The two couldn’t be more different. Olaf, the cambist, is a humble exchanger of foreign currencies with a good reputation. Lord Iron is a wealthy nobleman nototious for debauchery and indulging in all things. One day he comes to the cambist, hands him paper money from a country so distant few people have even heard of it, and challenges Olaf to exchange the money into pounds sterling by the following day. Why? “You were simply in the wrong place when I grew bored. Destroying you seemed diverting.”
Yet Olaf succeeds. It proves impossible to find out what the actual exchange rate between the paper money and pounds sterling is, but he finds an unorthodox solution that is nevertheless economically sound. Lord Iron is amused, and a few months later summons him to solve the exchange of two far more esoteric properties.
It’s fascinating to see economic rules being played like this, touching on the metaphysics of value. There’s the right level of detail given to Olaf’s life too, including an interest in invented pulp magazines, that are all paid off by the end.
The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics by Daniel Abraham
Availability: free online, e-book, print, audio
Word count: 8,100
Awards: Hugo Award nominee, World Fantasy Award nominee
First published: Logorrhea: Good Words Make Good Stories, edited by John Klima, 2007, Bantam Books
Where to find it: The story has been published under a Creative Commons license, and is therefore found free in a number of places, including here and at Lightspeed Magazine here.
A podcast is available free from PodCastle here.
Fantasy: The Best of the Year, 2008 Edition, edited by Rich Horton, 2008, Prime Books
The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume Two, edited by Jonathan Strahan, 2008, Night Shade Books
The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 2008, edited by Kelly Link & Gavin Grant, 2008, St Martin’s Griffin
Leviathan Wept and other stories, collection, 2010, Subterranean Press