He turned his attention to the castle again. The roofs covering the magnificent building weren't tiled but rather a continuation of the walls curving to cover the interior. As they neared the end of the square the wonder changed again, gold turning to glimmering red and all silver transforming into an ocean of blue. Then a cloud of flying pigeons obscured his sight and they were once again riding down a wide street.

"That was, that was beautiful!"

"There is some great magic in this place," Harbend agreed. "We are soon at our destination. I shall introduce you as my client. A chair is waiting for you. Please stay seated until I call you."

Arthur nodded.

"Each trader shall display a sample of their wares, one at a time and apart from the local merchants you saw when you first arrived there shall be others," Harbend continued, and Arthur nodded understanding again. "You, however should act as if you have brought all of your wares here as you have nothing stored elsewhere. Most of the local merchants present shall be agents representing houses who did not get a permit to represent one of you directly."

"Permit?" Arthur asked.

"Yes, you arrive sixteen at a time once every three eightdays and there are more merchants who want to represent one of you directly than that number."

"Uh um," Arthur said when Harbend fell silent and only the rumbling of the wheels disturbed the peace. "I'm familiar with your week being eight days long."

"Good," Harbend said approvingly. "One eightday before a group of your kind arrive there is a lottery held in the trade hall and sixteen names are drawn. Exceptions are made whenever one of you requests to be represented by someone special."

It made sense. Arthur knew only a couple of hundred traders made the journey here each year, and from what he had learned almost all participants involved in the business parted ways very satisfied with what they had gained.

Metal was scarcer here than in Terran space, or at least less available, but precious stones more plentiful. Simple things as clothes, weapons and art the traders brought back to Earth and sold for outrageous prices constituted another source for profit, yet another way to keep up the charade of adventuring gold diggers. In reality most of the Terran traders had to be spies waiting for the day Otherworld was ready for business on a scale the inhabitants here probably were unable to grasp.

The price Harbend indicated concerning the gold, silver and platinum came as a great surprise though. To Arthur that was proof the traders he paid for information were less than honest about how much extra they made from trading precious metals in addition to the more mundane metals that were the base for the trade. More than a little extra lining their pockets, he guessed, and why not. How else to convince anyone to accept the sometimes year long round trip time over and over again.

Memories of a different kind stirred in his mind. "You, know, on our way here I saw something that got me worried."


I know you lack a lot we take for granted, but I didn't think you starved."

Harbend turned. "Starve? No that was a very long time ago. At least here. The midlands, Chach and Wherdin most often, is where you may see famine."

"Strange, I saw several people, mostly..." Arthur frowned. "No, all women with swollen stomachs."

Harbend laughed back. "All you first comers say the same thing. Pregnancy. You are familiar with the concept? Giving birth."

"But, but... oh," Arthur nodded to himself. Then the full horror struck him. "But that's..."

"Barbaric, yes I know you think so," Harbend filled in. "We do it the way the gods meant. Please accept that your way is foreign to us, foreign and awful. We grow vegetables the way you grow children."

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