The Brass Coast economic interests
Money is the most versatile tool in existence. Every Freeborn is to one degree or another looking to “make their fortune” because wealth brings status and luxury and it gives you a freedom that is denied to the poor.
Freeborn traders go beyond the frankness that is normal for everyday Freeborn and strive for a degree of honesty that would shame a priest. They regard it as a matter of skill to obtain the best possible price while being utterly open about the goods they sell. This probity is not driven solely by moral concerns, but also practical ones. The Freeborn have achieved an extraordinary reputation for not cheating their customers - a reputation that drives business to their door. Any Freeborn trader who stoops to lying about their merchandise for the sake of a better deal puts the prosperity of all Freeborn at risk. As a result, they protect this reputation very aggressively. Freeborn traders who do seek to twist a deal or sell a light load are dealt with without mercy.
About the only things the Freeborn do not buy or sell are slaves. Slavery of Imperial Citizens is illegal in the Empire, and the Freeborn take no part in the trade even when overseas. While the Freeborn do not hold with slavery, they approve of the idea of hard work as punishment, treating the wages a criminal might have earned doing a job honestly as payment towards the resolution of their crime.
When it comes to making financial agreements more complex than a direct exchange of goods, Freeborn are most comfortable dealing through contracts. As a consequence, Freeborn merchants usually seek out the services of a professional scrivener to formalise their agreements. A discreet, neutral scrivener can work out and witness a contract that satisfies both parties, and they are very much in demand. Combining the skill to express ideas simply and clearly in writing with a talent for arbitrating between individuals to help them express what they actually want, these scriveners are the backbone of Freeborn economic life.
The Freeborn prefer to abide by the letter of a contract, rather than the “spirit". Arguments about what was “meant” by the contract are inevitably circular and unhelpful. Where the meaning of a contract must be discussed or clarified, it is again to the professional scrivener that the Freeborn merchant turns. The best scriveners are also artists or employ someone capable of making their contracts look attractive and professional with fine calligraphy and colourful flourishes. A disproportionate number of scriveners are of the cambion lineage. Common superstition suggests that their connection to the Autumn realm helps them to instinctively understand how to frame a contract, and their blood marked on a document is traditionally held to grant good fortune to the enterprise involved.
When an outsider thinks of a Freeborn trader, they are often thinking of the proprietor of a parador. Brass Coast towns always have at least one parador, a communal social house of music, story-telling, drinking and dance. At the end of a hard day of work, the people of the Freeborn can often be found here discussing their latest ventures or telling extravagant and grand tales of their ancestors, friends and relatives.
As with most Freeborn businesses, a parador is traditionally owned by an extended family which may maintain more than one structure, or operate a “travelling parador” akin to a circus or fair. In addition to the services and entertainments they provide, the best paradors are places of trade. While a lot of formal business takes place at the bazaar, the parador is where merchants go to relax and it is often where the real business of complex trade takes place. The parador is where merchants can informally come to an agreement concerning more risky ventures, bulk deals and investment opportunities over chilled fruit and wine.
The Freeborn are not the strongest military in the Empire, but there is one area where their strength is uncontested – on the open seas. Each Freeborn tribe includes dozens of families who make their living as corsairs, sea-borne raiders who prey on barbarian shipping passing through the Bay of Catazar. The Freeborn detest piracy, but they regard privateering as a perfectly legitimate form of warfare, albeit a highly profitable one. Corsair groups are usually Freeborn families who own one or more seaworthy vessels. Corsairs are not just privateers, they commonly engage in foreign trade. A common saying suggests that the only difference between a privateer and a merchant is that the privateers get their goods cheaper.
In the early days of the Empire, the Freeborn often vied with the League to be the first to forge trade links with the foreign nations who are not hostile to the Empire - and the corsairs regularly acted as guards and escorts to Imperial merchant ships of all nations.