This is an extract from the beginning of Trader's Child, the prequel to my Choices and Consequences series. The Traders are making plans for their next journey - and they are in for a few surprises.
“You can’t be serious. What sort of a route is that?”
Tila glanced up at the speaker from her place beside the campfire. Ethan climbed down from where he’d been sitting on the waggon front beside Katya and began pacing, waving his arms, before turning back towards Katya. Tila tucked her head down to her work but kept her ears open.
“Palisade I have no problem with,” Ethan continued. “That’s a good town to trade at. Hardly anyone goes that far, so they’ll pay top price for what we bring. But there is no ‘onwards’ from Palisade, just back the way we came.”
Tila risked another glance. Katya sat still, face and voice calm as she replied, “There is onwards across the Badlands towards House Delphi.”
“And why would we want to do that? Going round to House Delphi may take much longer but it’ll be safer and we can trade on the way. You know how dangerous the Badlands are. It’ll take us three days to cross with nowhere to trade, nowhere to camp. We’ll need to be on guard all the time.”
“Two days. The nights are short. We will start early, finish late and travel fast and light.”
“Light? Just how light?” Ethan demanded.
Tila snorted quietly to herself. In Trader terms, ‘light’ was a euphemism for minimal trade goods. And as their Merchant, the head of their trading business, Ethan wasn’t going to like that. But as their Headwoman, leader of their caravan and community, Katya had the final say.
“Empty,” Katya said. “You can trade for precious stones and metals at Palisade. Nothing else. And sell everything we can.”
Ethan flung his arms out and stomped off. Tila knew Ethan would do as Katya said because she caught Katya’s slight smile of satisfaction. But that meant that Katya caught her eye, and gestured to her to come over to the waggon. She put her work down carefully and hastened to obey.
“You heard all that?” Katya asked.
Tila nodded. “But I don’t understand, any more than Merchant Ethan does,” she said.
“No,” Katya agreed. “But you will play a key part in this journey. And this journey will play a key part in your future. For now that is all you need to know.”
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