60 – For the Stong
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          Boney had no problems chatting with the maritime boy while Vel hid behind us. Ports get annoying when you kill one of the residents, so I tightened my grip on her hand.

          “You know how traveling goes, one moment you can be wandering about with nothing but your own thoughts, the next the forest is on fire!” Aena laughed.

          The maritime laughed on reflex, “Sounds like an adventure! We don’t wander inland, for obvious reasons,” his annoyingly well-toned arms gestured to his annoyingly shiny blue tail. “but travelers do tell of the fires that tend to break out every few years!”

          “See? A normal occurrence!” She flipped her hood to look back at me, unsuccessfully.

          “Hmhm.”

          “What brings you lovely folk to our port?” He smiled, showing off annoyingly-

          “My husband and our son are headed to the southern continents! We’ve been making a bit of a round trip and are headed home.” She patted my hand, which meant letting go of Vel who latched onto the back of her cloak.

          “Son? Why Miss, you look too young!” Boney…twittered. “Homebound? How lovely! Have you gotten ahold of any wonderful souvenirs?” The boy’s eyes narrowed, almost naturally, with a smile.

          I could practically see her eyes do the same thing, but far more subtly and radiantly.

          “Oh, no. Sadly, we have not a soul to bring souvenirs back to! Just this family of three are we!” She’s rhyming, Vel started yanking on the back of her cloak.

          “Oh, how terrible! But Miss, they aren’t just for the ones at home who missed out, they’re also for remembering a wonderful trip! Memories are stronger when you have something to remind you.” He gave her a sad smile.

          “..yes that is true.” Her tone softened, so I glared at the maritime. Vel was savagely yanking on both of us at this point.

          “Would you like to see my wares?” Vel froze, before he got a good grip, then used the full weight of his body to hang on us to try and drag us in the opposite direction.

          “Thank you, that would be lovely!” She was too excited, her voice actually sounded calm…

          The maritime reached down his front to a bag that was mostly hidden and pulled out a delicate little carving. A light pink, practically transparent, crystal that was remarkably well crafted and detailed.

          He was about to say something but I already had it in hand.

          “The workmanship of this is remarkable, was it done underwater or above? Are you the artisan? Do you have other examples? What kind of blade is used, or…no is it a blade? It seems a bit different than that…”

          “…an expert I see…” the boy laughed, a bit uneasily. “Sir, your wife…”

          I looked down to see her hand hanging by the thread, I lowered my arm to see the rest of her in the dust, her face half looking at me with a calm, not smiling expression.

          I gently handed the carving back, then with far more care than I’ve ever handled any bomb, or lemonade, with, I picked her up and dusted her off.

          “Do you have a different color? Or one that not, a lady?” She smiled, very calm, and asked the boy who had adjusted his grip on the item to make it harder to snatch.

          To his credit, he recovered quickly, “Of course! This happens to be just one of many of my – master’s creation!” The brief pause might have been a natural one, it was barely noticeable.

          “Can we see them? I’d prefer an animal.” Her tone was still even and encouraging.

          “Sadly, this one is the last that I have with me today.” He eyed he and whispered slyly, “Mostly couple passing through lately”

          “Image that…” Vel muttered bitingly under his breath.

          “But if you pay in advance, I can reserve one for you for tomorrow’s batch! If the amount is right, I think I can work with my master to do something, special for you…” The stupid fish’s eyes were so open and honest they were practically crossed.

          Aena held out her hand, and I dumped one of the smaller bags of gold and gems I had…borrowed… from a friend of mine’s hoard.

          “Here’s the deal kid.” She buckled her knees to bring her down to his eye level, elbows resting on her thighs. “I want an emerald firtree, jewel in the bag…?” She looked back at me, I nodded. “jewel in the bag. And information on a good ship headed to the Southwest Continent. If you can do all that, you can keep everything in this bag, if you don’t show up tomorrow, we’ll hunt you down.”

          “Madam, I am an honest-” he started getting offended, Boney opened the bag and lifted my cloak enough to show back feathers. “Will you need 1 cabin or 2 for the ship?”

          “2, Vel my boy do you want one? No? He’ll get a clawed seafood ruby.” I handed her a ruby. “Do you want a topaz eye?”

          “No, make it a snake.” I passed another bag over.

          The fish’s expression hadn’t changed. Smiling, he took the bags. What gave him away was a very shaky dorsal fin that was twitching like crazy.

          “I’ll be sure to bring the items tomorrow, as for a ship…My cousin married a captain and they travel between here and Port North rather often, they’re due in 2 days if you can wait. There are other ships, but they’re trustworthy, when they get paid enough.”

          “Isn’t everyone?” I asked drily.

          “Maybe if you’re strong.” The boy grinned, reveling teeth that were far longer than any race I’d seen. “An angel and a demon who don’t worry about getting caught are definitely safe, but you can’t always be on guard, especially with your young half-breed.”

          “Oh no, Vel-boy is human.” She patted his head.

          “Right.” He smirked. “Anyway, I’ll head out and get details from my cousin on timetables, I’ll also see who’s planning on going for you.”

          With a flip of his tail he disappeared into the waterway.

          “…so Vel, you got scammed?” Boney asked calmly, watching the waterway and tracking the occasional flash of that fish’s blue tail.

          “…yeah.”

          “Was it a lot?”

          “…yeah.”

          “Which port?”

          “…not this one.”

          We nodded. It looked like we’ll have a peaceful stay here afterall.

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