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The price of dreams : the debt

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It’s funny how chain reactions work. The slightly wrong dream sold to the slightly wrong person and you’ve got yourself in a mess spinning out of control. Chain reactions were Kay’s bread and butter. In the honest salesmanship of not-so-honestly-obtained goods, planning where your every act would take you was a necessary skill. He had been good at it. Had been. Until greed had made him promise things he couldn’t deliver. There was nothing wrong with that, as a dream trader, his life mostly consisted in making promises he couldn’t keep. What mattered was who you made them to. And this time, he had got it wrong. When no mage will cross over to the staircase dimension to fetch the desired somni, what’s left for you to do? This was the question Kay was now forced to answer, and fast. Two days is a short time, shorter even when Lord Theobald Mannering, Count of Eastshire is the one counting them.

Fantasy / Adventure
Richard A. Wolf
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

Kay held his breath as the patrol rushed through the opposite street 'He went that way!' cried an old lady, pointing in the opposite direction. The two guards scrambled away.
As the muffled sounds of the night crept back into the alley, Kay slid away from the wall. The woman looked at him, then winked. He curtsied theatrically and disappeared into the shadows.
Feeling in a good mood tonight, he started whistling as he strolled. "Night beauty", one of his favourites. He took two small vials from his pocket and juggled with one of them single-handedly. Tiny specks of gold and copper twinkled inside the glass.
His stroll casually ended near the docks and there he took out a small brass oil lamp from behind a heap of fishing nets and lit it. The dim glow of light spread, making shadows dance on the nearby boats. Resting his back against a cold and damp wooden pole, he crammed some dried leaves into a pipe and smoked.
He had puffed half way through his pipe when footsteps got closer. Inhaling deeply, he squeezed the contents of his leather bag with a closed fist. Instants later, a shape emerged from behind a few dry, shell-crusted hulls.
The silhouette wore a woollen cap and walked clumsily, as it got closer it's height became clear. It was made even more impressive by the fact that it walked hunched with a large bulging shoulder on the side.
'Hello there Odo. How are things?'
The large shoulder shrugged, making the other one and anything else in the upper body region of Odo disappear in a gentle sway.
'Ok.' the voice sounded laboured. It was one of those voices which hinted at the fact that it was probably harder for its owner to speak a single syllable than to go without uttering any for the rest of their lives.
'Here,' Kay smiled broadly, opening the leather satchel in front of the towering figure. He took out one of the vials and produced it to the newcomer with the pride of one who has spent a whole harvest season toiling only to create a single product and is now showcasing it to a wide-eyed crowd. 'Fresh from tonight.' he added, an imperceptible flicker of mischief in his voice.
The large figure got nearer and oggled the small glass vial. It breathed heavily and extended a frail hand forward. The vial disappeared behind a leathery prison.
'A-ha-aha, you know the way my friend. Payment first...'
'...Merchandise second.' it grunted, thrusting the hand back into a pocket.
Moments later, the tall silhouette disappeared into the night, the contents of both night dweller's pockets having switched. Kay took out the green leather pouch which possession had recently shifted and unlaced it. From the inside, thick gold coins glimmered feebly in the dim light of the oil lamp. He counted them. Accounting was the second most important skill in his trade. The first was people skills.
When he was satisfied that the sum was no less -and sadly, no more- than expected, he closed the pouch again and this time kept it in one of his inner pockets, not before glancing around to see if there was any witness to this change of location.
One to go. The first transaction had happened fast and he was starting to hope that he might make it home before dawn. It wasn't that spending your whole night waiting in the docks by a heap of fish-smelling nets wasn't great. It simply was that some places were greater. In particular, any place that wasn't a dock by a heap of fish-smelling nets.
As the damp cold started to bite his fingers, he dug both hands in his pockets and started pacing along the pontoon. The regular plashing of wavelets against the wooden poles made him want to pee and so he aimed for the water and started relieving himself.
He was half way through the maneuver when a thin but hard pressure tingled his neck. He froze.
'Hello Kay.'
'Hhh... hello....' he tried, keeping his throat as far as possible from the icy hair that was digging into his skin.
He recognised the voice. He would have recognised it whispering in a howling storm from a hundred feet distance. He recognised each an every detail of it to a point where if his voice-recognition part of the brain had had to be mapped, the voice that had just spoken would have easily occupied as much if not more space than all the other voices he had ever heard. But then again, not many voices in life belonged to someone who could end it in a click of fingers. Not if you were lucky at least. And Kay was. Or rather had been. Until he'd met the woman to whom the voice belonged.
'...E... Edith. Such a pleasure to...'
'Save your drool boor, you'll need plenty when we get there.'
For some inexplicable reason, 'there' sounded like a worse place than the docks. Which said a lot more about 'there' than it did about the docks, really.
'Please...' he muttered uselessly.
Before he could further disgrace himself by making show of the ever so great cowardice that characterised his relation to danger, a heavy canvas bag was thrust upon his head, squeezed at the neck and he received a powerful blow in his back that propelled him into a few wooden crates with the sole word 'Move.' as instruction.
As he trudged along, his mind drifted to pragmatic -though slightly grim- planning. You're probably gonna die tonight. You fool. You should have spent some of that money instead of saving. And for what? You don't even have a family whom to give it to, it will just go back to the streets where you took it from... Well, at least it should be some consolation that you don't have a family, no one will miss you. These last thoughts might have been of some consolation to the most selfless. It wasn't to Kay.
And as his thoughts dwelt on the ways he could have but hadn't spent his money, they reached their destination. Or so he guessed from the fact that the temperature had risen and the dampness dropped, indicating they were inside.
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