“Guards! Guards!” The knife merchant stepped out from his booth and grabbed Matilda’s upper arm. She glared down at him and he swallowed and stepped back.
“I know I’m new here,” she said. “But there’s no law against killing annoying people, is there?” She glanced around. Other merchants were eyeing her, pedestrians were backing away, and somewhere in the distance, someone yelled, “Make way, make way. Guards coming through!”
The knife merchant pointed to a sign nailed to the front of his booth. “Can’t you read?”
She squinted at the old-fashioned lettering. “Thee tryeth, thee buyeth?”
“If you want to test the sharpness, do it against a piece of paper”–the merchant pointed to a stack of scrap pieces weighed down by a rock–“or on a fingernail. You got blood on my falchion, and probably nicked some ribs with it. But more importantly, you’ve left a mess in front of my booth. That’s going to drive away customers.”
“And there’s a fine,” a neighboring vendor called out.
“Right. They fine you if a you leave a dead body lying around,” said the knife merchant. “It smells. It attract insects. It’s a pain to clean up.”
She looked down at the body. Blood was starting to pool on the cobblestones beneath it and as she watched a fly buzzed over.
“Sorry, I didn’t know,” she said.
“Oh, good, Joe, you’re here,” the merchant said.
Matilda looked up.
Joe was a big guy, muscular, as tall and built as Matilda herself. His leather armor looked natural on his body and was well worn. “Where do you spar?” she asked him.
“Mercenary Guild. Monday and Wednesday mornings, and whenever else I’ve got a break in my schedule,” Joe said.
“Tell them Joe sent you, and they’ll give you a visitor pass,” he said. “It’s a good guild. If you’re looking for steady work, you should sign up.”
The merchant cleared his throat and glanced meaningfully at the body.
“Right,” said Joe, and pulled a pad of paper from inside his jupon. “Name and occupation?”
“Matilda Scarletstrike,” said Matilda. “Sword for hire.”
“Just got here. Any recommendations?”
“There are a couple of good boarding houses on Knots Hollow Way,” he said. “Most charge between two and three silvers a night.” He looked over at the merchant. “What’s the charge?”
“She used a falchion and refused to pay for it,” said the merchant.
Joe looked down at the bloody weapon, then over at Matilda.
“Fine, fine,” she said, digging under her own vest to find her coin purse. “How much is it?”
“Four golds,” said the merchant.
Matilda paused with her purse half open and looked up at him.
“Three golds,” he said and lifted his chin defiantly. She stared at him a little longer and he finally relented. “Two golds. Five silvers.”
“It’s a rip-off,” said Joe. “You get better prices at the Northwest Bazaar up by the commercial gate, near the warehouse district. Check out Swen’s Secondhand Sword Supermarket.”
“Well, live and learn,” said Matilda, dropping the money down in front of the merchant.
“What about the body?”
Matilda glanced at Joe.
“There’s a disposal chute over there,” he said, pointing over his left shoulder.
“What, like a dumpster?”
“More like a covered well,” he said.
“That doesn’t sound sanitary.”
“Officially, there’s a septic system deep under the city where everything safely decomposes,” said Joe. “Unofficially, everything dropped in there just disappears off the grid. It’s not historically accurate, or physically possible, but it was cheaper to do it that way than to build a real sanitation system.”
“You better get the body out of here,” said the merchant. “If you don’t, you’ll be fined, and you’ll be black listed by the chamber.”
“You don’t want that,” said Joe. “The chamber’s the main enforcement body around here.”
“Fine, fine,” she said. She picked up the bloody falchion, wiped it off on the dead guy’s shirt, then tucked it away with her other weapons. Then she bent down and grabbed the body under the armpits. It jangled. “Ooh. Looks like he’s got money and weapons on him.”