Sekhet lightly leaned against the edge of her stall while she watched the bustle of activity in the marketplace. The last week and a half had been profitable at least and she was looking forward to purchasing herself a nice fish to cook for dinner after she’d managed to sell five pretty pricey talismans.
Her stand sold two main things: talimsans and also a handful of potions, although she sold probably five times as many talismans as she did potions. Those were two skills she had learned while she’d been with the temple of Isis and those skills were at least keeping food on the table as well as allowing her to set a little bit of gold aside before she truly got to go for her dream and leave Khemet, perhaps for good, and explore the wider world at large and see what sort of adventures she might find for herself.
She also was willing to, upon rare request, cast a spell or perform a ritual. Those she hated doing because the last thing she wanted to do was to attract unwanted attention from the priesthood, since the nature of spells she was often asked to perform were typically gotten directly from the temples with the gold being added directly to the high priesthoods coffers.
But, Sekhet sighed, if money was truly tight enough and the buyer was desperate enough to pay what she’d demand then she would cast the spells.
She was drawn from her musings by a gruff voice grumbling, “how much for the luck talisman?” Sekhet straightened up and gazed at the beautiful red amulet she had painstakingly carved from a medium sized piece of Carnelian. The stone was not very easy to come by and very hard to work with but it was great at producing more powerful luck talismans. This talisman in question she had carved into the traditional shape of a lyre.
Sekhet gazed up at the man, “for that talisman I am asking for thirty gold pieces.” Sekhet said. She was willing to shift a little bit on the asking price but not much. She’d worked very hard carving the stone and then pouring the magic into it. In her opinion is was worth every single piece.
The man gave her an appraising look, his beady eyes tracing her up and down before he snorted derisively, clearly he wasn’t impressed with what he’d seen. “For a false talisman created by a shady seller, I think not. I’ll give you five and you should count yourself lucky I’m willing to part with that much gold girl.” The man said.
Sekhet lightly clenched her hand beneath the stall but still forced herself to keep her face calm. She’s seen far to many vendors suffer for months because they’d happened to lose their temper with the wrong customer. “If you truly feel that way sir, then you are welcome to go and purchase a talisman from another stand.” Sekhet said, her voice as sweet as she could make it although she’d love nothing more than to spit in the man’s face.
The man leaned forward so that his face was only a matter of inches away from her own as he growled at her, “And with that attitude I’ve dropped my offer to 3 gold. Are you still going to give me an argument or did the gods gift you with a brain but not the intelligence to know when to close your mouth?” He snarled, spittle flying from his lips as he spoke.
Sekhet was torn between the desire to lean away from the vile man and to stand her ground. If she’d lean away from him she’d be giving the impression that she was cowed by his repulsive behavior. However, standing her ground would no doubt get her spat on some more. “I’ll have you know sir, that I have more than enough sense for when to hold my tongue. Sense that you yourself don’t seem to possess. Now, as the one who personally carved and powered that talisman I stand by my offered price. You can either pay what I demand or you can leave. The choice is yours.” Sekhet said back, again striving to keep her voice as calm as she could manage. Out of the corner of her eye she could see that the man’s tantrum had already begun to attract some attention.
The man snorted, “Foolish girl.” As he swiped out with his left hand, clearly aiming to strike Sekhet. “And just for that I’ll take this talisman and you won’t get a single gold piece from me.” The man hissed.
Sekhet’s head snapped to the side as the man’s hand collided with her cheek. She was about to open her mouth to retort when another voice beat her to it.
“Forgive me for intruding but I cannot help but wonder when it became common practice to assault a vendor within the market?” Sekhet and the man both turned to see who was intervening in their conflict and Sekhet could not help but gape in shock. It was the Prince!
The man snorted, “She is not an honest vendor. She is nothing but a swindler demanding thirty gold for this worthless trinket. I was being generous with an offer of five and only that much because the stone she used was pretty. And she dared to reject such a generous offer. She’ll be getting nothing from me and I’m taking this trinket for my troubles.” The man declared.
Merneptah rose a brow as he gazed at the man, “If the trinket is so worthless then why do you still want it? The merchant rejected your most generous offer. The polite thing to do would be to move on. Not to stand here and not only insult the merchants work to their face but to strike her as well.” Merneptah growled.
The man snorted, “It is not an insult if one speaks the truth. The trinket is worthless other than the stone from which it was carved.” The man replied.
