- 8th day of Hanotë -
Part 3 - Making a Deal
“Is that so? Does that mean that the Northern Armies have free access to the city? Just like that? Even though you all know that they’re destroying the Easter Kingdoms?” Allana asked, disturbed by the news, and the old man nodded.
“That’s exactly what led His Majesty to accept the deal presented by the envoys from the North; so that our Kingdom wouldn’t fall as others certainly will. Of course that means that all we produce belongs to them, all our income is managed by those bastards, and it’s up to them to decide what the people can and cannot have, rationing food and other essential goods. However, even though there’s no abundance, no one dies from hunger either. It wouldn’t do them any good if we starved to death, since half-dead people don’t work all that well,” he added sarcastically and Allana forced herself to swallow her indignation and remain calm. Of course they had accepted their terms, she thought. She would probably have accepted them too, if the same chance had been offered to Everlyn. If only that meant that lives could be spared …
She took a deep breath and watched the wine seller more closely, as he chewed on a crust of bread long gone hard and dry. He wasn’t especially well mannered or delicate and, although they had traveled together practically the entire day, she still didn’t trust him enough to simply fall asleep in his company. Still he was a survivor, she had to admit, and he worked hard, even with all the adversities, trying his best to put food on his family’s table. And that was definitely something praiseworthy.
“I have a proposal for you, wine seller,” she told him and his dark eyes turned towards her immediately. “I have in my possession a few personal objects of quite some valor but that, unfortunately, in their present state, won’t feed a hungry stomach. However, with the contacts and connections you certainly have in town I’m sure you won’t have any problem selling them for a good price. In exchange for them I require only three things. First that you help me elude the gards enter the city. You can say that I’m your daughter or you sister, or something like that. Then I want you to show me to a discreet place where I may find a hot meal and a room to spend the night. And lastly I want you to give me all the money you currently carry, since I will be needing it. I tell you right now that, no matter how much you’re carrying, it will never cover the price of even one of the pieces I plan on giving you.”
The man lowered his bread crust and looked at her doubtfully.
“Too many conditions for one single business, wouldn’t you say?”
“And they’re non-negotiable” Allana clarified and pulled a small bundle from inside her tunic, which she placed down on the grass of the clearing where they’d stopped for a short rest. The man followed her moves attentively and as soon as he spotted the gleam of gold his eyes opened wide in disbelief.
“What a … Where did you get this?” he asked and Allana allowed him to pick up the hand-mirror, to see it closer.
“And no questions. So? Do we have a deal?” she tried to confirm and the man bit hard on the mirror’s handle.
“Of course it is. What do you say?”
“The money, the entrance to the city and the inn. Is that all?”
“That’s all. It’s all I need.”
“Deal!” he quickly replied as if he were afraid that the foolish girl might suddenly open her eyes and go back on her offer, and rapidly started repacking the golden objects.
“No!” Allana said snatching the objects from his greedy hands. “These stay with me as guarantee that you’ll get me into town and show me a place to stay. Then we’ll exchange the objects for the money and go our separate ways,” she determined and the man seemed to think about it for a moment.
“Fine, so be it! And we should get going too. Time doesn’t stop.” He stood up and Allana hid the bundle back under her tunic.
Right, and anxiety burns, she thought with a smile following his lead. If everything went according to plan that night she’d be sleeping in Melkar.