Friday Fiction: Of Merchant and Magic part 14

In Which Tycho Observes the Importance of Oaths Kept and Oaths Broken…

Chapter Fourteen: Donwah’s Son

 

Tycho found a slop bucket in one corner, but no cot or other furnishing. Time passed and he napped, prayed, and grew thirsty and hungry. His tongue felt fuzzy and dry. His stomach grumbled. The ache in his shoulder and arm made him flinch when he moved the arm too much. He could bend and move it, but extending it straight out in front of him brought tears to his eyes. How was he going to show the hides if he couldn’t reach forward?

Had the duke claimed his hides? Tycho froze, cold sweat breaking out all over, heart pounding again. Was it all a false accusation to claim his wares? The counts of Sinmartin had done that, two generations ago, falsely accusing traders of blasphemy and then claiming their goods. No. The duke did not seem like that kind of man. But looks deceived. Tycho closed his eyes, not that it made any difference in the darkness of the cell, and recounted his meeting with the duke and his sale. Nothing in the memory hinted that Duke Malnaan was that kind of man. But what if he’d been pledged to the Scavenger despite his high station of birth? Could that even happen? Why not? The gods claimed who they claimed, and Tycho had been born for Maarsdam but marked by Donwah, so who was he to say?

Tycho had no idea how much time passed before the door opened. He was light-headed with thirst and hunger when he heard footsteps, the door bar scraping, and keys. He got onto all fours, and managed to stagger to his feet, leaning on the wall for balance. He did not care to have the guards rip his shoulder out of its socket pulling him off the floor. The door opened and someone stormed in, carrying a torch. Two other soldiers followed, grabbed him, shackled his hands behind his back and half-dragged him out the door, never saying a word. They hauled Tycho back to the main room, then forced him to his knees in front of a veiled woman, Master Sabo, and a black-masked priest. Continue reading

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Friday Fiction: Of Merchant and Magic Part 13

Our hero lands in a wee bit of difficulty.

 Mage or Merchant?

 

Tycho felt a small pang as he pressed his seal into the weigh-seal on the first bundle of hides. The others saw the shimmer as the set-spell worked, confirming that he was Tycho Rhonarida and a true son of Rhonari, but there was no weigh-mage to affirm that the scales had not been tampered with. No notary-mage waited around the corner to test documents or to draw them up. No preservation-mage could spell-seal Tycho’s goods for their buyer if they were taken on the road. How were the mages’ families faring? Probably not well.

Strong men heaved the bundle off the scale and the next bundle onto it. Tycho had looked at the list of booths and had found his, not far from the weigh-house. However, it was only three down from where the food sellers began, and he foresaw trouble for his self-control if the wind came from that direction. He would allow himself one fried thing per six days. And those required coin payment. The meals at his inn had already been paid for, he reminded himself. Continue reading

Friday Fiction: Of Merchant and Magic Part 12

In Which our Hero Learns More About Coins and the Locals. And makes an enemy.

 Troubled Markets

 

Tycho stopped in the market to get something to eat and to watch and see how things were arranged. The next large market, not quite a fair, would begin in four days, and he wanted a feel of the place before he set to work. He bought toasted cheese on bread and stood in the shade of the weigh building to eat, then strolled between the tables, looking at the fruit and breads and some local weavings and wood-carvings. Nothing caught his eye, at least, not until the man he’d heard at the inn raised his voice.

“What do you mean four liamb to the frein? That’s good silver coin, not the debased garbage from the north.” Tycho was not the only man who drifted closer to the sound of an argument.

“His grace sets the rates in consultation with the smiths, sir, and it is four liamb to the frein.” The man, a fine cobbler by the looks of his wares, stuck his lower jaw out. “This quality leather is at least ten frein per hide if I can find one good enough, so the shoes cost in proportion.”

“Leather is leather, and shoes cost ten liamb when I buy them.”

Tycho got a better look at the man’s boots and decided that either he was lying or hides fell from the skies in Liambruu. He wagered on lying.

So did the cobbler. “Then show a payment page and speak to the priest of Yoorst and the market master if you believe these are too high. I charge cost plus a living, like any honest man.”

“How dare you claim honesty? May Maarsdam strike you for lying.”

The cobbler stood up, looked past the obnoxious noble, and pointed to Tycho. “You! Merchant! You are of Maarsdam, are you not?”

Tycho lifted his staff. “I am a merchant and follower of Maarsdam of Rhonari, yes.”

“What say Maarsdam’s priests about just price?” Continue reading

Friday Fiction: Of Merchant and Magic Part 11

Things start going downhill for Tycho, and for once this is good news. Other news is . . . possibly not so good.

