During the exodus the people find themselves in need of goods. Ekarna shows them that the benefits of trade go beyond the immediate.
When we left the Golden City we found ourselves in need of items we had once taken for granted.
"We are running out of swords," said Elmal.
"With no gold plaques to adorn our belts, nobles have lost their pride," said Relandar.
"Without pots, how will we carry our grain?" asked Pela.
Ekarna, known as a member of Nyalda's retinue, revealed herself to them in a new form. She showed them the rune of trade wand would now demonstrate its purpose.
For her first trade expedition she took seven sword nobles, one from each of the clan's families. She led them to the camp of the Goose People. They feared her at first but she showed them her brow and up stepped one of their nobles, who had the same rune on his brow. Perceiving each other as friends, they exchanged goods. We received feathers to thicken our jackets when the Cold Sun neared. They received bells to frighten foxes.
Warmed by the feathers, our herders found winter fodder for Gamari, who gave Ekarna seven skins of kumis.
Next Ekarna took Hyalor and seven archers. She led them to the stead of Aradanth the Bold. Although both were Rams, he often fought our enemy Thengist, who raided us and tried to take us as slaves. Aradanth accepted the kumis and in exchange he gave us brooches of protection we could use against Thengist.
On the way back Thengist stormed at us and our archers tested the brooches. They tipped the balance away from the enemy Rams, forcing their retreat. Ekarna memorized the feats of the archers. Back home, she encouraged Relandar to weave this into the story tent, so all could remember it.
On her third expedition, she asked Osara to lead her escort, accompanied by seven fighting noblewomen. They took the story of the fight against Thengist south to the Ghost City. The restless dead of that place hated Rams and delighted in the tale. So they gave us bone shards of the dead god Umath. These could be fashioned into bits, bridles, and blades.
During Ekarna's return journey, Thengist appeared yet again, this time with the cat god Yinkin at his side. Osara and Yinkin squared off. Shades of the Ghost city came out to fight for Ekarna, whose story so pleased them. They devoured the souls of the fleeing Rams.
Finally came Ekarna's fourth expedition. This time she took Elmal and Hyalor and Osara, and a retinue of twenty-one nobles. For she had determined to enter the encampment of Samnal the Thief, chieftain of the Wheels, who had made their chariots for them and had always hated Riders.
Ekarna offered Samnal thick blankets and brooches of protection and got bones. More importantly, she offered the opportunity to treat each other as cousins and not as certain foes.
Samnal said no. Ekarna was a woman and could not be trusted with serious business.
Elmal, who was Samnal's father, said that he had accepted Ekarna's elevation. Samnal frowned. "You are too generous, father. You should not let Riders sully you with their crooked worship."
Osara offered to break her brother Samnal's arms for him, to show who would wind up crooked. Ekarna saw that this would lead nowhere. She pulled her fiery friend away and spoke calming words she had learned from the Cow Mother. Sometimes, she saw, business proved easier to conduct with strangers than within a feuding family. So she withdrew.
Jealous Samnal said that he would never let a woman speak for him, but he saw the value of her ways. So he sent his son Rogoros out to barter for the Trade Rune. He gave away the Fire Rune to get it. But Wheel arrogance still burned in Rogoros' heart and he offended all he approached. When Rogoros went to the Goose People, all they gave him were greasy gray droppings. When he went to Aradanth he broke hospitality, so the Ram captured his retinue and sold them to Thengist. And when Rogoros went to the Ghost City, they gave him only shrieks.
The Goose Folk and Aradanthi and even the ghosts came to Ekarna to trade some more, to drink, and to swap secret stories. Elmal got his blades, Pela her pots, and Relandar his plaques of gold. Those united by trade allied against the charioteers.
When they had gone, Ekarna smiled. Sometimes trade brought you a physical sword you could hold in your hand. And sometimes it brought you swords of another sort.