Griz walked over to the counter to the boy wearing a tattered and patched cloak. Given the few dealings he had with this boy he was aware something was up. He only wondered what kind of offer this boy was going to give him during winter.
“What can you have that would interest me in these months? If its firewood, the price is the same two coppers. Don’t feel just because its cold you are going to get a better deal!”
“Ha ha, firewood! This humble one will not waste your time on such trivial matters.”
Just as expected the boy had a bearing and speech that could never be learned in the slums. If this was how the slum children were raised, then the nobles in the capitals would be flocking to get their kids thrown in here.
“I have a proposition but its private as usual.”
Griz sauntered over to the end of the counter away from the assistants that were chatting together. In this type of weather, all that was on the mind was a hot meal and warm bed. Nobody paid attention when the two sat down in the far corner of the counter.
“Let me hear this one. You can’t hide it from me that you feel you got something good.”
“I want to make a bulk trade. I want some dry food supplies like flour, cheese and preserves to be delivered to my barn. If possible I want it done by those you trust, a little kid like me cannot bear the wrath of greedy men you know.”
“How far is your barn? Maybe you don’t know it since your cooped up in isolation. The Trading post does a monthly delivery to the outlying farms on better winter days.”
Oh, Chu was surprised by this initiative. It seems every winter the Trading post made deliveries to the outlying farms around the village. The cost for a winter delivery was one silver. With that price it guaranteed that once for the winter a convoy of guards and clerks would pay a visit to deliver prepaid purchases.
The month for the delivery was agreed on at the time of the down-payment. This service allowed the farms to keep in contact with the village. Those farms only other contact was if they meet up with patrolling garrison soldiers but that usually meant the advent of bad news. Sometimes a few members of the garrison would accompany the guards from the Trading post.
This was used by the garrison as a means of keeping contact and determining the situation of the outlying farms. Most of the villages at the edge of the forest employed this tactics during the winter months.
Using this method of trade the Trading post made money when it should have been like most of the village hunkering down for the winter. It also made use of its private guards, why pay for loiterers when you can work them for their monies worth. They spent one day facing the snow but always made sure to return before dark.
“My barn is near half day away by foot it should be closer using the horses. How soon do you guys set off?”
Griz left him to consult a large beaten book that was obviously some sort of register.
“Next move is two weeks from now to the farms in the north. Where are you?”
“Straight south. I think I’m the last barn in the south.”
“Hmmm you gonna have to wait for next month, delivery went out last four days ago.”
Chu bit his lip and drummed his little fingers on the table.
“It would be nice to have gotten it today as the weather is holding up. Even tomorrow might have been ok.”
He mumbled as he was thinking.
Griz suddenly realized he missed asking the most important questions. This brat was definitely not like the usual farmer.
“Hey, don’t tell me you just came to buy supplies? Didn’t you say you had something to sell?”
Chu broke out from his thoughts. He gave a careless answer as if he was just shooting the breeze with a friend.
“Oh yea…I had some white wolves to sell in bulk…..Hmmm next month eh? Might be cutting it short…not gonna be fresh by then…”
“Hey, hey what you mean wolves in bulk?”
Griz knocked the counter with his palms. He was trying to get this kid back into focus from daydreaming.
“Twenty one white wolves, not in the usual best condition but good all the same. I wanted to get them out of my hands as quickly as possible.”
Chu rambled on.
“I would have given you for the same deal of ten silver as a bonus. Although I know now they are worth more, I did promise you a deal.”
Griz shook his head and straightened up. He was fully aware that the other had offered his bottom line. A seasoned trader knew when and when not to barter.
“Deal. I wont beat you down since we both know its slow season. How about I get the convoy to make a trip tomorrow morning? That way gives us enough time to make the trip and back during the day.”
“Sounds good to me.”
To Chu this was much better than having to wait for weeks.
“Good, good you can rest in one of the vacant merchant rooms until tomorrow. I’ll get some one to take care of you till then.”
Given Griz nature Chu read him like a book. Only by baiting him would he establish himself as the dominant trader. At this point Chu had definitely passed the level of a trapper and risen to the rank of a merchant in Griz eyes. The deals he brought were simply too much for an average hunter to present.
“I need to purchase a few things, it makes no sense for the wagon to be moving empty.”
Griz only chuckled in response. The most simple fact in any trade was that each participant had to feel they got the best out of it. A good trade should always be a win-win situation.
After listing out his purchases and a round of trying to best each other in the deal, they were finally finished. Chu grabbed Ming who was happily chatting with the other clerks at the side. Their topics ranged from food to women in the village. Ming was not an idiot to give away any of their secrets. Chu was aware that this fool simply had a way of integrating himself into any group.
