Inside the warehouse were all the goods and some of the crewmen sitting around. A theft was always a concern when wealth was concentrated like this. There were barred windows letting in some light, but that had to be supplemented with candlelight. Augustus knew what his current goal was, move as much of this stuff today as possible. Every day it sat here cost coin that would eat into the profits and would be at risk that a band of thieves would come and take it all. They found their way to the office at the back, with the crewmen standing to attention as Augustus walked past. The office was just an area partitioned off with walls that didn’t even reach the ceiling. It had a door that locked and inside were copies of the documents related to the goods. Inside was Yander, busy at work. He stood to attention at Augustus’ entrance.
“Good day, Master Augustus,” he said with a smile. “Glad you have finally returned. We have much to sort out.”
“Indeed, are the inspections of the ships completed?” asked Augustus.
“Yes. They bought back the ships.” Yander nodded.
The Castellian family allowed members of the family to invest in a specific expedition as long as they were personally attending the expedition. This would motivate the members of the family to travel the world and in turn increase their personal influence. The accounting for this was to have the ships be sold to a separate legal entity, that also had funds to pay employees and supplies, then the investor would purchase a piece of that legal entity. Once the ships returned they would be sold back to the Castellian family, usually at the same price they had sold it for. Of course, if the ships came back from an expedition in tatters the difference in price would end up eating into the profits as well.
“For the seventy gilden we paid for them?”
“Yes, of course. We had no damage on the ships.” Yander was surprised that question even needed to be asked, but Augustus let out a sigh of relief. He had seen that transaction as a source of worry. If Giovannus had asked the Castellian inspector to come up with some frivolous excuse to pay less for the boats, or even refuse to repurchase them, Augustus would have been in a tight spot. Though, that also would have been too obvious a move against Augustus, one that he could have brought up at the dinner in two days. If Giovannus’ influence over the family was tenuous he couldn’t be seen negatively interfering with the business or be seen as using his status to directly financially punish family members. After all, many family members used this avenue to boost their wealth, going on easy trips to established ports, and would feel threatened by any interference in that process.
When Augustus purchased his piece of the expedition, the expedition was priced at one-hundred-twenty gilden. Seventy for the two ships, and fifty to pay the crews and pay for supplies. Augustus purchased one-third of the expedition for forty gilden, leaving just enough of his wealth left over for the dowry and the dresses he gifted Marielle. It seemed like an obvious investment at the time as there were only two likely outcomes. The expedition was a success in which case he would make money, or the ships would have been lost at sea, in which case he was likely dead. Given that when he died he wouldn’t care about his lost investment, he decided he might as well go all in.
Unfortunately for Augustus, he was stuck in one of the unlikely scenarios he hadn’t anticipated. Now he was faced with a liquidity crisis, he needed the coin from the expedition to give him more options to battle Giovannus’ influence over the family. But to get that coin, everything needed to be settled. All goods sold and all employees paid. Only once all that was left in the legal entity was coins would it be divided up. However, the problem that some members of the crew were still on the island wasn’t an issue. He could just pay them on the ledger up to the day they left, from then on they would be back in the direct employ of the Castellian family.
“Then let’s begin selling the goods,” said Augustus. “Let's start with the pelts. Have you contacted anyone about that?”
“I’ve shown some samples to a couple of leather craftsmen. They are both interested. But each will only be able to buy a fraction of what we have. It’s strange but some of the bigger workshops have been too busy to talk. Maybe you would have better luck.”
“Are they willing to pay a premium? These are novel pelts.”
“No, I tried that but they weren’t interested in paying higher prices. Honestly, I agree with them, the pelts don’t look that special. We can try to raise the price if we can get more workshops interested, but that should be the priority.”
“Alright, and the gemstone ores?”
“I talked to some jewellers, they were willing to buy the ores, but it’s more profitable for us to pay them a fee to cut the stones, then sell the cut stones. We have enough in the fund to pay their fee without having to take out debt from the family.” To Yander it was obvious, raising the profit margin was the logical step to take, the delay in the final sale was inconsequential. But to Augustus, it was a real tradeoff that he weighed in his mind. In the end, he decided to go for more profit since likely the spice would take the longest to sell in any case.
“Good,” said Augustus “Have the gem cut and once they are done I will find a buyer. Finally, the most complicated matter, the kisum spice. Have you made any progress there?”
“I talked to some food merchants and so far they aren’t interested or are offering prices that are just plain insulting. So, no real progress.”
“Yes, it’s a product that’s so new we need to manufacture the demand for it, or we will never be paid what it’s worth.” Augustus sat down in the chair that Yander had been sitting in and began rubbing his own chin. “For now, sell a small amount of kisum directly to different eateries for whatever they will pay for it. No more than a small bag each. I will also take a small bag home to experiment with. Sell what you can of the pelts to whatever workshops will buy it, it’s alright if they won’t pay a premium but I don’t want you to give any discounts. Did the jewellers say how long it will take to cut the gems?”
“About five days.”
“Alright, then I’ll deal with that in five days. It will take me a day to distribute the kisum since I need to schedule an appointment with the port tax observer.”
“That’s no problem.” Augustus took out a piece of paper and started copying part of the ledger while using the abacus already on the desk to solve some computations. He calculated how much profit he would make in various scenarios with each scenario having a time frame. Depending on the gross profit he would then need to deduct a portion to be given as the bonuses he had already promised. Augustus knew he had to pay the bonus, and that when calculating the bonus pay that he should skew to the side of an overpayment. His reputation amongst the sailors was a valuable thing, even more so if he was planning to contest for the head of the family.
All the scenarios ended in a profit, it was just a matter of degrees. Scenario one was to sell everything as quickly as possible, the gems would sell for a bit less than they were worth, and the kisum would sell for next to nothing. There would be a modest profit. Subtracting the bonus pay he promised, he would just make approximately his investment back. Augustus thought it wasn’t ideal, but if he had actionable plans to use the coin on, he might end up having to go that route.
Scenario two was to sell the trade goods the proper way but speed up the sale of kisum. He would get what the gems were worth, but the kisum he estimated could sell anywhere from next to nothing to what the same weight in pepper would sell for. In this scenario it would be a tidy profit, the bonus pay would be substantial and he would be able to walk away with anywhere from fifty gilden with the kisum selling for next to nothing, to eighty gilden if the spice sold for a price similar to pepper. The timeline for that scenario was estimated at two weeks.
Scenario three was the moonshot. The pelts and gems would sell for the same as scenario two but the kisum would be a fashionable commodity. Augustus had seen and read of such things happening before. The elite of Venocia were all desperate for reputation and prestige. If he could orchestrate the spice being seen as a status symbol, with the temporary exclusivity he had over the product he would be able to charge outrageous sums. Augustus viewed it as an unlikely, but a possible, outcome. The estimated profits he would receive in this scenario were above one-hundred-twenty gilden with an unknown upper limit. This timeline he estimated at three months, it would take time to squeeze every last gilden he could out of the kisum.
Augustus folded the paper with all the calculations, timelines, and assumptions written on it and placed it in his bag. His assessment of how things fared with his family would determine which scenario he had to execute.
“Alright, I’m done here,” said Augustus as he stood up. “Continue the good work. I’ll be back in a few days. I trust in your autonomy in selling the pelts.”
“Thank you, Master Augustus,” said Yander as he bowed until Augustus and Heratio left the room. The two went back out onto the street and started walking back home.