Part 19: Journal of The Nameless One: Part 15Journal of The Nameless One: Part 15
There was no real need to ask around for an herbalist. In the southwest portion of the Hive there was a marketplace, a throng of traders and merchants who carried all sorts of odd wares from other planes. There, I knew, I would find my answer.
I was wary of the sharp-fanged seed even as it lay in my pouch. It had stung me once, and the prospect of carrying back a good sample of the needed herb would likely be a great deal more painful.
"Hey Morte, I don't suppose this seed is razorvine, is it?"
"Meh, doubtful, chief," he glanced at the buildings patched in the stuff, "Mostly people grow 'em from cuttings, not seeds, and it's everywhere. The old coot wouldn't be asking you to hunt for something that's worth less than a hemmorhoid."
"Well, it was just a thought."
A multitude of voices rose from the marketplace, a cacophony of hisses and growls, of gap-toothed men haggling bitterly over prices, or merchants yelling at the street urchins for snicking a tart or sweet. The few guards here were a mishmash group, with ill-fitting armor more piecemeal than not. They were a loutish bunch, poorly-paid and grim, but they were what the local traders could afford.
I turned to enter the bazaar, and caught the eye of an old, plump merchant. He had a worldly look to him, and his deep voice was gentle but confident. "Ah, hello there. Are you ready to sample some of the most delectable treats from across the Planes, my good man? Spend a copper, for the sake of your senses!"
His cart was arrayed with a fine collection of fruits and treats, small barrels brimming with bright red pearls and dull brown cubes, of flowers and breads, sweetmeats and a few casks of wine. My stomach growled, and it came to me that it had been a while since I'd last eaten.
"Well... what do you have?" I asked, browsing his wares. Much of what he sold was unfamiliar to me.
The plump little man smiled, "All manner of delicacies to delight your palate, my good man. Arborean fireseeds, Gar-Bar root, Elysian pears, crimson lotus petals, Bytopian shepherd's bread, shiftspice from the chaos of Limbo, and sea-plums are what I have at the moment. Merely five coppers for a taste of anything you'd like."
Morte was salivating a bit too, "I was always partial to the fireseeds myself, chief."
It certainly sounded exotic. I fished for a few coppers, "We'll try some fireseeds."
The merchant pocketed my coin and smiled, offering a slim paper pouch of small, red seeds, "Don't swallow them; simply spit them out when they've finished tingling."
For each seed I popped into my mouth, I flicked one in the air to Morte who caught it with his tongue. The seeds, sweet and tasting faintly of cinnamon, became warm and tingled in my mouth... it took a moment for me to realize that they'd actually burst into flame. Soon, however, the sensation died out and I spat them into the gutter.
We leaned back against a barrel as we idly finished off the seeds, and I mused to myself that it wasn't exactly polite for an apprentice to keep Mebbeth waiting. Then again, she probably expected this to take a while.
I crumpled the paper bag in my hands and tossed it aside, still hungry. "I think I'll have a Gar-Bar root too."
"Here," he said, giving me a couple of small brown cubes of what looked to be rubbery vegetable matter, "It is quite chewy... do not swallow it, but spit it out when it no longer has taste."
I popped one in my mouth and gave the other to Morte. The root, initially quite hard and difficult to chew, had a sweet, syrupy taste. Soon it became soft and gummy, and I found myself merrily smacking away.
I plucked the seed out from my pouch as I chewed and turned to the merchant. Perhaps he knew something, "Sir, Mebbeth, the midwife of the Square, needs some herbs sprung from this seed, here. Can you help me?"
The man took the seed, looking at it critically... as he pressed it between his thumb and forefinger, he winced, and a small drop of blood appeared on his thumb. "Ah! This seed's got a bite on it..."
"I noticed that. Do you have the herbs she's talking about?" I looked over his cart again.
He couldn't seem to take the eyes off the seed, "Lad, I don't know if there's anyone who has what your friend seeks... to be square, I've never seen such a seed before. You would need someone who cultivates seeds such as this, for I have none."
The flavor of the root died off at this point, and I spat the gooey, brown wad into the gutter, "Very well, then... where would I find such a person?"
"Don't know the dark of that, friend," he handed the seed over to me, "You'd be hard-pressed to find a gardener in the Hive..."
Mebbeth sure put me on a wild chase, "Looks like I'll have to. Thanks for the help. In the meantime, can I have a bag of that Gar-Bar root?"
We made my way through the market, finishing off the Gar-Bar root piece by piece, too busy chewing to talk to the merchants. Sweets were never as tasty as the first piece, but still it staved off the hunger wondrously. Couldn't have been healthy, though.
In the distance, though, I noticed a man who fit a description I was given perfectly.
He was a huge man, watching the area with a tight-lipped frown and narrowed eyes. He was hunched slightly, as if bearing a heavy load on his shoulders. The unpleasant smell of sweat and dirt wafted from his clothes.
"Hey. You Craddock?"
"Mayhap..." He studied my face, as if trying to recall me. "If I am, what be it to ye?"
"I come with a message from Baen the Sender. The message states: 'The shipment must be in Curst by the third-day or there will be a penalty.'" My, I had a sharp mind if I was able to remember that. Perhaps I'd make a great mage yet.
Craddock's eyelids furrowed as his face turned pinkish, "By the hells! Can they be such fools that they think we can miracle it there?! All right then - yer message has found its way to the right ears, for all the good it will do!"
He turned around, yelling at the workers there in a fine old temper, "Come on, ye laggards! Ye halfwits! Is that Jhelai not here yet? That lazy scum-sucking dog had better be here soon or I'll-"
Craddock's face turned a bright red, and his face cracked into a snarl. "Argh! Damned be his name! May all the evils of the Planes hound his footsteps..." A blistering stream of insults, threats, and speculation about Jhelai's family roots issued from Craddock's mouth.
"Oooooh!" Morte clicked his teeth together as Craddock built up steam... I could almost hear him taking notes inside his skull.
I left Craddock to his woes and wandered about the market. Peddlers waved their wares, shoved them under my nose, and a couple of the more bitter ones made rude gestures when I walked away chewing on Gar-Bar.
Those that seemed kind enough to talk a bit were still unwilling to help with my errand, or were a bit touched in the head. One or two were stone deaf to my questions, and I had to leave.
More than one merchant seemed desperate for a sale, but my pouch was a bit too light to spend any more. More than once I had to sheepishly walk away after glancing politely at their wares.
Still, it was heartening to see life go on. Here the misery of the Hive was attenuated by the bright wares and the lively trades, muted by the boasts of the merchants and wry smiles of the customers.
I cast my gaze around the city then. Hundreds of buildings, dozens of alleys, and the only things that thrived were razorvine and rats. Where in the Hells was I going to find a gardener?