Chapter 12 Scene 5

by Richard Perkins
This entry is part 52 of 65 in the series Doormaker's Fall

It had been a dark and chilling trip, but Devon made it to the watering post without incident. The underground passageways were surprisingly clear of obstructions and debris. Not for the first time, Devon wondered how these subterranean waterways were maintained. But that was a question for another time.

Devon silently paddled down the darkened tunnel on his back toward the wan light at his destination. He could hear the calls of the street vendors in the crowded Bazaar overhead. They echoed off the enclosing walls of stone before reaching Devon in his side tunnel. The bouncing distorted them beyond all recognition. He would have to get out into the main well to have any hope of understanding the flow of conversation.

The water level dropped as he moved further toward the light, until he was scraping along the bottom on his back. There was not room in the tunnel to turn around or roll over, so he was forced to scuttle up the water dampened stones on his heels and shoulder blades. At last his head broke clear of the sunless tunnel. He was momentarily blinded by the circle of light falling from the opening overhead.

Squinting, he shimmied further out of the tunnel until his hands were free. He rotated his body to look down into the standing water an armspan below him at the bottom of the well. This cistern supplied water for the entire Bazaar, and it was running quite low.

Before leaving the side tunnel, Devon darkened his face and hands with mud from the tunnel floor. Then he lowered himself silently onto the ledge of stone that ran around the cistern below him. The ring of stone here was just above the water. This close to the bottom of the well, sounds were still muddled and difficult to understand.

After catching his breath for a moment, Devon climbed up toward the light, using the countless rough protrusions in the rough stone walled pit as his ladder. He kept as close to the wall as he could, and moved slowly up the shadowed side of the well. This way he would remain invisible if anyone looked into the watering post while he was climbing upward.

Luckily, there was a second ridge of stone half way up the shaft where he could rest while he listened for information. He settled there and waited for the fastest news delivery network in the village: the well-side gossip mongers.

Guardian Village was small. And the fastest way to get news out to every citizen within its walls was to whisper it to someone at a town well. Of course it also helped if the person you told was sworn to secrecy, but that wasn’t strictly necessary.

Old Max held the planned arrival and departure dates of traders at the Bazaar in the utmost confidence. He wouldn’t want any overzealous shoppers to use the information for unfair trading leverage. But secrets had a way of getting out, especially in a small village. And if anyone knew who was packing up their stall for the season, it would be the gossip mongers.

Unfortunately, the well-whisperers talked about everything touched by the light of day, and several more that weren’t. Most of them were of no interest. Devon settled himself in for a long wait. He listened in the well until he lost count of the wild rumors he had overheard. Some of them made him blush. Most were just crazy enough to be believable.

“…did you hear about that Chandler boy? Well I’ll tell you…”

“… just shocking I tell you! Poor Tobias, not even in the ground half a ‘turn and already…”

“…can you believe the price Merchant Dante is asking for his spices! Never in all my ‘turns have I seen the like…”

“…now I’m not saying where I heard this, but today would be a good day to buy from Dorian…”

Devon jolted himself fully awake at the last comment, straining to hear the details of the conversation before it faded back into the surrounding babble.

“…I wouldn’t say this to just anyone. But for you Darla, I’ll make an exception. And you know these factors. Here today… gone tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow you say? How’s his stock?”

“Ha! I always said you always were a sharp one Darla. But not half as crafty as that Dorian. …oh sure he’s still buying casks of wine like he always does. But that’s not all that he’s packed up in those crates behind his stall. Only a few left with his mark on ‘em. He’ll have a full load by the end of the day, you mark my words.”

“And he’ll need to sell off whatever he can by that time to make room. Looks like I’ve got a motivated seller to visit…”

He listened until the sun traveled far enough across the sky to encroach on his shadowed position. He heard several variations of the same rumors, and once overheard a second conversation about the factor Dorian. When he was convinced that he had the best evidence he was going to get, he slid further into the shadows and climbed carefully back down into the well.

One half of his assignment was complete. Now he needed to make his way out of the village to take care of the second half.

Comments are closed.