“Here you are, healer!”
Varth sighed hearing the booming voice of the Alzirian merchant and swallowed the remains of watered wine from his cup. A moment of disquiet was banished by the happiness ringing in the newcomer’s words.
“Gods of the skies be praised! Zamel regained consciousness! Your ointments worked, healer. I brought you the payment! You earned it…”
A stuffed purse hit the table with metal clang.
“More wine, maid, bring it quickly! And not that plonk! Bring us Alzirian Blue. There is no better wine here for my friend, the healer!”
The massive man dropped on the bench next to Varth with a loud thud. Beside the young man, he was sole human in the tavern. The remaining clientele, meager at such early time of the day, was composed of three kai-tangs, four rimmers of various strains and a lone kyo. Even both of the merchant’s bodyguards were sa-rimmers. Varth looked on the armed lizardfolk memorizing color patterns of their scales and then took the purse from the table.
“That is generous payment, saar Terem. Very generous for just a few hours of work…”
“Ha! Payment corresponding to skills! In this reptilian paradise one could not find a physician capable of putting a human on his feet! At best I could hope for some kai-tang witch doctor. One could expect that local lordlings note who trades with them and provide them with appropriate services… Healers having any idea about human body, lasses shaped pleasantly to human eye… Where is that wine, maid?!”
A catlike amri serving in the tavern closed and put a jug of wine on the table with a hiss.
“You are cantankerous, human. Cantankerous and loud. Cantankerous, loud, and stupid. Everyone knows that Ammadan’s politokratos cares little for humans and their wares. He is only interested in the gold brought by kyo from Virrikan Archipelago.”
The merchant bestired oneself and thumped his fist on the table. “You must know, cub, that in absence of Alzirian wares kyo would not even bother to shitting on Ammadan while flying over it. Birdfolk come to this island only to buy what we bring from Alzir!”
“Truth to be said, politokratos desires orichalk, not gold. Still, lots of Alzirian wares end in kyo cargoholds.”
Varth reached for the jug and generously poured wine for himself. “Do you have fish soup today?” He asked the amri while glancing on the merchant. Terem noticed the gaze, laid a handful of bronze coins on the table and sat back laughing loudly while speaking to the girl. “Bring what you have today, and lots of it. Don’t be embarrassed and take what you want for yourself as well… There is little traffic now so you could sit with us. I haven’t ever spoken about politics and trade with a healer and a waitress at the same time."
Amri snorted but took coins without hesitation before walking away with lithe steps. The large merchant kept an eye on her until she vanished behind beaded curtain.
“Orichalk instead of common gold? What use the old toad has for so much orichalk?! Assuming that the tales of kyo skyjammer’s full cargoholds are true…” Terem turned to Varth when the waitress’ tail slipped behind the curtain. “One does not import such amount of sorcerous metal, none of the sorcerous metals, without some sort of esoteric use for it.
“Who can know that? Maybe polikratos wants to arm all of his guards with encrusted armors or build whole fleet of skyjammers…”
“Ha! In the whole of Ammadan there is not enough skilled sailors to man three skyjammers without hiring outsiders. No, probably the old toad decided to build some sort of arcane mechanicarium or other marvel. I wonder what could it be?”
“Mechanicarium? Intriguing idea. People say that politokratos keeps throngs of adepts, alchemists, thaumaturgists, and other sages. There could be mechanomancers among them as well.”
“You have little respect for their skills, healer…” Boomed the merchant.
“What could make you think so?” Varth feigned a surprise, badly.
“I would be a poor merchant if I could not read hints from what people say and from what they don’t say either. Maybe it is of little use when I have to squabble with all rimmers, kyo, and other Old and Young Races, but humans I can read. At least I don’t lose on Alzirian bargains. And here is the soup!”
On the table landed a tray with three bowls, pot full of steaming soup, half a loaf of bread, and a number of smoked meat pieces and cooked vegetables.
“Bread?! Real bread? I have been coming to Ammadan regularly for the last twenty years and haven’t found anything that would resemble edible baked goods!”
The merchant smelled the bread. “Fresh! Gods of the skies, you couldn’t bake such bread on a skyjammer—the dough won’t rise properly… Where? How? But… Let me hug you, darling!”
“Away from me, fat-human! Sit and hug the bowl if you please!” Amri lashed against Terem’s extended arms with a rag.
“I will please, I will. But I still want to know how you got the bread. Have you bought it or baked it? If you bought it, I want to know from whom. If you baked it, I will be your customer on every visit to Ammadan.”
The merchant pulled a piece of bread while speaking and put into his mouths while glancing at the waitress. “Excellent, where did you get flour?!” Without waiting for the answer he turned to his guards but before he could speak one of them made a denying gesture “We ate today. We would grew sluggish if we gorged ourselves now.”
The amri shrugged and sat on the bench and helped herself to the soup. Before she could start, the door opened and a group of lizardfolk soldiers led by a toad wearing white robes and a copper chain, a badge of a minor magistrate.
“I am Quezeq, a junior assistant secretary of the Ammadan portmaster. By the orders of the politokratos, all the mammals are to be immediately escorted to the port and put on their ships."