It took three platinum coins, but that price also got us off the barge ahead of Imperial Brass cargo inspectors. It involved a leap from the connecting joint just before reaching the docks, and was nearly worth the price, to watch Grellk’s smirk fade after his off-color remark about Sera and I getting entangled in the collar-and-lead. The strange connection the device forged made the jump easier. Sera’s sense of space and timing is much better than my own. The briefest of nudges of woven Thought helped a bit, as well.
The bustle at the Kor-Karrest docks made Sar-Gaar’s bazaar look like a half-vacant holiday’s marketplace. Dockside sprawled along several miles’ arc of platforms and barge track interweaving along the periphery of what Grellk called the city’s rim.
“Probably covers half the Rim,” he said. “Different sectors pipe to different parts of the city. Oh, the Ministry of Trade takes the Empire’s share, and woods and weapons have to go through tighter securities than the grain and unrefined ore.” He grinned.
“I think I’m going to be picking wheat out of—“ Ana’s elbow in the ribs stopped Gilliam from finishing his statement.
Grellk’s mercenaries closed ranks around us, and we trooped through the crowded lanes between stall after stall. I soon lost track of how many rights and lefts we took. When the crowds grew too thick, the dwarf ushered the twins to his side. Our passage went somewhat easier then, leaving a trail of mutters and whispers, too many to untangle and make sense of.
He led us to a stall at the end of a nearly-unoccupied side street, and I noticed both Varis and Gilliam’s hands edge towards the pommels of their swords. Demarra’s hand did not stray far from her right leg, where I knew she wore at least one dagger within easy reach through a slit in her skirts. A tingle of fear shivered across the bracelet, quickly subsumed by the familiar warm prickling as Sera clutched at threads of Spheric power.
Grellk waved a dismissive hand, which he then closed into a fist and banged against the stall’s counter.
“Tamac! Drag your carcass out here and drag your carcasses out here. Or I can take your business to Divos.”
A white-haired head poked from behind a flap at the back of the stall. Perhaps a shade taller than Silva or Aurora, with a nose that looked more like a small apple than a nose. Dark eyes squinted above that nose, blinking behind small rounded lenses held in place by twisted wires. An equally wiry beard bristled from an otherwise rather weak chin. The head was joined by the rest of the merchant, as he tromped up to the counter, nails in his boots clacking on the paving stones. He shook a black-grimed finger at Grellk’s nose.
“Divos! That quarter-blooded scab’s wares will leave you half exposed after a day!” he blustered. “A copper’s price gets you what you paid, I always say. I— Oh…” The squat figure retracted his hand, patting about a large pouch-laden belt until he came up with a rag, with which he wiped at his fingers, which I think actually put more grime on than it took off. He adjusted the lenses perched on his large nose.
The dwarf snorted. “Won’t be naming them, but your clients need a half dozen of your finest.” He leaned closer. “Not the scrap you tried to sell me that first time.”
Tamac’s large nose lifted, even as his somewhat-hunched back straightened. “I can do numbers, dwarf. Six cloaks when you guard eight?” He lifted a hinged portion of the counter, and bowed, gesturing for us to enter. “Please, good Masters, if you would step back here, I will see to your fittings personally.”