The Chronicles of 'Team B' - Chapter 14 - Money Always Comes First
"But money comes first!" - Mechnikov the FitterYuri's barrel is unloaded on a sandy embankment, underneath a steep bluff. As the top of the barrel is removed, he sees daylight beneath an overcast sky, and one of Berke's henchmen. "The village is that way," he says, pointing to the right. "If you want the other barrel, you bring the money to this spot. If you bring the money in the morning, we will deliver the barrel in the afternoon. Money in the afternoon - barrel in the evening. Money in the evening - barrel at night. Money at night - barrel in the morning of the following day. But the money always comes first!" However, Yuri manages to convince the man that he will light a fire on this spot once he is ready with the money, so the handoff can be made simultaneously. Yuri walks along the riverbank, and soon finds himself by the village fence. He attempts, unsuccessfully, to climb over it, and after falling on his behind after the second attempt, decides to try the normal way - through the gate. Just inside, he again encounters the fisher children, who are rude as ever. They do agree to conduct him to Erken, but only after he distributes a handful of coins among them. One throws a piece of dirt or a small rock at him after he turns his back. He meets Erken on his way home from prayer, and is met coldly, with questions about how long he plans to stay (three to four days, he responds), and how many more companions are likely to arrive. However, as Zinovii has already been accommodated, Yuri is taken to him without objection. The boyar is in worse shape compared to the last time Yuri saw him as a result of his ride through the rain the previous day. However, he quickly informs Yuri as to his plans. Anatoly has been sent out to hunt, ostensibly, but really, he is keeping an eye on any comings and goings just outside Shatkal, to make sure that the locals are not sending any informants back to the vizier. More importantly, Zinovii wants to arrange for transportation to the opposite bank as soon as possible. He is particularly concerned about how to move the horses, as they will not fit inside the villagers' small fishing crafts. He recommends that Yuri raise the question of building a raft with them, but in such a way as not to let on what they actually want until the very end. Yuri suggests telling them they would like to have someone make them a cart, so Zinovii sends him out to find someone who is willing to do it. From Erken, Yuri learns that his nephew Ermek is a good carpenter, and he commissions a cart from him (with Zinovii's money). In the meantime, he is willing to help the villagers with any work that needs to be done, free of charge. Erken tells him that the palisade fence around Shatkal needs to be repaired, so that wild animals cannot sneak in. Once he is done with that, he can start tarring some of the older boats, to keep them from leaking. Yuri goes to work, and despite the incessant pestering of the children, completes half the work on the fence in one day.
* * *Alden and Lokan rise early following their evening of celebration, and feeling refreshed after a good night's rest. Yaakov is still asleep after more celebration than he is used to, and the two head out of the hostel without him - they still do not fully trust him, and they have many errands to run before leaving town. First, they return to the monastery. Hegumen Yaakov is surprised, and not pleased to see them, thinking that they already left. Lokan apologizes, and says that they are indeed leaving, and are only here to look for Agapia. The hegumen responds that he has not seen her for two days, and thought she was with these two. Alden attempts to force his way past the hegumen to look around, but the monk authoritatively commands him to go in the name of God, and Alden finds himself walking away down the street. Lokan catches up to him, to make sure he does not return. On their way away from the monastery, they get the sense that a beggar is watching and following them. Alden gets it into his head that he would like to acquire a blade that is capable of entrapping and containing an evil spirit, so he heads off to the nearby street market to find a smith. There is an itinerant smith there, taking orders for common household goods. There is a small line of people trying to place orders, but one grandmother is holding it up, berating the smith because his work is not up to her standards. Alden yells at the grandmother to step aside so the line can move, but she begins to yell and scold him for his rudeness and poor treatment of old women. The confrontation quickly escalates to the point where she tries to push him down to the