This is another short story involving The Six Handed Merchant. I recently finished the Cave of the Nadir plot, and the epilogue scene had me thinking about how Six would really handle the exchange if they had full choice in the matter. The following short story is the result.
SPOILERS: Minor spoilers for the ending of the Cave of the Nadir plot, minor hints at Six’s secret backstory (spoiled fully here).
And as always, feedback is welcome.
The Six Handed Merchant took a final weary step off the rickety ladder. They made it a point not to look down; this was the highest that the detective had ever climbed in the Flit. The howling winds tore at Six’s saffron greatcoat, threatening to rip them off the spindly rooftop and dash them on the cobblestones far, far below.
Six grabbed their furry hat with one hand and the nearest downspout with the other, hoping that the rusted metal could hold their weight. Having finally gotten enough purchase to take in their surroundings, the detective could at long last begin the search for the person they had risked life and limb climbing all the way up here to meet.
A small boy with a liver-coloured birthmark sat on a chimney just above the teetering detective.
“We can keep it s-s-safe,”
The Merchant snapped their head around. He looked at the boy quizzically. Was he sitting there just a second ago?
“But w-w-we can’t pay too much."
The stuttering boy held out a Starstone Demark. Six’s eyes went wide: the sale of that stone alone could easily cover the upkeep on their orphanage for over a year! But they sighed and shook their head.
“I want to make a deal. I will give you the location of the Nadir, and no one else. But in return, you must swear to never touch the Valkyrie, Heorot, the Ringbreakers, or any other urchins who refuse to serve you. They get to go free, to join the others in my Brood.” Six had just remodeled the attic which doubled the capacity of the orphanage. It had nearly run them broke, but the space would be sorely needed if this worked.
The boy looked down at the Six Handed Merchant. His stare was harsh, his eyes full of winds far fiercer than the meagre gusts picking at the limbs of the detective.
“We know what y-y-you are.”
Six swallowed hard: they feared this might happen. The detective had spent days prepping for this exact moment. but in the end it didn’t help. Every time Six was outed, it had shaken them to the core.
“I…” Six took a deep, ragged breath, “…we. We swear to you that no urchins will ever be harmed by us or our people. And may Storm strike us dead if we bring harm to even one of their eyes!”
The boy’s eyes narrowed. His stutter disappeared. “He will, you know.”
Six shuddered. The urchin’s threat carried the weight of storms behind it. But did he just give an opening? The Merchant swallowed their fear, they had to try for it. “Excellent! Then you’ll know I’m good for my half of the bargain.”
The boy cocked his head to one side. “Do you even know who I am?”
Six shrugged. “Not really. But do the details really matter?”
The boy was taken aback.
“We know bits and pieces.” the detective continued, “But knowing the truth wouldn’t change our actions, so we don’t really care who you are.”
Six swung their arm out towards Heorot, teetering slightly, “We care about the Ringbreakers!”
“And our Brood!” they said, steadying themselves and swinging their arm back in the direction of their orphanage.
The boy got up and squatted on the ledge, “What about your longshanks spiders? What about when you make them orphans?”
Six bit their lip. They hated to let any spiders go, but it was a necessity, both for their own continued survival, and for The Plan.
“If they wish, they may serve you, but we will not force them. There’s enough wretched bondage in this city already.”
The boy with a liver-coloured birthmark regarded the detective for a moment, then spat into his hand and held it out for them.
Six spat into their own and grasped the boy’s hand, shaking it vigorously. They winced as a blinding spark arced through their arm. Then a wind came out of nowhere, billowing the detective’s coat and surrounding them in darkness.
The winds died down just as quickly as they came. Six blinked, the boy was gone. They sighed in relief.
“Good! Good! Now…” they whispered to themselves, feeling a little overwhelmed, “only about 5 million more souls to free…”
Six reached back for their ladder, and carefully made their way back down to street level.
edited by Six Handed Merchant on 11/22/2018