Monsieur Montague, looking dejected, urges the gang back towards the door with his arms wide. “Friends, I’m afraid this establishment is not a charity, and we’re not in the habit of giving out baths and shaves for free. Good day!”
He straightens his back, lifting his nose into the air, the wires of his moustache quivering. He holds his eyes closed and waits to hear the door, but the noise doesn’t come.
“We wanna make a trade,” Shyan says.
“A most over-generous offer on our part,” Cang adds with a surly look.
The gang huddles so Monsier Montague can’t see exactly what they’re doing, then turn and withdraw the heavy golden necklace, holding it aloft.
“Yes,” Monsier Montague says as though in a sudden trance. “Yes, this object should just about cut it.”
“Of course we’re hungry,” Shyan says.
“We’re always hungry,” adds Fassn, currently biting his nails and swallowing the keratinous material.
The drummer beats the scarred wooden table with his fingers. The flutist shoots him a glance, then returns her attention to the gang. “Tell us about where you got the goods.”
“Is this relevant?” Cang asks with a sneer. “The weight is true, there is no plating whatsoever. This item is one hundred percent dense gold. Surely its provenance cannot be a factor.”
“It’s from a princess,” adds Fassn. “It’s real pretty but we’re hungry.” A grumble from his stomach washes over the table.
“A princess, yes,” says the flutist. “But which one?”
The gang pockets the necklace, and Shyan gives the bartender a nod of thanks. They make their way to the tavern’s bowels, where lanterns gutter and the head’s stench occasionally wafts by. They take their places and watch the musicians. When another tavern-goer tries to appropriate an empty chair, Shyan puts her boots upon it meaningfully and the fellow scampers off.
The musicians play and dance through another few tunes, then to a round of drunken applause, leave their improvised stage. The drummer makes for the bar, while the flutist joins the gang at their table. Shyan respectfully withdraws her boots. When the drummer returns bearing two mugs of ale, the musicians sit. The flutist asks, “You selling?”
The bartender reaches to take the necklace, but Cang’s too quick for him, stowing it away under his vest.
Shyan tsks at the bartender. “This thing doesn’t leave our hands for free.”
“Rounds for you four all night for it,” says the bartender.
“Deal!” Fassn shouts, but Shyan waves him away.
“Who’s the local dealer?” Shyan asks.
“Fabio Quartez in the market district,” the bartender says, scratching his chin. “But he don’t take nothin’ hot.”
Shyan narrows her eyes. “This particular piece is a bit, well, warm.” Just then, she notices the bartender’s gaze is set somewhere behind her. She turns, following it, to find the drummer and flutist staring hard from their place atop the table.
At the mention of selling, the glowing sphere jerks alert, and floats quickly behind Cang’s back, away from Shyan.
“The light thinks you’re gonna sell it,” Fassn says, chuckling.
“Do you suppose we could?” Cang asks. He turns left and right to get a look at the thing, but it bobs and weaves effortlessly, keeping glimpses brief. “How much would you fetch, you cretin?” he asks.
“If it’s half as much as that necklace, we’re doing it,” Shyan says.
“But what fence would take it?” Fassn asks. “In fact, who’d take the necklace? Sure looks like it came from the neck of royalty.”
Abia stands. “We should leave. They come.”