Bad Muse, Not Again!

I should know better than to read academic papers and monographs. They send the Muse into overdrive, ginning up new story ideas, in this case a fantasy novel I suspect, based on medieval trade.

Magic sparkled around the seal as he pressed it into the quick-hardening clay disc affixed to the bale of hides, or would have if he could see magic. Tycho waited four heart beats, then lifted his seal. The impression had taken and the cluster of watching men all relaxed. A merchant’s first seal in a new market always attracted attention. The weigh-mage gestured his confirmation, as did the market-master, who entered his approval in the great market book. Tycho had already stamped the book, using the blue-green ink of the Free City of Rhonari to confirm his place of origin and trade-confraternity. Had the seal not taken, well, another mark would have been made, closing the gates to him forever. Tycho stepped back from the weigh scales, allowing the apprentices to take the bundle of un-cut hides off the platform and carry them through the enormous doors of the great warehouse.

“Welcome, Master Tycho Rhonarida,” the market master announced, his oddly high-pitched voice cutting through conversations and arguments in the square before the central warehouse. “May your spirits smile on your doings.”

“And may yours prosper and protect you and your—” he caught himself before he said proud, “your fair city. May her walls be strong and her denizens be stronger.” He braced, not staggering as the weigh-mage slapped him on the back with a hand the size of a great-hauler’s hind-foot. The men muttered and grunted their approval. He was a foreigner, but a man of men. That counted for much these days.

“So, what brought you besides hides, Master Tycho?” The stiff black and brown feathers fringing the man’s dark cap skull-cap marked him as a weaver.

“Hides with fleeces yet, hides tanned and scraped, hides tanned and un-scraped, and three Paolu-stone of furs from Griklant consigned for one Master Yehlu that I carry for Ulfrim of Quint’s widow, the order placed before Master Ulfrim’s death.” They all made spirit signs, warding off any ill from the death.

“Good.” The weaver clicked his teeth on the last word, cutting the conversation as he turned to the journeyman waiting behind him. Tycho caught the meaning and moved farther away from the scales, opening them for the next merchant. Until weighed and confirmed on the mage-watched scales, nothing could be sold within the walls of the city. This all knew, or should know, but the list of banned traders painted on the warehouse wall served as a pointed reminder. One of the great-haulers pulling his wagon tossed her head, making her brilliant crest-feathers flutter. The market-master nodded and wiggled his fingers, the signal that the weigh and approval had ended and all should return to their business. Tycho touched four fingertips to his forehead as he bowed, honoring the market-master and the market.

The instant the watchers dispersed, he strode to the wagon, pointing to the waiting men and boys. “You have seen the weigh.”

“Aye, we have seen.” The biggest man grunted, reaching into the sturdy wagon and dragging the first bale of hides out of the back. The rest of the travel group had already unloaded, being known to the market, and without distractions or competition, the haulers emptied the wagon with skilled speed, carrying the bales into the dark maw of the warehouse as Tycho counted. When the last bale passed through the doorway, he followed, hesitating at the entry as if he felt the protective spells that kept out fire and vermin. The warding-mage on duty nodded, allowing him to enter now that he’d acknowledged the spell-screen.

(C) 2017 Alma T. C. Boykin All Rights Reserved

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6 thoughts on “Bad Muse, Not Again!

    • No, this is pure medieval to very, very early Renaissance, with a magic system that works in a different way. It is what happens when I read two collections of monographs on trade networks and the social history of North Sea merchants in the Hanse.

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