Amaret loitered near the southern gates. He'd learned the patterns of markets. There was no use begging in the morning. Merchants, farmers, and shepherds were deaf with imaginary coins in their ears. The only thing that mattered was getting to the market and setting out their goods. They had no time for words. Of course, there were items dropped, or cracked, or simply gone bad before the shoppers arrived. But, even these could fetch the imaginary coins that filled the head of an anxious merchant.
Then, there was evening market. The sellers were hot, impatient and wary by this time. If the morning had gone well, their ears were stuffed with more coins. If it had gone poorly, their sour fortunes would sour their moods. The wounded asp strikes quicker. Either way, their fists were tight and their eyes fast.
In between, during the high sun, there was no chance. The market was closed, blankets covering the goods, but everyone knew the game. Thieves came, women, men, children, packs of dogs, and birds. Boys distracted and dashed. Men and women crept. Guards who were unhappy to draw duty during high sun were quick to use their spears. Warnings came on the tip of a sharpened stone. Several guards wandered the market area, knowing the best paths and the booths most likely to attract thieves. They played the roles of sentinel and swindler, taking their commissions from carts and baskets as they watched over the merchandise. Most merchants slept at high sun, but they could sense unwanted fingers on their carts. They could shout, "Thief," in their sleep.
No. Market times, and high sun offered nothing to a self-respecting mendicant. Too many players made this a bad game. More than one thief had already lost a hand. Amaret knew the ways. He survived. Looking at him, one might question that: his body barely registered a shape under his torn robe. The right shoulder protruding through a rent in the cloth presented mere bones, with barely a thin trace of concealing bronze skin. His hands were large, but a child of middle years could grip around his wrist with one hand. Still, despite appearances, Amaret knew best how to survive without risking the spear, or the blades of Sodom's Justices.
During the evening by the gates, as the merchant train left the city with their hand carts, the true honor of an honest beggar had it's chance to shine. An evening breeze falling from the steppe doubled his chances. But, ultimately, it came down to words. To the banter and the dance.
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