Merneptah took a slow, deliberate step towards the man his brown eyes narrowed in anger as he gazed him. “And I am going to command you to return that trinket to its place on the stall or I will summon the guards to arrest you for thievery.” Merneptah hissed.
The man starred hard at Merneptah before he chuckled the talisman back down onto the stall and turned to stalk away when Merneptah grabbed him by the shoulder.
“What do you want now boy?” The man growled.
“You owe this vendor thirty gold.” Merneptah said.
Both Sekhet and the man frowned, “What in the name of the gods are you talking about boy?” The man growled.
Merneptah nodded towards the talisman, “When you threw the talisman down on the stall you made a small chip on the surface. That imperfection will impact this merchants ability to sell the talisman to another customer. Therefore I am ordering you to pay for the talisman that you damaged.” Merneptah commanded.
“Who placed you among the gods boy that you would dare to speak to me like this?” The man challenged.
Merneptah snorted, “My father did. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Merneptah son of Pharaoh Amenhotep. Prince of Khemet. Now I say you will pay this merchant thirty gold for the talisman you damaged. Challenge me on this issue again and you will owe her 40. Do we understand one another?” Merneptah said.
The man gaped in clear shock before he slowly reached for his coin bag and tossed it onto the stall. “There? Satisfied my Prince?” The man asked.
“Not yet.” Merneptah said before he signaled to two guards that were waiting nearby. “Detain him. As it stands he is guilty of assaulting a vendor for that he will receive 50 lashes however, if there isn’t 30 gold in the pouch he tossed I’m going to double the lashes.” He turned to Sekhet, “Now, if you could be so kind and count the gold this man has given you as compensation for your damaged property.” Merneptah asked.
Sekhet reached out with a slightly shaking hand and dumped the contents of the pouch onto the counter. She didn’t have to count the gold to know that the man had given her far less than thirty gold. There was maybe twelve in the bag.
Merneptah stared at the contents of the spilled pouch before turning to the guard. “Take him to the center square where he is to be administered one hundred and sixteen lashes. Fifty for the assault. Fifty for attempting to cheat this vendor out of their rightly earned compensation and the remaining sixteen are one lash for every piece of gold this man shorted the vendor.” Merneptah declared.
The two guards bowed their hands towards Merneptah before turning and dragging the struggling man through the marketplace and towards the center square as Merneptah had commanded. Merneptah’s eyes remained locked on the man’s until he had finally disappeared from sight. Once the man was finally gone Merneptah turned and looked at Sekhet.
For a few awkward moments the two just starred at one another, neither having the slightest clue what to say before Sekhet finally blushed and glanced away, her hand fiddling with the damaged talisman. It wasn’t badly damaged. She could probably still sell it, maybe get fifteen or twenty gold for it because of the imperfection.
Merneptah’s hand reached out and lightly tilted her head back up so they were once again face to face, his finger lightly grazing her stinging cheek. “Are you alright?” He whispered.
Sekhet nodded, “Yes, my Prince. I’m fine, thank you for your assistance.” Sekhet replied.
Merneptah frowned, “Please, don’t call me that. I don’t like hearing you address me by title.” Merneptah said.
Sekhet sighed, “Okay. Meri, thank you for helping me.” Sekhet whispered.
Merneptah gave her a tight smile as his fingers continued to lightly stroke her cheek. “I’m glad that you are okay.” He paused for a moment before asking, “Can we go somewhere and talk?” Merneptah asked.
Sekhet nibbled on her lip. That, to her, sounded like a terrible idea. “I have to man this stall still for a few hours, and then I need to get closed down and I’d like to buy myself some fish to make once I return home.” Sekhet rambled.
“You could close your stall down early?” Merneptah suggested.
Sekhet shook her head, “No, I need the money. I can’t afford to lose anymore sales today.” Sekhet said.
Merneptah’s eyes drifted down to rest on the talismans Sekhet was selling before his hand lightly rested on the damaged talisman that she was fiddling with in her hand, their fingers lightly brushing. “Can I make an offer on this talisman?” Merneptah asked.
Sekhet chuckled, “I suppose you could. Although wouldn’t you want one without a chip in it?” Sekhet said.
Merneptah shook his head, “No, I want this exact talisman, and I’ll settle for no other. However, I’ll pay you three hundred gold for it.” Merneptah said, his hand finally dropping away from Sekhet’s face to reach for his money pouch.
Sekhet gaped. “Did you say three hundred gold?” She gasped.
Merneptah nodded. “Do you accept my offer?” Merneptah asked.
