Departure, part three

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Harbend knew he was being followed. He hadn't, for a day or so, but after Ramdar insisted that Vildir help with the acquisitions of weapons and traveling gear it hadn't taken long before the horse-lord pointed out a number of customers who seemed strangely out of place. Some of them were very good, not only copying the motions of buying wares but paying and leaving with the chosen items as well.

Harbend suspected they had both missed some of their watchers, but Vildir assured him there was nothing truly dangerous about the situation, and after a couple of days Harbend dismissed it all as an irritating method one of the other houses employed in order to check his whereabouts.

In the end he bought a crossbow, two quivers filled with quarrels to go with it and a rapier, the closest he would get to the slender swords favored in Khi. A leather jerkin was all he would carry as armor.

When it came to choosing riding gear and equipment for spending long periods of time outdoors Harbend bowed to Vildir's superior experience. Axes, knifes, sharpening stones, fire starters in waterproof containers, a large tarpaulin and, of all things, a large bell filled the list of essentials. A multitude of other items Harbend was more familiar with were added and lastly Harbend started placing orders for items of trade.

The roles of expertise were turned and Vildir only showed a passing interest as they walked in and out of shops selling perfumes, books and a wild variety of small items displaying the mechanical prowess of Keen, like hand held clocks, instruments for measuring exact distances and regulators for gases and liquids.

Harbend quickly ran out of money. When he received a message requesting his presence at his favorite restaurant he was relieved Arthur had called the meeting. It would be awkward anyway to remind him of the money needed for purchasing horses, wagons and the bulky furniture meant for the market in Braka.

Hiring armed men for protection would be hideously expensive, but without those in place no one in Erkateren would be willing to join the caravan and share the expenses.

Around noon, Harbend locked the door to his office behind him, something he made into a habit after finding his relatives in his home. Uncle Ramdar and Vildir had taken rooms in Two Worlds. With trade as it was Harbend even managed to wriggle a discount from the unhappy manager, but still, lodging his relatives in the way the family name required depleted his already strained resources in a dangerous way.

Harbend shuddered at the thought of what could have happened back home in Khi and took to the streets waving to get the attention of a nearby coach.

"The Tree," Harbend said to the driver and climbed inside. Every coach driver in the city knew the location of the famous restaurant and with a tug the coach started moving.

The streets passed in a blur, not because of any dangerous speed, but because Harbend was too busy counting how many days it would be before he ran out of money. He grimly realized he was acting out the perfect copy of Arthur staring out the window without seeing anything he passed by. The ride took but a short while and he found himself walking down the path in the garden before he came to himself enough to care about his surroundings.

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