Lucy had it even easier than Chu. She didn’t have to talk much and was herded towards her destination.
When the clerk brought her to the compound he talked to the guard telling him that Mr Griz sent for the young girl for the night. He then turned and left in a flourish not noticing the strange looks from the guard.
The Trading post compound was the second largest only to the Garrison. Their guards only numbered slightly less than the militia. This was because they had to guard the storeroom and the safety of the visiting merchants. It could be seen how the Trading post valued its reputation even in remote villages like these.
These guards were hired and sent from headquarters. As such, they were persons familiar with the reputation and dealings of this large company. Even if merchants had vices and loved to engage in vulgar acts, it was done in secret.
Hence it was shocking when this little bumpkin clerk flaunted such vulgar actions in public.
One of the guards took the little girl into the compound and walked her to the room of the Trading room master. The clerk had already headed back to his station. Even him was not allowed into this place at night.
When the guard entered the building and made his way to the room he respectfully knocked. On the outside, seated behind a desk an old man was half asleep. Seeing the confused glances the guard was giving the young girl when he knocked, a grin flashed across his face as he kept one eye open.
“What is it?”
Came a sleepy but low voice from the room.
“Pardon Master, but the night clerk brought a young girl here for you. He said the brother dropped her off as you requested.”
The guard shot an embarrassed look as his face turned red on that statement.
Silence. Then the slow heavy steps sounded in the room coming closer.
The door opened and a huge hairy hand shot out lifting the guard by his collar.
“What the HECK did you say?!!!”
“The clerk….the clerk he said it…he he said to bring the girl…”
The guard stuttered in shock at the sudden attack.
What the hell is this, he thought. I am just the messenger don’t kill me.
I knew something was strange when that guy came around, see if I don’t dish out a beating for this trouble.
Facing the angry red face of his boss, all the guard could do was resign himself for a beating. As the two men competed to see who would turn the deepest shade of red, a young voice broke the tension.
“Mr Griz, please excuse your guard, this was the only way to meet you in a hurry. My brother Chu needs to see you.”
Griz stepped out of the room covered in a robe. He recognized the young girl who had uncovered her head. She was part of a crazy trio that appeared out of nowhere to conduct trade in pelts.
Everything screamed wrong about them. They were malnourished and weak that even a goat might kill them, yet they brought in not hare, or foxes but wolf carcasses. They were illiterate, but could count every copper.
Worse yet they were from the slums and should be timid and shy in front of power. But they were like calculating old crows and misers who ground down to the stones in a deal.
Griz looked at the girl.
“What does he want at this time of night?”
Griz was no kind-hearted soul, he was not one for helping out every soul in need. He was trained to be a merchant. This was not the first village he was sent to, and it would not be the last.
“He said to tell you this……when opportunity knocks, only fools shy away.”
She looked at him a little confused.
“He said you would know. You have the eyes of a merchant.”
Griz dropped the guard slowly to the ground and looked at the girl.
“Please hurry, time is….my other friend…you need to hurry…”
Tears started to well up as she stuttered.
Griz shook his head and sighed. Looking across at the old man who was half choking with laughter since the beginning, he commanded.
Chu was washing his face at the well, when he saw Griz rumbling across to the Trading post. Before he could move he heard the shouts.
“JOHNNNNN! GET YOUR A$$ out here!!!!”
The clerk who was rejoicing in have earned some free cash, tumbled off his stood and rushed out in shock.
‘Mr Griz Sir?!!”
Bap, bap bap.
“What the hell you sending girls to my room for in the middle of the night?”
Bap bap bap
“You want to damage my reputation?”
Bap bap bap
“Just because you have a little education in this village you want to belittle me?”
Bap bap bap.
Just then the beating stopped as Griz spotted Chu walking towards him. This kid is really different he thought, he showed no fear seeing me in a rage and instead walked up in an unconcerned manner.
The clerk who was pummeled, saw him through his now beady eyes. Squinting through his swollen face that was getting bigger by the second, he recognized the person responsible for his predicament.
“That’s him, that’s the kid….seize him”
“What do you have for me.” Griz asked Chu.
“A bargain that gets more expensive the longer you wait.”
“Oh….lets go inside the store.”
Griz knew that Chu was a person who preferred discretion. They both walked off with Lucy trailing behind. Of course both of them were oblivious to the shouts coming from the clerk.
“Hey! I said that’s the kid, hold that bastard.”
The guards who had gathered with the commotion simply looked as if they saw an idiot.
‘You want me to grab the kid who the Master just invited into the store? Are you freaking crazy?’
‘You lunatic I have to pay you back for nearly getting beaten by the Master, just wait until you finish work’
Suddenly Chu stopped his steps and turned towards the railing clerk.
“Hey! Those eighty-one coppers you took from me. I want it when I return.”
With that Chu left the red-faced man and went into the store. Not wasting time to become comfortable Chu started talking.
