The Trader (a joint serial with Suraya Dewing (NZ) and Hemali Ajmera (India))

Written by: Suraya Dewing

Azeus, the trader carried himself like a god, tall with blonde hair curling around his shoulders. His bewitching, crystal-clear eyes seemed to draw their colour from the sky.

Conversations dropped to a breathless hum as he strode through Yasing market and stall holders nearby became still and focused when he paused to examine a length of embroidered silk.  Aware that everyone watched, he carefully took up a corner between his finger and thumb and calculated its weight by softly raising and lowering it. He let it fall, shaking his head.  

A new stand caught Azeus’ attention. He stopped and carefully lifted yet another length of silk. examined the embroidery of falcons in flight and felt it for its weight between practiced tanned fingers. He smiled. With a nod he placed a large hand on one length and then another. The silk embroiderer’s dark eyes lit up. She leapt to her felt covered feet and watched, disbelief stamped on her features, as he carefully selected five lengths, each meticulously embroidered. This good fortune was beyond her wildest dreams. Having selected all he wanted, he gave a satisfied nod and drew out his purse.

She stretched out a shaking hand. 

“Thank you, sir. Thank you… sir.” She bowed many times, speaking breathlessly.

“Your silk will sell well.” He delivered these words with the authority of an experienced merchant.

A woman nearby set jealous eyes on Shahida.

Azeus bade Shahida farewell with barely a smile and made his way to Shaifullah Jan, the boot makers’ small wooden shack.

“Shaifullah,” he called as he entered. “I have a need for new boots.”

Shaifullah, who was repairing leather boots looked up from his bench and waved a hand around his workshop.

“You can see I have no leather.”

Frowning, Azeus looked out at the bustling bazaar. “I begin my journey in five days.”

The tone of Azeus’ words hung between them. Flustered, Shaifullah looked around and saw some leather set aside for another customer.

“They will be ready,” he quickly assured him.

Outside, Azeus’ horse, Titan rattled his bridle impatiently.


The next day


The rising sun shot golden yellow rays up into a grey morning sky. Light tinted the water flowing between the banks of the Chitral River where nineteen-year-old Yasira collected water.

Soft colour caught the water as it spilled over her bucket and the remainder settled in tiny undulations within the bucket’s wooden confines.

She began the trek back to her hut.

Away in the distance a cloud of dust signaled a rider on the way.

Yasira wondered who might be approaching her village so early in the morning. The direction of the rising dust suggested the visitor came from the West. This was not unusual. Commuters along the Silk Road often stopped by her village to trade.