His brother Wantz then takes over for him.
- Final Fantasy XIII-2 has Chocolina, who follows Serah and Noel across different timelines.
- In Granblue Fantasy, there are Knickknack Shacks everywhere, all managed by a single shopkeeper, Sierokarte. At first the main crew get confused after finding an ad for her services deep in the wild forests of Lumacie, then as the game goes on it becomes clear that Siero is less a normal shopkeeper and more the head of an ever-sprawling business empire and one of the more influential people in the skies. She even leads the reinforcements during the final battle with the Erste army along with Tzaka and Monika, despite being a "mere" merchant compared to their high ranks.
- Melnorme in Star Control. Very useful especially when they come to save your butt if you get stranded in Hyperspace. However, if you do not have credits be prepared for an (un)fair exchange. Even the Melnorme have limits to their intrepidness. They bug out of the galaxy once the Death March begins.
- World of Warcraft:
- Many dungeons and raids have repair vendors, which allow players to repair their armor and weapons.
- Karazhan has two such merchants.
- One is a spectral merchant right after the first (major) boss. After players defeat Attumen the Huntsman, they gain access to a merchant shortly after. This merchant is a notable subversion of the trope because he exists more for selling vendor trash than to buy items. Karazhan has a tremendous amount of useless loot that can be sold to vendors, so players would quickly fill their bags and have to leave the raid to empty them again.
- The other is an ethereal that appears near the middle of the raid. He mostly serves the same purpose as the spectral merchant at the beginning of the raid.
- Firelands also has such merchants, but their merchants double as unique zone drop traders. They will buy the large amount of vendor trash that Firelands mobs drop, but they also are the place where the Firelands-only currency can be traded for items.
- Dragon Soul as well. Trading in items such as "Blood of Corrupted Deathwing" is their purpose, though they also will buy your vendor trash so you can empty your bags.
- These types of merchants that exist solely to empty one's bags have mostly been phased out in raids and dungeons that have outdoor areas such as Hellfire Citadel. This is because the item Reins of the Traveler's Tundra Mammoth and Grand Expedition Yak exist. These items carry their own Intrepid Merchants, which allow players to sell their vendor trash and repair their gear anywhere they can use a mount.
- Dwarf Fortress, as you may have already guessed, has merchants willing to walk into anything this side of lava to do their business. Just read the Badass Boast of a human merchant prince. And here we thought fish in DF were "too hardcore".
- Whenever you open trade with far cities in any game of the City-Building Series, merchants will travel from all over the world to trade with you, no matter how far you are. If you're about to be invaded, they will even inform you about soldiers on the road or political unrest (depending on the game).
- Charlieton in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is a sleazy merchant who was also a clear case of Adam Smith Hates Your Guts. He usually hangs out in Rogueport, where the stuff he sells is usually worthless junk. (Every so often he's got something exclusive or at a good price, though, so he's worth checking out from time to time.) However, in the Pit of 100 Trials, he shows up from time to time in certain rooms to sell you various items that may be useful at inflated prices. The lower you go, the more dangerous it gets, and the more likely it is you'll be running out of healing items. He knows this. By the time you get near the bottom, he'll be selling items for twenty times what they'd be worth in a normal shop. Since you're likely to be maxed out in coins yet an inch near death at this point, these items might actually be worthwhile.
- On a different note, there's Ms. Mowz, a Classy Cat-Burglar who travels the world looking for rare badges to sell at her shop.
- The Pokémon games always have a PokéMart that sells some of the best items right before Victory Road, and another one right before the spot where you start your battle with the Elite Four. (And you should really spend as much as you can at the first stop, because you'll likely make a fortune battling the trainers on Victory Road.)
- Nurse Joy is an Intrepid Charity Worker, believe it or not. The Pokémon Centers heal your Pokémon for free, but they're located almost everywhere, even places like the foot of Mt. Silver (located in Gold and Silver, and the remakes of those games.)
