Shattered: The Haggler Brings More Home (+ Story!) by WhiteMantis

Shattered: The Haggler Brings More Home (+ Story!)

WhiteMantis

10 October 2015 at 20:10:37 MDT

In the markets of Alh Ha'azaet, you have two choices: pay a lot or haggle a lot!

Amethystine Amethystine wrote a little story to accompany this piece, which you can just read below!

And a reminder! I'm holding an auction for a group pic [HERE]. You can have your character in a scene like this one, accompanied by a story in which your character will be featured! And maybe more... :)

Haggle ~Or~ The Customer Is Always Right - by Amethystine

~~

Not much can quell the bustle of a bazaar.

The calling, shouted cries for attention amid the crowded market can hardly ever be stopped. Similarly ceaseless; the squawking and squabbling atop sonorous sizzling and steam, as supper is sold, and served. Vendors hawk their wares unendingly, announcing the abundant quality of their stock, while oftentimes also denouncing the flaws of their competitors.

It is a tableau as old as time, ever churning, all throughout the day. During the all-important hours of Ha'az Asi's watchful eye and benevolent illumination of the partially covered halls and alleys of the medina-market, the peddling knows no pause.

Well, almost none.

Only occasionally does it stop for screams - the most bloodcurdling thereof - or for threats of violence - those whereupon the sound of many blades being drawn transpires immediately thereafter.

One other cause - albeit atypical - for a slight quelling of the tumult is the one at the centre of this tale. It is the passing of a peculiar pair of people, profoundly opposite in relative size.

Perhaps the larger of the two would have had this effect on his own, for those who see him take in his odd construction and noteworthy enormity with a modicum of surprise. Invariably, though, they then ponder and realize he's not as unique as they thought at first glance.

Witnessing the both of them, though, it sticks in the mind even more. To see the singularly sizable, strangely structured, scale-covered individual with the incredibly infinitesimal insect, swaddled in layers of clothes - it drew glances, moments of consideration. Was the girl that brute's prisoner? A relative? A favoured pet? Was she leading him? Was he a bodyguard? How could she afford such protection? The questions spiralled, until one was forced to drop them and forget the pair, to return to the mercantile matters at hand.

The pair themselves did not wish for any special attention, and were thankful for the chattering throng's distractedness.

Hustling forward, the huge male seemed determined only to pass through the winding street of commerce and commotion, while his companion's eye was caught, again and again, by curious things, or intricate patterns upon finely woven garments.

Finally, the girl broke away and moved to stop and look at one merchant's collection of clothes.

It only took a few strides of the four massive clawed feet for the larger-than-life lizard to detect a discrepancy in something around him. A warmth next to his side, missing? The lack of the sound of her tiny footsteps? Her scent gone from his sensitive forked tongue? The corner of his eye no longer filled with the distinctive colour of her robes? Whatever it was, he stopped and looked around.

For a moment, she was no where to be seen. His face fell, his heart raced. He felt as though his stomach would soon touch the floor beneath him, with how it seemed to lose its bottom. On the cusp of crying out her name, he spotted her.

Anger rose in him, unbidden. He knew he should be relieved. He was relieved, but the fading fear was replaced with fury at her for scaring him so.

Despite his long years, he was not accustomed to being scared. He had almost never had occasion to be frightened of anything. As such, he would never let on that he had been thusly affected.

Already, he was stomping his way over to his unmindful accompaniment. He twisted himself to keep from blocking the whole width of the hall with his long lower half, and hunched forward, hands on his sides, glaring down at the back of the girl's veil, his weary eyes glancing around to their surroundings, and the things the mantis held.

Rumbling up from deep within the massive upper body of the quadruped, came a voluminous voice that managed to both hiss with annoyance and reverberate with restrained power. "What are you doing, Saa?" It was hardly a question at all, it was more akin to an accusation, a condemnation wherein her name was squeezed and twisted, as if it was some sort of slur.

The girl did not turn around, nor did she stop what she was doing, even if her actions had apparently generated so much ire in the large lizard who loomed over her hooded head. Instead, she answered him. "I would think that what I am doing would be fairly clear. I've done it many times. Don't tell me you haven't been paying attention, dear," she said, her small, light voice dripping with honeyed charm; unmistakably ungenuine and potentially infuriating.

