The rain drove down in sheets, turning the worn road into a welter of mud and water. He strode on towards the town, its lights fireflies in the distance that grew into balefires as he came closer.

The young man, tall and rangy, stepped out from the stable barn as he approached. Say friend, you wouldn’t happen to be a Silter would ye? Dyre felt his chest burn with anger at the slur, but kept an iron control over his features so it did not show. He wanted to belt the young man across his grinning face for the ethnic insult; he felt the pointed tips of the bayonets at his back as he thought so. That’s right, its where I’m from anyways he said. The young man grinned even wider, then hid his glee with a sheepish sweep of his hat. He glanced from left to right, then up the road. Dyre began to follow his gaze, when the lad cried out in a low voice, Shussh, don’t look up! The patrols are tightenin’ up on contraband. I know ye’s from the Southland, probably comin’ up here for work, I don’t judge ye, I’m got my own to tend to here. He slapped the stout broom he carried on the wooden planks before the stables. He waited for the boy to spell it. The kid’s face twitched with the anticipation of a rare deal– Look, you seem like a friend, you want to be my friend and I’ll be your’s even if ye are a Silter, I swear. Now I need someone to bring me some dust, can you swing that?
Dyre sighed, looked up, then back at the young man. The light was fading into pink and azure whorls above them, a glimpse of the empyrean above a blasted plain below. Alright, but I can only get it by the bale, you hear me? I’ll need the full price he said to the lad.
Oh sure-ee, I can well ante. He pushed the pile of metal into Dyre’s massive hands. He caught the glint of silver and knew it was hard coin, maybe a couple month’s savings. Make sure to meet around the other side of the stables, on the other street not this one in an hour. He gave the boy a mock salute and sidled off, the night was deepened so that he wasn’t sure the kid saw he was pocketing the coin and walking towards the gleam of the mosaic strewn stairs that lead to the richer district of the town not the worker’s slums where lotus dust could be bought. Better than stick ups on the road he thought, feeling the coin jangle in his leather breeches.

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