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Trade

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Traditionally, newcomers in Cannaregio kept silent and penitent while settling in. Nobody wanted to attract the townies’ attention immediately, not to mention the Temple who kept a sharp eye on them, mostly in the person of Reinard Meyer – the scenter, who seemed to have received the gift of appearing behind one’s back at worst time imaginable, from the vine he had so keenly examined within the dungeons during the first month of his own stay in the city. Almost an unwritten rule: the seekers were to stay as low as possible while they forged new acquaintanceships, alliances and, hopefully, friendships. Announce yourself to the world a bit too loud, or step onto the wrong person’s foot – and everything could go to hell in a matter of minutes.

There are, however, exceptions to every rule.

- Trade!- It seemed impossible this tiny girl going by the name of Lyra de Ver could produce such loud voice, yet here they were.

After the quarantine had been enforced, the steady river of adventurers, travellers and merchants turned into a brook that dried up in the summer heat, and soon the only caravans to find their way into the walls of the city turned prison were the ones in charge of shipping various goods from Cannaregio to the Capital, leaving behind enough resources to last until their next visit, along with a prisoner or two, had the templars been lucky enough. No fancy goods – and even then the high-born ladies stormed the shop on the main square with the determination of an army that sees the enemy at the end of its strength. Once every single piece of fabric or clothing article had been scavenged from the shelves by the local fashionistas, the boredom set in once again. There were times when the only thing to keep the shopkeeper from banging her head against the counter during late afternoon was the minimal chance somebody might drop by for a shiny, cheap amulet and catch her in the act. And so the shopkeeper spent her days counting flies on the window. One could only make amulets and jewellery for so long before they were ready to throw up at the sight of precious stones alone.

One almost wished a group of madmen, like the Blood Cult had been, would raise their head sometime soon and provide at least some sort of change in things around Cannaregio.

Emphasis on ‘’almost’’.

- Sorry?- Fausta Pinto Carisso, a merchant to the bone, who took particular pride on the fact she had seen almost everything – twice – in her life, and thus there were rarely people who could knock her out of figurative balance, finally managed to squeak, surprised rather than scared, once she was done being frozen with her mouth open mid-yawn. –What was that again, dear?

- Trade! Something convenient, for this,- the girl gestured at the attire she was wearing.

- Convenient? Like,- the shopkeeper stared at her, for it was not every day that some cursed blood marched into her shop and slammed her hands onto the counter with enough strength to jump the showcase amulets and the shopkeeper’s smoking pipe, -I’m sorry, but what do you mean by ‘’convenient’’?

- Pants, shirt; the likes.

Once she was done with the coughing fit, Fausta run an experienced look across the newcomer’s attire, trying to spot a single reason she wanted to exchange such beautiful piece that had most likely taken not just one seamstress at least a week to produce, for something as obscure (as far as women standards went, at least). No reason came in sight, at least not one she could spot from behind the counter, and the shopkeeper gave the girl a questioning look, asking to enlighten her on this topic.

- Lyra... it’s Lyra, right? May I call you by name, dear? It’s so stiff and formal, otherwise. Why would you want those?

- How else do you think I should go down to the dungeons?- So, she was a feisty one; both Fausta and Basil, the loudmouth trickster, had been wrong about this one when he barged into the shop with the strange new acquaintance in tow a week ago, the girl’s facial expression as though she had just been born a couple of days ago and everything in this world was still a great wonder to the little amnesiac cursed blood.

- Because right now you are clearly going down there in just a shirt?

- I have tripped over this thing three times in the past week! Last time I was almost left, hanging from a bridge!- Lyra protested. –I want a trade! Figured I should come to you first, but if you rather somebody else have it...

- Wait!- Turning on her heel, as though prepared to leave, the seeker heard Fausta yelp before the shopkeeper made her way around the counter. –Let me have a look!

Up close, Fausta run fingers across the expensive gown, feeling the texture, checking for an imperfection in the seams, a tear or spots in the fabric to lower the price, with the sharp eye only a shopkeeper in Cannaregio had. Nothing. Wherever the templars had found this one, she had been leading a good life prior to this. Another child of an aristocrat, most likely, thrown into the hostile, harsh world that was the city-prison, courtesy of the Illarian Empire. So much fabric in one layer of skirt alone that it would last Fausta and her girls through months of repairs. As many goods as the caravan might bring in, most if not all of it went to satisfy the demands of the local ladies hungry for anything that came from outside the city walls, and everything left for Fausta and her employees was to try and fix their own attires the best they could. *
Not to mention the expenses of keeping just one of the fancy new attires or bundles of fabric for themselves.

- Okay,- Fausta’s eyes shone with greed as she spoke to the customer, and at that moment Lyra de Ver knew the shopkeeper was willing to pay whatever price she demanded. If the devil’s blood asked for enough amber to last a seeker for a month, the woman would grab a pickaxe and march down into the dungeons without questioning the price a second time, and would only come back once she had the pile together. She was caught in the shiny fabric like a fly in a cobweb. –What’s your offer?