Part 8:

At Cost, Three Leaf

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The bazaar was actually kind of depressing. Even at the peak of the day it was relatively empty. Its peach colored stone walls were worn and faded, and colorful painted tiles had been plied up from the ground, sold off for a quick buck.

But Kajulan thought the place was pretty amazing, and Tekole, not knowing what to expect, mirrored her enthusiasm. She ran up to a long dry white fountain in the middle of the plaza and hopped in, leaning against its centerpiece.

“I’ve always loved this thing,” said Kajulan, resting her elbow atop it. “It’s fun to climb.”

Tekole walked over, putting one foot up on its rim. “Oh,” he said. “That is fun.”

Kajulan looked around, scanning the present merchants. She gasped and pointed towards a stand at the far end of the plaza. “Ooh, ooh!” she said. “That one’s fun! Come with me.”

Kajulan dismounted from the centerpiece and hopped out of the fountain. Tekole began to follow, but stopped when he heard someone calling him over. He turned to see a vendor waving at him from his stand, a nassu man with skin alternating between brilliant shades of orange and black.

“Silum friend,” said the man, reaching out with his hand.

“Hi,” Tekole replied meekly.

The man reached out further, bending over his stand in the process, and took Tekole’s hand. “So,” asked the man. “What can I do for you today?”

“I don’t know,” answered Tekole. “You called me over.”

The man nodded rapidly. “Yes yes yes, of course.” He looked up at Tekole’s face, squinting. “Where are your tattoos?” he asked.

Tekole tilted his head. “Tattoos?”

The man shook his head. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be rude. It’s just, I’ve never seen a Yilgez without something on their face before. I was curious.”

Tekole reached up, running his hand along his cheek. “I don’t know. I guess I just never had the chance to get any.”

“Oh,” the man replied simply. His face turned sad, afraid he had touched on an hitherto unknown sore spot. He hopped under his stand, and after a moment of rummaging, emerged with a small jar. “Here,” he said, placing it on the wooden plank between them. “This is a beautiful yellow ochre, refined in the East. Perfect for your complexion. You can have it at cost, three leaf.”

“Hey!” hollered a voice from across the plaza. Tekole looked over. Although it was coming from the booth Kajulan was currently at, it was not her yelling, which surprised him. “These two were together! Stop poaching my customers!”

“Quiet sister!” the man shouted back. “I am trying to have a heart-to-heart with this poor boy!” He looked back at Tekole, and gave a tired smile. “Two leaf.”

Tekole reached into his pocket and withdrew a few coins, careful not to give away the cool one with a boat on it. He wasn’t sure why he wanted the dye. In all honesty he kind of just felt obligated at this point.

Kajulan walked over. She held half a watermelon rind in her hands, with two wooden spoons sticking out of it.

“What’d you get?” she asked.

“Oh, this,” replied Tekole, holding up the jar.

“Neat,” Kajulan said, her curiosity already spent. She held up the rind. “Sweet melon?” Tekole shook his head, which just made Kajulan gesture with the melon more aggressively. “Tekole, you need to have some. It’s like, all cream. I can’t eat all of it.”

Tekole gave in and took one of the spoons, while Kajulan returned to her scanning. She pointed again, this time at a shop built into the wall, barely visible as more than a door and window. “That one next!” she said. “It’s fun too!” She ran off, leaving Tekole with the half-eaten rind.

Kajulan entered the shop followed closely by Tekole, snack dutifully still in hand. Windowed shelfs ran parallel to half the walls, which themselves were adorned with a eclectic collection of items. The tajkyn woman at the counter, who had been half asleep before they entered, shot up and ran over to them. “Welcome!” she exclaimed, unable to contain her excitement at having customers. “Welcome to Southern Imports! How can I help you?” The woman was dressed in a clearly Southern fashion, with a colorful dress that reached down to her ankles and her red hair done up in a traditional style, but her accent betrayed her as clearly local.

“Knives?” asked Kajulan, as if it was the most normal question in the world. The woman stepped aside, motioning towards one of the display cases, and Kajulan ran over, almost pushing her nose against the glass as she admired them. “So they really use all these in the South?” she asked.

“Yes,” lied the woman, not a hint of remorse in her voice.

While Kajulan continued to survey the assortment of cheap bladeware, Tekole walked through the rest of the shop. Most of it was unbelievably kitsch, although a small statue did catch his eye. It depicted the silhouette of a man, featureless and with chisel in hand, bent over a stone tablet.

“How much for this?” asked Tekole.

The store owner ran over. “Oh yes, an excellent choice! Fine craftsmenship from Kurgal. A carved stone by a carved people.” She looked at Tekole. “Twenty leaf.”

The two left the store, Kajulan spinning new knife around her finger, and Tekole gingerly holding the small statue in his hands. He had absentmindedly left the sweet melon behind when he went to pay, but the shop owner was too focused on closing the sale to worry about it.

“So, what’d you get?” asked Kajulan, glancing down at the little man Tekole had held out in front of him.

“A statue,” replied Tekole.

“I see that! I meant what is it a statue of?”

Tekole thought for a moment. “It’s a guy called the Carver. A god, actually. My parents had a statue of him like this.”

Kajulan looked at him and smiled sincerely. There was a moment of silence, eventually broken as Kajulan began spinning the knife around her finger again. “This is what I got,” she said. She stopped spinning the sheathed blade and grasped its handle. “It’s like a normal knife, but it has brass knuckles too!”

Tekole leaned in. “Huh. I don’t really see how you’d use that.”

Kajulan leaped back, taking an aggressive posture and bobbing back and forth, while at the same time ignoring confused stares from the handful of other people in the plaza. “It’s really simple. They come at you thinking you just have a knife, see? So they try to maneuver around it and bam!” She punched the air. “Right in the face.” She began to waggle the knife at Tekole. “Come on, let me show you! Try and get me.”

Tekole placed the statue under one arm and watched for a moment before moving in, easily grabbing her with the other and lifting her up.

“Okay, okay!” giggled Kajulan. “It doesn’t work.” Tekole dropped her, and Kajulan took a moment to straighten out her outfit. “So?” she asked. “What’s next?” Tekole only replied with a shrug, which was fine with Kajulan. She had decided already anyways. “You ever gambled?” she asked. Tekole nodded, which surprised her a bit. She had been ready to introduce him to another sin.

“Yeah. Just with some other people from work. I was never very good at it though.”

“That’s okay,” said Kajulan. “It’s more about the locale than the game anyways, and I know a pretty good place. It’s a ways away, but it’s worth it.”

The two began to walk, Kajulan with her hands in her pockets and Tekole back to his previous carrying method.

“So,” asked Tekole. “Any gambling advice?”

“Well,” began Kajulan. “Rudim always told me the trick was to not get get too greedy. Now that is true, you do loose less money if you don’t . . .” Kajulan gestured towards herself. “But personally, I’ve found that you have more fun if you do.”

“That’s good advice,” said Tekole.

“Yes. It is.”