A Harvest of Broken Stars

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Chapter 41: Selling

The sun was setting when Gilmir and Hobble walked out on Church Square, where the old elven architecture was more prominent. The gnome clock in the old belfry showed the time to be nine hours and a quartermark. Gilmir glanced at Hobble. One eye was covered by the eyepatch. The small thief limped along, using his staff for support. How he was able to deform his foot at will without it hampering him in other situations was beyond the elf. Was this another aspect where the halfling used magic without knowing it?

‘Are you comfortable selling the stone?’

‘As long as you find me another, I am quite happy.’

‘Find you another? Me?’

‘Yes, I’ve got the taste for it now. It’s like when you taste good wine for the first time, after drinking grape juice for ages.’

‘Another analogy?’

‘Sure, I will stop when I get another stone!’

‘Let’s sell this one first!’

‘Sure. In the meantime, I’ll be like an itch you cannot reach.’

‘Stop it.’

Hobble chuckled. ‘By the way, ain’t you afraid that the two thugs will recognise you? From when you distracted them in the forest, I mean?’

‘No.’

‘Why?’

‘You’ll see.’

Hobble shrugged. ‘Just don’t expect me to be saving your ass again. I refuse to be further ahead in that race.’

‘Don’t worry, unlike when we met, I am now capable of saving my own behind.’

Saendar stood on by the corner of the towering church in the east, waving them over. There was no sign of Dick and Shark. Gilmir scanned the area while they closed the distance to the old man. Some people were still on the square. A cobbler had a little stand by an old fountain, which was not working any more. In a few other booths, people were tidying away their wares. By the stairs to the church, a busker stood singing and playing the lute. Three men stood by an empty booth talking and occasionally glancing in the direction of Gilmir and Hobble.

‘Do you know any of those men by that empty booth?’ Gilmir whispered.

Hobble did not look straight away. Instead, he took his time looking casually around before he glanced over at the men. ‘No, I don’t think so.’

Saendar smiled when they reached him. ‘Welcome, fine gentlemen! I see the world hasn’t been too unkind to you lately.’

‘Good evening, Saendar,’ Gilmir said. ‘Everything all right?’

‘I would say so. Your potential buyers are waiting right around the corner.’

‘They are alone?’

‘Yes, as far as I can determine, they are.’

‘Good, let’s go.’

Saendar took them around the corner and down a narrow street. The tall buildings made the alley gloomy. If the humans planned an ambush on an elf in the dark, they were idiots. Gilmir glanced at Hobble. The little fellow shifted the pad to his other eye. Still not sure if the halfling was messing with him or that trick really worked, Gilmir smiled and shook his head.

‘Right ahead,’ Saendar said.

Gilmir shifted his focus down the alley. Better not to underestimate the two thugs. Under a small roof, probably a side entrance to the church, he spotted the two men. Scanning the surrounding area he could see a hundred places for people to hide. He looked behind but saw no one. This was not the public place he had instructed Saendar to find. Gilmir glanced at the old cripple. The short man seemed perfectly at ease. Too much so?

‘Good afternoon, Dick,’ Gilmir said, locking his eyes on the man.

Dick and Shark came forward. The short and bald Dick had a black eye and a cut on his cheek, Shark had a split lip over his crooked teeth and a swollen forehead.

‘Let’s see it,’ Dick said.

‘It seems you’ve had a rough time. I am sorry about that,’ Gilmir said and nodded to Hobble. The halfling took the shard out.

Shark held out a hand, and Hobble glanced at Gilmir before handing the stone over. The man held the shard up to the meagre light and studied it.

‘It’s the real thing,’ Gilmir said, ‘and it will be yours for one hundred silver pieces. The quality is not the best, so you will get it at this generous price. A one-time offer.’

Shark continued to study it, while Dick glanced from Hobble to Saendar.

‘You can have seventy-five pieces for it,’ Shark said, lowering the stone.

‘No, I am not doing any stupid human haggling. Our price is a hundred pieces. Take it or leave it.’

Hobble glanced at Gilmir, and Shark looked at Dick. The bald man shifted his feet and gave a small nod.

This was too easy.

‘And one more thing,’ Gilmir said, ‘some time ago there was an elf imprisoned in the dungeons. He had two swords. Elven swords. I want them.’

Dick and Shark exchanged glances again. ‘If I’m not mistaken, those swords are in the hands of councilman Voan now. Out of our reach,’ Shark said.

‘Hmm … Alright, fair enough, Shark,’ Gilmir replied, using the nickname he had only ever used in the glade in the forest when Hobble had stolen the shard. The shard Gilmir now was carrying under his shirt. There was a flicker of something in Shark’s eyes, but it disappeared.

‘Pay them,’ Shark said to Dick. The bald man took out two pouches and threw them over. Hobble and Gilmir caught one each and peeked inside.

‘Very well, then,’ Saendar said, ‘everything seems to be in order. I call this deal settled.’

Dick and Shark nodded and drew back. Hobble, Gilmir and Saendar went the other way. Coming around the corner and out on Church Square once again, Gilmir broke the silence.

‘Thank you, Saendar.’ He gave the cripple ten silver pieces. ‘Come by the inn tomorrow and I’ll give you a chance to earn some more. And this time I’ll even buy you a drink.’

‘That’s most gracious of you, sir! I’ll see you tomorrow,’ Saendar said and broke off to the left. Probably in the direction of the closest place to where he could spend his newly earned coins.

‘So, elves don’t haggle?’ Hobble asked.

‘Of course we do.’

‘So, what was that?’

‘I had to find out.’

‘Find out what?’

‘If Voan knows about me,’ Gilmir said.

‘Explain yourself, elf, this is like talking to a giant guarding a bridge.’

‘Something was off with that meeting. They should have recognised me, and that should have yielded a reaction of some sort.’

‘Maybe they’re not very observant?’

‘No, that Shark fellow pays attention. Besides, they agreed to the price all too easily. They didn’t react to the part about the swords either. Even told me where I could find them. And, last but not least, he didn’t react when I called him Shark.’

‘So, what does this all mean?’

‘I am not sure. However, I do know that Voan knows I am out. And, at some point, he will come for me. Perhaps this was the last proof he needed.’

‘What are you going to do?’

‘I’ll spare him the trouble, and go to him instead.’

‘Are you sure? That’s insane!’ Hobble said.

‘I’m glad you like it. For you are coming as well.’

‘Me? I already have a crazy dwarf and a cynical dark elf on my back, I am not sure I need more.’

‘You know what they say about multiple enemies?’

‘No, never heard.’

‘It is better with three enemies in front of you than one at your back.’

‘Technically, I had two in front of me, and then you dragged in the third.’

‘Let’s not get into semantics!’ Gilmir said, smiling.

Hobble shook his head, and they continued in silence.

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