Chu and Ming were escorted to the merchant quarters. Most of these rooms were empty for the winter season as the merchant convoys had already departed.
A clerk shooed them into a room and prepared the fire and basic amenities for them. Food was delivered and it was simply for them to wait it out until tomorrow. They would have a free escort on the way and could purchase ten times more than they could carry.
Chu was determined to milk this deal as much as possible. He would consider himself a fool if he did not take advantage.
“Holy crap Chu! This little room is better than my old house, this bed is sooo soft. What is it made off? Oh my god! Look at those slabs of meat and that fresh soft bread. Mmmmm….its even softer than what Sue makes!”
Ignoring the mad antics and ravings of his companion Chu settled down. For a village outpost the small room was within reasonable expectations. It was just that Ming was making it out to be like they just stepped into the royal palace. The room had a simple neat desk and chair, fireplace and feather filled mattress. The foods were just like they were now used to, just the bread was obviously made with more butter.
“Settle down you idiot, its not like your not accustomed to such a normal feast. Remind me tomorrow to buy some more butter, Sue will be able to make bread just as soft as this.”
“He he, Chu make me a bed like this I want one just as soft.”
From the conversations Chu realized that this fool was under the impression that he could do anything. But wasn’t he to demanding. Where was he going to get a bed in winter like this? Did he think all he had to do was pull it out of his backside.
Why didn’t I bring Lucy instead?
The night was uneventful and in the morning a guard came to escort them to the readied convoy. Chu added some more goods that he remembered last night and paid for his purchases with gold. Griz was sending the old man who had helped before with the Snow bear. He also had the money to be paid on delivery of the wolves.
This was the silent understanding between these two traders. Money paid on delivery of items. Chu got his, now Griz had to wait until the person he sent was satisfied with theirs. Chu didn’t want to waste the building of this relationship by demanding money up front. It was generous of Griz when he trusted them enough to send his guards into a forest for the Snow bear.
In the early morning the convoy set out. The two sleds were packed but still had ample room so everyone was seated. This would make their journey much faster than having to walk. As they left the village in the distance Chu made out a lone horseman dashing across the snow blocked roads to the village. Even from the distance you could see the frantic and feel the desperate aura of the person.
The hairs on his back involuntarily rose but settled back down. He had a strange feeling that something was off.
‘Maybe some wolf pack sighting or something, once we make our way home I would be happy’ he muttered. With this purchase they were stocked well until spring.
The convoy reached the barn before the morning was up. It only took time since they were not on any used roads but traveling across the grasslands. Chu had them stop at the old ruins along the way to collect the remaining bundles of firewood. Since he had the transport he thought he might as well use it.
At the barn only the cloaked outfit of Clod was there to meet them at the door. Long before Lucy had already sighted the convoy approaching and led the rest down into the cellar.
Giving the relieved Clod a pat on the shoulder, Chu led the guards into the barn. The old man quickly hustled them to work after breaking them out from their stupor. Without time to even gaze around he had them loading the wolf carcasses onto the sleds. By the time eveyone catched their breaths they were already packed and rearing to return.
None of them wanted to stay out in this winter cold for long, especially since this was an unexpected trip.
Chu collected the money from the old guard and saw them off. Only when they were dots in the distance did he enter the barn. By then Miki was already on the tower and the girls were packing the supplies. Ming was busy hounding Sue about the soft bread and meats he had eaten the previous day.
In the evening they were gathered on the platform as usual. Lucy was up on the tower with Miki taking a rest. Even though Chu told them they might have to spend a sleepover in the village they were still scared and under pressure. Only on his return did the mountain like weight lift off their shoulders.
“Well it can be said we were very suscessful with this trip.”
Chu continued beaming with a smile all around to cheer them up.
“We should be all set to rally out the winter in the food line. Right Sue?”
“Y..yes even if we cut the soup days down by half, I think our food is more than enough.”
The little girl replied. Since working at the farmhouse inn she had never seen so much food. The cellar was practically near quater filled with all types of ingredients, meats, presevatives, cheezes and basic provisions.
“Clod how is it on your end?”
“Very good. I got enough nails and supplies to do any odds and ends fixing. The supply of lumber is what I wanted since we were short.”
Chu nodded as he glanced at the slinking culprit who wasted the extra planks and posts.
“I think with that wolf pack gone and us having enough supplies for the winter we should be good for the rest of the months. No need to worry about anything until spring.”
Only when the words came out of his mouth Chu realized what he said and where he was.
That was definitely, undoubtedly a FLAG!