It took Will two full hours to make himself presentable. At least presentable as he was going to get with cold water and no soap. At least he had on a new shirt and pants. They were still worn down but they had the perk of not smelling so badly of fish guts, so it was a marked improvement over his old outfit. The last thing he did was pack his bottle of booze together with his other valuables in a sack which he slung over his back. Once out of the room he walked directly to the foreman. The sun had only just gone up but work was already well underway in the docks. He found foreman Jobe sitting in his usual chair by his usual desk, overseeing some clerical work that he didn’t understand.
The process of quitting was fast and easy. He did have to pay one full silver for the night he’d spent in the room without working the day after, but other than that it was smooth sailing. He walked away from the harbour deeper into the city. No turning back now.
The area around the harbour wasn’t exactly a slum, but it wasn’t far from it. It was where the poorest workers who didn’t have an official writ of citizenship lived and worked. That also meant that any tavern here had to be cheap. It didn’t take Will a very long time to find a suitable candidate.
‘The Old Leaf’ was a real hovel of an inn. There was obvious damage to the facade and the sign out front had certainly seen better days. Will wasn’t even sure if it had been cleaned once since it was put up. Perfect. He walked up with brisk steps and pulled open the door.
The air inside the inn was muggy, and smelled even stronger of fish and alcohol than the harbour did. Will wasn’t even sure that could’ve been possible, but it was literally right in his face, going up his nose, so he had no choice but to believe it. With an effort he stifled an impulse to pinch his nose closed and walked up to the counter. He ignored the few guests who were eating their breakfasts at the tables, and rang the bell for the innkeeper. It didn’t take long before a bald middle aged man in a dirty apron and sporting a salesman's smile walked up to him.
“What can I do for you?” He asked.
“I’d like a room.” Will said.
“Certainly.” The man nodded. “What size are you looking for? We have small, medium, large and…”
“A small room will be fine.” Will said quickly.
“Of course.” The innkeeper smiled a reassuring smile and opened a drawer from behind the counter. After shuffling some stuff around that Will couldn’t see he pulled out a key and put it down on the counter in front of Will.
“Room five is available.” he said. “It’s the one furthest to the right of the stairs on the upper level.”
“That will be fine.” Will said. After a moment's consideration he added: “Do you have a problem with long term stay? Say, one or two months?”
“Of course not! Quite the opposite!” The man said hastily. “Those who can pay can stay. That’s what I always say.”
The man chuckled to himself.
“Good.” Will said. “What about the price?”
“Standard fare for a small room is one half-silver per night.” he said. “But seeing as you seem to be interested in staying longer there is a deal that might interest you. A special offer, you might say.”
“A special offer?” Will was instantly interested. He couldn’t afford to waste any opportunity he got to make his limited funds last even a little bit longer. “What’s special about it?”
The innkeeper’s smile widened, and Will couldn’t help but shift uncomfortably as his mind went back to the beggar from his dream. At least this man still had his teeth.
“If you pay for two months in advance, meaning thirty full silver coins, both breakfast and lunch is also included in the price. I dare you to find a better deal anywhere in the district. If you do I’ll let you stay those two months for free.” His smile widened further, and he gazed intently at Will to gauge his reaction. Will frowned. He only had thirty-one and a half silver coins left. If he spent thirty silver here, what money would he have to buy clothes with?
Not even the old torn shirt he’d packed into his sack cost that little.
But the man wasn’t lying when he said the deal was probably the best he was going to find. Two months with two free meals every day was worth a few silver in itself. Plus with the added security of not having to go hungry… This wasn’t something Will could ignore.
“I’ll take it.” he said.
The room wasn’t that dissimilar from the one he’d just moved out of. It was slightly smaller, but being an inn the bed was slightly bigger. Other than that there was a small desk and one single chair, along with a small trunk to store personal items. A simple room for sleeping in and not much else. Just what he wanted. He put his sack of valuables in the trunk, then after hesitating for a while took the roll of fabric and the silverware out again. Now that he had so little money left it would be for the best if he sold these as soon as possible. Breakfast would have to wait.
With resolute steps he walked back out into the street, and continued onwards further inland. Towards the more pleasant and wealthier neighbourhoods where most the merchants had their stores.
