Elydes - Chapter 34
As the sun was rising on Greenside, Kai soon learnt this day was different. From the moment he got his nose out of the door, he heard the excited conversations of the passerby that a merchant ship had docked this morning.
Even better, it wasn’t the usual brig that stopped once or twice a season, but a different vessel no one had seen before.
The whole town was buzzing with the news. For an out-of-the-way settlement like theirs, this event was a rare occasion to break the tedious routine. Doubly so when it was a mysterious new ship to grace their shores. Like a wrapped present full of potential and dreams.
Everyone wanted to see what strange treasures and exotic goods the merchants would have on sale. For some, it could be the chance of a lifetime to get their hands on rare products that never reached Greenside otherwise. For others, it was the possibility of selling their own goods to an outside party to get an extra payday. No one was willing to miss out. Even just to take a look at something new and interesting.
Naturally, the local merchants also wanted in on the fun—and the money. It didn’t happen every day that the whole town came to the market with their wallets full and ready to spend.
Before the sun had time to fully rise, Greenside had transformed. Stalls, tables and large colorful blankets had been promptly set up with all kinds of products and general shiny junk.
Some quick-witted individuals set up food stalls selling snacks and refreshments. In a town where everyone lived a few minutes walk from their house, it wasn’t a luxury people usually indulged in. Only during such a festive day would people opt not to waste time going home to cook their own meals.
With an untold universal agreement, Greenside decided to host the biggest event since the Festival of the Tides the year before.
Whether as curious customers or excited merchants, the whole town was present, Kai included. He wasn’t that excited by the merchant ship. He doubted any curiosities could beat what he saw back at the estate. Instead, this was the perfect opportunity to sell some of his potions.
Plenty of new faces walked down the streets, many none the wiser of the origin of his goods. Any dumb story would seem more believable in the general excitement of the day. Maybe he could add a little spice to his stories and pretend he came with the merchant ship.
“Okay, Mom. I’ll go take a look. See you around.” Before Alana had the chance to respond, he jumped into the sea of people crowding the streets and disappeared.
If he had to lie his way to a good price, he preferred to not have his mom beside him watching.
Adjusting the satchel at his side, Kai started to look around for the right targets. New faces, excited looks, possibly well-dressed with more money than common sense. Looking around, a surprising number of people satisfied the requirements.
He took a deep breath and reminded himself he was only a young apprentice sent by his master to sell his potions. The only difference was that said master wasn’t an hermit living in the jungle, but an old man who couldn’t be bothered to get off the ship. Much more believable story already.
Kai tried to find the right kind of smile.
Not too eager, but still confident in my goods. Thank the spirits for the Acting skill.
He would not be able to do this without that skill.
Even with many factors playing in his favor, it wasn’t easy to sell his creations. He also had the wrong potions for the day. Helping to heal wounds, cure fevers and infections, they were always in demand, but too modest for the mood of the day.
People were looking for entertainment, to escape their boring lives and be amazed by random trinkets the merchants brought. Not to be reminded of their daily life.
He was having better luck with his pesticide powder and sweet-dreams tea. But those were his cheaper products. He only made a copper mesar after selling half his stock.
He would probably have more success if he claimed his concoctions had extravagant effects like making you grow taller or improving luck. Those kinds of potions appealed to gullible individuals with more money than self-control. There were plenty that fit that bill today. People who couldn’t resist the temptation to believe they had found something wondrous. The deal of a lifetime.
Alas, he was not willing to go so far as to actually scam people for a couple of mesars. He had no problem lying with a straight face, but his goods did what he advertised. He was only convincing people to look out for their best interests.
Pushing away his disappointment, Kai continued looking for possible targets. He had to contend with other peddlers, who didn’t have a stall but didn’t want to miss the chance to make an extra mesar.
Patience and persistence. He reminded himself.
He discovered being a child had one particular advantage with one demographic: women, specifically those with a strong motherly instinct. Playing on the pity of an old dour master that would punish him if he didn’t manage to sell his creation he was making quite a killing.
“What are you doing here, kid? Are you trying to scam people?” The sudden comment ruined the sob story he was telling to a well-dressed middle-aged woman, who wore a double necklace of pearls.
Kai’s pitiful expression changed into a frown as he turned around ready to deal with another merchant, who didn’t like competition from a child. Instead, he came face to face with uncle Muoi.
