Date Posted: 20th July 2019
Sleep wasn't coming. Taril lay awake in the dark, listening to Humari breathe. Usually it was comforting but tonight he was counting every breath. It was amazing how fast a person adapted to the presence of other people. To make them part of your home, you life... and how quickly everything could be taken away.
His mind turned to Jagin and how he'd plead, how his face had turned bloated and black in the moonlight as the noose slowly choked the life out of him. It should have made him feel satisfaction, maybe. Closure. But he kept circling back to Humari's slurred speech and broken body, and not even Jagin's death could chase away how helpless he felt. He should have been there. He could have done- something. The merchant pushed the blanket off with a muttered curse and rolled out of the cot Humariís brother had brought for him. He rubbed his hands over his face then strapped on his wooden leg, wincing at the sting of blisters.
The air was still and heavy, hot as a blanket and twice as smothering. Taril slipped out of the Infirmary and limped out of the Hold towards the docks, craving fresh air and a breeze to chase away the sticky scent of injury and herbs that clung to his clothes. It was that awkward time just before dawn when nightmares came thickest and the fog rolled in over the bay. Even in the middle of the night, though, the docks never slept. Fishing boats went out with the tides and drunks, gamblers and dreamers littered the beach like driftwood after a storm.
Taril hurried down the road, his feet sure in the dark and his head bowed until he was at the office door. If he couldnít sleep, at least he could get some work done. The merchant put his hand on the handle and reached for the key tied to his belt... but the knob moved under his fingers. He frowned. He always locked the door. But in the panic to get to the Infirmary... had he? Carefully he pushed the door open and paused at the threshold, listening.
Silence lay thick in the air. Taril stepped inside and closed the door behind him. He reached for the glow that hung just to right of the door frame and uncovered it. In the watery light, his office looked just as he'd left it. His usually neat desk was littered with half-read hides and his big ledger book with cargo shipped to and from the Hold, trades and bargaining for salt, dried fish, wood and citrus. His chair was thrust haphazardly away from the desk. An inkwell, ink long dried, sat on the near corner next to a pen with a crusty tip.
His nerves prickled. Everything looked as he'd left it. But his space felt... different. Taril crossed the room and set the glow down on his desk, spilling light across the scattered hides and open book. He drew his finger down the ledgerís open page, stopping at the last notation. Careless of him to leave it out where competitors could see it. Not that he had any real competition here, besides the Hold itself. But for the Captains that plied their trade up and down the coast, this was a goldmine of information.
**To late now,** he thought glumly. He gently closed the ledger and bent to put it away. Then paused. There were scratch marks around the lock on his desk. Taril set the ledger aside and pulled at the drawer- which opened. Someone had picked the lock. Inside the usually neat stack of correspondence had been shuffled around. The small bag of marks he kept in there were missing. Two marks in total, in smaller coins. Not a huge loss, but something worse- someone had dared to rob him. Taril's lip curled as his blood began to boil. Someone had _dared_.
**My book.** More valuable than the missing marks was his second ledger book. Taril shoved the drawer shut and bent to examine the small cabinet built into the desk. Scratch marks around that lock, too. He felt sick as he pulled the door open and peered at the small iron safe inside.... except there was no safe. It was gone.
That safe had cost a fortune. Taril bit back a curse as he slowly closed the door and sat heavily on his chair. Someone had broken into his office while he was tending to Humari and stolen his black book and the iron safe. Taking the safe meant that they'd be able to take their time breaking into it. Taking his book meant that they knew the names of everyone who owed him marks and the secret workings of his illicit businesses.
The book was worth a fortune in the right hands. The secrets and debts recorded in that book were the sort that could make or break fortunes-- or lives. Taril swore.
He had to get it back.
Last updated on the August 13th 2019