Martha, and those around her turned her attention to the young wretch who was already fleeing down a side alley. By the time she looked back, the tinker, the coins, and the duck had disappeared. Before long the rest of those gathered also began realizing the tinker and the youth might have been in league. There was some good natured grumbling about being cheated, but the only two who weren’t grinning at how they had been tricked into paying for their entertainment were Martha and the militia man with his soiled boot. Franklin was actually leaning against a wall and laughing out loud.
Martha grabbed the purse of coins back from him and stomped past the militia squad as two friends were telling the other man to cheer up and offering to cover his first round at the ale house. A few footsteps later Franklin was at her elbow with a similar mission.
“Come on. Don’t be mad. That was better entertainment than I’ve seen even at court. Worth far more than a half penny.”
“No doubt that was why you chose to offer up a full penny then. Easy to do when it isn’t your hide on the line. I’m the one Ladin will hold responsible if I can’t get everything necessary for the evening meal with what is left.”
“Ah, you’ll do fine. You’re better at haggling than any one else on the caravan. Why else do you think Ladin sent you to market?”
The way the words came out of Franklin’s mouth they felt more like an insult than complement. As if worrying about bartering or money was beneath anyone of real stature. Franklin stopped and grabbed her elbow.
“That really was better than anything I’ve seen before.”
“O.K. I get it. You aren’t sorry you stole the money.”
“No … the duck. That was better than any tek I’ve seen down South. Why couldn’t Ladin stock up on that before he returns?”
Martha shrugged and looked up at the prominent ‘clock tower’ jutting up from the middle of Phoentown. A gift to the steward from the tinker’s guild, its purpose was similar to a sundial but worked whether the sun was out or not. It also chimed on the hour. She had heard other rumours about the power of the local tinker’s guild, how it had access to the secrets of many similar tek. Some claimed undead watchers guarded the guildhouse, others that the tinkers had harnessed the power of the golem titans themselves.
“I haven’t seen any of it for sale have you? I’m pretty sure that tinkers the world over are prohibited from actually selling tek secrets. Even the clock tower is manned by tinkers as opposed to city officials, isn’t it?”
“It’s just hard to imagine Ladin low on wealth. Surely he’s got something up his sleeve.”