- Another example is the souvenir store at the top of Mt. Moon, also found, in Gold, Silver, and the remakes of those games. Lemonade is probably the most economical healing item in the game (heals 80 hp and costs 350 PokéDollars) but you usually have to get if from vending machines one can at a time, so stocking up takes a while. The shop at the top of Mt. Moon is a place you can buy it at bulk. (But you can't use Fly to get to it, and it's closed at night.)
- One of the Hero Sims in The Sims Medieval is a Merchant, who often has to travel to foreign kingdoms to trade. Since they're Hero Sims, they also have a wide range of quests to embark on.
- Treasure Hunter G turns the player's party onto this, since you don't earn money from random encounters. The only way to make money is to acquire goods from dungeons to sell, or buy items where they are cheap and take them to where they'll sell for a higher price.
- The Spyro the Dragon games has Moneybags, a bear that shows up and functions as a Cash Gate, forcing you to pay him in order to progress with the game.
- The Annas from Fire Emblem, who basically appear in every game not only as the "mascots" but as the ones handling all the Secret Shops. Two of them can be recruited as playable characters in Fire Emblem Awakening and Fire Emblem Fates and even become Love Interests if either marries the games' male Avatars; others are seen handling the gates to the Outrealms as well as several other spots in them.
- Warriv from Diablo II is a merchant who badly needs to go to Lut Gholeim but the path is blocked by monsters, so he hangs around the Rogues's camp while hoping the Player Character can undo the mess. Once he/she does, he takes him/her with him in his trip.
- Beedle in various The Legend of Zelda games sometimes takes this role, particularly in his first appearance in The Wind Waker, where his shop ship will be found floating around not just populated areas, but random rocks in the middle of nowhere.
- Rebuild has Gustav the Trader. He comes around every week to sell items for food, buy items for food, or propose the services of his Band of Brothels, seemingly unaffected by the high numbers of zombies. Aside from Gustav, food caravans can pass by and agree to trade with you as a random event.
- In Digital Devil Saga, the local merchant Johnny and his Pyro Jack co-worker consider their profession Serious Business, to the point that, following the entire party's death and ascension to the Sun in a quest to placate God, the former appears in the closest thing said universe has to the Afterlife, still quite intent on fulfilling his role.
- Players in No Man's Sky can become these by selling resources they've mined at local trading posts or Space Stations, and can game the local economy by gathering lots of resources like Plutonium in a system where it's common and selling it in a system where it's considered rare. A good way to earn some quick Units, and played quite literally since most of the planets in the game are unexplored.
- In Dragon Age: Origins, the player's party runs into Sandal near the top of Fort Drakon during the final battle for Denerim. Lampshaded somewhat by the player character's expression of extreme surprise at his presence (and at the dozens of dead darkspawn scattered around the room). Despite Bohdan playing the usual part of the merchant for the party while Sandal acts as an enchanter, Sandal acts as both a merchant and enchanter in this situation.
- The Adventurer of Bravely Default, who also saves your game. He lampshades the Suspicious Video Game Generosity, outright saying "It only gets worse from here" when he's stationed in front of a boss fight. Though it turns out near the end of the sequel that she's a woman.
- A Very Long Rope to the Top of the Sky: This happens a couple of times, with the one at the bottom of a buried tower in the nowhere of a desert lampshading the trope.
How did I end up here? Who cares? Let's just call it "merchant's intuition".
- Tunnels of Doom, a dungeon crawl game for the venerable TI99 home computer, featured item shops in the 4th and 8th levels of the eponymous tunnels. There was no explanation for why there were merchants deep within a cavern full of hostile creatures, but you typically needed the new items so badly you didn't question it.
- The Magimel Brothers from Shadow Hearts: Covenant. Their profile explicitly stated that they "go anywhere, no matter how dangerous" to offer their service to whoever might need them. Yuri is continuously baffled at them appearing in the most unlikely of places, including an otherworldly fortress raised by Rasputin the Mad Monk, an actual powerful warlock on this continuity, to the ruins of an burned down monastery deep within the Earth and a facsimile of Japanese Hell created by an Taoist adept. Only Gerard returned in From the New World and along with his boyfriend Bughend, play the same role.