Chapter 11: Claims and Coins

 

“I recognize it. The armor, not the other bits,” the town guard leader snorted. “Silman Rat-gut, or at least that’s what we called him. Son of someone in the duke’s court. Got himself disinherited and then declared out law at least once, did some bully work for the duke’s younger son before the son lost a race with a horn-tusker. He won’t be missed.”

That made Tycho feel much better. The grain merchants were also happy, because the priestess on duty at Gember’s temple had a scribe write out affirmations that most of what they carried was not leb-grain. “We don’t eat much wheat here,” she explained. “Some of our people came from the east, and they vowed not to eat wheat for some reason. Their children follow the same vow. We grow more barka and hairy oats.” She’d written out several pages for the traders.

The guard leader continued, “I’ll keep my ears open for anyone missing relatives. The only other one that sounds familiar might be Nobuk from the farm the other side of the big ponds, but a lot of men have dark hair, square faces, and bad teeth. Any scars or other marks on him?”

“Not that I noticed, and none of them were wearing fancy clothes. We left their boots with them.” Hardrad said.

“Thank you. I don’t want them haunting someone. Although they’d probably foul that up as badly as they fouled up the attack on you.” He did not sound impressed, and shook his head. “I could have done a better job with a group of temple novices of Moha the Blind.” Continue reading

Monday Excerpt

The first draft chapter of something a little different. No title yet.

“…You should be grateful that your grandmother has lived so long, girl! Very few households are blessed with four generations under one roof.” Priest Narlom glowered out from under his heavy eyebrows. “This is too small a gift of thanks. You shame your family and insult the gods.”

Leesan fought back tears and bent lower as she knelt. “Forgive me, honored sir. This is not in honor of father’s mother, but thanks for the fish catch this month. The feast for father’s mother has been postponed on the advice of the seeress.” She kept her eyes on the grass mat covering the floor of the village temple, trying to hide the hurt. “The birds and clouds told the seeress that we must wait a moon in order to do proper, unhurried honor to father’s mother.” That it moved the celebration to after rice harvest instead of during the harvest was pure fortunate chance.

“Oh. Even so, greater generosity to the gods would be prudent, given the blessings bestowed on your father’s household.” He sniffed. “A golden-side, for example.”

“Should the river spirit be so gracious as to send one into the net, it will be returned as thanks,” Leesan murmured, as she was supposed to do. But she did not promise.

“Then continue.”

Leesan kept her eyes down, listening to the little bells on Narlom’s sash and the fading slap of his steps as he left the women’s side of the great temple hall. He had no right to stop her offering ceremony, Leesam knew, but she dared not complain. He’d already warned her brother that another inappropriate offering might turn the gods completely away from Leesan and the rest of her family, since they lived as sojourners and on sufferance of the headman. That they’d been there for forty wet seasons, they paid their taxes and temple fees, and served the village did not matter. Once Narlom had truly left, Leesan glanced around. No one else had come in. Continue reading

Friday Fiction: Of Merchant and Magic, part 10

Over the River, Up a Hill. . .

The injured great-hauler did not die. The wound healed clean, and Tycho congratulated himself that he’d saved a few jars of the honey and sweet-leaf salve back for his own use. And he decided to buy more if it he could. Great-haulers got scratched up on a daily basis. As did their handlers. After much consideration he decided not to purchase another beast to replace the deceased bird. He still had two spare, and the others were healthy and rested. Still, just in case, he made a small donation to Yoorst’s temple before the caravan left.

The bridge at Moahnebrig fascinated him. As he walked beside his lead wagon, alert for any sign that the great-haulers might be about to bolt, he admired the stone work. The masons had alternated colors, grey, pale cream, and tan, making column-like stripes in the walls with a solid grey roadbed. The bridge was wider than some roads he’d travelled, wide enough for two wagons to pass without crowding, and still leave room for people on either side. He’d actually gone down to the water’s edge, near the washing flat, to look at the bridge from water level. Eight arches crossed the Moahne. Stains on the grey and brown stones showed how high the water could reach, and he decided that ice smashing into bridges was not a problem here like it was elsewhere. Who had built it?  And how much had it cost? More than the council of Rhonari wanted to spend on anything, that much he could guarantee. Stone walls on either side of the roadway rose as high as his shoulders. Even a great-hauler would have trouble escaping and plunging over the side, although he’d learned long ago never to underestimate the amount of chaos the birds could generate if they were determined to. Little holes at the base of the wall every few strides allowed water out, or so he guessed. Turning the city’s main source of income into a giant water trough was not good for business or for the safety of the bridge. Continue reading

Warm, Dark Music

Last Friday my mind was in an odd place, given that the liturgical season is well away from the nativity. Today is the Feast of the Assumption, or Dormition*, when according to tradition the Virgin Mary was assumed into heaven. Yes, she died, but, eh, it’s complicated. There are some doctrines of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches that even I hesitate to comment on because of the depths of my ignorance, despite having read a great deal about them. But anyway… Continue reading