Chapter One: The Night Market

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The Night Market

In the darkness of the Night Market, something was staring at me. The gaze had the hairs on my neck rising in prickles and though I didn't look, I knew that there would be eyes looking back at me from the blackness of the large, old industrial warehouse if I deigned to turn my gaze to them. But at the market there were often things lurking in the dark. If you couldn't deal with them, they would get you in one way or another, and I'd spent a very long time making sure they couldn't get me.

Turning my gaze back on the woman who was buying something off me, the slight bulge in her stomach showing why she so desperately sought the remedies I could provide, frowned at the mixture of mandrake, pennyroyal, tansy, and chamomile that I was slowly smashing into a semi-edible paste.

"Are you sure this will work?" she asked, her voice strained.

"You're neither the first or the last woman I'll have made this concoction for," I said, "I wouldn't worry. I'm very highly trained and recommended."

"And the risk?"

"Better than if you were to seek out a 'doctor'," I said the word while making an air quote with one hand, "in one of the shadier parts of town who would provide this service."

"And it's legal?"

I held back a chuckle. "Ma'am, nothing in this market is legal. If you want legal, you might want to turn to an apothecary, but I highly doubt you have the money you need to bribe them in the first place."

She crossed her arms; they were littered with dark scratches and little track marks all over the skin. No doubt, a user of Sleep, one of the newer, injectable versions of the drug. No wonder she didn't want a baby. With the rags she wore as a dress, the canvas shoes worn down so the sole was nearly gone, and the unwashed look to her face I doubted she could take care of herself, let alone a child.

"You young people think you know everything," she harrumphed.

"Believe me, Ma'am, I'm older than you think." Years in the Academy proved that for certain. Months passed like days, there, were the only way one could tell time was the large multi-handed clock in the master's dorm.

The woman, she couldn't have been that old but the wear on her face aged her considerably, looked unhappy still but nodded. "They do some magic to you, didn't they?" Bad skin and lines spread across the skin like markings on a map, too worn and gray for its time. Maybe if I were raised normally, that was how I'd look by now. But there was no reason to linger on the past, not even as the pulsing in the back of my head grew louder and louder.

"Something like that," I said wryly, finishing up the paste and scrapping it into a glass jar. "That's five Leshen pounds,:" I held out my hand.

"So much," the woman grumbled, but dug around in her purse anyway, pulling out the exact amount of money. "Here, now give me that." She snatched up the bottle before I could say anything else and walked off and out of the building with a hurry, throwing a look over her shoulder at the other vendors as she went.

Holding back an eye roll, I cleared my workspace, pausing once to cough into the sleeve of my coat. I frowned at the result, the rust-red splatter marring the dark brown. I inhaled deep, letting the air burn my throat as I did so. I was worse off than I thought. He definitely knew that, too. No wonder he was staring at me from the darkness. Now, if he only had the balls to approach me as well.

The market was beginning to clear now as the witchlights slowly turned themselves on one by one. The bright lights illuminated the otherwise perpetual darkness of the streets and shone through the boarded up windows above the warehouse. It'd always been a rumor that those who created the witchlights could see anything that stood clearly in their path — a true rumor, as it happened. But most witches in the Academy and the ones who graduated had more than enough going on without watching the visions they saw through they lights all day. And divining straight into a witchlight could turn you made unless you Channeled it. Memories raced in my head of Marius and how he stood over the globe in the headmaster's office, pushing pins into different places and reaching down into them to see the people there. Acid rose up in my throat and I coughed again, leaving a red splotch on my sleeve. No, Marius wasn't someone I wanted to think about right now.

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