Monday, September 17, 2012

Back to Market

The Prismal Caravan was making its round through the Old District. Though not nearly as large as most of the traveling markets, this one tended to have the most unique vendors. Many displayed their wares through modified cargo vehicles, with doors cut out of the sides that popped out into tables so the wares could be easily displayed. Other vendors hauled trailers from motorbikes, opening up small shelters and tables to look more like a store front. It was a deceptive sight: sleek, tank-like vehicles painted in various shades of grey, appearing as if armed for war, only to open up revealing a rainbow of merchandise inside.
Though small, this place was bustling with people, but the chance of discovering an Upworlder here was minimal. The populace here was considerably more relaxed, most likely due to the slim selection of weapon stalls available. But there were still the few of ill repute who brandished their arms without qualms, and one must not be careless in a false sense of security.
The caravan was  known for offering luxury items such as trinkets and textiles, but the occasional food stand followed them, offering sustenance to the hungry consumer. Nara made her way over to a sweet smelling truck, spicy fumes wafting into the air to draw people in. She eyed over the foodstuffs on display, items such as ropes of brilliantly colored, rock-like shapes hung like curtains over the window, and biscuits in a variety of shapes and colors stacked neatly into pyramids.
She brought her attention to the small fire grill, which was softly charring an orderly row of skewers, each containing four ivory colored orbs. She ordered something in Darktrade, then leaned on the counter to wait.
Garrett watched intently as the owner produced two rectangular trays, then plucked out four of the skewers with a set of tongs, delicately placing two in each tray. He drizzled a brown syrupy sauce from a bottle and passed it to her. He turned around and extracted two beers from the small fridge in the back. She paid and thanked him, then grabbed the bounty and made her way over to a standing table nearby.
Garrett sniffed curiously at the offering. He dipped a finger into the sauce; a strange pleasing combination of salty and sweet. He attempted to take a small bite from the orb, but it was surprisingly springy and would not yield to his attack. In order to keep it from dropping on the ground, he engulfed the entire sphere with a sickening slurp. The sweetness of the orb intensified the sauce, and complimented its flavor nicely.
He washed it down with the beverage, which tasted more like a carbonated herbal tea rather than a beer, but the alcoholic burn was ever present. He decided to save face, placing the skewer back on the tray, and make another attempt at conversation.
“So what's Sentinel's story? He seems to be rather hospitable for a mercenary boss.” He inquired.
“He's probably the one of the only who genuinely care about the fallen of the Undercity.” She replied.
“That a fact?”
“You ask any of the men working for him, he’s just like a father to them. Myself included.” Nara said and plucked another orb from her skewer.
“Oh really? What did he do for you?” He asked, making another attempt at consuming the delicious snack, this time prepared for the sticky.
“He was the one that took me in when I arrived on this moronic rock. Gave me a chance at a different life, without needing to learn something new.” She explained.
“Learning something new isn’t all that bad.” He said, popping another orb into his mouth, smiling delightfully at the noise.
“Not when the world around you is shattering and all you got left is your own bare hands.” She said, gulping down a swig of her beer.
“I guess I don’t see your point. Even if I lost everything, I would still have the capability to learn. And maybe I can work on getting it all back, or at least something else of equal value.” He poked at the other orbs with an empty skewer. Nara was smirking at him through her drink. “What?”
 “Words speak of integrity, but how we act after the fact is what really shows an individual's true character.” She commented.
“True enough.”
“Alright, let's see what other trouble we can get into.” She slammed her drink down on the table. Garrett grabbed his other skewer and followed Nara into the crowd, munching contentedly.
She made her way over to a stand displaying trinkets and glittering jewels. One small idol caught Garrett's attention: a golden figurine of a young man sitting on a throne, brandishing a spear, two hounds curled up at its feet.
“Huh, that's a Sinoan piece,” Nara said. Garrett raised an eyebrow at her.
“Yes, a Fifth Era relic in fact.” He added.
“No, you'll find that a Third Era,” The shop keeper piped up at the interested customers.
“What? How do you figure?” He questioned the man.
“Look at the coloration, it's inked, not enameling. And it is clearly a depiction of the god Auselros, patron of the hunt.” He pointed out. Garrett furrowed his eyebrows at the keeper, taking no notice of Nara, who was scrutinizing the piece for herself.  “Also take a look at the inscriptions, it’s missing the RE and UT runes that were used later.”
“They have found evidence of RE  and UT used all the way back since the First Era. The new dig sites off on Myrmith have found common books using the inscriptions. That has no relevance of age. But this is obviously a piece made by an independent artisan.” Garrett argued, letting his annoyance slip in his voice.
“Hah.” The shopkeep laughed boisterously at him. “Auselros lost his influence at the end of the Fourth Era when his temple was destroyed by Haalmat invaders.”
“Which certainly points to a small artisan, probably created for an underground cult that was still worshipping him years after the temple’s destruction.” Garrett was furious now, he spent far too much time researching Sinoan civilization to be outsmarted by the pompous vendor.
“You’re both wrong,” Nara suddenly interrupted. The two men stared at her in silence. “It’s a replication. There’s a maker’s mark from an old Tevernan factory. It’s small, but present. The ink is a uniform shade, implying created through machines. Still old though, probably a couple millennia.”
“Huh?”  The combatants replied synchronously, blinking at her. Nara pointed out a tiny symbol on the bottom of the figurine for them to analyze.
“It’s right here. And it’s not a statue of Auselros, his spear was barbed and was never shown seated in art. This is a king from the Fourth Era, Gemnal of the Earth. He was known for his hunting prowess, so the misperception is easily made.” She added, delicately placing the idol back on the table. Garrett stared at her in disbelief while the innkeeper looked at the statue frustrated, muttering something about paying with his teeth for it.
“How did you…?” Garrett started. She shrugged at him, not particularly interested in his conclusions. How does a mercenary like her know about ancient civilizations, Garrett thought, much less be able to distinguish fine details in art from different time periods.
“Are you taking it with you or not?” She asked impatiently.
“Telvernan replicas are a niche market.” He said with disappointment. They walked away, leaving a slightly disgruntled shopkeeper behind.

***the most recent excerpt from my novel, freshly polished.****
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