Although you needed both a medallion and a permit to open and run a store in Hinden, there were plenty of places where goods were exchanged in secret. Or you could try and find someone who already had a permit and get them to sell your goods for you. Those types were also often not very picky when it came to exactly where those goods came from. But you’d have to take a loss on the value of the items if you went that route. Will hadn’t had much experience with Hinden’s underworld, but he knew what symbols to look out for. After a few hours of wandering around and inspecting doors and alleyways he found what he was looking for. A single gold coin with a key through it had been carved into the stone beside the door, down by the ground. Will looked up towards the sign hanging out in front.
He couldn’t have asked for better.
The inside looked like what Will would expect from any clothing store. It was full of gaudy pieces who were hopefully only made to be looked at, as they didn’t look too comfortable if you were to wear them. Also they probably cost hundreds of silver coins each. Maybe this wasn’t the best place for someone like him to buy clothing… But it had the symbol out front, so Will still had some hope.
A man came in from deeper inside the store and took his place behind the counter. He had brown hair with streaks of gray that went down to his shoulders, and a pair of glasses resting on the tip of his nose. He frowned when he saw Will standing there, and even went as far as to wrinkle his nose as if smelling a vile stench.
“Gold is the blood of the world.” Will said quickly. It wasn’t hard to tell that the man didn’t want him in there. The code was the only thing he could think of that might keep him from simply throwing him out right away. Fortunately it worked as Will had hoped, and the man’s mouth which had been about to say something, probably something very rude and condescending, closed.
“And we’re the sailors who travel on it’s currents.” He answered accordingly. Will drew a relieved sigh.
“You selling?” the man asked.
“Yes.” Will said. He took the sack from his back and pulled the piece of fabric from it. He placed it along with the set of silverware down on the counter in front of the man. He bent down and inspected the cloth with a critical eye, and soon a small smile crept its way onto his face.
“It’s a nice color. And it’s all the way from Raybour…” The man looked up. “How did this piece come to be in your possession? No, wait, that doesn’t matter. Could you get more, or is this all you’ve got?”
Will thought for a moment before answering. The merchant ship he’d stolen it from had much more of this fabric, but the harbour warehouse was kept under tight guard and he wasn’t even sure if it was still there.
“Unfortunately that’s all I have at the moment.” he said. “But it might be possible to get more in the future.” Will added that last part mostly as a negotiating tactic. He wasn’t going to risk breaking into any secure places just to steal some fabric. If he got caught and was unlucky it could cost him his hand. And good luck to anyone trying to work without a hand.
“I see.” the man said. “Well, if you do find more, be sure to take it here first.” He pointed towards himself. “I, Drummond, promise to give you a fair price.”
Will nodded. He couldn’t help but smile inside. He’d been truly lucky here. The first merchant he’d seen just happened to be a textile merchant, and he appeared to be really interested in the fabric. Maybe, just maybe, it would sell for more than he thought…
“Now, regarding this particular roll I’m afraid there are some problems.” Drummonds words took the wind right out of Will’s sails. Of course it wouldn’t be that easy.
“What kind of problems?” he asked.
“It’s a bit aged, and there are some problems with how it has been stored. It’s something that I can fix, but it will affect the price.”
Drummond thought for a moment.
“How about nine silver coins?” he said, an almost unnoticeable glint in his eye. Will was simultaneously relieved, and disappointed. He had half worried the man wouldn’t buy it at all, and nine silver was certainly better than nothing. It might be enough for some cheaper but nice looking clothes. Maybe.
At the same time he knew the roll had to be worth several times that amount, and Drummond was trying to set the opening price as low as possible. He was surely prepared to go higher, but how much higher would depend on how Will responded to his opener. If he went too high, Drummond would just balk and refuse to change the price altogether. But if he went too low he would just be played like a fool. And even if he did manage to find some more rolls of fabric they would also have to go for that price, setting him up to be a fool a second time. Will pondered for a while, as second after second ticked by on the clock, his brow was furrowed, and he must have looked quite annoyed. Just as he was about to make an offer Drummond spoke up first.
“Tell you what”, he said. “It must’ve been quite a challenge to get a hold of this roll, and I’m always one to reward effort. With that in mind, and with regard to our future business, I’m prepared to offer a slightly higher price tag. What do you say to thirteen silver?”
Will tried to hide his surprise. That had not gone as expected. Drummond was not the one who was supposed to make a second offer first. He hadn’t expected his ‘strategy’ of standing there silent looking annoyed to be so successful. That price must’ve been utterly horrendous, that was the only explanation. If it was anywhere near what his maximum was he would never do something like that, not ever. Will scowled inwardly.