ground. The grandmother is surprisingly strong and agile, but as a trained warrior, Alden is able to stay on his feet. As he moves in on the grandmother, the other customers, and the blacksmith come to her defense, and surround him. Lokan then intervenes to extricate his friend from an unpleasant situation, and takes him to find a different blacksmith. There is a more permanent smith shop near the banks of the river. Alden enters it, and asks the master whether he can sell him a blade. The master asks for confirmation, and then says that he has a wide-bladed dagger that would be a good weapon for Alden. When the former slave enquires whether this weapon could hold a trapped spirit, the smith answers that it could, provided that it draws blood. He adds that it is made in accordance with a special Rakhman method, whereby steel is folded multiple times to make it strong, but the folds create spaces wherein a spirit could reside. He then names his price - 5 gold dinars. Lokan intervenes again, helping his friend see that the man is simply trying to sell him a regular dagger, and that he really ought to find a dealer who is used to handling magic. Feeling that their business in the Nart Quarter is done, they return to the hostel to collect their things and check on Yaakov. The doctor is still asleep, so they leave a message with the hostel owner to tell him that they have gone to Kesha's tavern by the central souk of the main city. They pass through the gate, and proceed, using small streets to throw off any possible tails, to the central market district, where they proceed to search for an alchemist shop. An establishment with an oil lamp for a sign is discovered, and Lokan goes in, telling Alden to stay and watch the door. Inside the dark, scented establishment, packed with colorful bottles, old dusty books, and stuffed animals, he meets Peyman, who introduces himself as a fire sorcerer. Lokan inquires about a healing potion, and some paralyzing poison, and after some haggling, Peyman sells him a vial of the poison, as well as five ointments of fire resistance, the efficacy of which he demonstrates. The parting is relatively amicable, and Peyman asks Lokan to return. The vagabond then heads out, and recommends the place to Alden, as he goes off in search of Berke. Alden enthusiastically enters the shop, and begins to enquire Peyman about the spirit-trapping blade he has been searching for. The fire sorcerer tells him that what he wants is not a blade, but a bottle to contain djinn - spirits of fire. Peyman assures Alden that he has the connections among Rakhman traders to be able to procure this item - for mere tens of thousands of gold dinars. Alden is a bit put off by the price, but starts asking what he can do to earn this money gradually. He takes Peyman in the back room, and shows him that he is a wolf shapechanger. The fire sorcerer says that he can use such blood for potion preparation, and is willing to pay 25 dirhems per charka. Blood can be donated from time to time, but Alden wants a more steady cash flow to build up a nest egg for his major purchase, so he asks whether Peyman has a job for him. The fire sorcerer replies that he would be interested in procuring holy water from the Irii Church in the Nart Quarter, where he cannot enter. Excited by the prospect, Alden goes off to search for his friend. Meanwhile, Lokan goes off to Kesha's establishment, and asks for Berke. When the brawler appears, he says that he's surprised it took Lokan this long to look for him. Lokan behaves appropriately, and buys Berke a beer, so the Kochmak is well-disposed to sell the vagabond information. After being paid, he tells Lokan that he had Yuri and Agapia moved to Shatkal in a boat, but he is holding on to the girl until she is ransomed. Lokan pays for her release, and Berke promises it will be done. The vagabond also inquires about a possible uprising against the authorities, though Berke seems satisfied enough with the current state of affairs, though he has no love for the rulers. After being urged to take care, Lokan takes his leave, meets up with Alden, and then leaves the city via the East Gate. The two proceed through the woods toward the village, but soon find that they are being tailed, or watched, by Kochmak nomads. Lokan gives them the slip, and after a brief but grueling trek through the woods, the two make their way to Shatkal, where they find Yuri working on the fence. They exchange information about the last two eventful days, and then begin the wait for their other companions.
- Accommodations in Shatkal
- 1 vial of paralyzing poison (purchased)
- 5 ointments of fire resistance (purchased)
- Agapia's release (purchased)
Lokan, Alden and Yuri make it to Shatkal