“Mr Griz, time is of the essence. I need a bear and deer to be extracted from the forest right now. We can discuss the fees afterwards but we need to move now.”
Griz knees nearly buckled as he leaned on the counter. The only thing called bear in these parts was something even a whole village would not tamper with.
“What…what did you say..??”
“I see, ok then if you do not want to help I guess my other option is the garrison. I only came because I promised to give you a bargain.”
Chu turned to leave. Griz scrambled on the counter and grabbed him by the shoulder. He turned him and lifted him up so they were staring at each other eye to eye.
“Bear and a Deer?”
“Yes, but I am only selling the bear, the deer pelt is yours, but all the meat is mine.”
“About same distance from here to edge of forest and back. Only I know the location.”
“The longer you take the quicker some stray wolf or hunter will find it. The price has already started climbing.”
Griz dropped him to the ground and held his hair screaming.
“YOU STINKING BRAT!!!…….damn you….this better be real.”
A few minutes passed and a squad of five guards left the post on horseback towards the forest. A horse-drawn cart accompanied them as they set out in the darkness.
When the guards reached the woodsmen camp they dismounted. Going into the forest on horseback at night was asking for trouble. The best they could do was lead the horses as they picked out a path.
While they were doing that, the horse-drawn cart arrived. The horse was quickly uncoupled and a simple sled cart attached. The main cart and rest of horses were left under the care of two guards. The rest walked on foot following the kid in front.
Griz didn’t come because it would take time to change. He was already pressed for time as it is. Instead he sent the old guard with the boy for company.
With this armed party, Chu actually cut his time to return to the forest by half since they arrived on the horses and were not that slow within the forest.
Arriving at the scene he breathed a sigh of relief as it was still the same. Informing the guards about his companion he called out. He didn’t want any accidents at the moment arising from miscommunication.
“Ming! Its safe, get down.”
The old man had gone ahead to check on the bear, shaking his head he looked across at the two children who were chatting together.
It was no easy task to get these precious cargo back to the Trading post. By the time the cart rolled into the Collection bay it was close to dawn. The only ones present were members of the Trading post.
Griz rushed out in full business attire when the cart came in. Seeing the carcasses he nearly fainted. He had spent nearly half the night biting his nails. His mind was only swinging from doubt to belief of the story.
Only by seeing Lucy sitting patiently waiting did he get a sense of relief. It was some consolidation that she continued to reply in the affirmative any time he questioned her. The little girl didn’t mind even though the questions came every ten minutes. Her mind was on her companions.
Now within the yard at the back of the Trading post, the sight he saw washed all doubts from his mind.
“Holy ^%$&!!! It really is true. And a Snow Bear to boot! S*&^! its a Great Horned deer.”
As the guards got the beast on the inspection table Griz began his checks under torches and candles.
“Hmmn.., the bear only has its fur punctured by a rib on its belly. The rest is in perfect condition. The deer is even better with the fracture being on the neck. Even the horns are undamaged.”
Griz continued his muttering amidst the guards looking on.
The Great horned deer is an animal found in the north and migrates in the forest. They live in herds and are caught only by hunters who form party and groups. It is a dangerous opponent when cornered, with its short rush charge it can kill a man. It is normally hunted using ranged attacks to wear it down when trapped. Because of this the pelt is usually damaged by arrows and cross-bolts. The antlers are also frequently damaged. This is because a capture is normally accompanied by at least one fatality from the rush attacks. The ferocity of attacks can break them easily.
The Snow bear is one of the most dangerous predators that wander south in the forest during winter. With its defensive capabilities rivaling knights in full armor and a strength beyond belief it is a lumbering terror. Encountering a beast like this in the forest, even the most skilled adventurers give it a wide berth. This beast has been known to chase and wipe out parties of hunters without sustaining injuries. The pelt is near impervious to arrows and swords. Only heavy crossbows fired at point-blank range can kill it after wearing it down.
This is the predator that can match a hundred hunters in the forest and still emerge victorious.
The bear being inspected may not be one of the old battle hardened ones, but it was still a mature Snow bear. Most amazing was that only the guards who were sworn to secrecy by the old man knew the truth. The three kids presently sitting inside the store away from everyone were the ones who were responsible.
Griz sighed as the completed his checks. The old man was waiting patiently on the side with the bearing of a personal guard. He asked the question most of them wanted to know.
“Who are they?”
Griz looked towards the store knowing what he was going to be facing. His face began to contort as if in pain. It was the type of heart wrenching pain a miser feels when his stash of gold is taken away in front of his eyes.
With something this huge, that kid was going to milk every drop he could get. Killing him wasn’t an option, the brat was like a golden goose who kills a goose that provides a gold egg?
The worst thing was that goose keeps laying more and bigger eggs every time!
Griz felt a major headache coming on.
With a depressed face he gave a reply.
“They are the meanest cold blooded misers around these parts.”