So that’s how you want to play it? He thought to himself.
“Twenty-six silver.” he said coldly. He casually and without breaking his expression doubled Drummonds second offer. Drummond’s smile died. Now it was his turn to look annoyed.
“Okay, then. I get it.” he said. “Obviously that’s simply impossible. I can agree to fifteen silver, but not one coin more. With the damage done I’m barely making a profit after the cost of repairs.”
“Twenty.” Will said. He didn’t believe Drummond’s words for a second.
“Hey now…” Drummond began, but Will cut him off.
“Twenty, and I’ll take it in store credit. I want to buy some clothes.”
Drummond went silent, and he didn’t speak or open his mouth again for a long time. Will held his breath. Twenty silver was much more than he’d hoped for, and should be enough to get him a new set of clothes of good quality. But would Drummond agree, or would he just throw him out on his face?
After two full agonizing minutes, Drummond drew a deep sigh.
“Fine”, he said. “We have a deal. I want the silverware as well. I’ll give you one coin for it.”
“Done.” Will said. He could tell by the tone in Drummond’s voice that he wasn’t interested in bartering any further. Drummond seemed pleased at his agreement.
“Twenty silver doesn’t go very far in my store.” Drummond said. “But I suppose almost anything would be an upgrade over what you’re wearing now. What are you after?”
“I need to get in and see an alchemist, meaning in the north district. I can’t go in there looking like this. I want as much as twenty one silver can get me.”
Drummond scratched his chin. He looked more closely at Wills outfit for the first time, really inspecting it instead of just dismissing it. After a while he shook his head and spoke.
“You’re quite right. You can’t go looking like that. If the guards don’t throw you out the alchemist will. The pants might do just barely, if people don’t look too closely at them, but if you walk in there with those shoes in that shirt you’d be thrown out faster than a beetle found in a closet.”
He quickly approached and took some quick measurements before he vanished back deeper into the store, leaving Will alone again in front of the counter. His gaze wandered among the gaudiest suits and gowns he’d ever seen. He hadn’t planned on buying from here, but generally selling things for store credit would get you more than if you sold for coins. Provided that you were selling to the right people, of course.
The clothes all but shone in comparison to the trash Will was wearing. Each and every button was polished and every seam was perfectly placed. Twenty one silver wouldn’t be enough for even a piece of that suit, let alone the whole outfit. He sighed and shook his head. Maybe he had reached too far. He just couldn’t picture himself ever wearing something that looked like that. His goal to go to the capital and get rich seemed more distant than ever.
“These might work. Maybe.” Drummond came back into the room with a shirt in one hand and a pair of shoes in the other. He frowned, seemingly displeased at these new clothes that were in perfect, mint, condition.
“They’re the simplest I have. I don’t dare to promise that they’ll be enough, but it’s the most twenty silver will get you. You’re very lucky a vest isn’t seen as obligatory anymore.”
Will couldn’t hide his shock. He thought he’d been prepared for how expensive it was going to be, but he apparently hadn’t thought big enough. Twenty one silver. More than two whole gold coins. A sum of money that would be enough for food and board for over a month was barely enough for a shirt and a pair of shoes. Not even pants. And that was the cheapest one!
Still, it wasn’t as if he had many other options.
“I’ll take them.” he said. Drummond nodded and pulled out a booklet from his pocket.
“That’ll be twenty silver for the shirt and the shoes, so you’ll have one silver left in credit. Write your name here and I’ll keep track of it for you.”
Will took the pen and wrote down his name. He didn’t really care about the one silver in credit he had left. Nothing here was that cheap. It would only be relevant if he did manage to find something else to sell.
“Thank you for your patronage.” Drummond said as he closed the small booklet. “Be sure to come back if you get your hands on any more rolls of this cloth.”
So that's what he had in mind. Will suddenly realized the less than upfront nature of that one silver. He nodded anyway and turned to leave. He was halfway to the door when he remembered something else he had to do.
“Do you know a place where I can freshen up and do something about this smell?” he asked.
Drummond thought for a moment. “The Blue Rose is nearby, only a few streets away. Go right when you walk out and then take a left by the statue of Abeni. Follow that street and you can’t miss it.”