"William E. Emba"|
The story is set in a no-name kingdom, seemingly medieval but with
certain modernisms. The cambist of the title is a minor worker, whose
daily routine is interrupted by Lord Iron, who has come to play a cruel
prank on him, as he was known to do. Lord Iron demands that the cambist
make an exchange for him, presenting him with the most obscure currency
possible. The cambist daringly, almost impossibly, succeeds, and as he
explains his reasoning, rather surprisingly earns Lord Iron's respect.
Later, Lord Iron comes up with a more demanding and seemingly impossible
exchange request, one with consequences. The cambist again succeeds, and
again his reasoning, despite its counterintuitiveness, carries the day.
And then comes one more request.
The mathematical content is limited to the explanations of the chain of
equalities that led the cambist to his conclusions. Curiously, this is
actually the most interesting part of the story!
It was published in the unusual anthology
Logorrhea (online here), a collection of stories, each one
keyed to a winning word from the annual National Spelling Bee. Abraham's
story was based on "cambist", the 1977 winning word. (A cambist is a
banker, especially one who specializes in currency exchange.)