The tauric one was unfazed. "Yes, I see how you're wasting our time. You're looking at clothes, again. It's always clothes, with you. Robes, dresses, veils, belts, hoods, bra-wraps, on and on and on!" Ehmyt muttered to Saa's backside, each type of garment spat out as if he was cursing. "It's almost as if you couldn't possibly let even one part of your skin be exposed to the 'beloved' sun," he said, with a suggestive inflection, teasing right back.

The mantid rolled her eyes, having learned long ago exactly how far to push Ehmyt's patience -- and when his tone meant he was kidding. At that moment, he was kidding - they both were - but he was also honestly signalling his very real impatience.

"I bet you can't buy this for me, quickly and for just three coins, you big scaly lump," Saa whispered back at him, turning around and looking up into the reptile's eyes in one smooth motion. She met his vexed gaze with a look of mischief and of challenge, as well as a wink from her third eye. After a meaningful silence between them and their locked stares, Saa glanced at the avian shopkeeper, who was busy attending to another customer, and had barely taken notice of the silently sparring pair.

"You bet, hmm? If I win, you won't stop like this in the markets again, for at least a week," Ehmyt offered. He was impressed that she had picked out something so quickly, and had come up with a way to make things interesting. Without that, he would most certainly be convincing her to leave empty-handed, for one reason or another.

"Oh no, I'll still do that," Saa said with a smarmy smirk. "No, if you succeed, I'll just shop for the clothes I wear at night, the clothes I wear.. for you."

Ehmyt's eyes narrowed and his arms crossed over his broad, almost bare chest, then he nodded, once, trying to suppress his own faint smile. "And if I fail? What do you get?"

"Satisfaction," purred Saa, her eyes twinkling with mirth. "But aside from that, I'll tell you my prize after you try."

A deep, derisive scoff came from the crocomodo, and he looked around, thinking. "Fine," he said, eventually.

Snatching the veil from Saa's hand, Ehmyt turned to move toward the shopkeep. He glanced back and commanded, "Stay behind me, out of sight from him."

Saa's eyes went wide, even her third one, and she rushed alongside her massive fellow traveller, tugging on his vest from just behind one of his forelegs, the bulk of his lower body blocking her from view as Ehmyt sidled up to the merchant. "No threatening him, either!" she whispered loudly.

Without looking, the lizard reached back one hand to pat the top of Saa's head - then pulled down her veil over her face entirely. He hissed, "Yes boss," out of the corner of his snout just before finishing his casual stride to the vendor.

Said salesman was a silkie chicken, and was still at the tail end of settling a sale with serpentine customer. "Thank you, sir, may Ha'az Asi warm your scales forevermore. Don't hesitate to bring it back if you require adjustments, I know it's hard to know just how long your husband is, exactly."

It was hard to imagine how anyone could see out from within the thick mop of downy feather-fluff that crowned the rooster's head - the crocomodo especially could not fathom it, due to his lack of experience with anything but scales. Nevertheless, the silkie turned immediately to look at Ehmyt upon the departure of the snake-woman. At least, the lizard had to assume the bird was looking at him. he couldn't see his eyes, only the beak, pointing directly at him.

"How can I help you tod--"

Cutting him off, Ehmyt thrust the veil Saa had chosen to buy, out in front of himself, holding it in a way that let it unravel and spread out, so the avian could plainly see what it was. "How much?" he gruffly asked, trying to be as concise as possible.

"That... is 10 coins." He was taken aback at the decidedly uncivil nature of his latest potential sale.

The reptile stuffed the veil into the chicken's hands and whipped off his vest. "How much would you charge for something like this?"

Stammering for a moment, the silkie came up with what he thought was a fair price. "Uh, uh.. 5 coins?"

A toothy grin spread across Ehmyt's snout, a vicious predatory smile. It was gone as soon as it had appeared, though. He grabbed the veil back from bottom to top, so that it balled up in his large hand, while also quickly scrunching up his vest in his other hand. "And yet, this is much smaller than that!" he said, holding up the little mantis-sized veil. "Why should this one be cheaper?" he asked, lifting his vest.

