The Ai-Naidari Guidebook: Money and Other Forms of Exchange

The Ai-Naidari Guidebook
Part 6

FORMS OF EXCHANGE
      You will not be required to handle money while in Kherishdar. More accurately, I should say, you won’t be issued money. If you like something and show your appreciation, someone might make a gift of it to you, but aunera are not allowed to buy things. (This makes the colony world with its joint presence a bit of a mysterious transaction to both parties: the humans want to trade things. The Ai-Naidar find that bizarre.)
      Nevertheless. Exchanging money or sasrith is a way of saying that both parties have something the other wants, and that it is natural to exchange those things for value received. Since aunera technically aren’t people, they don’t use money, any more than an animal would.
      Having said that, you will see money and sasrith occasionally, so I’d like to take a moment to talk about them.

      Sasrith are tokens representing favors. There are social rules about when you use sasrith versus when you use money, and it’s more complicated than “Merchants get money, everyone else gets sasrith.” I don’t have all the nuance, save that they seem to be exchanged as a more personal form of interaction, perhaps because they imply at least one more encounter.
      Interestingly, sasrith are an arena with a great deal of individuality. I would have thought that a culture like Kherishdar would standardize something like this, but while there are some guidelines for what sasrith look like, what they’re made of, how many you can give out and how big the favor they represent, they’re just that: guidelines. Sasrith can be very individual in presentation.
      Here are the general guidelines, then:

      All sasrith are pierced for a ribbon, string or cord. What you string it with is up to the Ai-Naidari, but they are carried by the string and it confuses people not to have one. Ai-Naidar don’t have coin-purses for loose items like that.
      Personal sasrith for Ai-Naidar beneath the Wall of Birth tend to be round. These are the tokens an Ai-Naidari gives out to represent a favor done by him or herself personally: “I will make you dinner.” “I will introduce you to my social group at my next lecture.” “I will help you organize your deceased mother’s belongings.” These are the most common form of sasrith exchanged by those beneath the Wall of Birth.
      Family sasrith for Ai-Naidar beneath the Wall of Birth tend to be squares. These are tokens representing the effort of an entire family. “My family will host a party for you.” “My family will watch your business while you’re on vacation.” “My family will help you harvest your fields.” Such family sasrith are only awarded by Ai-Naidar with the authority to direct the labor of all the individuals in the family (or by an Ai-Naidari who’s requested it of his or her family and received permission).
      House sasrith for Ai-Naidar above the Wall of Birth tend to be rectangles. These are tokens representing the gratitude of a Noble or Regal House and are a great honor to receive. They represent a favor extended to the recipient from one or more of the Ai-Naidar in the House. Note that this means all the people beneath the Wall of Birth working for them… so, say, if there is a noted Public Servant jeweler whose allegiance is to a Regal Household, they may be called upon to fulfill a sasrith awarded by the lord or lady of that House. House tokens can be award by any of the principals of the Household. These are the most common form of sasrith to receive from those above the Wall of Birth.
      Rarer then are the personal tokens from those above the Wall of Birth, which represent a personal favor by that Noble or Regal in particular. Sasrith gifting tends to reflect the value of the person’s time: the time of someone beneath the Wall of Birth is cheap, but the time and work of their entire family is not; but the time a Noble or Regal would spend to delegate the work of their House to the fulfillment of a favor is cheaper than their personal time, which is very limited. So few personal tokens show up from those above the Wall of Birth. These tend to be either oval in shape, or round tokens hung below the rectangular House token.
      You are required to what you are asked for when someone decides to “cash in” their sasrith, even if it’s something you don’t really want to give, or it’s out of proportion to the thing that inspired you to give it. But it’s considered gauche to ask for something wildly outrageous, also… unless you really need it, and then it’s considered an honor to be asked. The social rules here are complex, and I haven’t been allowed to look in the Caste books for instructions on them. I bet there are instructions on them.
      When an Ai-Naidari receives the favor promised by a sasrithi, they give the token back.

      Many Ai-Naidar make their own sasrith. Painted or gilded wood is common, as are clay and bone. I have seen a few stone sasrith, but not many. Among some castes, metal is more usual. Tokens can be embellished with scrollwork, embossing, tiny carvings, etc. They always have a name or House sigil on them, though.
      As mentioned before, they can be strung with everything from twine to satin cord. Strands are usually long enough to make a loop for a wrist (rarely any longer).

     Sasrith represent a significant economic exchange within Kherishdar, and it is almost entirely self-regulated. It is almost unheard of for the Nobles and Regals in charge of a district to cap the use of sasrith. Every Ai-Naidari is duty-bound to attend to the work they owe their district and their lieges first… but so long as they do so, they are free to spend as much of their time as they want on whatever else pleases them, whether that’s favor-trading, making extra money, or socializing. Most families beneath the Wall of Birth will limit the number of family tokens they’ll give out, and Houses above the Wall of Birth, similarly, will be cautious of over-gifting the services of their constituents. But as long as no one’s shirking or abusing the system, Ai-Naidar are free to trade favors as much as they want. Some will do a great deal of it, and prefer it to the use of money; others will give favors rarely. In general, it’s more common beneath the Wall of Birth than above it, and in some castes more than others. Guardians rarely give sasrith, for instance, as their duties give them little free time.

      Some of you might notice that temple tokens look a lot like sasrith. That’s because the temple tokens came first: the custom originally involved giving labor and favors to the gods, and spread to the populace for general use. Ai-Naidar still use sasrith for temple tokens, though priests rarely cash them. Temple tokens are usually considered “blanks,” more symbolic than literal favors, but it’s not unheard of for a priest to use one of them to enlist the aid of someone on behalf of someone else.
      I’ve asked what temples do with their tokens. I know Saresh’s priests sometimes hang them all in an antechamber. I can’t help but wonder if there’s some chest somewhere filled with millions of tokens dating from the beginning of civilization.

***

Next up, money!


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