“Uncle, it’s not nice to ruin someone else’s business.” Did he make such a bad impression the hunter thought he was scamming people? He did play a little with him, but it was all in honest fun. His fun.
Muoi eyed him like he just found a child with his hands in the cookie jar. Worst of all, his usual intimidating appearance was scaring away potential clients.
He didn’t even look apologetic, instead doubling down on the false accusations.
“Didn’t your mum tell you that lying to people is bad? Does Alana know you are scamming good people?”
“I’m not scamming people.” Kai defended himself.
Muoi shook his head disapprovingly. “I know for a fact you are not selling potions on behalf of an old master from the merchant ship.”
Okay, maybe he had a point there, but it was a misunderstanding. “Well, I didn’t say I wasn’t lying, only that I’m not scamming people. My goods are 100% authentic.”
“Where else would you find such incredible potions exactly?” He asked as if that fact was an undeniable proof.
“I brewed them myself. Why do you think I have Mana Sense at such a level? Do you think I trained it for fun?”
The hunter seemed at a loss for words. His brain trying to find a reason to justify his suspicion, “But—then— Why were you lying about where they came from?”
“Do you think people would buy them if I told them I made them myself?” Kai raised an eyebrow to emphasize his point.
“Didn’t you tell me you were an apprentice mage? Are you also an experienced apothecary now?”
“Actually, I’m an apprentice alchemist.” Not that he was likely to know the difference. “Do you want to listen to my whole life story or are you gonna admit you were wrong? Did your mother not tell you not to accuse people without evidence?”
Kai watched the much bigger man with a judging gaze, the same Muoi had used with him. His last sentence might have been a bit overkill, but he was so tired of people doubting him because he was a child. So. Damn. Tired.
It hadn’t been a problem at the estate, but now that he was back in Greenside each day he had to jump through hoops to make people take him seriously. He was fed up with it. Any random shady adult on the streets seemed to have more credibility than him.
“Just because I’m a child it doesn’t mean I don’t have a fucking brain or can’t do anything besides playing with the waves.”
He was huffing for breath. He had not realized how much he suppressed his growing annoyance every day.
Muoi watched his outburst in silence.
“Sorry.” He finally muttered.
“Forgiven. Now get out of my way. It’s hard enough trying to sell something without your stern muzzle making things worse.”
After this spectacle, he would have to go somewhere else, but Muoi seemed to have no intention of getting out of the way. He stood rooted on the spot with an unreadable expression on his face. As he was about to walk around the burly man, the hunter put a hand on his shoulders and held him in place.
Kai glared at him, but Muoi didn’t let him go.
“I’m sorry I accused you of scamming people.”
“Thanks. But I told you it’s already forgiven. I just need you to let go of me.” Kai tried to wiggle out of his iron grip without success.
Muoi cleared his throat. Kai took a deep breath and turned with an expectant gaze toward the big man. Waiting for him to say his piece.
“Have you tried selling to the foreign merchant at the docks?”
The snarky remark he had prepared died in his mouth. “No…” Kai was forced to admit.
“It might be a good idea to check them out then. If your potions do what you say, you’d make much more selling to them.”
“Maybe you’re right, but why should a proper merchant take the risk and trust my words? Wouldn’t they only be more suspicious?”
Muoi looked at him with a smirk, “Because proper merchants have ways to examine goods and find their true value. How else could they close any deal?”
Kai stared at his feet, thoughtful.
Okay, fine. I had not thought of that… if even I have an Inspect skill, any respectable merchant should have something better.
Muoi removed his hand from his shoulders. “Com’n, I’m going there too to sell a few things myself.”
The hunter started to walk as people parted before him. Kai followed behind, lost in his thoughts. Conflicted emotions in his heart.
After how I acted all the times I met him…
“Uncle…” Kai tried to say.
The hunter glanced behind his shoulder at him.
“I’m sorry I’ve been… so annoying to you… And thanks for the help.”
Muoi might have doubted him unjustly a couple of times, but he had overreacted and acted like a total brat.
The hunter didn’t stop walking, “No problem, kid. It’s always complicated being different.”
After that, they continued to walk in silence. Kai was lost in his head. People seemed to magically part before Muoi’s presence and Kai walked right behind. It didn’t take long before they reached the docks.
