There are many stories told to children as they grow. Many are warnings against folly and vice, others are directions for how to tie your shoes.
The ones that stick with you the most, are the ones that you apply regularly.
Being known throughout the village as an honest man holds its privileges that few could claim, but Asho Kinti was one of those men. His trades were always fair, all parties walked away satisfied, and none could bear witness to a falsehood falling from his tongue.
Far and wide, people would come to him, asking for mediation of large trades. For, if Asho Kinti took part, there was no question as to the veracity of the deal. A small pittance of a fee, a fraction of what others would charge for the same service.
One day; full of coin flowing, wagons coming and going, and trade growing; Asho Kinti was closing his doors, the busy day having brought on exhaustion. The long shadows were the first thing he saw.
Squinting into the afternoon light, his wave was greeted with a splat of spittle on the stone.
A matron led the troupe, and her features spoke of ill will. Near noon, she’d sold a litter of pigs, three gold coin is what she was owed. One she held, the others two bounced off his chest, he scrambled to catch them. Asho Kinti was accused of cheating the old woman, painting two copper pieces with gold.
While he was willing and able to reimburse the woman, citing a mere oversight on his part with the exchange of coins flowing through his pockets that day. His words fell on deaf ears, and he barely made it home with all his blood.
Being known throughout the village as a conman holds its privileges that few could claim, but Asho Kinti was one of those men.
My first question growing up was always, did Asho Kinti tell the truth, did the matron? And the reply was, without fail, that it doesn’t matter; that it was a story to show the difficulty of building trust, and the ease in which it can be destroyed. Every deal, every transaction, every contract, and every word must be carefully weighed and measured; for you are only as honest as your reputation.
To this day I vividly remember every detail of the first time I heard that story, it left such a permanent mark on my essence. For an ancient trader, this was true, his very livelihood depended on his reputation.
But, for us - modern travellers of the stars, near immortals, infomorphs, and pilots - I would posit that our reputations are more important now than ever before. Our actions no longer get immortalized in story to be a lesson for others. No, our actions stay with us for the rest of our very long existence. One false step stains you, with enough you’ll belong in a modern Sinq Laison art gallery.
Though, there is one more lesson to be learned in this story. Perhaps the most important one: never blindly trust an honest man.