Sekhet shook her head, “That is too much Meri! Far too much.” Sekhet spluttered.
Merneptah’s grin broadened, “I’m afraid I’m not comfortable lowering my offer by a single gold piece, although I might raise it. And there is another talisman that I have my eye on as well, I’ll make an offer on that one once we agree upon a price for this one.” Merneptah replied.
“Nothing in this stall is worth three hundred gold!” Sekhet said.
Merneptah snorted, “Is an item not worth the price a buyer is willing to pay? I am willing to pay three hundred. Now, can we agree to that price before turning to the second talisman I would like to purchase.” Merneptah said.
Sekhet nibbled on her lip before she nodded, “I still think it is far too much, but if you refuse to pay less I will not deny your offer.” Sekhet replied.
Merneptah’s grin broadened, “Excellent. I will keep this one with me always. Now, onto the second talisman I would like to purchase.” His eyes drifted around the different talismans before he picked up a relatively plain soapstone shaped into the eye of wadjet which was used to provide protection for the wearer. “This one! Four hundred gold.” Merneptah declared.
Sekhet openly gaped at Merneptah, “And let me guess Meri, you refuse to lower your offer for this amulet as well?” Sekhet said.
Merneptah nodded, “Indeed. So, do we have a deal?” Merneptah asked.
Sekhet sighed, “Yes we have a deal.” She honestly could not believe he was doing this. She had made from this one sale more gold then she had made so far this year.
Merneptah reached down and grabbed his money pouch and began to slowly count out the gold. It took him quite a while. Once he had finished he gave her another cheeky grin as she handed over the two talismans.
Merneptah pulled the leather chord holding the luck talisman around his neck, allowing it to rest on his chest before he asked, “So, is there any chance you could close up your stall early?” Merneptah asked.
Sekhet nodded, “Yes, I probably should. Especially after that spectacle you just made of yourself.” Sekhet said.
Merneptah nodded, “Excellent. Now, how can I help you to close up?” Merneptah asked.
Sekhet rolled her eyes, “How about you wander off for a bit while I get these packed back up.” Sekhet suggested.
Merneptah snorted, “And risk losing you again? I don’t think so.” Merneptah said.
Sekhet just shook her head and turned her attention onto carefully packing back up her wares. Once everything had been put away she grabbed her own money pouch which was now bursting with gold and rounded the stall, Merneptah falling into step beside her as they walked. “So, where are we headed to now?” Merneptah asked.
Sekhet snorted, “I need to buy some fish and some bread for dinner tonight.” Sekhet said.
“I could buy that for you!” Merneptah said.
Sekhet shook her head, “No. I am buying my own food.” Sekhet said firmly before she walked up to a fish peddler, she glanced at the different fish before pointing at a medium sized one, which she bought for twelve gold before moving onto a bread seller. Merneptah followed her silently while she completed her purchases and once she was done the two made their way out of the marketplace still side by side.
Once they had left the bustling marketplace behind and were walking down quieter streets Sekhet spoke up, “You don’t have to keep following me. I’m just going home.” Sekhet said.
Merneptah snorted, “And I would very much like to escort you home. You have a large amount of gold on your person. The last thing I want is for you to find yourself robbed. Besides, we still need to talk. Perhaps we could talk once we’ve reached your home.” Merneptah suggested.
Sekhet sighed but conceded. “Very well, you may escort me home Meri, if that is what you want.” Sekhet said.
Merneptah grinned before he looped an arm around her waist, pulling her flush against his side as they walked. “I’m glad to hear that you were able to see sense.” Merneptah whispered.
Sekhet said nothing and the two walked in silence before they had finally reached her home. It wasn’t any grand, not by any means. After she’d run away from the temple of Isis she’d happened to meet an elderly widow named Iset. She had welcomed Sekeht into her home and allowed her stay for as long as she needed to. And upon her passing Sekhet had continued to live in the home and pay the taxes that were due to the kingdom for it.
“So, this is where you’d disappeared off to?” Merneptah commented as he followed her into the house.
“This is where I live, yes.” Sekhet replied.
She carefully unpacked her bread and fish before walking over to a clay pot in the corner and pouring the gold she had earned today into it and replaced the lid. Merneptah slipped up behind her as she did so, his arms winding around her waist. “Can we talk now?” Merneptah asked.
Sekhet sighed. No matter how much she didn’t want to talk to him she truly didn’t have any reason not to.
“Fine, what would you like to talk about?” Sekhet asked.