If the silkie had not yet been made truly uncomfortable before, he was fast approaching it by then. "Well, umm.. they aren't the same. The veil is made of different material and has more work put into--"

"How do you know? Did you make it? I know you didn't make my vest. Did you?" Asked the towering brute, accusingly, glaring down at the merchant where he thought his eyes probably were.

"Uh, uh, no, but--" The bird was at a loss, and began to take a step backward. He wasn't sure what was going on, any longer. He felt like he was under attack. Anyone could tell he was beginning to get genuinely scared of the nearly-shouting reptile.

Ehmyt smiled again, suddenly, and spoke soothingly, with soft sibilance. "Alright. I'm sorry," he said, softly. He had easily spotted the avian's slight nervous demeanour while dealing with the prior, pythonic patron, and had instantly known to play the 'crazy scaly' card.

The merchant leaned forward once more, not believing what he had heard. He opened his mouth to speak, most likely to ask about the odd logic, but he was cut off before he even began.

"I'll concede that the veil is more intricate, but it's still smaller, so it should even out - the veil should be worth the same as the vest. Right?" While the taur's tone was even all along until the end, his last word was made malevolent, catching the vendor off guard once more.

"Oh! Um, perhaps, but--"

"But nothing! Don't you want my money? Do you have a problem with my kind or something?" Ehmyt demanded, crossing his arms, still clutching both garments, one in each hand.

The chicken balked, "What?? No! I--"

"I just want to buy this lovely veil for myself, is that too much to ask for?" pleaded the enormous male, switching moods once more.

While he was already puzzled, the bird was then even more confused. "For yourself?"

"Yes, don't you think it will look good on me?"

Saa was trying desperately not to laugh, by that point, hands over her mouth.

"Sir, I-- I don't think it will fit you."

"Are you calling me fat?" gasped the gargantuan green guy.

"No, no! It's just - your head - your whole body, I mean--! Your form is... too big."

"You ARE calling me fat!" wailed Ehmyt, seemingly on the verge of tears.

"No, sir! Your form is different! You are a larger type of person than who this veil was made for."

"That's discrimination!"

The fluffy feathered fellow was at a loss. "I-- I just don't think it would be of any use to you, sir."

"So it's a useless veil that's smaller than my five coin vest? I'll give you three coins for it, then," said Ehmyt, quickly, trying to suppress a sly smile.

"Sir, no! It's-- That's not what--"

While the chicken stammered, Ehmyt sneakily used his foreleg to press the still nearby Saa in front of him. "Hey! No pushing. I'm trying to make a deal here, you cheeky little whelp." The mantis looked up at the reptile and he winked at her when the merchant's beak turned to look at the newcomer.

"Just sell him the veil so I can buy something next, shopkeep!" cried Saa, suddenly acting exasperated, as if she had been waiting in line behind the brute for much too long.

"Yes! Please! Sell it to me! My money's as good as anyone else's!" implored Ehmyt. Before even letting that sink in, he turned to the mantis who-he-totally-doesn't-know-at-all. "Isn't it a pretty veil? I'm going to love wearing it."

Not missing a beat, Saa turned her head away, lifting her chin while also using her hand to shove the veil away from herself. She capped off her feigned disgust with a convincing retching, her shoulders rolling as if she were about to lose her last meal in a most spectacular fashion. "Ugghhh! No! That's the ugliest thing I've ever seen! Get it away from me!"

Putting on his most shocked and demoralized face, Ehmyt turned between the gagging mantis and the shocked silkie, whose beak hung agape. The reptilian near-giant was crestfallen. "So it's not even worth three coins?" he asked, bemoaning the fate of the veil he apparently held so dearly.

"But--" attempted the avian, amidst the chaos.

Piping up once more, Saa declared: "If anything, he should pay you to take it away! Speaking of which, you still haven't taken it away from me. I might just upend my belly on this stall if I'm made to look at it any further."