Kai could see the highest mast of a ship sprouting over the heads of people. Even the hunter’s presence couldn’t open a path through the dense cluster of humans. He stood on the tip of his toes, trying to take a better look at the infamous merchant ship.
Before he could react, two strong hands grabbed him at the sides and lifted him up over the heads of the crowd. The culprit was obvious.
“I’m sure one day you’ll grow up too, shorty,” Muoi said amused.
Was that his attempt at a joke?
Kai wanted to retort he was considered quite tall for his age, but chose to ignore the comment and focus on the view before him.
Anchored not far from the shore the mysterious ship slightly swayed in the waves in all its glory. According to the bold golden letters on the prow, it was called The Fortuna. And its owner must be lucky indeed. The vessel was quite the sight, from its silvery sails to the immaculate condition of the rich mahogany color of the hull. It wasn’t particularly big, but it was by far the most beautiful ship that ever stopped at their dock, Republic’s ships included.
Moving his gaze closer. He noticed the area closer to the dock now housed two large tents. Queues of more or less orderly people moving in and out of them under the watchful eyes of a group of foreign men and women. The crew of the Fortuna if he had to guess.
Some of them appeared to be from the archipelago, with dark wavy hair, tanned skin and green eyes. Others had lighter or darker skin tones with a great variety of hair colors and features.
Two people in particular took his attention, a man and a woman, siblings probably. They sported dark green hair. It didn’t look like a dye either. The sun highlighted too many subtle shades of green, not the uniform color of a cheap dye or even the couple gradients of a professional job.
Muoi put him down before he could get a better look. After asking around, they discovered one tent was for selling and the other for buying goods. They joined the shorter queue towards the first tent. Better to decide whether to buy something after they knew how much coin they had available.
Waiting in a queue under the sun, Kai observed the large bag the hunter was carrying. The contents weren’t hard to imagine, with a couple pelts and what looked like animal bones peeking out.
“You think they’ll be interested in buying?” Kai asked, more to kill time than actual interest.
Muoi shrugged, “Worth a try. I found a couple interesting things in the jungle.”
The jungle… Kai stopped for a second to think. It was so close and yet he had never ventured inside. Warned by the numerous stories of dangers. Maybe it wasn’t as deadly as they said.
“How is the Veeryd jungle? The inner parts I mean.”
Muoi seemed to consider the question for a moment, “It’s dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing.” He shook his head.” Each year there is some fool that pushes too deep without the right knowledge or levels. Most people are scared of the poisonous critters. But those are just a little annoyance compared to awakened beasts.”
It seemed Kai had made the right decision. The jungle sounded like a death trap to him. “If it’s so bad why do people go there?”
Muoi shrugged again, “Most go for the money. Meat sells well and the deeper reaches of the forest have a higher mana density. Plenty of valuable animals and materials there. As for me… I think I enjoy the challenge and I also find it beautiful.” He stopped talking, looking at him like he expected some particular reaction from him.
Kai stared back confused. They seemed perfectly valid reasons for him. “Maybe you could give me a tour one day. I only have to learn to brew an antivenom for all those critters first.”
The queue had considerably shortened. He couldn’t see inside the large tent, but he noticed most of the people who walked out looked dispirited, still carrying all their items. A smaller group were happy, clearly able to conclude some kind of deal. Finally, a few individuals had weird expressions. Was that relief? Fear? Maybe disgust? Kai couldn’t really tell from the distance. It was weird but he thought nothing of it, there could be so many possible reasons.
He would see for himself soon enough, better not ruin the surprise. He was excited to see what he would find inside. The flap of the tent was pulled aside for them and the guard made a gesture to go in.
Stepping in, the air wasn’t stuffy. It had a nice smell similar to—
Kai’s thoughts stopped the moment his eyes fell on one of the three individuals inside. One was a normal boring human being with green hair. The other two were not.
Standing behind a large wooden table, one sitting one standing, were two individuals covered in small blue-grayish scales. Two thin holes instead of a nose, a colorful crest on their head going down their neck into their luxurious clothes and what appeared like gills on their neck.
Kai stared dumbfounded.
“Here we go again…” The one who was sitting said with a surprisingly young and annoyed voice.