The largest aquatic animal in the Inner Sea, on the coast of which Kair Toren was located, hadn’t been determined because the ocean was deep and liked to keep its secrets. However, this was a world of monsters, and one day, decades ago, one of those monsters died and washed ashore during a terrible storm at the poor section of the docks. It was too large and too heavy to move, so the city took it apart where it fell. The fishmongers carved off its flesh and harvested everything they could use: the scales, the spines, and the innards. The Chamber of Kingdom Works claimed the head and carted it off to be displayed at Eagles Roost. The Mage Tower sent its mages to chop off the monster’s tail, which was delivered to the Tower for research and in use for protective talismans. When Kair Toren was done, only the creature’s ribs and spine remained.
Over the years, sun, wind, and rain stripped and bleached the bones. Eventually, a market sprouted inside of the rib cage. Sail canvas was strung a top the bones, rugs were brought in for the vendors to sell their wares, and the Ribs Bazar was born.
The Ribcage Pavilion became Kair Toren’s version of a tourist trap and for a good reason. I was looking at it now, and it was at least two hundred and thirty feet long and thirty feet tall.
I walked into the front entrance of the pavilion, where the giant vertebra sticking out above my head hinted at the remnants of a neck. Rows of vendors sat on rugs along the walls, offering baubles, cheap jewelry, talismans, phony remedies, shells, scrimshaw, weird sea creatures encased in glass and resin, and other useless oddities. In other words, junk.
I walked between the rows, Reynald following me. Once I told him where we were going, he’d put on his cloak and his hood-n-half, and now he looked particularly menacing.
The air smelled of pungent incense, a poor attempt to cover up the stench from the nearby fishing dock. The vendors eyed me, trying to gage my suitability as a potential mark.
There she was, midway on the left, a stout older woman wrapped in a shawl, with harsh features and graying blonde hair. Unlike most of the vendors, who sat on rugs, she had a display table and a chair. I stopped before the table, filled with sea glass jewelry.
She squinted at me. “You look better than the last time I saw you.”
I made a show of examining the jewelry. Most of it was leather cord bracelets and necklaces with wooden beads and a chunk of sea glass in the center. The sea glass ranged from bright red to pale turquoise. There was a certain etiquette when it came to this kind of transaction. I picked up a bracelet with a chunk of green glass, draped it on my wrist, and tilted my arm, letting it catch the light.
Darotha watched me, amused.
Probably double what it was worth.
I nodded to Reynald, and he put a silver noma on the table. Before you talked to someone like Darotha, you paid an entrance fee. This was the proper way to do it, and I was very generous.
Darotha reached out, almost lazily, and took the coin off the table. A minor vendor would have snatched it so fast, I wouldn’t even see it. It would have just vanished. This was Darotha demonstrating her clout. She didn’t have to grab the money. Nobody would try and take it from her.
“What can I do for you?” She asked.
“I’m looking for a beggar woman,” I said quietly.
“There are lots of beggar women in the city.”
“This one is worth ten nomas,” I said.
Darotha’s eyes shone. She looked like a shark coming for you through shadowy water. “That narrows it down a bit.”
Even for Darotha, who had her crooked fingers in many underworld pies, ten nomas was significant money.
“She is about my age, average height, bright red hair. She keeps to herself, doesn’t really beg, but mutters under her breath. Other beggars leave her alone, because her mumbling is disturbing, and if they try to touch her, painful magic stings them. I need her alive and uninjured. There is no need to apprehend her, I just need to know where she is.”
“The city is large and the beggars are many,” Darotha said. “It may take some time. I will send one of my kids to your new place when we know something.”
PS Mod R: And that’s not all!
It’s Double-Treat Thursday today because I have an exclusive sample of the Graphic Audio adaptation of Magic Strikes , which will be released on August 23rd. Step into the arena of the Midnight games!
Happy snippeting and listening!