The Trader

Azeus picked his way through the storm battered bazaar.

In one corner an old man sat on a worn Persian rug selling jewellery. He looked as though he had never left his spot for many decades. Azeus went up to him, picked out a gold bracelet from the tray the old man held and asked, “How much, old man?”

The old man’s wrinkles rippled as he nodded and told him the price. Azeus looked perplexed. It was surely not worth that much.

The old man kept dropping his price until Azeus agreed the price was fair. He looked at a tray of rings. Remembering that he was to buy rings for the King he said, “I’ll take those as well.”

He held up a warning finger, “don’t try to over- charge me…”

The old man grinned toothlessly.

Casting his eyes to the horizon, Azeus asked.

“When do you think the ships will come into the Bay of Bengal?”

The old man held up bent fingers with swollen joints. Five days.

Azeus strode to a terracotta building where several traders waited for the weather to clear and traded wares. Trade was brisk and noise filled the air as men haggled. Azeus, known for the quality of his rugs, soon sold those he had carried from Persia.

Banter was loud as Azeus joined a fellow trader wearing a skull cap.

“Are you going to pour me a drink,” he asked as he hunkered down at the table where several men squatted.

The trader filled Azeus’ earthenware cup with rice wine.

Azeus drank it and put the cup down with a thud.

He looked around. “I have to get a message to Yasing. Any of you going that way?”

His friend held up a hand. “I am.”

“Very good.” Azeus pressed a folded piece of paper into the trader’s hand.

The coins jangled as he handed over several coins. The trader pocketed them with a wink to a nearby trader.

Relieved that Helena would learn of his predicament, Azeus relaxed.


Five days later, the ship carrying Reza and the slaves docked at the Bay of Bengal.

The slaves were silent as they disembarked and began the gruelling journey to Kashgar. All were barefoot. Reza had no sympathy for them ordering the guards to whip anyone who lagged.

A single rope connected the slaves and as they stumbled into the village square traders picked those that were assigned to them. Azeus winced when he saw that his consignment bore the tracks of many whippings.

Reza rode up Azeus. “My father expects you to get these to him ready to work.”

One caught Azeus’ eye. “I’d say he’ll be dead before we get there.”

“If you lose one, you’ll pay dearly.”

Reza grinned and Azeus knew that Reza had deliberately starved the man. He leapt off Titan, lifted the man and laid him across Titan.

“We will stop at a tea house,” Azeus gruffly told everyone.

Giving Reza a curt nod, he set off.