The press of market-goers was soon too much to make the Veiling worthwhile. Drawing up the hoods of our cloaks made our group as inconspicuous and anonymous as any other. We would have made much better time past the various stalls and booths, had not Silva or Gilliam stopped at every third or fourth to look over the offerings.
Ana kept close to Demarra. “The last thing we need is trouble if one of these merchants should find something gone missing.”
Far from being offended at the young cleric’s warning, the Darra laughed. “Mine are not the fingers you need to worry about,” she said, her eyes going from the cleric’s to regard a steadily growing volume of voices ahead of us.
“Heaven of Stone,” Varis sighed, “what trouble are they up to now?”
“If you’re not going to buy, then move along!” The dwarf’s voice rasped, like a shale rockslide. His hair and beard were that dark color, eyes such a dark brown to be nearly black.
“I will not ask you again,” Aurora said, her voice low, her eyes gleaming points of molten gold in the depths of her hood.
“And I told you, missy, that if these are too rich for you, then move along down the lane.”
“Your pardon,” Gilliam said, stepping up behind the shrike, and laying a hand on her shoulder. His knuckles went white. “Come along, little sister.”
The conversation was held in a mishmash of an older dialect of the Thyatian Common, the one used almost exclusively now by Darokin merchants, and an archaic dwarven, close to that spoken by the captors that brought us beneath the mountains.
“What is it that makes yours command such a price?” Demarra asked, appearing silently at my side, over Aurora’s other shoulder. She brushed a large belt pouch at her hip as she reached out to run a finger over the glass top of the display.The clank of coins within was obviously intentional, but it drew the dwarf’s attention nonetheless.
Beneath the clouded pane, I could see jagged-edged fragments of stone. I leaned closer. Not just clumps of rock… some of those edges and spurs were regular. Crystalline, faceted. Not just dark stone.
Black, with veins of purplish light gleaming in their depths.
The dwarf cleared his throat. “Well, look at them. A good thrice-again the size of any of the others’ here.” He waved a hand vaguely up and down the lane. “Go on and look, you’ll see.”
“You sell by weight, then?” Demarra asked.
The dwarf’s chuckle sounded a bit like an earthquake. “Only Kagyar can weigh a soul, missy. And only he can place a price on those we lost harvesting these beauties. Got to make sure the clan is compensated. And pay to replace ‘em.
“Any gob-wit with a sack and a chisel can scrape them off of the fields. But if you want quality stones, like these… you have to harvest them from further in. That takes tools. Guides. And they cost, to better the pay of the Brass’ Surveyor’s guild. And of course, security.”
Behind the dwarf, in the shadow of the brazier’s light, came a jangle of chain and rattle of plate. Two figures, even taller than Varis, shifted their weight. Their arms were crossed across broad chests, but I had very little doubt that they could have hands on weapons in the time it would take to blink.