5c (Argentum’s Song – PG)

“Very well, what sort of proof of life would suffice for our sceptic friend?”

“Well, among other things, a duck tends to be less stationary then that. Moving on its own volition. Certainly doing more then sitting perfectly still and clicking its tongue.”

“Unless, of course, it’s very well trained. Also, I’m sure you realize that most domestic ducks have been clipped to keep them from flying away.”

At this the crowd laughed but a few more tossed their own silver into the hat and voiced their desire to get into the bet. Among them was an off duty militia member in a dusty red uniform.

“I’ll join this bet. But with the additional observation that I’ve never known a duck that wouldn’t eat, were an appropriate morsel placed before its mouth.”

The crowd murmured agreement, a bag of bread crust was presented to the tinker, and more coins joined the guard’s in the cap. A filthy boy, no older than twelve, rushed forward with a coin he had no doubt liberated from one of the audience member’s pocket.

“And A’ve never seen a livin’ bird, what didn’t crap. If’n it was scared enough.”

The poor performer looked genuinely shocked and Martha began to hope she might see the return of her coin after all, with interest. Other audience members shared this view and within moments the hat was half full of coins.

“What? You would attempt to bankrupt a poor tinker?”

The town guard held his halberd a little straighter before replying.

“I’m sure your illustr’us guild will cover whatever lack may be within your purse. What with their honour being called upon to justify your claims.”

The masked man grimaced and waved his hands.

“Stop the betting, stop that I say!”

The crowd however, emboldened by his protests, continued dropping coins into the hat until he physically removed it from the road. The tinker shook his head and looked to the crowd again.

“So for proof of life, you require a duck that will move, eat and produce … droppings?”

The crowd cheered it’s reply. The lifeless disks over the actor’s eyes turned toward Franklin.

“I trust you have no additional requirements.”

Franklin shook his head and smiled into his fist.

“Right then, let’s get this over with.”

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