Summer Growing, Stalker’s Day 13, Year of the Lion number 427
They tell me that Blushik is small, compared to many other cities. I have difficulty believing them.
As we crested a hill, leading toward a river valley, we could see the entirety of this place. Several bridges spanned the river, hundreds of buildings of different sizes and shapes built along the banks and up both sides of the valley. Roads crisscrossed in a random pattern. And the movement. Everything seemed to be moving! People were walking on the streets, riding horses or wagons. Children were playing various games. What struck me more than anything was the disregard for aesthetics. Different colors, styles, and sizes are mashed together like children’s toys piled together.
Lena pointed to an area where there were several brightly colored tents. “That’s where we’re going. It’s the city market.” In our wagons, we had several chests containing religious symbols and wood-crafted items from Saint Sage. Another box contained carved ivory from Bolldictia. “I don’t expect to sell a lot here. We do have some linen from Direcend further north, which will fetch a good price, but not a whole lot. I’m hoping to get a couple barrels of mineral oil and maybe some of the herbs that are unique to this area. The curry gives an interesting flavor, but not a lot of people like it. Used sparingly, though, it can give an exotic flair to something that is otherwise common place. Chicken Curry sounds much more enticing than just boiled chicken.”
We made our way into the city, past a pair of lazy guards who didn’t even bother to look up. It took several hours to work our way through the busy streets to the market. Lena spoke to several shop owners as she negotiated deals and made trades. The linen sold, but not for as much as she had hoped. The mineral oil cost a bit more than she wanted to pay, and the only trader selling curry was sold out. It’s out of season right now. On impulse, she bought several bolts of cotton fabric. “I have an idea for this,” she said.
That evening, she purchased rooms at an inn for us. Our horses received grooming at the stable, costing a whopping two gold pieces, but Lena said that the expense was worth it. “We won’t leave here in the black, but I think we’re well staged as we push further west to Juivestea and Rausula. I think, in Portville, we’ll meet with a sea merchant and turn a tidy profit.” I wasn’t sure what she meant by “in the black” until I noticed how she used different color inks when recording transactions in her ledger.
In our rooms, Lena sat with me before turning in. “You mentioned before that you know the Trail of the Dance and the Trail of the Hunt.” She used the Tabaxian words for these traditions. “I notice how graceful you are as you move. You have the moves of a dancer, but more than that, you move almost like the monks from Scone. I’d wager that with a good drum beat, you could put on quite a show.”
“I don’t understand.”
“There are many ways to earn money, and I believe that the more options we explore, the more profitable we can be. Trading and transporting commodities is a good source of income, usually better than just plain labor. Another type of labor, however, is performance. Put on a show and people will pay. Sure, you spend a few days and weeks practicing, and perform for an hour or two, but if you’re good enough, hundreds of people will pay to watch. There are men and women who travel the countryside collecting and retelling stories, and they earn coin for their effort. However, I’ve not heard of any traveling Tabaxi who dances for coin.”
“You want me to dance?”
“Only if you are willing, Kabize,” she assured me. “With your talents, assuming you are as good as I think you are, and with my connections, together we can make a lot of gold. I’m thinking hundreds or maybe more. We’ll discuss it tomorrow. If you’re willing to try it, I know someone in this city that can teach you some basics. Think about it tonight; I don’t want you to decide right now.”
Lena got up and left me alone in my room. This is a turn of events I never expected. But I had a chilling thought, which had nothing to do with the dragon card in my pack. Am I the spectacle, being Tabaxi, or does she really think I have talent? Perhaps it’s a bit of both. I rolled over a couple times on the bed and decided that it was too soft. I pulled the blanket and pillow onto the floor to write these words in my journal using the light from the window.
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