"Uhh--" was all the salesman could manage in the middle of the swiftly beginning argument between his two customers.

"Leave us alone, please!" moaned the massive male. "I'm just trying to shop."

"Buy your dark-damned rags and begone!" insisted Saa.

By then, Ehmyt had turned fully toward the miniscule mantis, his body language showing that he was beginning to completely ignore the flustered, fluffy rooster. Normally, the beleaguered bird could have just stepped away while customers squabbled, but they fenced him in completely, with how the big brute stood. The poor bird finally had a chance to look beyond the large lizard's looming frame, to see all the potential patrons passing him by. He had to get rid of them.

"FINE! TWO COINS!" he shouted, stepping between Saa and Ehmyt.

Thanking the kind silkie profusely, Ehmyt paid and walked away briskly.

The vendor turned around to Saa, and smiled at her as graciously as he could. "My apologies. How can I help you today, little one?" He was almost entirely back to normal, happy to have the scary scaly gone, and all the more pleased to have the petite person to deal with. She would be easy, he was sure.

"It's quite alright, good sir. But..."

"Yes, ma'am?"

"...well, I wanted to buy most of your robes for whatever price you asked, but after seeing that horrendous veil-- I feel ill. I must go. Right away," she murmured as if struggling to speak, her hand rising toward her face.

With that, Saa hurried off, holding her mouth as if trying to hold back the contents of her stomach.

I'm sure you know it was not a true impending regurgitation.

It was more true than one might think, though; she held back an eruption of belly-laughs.

~

Soon, the pair met back up, in a secluded alley of the medina. Shafts of the afternoon light cut through the dusty air at a slight angle, all along the waiting lizard's back.

Ehmyt lay flat on his lower belly, his torso still upright. When Saa approached, he bowed his upper half to her and held out his hands, as if presenting a gift to a king - or in this case, a queen. "I present to you, my victory. I think your next dance outfit should be deep green."

"You think you won?" asked Saa, as she stepped forth and accepted the spoils of their conquest, hugging the veil to her front with her raptorials after picking it up with her hand.

"Of course I won!" scoffed Ehmyt.

"I said you had to buy it for three coins, dear. I also said YOU had to do it."

"Saa! What in the world are you talking about? I got it for LESS than three coins, and I did buy it."

"I didn't say three or less, I said three," explained Saa, grinning mischievously, "And! You had help. My help."

At a loss for words, Ehmyt looked down at the mantis, who was seldom so very cocky. He flexed the claws of his outstretched forelegs through the sand that partially covered the stones of the alley floor, carefully considering the girl who stood in the space between them. He crossed his arms over his chest once more and frowned down at her. She looked back up at him with a small smile, her face almost blocked from his view by his large arms. He decided she must have some kind of plan.

"I still think I won. But, before we discuss if I did or not, tell me, what was it that you had in mind if you won the bet?"

The tiny smile on the pale girl's face widened. "I considered asking to lead us on our journey for a time-- but you are a better guide than I, I know. You should continue to lead the way. What I want is for you, in your planning of our path, is to include more markets, instead of trying to avoid them, as you have done in the past. Now, we'll travel to Alh Nareed, and then Alh Zekir and Alh Khadaj - all the big market cities and towns."

The crocomodo's mouth twisted somewhat, his eyes narrowed.

"I think it could be said that we both won the bet, little trickster. So I will take you to the markets. And you will shop for the outfits I like, amid the normal fare you need."

Saa grinned, and in seeing this, so too did Ehmyt.

The little lady reached up and patted the scales of his arm, pushing on them as if trying to slide them to one side. They moved, but only because the huge taur moved them. With the way open, Saa stepped forth and pressed to Ehmyt's bared front, rubbing her cheek upon him.

"Of course, Ehmyt. Whatever you say."

Comments

  • Link

    this is increible!

  • Link

    I love the way you do absolutely everything, Mantis! D:

  • Link

    Beautiful art for a beautiful story. Gaah you do everything so perfectly!

    • Link

      Thanks for calling my story beautiful! :}

  • Link

    Loving the lighting and colours!

  • Link

    your eye for light continues to amaze me!