- The Elite franchise (whose first incarnation took a great many cues from the aforementioned ''Traveller) makes every player character one of these to some extent: Even if you choose to specialise as a Bounty Hunter, mercenary or space pirate you'll find yourself doing a bit of freelance trading or delivery runs on the side to make a bit of Boring, but Practical cash, which may turn out to be the opposite of boring if the gig leads you into some of the less civilised star systems.
- Octopath Traveler: Merchant is a character class in this game. Tressa, one of the player characters, has it as a primary class, while any other playable character can pick it up as a subclass. Tressa can also buy items from NPCs. Tressa's story is centered around her traveling the world and discovering treasures.
- God of War (PS4) has Brok and Sindri, two dwarven blacksmiths who serve as the game's shopkeepers and are always showing up ahead of Kratos and Atreus wherever they go. According to Sindri, dwarves are capable of traveling between realms nigh-instantaneously to avoid being seen by others.
- The Legend of Dragoon has the Peddler Brothers (Primero, Segundo, Tercero, and Quatro) who pair up and spend their time buying and selling goods on a glacier and in the middle of some ancient ruins. Both are extremely far out of the way (the ruins in particular only have one path to or from them) and one of the brothers at each location questions the logic of trying to make a living so far off the beaten path.
- Dabas is a merchant who visited the dangerous Volcano Villude to find rare goods and offers the only opportunity to restock on healing items between Bale and Lohan, almost certainly a necessity given the five boss fights between those two locations.
- Fable I: Traders can be found traversing both the Darkwood and Witchwood with their wares — and, more often than not, getting attacked by bandits and monsters, since they lack NPC Random Encounter Immunity. Lampshaded when one trader on an Escort Mission asks his friend why they don't just set up shop in town instead.
- Crypt Of The Necrodancer has the merchant, an obese opera singer, opening shop in every level of the crypt, even though there are dancing monsters everywhere, and an undead king underneath to boot... Rob him at your own risk...
- Ardacos, who's You All Look Familiar handwaved as New Job as the Plot Demands, is sometimes seen as traveling merchant in hostile areas.
- According to Noob: Le Conseil des Trois Factions, a Player Character can become one themselves if they wish. However, all the perk really does is make commerce easier, so how intrepid they really are is up to them. The mechanic also exists because the Non-Player Character cast includes a congregation of intrepid merchants.
- Marco Polo.
- Christopher Columbus started out this way but didn't find any markets, so instead decided to set a trend for the Conquistadors who came later.
- The caravan merchants of the Silk Road in Central Asia were a pretty brave bunch, given that killer sandstorms, greedy local nobles, and bandits were considered normal events along the trail. And that was a good year, when the local nomads weren't on a spree.
- The Phoenicians were also infamous merchant adventurers, and not averse to a spot of banditry and/or slavery when they thought they could get away with it. In the course of their travels, they popularized the world's first alphabet.
- Vikings could switch from being Pirates to Intrepid Merchants to being warriors without missing a beat. They could even do that in the same voyage.
- The whole British Empire was founded and built on this trope. It became The Empire only later — in order to protect the commerce.
- Before embarking on his religious career, The Prophet Muhammad was one of these. The Quraish tribe that ruled Mecca and of which he was a member organized annual trade caravans to Syria and Yemen—Mecca being roughly halfway between the two—and he participated in these grueling treks across the unforgiving Arabian Desert from a relatively young age. He distinguished himself in the service of his wealthy uncle Abu Talib, and made a reputation as a smart but completely honest businessman; this landed him a job with a wealthy widow named Khadijah, whom he later married. It was not until he was 40, when (according to Islam) he received his mission from God, that he would quit the trading life.